Taxes on Social Security

Here is an excerpt out of my book on retirement income:

imagesSocial Security was signed into law in 1935 by President Franklyn D. Roosevelt. When he signed this bill he stated that in no way will Social Security be taxed. We know of two things that happened since: President Roosevelt died and Congress decided to tax social security. In 1983 Congress added another amendment to tax Social Security. Here is how it works.

How would this apply to you and your social security?  A single taxpayer making over $25,000 a year and a married couple filing jointly making over $32,000 a year will be taxed up to half of their Social Security income. So up to 50% of your income will be taxed if you fall in to either of these categories.

A single person making over $34,000 and a married couple filing jointly making over $45,000 will have 85% of their Social Security income taxed. These taxes are significant if you fall into either of these two categories. Taxes could put a large dent into your social security if you don’t do the proper planning to get you into the proper tax bracket.
In my experience most of my clients fall close to this category because, even though they have assets, there are opportunities for them to lower the taxable income and in turn help to keep most of your Social Security.

Filed As                                               Single                                    Married Filing Jointly
Base Amount                                      $25,000                                 $32,000
Taxes owed on the % of your SS        50%                                      50%
Additional Amount                               $34,000                                $44,000
Taxes owed on the % of your SS        85%                                      85%

You don’t have to make over $100,000 to be taxed on your social security and every dollar that you count as income will make a difference and you should know your taxable situation. That is one of the most important issues to utilize an adviser for.

Let’s just say that you have a wonderful CD that is paying you the average rate of 1%. I know, that 1% is a bit high but that is what Bankrate.com says is the average so let’s use that rate for simplicities sake.

The CD has $50,000 so the one year interest is $500. This $500 will be used as income and if you are making $32,000 a year as a couple that $500 interest would throw you over the threshold and half of your social security is now taxable. This little amount is something that you now need to take into consideration.

The same could be true with any interest bearing accounts that are not tax deferred like an IRA or annuity. If you had your money in a Tax Deferred Account (TDA) it would grow tax deferred and you wouldn’t have to worry about jumping into an income bracket where your Social Security will be taxed. You only pay on the money you take as income from the tax deferred account.

I have seen people making as high as 6% in these type of tax deferred accounts. That $50,000 could be making you up to $3000 and wouldn’t affect your tax situation. So repositioning what you are currently doing will help you reduce your taxable income and will not go against the calculation of the taxation of your Social Security.

The only amount of your money that should be in an account like a CD or Money Market Fund is the liquid cash you need in emergencies or to pay your daily expenses. This would be your rainy day money.

Just remember that the money in an interest bearing account that is not tax deferred could be used against your taxable income. You may not be living off of this interest but it is still creating a taxable situation for you that could be avoided.

The Table below is the latest from the Tax Foundation and gives you an idea of what your marginal tax rate is for 2014. The marginal tax rate is the rate you would pay at the highest portion of your income. So if you were a married couple filing jointly and made $90,000 a year you would be in the 25% tax bracket. The amount taxed at 25% is $16,199 ($90,000-$73,801). At this rate 85% of your Social Security will be taxed because it is more than the base of $44,000.

So if your Social Security income is $24,000. Add half of the $24,000 to all of your other income, including tax-exempt interest from investments such as municipal bonds. That would be $12,000. If the total exceeds the $32,000 for couples or $25,000 for singles, you would owe taxes on the Social Security side of your income.

Rate          Single Filers                  Married Joint Filers        Head of Household Filers
10%           $0 to $9,075                    $0 to $18,150                          $0 to $12,950
15%           $9,076 to $36,900           $18,151 to$73,800                  $12,951 to $49,400
25%           $36,901 to $89,350         $73,801 to $148,850               $49,401 to $127,550
28%           $89,351 to $186,350       $148,851 to $226,850             $127,551 to $206,600
33%           $186,351 to $405,100     $226,851 to $405,100             $206,601 to $405,100
35%           $405,101 to 406,750       $405,101 to 457,600               $405,101 to $432,200
39.60%      $406,751+                       $457,601+                              $432,201+

Look at what your money would do in a 4% interest bearing account that is not tax deferred. If you were in the 28% tax bracket the real rate of return (RRR) would be 2.88%. So the 4% is not actually 4% but after taxes is 2.88% and you are not making the return that you thought. Things are not always as they seem.

