Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

A third of Americans who have a savings plan have less than $1000 in it

National Debt and Deficit 2007-2013

National Debt and Deficit 2007-2013

Let me start with the facts from Breitbart News, and then I’ll comment on the part in bold.

Excerpt:

Study after study shows that Americans are not saving for retirement like they should, and a new survey finds that nearly one third of people who have some sort of savings plan have amassed less than $1,000 for retirement.

The survey titled “Preparing for Retirement in America,” by Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and Greenwald and Associates, finds that only 65 percent of workers have any savings for retirement, a number that fell below the 75 percent figure from 2009.

But 28 percent of workers report that they have saved less than $1,000 for retirement, and almost 6 in 10 Americans say that their financial planning needs improvement.

Additionally, 34 percent say they have made no effort at all to saving anything or make a retirement plan. Still, most say that they intend to start saving at some point.

But intentions may not be enough. “Intending one thing and doing another is human, but it’s an impulse we should all fight hard to resist,” Rebekah Barsch, vice president of planning and sales at Northwestern Mutual, said in a press statement. “Intentions only get us so far. And when the stakes are high, it’s taking action that’s critical.”

Many say that the average person needs to save one million dollars for retirement, but a recent piece by David Marotta, president of Marotta Wealth Management in Charlottesville, VA, noted that a 20-year-old in 2015 may have to amass up to $7 million to retire comfortably.

“Someone retiring now in 2014 with $1 million at age 65 can safely withdraw $43,600 a year,” Marotta wrote last May. “However, [because of inflation], today’s 20-year-olds will need over $7 million to have that same lifestyle when they retire. In 1970, they would only have needed $166,000 in retirement to have a similar purchasing power for the rest of their life.”

Many Americans save for retirement using the 401K plans provided through their employer, but according to the federal government, around 50 million Americans don’t have the ability to enroll in such a savings plan.

Here’s a helpful article from CNBC that answers the question “how much do I need to retire?”.

It says:

You can’t feel secure in retirement if you don’t have a good idea of how much money you’ll need.

But if you believe a new Legg Mason survey, you may have to save far more than you think. Investors surveyed by the global investment management firm said they will require an average of $2.5 million in retirement to enjoy the quality of life they have today.

That’s about $2.2 million more than the average balance of $385,000 those investors actually had in 401(k)s and similar retirement plans, which might help explain why only 40 percent of the 458 investors surveyed said they are “very confident” in their ability to “retire at the age I want to.” (And the investors surveyed have set more aside than the average retirement saver. At Fidelity, the nation’s largest retirement plan provider, the average 401(k) balance was $91,300 at the end of 2014.)

[…]Fidelity estimates most investors require about eight times their ending salary to increase the chances that their savings will last during a 25-year retirement. But every retirement is different. People also tend to spend lavishly in their first years of retirement before their spending declines in later years.

Health care is the wild card in retirement planning, especially as Americans live longer. Fidelity projects a 65-year-old couple retiring will need an average of $220,000 to cover medical expenses in retirement.

So, according to Fidelity’s rule, if you are single and making $50K after taxes, then you need $400,000 to retire at age 65. You’ll need more the earlier you retire. That seems about right to me. The important thing to do when planning for the future is not to imagine a higher income than you have right now, though. Imagining that things will be better than they are right now is a terrible mistake. You can’t make the world change just by imagining things that make you feel good, or by looking at cherry-picked examples from people you know who got lucky.

The trouble with young people today is that they think that things tomorrow will be the same as they were yesterday. They don’t see the future implications of running our national debt up to $18.5 trillion dollars. They think entitlement programs will be solvent when they are ready to retire. They aren’t aware of what’s going on in the economies of other countries that we trade with. They aren’t aware of what’s going on in Greece, and how that will affect the European Union. They aren’t aware of the demographic crisis in Europe, and especially in Japan. They aren’t thinking about the implications for future wars as America withdraws from the world stage. And so on. And since they are not aware, they are delaying making a plan to save, so they can have more fun now. Their retirement plan is all future sunshine and rainbows, but no actions are being taken right now.

If I could give young people one piece of advice, it’s this. It’s much easier to shift your life out of a position of financial security to something lighter but more meaningful in the second half of your life. It’s harder to work back to earning and saving if you have squandered your early life on fun, thrills, travel, non-STEM degrees, etc. If you’re 30 years old and don’t have any savings, you are in serious, serious trouble. You need to get focused on a regular career as soon as possible, and start saving. Get those debts paid off now. Still think that your rosy picture of the future will obtain? Usually, you can tell how good you are at strategic forecasting by looking at your past decisions. Have you been wise before, or have you chosen poorly? If you’ve chosen poorly, then it’s a good idea to defer to people who haven’t made the same mistakes. If you’re an optimistic person who is always being surprised and disappointed, that’s a good sign you need to start saving now.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , ,

The seven fatal flaws of moral relativism

Moral relativism is the view that moral values and moral duties do not exist in reality, but only exist as opinions in people’s minds. When you ask a moral relativist where the belief that stealing is wrong comes wrong, he may tell you that it is his opinion, or that it is the opinion of most people in his society. But he cannot tell you that stealing is wrong independent of what people think, because morality (on moral relativism) is just personal preference.

