Seeds for a Brighter Tomorrow! | Posts


Does It Really Matters Who Is Right?

posted Oct 8, 2013, 12:13 PM by Willie T. Butler   [ updated Oct 15, 2013, 4:47 PM ]

Since October 1st, this nation’s elected leaders have been at an impasse.  With exception to the media coverage of this highly-visible and infuriating stalemate, there is little, if any, progress being made to get back to the people’s business of governing this nation.  And, as many Americans are now finding first-hand, the longer this political and ideological paralysis persists, the more American families, businesses and, of course, regional state and municipal governments will be affected.   So, what should the ordinary taxpaying American think and, more importantly, do in the midst of extreme partisanship layered with Congressional and Executive office gridlock?

There are actually many issues that are presented here for your consideration.  For example, should legislators use the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) as leverage to gain a negotiating advantage by delaying—if not ultimately repealing—the broadest enactment of this law?  

Should shutting down government—in order to curtail spending—be a Constitutionally-based option that Congress can use at their discretion? 

And, are there any elected officials left who we ordinary taxpaying Americans still believe have the best interest of their constituency—and not their political party affiliation—on their hearts, minds and voting conscious whenever doing the people’s business?

On the other hand, should any of these considerations influence the way that Christians think, act, live and pray?   Is there a different response we who call on the name of the Lord, should have towards the tacit indifference of our legislators and executive office officials?  And, if so, what type response (or responses) should we have as Christ followers (and as disciples and ambassadors) that will have a Kingdom of God impact on our nation and its leaders?       

Why do I single out Christians?  Was it not Jesus who said to the Apostle PeterAnd I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.  [As such] Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven” (Matthew 16:19 NLT).

Have we been complicit in allowing political and ideological conflicts to run this nation?  And, have we been more reticent than we should be in voicing our opinion and concerns to our elected officials … or, better yet, in taking the appropriate action to both safeguard and offer alternatives to what the world offers?

Clearly, something different is needed in society today, but what is it … and how do we influence and thus institute kingdom-centric change?   Please let us know your thoughts on these issues.  At the Kingdom Seed Foundation we are anxious to begin a forum of solid Christian thought and communication, so please let us here from you!

Who’s Really In Charge of the Affordable Care Act ?

posted Sep 28, 2013, 6:06 PM by Willie T. Butler   [ updated Sep 30, 2013, 7:34 AM ]

It is time to start a conversation on the viability of the recently enacted Affordable Care Act (ACA), frequently referred to as Obamacare. October 1st is the official start of open enrollment throughout the nation, but you would not know this by the lack of promotion or information within many of the 34 dissenting states.

Virginia is one such state. Though it prefers to be called a Commonwealth [defined as a "government based on the common consent of the people"], the fact is, less has been done in VA to prepare [in compliance with federal law and a 2013 Supreme Court ruling] for the stark changes the Affordable Care Act will generate. With over 889,000 Virginians without healthcare coverage, some 13.2 percent of its population—including some under-insured—what is the Commonwealth waiting for? (This information along with recently determined facts about eligibility under the Affordable Care Act is available at www.vhcf.org.)

I mean what is really at issue here? The federal legislation and law upholding the Affordable Care Act is a mandate imposed on every American and every state, and the benefits it will provide to over 35 million Americans without any insurance, or simply inadequate or un-affordable healthcare coverage today is guaranteed to each American. But if the benefits this law guarantees are not offered or made readily accessible, what benefit are they?

Is the issue really healthcare cost, government intrusion on the right to privacy or political sabotage both regionally and nationally? Clearly, the war of ideological differences between Republicans, Democrats, Liberals and the Tea Party pose a major platform of political will and opposition; with each attempting to out maneuver the other. But is there another more pressing matter that we just are not talking about? And, if so, could that issue actually be about “states’ rights?”

Specifically, I wonder whether our elected officials believe that state’s rights should prevail under the U.S. Constitution (10th Amendment) and therefore trump individual American’s rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” which, in this case are offered through the Affordable [Health] Care Act? Has it become acceptable public policy for our state-level and national representatives to hold hostage specific rights and privilege accorded to all but not distributed to some who reside in a dissenting state?

Think of it this way. Imagine having $1-million on deposit in a state other than where you are registered as a resident. Should you be denied access to your own funds because the state you live in does not recognize your claim within another state? This is actually very common in estate law cases. A relative dies in the home state and leave an inheritance to a loved one in another state. Or, using a more related example, would “we, the people, have allowed any American [anywhere in the U.S.] to be denied Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits who is legally eligible just because they live in a state that does not want this federal supplement of financial aid undermining their state’s autonomy?

Well, in much the same way offered in these examples, this is the outcome pending in several states that are slow to adopt the Affordable Care Act and provide the state infrastructure, program administration and open exchanges required for the healthcare insurers to set-up shop within their states. October 1st is here, and Virginia and some of the 34 states that attempted to repeal the law are now playing catch-up, but not keeping pace with any reasonable time-line. According to a September 24, 2013 article written by the National Catholic Reporter,residents in states that have no exchange will go to a federally run exchange, again something the government was not ready to handle to the extent necessary. The drafters of the Affordable Care Act did not anticipate that 34 states would decline to set up their own exchanges, but that is what has happened.” So, was this intentional, especially in light of the effort on the part of Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) and the Tea Party to shut down our government just to prevent the full enactment of the healthcare reform act?” Worst, are “we, the people,” simply going to let a handful of maniacs sabotage the well-being of an entire nation?