That same amount of money in a TDA would look differently. Making the same 4% but in a TDA account the amount of money you could earn would be 5.56% growth because of the triple compounding affect.

You would make money on your principle, on your interest, and on your tax savings. Just by making a simple move like this it could change the outlook of your overall portfolio. Just reposition the assets you are not utilizing.

Go home, look at all of your statements and see what you are really making on these accounts. Look at what type of account it is and ask a financial adviser to help if you need help understanding what your real rate of return is.

Below is a summary of how to include Social Security income.

Your adjusted gross income
+ Nontaxable interest
+ ½ of your Social Security benefits
= Your “combined income”

Then you will see what tax bracket you reside in

 

Get a Routine In Your Life

We make routines for a reason. It helps us get up and move forward in our lives. It could help the kids do their chores or finish their homework.

If your an athlete it hones skills to show up every day and practice. I read a bio on Pistol Pete and he used to show up 2 hours early and leave 2 hours late from practice. He would dribble the ball while running and take shots from different spots on the court. He was one of the best ball handlers in history.

A routine could help you write a book. Steven King in his book “On Writing” talks about the amount of books he reads every year and he sits down to write every day, even Holidays, at least 3-4 hours. Look at how many books he has written. I try to write a page a day.

Routines help to make people who they are and who they grow into. I am a financial advisor so every day I read at least two articles on retirement and have two books a month I read on that topic. If I meet a client and there is a tough case that I haven’t come across I will read three to four books on the subject and find as many articles to become the best at that subject. I set a routine to get this done.

It helps to know what you want to accomplish with your routine. Look at what your routines are every day and separate the good and the bad ones.

A bad routine or habit is difficult to break. I read somewhere that it takes around thirty days to break a routine or habit. Most are mental and people may not even realize they are in a routine. The bad ones are more difficult to break but once broken you feel better.

Look to make routines productive. When I fall out of productive routines I feel lost and unproductive. My wife and I were just talking about this. While on this three week work trip I fell off bad on some good routines and my mentality changed. I was irritable and flustered with my work and family.

She said something simple but to the point. “You need to get focused!”

She was right and all it takes is a week or two of getting off track and things start to change.

Every successful person I have come in contact with has routines they stick to. Good routines help get wohttp://terrymanos.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=564&action=edit&message=10rk done and keeps people focused and productive. Steven Pressfield in his book “Do the Work” talks about this. Just set the routine and do the work he says. The rest will follow.

James Altucher also spends a lot of time to get his routines down so he can stay productive. He talks about spending some time on each of these four things: Physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

If most people could focus a little time every day on these four things the world would be a better place.

The problem is that people fall out of routines and as you get older it is more difficult to get back in. I do it and the people around me who are unorganized and miserable are the ones that have no rhyme or reason to their life. Simply changing up some routines could change that.

My most productive periods in life are when I’m on point with my routines. At present I have the kids home schooled. I office at home and am building a multi-state business. My wife has a business she is trying to grow and focus on.

There’s a lot going on and without a routine things easily get out of hand in our household. Sometimes, like now, I have to write down and focus on what worked in the past and what didn’t and how our routines will keep us moving in the right direction.

Here is a great chart by Kevin Elliot on routines that could help you become prosperous. It puts James Altucher’s routine into a nice chart to follow.

4 Good Routines

PHYSICAL – It doesn’t have to be complicated. Start with one little thing a day. When it comes to physical I want to get up at 5:30 AM and do at a minimum of 30 minutes of P90X.

