The Billionaires – Are they different from you and me?

billionaire1In 1916, John D. Rockefeller, the father of the petroleum industry, became the world’s first billionaire. Nearly a century later in 2015, there were 536 American billionaires of a total 1,826 billionaires worldwide, according to Forbes. That number may in fact be low – the Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census estimates there were 2,325 billionaires globally in 2014, including 609 Americans.
 
Identifying those who are billionaires from those who have significant wealth can be difficult, since many are reticent about publicly discussing details of their wealth. Also, for many, growing personal wealth is not a goal, but the byproduct of their business activities. In his book “Trump: The Art of the Deal,” Donald Trump, the real estate mogul ranked at number 405 on the Forbes 2015 list, explains that money was never a big motivation for him, except as a way to keep score. “The real excitement is playing the game,” he states.
 
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1916, Rockefeller was the only billionaire of the approximately 102 million people in the United States. Today, there are 320 million people in America with a billionaire for every 600,000 residents. Assuming that the number of U.S. billionaires will continue to increase at its historic rate of 6.49% annually, there will be more than 4,800 American billionaires by 2050, or one billionaire for every 91,000 people of the projected 439 million total U.S. population. Dreams of becoming a billionaire may not be as far-fetched as once believed.

What Is a Billionaire?

Simply stated, a billionaire is a person who has a net worth of $1 billion or more. In other words, if you can sell all of your assets for cash, pay off your debts, and have $1 billion remaining in the bank afterward, you are a billionaire. Having $1 billion in assets with debts of $900 million doesn’t make you a billionaire, although you and your family are unlikely to worry about future college expenses or retirement.
 
A billion dollars, like all large numbers, can be difficult to comprehend. For example, counting to $1 billion at the rate of a one dollar bill per second would be a lifetime career for three men working a standard 40-hour work week. If you hired them at age 21, they would complete the task more than 44 years later, assuming they worked eight hours every day without taking a single sick day. The counted $1 bills would fill a building the size of a football field to a height of 8.3 feet and weigh more than 1,100 tons.
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Country Wisdom & Investing

country barnCountry wisdom is the collection of practical experiences gained by generations of pioneers, farmers, and ranchers as America transformed from a vast frontier to the world’s greatest economy. That experience – the result of constant trial and error – was passed from parent to child in plain language that left no room for misinterpretation. Living on a farm or ranch miles from the nearest neighbor meant solving problems on your own, making do with the materials around you, and accepting whatever happened and moving on.
 
Country people know that worry is like riding a rocking horse – it’s something to do, but gets you nowhere. Excuses and explanations count for little if the seed is not in the ground by the spring rains to make a crop. You don’t blame the cow when the milk gets sour, but change the pasture where she eats.
Country Sayings to Invest By
 
The wisdom gained over years of self-reliance in a lonely, often hostile environment remains just as applicable today in our modern, urban setting as at the turn of the century. The lessons of a country life – expressed in simple, understandable language – are especially pertinent for a beginning or inexperienced investor seeking to negotiate a confusing, constantly changing terrain of potential investments and prices. The following country proverbs are tested and true bits of wisdom you can apply equally to your investments and your life.

1. “The Quickest Way to Double Your Money Is to Fold It Over and Put It In Your Pocket”

Everyone expects to make money in the stock market, but few have realistic expectations of probable returns. Inexperienced investors frequently buy stocks on the advice of acquaintances or friends who brag about their experiences, implying that investment success is easy.
 
Everyone expects to buy the next Apple or Microsoft, allowing them to retire at age 30 or 35. However, doubling your money in a single year is highly unlikely, and becoming wealthy overnight a pipe dream for most people.
 
Here are two keys to stock market success and long-term financial independence:

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Do Intelligent Design & Creationism Belong in Public School Science Classes?

classroom high schoolThe tension between science and religion has existed for centuries, the former dealing with the natural world and the latter with the supernatural or spiritual world. Many people may be familiar with the story of Galileo and his trial by the Inquisition in 1633. He was forced to recant his belief that the Sun, not Earth, was the center of the universe – that Earth moved around the Sun, and not vice versa, as the Church taught. More people may be familiar with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, which has been attacked by religious fundamentalists for more than 150 years.
 
The conflict between religious beliefs and science is intensified in the crucible of public policy when proponents of either side conclude that the government has lost its impartiality to the detriment of the other. As a consequence, the country has a long history of state and federal court cases dealing with the intersection of religion and governance.

Separation of Church and State

The first phrase of the Third Article of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Since its passage, the separation of church and state has been the subject of numerous government actions and Supreme Court cases including the following:

* In 1864, at an order by Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, the words “IN GOD WE TRUST” were inscribed on all new United States coinage, but did not appear on paper currency until 1957.

* In 1878, the Supreme Court concluded that making religious law superior to civil law would make each person “law unto himself.” Such a belief would render the government ineffectual and irrelevant in the case Reynolds v. U.S. The case was about the practice of bigamy in Utah.

* In 1947, the Supreme Court ruled in Everson v. Board of Education that the First Amendment applied to state governments, as well as to the Federal Government. The Court opinion included that neither the Federal Government nor the states can pass laws that aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another.

* In 1971, a Supreme Court case – Lemon v. Kurtzman – established what is commonly called the “Lemon Test” to determine whether a law had the effect of establishing a religion. In order to be constitutional and acceptable, a law must conform to the following:
* It must have a secular legislative purpose

* Its principal or primary effect must be one that either advances or inhibits religion

* The state must not foster “an excessive government entanglement with religion”
This test is currently in use whenever a question of church versus state arises.
 
A particular hot-button issue today that tests the separation of church and state is the addition of intelligent design to the curriculum of public school science classes.

The Battle Over Teaching Evolution

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Picking and Dickering: America’s New Hobby

antiquesOwning a piece of the past has universal appeal. According to philosopher and antique dealer Leon Rosenstein, it’s the value, uniqueness, and beauty of older items that attracts us, along with their historical and cultural associations. For some, buying and selling tangible pieces of history is a business – for others, it is a calling. Mike Wolfe, one of the stars of the television show “American Pickers,” says that discovering and restoring old relics from the past to their former glory is akin to saving America’s history, one piece at a time.
 
While lots of people are familiar with antique collecting, many are unaware of the growing market for other collectibles, from cars, to toys, to comic books, to folk art. According to the U.S. Economic Census of 2012, the industry accounts for more than $13 billion in revenues for almost 20,000 businesses, from one-man shops to giant online auction firms such as eBay and Heritage Auctions.
 
Everyone, it seems, has a touch of nostalgia from time to time, a sentimental yearning to return to days of past happiness. Antiques and collectibles are tangible evidence of history, monuments of a slower, simpler age when the future was bright and obstacles seemed easy to overcome.
 
Unlike most retail experiences, acquiring pieces of the past requires diligent searching followed by old-time price negotiation – “dickering” – between buyer and seller. Value is in the minds of the two parties, rather than any objective analysis, since many items are one-of-a kind. As a consequence, a successful acquisition requires a discerning eye and disciplined negotiations. For many, the opportunity to joust over price, pitting one’s wits against another’s, is as rewarding as acquiring the items themselves.

The Appeal of Picking

Finding old treasures can be both financially and emotionally rewarding. While the majority of pickers buy older pieces for their artistic or nostalgic appeal, many have found searching flea markets, garage sales, and old barns and houses to be exceptionally profitable. For example:
 
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