So what’s wrong with it?

I found this list of the seven flaws of moral relativism at the Australian site Faith Interface.

Here’s the summary:

  1. Moral relativists can’t accuse others of wrongdoing.
  2. Relativists can’t complain about the problem of evil.
  3. Relativists can’t place blame or accept praise.
  4. Relativists can’t make charges of unfairness or injustice.
  5. Relativists can’t improve their morality.
  6. Relativists can’t hold meaningful moral discussions.
  7. Relativists can’t promote the obligation of tolerance.

Here’s my favorite flaw of relativism (#6):

Relativists can’t hold meaningful moral discussions. What’s there to talk about? If morals are entirely relative and all views are equal, then no way of thinking is better than another. No moral position can be judged as adequate or deficient, unreasonable, acceptable, or even barbaric. If ethical disputes make sense only when morals are objective, then relativism can only be consistently lived out in silence. For this reason, it is rare to meet a rational and consistent relativist, as most are quick to impose their own moral rules like “It’s wrong to push your own morality on others”. This puts relativists in an untenable position – if they speak up about moral issues, they surrender their relativism; if they do not speak up, they surrender their humanity. If the notion of moral discourse makes sense intuitively, then moral relativism is false.

I sometimes get a lot of flack from atheists who complain that I don’t let them make any moral statements without asking them first to ground morality on their worldview. And that’s because on atheism morality IS NOT rationally grounded, so they can’t answer. In an accidental universe, you can only describe people’s personal preferences or social customs, that vary by time and place. It’s all arbitrary – like having discussions about what food is best or what clothing is best. The answer is always going to be “it depends”. It depends on the person who is speaking because it’s a subjective claim, not an objective claim. There is no objective way we ought to behave.

The whole point of atheism is to pursue pleasure without the bonds of morality – there is no other reason to do anything on atheism except for the pleasure it gives you. You do fashionable things to feel good getting praise from your neighbors, and you do unfashionable things in private to make yourself feel good and you hope that no one who is powerful enough to hold you accountable ever finds out. There’s no way you were made to be.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , ,

What should we do to encourage men to marry?

Marriage and family

Marriage and family

Dina tweeted two articles in a row about a new book that describes some of the reasons that men aren’t marrying. I thought that since she tweeted two of them, that I had better blog on them. I think there are some good ideas in here about why men are not marrying as much as they used to.

The first article is from the UK Daily Mail, and it talks about how men are mocked in the popular culture.

It says:

Our universities and further education institutions are dominated by women at a proportion of ten to every seven men, with the Royal Veterinary College formally identifying boys as an under-represented group.

Across the Russell Group of Britain’s leading 20 universities, just three have a majority of male students.

This means your son will be more likely to join the ranks of the unemployed, the majority of whom are now — yes, you’ve guessed it — men.

The Office of National Statistics noted that in the summer of 2014 a total of 1,147,511 British men were out of work, compared with 887,892 women.

Psychologically, your son will be more likely to suffer from depression and attempt suicide than his sibling, but there’ll be less support in place to save him.

He’s also more likely to endure everyday violence than women, with the latest crime statistics for England and Wales noting that two-thirds of homicide victims were men.

[…]By the time your son is 18, he will probably have absorbed the social message that his dad is much less valuable as a parent than his mother — that fathers in families are an added bonus, not a crucial cog.

Then, if he starts his own family and his relationship doesn’t last, he may become one of the four million UK men who have no access to their children, yet are forced to fund them.

This part below about health care for men was interesting – how well do men do in a big-government health care system?

Not well:

To cap it all, he’ll be progressively neglected by British healthcare despite being more likely to get — and die from — nine out of the top ten killer diseases. You know, the biggies: these include cancer, heart conditions, strokes, pneumonia, diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver.

Fifteen years ago the UK Men’s Health Forum showed that, for every £1 spent on men’s health, £8 was spent on women’s. Since then little has changed, for no good reason. Or rather, one very bad reason: we live in a medical matriarchy. In other words, male life is cheap. Bargain basement, last-day-of-the-sale cheap.

The ultimate insult? It’s all done at our expense. The National Health Service is funded by the public purse, but it’s men — yes, men — who pay a whopping 70 per cent of UK income tax. Yet we are thrown nothing but crumbs in return.

Currently, women are screened for breast cancer, ovarian and cervical cancer. This is great, but excuse me if I don’t jump for joy. There’s still no screening programme for prostate cancer, even though it kills four times more men than cervical cancer does women.

And while we’re on the subject of statistics, we men will die five years earlier than our wives, sisters, daughters and girlfriends in a life expectancy gap that’s increased 400 per cent since 1920.

Regarding government-run health care in the UK, this is the same as in other government-run systems. In America, men do much better because the health care system is slightly less controlled by government.