EMOTIONAL – Emotional is a tough one but I start every day by reading one chapter of a motivational book. Even a quote helps me focus and I try to stay on that quote throughout the day. It also helps to keep the negative people out of our lives. With just one negative person in your emotions could take a turn for the worst.

MENTAL – Mental is a good one to stay on point with. I like to get on Luminosity and play some mind games before appointments and also write down some simple goals for the day. When I don’t write these down I find that I forget something I had planned to do that day or week. It helps to sit quietly (not in front of the computer) and focus on what needs to happen throughout the day.

SPIRITUAL – Spiritual is one a lot of people forget or are scared of. I am Christian so like to read the bible or at least something on meditation. It doesn’t matter if you are religious or not but just pray to something. God helps me but there are many ways you can meditate on something spiritual to get you right spiritually.

Hope this helps.

Focus On What You Can Control

The-Importance-Of-Focus-in-Yoga-And-LifeIt has been a while since writing on this website. I have been writing but mostly about financial information that will eventually be in my book on retirement income.

One thing that has bothered me recently is the sentiment with many people I come in contact with. Struggle and despair seems to be the norm.

Most want answers they won’t get unless they figure things out for themselves. Some don’t even want answers but want to wait for the answers to come to them. That will never happen. People are confused and don’t have the time to analyze how the world is working around them while trying to make ends meet. People want to get on with life and not have to worry where the next dollar will come but it simply doesn’t happen.

Obama’s speech yesterday was about more war even though most of the country is not behind bombing people with drones or sending troops into a region that doesn’t want to be helped.

We have the anniversary of Lehman Brothers collapsing which triggered the financial crisis and the crazy part is banks are in the same position they were before that collapse. The regulation set forth with Dodd/Frank did nothing but keep the same system intact when it should have let them fail.

Politics is split 50/50 throughout the country and if you watch either Fox News or MSNBC (Or any mainstream media for that matter) you only verify what is already believed and get no value out of hearing mindless babble about one side or the other. It accomplishes nothing but making you angry and splitting the sides more when we should be throwing these politicians to the wind and finding someone who will implement real “Hope and Change.”

Either way people could do more to get on in life without falling prey to the media and the problems that persist in this country. Figuring it out for yourselves will make you a better person and help others in the process. Just being with successful and positive people make me want to become a better person.

The top ten below is what I want to accomplish on a daily basis to help make our situation better:

1. Stop reading and watching the mainstream media and find some good informative books to read. 4-5 a month help me. You will be amazed at how reading for an hour or two away from any distractions will help your mind to focus on bigger and better things.
2. Find and write down one new thing a day that will help our financial situation
3. Write one page a day on any subject
4. Play with the kids
5. Do some type of exercise for at least a half hour
6. breath and meditate to try and focus
7. Kiss my wife and tell her I love her
8. Talk to ten people a day and if I can’t help them see if there is someone who will. They will remember and may refer someone to me in the process
9. Be thankful
10. Plan for the next day. Any failures today will help me to learn what not to do tomorrow

Just some ideas before I leave Florida and head back to Colorado.

What Will Your Retirement Income Be?

Have you thought about retirement lately? 

My wife and I did and it was eye opening.  We usually talk about retirement, especially at the end of the year, but this was a little different.  We spent time looking at what we have to spend when reaching retirement.

What I am finding is that people look at it in the wrong way.  When asking friends about their plans I was surprised that many are not planning at all, let alone, really looking at what they will have to spend in retirement. 

Since becoming a financial advisor this has become apparent more and more.  Many people my age don’t even think about saving or what the future will hold and how they could control it.

One couple I met look to have about $25,000 a month in retirement.  They have done everything right since entering the workforce in the 70s.  How would you like to have that kind of income in retirement?  I’d like to have it now!  It is attainable. 

In our culture we don’t emphasize retirement enough.  The issue is brought up through a company plan or maybe a conversation with a friend but it is difficult to find people really prepared. 

Kids today especially don’t understand the first thing about saving or being responsible with their money.  It’s about where to buy the next Ipad or new technology even though you can barely pay rent. 