There are many areas of the Affordable Care Act that will be debated for years to come, but it’s viability as good social reform is not the central argument…not anymore. In a June report issued by PricewaterhouseCoopers on whether the cost of health insurance premiums will rise, the report found that costs were not only slowing their rise, but that in some states, mostly those whose exchanges are going to run by the Health and Humans Services Agency (HHS), are actually lower and will be dropping well-below all the miscalculated forecasts that has frightened employers since the act became law.

This raises another interesting little aside. Rumors had run amuck that many employers were going to drop employee coverage, big and small. With the pull-back from an employer mandate for the time being, another study conducted by Wharton’s Mark Duggan, who served as the top health economist at White House’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2009 to 2010, says that of the 5.7 million firms in the U.S., only 210,000 have more than 50 employees. So 96 percent of firms aren’t affected.

Then if you look among those firms with 50 or more employees, something on the order of 95 percent offer health insurance. So, what happened to the “big-bad-wolf” theory that companies would drop health plans and force employees to fend for themselves? Or, how about all the noise by Congress on how higher insurance premiums and the federal employer mandate would hurt this nation, when the mandate only affects 210,000 of 5.7 million companies. No disrespect intended, but should less than 1% of employers and their company plans dictate how the Affordable Care Act should work for everyone else; all 310 million?

Bottom line, “we, the people” need to act to allow genuine compassion for our fellow citizens and not intentional distortions of the truth simply to undermine President Obama and this healthcare reform act. Those who believe in God should also believe in loving other as we love ourselves or, if you are Christian, learning to love your neighbor as yourself. This would be a caring sentiment that needs no political or state’s rights advocacy to distort our desire for affordable health care. The National Catholic Reporter article got it right when it said:

Certainly religious and civic groups should step up to the plate and help educate the public, especially the poor and working poor, about how the Affordable Care Act can work to improve their lives... Once people realize that their premiums really are not going up as fast as they were, once individuals previously unable to afford insurance can find it, and once the working poor receive just subsidies to purchase what is a basic human right, the implementation will go smoothly.”

I certainly hope you agree. In case you don’t, this is an opportunity to start a real dialogue on the value of government-directed healthcare. Note I did not say government run, as it is still private.

Please join me in opening a forum for this topic. You can check for additional information at: http://www.blog.mylpi.org, where I have written more on the false statements made about the Affordable Care Act, or you can do your own research and let us know at the Kingdom Seed Foundation what you discover. As our brother’s and sister’s keeper, we should want to know and share what we can…

Thank you!

Kingdom-Inspired Living Is For Today by Willie Thomas Butler

posted Sep 2, 2013, 2:31 AM by Willie T. Butler   [ updated Sep 3, 2013, 8:52 AM ]

Welcome to Seeds For A Brighter Tomorrow!   As Founder and Executive Director of Kingdom Seed Foundation, I am delighted to have you as a reader of our revised blog.

Our goal with Seeds for a Brighter Tomorrow! is to acquaint you, the reader, with the concept of Kingdom Life.   As author of two books and an education program that incorporate this truth, I want to offer this concept for your consideration.  While Kingdom Life is not a new idea or topic, it is—nonetheless—a reminder to all who say that Jesus Christ is Lord of their life that an alternative and better way of living has been made available to each of us today.

Christ announced such an alternative more than two-thousand years ago.  (Mark 1:14 ESV)   Yet for some reason, the way that Christians live today differs very little from how the rest of the world lives.  Why is that?

Kingdom Seed Foundation (KSF) believes that a wake-up call to all Christians is needed along with a strong voice and public advocacy.  As one body made of many parts, it is time Christians take their rightful, authoritative place as Kingdom of God representatives, so that as Jesus said in John 17:23 …they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me." (ESV) 

I hope you will find our blogs and future articles worth reading and, where applicable, worth incorporating into a Kingdom-inspired decision for daily living.  I’d say it is critically important to consider the source that is encouraging us to make such a significant change in what we do and how we live.  After all, is there another who truly knows us better?

We would sure like to know your thoughts and comments on this topic.  So, please feel free to offer any feedback at anytime.  In the future KSF will provide a forum in which all posts will be published for general dialogue and support. 

In the meanwhile, we pray that the Lord richly blesses you in your Kingdom commitment and service!

And we ask that as you pray, please consider our mission and ask for His blessings and favor on our effort to reach and ultimately connect many to His Kingdom!

Factors Most Affecting Your Giving, Spending and Saving in 2013: A Mid-Year Check-Up

posted Aug 8, 2013, 5:31 AM by Willie T. Butler   [ updated Aug 8, 2013, 7:32 AM ]

If you are like most Americans who make resolutions each year, you’ve probably made one involving your finances.   If so, then perhaps now is a time to reevaluate your strategy…

Have You Considered All The Cost?

