Americans born after World War II have grown up in a culture that seems to promise them everything. The greatest economy in history was built, in part, by creating an insatiable demand for “more.” Unfortunately, however, its consequences can be measured in part by an unmanageable national debt, the approaching scarcity of many natural resources, increasing class conflict, and the high degree of stress and unhappiness of society at large.
Many retirees, as well as those who hope to retire within the next decade, are discovering that their resources may not be able to provide the lifestyle they’d anticipated. For some, there is little alternative except to severely cut back expenditures and lower expectations. For those who have not yet reached those years, there is another option: living lean.
The Lure of Possessions and Immediate Gratification
Younger Americans often find themselves at a crossroads in life: They must choose whether to maximize their immediate pleasures, or balance them with their future needs. Unfortunately, too many opt for the former. They often do so because they believe the following.
1. You’re Only Young Once
If you don’t grab all you can now – big homes, expensive cars, extravagant vacations – you may not have another chance. However, what folks with this mindset don’t realize is that adventure, excitement, passion, and satisfaction are not exclusive to a particular age, or even income.
Former President George H.W. Bush recently celebrated his 90th birthday by skydiving, a feat he has performed every five years since turning 65. Boone Pickens, at age 86, is leading a national campaign to replace petroleum with natural gas and wind energy. Mick Jagger is still touring with the Rolling Stones. Grandmothers and grandfathers fill golf courses, ski slopes, and universities learning new skills and pursuing dreams.
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The truth is, there is no single age or stage of life that is better than another. And being young is not an excuse for irresponsibility.
Parents spend thousands of dollars on orthodontics to ensure their children have what’s arguably the clearest physical indication of prosperity: a straight, white smile. George Washington was certainly prosperous, but he also endured the agony of poorly fitted wooden dentures for much of his life. And James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, claimed that if a man had his hair and teeth, he had it all.
It’s not surprising then that an entire industry is devoted to keeping our teeth healthy, clean, and attractive. Aside from a big boost in self-confidence, the condition of your teeth plays a major role in your overall health. As with many things, many people are willing to pay for those benefits. But is purchasing dental insurance the best way to go about doing it?
Problems With Adult Teeth
Fortunately, many dental problems can be avoided or delayed with proper attention, such as every mother’s admonition to floss. However, even with regular care, some dental problems do naturally arise with age:
1. Dental Decay. Cavities can deteriorate into root canals and crowns when left untreated.
2. Gum Disease. Plaque causes gums to recede, potentially exposing them to disease. Poor dental hygiene can exacerbate the problem.
3. Accidents. Teeth can be broken or cracked as a result of being hit or simply biting down on an olive pit or cherry stone. This can require removal of the injured teeth in favor of bridges or implants. In extreme cases, dentures may be required.
4.Oral Cancer. Smoking not only stains teeth, it increases your risk of cancer. Gum disease can also trigger oral cancer, along with other health problems.
In addition to good dental hygiene, regular checkups and cleanings are always necessary – and, unfortunately, these cost money. But beyond the pestering costs of basic maintenance lurk far more significant dental operations which have the potential to devastate your personal finances.
Technology has been both a boon and a curse throughout history, upsetting the apple cart of the established order with new opportunities for some and great losses for others. Consider the impact of the automobile, first on the horse and buggy industries, then on railroads. Television almost destroyed the movie business until the more creative people adapted. eBooks currently threaten longstanding bookstores and traditional publishers. The pace of technological advance has accelerated during the last half-century, challenging cultures, societies, and individuals to adapt to the new environment.
The benefits of technological advances are disproportionately enjoyed among the world’s communities, exaggerating the differences between those countries with stable, modern economies and those yet to develop. Even within a single economy, the benefits generally accrue to those who are better educated, more flexible, and less invested in the status quo.
In the past, technology primarily leveraged or expanded man’s physical and mental skills. The coming advances have the capability of replacing those skills, eliminating the need for man’s labor or direction. Simply stated, machines are capable of replacing much – if not most – of the jobs in our industrialized societies.
As the transfer occurs, how will cultures, economies, and political systems adapt? Will the future be the long-sought utopia, or the beginning of a cultural apocalypse, the societies depicted in science fiction novels such as “1984,” “The Hunger Games,” or “Soylent Green“?
Michael R. Lewis is a man of many accomplishments. He has led a colorful life which has seen him party with rock stars, play Black Jack in Vegas, trade on the floor of the NYSE, travel around the world, and make and lose millions of dollars in business. Each time he has emerged stronger and continued realizing his dreams. Somewhere along the way he began to start channeling his vast knowledge and considerable experience into consulting and writing.
We asked him about a host of things, from material success and handling finances to what has influenced him the most, and he responded in a heartfelt and philosophical manner. His openness has made for a delightful read.
Budding entrepreneurs or those struggling with balancing their personal life and career ambitions will love this. And so will those who just like to wonder about the nature of success, life, and why people do what they do. In short, there’s something for everybody here, if you have an eye for the things that really matter.
Interview with Michael
What excites you the most about the world of business?
While I enjoy the business of business, its most intriguing quality and challenge is the requirement to continuously improve, to be a little smarter, work a little harder, and be a little better every day. In the world of business, success and failure are moving targets. A good businessperson has to be smart, flexible, willing to work hard, and a leader; a great businessperson has those same qualities plus the ability to see and articulate a vision that inspires and motivates those around him.