This problem won’t take care of itself.  The biggest mistake I see is looking to the government to take care of retirement.  Social security won’t cover your expenses but a good plan will. 

I personally know people in retirement who have never made more than $50,000 a year and are doing just fine in retirement because they planned correctly.  It can be done.  You wouldn’t know it from watching the news but it is possible.

Think about the numbers for a minute.

You’re 25 and want a million dollars 40 years later when you retire at 65 you need to start saving about $300 a month and have an 8% growth rate over the duration of your saving as your money compounds. 

At 35 it would be about $700 a month to save.  Age 40 about $1,050 a month and so on.  You get the picture.  It’s not easy to save this kind of money and not as many pensions anymore to meet the income requirements to live good in retirement. 

$1 million at age 62 would only give you $37,000 a year in income to live on.  Of course you would have social security (if it’s there) but it’s not as much as you thought to live on.  Especially 20-30 years from now with inflation.

The point is that saving $1 million does not provide the income most people live on now so how can you get this number higher. 

Don’t always think about the amount.  It is important but not the end all for planning.  Think about the types of income you could have. 

To be successful in retirement you need at least 7 – 10 forms of income.  This isn’t as hard as you may think.

Income ideas include rental income, stock dividends, social security, internet affiliate programs, part time job, 401k, IRA, Insurance, a small business, pension and/or consulting.

These are just a few but think where the money will come from in retirement and how you will get there. 

Just some brainstorming ideas for you.

If you want to get more information feel free to contact me through the website.

Values and Money

“Values are the key to living smart and finishing rich.” (David Bach)

This quote caught my attention when I read it.  It sounds simple but in our society it is nothing of the sort.  Money is a key to people’s lives and if they don’t have it tied to their values then you will end up poor. 

Values are wrong everywhere you look.  Take the government for an example.  They still haven’t reopened the government and the debt limit is fast approaching and most likely will be raised giving the government more money to print and borrow.  What kind of values are those.  Our own leaders can’t figure out how to make the government run efficiently. 

What does that say about our society?

I don’t know! 

What I do know is if individuals don’t change their value structure they will end up dependent on government because they won’t have their financial house in order.  Who wants to be dependent on a system that is failing?

Look at people around you.  You can see where someone’s values are by what they spend their money on.  The cars, electronics, clothes and other items show what people value.  It’s not bad to have nice things but what are those going to do if you get to your fifties and have no retirement.

Hence why people go through the midlife crisis.

This concerns my wife and I.  We constantly look at our money situation and try and imagine what we want in retirement.  Then we see where our values are and how that effects our spending.  It affects our spending tremendously.  Especially since we have changed our habits dramatically over the past few years.

That is spending less on material items and more on family and saving.  Although it is difficult to save with the business and adjusting to Colorado we still try and make it a priority.  As we look forward to the future we want it makes our present spending habits different.  It also changes how we prioritize spending.

The sad truth is I don’t see that among many people I meet on a daily basis.  There are so many that have nothing saved.  Many people I know in their fifties and sixties have less than they need for retirement.  Statistics show that half of baby boomers have less than $25,000 in assets.  That is a crazy number and shows that tax payers will be footing the bill for those that aren’t prepared.

What has scared us into changing is seeing what positions others are in and trying to focus on how we can change that for us and help others in the process. Every where you look there is something you could spend your money on.  If your values are in the right place then spending your money wrong will not be an issue and you should end up ok. 


The reality is that our habits put spending first and values second.  Maybe it’s the culture or maybe it’s us as individuals not taking responsibility for our decisions.  As David Bach said in his book Smart Couples Finish First, “too many of us spend our lives pursuing stuff, without really looking at our values.”

What are your values?

A Student’s Experience

I often suspect college students are inundated with information detrimental to their learning.  Finding this myself with professors in ethics, history, philosophy and other classes where an agenda was spewed onto students rather than creating independent thought on a subject.  I was surprised at how many professors had agenda’s and didn’t care what the student had to say about it.  At least if it didn’t fit what they were trying to get accross.