You may have committed to save more and spend less, or better yet, give even more to charity than you have done in the past.   On the other hand, if you made no such resolutions, how do you determine your financial priorities?    At the top of any list should be those financial obligations for which you have little to no control.  These consist of your federal, state and local income taxes, additional payroll withholding's (such as Social Security and Medicare, healthcare premiums and retirement contributions) or varying local property, excise or special utility taxes.   Of course, some individuals will also have to consider estate taxes, sales taxes and other revenue taxes incurred for other specific reasons throughout the past year.

Combined, these can diminish as much as 40% off some taxpayers’ annual income, leaving them with only 60% to actually budget for the year.   Add to this your average gasoline, food and other retail spending activity for the year coupled with additional taxes and fees for annual memberships, online shopping, and a myriad of other activity, and another 10%-15% of your income could easily be consumed in taxes. 

How Have You Fared So Far?

Sobering news, I hope.  Imagine having more than 50% of your annual income redirected towards taxes, and having little to no control over the choice to pay it.   And, to the charitable-minded, particularly the Christian, just how much might this impact your giving to your church or to others in need?

Statistically speaking, the median income of Americans in 2011 still hovers around $49,000 annually.  In that range, the average (single) American may end up paying anywhere from 0% - 30% in just federal and state income taxes this year.   Fortunately, with most of our legislated tax deductions and credits still in place, a good percentage of taxpayers—especially married and head of households may not incur more than a 10% - 14% adjusted income tax liability. 

However, remember that there are many ways that taxes are incurred.  A heavy-spending consumer type will still incur significant tax obligations on just about all of their regular and daily purchases, including food, restaurant dining, entertainment, phone service contracts, and clothing and appliance purchases.

A Better Planning Method For Kingdom Representatives

Because of these facts, I have a suggestion.   Why not try this simple yet powerful formula:  I call it I + P = V.™    In short, this formula will enable anyone using it to quickly assess the best way to manage their personal finances more purposefully.  The acronym stands for Imposed Monetary Obligations + Pursuit-of-Purpose = Voluntary Obligations, or I+P=V™.    Though simple to remember, this financial concept will help you immensely in learning how and why you should set goals that truly matter.

Your Plans and Priorities Are Important For Many Reasons

This financial planning formula provides a guaranteed way for a truly committed Christians to become an effective steward and to strategically exercise control over the spending-craze encouraged through the world’s economic system.   Why is this important?  Because in the eyes of God, you are His earthly steward with whom He has deposited certain of His treasure. 

“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it…” (Psalm 24:1) NIV.  Because of this truth, the Lord expects that believer’s will acknowledge His ownership and our possession of the many good treasures, which include our time, our talent and our finances;  and that we should manage what has been entrusted to us according to His expectation.   This principle is best reflected in the story Jesus shared with His disciples in the Parable of the Talents, found in Matthew 25:14-30.

You can learn more about this formula in my book The Kingdom Life Approach: A Purpose-Driven Strategy for Living Your Best Life Ever.  You can read free excerpts online via GoogleBooks, AmazonBooks, or BarnesandNoble.com, and through my publisher Xulon Press.  Or, you can also visit the LifePlanning Institute’s website at http://www.MyLPI.org  to obtain additional information about our programs, courses and other books and materials.

Consider Adopting A Kingdom Living Strategy

In the Kingdom of God—which, as a believer you are a citizen—the principle of love as expressed through giving is at the core of God’s, therefore, our true nature.  Keep in mind that we were made in His image and likeness.   This is what we read in John 3:16:  “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…”  Sound familiar?     Well, has giving been at the top of your priorities in 2013?  

The Bible also teaches us that God has a plan for each of us.   Therefore, will knowing this have any effect on your plans for giving, spending and saving in the remainder of the year?   In Jeremiah 29, the prophet wrote as God declared to him, For I know the plans I have for you…, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. “ 

Sounds to me that the wise steward would benefit from first knowing Gods’ plan before venturing out to spend or even save what is within their possession to manage.   If so, then it leads to one last question?  Are you going to serve God as one of His wise and faithful stewards in 2013?  

If your answer is yes and you’d like help to accomplish this, the LifePlanning Institute is here to assist you.  Try http://www.MyLPI.org.  If you have a different point of view, please take a moment and share it with us.  In fact, please help us to collect even more views by sharing this article with others.  

A 21st Century Kingdom Entrepreneur

posted Aug 2, 2013, 9:30 AM by Willie T. Butler   [ updated Aug 5, 2013, 9:02 PM by Charles C. Christie,Jr. ]

(Originally Published | January 19, 2013)

“The essence of God’s nature is most visible through the charity of Man towards his fellow man.”

Benevolence or Charity can be demonstrated in many ways. “God so loved the world,” the Bible teaches us, “that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus Christ]; that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) From God’s perspective, a physical [human] sacrifice was required in order to redeem mankind and bring change to our world.

In less dramatic yet highly significant form, some business leaders have emulated Christ’s examples of charity by instituting economic measures meant to help Americans, particularly during our nation's five years of financial recession and fiscal uncertainty. And in spite of stock market volatility and investor unrest or their unreasonable demand for higher profits, benevolent business leaders made giving back to those who made them successful their priority in 2012.

