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Friday, June 23, 2017

Columns & Editorials

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Stuck in Ohio…And Proud Of It!!

During my lifetime I have been blessed with many opportunities to experience nature and our natural world. I have been to National Parks from Maine to California, talked to God in a grove of Redwoods, touched sequoias, climbed to 14,000 feet in the Rockies to sooth my feet in a cold alpine lake, hiked part of the Appalachian Trail...

Forget the Memoir

Everybody is writing memoirs lately.   It’s the literary style du jour in all of the magazines and reviews.  So I’m thinking, hey, my memories are as good as anybody’s, why not hop to it and make the big bucks? One reason may be that my memories are certainly just fine, but getting them to show up on cue is...

Whadda Prize

It’s awards season just about all of the time now.  There are awards in television, for the theatre, for movies, for sports of every stripe and description, for just about every genre of music that one can think of( and some that I don’t really classify as music, but, rather as “entertainment”)—country, pop, rap, classical, you name it.  But...

Collecting Fossils in Thermopiles, Wyoming

Perfect silence.  It is 10:15 in the morning and I am on a hill twenty miles north of Thermopolis and a half a mile off the highway. We got here at 9:30 AM and the temperature was about 70 degrees. It was 49 just before dawn at the motel.  By 11 AM it is at 85 degrees.  Yes there...

Pretty Fair Fairs

Well, I seem to have hit my quota again this year.  A little shy, perhaps, but got the basics done.  I am speaking, of course, of fair attendance.  I really like going to fairs.  It’s the food, mostly.  Nothing like hot grease wafting through the air to set the rustic mood and a culinary challenge. I got to the Portage...

Puppy Tails

https://pixabay.com/en/grass-blades-of-grass-nature-meadow-383284/

Wandering along the tree line at the very point where the edge of the meadow meets the edge of the forest, Doodle Dog sniffed the grassy ground, taking in all the woodsy scents from the earthy bark to the sweet, airy wildflowers to the sharp tangy note of moss gathering in deep green patches and carpeting the area under...

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

When many people hear the word “parents,” they picture a couple in their forties... not a couple in their seventies. The reality is that 6% of kids today live in households headed up by grandparents – a parenting situation that may lead to significant financial stress.1 How can grandparents protect their retirement savings? This should be a high priority, even...

Skin In The Game

Ever since  that piece about plastic surgery and the aestheticians who keep having the gall to send me email about how they can get me a “Facelift Miracle”(as if I needed such a thing), I’ve been noticing a number of items in the news about occasions where the focus is on skin and the display thereof. The first one to...

Getting It All Together for Retirement

PixaBay https://pixabay.com/en/piggy-bank-save-money-finance-coin-661969/

Before retirement begins, gather what you need. Put as much documentation as you can in one place, for you and those you love. It could be a password-protected online vault; it could be a file cabinet; it could be a file folder. Regardless of what it is, by centralizing the location of important papers you are saving yourself from...

Organic Wines

https://pixabay.com/en/purple-grapes-vineyard-napa-valley-553463/

As we prepare for the start of harvest season, I have received a lot of questions around if or how you make an organic wine? Organic wines have really jumped in popularity now with the “Green” movement and having people become more and more earth friendly or earth conscience. While we do everything possible to be green, unfortunately we...

Puppy Tails: The Ongoing Adventures of Doodle Dog

https://pixabay.com/en/grass-blades-of-grass-nature-meadow-383284/

  Chirp, chirp, cheep, chirp! Doodle Dog poked his nose into the open window, pressing against the tight wire screen. He thought he could hear a bird talking to him, but he couldn’t quite see it from this angle. A little twist to the left and a little scootch to the right and the frame of the window seemed to jump...

Cat-astrophe!

https://pixabay.com/en/animal-cat-kitten-funny-yawning-339400/

At one time, there were, give or take, six—yes, six—cats in this house.  That was, so to speak, the high water mark, but the tide seems to have receded rather precipitously lately. See, I started out, innocently enough, with just one, chosen from a litter just out of town advertised with a sign that said, “Free Kittens”.  He was orange...

Are Your Kids Delaying Your Retirement?

PixaBay https://pixabay.com/en/piggy-bank-save-money-finance-coin-661969/

Are you providing some financial support to your adult children? Has that hurt your retirement prospects? It seems that the wealthier you are, the greater your chances of lending a helping hand to your kids. Pew Research Center data compiled in late 2014 revealed that 38% of American parents had given financial assistance to their grown children in the past...