Although I did like and enjoy my college experience some of the insight only pointed me in a different direction than I would have guessed.

Maybe that part of college helped.   

A friend of ours has spoken to me about this very issue.  She is in college at UCCS.  She had mentioned the material and discussions in class were angry towards whites in this country.  It was a women’s studies class she was taking.

Also at a student meeting there was a leader who wouldn’t stop preaching about white privilege and that she has to work “10 times harder” to get ahead in life than our friend who challenged her on the issue. 

She shouldn’t feel guilty!  I saw this as well on my campus.

She spoke up because I had talked with her on this subject and it was the first time hearing someone with my view.  I told her to not let professor’s make her feel guilty about who she is an how she should feel.  Well educated minorities can find a job is not one that is often heard from the media.  Especially not on campuses these days.  My experience is that they are able to do great in this day and age.

Making the education readily available in the early years is difficult.  That to me is the issue.  Families need father’s around and communities need to band together to make this happen. 

That would be a better discussion.  Getting at the core isn’t the goal though for the media or campuses.  They want victims and people to be angry instead of finding solutions. 

But the numbers are good for those who get educated or show effort in the workforce.    

Two friends of mine with an MBA, like myself, and yes, they are of color and doing quite well.  They have been laid off, like myself, only to get a job with a similar company weeks after. 

One recently joked with me about putting black or hispanic on my resume so I would get a call back.  I applied to the very same positions and we have identical resumes but never received any call back.

I’m not complaining and am happy for them.  I could very well blame this on someone else or on some outside force keeping me down. 

With a decent resume you should have no problem getting a job or moving up in this world.  If it’s difficult so what!  Work harder to get on in life and you will succeed.  It’s not easy nor has it ever been easy for me but I believe something will come across my path and it has.  

You have to put yourself out there.  Introduce people who will help each other.  Connect with as many people as you can and something good will happen.  It always has for me.  

The problem I have, and am happy she spoke up, is that people too often use their circumstance as a crux in getting on in life.  Yes people were corrupted, enslaved, and persecuted in this country.  No doubt!

It’s funny she is expected to feel guilty but they didn’t know that she is engaged to a black man.  Oh!  And the team leader stated that Obama wasn’t really black and that doesn’t count as a true black man in office.  

What!!! 

What is going on in her head?  I can’t help but think how good of a career she’ll have with that women’s studies degree.  It won’t be near enough to cover the student loan she’ll have. 

Might be politically incorrect but it’s the truth. 

A student council meeting at University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) should encourage people to look for answers instead of preaching that white people should feel guilty about what she has to go through as a black women.     

I think that is BULLSHIT!

Stop being angry and work at helping the system instead of criticizing it.  It does no good to cry racism, white privilege, or claim discrimination every time someone has a hard time. We all have issues in this economy and the true elites in this world love that we fight over these issues.

The leader at that meeting mentioned she was discriminated against over a job and in public but couldn’t give an example.  

No doubt this country is not where it should be but more people of all races are educated than in any other time in history.  The problem is there aren’t the jobs for these educated adults.

Half of all college grads are in jobs that don’t even require a college degree.  That is the reality.

MetroState, where I went to college, was the most diverse college in the nation when I attended.  I was proud of that and often had that discussion. 

It’s frustrating our college students are told what to think instead of given historical context to deduce answers for themselves.  No one should feel guilty for their race.  We are all born into a position and no system or person will get them out of it.  Only the individual will. 

My generation and younger don’t have this racist culture our parents and grandparents have so we should stop using it as an excuse for failure in our lives.  

 

Fathers and Nature

Life is fast and interesting but it passes one by with increased difficulty.  What do I mean by that?  Life is often taken for granted because so much is vying for our time.  The news and movies that occupy our time is bad enough (4-5 hours a day).  Family takes our time.  Work definitely takes most of the day.