Choosing to share one’s wealth and success with those who helped you achieve success is still rare but it does exist. Take supermarket entrepreneur Joe Leuken, former owner of Lueken’s Village Foods. In 2012 he made a bold and very generous decision to convert his highly successful business into an ESOP (Employee Stock Option Program) giving ownership of his three stores and their significant market value over to his 400 employees. This decision was made in spite of several very lucrative—and potentially profitable—offers from the big supermarket chains wanting to purchase his company.

According to Mr. Leuken, “My employees are largely responsible for any success I've had, and they deserve to get some of the benefits of that.” And, he went on to add something that I believe represents a page out of God’s Kingdom handbook. “You can’t always take...," according to Leuken. “You also have to give back!”

Being an entrepreneur in America used to mean something and invoke a different sense of pride. Business ownership used to incorporate such charity and represent more than simply a way to be self-employed or to achieve financial success. The average merchant understood that they not only earn their living providing goods and services to a particular community but that without that community--or its labor pool, there was no business to serve or way to profit. Mr. Leuken understood this and chose to show his appreciation in a generous and very tangible way.

Kingdom-Directed versus Worldly-Influenced

What we have witnessed in the 21st Century is that a worldly-minded entrepreneur thinks solely of themselves and what they can obtain from their efforts. A Kingdom entrepreneur thinks of ways they can succeed in serving God through their efforts, and how they can be a blessing to others in the process. The ancient story of Joseph, who when sold into slavery became the life-line—thus a type of a savior—for Egypt and the Nation of Israel, represents such an example.

Though only a boy when sold into slavery by his brothers, Joseph rose to ultimately serve as Pharaoh’s second-in-command, and as a highly prosperous administrator and businessman in Egypt. Because he was favored by God, he was blessed to know the times and the seasons, and he knew to stock-pile grain for the seven years of famine that would come. (Genesis 41-42)
Not only did God use this event to reunite Joseph to his father and brothers, it confirmed the power and authority conferred on Joseph by Pharaoh, and it confirmed the validity of his childhood vision that he would one day be great and mighty and help to save nations.

Again, though considered a slave, Joseph represented Kingdom Entrepreneurship. The Bible describes Joseph--this Hebrew slave--as being prosperous... God’s favor on him even resulted in generating lots of money for Egypt and Pharaoh as they sold grain to nations that could afford to buy it.

Kingdom entrepreneurs are God’s marketplace ministers. When being in business is approached from the perspective of marketplace ministry and as a servant of the Most High, then the Kingdom of God is glorified, others are blessed in the process, and you participate in determining how much more God can entrust to your administration. This is the essence of the Parable of the Talents story found in Matthew 24.

Becoming wealthy can be the by-product of both, but how one gets there is the true measure of one’s achievements in God’s Kingdom. The journey clearly defines whether God, the Giver of life and purpose, or Mammon, the god of greed and self-interest, have most influenced your life.
“As for me and my house [and business]...," as the prophet of old once said, "we will serve the Lord!” (Joshua 24:15)   Why not let God empower you to serve Him in the marketplace?

What Factors Will Most Affect Your Giving, Spending and Saving in 2013?

posted Aug 2, 2013, 9:17 AM by Willie T. Butler   [ updated Aug 2, 2013, 9:18 AM ]

(Originally Published | January 19, 2013)

If you are like most Americans who make resolutions each year, you've probably made one involving your finances.  You may have committed to save more and spend less, or better yet, give even more to charity than you have done in the past.   On the other hand, if you made no such resolutions, how do you determine your financial priorities?

At the top of any list should be those financial obligations for which you have little to no control.  These consist of your federal, state and local income taxes, additional payroll (such as Social Security and Medicare) taxes and varying local property, excise or special utility taxes.   Of course, some individuals will also have to consider estate taxes, sales taxes and other revenue taxes incurred for other specific reasons throughout the past year.

Combined, these can diminish as much as 40% off some taxpayers’ annual income, leaving them with only 60% to actually budget for the year.   Add to this your anticipated gasoline, food and other retail spending activity for the year coupled with additional taxes and fees for annual memberships, online shopping, and a myriad of other activity, and another 10%-15% of your income could easily be consumed in taxes. 

Sobering news, I hope.  Imagine having more than 50% of your annual income redirected towards taxes, and having little to no control over the choice to pay it.   And, to the charitable-minded, particularly the Christian, just how much might this impact your giving to your church or to others in need?

Statistically speaking, the median income of Americans in 2011 still hovers around $50,000 annually.  In that range, the average American may end up paying anywhere from 0% - 30% in just federal and state income taxes this year.   Fortunately, with most of our legislated tax deductions and credits still in place, this average will likely result in a majority of taxpayers incurring no more than a 10% - 14% liability. 

However, remember the many ways that taxes are incurred.  A major consumer type will still incur significant tax obligations on just about all of their regular and daily purchases, including food, restaurant dining, entertainment, phone service contracts, and clothing and appliance purchases.

Because of these facts, I have a suggestion.   Why not try this simple yet powerful formula called I + P = V.™    In short, this formula will enable anyone using it to quickly assess the best way to manage their personal finances more purposefully.  The acronym stands for:

Imposed Monetary Obligations + Pursuit-of-Purpose = Voluntary Obligations, or I+P=V™

Though simple to remember, this financial concept will help you immensely in learning how and why to set goals that truly matter.

