Karen and I had some friends visit our house last weekend. Two of my dearest friends, Bob Babbage and Al Smith, are in this shot. Al has a new book coming out in November.
More on that soon.
Why Mitt Romney should proudly release his tax returns
Let me tell you how it will be
There's one for you, nineteen for me
One of the first things that I tell lottery winners or those who come into big money is to find a top notch team of advisors. My rule of thumb is to find someone who has handled more money than what you are bringing them.
That is exactly what Mitt Romney did.
As far as I can tell, Romney has not committed any crimes. He has not evaded taxes or used illegal tax shelters.
He used the tax advantages that Congress granted him and many other wealthy people.
Wealthy people can afford to hire big time lobbyists and raise tons of money for political campaigns.
Average Americans can't. Thus, the rich people get their way in Washington.
We have wound up with a mish mash of laws that favor the wealthy.
If someone receives money in a punitive damages lawsuit, the money is fully taxable. If they are a Wall Street hedge fund manager, gains are often taxed in a lower bracket.
The middle class get hit the worst. If a coal miner loses his job and cashes in his retirement or 401k account to feed his family, he pays ordinary income taxes and a ten percent tax penalty to boot.
Jimmy Carter once said, "Life isn't fair," and there is nothing fair about the tax code.
This brings us to the Mitt Romney situation.
Romney has made a ton of money. He has not released all of his tax returns and keeps hoping that people will leave him alone and forget about them. They won't.
Americans want their leaders to come clean and not appear to be hiding something.
The worst thing Romney can do politically is to keep stalling. It allows Obama to be on the offensive instead of forced to defend his record in office.
There will be a day when Romney does get pressured into releasing his taxes.
When he does, we will probably find a lot of loopholes, offshore accounts and plenty of ways that Mitt has reduced his taxable income from some insanely high number to something more manageable.
To the point where he is probably in a lower bracket than Warren Buffett's secretary.
Is that Mitt's fault or Congress's fault?
If I had Mitt's money, I would be looking for every tax advantage that Congress has to offer.
If I were a financial adviser to Mitt Romney, I would be helping him find those tax advantages. Just like any other good adviser would do.
Next month will mark my thirtieth year in the financial business. I've yet to find someone who didn't take a tax break, like deducting the interest on their mortgage, when that tax break was legal and available.
You can't fault Mitt for doing what the rest of us do. He has more money so he found more complicated ways to shelter income.
Congress, not Mitt, allowed those breaks.
I'm a lifelong Democrat who voted for Obama in 2008, but I truly see Mitt's political dilemma.
If he releases his returns, people are going to see deductions, loopholes and tax shelters that average Americans are not in a position to take advantage of.
If he doesn't release the returns, people are going to assume he did something crooked.
One of the advantages that Romney has is that people seem to think he is an honest, family-oriented man.
Goofy, ill at ease, and clueless about how average Americans live their lives, but many people trust Romney.
That trust starts eroding each day the tax returns don't get released.
Romney has a chance to spin the issue his way. Courtesy of Romney's former arch nemesis, Mike Huckabee.
Huckabee ran for President in 2008 on a consumption tax, called the FAIR tax, which also allowed credits for people with lower income. It eliminated almost all deductions and Huckabee claimed it would eliminate the IRS.
Embracing the FAIR plan could make Romney president.
It would help Romney with Tea Party members who don't trust him and give Romney an issue that would force Obama to explain why he has not closed the loopholes.
It allows Romney to take a negative and make it a positive. It also keeps him on the offensive.
Duck and run is not what people want to see in a President.
People know the tax system is out of whack and unfair. It is by the rich, for the rich, to help the rich.
A FAIR tax might level the playing field. Especially if it is advocated by a multi-millionaire with a Swiss bank account.
Can your business make money?
The question people forget when starting a small business is "can it make a profit?"
It's the important factor as to whether or not a business is going to make it.
I serve on the Advisory council for the College of Business at Eastern Kentucky University. For a recent meeting, we brought in Dr. Janet Kelly from the University of Louisville.
Dr. Kelly did an outstanding job is giving us the good, the bad and the extremely ugly data about Kentucky's economy. She noted a statistic that fascinating me.
Kentucky is one of the top states for creating small businesses with five or fewer jobs.
Most of them don't turn a large profit.
The statistic disturbed me at many levels.
In my book "Wealth without Wall Street" and in numerous columns, I've promoted the idea of owning your own business. I'll be going into my thirtieth year of self-employment in September. I can't imagine doing anything else.
Self-employment fits my personality profile. I'm a compulsive worker who doesn't want a lot of supervision. Just show me the goal line and I will get there.
I tried corporate life and it didn't work for me.
I spent two years as president of a large company.
I concluded that I hated the job and the people I worked for hated me. The layers of bureaucracy drove me crazy and my desire to break down those layers drove my employees crazy.
I can't see me ever running a large corporation again.
As KT Oslin once wrote, "I said I do and I signed I don't and I swore I never do that again."
I also understand why people get into small businesses that don't make a lot of money. They want to do something they enjoy or something where they can make a difference.
Even after two bestselling books and national syndication, publishing is a small part of my overall income.
There is nothing I see in the economics of the media business that make me think otherwise.
Writing gives me a chance to speak out and educate people. It's not about the money.
For those who to be self-employed but earn enough to feed themselves and their families, I offer the following tips:
1. Do something that you love but make sure you are paid a fair price for your labors.
I run into writers who think "making a profit" is evil. Some are terrific writers but they don't charge enough for their books, don't do a lot of paid speaking engagements and do little to encourage people to buy their books.