Is this detrimental to my children?  Three of them needing our attention and only seeing us for dinner and before they go to bed.  Spending this time is important and that is why this week I made it a point to take them to the park or on a hike.  Sometimes even taking dinner with us so we could be outside and burn some energy. 

I read somewhere recently that children are more empathetic when two things happen: fathers in the home and children playing in nature. 

Father’s in the home surprised me because you wouldn’t think that fathers are more empathetic, which their not, but having them around the home helps children become empathetic.  For me there is no doubt that having a father around is better overall for the child.  Who would argue this. 

Not having a father has been linked to high murder rates, rape crimes, overall criminal activity and sociopathic behavior in individuals. 

I heard Stefan Molyneux talk about the past thirty years and the impact not having the father around has had on the modern child.  If marriage rates would have remained as they were then maybe we wouldn’t have the debt that exists today. 

Think about it!  Having a one parent household creates more dependence on the system and this dependence creates an environment not sound for the child.  Single parents do their best there, no doubt about it, but the impact is also undeniable. 

Schools also don’t have the time to spend on developing the children.  They become undereducated and herded like cattle through the grades.

Kids in single parent households do worse overall.  All stats point to this.

Children playing free in nature is a good one I have seen first hand.  The other day the kids were playing in the house.  Cory and Kylie were getting rambunctious as all hell.  I was making dinner while Lily was crying at the top of her lungs at my feet.  My hands were full of beef so couldn’t pick her up. 

Almost losing it I held my composure and just said screw it.  Let’s go on a hike.  The kids instantly got their shoes on and Lily could sense we were leaving and even grabbed her shoes. 

We spent an hour hiking and running through the hills near the house.  The kids playing in nature instantly changed their attitude.  

After arriving home they didn’t fight but just got ready for bed.  Even Lily sat on my lap, drank her milk, and played for an hour happy as can be.  Kylie and Cory worked on an art project and were nice to each other. 

What a difference a quick run through nature does for the kids. 

We are not the perfect parents but I want nothing more than to spend my day with the kids rather than on other activities.

I am no scientist or expert but a parent that sees what is happening to the country.  I don’t need a study to tell me that kids need fathers around and that our system needs to revisit what is important.  Like parents staying home with the kids instead of keeping up with the Joneses.

Maybe they need to stop “Leaning In” and focusing on what is important.  There has to be sacrifice in order to raise the child right.  That has to be in the home.  Our kids depend on it.

Welcome to the Job Market College Grads

An article in the Wall Street Journal reports on the struggles new college grads have.  They are graduating with student loans and employment that barely helps pay rent.  The recession has left many young adults in a predicament not familiar with their parents.

How is this so?

The college degree doesn’t seem to help much in an economy struggling to grow.  When I graduated from college there was a sense of accomplishment from graduating but struggle as interview after interview turned up nothing.  This was in a great market just after the tech bubble and before the banking crisis of 2008. 

With not much luck in the interviews I went into real estate.  You don’t need a degree to get your real estate license and most people I knew in Florida were making money one way or another in real estate.  It was the right decision for me because it gave me experience with dozens of potential clients a week.  This was experience I needed.

college-memories-last-long-graduation-ecard-someecards

This is a call to college grads to keep your head up and try to make something of yourself.  We have better technology than ever before and there is money to be made.  It might not happen with the degree you thought would get you into the working world. 

For me, real estate helped to get the communication skills needed in life.  Just before the crisis in real estate hit I made the decision to go into pharmaceutical sales.  This opportunity was given to me by an acquaintance at the church and we have become good friends since.  This was a connection given to me because I stuck my neck out there and over heard him talking about his company.  At the time I didn’t know him but gave my resume and said to keep me in mind when something opens up. 

Sometimes that’s all it takes.  What college can’t give you is the aggressive attitude it takes to make things happen.  Throughout the past few years the only good opportunities came from asking for business or asking for the opportunity.  Often times people fail to see when an opportunity presents itself.  College could never teach that and most young college grads I meet may know how to pass a test but have no experience in the workforce to take it to the next level. 