Your Plans and Priorities Are Important For Many Reasons

This financial planning formula provides a guaranteed way for a truly committed Christians to become an effective steward and to strategically exercise control over the spending-craze encouraged through the world’s economic system.   Why is this important?  Because in the eyes of God, you are His earthly steward with whom He has deposited certain of His treasure. 

“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it…” (Psalm 24:1) NIV.  Accordingly, He expects that we acknowledge His ownership and our possession of the many good treasures, which include our time, our talent and our finances; and that we should manage what has been entrusted to us according to His expectation.   This principle is best reflected in the story Jesus shared with His disciples called the Parable of the Talents, found in Matthew 24.

You can learn more about this formula in my book The Kingdom Life Approach: A Purpose-Driven Strategy for Living Your Best Life Ever. You can read free excerpts online via Google BooksAmazon Books, or BarnesandNoble.com, and through my publisher Xulon Press.  Or, you can also spend more time exploring our website (LifePlanning Institute)to obtain additional information about our programs, courses and other books and materials.

Welcome to Kingdom Living!

In the Kingdom of God—which, as a Christian you are a citizen—the principle of love expressed through giving is at the core of God’s, and therefore our, true nature—being made in His image and likeness.   This is what we read in John 3:16:  “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…”  Sound familiar?     Well, if it does, is giving at the top of your priorities in 2013?  

The Bible also teaches us that God has a plan for each of us.   Therefore, will knowing this have any effect on your giving, spending and saving plans this year?  In Jeremiah 29:11, the prophet wrote as God declared to him, For I know the plans I have for you…, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  

Sounds to me that the wise steward would benefit from first knowing Gods’ plan before venturing out to spend or even save what is within their possession to manage.   If so, then it leads to one last question?  Are you going to serve God as one of His wise and faithful stewards in 2013?  

If your answer is yes and you’d like help to accomplish this, the LifePlanning Institute can assist you.

A 21st Century Career-Path to a More Prosperous Life

posted Aug 2, 2013, 9:05 AM by Willie T. Butler   [ updated Aug 2, 2013, 9:06 AM ]

(Originally Published | March 5, 2012)

If I were asked to recommend the best career-path or strategy for building a secure financial future, my response would be to develop as many income streams as possible within the least number of years.

May sound like a strange answer to such an important life planning question, but it isn’t … not really. Not when you objectively assess how the last 30-40 years of employment, career development, specialty education and personal savings and investment performance have affected the majority of middle-aged to older Americans.

The facts speak for themselves, and here are a few:

  • During the past 30-40 years, Americans who retired from military or public service through some federal, state or city government have secured guaranteed annual income for life. This provided—for many—their first guaranteed income stream after as few as twenty years of service, which afforded them an opportunity to pursue other, often higher-paying employment in the private-sector.

  • According to a 25-year study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor reported in 2006, Baby Boomers had averaged 10.5 jobs throughout their careers. Others groups of private-sector Americans working for corporations and non-profits had changed companies or careers at least 3-5 times during the same period. The trend—it seems--is flowing towards a lifetime average of 7-9 jobs in an average working career.

  • In 2011, the average 401(k) retirement account held less than $50,000 by workers within ten years of their retirement. Worst, today half of all working Americans have less than $5,000 in their retirement nest-eggs; and I in every 4 will likely retire without adequate income. This is after twenty years or more of regular contributions to a retirement plan. In contrast, public-sector retiree’s benefited most from defined benefit pensions rather than defined contribution plans, which means their employer bore the greater burden to provide some type of retirement benefits.

  • Public-sector retirement benefits have kept many retirees from falling below the US poverty level of $22,450 (in 2011) based on their guarantee of income for life. To avoid falling below the poverty line, a retiree would have to receive at least $1,875 per month in benefits. Of course, after only twenty years, some military and public-sector retirees receive only half this amount, and without other income streams do fall below the poverty level. One alternative is serving close to 40 years and receiving full benefits.

  • Over the past thirty years, the number of public-sector jobs created surpassed private-sector jobs by over 20%; and public-sector wages have kept pace with or exceeded annual inflation rates while private-sector jobs, wages and cost-of-living adjustments declined. The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2009) also shows that government workers make about 5 percent more than private sector workers on average.

  • High-tech, engineering, finance and computer-related start-ups provided the fastest track for getting rich at a very young age, enabling additional upstarts, successful career shifts and additional income streams. However, the spiraling cost for higher education and need for specialized training hampered many low-to-middle income Americans from pursuing these high-paying professions.
Accordingly, a young person leaving high school forty-years ago and choosing the public-sector employment route would have fared better overall choosing to: 1) pursue a government career—at any level—for the first twenty years of their life, followed by 2) a second career in defense, finance, healthcare or a high-tech field such as engineering, computer-science or network administration.

Using all the benefits of this strategy, this young person could have chosen the US Armed Forces—as a public-sector career path—and have the government pay for their education; any specialized training and contribute towards their future retirement benefits. All but the retirement benefits would be available immediately and the latter in twenty short years. Ongoing education, medical and other lifetime benefits offered to retirees coupled with free training for transitioning to civilian careers would have kept their personal financial commitment minimal. However, a private-sector person would have likely incurred many expenses, including student loans and unreimbursed job-related expenses which they would have had to pay for out of their normal living expenses...