I see the same thing in other occupations. I see restaurants and bars who give the business away and contractors who don't charge enough.
I also see people who rates are so high that they scare out off customers.
Pricing your services properly is as important to doctors and lawyers as it is to artisans and plumbers.
2. If you can't afford to hire good managers, you should be prepared to work 90 hours a week.
Dr. Kelly noted that Kentucky did not have enough trained managers to run the businesses the state already has. Attracting new businesses will be difficult until that "manager gap" is filled.
A friend was a first rate mechanic for a big auto dealership . He wanted his own shop. I eagerly followed him to his new place. In fact, I offered to buy into his business.
I am glad I didn't buy in as his poor management skills drove him down the tubes quickly.
As long as he worked on a car himself, it remained first class service. However, he tended to hire any warm body that walked in the door and gave them little supervision. His workers did not live up to the standard of excellence my friend was known for.
I wound up taking my car back at the dealership. They had systems, managers and quality control check points. Which is why they make big profits.
Anyone going into business needs to heed the warning of Dr. Kelly. Do some number crunching and find if your business has any chance to make a decent profit.
Profit isn't an evil. It is a necessity for keeping your business alive.
Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is the author of two bestselling books. McNay, who lives in Richmond, Ky., is an award-winning financial columnist and Huffington Post contributor. You can learn more about him at www.donmcnay.com.
He is one of the world's leading authorities on what lottery winners should do with their money.
He is the Chairman of the Board for the McNay Settlement Group (www.mcnay.com) which provides structured settlement consulting for injury victims, lottery winners, and the families of special needs children.
McNay founded Kentucky Guardianship Administrators LLC, which assists attorneys in as conservators and setting up guardianships. It is nationally recognized as an administrator of Qualified Settlement (468b) funds.
You can find the links to my daughter Gena Bigler's terrific "Smart Money" column on KyForward.com
Autism and My Grandson's First Swim
O, I believe, fate smiled and destiny
Laughed as she came to my cradle
Know this child will be able.
My 11-year-old grandson took his first trip off the diving board last week. Two weeks previously, he couldn't swim at all.
Seeing an 11-year-old swim is normally not a headline. But, my grandson has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, which is a form of autism.
Seeing him jump in the pool was better than winning the lottery.
Having a grandson who can't swim is a frightening experience. What happens if he falls in water? I have not swum in several years but know I can. Could I get him to safety in case of emergency?
Now that issue is going off the table. He can make it to safety without me.
With a child with Asperger's Syndrome, it's the little things that mean a lot.
When he was first diagnosed, I spent a lot of time reading about Asperger's Syndrome and autism.
A lot of people with Asperger's wind up as Wall Street stock traders, professional gamblers or computer geniuses. There are some who believe that Bill Gates has a form of Asperger's.
I'm not expecting my grandson to grow up to be a billionaire like Bill Gates. I am hoping that he has a happy, normal and productive life -- the same hopes every parent and grandparent has.
The first thing I learned about autism is that there is no such thing as a "cure." There is a lot of education and special training needed. You don't suddenly flip a switch, or take a pill, and have an autistic child fill in the gaps in how his mind is circuited.
People who have children with autism learn what they can, find all the support and programs available and give love to their child with everything they have.
Thus, it is easy to get excited when a grandson jumps off the diving board and takes a swim.
I was surprised recently to find that my grandson was suddenly "cured" of Asperger's Syndrome.
It didn't come from being struck by lightning or due to the efforts of a faith healer like Oral Roberts.
It came from the American Psychiatric Association.
When the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders comes out, it won't list Asperger's as a diagnosis at all.
On the same day that my grandson made his successful leap off the diving board, the APA confirmed that it would maintain a new definition of autism, which will not list Asperger's as a possibility.
The irony is that for a long time he was unable to swim due to the sensory and motor issues associated with the disorder the APA is saying doesn't exist.
The "re-definition" by the APA came from a perception that Asperger's, and other forms of autism, were "over diagnosed."
In other words, according to the APA, the way to avoid paying for treatment is to suddenly decide that the disease doesn't exist at all.
That is an outrage that will keep thousands of children from getting help.
What happens when the children are 20, 30 and 50 years old and have never been counseled, educated or treated? A simple "change" in APA definition can damage children who could easily be helped.
My grandson is fortunate in one respect. Our family business, McNay Settlement Group, helps special needs children handle their money and plan for the rest of their lives.
His mother, aunt, and uncle are experts who know every financial vehicle and public program available to help children with special needs.
If health care reform is not overturned by the United States Supreme Court, several excellent new programs will be implemented to help autistic children.
There are a number of advocacy groups, such as Autism Speaks and Autistic Self Advocacy Network, that are springing up to help in this area. Last March I got to spend a few minutes with the AS founders, Bob and Suzanne Wright, when we were both on the CBS Morning News. (I was on CBS to talk about what to do when you win the lottery.)
Like me, the Wrights became committed to the cause when their grandchild was diagnosed with autism.
My grandson and I recently went to a baseball game. He is learning about the sport his grandfather loves. While we were there, he completely reprogrammed my cell phone. He fixed a problem in thirty seconds that Apple's tech people couldn't fix in three hours.
He's a great child with a big heart. With a lot of love, education and counseling, "he will be able."
The jump in the pool was a big step forward.
One that caused his grandpa to leap for joy.