Strawberry Fields Forever

If John Lennon hadn’t written it, Roger Monroe would have had to.  Maybe with a Pochedly on vocals or bass.  Who better to whip up a little ditty about the most quintessential of spring/summer fruit?  The fact that the song was written about a Salvation Army orphanage near Liverpool (U.K.) doesn’t disqualify it from being a fruit-growers anthem of...

Smooth As Silk

Within the natural world there are many spectacular things. But none more spectacular than to find the ethereal Luna moth or the massive Cecrcopia or Polyphemus moth. Theses giant moths can have a wing span of up to six inches or more. Not only are the adults spectacular, but so are the caterpillars. Some get to be the size...

Missing Brains…

I knew that I misplaced something. The Associated Press recently reported that nine—count ‘em, NINE—brains had been found alongside a railroad track near Gouverneur, northern New York state.  Authorities said not to worry. Well, I won’t but it seems like there might be someone out there who is not ABLE to worry because the mechanism is missing. Anyway, the found objects...

Putting Your Tax Refund to Work

Should your refund be spent? In 2014, more than 109 million tax filers received federal tax refunds, with the average refund at $2,792. What happens to that money?1 According to H&R Block’s Tax Institute, little of it is saved or invested: last year, more people used their refunds to settle debts or pay for cars or vacations than anything else.2 As...

Tell You What – An Editorial

Tell you what….  Let’s have everyone who says, “Why don’t they…(whatever it is about the rebuilding needed on Garrettsville’s Main St.) or “They need to…(suggestions for operations to be carried out to restore Main St.) or “They ought to…(directions on how to accomplish the rebuilding of half of Garrettsville’s business district), everyone who utters one of these or similar...

Wine and the California Drought

As we finally start to experience Spring in Northeast Ohio, I can’t help but keep my focus on the drought situation in California. From talking to family and friends on the west coast it is amazing to see what they are experiencing and how they are reacting to limited water usage and just having to deal with no rain in the forecast.

A Stitch In Time!

Here’s one for the Village Piece Makers, you know, the dedicated quilt-makers who every two years come up with a lovely handmade spread to be raffled off at the Christmas Walk. I don’t know how they come up with the patterns—maybe they make them up themselves—but recently the AB-J ran a cartoon (It’s a regular series called Non Sequitur, usually pretty apt for what they put out there) that might get a rise from out local needlewomen, even Ellie Foster Monroe who does “Quilts for Causes”, contributing to efforts that she supports.

The Psychology of Saving Money

Financially speaking, saving is winning. Sometimes that lesson is lost, however. To some people, saving feels like losing – “losing” money that could be spent. So assert Ellen Rogin and Lisa Kueng, authors of a recently published book entitled Picture Your Prosperity: Smart Money Moves to Turn Your Vision into Reality. They cite a perceptual difference. If people are asked if they can save 20% of their income, the answer may be a resounding “no” – but if they are asked if they can live on 80% of their income, that may seem reasonable.

12 Tips for Spring Home Buying in a Seller’s Market

With spring finally here for most of the nation, prospective homebuyers can look at houses and condos without traipsing through snow and ice. Better weather, plus the traditional belief that families search for homes so they can move in between school years, makes spring a major homebuying season in much of the country.

What should you bring to your preparer?

IRS filing season will start right on time in 2015, and there is wisdom in filing your 1040 well before April 15. You can get it out of the way earlier, and if you e-file, you can put yourself in position for an earlier refund.1 What should you gather up for your CPA? If you want to save time and...

Like A Frog Trying To Ride A Bicycle

“Hey Dad, why don’t you think about taking some courses at Kent State.  You are a senior citizen so you could take them free.  You would meet some people and you might just like it.” So said my daughter Carrie who is also a Professor at Kent.  Yeah, but I’ll be far older than anyone else in that classroom,...

What’s Your Financial Health Score?

In the future, will you become wealthier or poorer? Who knows, right? It seems like you would need a crystal ball to really answer that question given life’s up and downs. What if the answer is right in front of you? What if you can determine it from your present financial behaviors? Two economists present a brief questionnaire – and...