In contrast, the military retiree would have secured a guaranteed lifetime income that would have adjusted annually with inflation--as it has for all but one of the last 40 years. When you factor in that for the past 40-years private-sector wages have lagged in relation to annual cost-of-living adjustments, this is a big thing. During this same period, the average American loss buying power almost every year while public-sector retirees were subsidized. Even with the loss of their second job or career, they would still have income to depend on.

Perhaps most confirming about my public-sector recommendation is the unquestionable fact on what guaranteed lifetime income means in lieu of the other data. If our young person followed this suggestion and retired at age 40 from the military (or other public-sector career), depending on rank and other separation benefits, the average beneficiary may receive from $900 - $1,450 per month in income which, over the course of the next 35-40 years of life expectancy would be equivalent to $432,000 - $740,000 of guaranteed income.

Officers and high-ranking administrators would, of course receive significantly more in retirement and over a cumulative period. Monthly income ranging from $2,500 - $8,500 is not uncommon among higher-ranking retirees. This would mean that the US government is committed to paying such retirees $1,000,000 - $4,000,000 even after their fully covered period of service. This has been Uncle Sam’s way of subsidizing and securing a comfortable lifestyle for those considered to have served this nation well.

While choosing a career should not be solely based on its’ income potential, let’s face it, what you earn during your working years determines your quality of life while earning it and when retired. At least 20% of Americans will pursue public-sector careers in the 21st Century and maximize their chances for multiple income streams. Given the vast array of career fields and opportunities the public-sector will offer, the private sector should give serious thought to implementing similar, competitive terms and benefits. 

Lean Not On Our Own Understanding

posted Aug 2, 2013, 8:36 AM by Willie T. Butler   [ updated Aug 2, 2013, 8:37 AM ]

(Originally Published | September 13, 2011)

On Wednesday, September 8th, the Los Angeles Times published an article titled: “Many Baby Boomers don't plan to leave their children an inheritance.” According to their source—an investment firm that specializes in estate planning and trust services—about 49% of their baby boomer clients plan to leave little to nothing in their estates. As a Boomer myself and as someone that has analyzed the issue of inheritance from a public policy and Biblical perspective, I fully understand what is behind this selfish-minded and highly protectionist view, however, my contemporaries are simply wrong to make such a decision.

There is an implied social compact between America and each new generation. This agreement sets parameters by which each generation feels entitled to specific benefits at specified times and based on certain conditions in the future. When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Social Security into law in 1933, it became America’s most significant social compact since our nations’ founding. After the Great Depression fueled by America’s horrific stock market and banking system crash in 1929, and after World War l, there was a need to introduce certain protections against what Roosevelt termed, “the vicissitudes of life,” referring to financial hardships that any American could someday face. Social Security provided a national financial safety-net which became for many their only dependable source for income during their senior years.

Boomers overall have felt like a sandwiched generation, assuming responsibility for raising their families while pursuing their own dreams and aspirations; and while also assuming physical and financial responsibility for their post-depression era parents who—it turns out—are outliving their life expectancy and thus outspending their modest nest-eggs. As far as Boomers are concerned, they have cared for everyone else while having to deny themselves the things they worked so hard to acquire, and now it should be their turn. So when coupled with a severe downturn in America’s economy and in their retirement accounts and personal property values, there is considerable fear and much anxiety about what the future holds.

Boomers were also banking on the so-called Wealth Effect which was touted in the mid-to-late eighties as a substantial transfer of wealth from depression-era parents to their baby boomer children. However, this estimated $40 trillion of assets never fully materialized or transferred hands and worst, a significant amount of this anticipated inheritance has sharply decreased due to the extended and expensive healthcare costs that older Americans have had to spend on themselves.

These are some of the reasons boomers think they deserve to spend whatever they have amassed on themselves. With all the talk about a failed economic system, with the escalating cost for a college education—which many have financed for their children—and with today’s graduates returning home to live due to so few jobs, most boomers have loss confidence that they will receive their benefits as promised. So, some say that if they don’t get to enjoy them now, they never will.

I too have felt sandwiched as a baby boomer. But where my views differ from my contemporaries is in my understanding of the moral precedent that Scripture provides found in Proverbs 13:22. In this verse I discovered purpose for everything I do as an ambassador of Christ and as matter of practical significance. Not only—according to this verse—am I to leave an inheritance to my immediate family, but to my children’s children, or grandchildren. Imagine the surprise among many when they learn that two generations of family should benefit from our decades of opportunity to accumulate and transfer substance to our progeny.

Interestingly, for the same reasons boomers give for thinking of themselves first is the exact reasons why leaving an inheritance to one’s grandchildren makes good practical sense. First, savings that are invested over an entire generation cost less to start while ensuring a significant return over time. Second, when parents no longer have to worry about how they will take care of their children, they are free to make better, more reasonable decisions about their choice of jobs or careers, their quality of life and their pursuit of God’s purpose.