In order to get to that next level they have to develop skills I only received by working.  Education is not only learned in the classroom.  I learned plenty in the classroom but it doesn’t compare to that learned in the real world. 

The Wall Street Journal article explains how the economy isn’t coming through for these young adults.  It’s frustrating for parents and their kids.  Especially when they come come home to live. 

Where are the experienced business people and acquaintances with advice on how to succeed?  These are the people who college grads should reach out to. 

It is nice to have a mentor and most successful people would be willing to give advice on how they made it and most, at least that I’ve met, didn’t get that education from college.  College, for most, is a time to party, have sex, and see the best Phish shows.

College is a good experience, and hopefully education, but the new up and coming flock are inundated with debt they aren’t aware will have a negative affect on their lives.  A study pointed out in the article shows that $53,000 in student debt will reduce lifetime wealth by $200,000.  That is 2-3 years in retirement wiped away.  That was my debt and thank God most of it is paid off.   

At issue is the amount of tax money covering the debt incurred by our “lost generation.”  $1.2 trillion in debt already exists to past students.  This could cost tax payers $1.6 trillion in lost tax receipts if they don’t find positions and $4.7 trillion if you account for broader economic effects of graduates not working.

Scary if you think about it. 

Not to mention a large number of graduates “don’t earn, they don’t pay taxes, they stay at home, they don’t get married.” 

A large number of graduates will lose confidence because they were never taught how to “choose themselves” and succeed in this environment.  We all live in this country and struggle to succeed but is our misrepresentation of the “American Dream” hurting our children?

Possibly!!!

“I Got Schooled” – A Book By M. Night Shyamalan

M. Night Shayamalan was on Huffington Post yesterday.  At first I thought it was on a movie he made so I watched to hear about it and was surprised he had a new book called “I Got Schooled.”  It was about his last 5 years of research on the public school system.

I am writing a book about student loans and college so I thought it would be interesting to see what he had to say.  I haven’t read it yet but because of the interview I will buy the book.

He is an outsider who knew nothing about what is wrong with public schools.  He had biases before, mentioned in the interview, and found those biases to be wrong from his research.  His passion for the schools in Philadelphia are what got him started on this quest.  

His early biases were similar to what you hear most people say about schools such as too few resources and classrooms that aren’t small enough for students to learn.

Being on the Huffington Post made the interview humorous to me.  Instantly you get a sense that the interviewer, Ricky Camilleri, had an agenda.  He wanted M. Night to justify that charter schools were “a total failure” and also made comments about capitalist and lobbyist agendas.  Ricky doesn’t get the answers he was looking for although he wasn’t aggressive about it.  He did engage in conversation. 

M. Night said that the charter schools aren’t better or worse themselves but the environment they create was efficient and seems to be working.  My own findings show charter schools, in some circumstances, aren’t always better academically but do provide a safe and structured place for inner city youth to attend school.  The average poor inner city child does better in these environments than in the previous public school they attended.

As shown in The Cartel this seems to be the case.   

My first thought was “typical Huffington Post” when they displayed the 5 things he found schools need to change for fixing the system.  What the Huff Post showed was that he wanted to let go ineffective teachers although that was misrepresented.  He reacted right away and said what they showed is “acrimonious” and not how it reads in the book. 

Then a caller from Chicago called in.  He was a teacher in inner city Chicago and had strong opinions about what M. Night was saying.  The caller disagreed vehemently and said that they have no resources and the government cutting the budget hurt more than anything.  The findings in the book were opposite and this was clearly stated but in a professional and unbiased manner.

The book shows the findings only and he feels the experts should take the information and do something with it.  He doesn’t want to fix the problem himself like superman but instead spent five years finding research to get real answers.  Maybe someone will take the research and run with it but I doubt it.

I’m finding a lot of the same thing with research I’m doing.  Even in college people want answers but won’t get any from those who are trying to protect their institution and don’t really want change. 

Who loses out?  The students!