Wineries

I am amazed at  how many wineries have opened the past few years – especially the number that have opened in Northeast Ohio. When we opened almost 11 years ago there were almost 125 wineries in the state. We are expecting to pass 200 wineries by the end of this year. Sure, we have a lot of people that stop...

“I don’t understand everything that goes into Ohio’s school ranking system. Could you help?”

Up until the 2013-2013 school year, Ohio public schools and school districts were given one of six ratings: Excellent with Distinction, Excellent, Effective, Continuous Improvement, Academic Watch, and Academic Emergency. The ratings were based on attendance, high school graduation rates, how many students passed the state tests and how well they scored, and the value-added calculation, which is meant...

Thinking Spring!

Another weekend, another home & garden show! Getting to the John S. and James L. Knight Center in downtown Akron is not real tough, although the predominance of one-way streets does sometimes make it a little tricky if you should happen to miss a turn.  There’s a parking garage nearby too but I won’t even tell you how many turns...

Begin the Beguine

My dad may have been an absent-minded professor, but he was a very intentional father. He never missed the opportunity to instill in us five children the high virtues of hard work, family honor, ethnic pride, honesty as the best policy, academic excellence, fair play, healthy habits, moderation in all things, perseverance… the list was endless. And he had a saying for every occasion, just to reinforce his point and imprint his ethics upon our souls.

“Begin the Beguine”  was a popular song written by Cole Porter in 1934. To my father, it was yet another one-liner he’d toss into conversation for dramatic effect. My dad may have been an absent-minded professor, but he was a very intentional father. He never missed the opportunity to instill in us five children the high virtues of hard work,...

“It is not fit for man nor beast outside”

Mice and voles live in the “subnivean” zone. The area between the snow pack and ground. The snow acts as an insulator from the cold temperatures and it also provides protection from predators.

The first time I heard that saying was when I was a little kid, it was 15 below, the wind howling, snow blowing and I was freezing. I wondered how the animals, insects, and plants were able to survive these harsh conditions. I was able to bundle up in layers, go inside and sit by the fireplace, or get...

Puppy Tails

One look outside and Doodle Dog knew spring had apparently taken a detour or was suddenly lost and hadn’t bothered to ask for directions. The floppy-eared puppy is all for enjoying the scenic route but spring needed to hurry up and bring its warm weather with it. The mounds of snow grew taller than the little puppy by the...

Notes from the vineyard

A couple of weeks ago I picked up a bottle of wine that was from a small region in France. After I popped the cork, I noticed that it said mise en bouteille au chateau on it. I know that “bouteille” means bottled and I knew that “chateau” meant house so I assumed that it meant that the wine...

It Must Be February

Must be February, the Easter candy is on the shelves. And the “cabin fever news stories” are circulating.  That’s what appears when all of the news outlets are sick and tired of going hysterical about the weather—record-high snowfall, record-low temperatures, funny (or not-so) pictures of people digging out, names for the storms (How about Hortense?  We haven’t seen that name...

Getting Your Household Cash Flow Back Under Control

Where does your money go? If you find yourself asking that question from time to time, it may relate to cash flow within your household. Having a cash flow management system may be instrumental in restoring some financial control. It is harder for a middle-class household to maintain financial control these days. If you find yourself too often living on...

To Add Hydraulics or Not – Part II

I made the decision to have hydraulic brakes put on my 1930 Model “A”.   The task is beyond my capabilities due to my age, arthritis, and a lack of machining capabilities.  It is not as if there are antique auto restoration places on every corner and most modern auto shops would not go near this job.  Where to...

The Latest on Social Security: Recipients get a raise in 2015. Ideas for reform are numerous.

Social Security benefits are increasing 1.7% in 2015. This marks the fourth straight yearly cost-of-living adjustment, following a 1.5% COLA for 2014.1  The average monthly Social Security payment for a single retiree increases by $22 to $1,328. The average retired couple will get $2,176 per month in 2015 (a $36 monthly increase). A single retiree claiming benefits at the full...

Cabin Fever Factoids

Being stuck inside(Where it’s marginally warmer) for extended periods can send a person(at least this one)over the edge, or at least out on the slippery part. While out there, one can run across some quirkily weird items in the news, To wit...

Feedback and Food For Thought

We are some six weeks into this topic of 65 and Single Again. I have gotten a great deal of feedback about the articles via e-mail, over the phone, and more often than not, in person. A great many people seem to identify with this predicament of life. The column mirrors their struggle and they are searching for solutions. As well, it has generated a good bit of thought on my part, re-thinking certain things, postulating new, and contemplating where to go next.