And more important to the Lord, an inheritance enables the seeds sown in one generation to continuously bear fruit in successor generations as well. Afterall, Kingdom resources were never about us but are for His purposes. Imagine what our grandchildren will accomplish for the Kingdom of God when money concerns disappear.

A Perfect Example of Misguided Entitlement

posted Aug 2, 2013, 8:21 AM by Willie T. Butler

(Originally Published | May 12, 2011)

On May 10, 2011, author Robert Frank of the Wall Street Journal introduced the story of a rich timber baron from Saginaw, Michigan. The story shows how wealthy individuals do not always use their good fortune in ways that benefit others—not even family. Rather than share his wealth at his death, Mr. Wellington R. Burt devised an estate that avoided any distribution to his children and grandchildren intentionally.

There must have been good reason for Mr. Burt to punish his family for more than two generations. Think about it for a moment. Mr. Burt, one of America’s richest millionaires when he died in 1919, could just as easily have squandered away or arranged to give his estate over to charity rather than design an estate that would offend even anger his relatives. This is a principal point. Is there any reasonable explanation for someone to preserve their good fortune but not share it with others?

There are probably specific details that can be obtained through relatives, ancestors of Mr. Burt’s business associates and legal documents his lawyers developed to record his decision that might shed light on his rationale. What none of these may show, however, is the true mindset and—what I call his--money-manager personality, things that influenced this man to rob his own relatives—and others—from enjoying the fruit of his estate, something that should be celebrated and not shrouded by controversy.

Billionaire heiress Leona Helmsley is another example of someone who chose to taint her legacy by leaving almost all of her estate to “the care for dogs” rather than bequeath the majority of her estate to her relatives. Out of billions that will eventually flow through the foundation she established, very little would have been used in any way other than to provide for the care of dogs—which included a special provision ensuring that her Maltese named “Trouble” should be cared for by a family member for life. In both cases I ask again, is it ever right that someone should intentionally punish their “so-called” loved ones by omitting them from their inheritance?

Proverbs 19:14 says, “House[s] and wealth are an inheritance from fathers…” (NAS) Other more modern Bible translations substitute fathers with the word parents as the actual grantors admonished to leave an estate to their children. Then there is the most compelling of all verses which I believe has significance in examining the decisions of people like Wellington Burt and Leona Helmsley. It is found in Proverbs 13:22 and says that, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children..” (NAS)

Now, let’s look at the Biblical implication of their actions. Proverbs 13:22 makes plain that an estate designed to provide inheritance to grandchildren is wise and prudent planning. In fact, there are a multitude of reasons why this is the greatest thing that can happen to a family on an inter-generational basis. Besides the obvious benefits that wealth affords almost anyone, just think about the decision-making process in the lives of those who have nothing. Many spend their entire lives just striving to live a meaningful life.

To be clear, each of the aforementioned verses encourage—even decree—that parents should pass on an inheritance to their children, and grandchildren. This is not stated merely as a recommendation but as a matter of principled and social mandate. Why? Because wealth and riches were never meant to remain idle. They are designed to be facilitative tools that foster exchange, the transfer of possessions and the circulating of currencies so that many benefit from its uninterrupted flow.

It’s what powers communities, cities and even nations to thrive and produce even more for themselves and the well-being of others. Even when money is temporarily parked in financial institutions there is no shortage of lending, investing or anticipated yielding of profits that are then shared among many different groups, including those managing it. Just where would the world be if every monarchy established had to start over every time the ruler died? It is not even fathomable.

Finally, there is a far more compelling reason, I believe, that diminishes any argument in favor of stopping the flow of wealth to one’s progeny, to charity or to others who have need. It is found in Psalm 24:1 which says that “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world and all that dwell therein.”And this—in my view—gets to the heart of the problem. Both Wellington Burt and Leona Helmsley—and many others like them—believe first and foremost that what they have amassed belongs to them. And whatever you own—they would assert—they alone should decide how it will be used, or so they think. But Psalm 24:1 says that it all belongs to the Lord, which means they own nothing, even that which they take credit for producing.

A decision, therefore, to cut family off from sharing in your good fortune should not be a unilateral decision. Clearly, for those who do not believe in God nor believe they have a duty to confer with Him before determining how to spend their huge estates will obviously not agree with this thinking. Nevertheless, not believing in God does not negate or void out His Sovereignty. Afterall, if He owns it, then He has the right to determine who gets to share in it. Isn’t this what we do with banks and financial advisors?

More importantly, God is less interested in your day-to-day money-management decisions and more concerned with your heart motivations. Specifically, are you wielding your wealth like a weapon, threatening to cut-off those who displease you or who fail to obey you? Remember that “unto he/she who much is given, much is required.”

In other words, do not underestimate the responsibility that comes with wealth and riches. Your good fortune comes at a price. While you are the recipient of God’s grace and provision, you are still an earthly steward who must learn to yield to God’s plan for the management and redistribution of your possessions, a.k.a. your wealth. Jesus demonstrated this all too well during His earthly term. Should we believe that God would expect any less of our stewardly role and responsiveness to His will?