The same thing is happening in public schools.  My kids go to one as well but I can tell that it’s a touchy subject.   

Whenever there is research or a finding that doesn’t fit the agenda of the Department of Education, unions, or teachers in general you get kick back and nothing gets done.  Your instantly labelled as a union buster or you hate kids.  Great arguments from the very people who are supposed to be educating our kids. This makes it difficult to find research and answers from people in the system. 

A tweet said “having N. Night Shyamalan join the cause is probably the worst thing for ed reformers.”  This shows that people are threatened and don’t want answers.  They criticize but don’t offer real solutions.  This isn’t reform! 

How about efficient use of the resources.  M. Night mentioned that not more resources but efficient use of resources was one of the findings in the book.  The best schools use resources more efficiently and that is what charter schools and the best reformed public schools are doing.  So the amount of resources one school gets doesn’t matter?  I have found that as well.

People need to lighten up and take the criticism.  Whether you are for the unions, as Huff Post clearly is, or just want some type of reform there has to be an outside source to solve these problems because the people in the system don’t seem to want real answers. 

Look what happened to Michele Rea in D.C. 

M. Night handled himself well considering other interviews and reviews I see misrepresent what the book actually found.  It is hard for anyone to have a good debate when people misrepresent what an author’s findings are.  This country is so full of representatives with agenda’s it would be a miracle to fix anything as important as our kid’s schools.

Most people think issues like smaller classes, money, and vouchers work but he states very clearly that these will not change the system based on his research. 

There are five main agenda’s he feeld, done together, would help reform education and they are: what is a good teacher worth, pivot the principal’s job from operations to improving teaching and school culture, give teachers and principals feedback, build smaller schools, and keep children in class for more hours.

These findings seem reasonable but with our bureaucratic system it’s almost impossible.

The most important thing I got out of the interview, and hopefully the book, is the passion M. Night feels for this topic.  It would be nice for people to listen without letting emotion take over the debate.  It is impossible to change someone’s opinion when they won’t listen.

The same rings true with studies on the problems college has.  The real answers are strongly shot down by the very people who are fighting to keep the status quo.

Although I do understand why a teacher or union leader would get defensive from decisions that affect their livelihood, we need a real debate and so far I have yet to see one.

Young Minds

This morning I was eating breakfast at a Village Inn while my car was getting an oil change.   My iPad was on to the news of this Monday morning.  A lot was on my mind and I was reading the market news for the week.  While reading a young man of about 20 approached me. He worked at the restaurant, saw that I was looking at stocks, and asked if I was a stock broker and where I went to college.

Just like that!  “Are you a stock broker and where did you go to college?”

It was a weird moment because I could tell that he was interested in talking with me but didn’t know how to go about it.  He was a student at University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) and was wondering if he should change schools because he felt it might matter what school you go to when it comes to getting a job. 

I told him that the school didn’t matter unless he was going to Harvard or another Ivy League school but even then they haven’t proved their any brighter so it depends on the person. 

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He then asked what I did for a living if I wasn’t a stock broker.  I told him and he asked if you had to have a degree to get that position.  I give the kid credit.  He wanted answers and didn’t seem confident that he was making the right decision.

I too have had these same questions and often still do. 

“There is nothing wrong with staying at UCCS because when you get that degree it’s not going to matter” I told him.  I believe that is the case but what does matter, and I told him, is that you have to get the right connections and work hard to prove to others that you are worthy of them paying you a wage able to support you. 

What I then went on to say is that college isn’t as important these days because when you graduate the job market for college grads may be worse than even today because, even though college is important, he has to hone his skills hard if he wants to be successful. 

He needs to save half of the money he makes now and learn as much about finance and business as he can.  He was already a business major.  I told him to not take his professor’s word on everything and read as much as you can on any business topic that interests him. 

He looked at me as if I was talking about aliens but said that it was different advice than he had heard in the past and he thanked me. 

Maybe this made an impact but it is what I would have said to myself if I were twenty again.

Love helping young minds.