New IRS Ruling on Rollovers of After-Tax Amounts

Do you contribute to a qualified retirement plan at work, such as a 401(k), 403(b) or 457 plan? Does your account have a large balance? If so, you’ll be glad to hear about a new IRS ruling that may give you a nice tax break in the future.    At some point in your life, you may want to roll...

Red Letter Day

A RED-LETTER DAY Or a red something, anyway.  As I have said before, you can’t make this stuff up. It seems that in Sheboygan, WI a group of brewers has got together to raise money for charity by being featured—mostly in the buff—posing in a calendar which will be sold online or at numerous bars, liquor stores and groceries in Wisconsin...

Trying To Embrace The Dating Dot Coms Part 5 of a Series

The Dating Dot Com phenomenon came on the scene in the 1990s and since then has developed exponentially into a massive industry.  You can’t watch evening TV or pick up a popular magazine without encountering advertisements touting this or that dot com which all but guarantee that they will find the right person for you.  Many of us, from...

Puppy Tails

After all the walking around town he’s been doing lately, Doodle Dog decided today he was going to relax on the front porch and enjoy the view of the neighborhood from there...

Stupid Virus

So somebody on a slow news day—Newsweek was mentioned but the internet picked the mention up and ran with it—called it the “stupid virus” and implied that any lagging intellectual powers among us might be the fault of an insidious invasion by these viral marauders...

Financial Considerations for 2015

2015 is less than two months away. Fall is the time when investors look for ways to lower their taxes and make some financial changes. This is an ideal time to schedule a meeting with a financial, tax or estate planning professional. How do economists see next year unfolding? Morningstar sees 2.0-2.5% GDP for the U.S. for 2015, with housing,...

Pairing

I love the holidays – friends, family, food and plenty of desserts! But being a dry red wine drinker, desserts do not always seem to pair well with the wine. So what options do you have for those holiday treats – besides either giving up wine or giving up dessert – let me give you some options. For sweet wine...

It’s A Failure!

A failure of Social Studies Education, I calls it. The recent election, that is…failure of turn-out, failure to understand the way government works(whether it’s supposed to work that way or not), failure to be informed on the issues and the candidates, failure to pay attention to the down-ticket contests…a whole bunch of things that we should all be thinking about but don’t. AND a prevailing, parsimonious attitude that makes a virtue of trying to do everything on the cheap. There’s a powerful big difference between wishing to do things in the most cost-conscious and efficient manner possible to do the best we can for the most citizens and trying to see how much we can get away with before the dreadful consequences which we have been outrunning finally catch up. The difference is the difference between “What’s the best we can afford?” and “What’s the cheapest we can get?” Strangely enough, there are cases in which quality actually does count.

Puppy Tails

Growing a wee bit tired from all the pattering around town in the quest for yummy snacks, Doodle Dog was still having so much fun that he didn’t notice the sky around him was growing a wee bit darker. He knew he should get home soon and could hurry to make it back to the office before the stars...

Trying To Embrace The Dating Dot Coms Part 4 of a Series

How many times has it happened that I am notified that an attractive lady with a moniker such as NANNAN69 has just favorited me and would like to talk with me. The posted time is 7:15 PM. At 7:16 PM I respond and immediately a screen flashes that, “NANNAN69 is no longer available but here are 8 more people just like NANNAN69. Give them a response!” Now, tell me how, in 60 seconds, NANNAN got swept off her feet, married off and managed to get the Dot Com to take her out of contention when the rest of us can’t seem to even get the Dot Com to respond to us.

Take Up A New Hobby

So here’s the thing….  We need readers and scorekeepers for the Garfield QuizMasters to go out to vanquish our intellectual foes in upcoming Academic Challenge competitions.  Do I see any volunteers? Really, the hardest part is getting up EARLY on a Saturday morning to go ride a bus to the designated venue for the tournaments.  Of course, riding in a...

Trying To Embrace The Dating Dot Coms Part 3 of a Series

Why do people get hooked up with on-line dating services like EEK-Grominy and Lighter Dot Com. Well, if you believe all the hype shown you in the 90 second TV commercials it is because you want to find the right partner, that special someone, someone to marry.  Of course it is also possible that maybe you just want to...

Marc Pfenning