In Spite of A Global Meltdown, The Rich Are Now Richer!

posted Aug 2, 2013, 8:10 AM by Willie T. Butler   [ updated Aug 2, 2013, 8:21 AM ]

(Originally Published | March 16, 2011)

Well, the verdict is in.  In 2010, the world’s wealthiest people experienced significant growth in both personal worth and the number of new members joining their ranks.  According to the 25th Annual Forbes Report on the world’s Billionaires; there are now 1,204 billionaires worldwide including an increase of 214 new members—who combined have wealth exceeding $4.5 trillion.    

That’s right, now 1,204 individuals out of almost 4.5 billion global inhabitants have a combined financial worth that would place them second highest in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) behind the U.S.  Even China, who surpassed Japan in GDP during 2010, only generated $4 trillion while the U.S. generated $14 trillion.

More significantly, while the majority of the world’s population are still recovering from high unemployment, significant reductions in individual savings and investments, in their ability to obtain personal and small-business loans or lines of credit, and having to cope with reductions in public services provided by state and local governments, the world’s Billionaires managed to generate returns averaging from 120% to as much as 300% on their investments.   Did I mention there is still a recession?

Of equal note, while we usually identify the wealthiest Americans by their taxpayer status—which often fuels our growing political debate over whether the wealthy pay their fair share of income taxes and whether a lower income tax rate will spur or incent additional business investment, corollary evidence would suggest that there will not be any trickle-down benefits to the middle-class during this wealth cycle.

So, How about You and Me?

According to a March 5th Wall Street Journal article for their Real Time Economics Blog, “From mid-2009 through the end of 2010, output per hour at U.S. nonfarm businesses rose 5.2% as companies found ways to squeeze more from their existing workers.  But the lion’s share of that gain went to shareholders in the form of record profits rather than to workers in the form of raises.  Hourly wages, adjusted for inflation, rose only 0.3%, according to the Labor Department.  In other words, companies shared only 6% of productivity gains with their workers.  That compares to 58% since records began in 1947.”

While we may not resolve the debate over how wealth should be taxed or is distributed in the U.S. or abroad, it is important to note that 413 of the world’s richest people are American billionaires.  This means that out of 350 million Americans, a paltry 118 millionth of one-percent, shown as 0.00000118, represent our nation’s wealthiest citizens.  Add to this another 1.5 million who are real millionaires and the percentage of our nation’s wealthy rises to just 4.2 thousandth of a percent of our population.   Worst, this microcosm of our populace are considered by economic experts to own more than 53% of our nation’s stocks and other investment assets.  

Time for a Course Correction

America is creating an even greater divide between the haves and have not’s, however unintentional it may be.  We are reminded through Forbes’ research that wealthy individuals are increasing in financial worth by a margin—over low-to-middle income earners in the U.S—of about 15:1.   Based on calculating this out over a 10-year term using $100,000 earning a 5% annual return, those like me would earn approximately $17,103 while our billionaire cousin earns $404,556 or an average 15%.   Knowing this, which would you rather be?

More to the point, how can you get in on these higher earnings and play in the wealthy leaguer’s arena with the likes of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates?   Well, there are several ways to become a savvy investor, providing you are not placing all of your eggs in one basket, i.e., betting the store and not setting aside other financial responsibilities in the process.   For some, that is what I call the Las Vegas Syndrome, where the fever hits some with such intensity that they lose all sense of moderation and self-control.  All they want is the big win and they are willing to spend everything to get it.

On the other hand, perhaps it is time to consider that the pursuit of wealth is itself a syndrome that can rob a person of an important quality of life perspective.  Remember, that things you do not control will always control you.

In Phillip Greenspun’s blog on Money (dated 12/1/09), there is a very interesting passage which considers a healthier perspective:

“A young man asked an old rich man how he made his money. The old guy fingered his worsted wool vest and said, “Well, son, it was 1932…the depth of the Great Depression. I was down to my last nickel. I invested that nickel in an apple. I spent the entire day polishing the apple and, at the end of the day, I sold the apple for ten cents. The next morning, I invested those ten cents in two apples. I spent the entire day polishing them and sold them at 5 pm for 20 cents. I continued this system for a month, by the end of which I’d accumulated a fortune of $1.37. Then my wife’s father died and left us two million dollars.”

Other authors share similar thoughts which underscore this passage and offer sage advice:
  • "Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have." Heb 13:5 (RSV)
  • “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way... Ps 37:7, 16 (NAS); and,
  • “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” Pr 23:4-5 (NIV)
The world’s youngest billionaire today is Dustin Moskovitz, age 26, and a co-founder of FaceBook which has been valued in 2010 to be worth around $54 Billion.   Good fortune based on a personal quest to be rich or the result of sheer hard work and circumstance?  You decide…

Famous inventor and Statesman Ben Franklin put it this way, He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.  

What’s Most Important To You?

Given man’s history with riches and wealth, I personally subscribe to the myriad counsel expressed by King Solomon, a man of great wealth and considered the wisest to ever live:

“Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them?   The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep. I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner, or wealth lost through some misfortune... Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb, and as he comes, so he departs.”   Pr 23:4-5 (NIV)

Let us hope that time and circumstance change the hearts and minds of the haves to think in terms of shared equity and beneficence on a much grander scale.  That way—and rather than wanting to be rich—we can all settle on fairness and the individual pursuit of what should really matter to us eternally. 

1-10 of 15