Thursday, January 22, 2015

Negative Interest Rates. Can someone explain this to me?

Would you deposit money in a bank that pays you negative interest? You could argue that with CD rates at 1% and the cost of living increase near 2% that we are already in a negative interest situation. That's not what I'm talking about. I mean real negative interest.

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For example: You walk into a bank, hand over a thousand dollars, and the annual rate is negative 1%. Next year you withdraw your money and get $990.00 instead of your original one thousand.

Absurd, you say? That is what Swiss and Danish banks have just started doing. You can read about it here:

Switzerland and Denmark institute negative interest rates.

Or Google: "Swiss negative interest rates"  for many other sources.

The rationale from Switzerland, as best as I can determine, is that the Swiss Franc has become so strong against other world currencies, mainly the Euro, that Swiss exports are too expensive, and it is hurting the Swiss economy. They want to discourage depositors.

Read that again: They want to discourage depositors.

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How can banks stay in business if they discourage depositors and have no money to loan? I'm no great financial wizard, but even I know that something here does not compute.

The article referenced above warns that this practice could spread to other countries and eventually to the U.S. I've already started thinking about where to dig holes in my back yard to hide money.

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This is so upside down that I wonder if those same bankers will start paying customers to borrow money. If they want to loan me a thousand and then have me pay them back $990.00 next year, then count me in!

Seriously, though, can someone explain this to me? I just don't get it.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Diet vs. Exercise

Probably everyone who reads this has at one time or another thought about losing weight or getting in better physical shape. Some are self-motivated to do so and can set goals and follow a plan to reach those goals. Some need encouragement.

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Three years ago I started wearing a Fitbit and set a goal of walking 10,000 steps every day. At first, this was tough, but it became easier after I joined a group of other Fitbit users. We monitor each other's progress and can cheer or taunt via an app. Competition among peers can be a great motivator. My wife who is fiercely competitive kicks my butt every day.

I don't always hit 10,000 steps but have been fairly successful at walking a lot more than I used to. Recently I earned my Fitbit Africa badge for having walked 5,000 miles. It took me three years to do this which averages a little more than 4.5 miles a day. Not bad for an older guy like me, I guess.

So, you may ask, what has been the result of all this exercise? Have I lost any weight during the past three years?

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My problem has always been the other half of the equation. Losing weight takes exercise and diet. I wish it could be exercise or diet. Some of you responded to my recent Facebook post about the maple bacon cheesecake I enjoyed for dessert.

 Could you say no to this?

Maybe if someone would develop an app that would allow friends to compete over the amount of food they didn't eat, I'd have a chance to lose some weight. [Looks at above photo again] Well, maybe not.

What about you? Do you find exercise easier than dieting? Have you mastered both? Let me know. In the meantime, pass me the brownies!

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Get Happy

I tried out a simple, free (and legal) idea about how to become a happier person. As a New Year's resolution, I decided to give my idea a two week trial from January 1 through January 14. I followed only one rule and am pleased to report that it worked well. Today, January 15, 2015, I am a happier person. At least for a little while.

Want to know what I did?

For two weeks I resolved to stay away from all news broadcasts. No TV, radio, newspapers, or Internet with the exception of local weather and traffic. How did this make me feel? Not left out of anything. Not isolated. Not lost in any way.


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I avoided the endless stream of negativity that makes up the "if it bleeds, it leads" mentality of journalism. Didn't hear or see anything about terrorist attacks or Ebola or dirty politics or the latest computer hacks.

Of course, terrible things happened during those two weeks. I wasn't trying to fool myself into thinking that avoiding bad news would make evil go away. Life is a struggle, and eventually all of us have to overcome personal, political, and ideological challenges.

What I learned from the experience is nothing bad that happened during those two weeks negatively affected me in an immediate way. My days were more enjoyable not being weighted down and emotionally burdened with so much pessimism. As an added bonus, the extra time gained from not paying attention to the news I used to work on my latest novel.

The next time you're feeling overwhelmed with the world, I encourage you to try a news blackout. If you're too much of a current events junkie and can't bear the thought of being out of the loop for two weeks, try it for a day or two. Just as a vacation refreshes the body and soul. time away from bad news will work wonders for your emotional well being.

If you've already tried a media moratorium I'd enjoy hearing about it. If you're thinking about giving it a try, let me know. Then let me know how the experience impacted you.