Look:

Americans have better survival rates than Europeans for common cancers.[1]  Breast cancer mortality is 52 percent higher in Germany than in the United States, and 88 percent higher in the United Kingdom.  Prostate cancer mortality is 604 percent higher in the U.K. and 457 percent higher in Norway.  The mortality rate for colorectal cancer among British men and women is about 40 percent higher.

Americans have lower cancer mortality rates than Canadians.[2]  Breast cancer mortality is 9 percent higher, prostate cancer is 184 percent higher and colon cancer mortality among men is about 10 percent higher than in the United States.

I was wondering if he was going to say something about divorce and child custody in his article, but he left that for his second article, also tweeted by Dina.

He writes:

‘Ultimately, men know there’s a good chance they’ll lose their friends, their respect, their space, their sex life, their money and — if it all goes wrong — their family,’ says Dr Helen Smith, author of Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood And The American Dream.

‘They don’t want to enter into a legal contract with someone who could effectively take half their savings, pension and property when the honeymoon period is over.

‘Men aren’t wimping out by staying unmarried or being commitment phobes. They’re being smart.’

[…]It wasn’t always this way. In the 1800s, men typically got custody of the children in the event of a split — not as a result of privilege, but because they were solely financially responsible for them.

They got the children, but they also got the bill. Benefits Britain didn’t exist, encouraging single mums to go it alone.

Now, 200 years on, women get the children, but men still get the bill. Sometimes, men even pay for children who aren’t theirs.

The Child Support Agency has 500 cases of paternity fraud a year, where a mother names a man as the biological father of her child, even when she has a good idea he isn’t. And that’s just the cases we know about. According to a YouGov study, 1.2 million men doubt they are the fathers of their partners’ children.

[…][N]o British woman has been convicted of paternity fraud.

And finally, the well-known sex-withholding problem:

Think your wedding day will be the happiest day of your life, chaps? You may need to think again. The quantity — and quality — of sex dwindles after marriage, say researchers.

A recent survey of 3,000 couples found those who had sex four times a week before their wedding did the deed just once a week afterwards.

The value proposition of marriage to men has certainly changed over time, and men are responding to the changing incentives.

One of my co-workers who has no trouble attracting talented, attractive women to live with him asked me to name one reason why he – as an atheist – ought to get married. I could not think of one. The risks are just too high, and in my experience, women (not Dina, obviously), generally don’t understand the problem, nor are they sympathetic with the needs of men.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , ,

Do tax hikes, welfare spending and minimum wage hikes lower income inequality?

Here’s Heritage Foundation economist Stephen Moore to explain.

He writes:

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren recently appeared on one of the late night talk shows, beating the class warfare drum and arguing for billions of dollars in new social programs paid for with higher taxes on millionaires and billionaires. In recent years, though, blue states such as California, Illinois, Delaware, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland and Minnesota adopted this very strategy, and they raised taxes on their wealthy residents. How did it work out? Almost all of these states lag behind the national average in growth of jobs and incomes.

So, if income redistribution policies are the solution to shrinking the gap between rich and poor, why do they fail so miserably in the states?

The blue states that try to lift up the poor with high taxes, high welfare benefits, high minimum wages and other Robin Hood policies tend to be the places where the rich end up the richest and the poor the poorest.

California is the prototypical example. It has the highest tax rates of any state. It has very generous welfare benefits. Many of its cities have a high minimum wage. But day after day, the middle class keeps leaving. The wealthy areas such as San Francisco and the Silicon Valley boom. Yet the state has nearly the highest poverty rate in the nation. The Golden State, alas, has become the inequality state.

In a new report called “Rich States, Poor States” that I write each year for the American Legislative Exchange Council with Arthur Laffer and Jonathan Williams, we find that five of the highest-tax blue states in the nation—California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois—lost some 4 million more U.S. residents than entered these states over the last decade. Meanwhile, the big low-tax red states—Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona and Georgia—gained about this many new residents.

What’s wrong? Isn’t raising taxes, growing government and spending more on welfare supposed to make reduce income inequality? Well, the trouble is that you need to think about things from the point of view of the people who create the jobs. People who want to start a business prefer to move to states where they can keep more of the money they earned. So, that’s why there is a mass exodus from states that don’t allow job creators to keep the money they earn. And naturally, they hire workers in their new state once they get there. Eventually people in the high-tax states move to where the jobs are, too.

Stephen Moore has actually measured it:

The least “regressive” tax states [high tax states] had average population growth from 2003 to 2013 that lagged below the national trend. The 10 most highly “regressive” tax states [low tax states], including nine with no state income tax, had population growth on average 4 percent above the U.S. average. Why was that? Because states without income taxes have twice the job growth of states with high tax rates. 

[…]Ohio University economist Richard Vedder and I compared the income gap in states with higher tax rates, higher minimum wages and more welfare benefits with states on the other side of the policy spectrum. There was no evidence that states with these liberal policies had helped the poor much and, in many cases, these states recorded more income inequality than other states as measured by the left’s favorite statistic called the Gini Coefficient.

[…]The 19 states with minimum wages above the $7.25 per hour federal minimum do not have lower income inequality. States with a super minimum wage—such as Connecticut ($9.15), California ($9.00), New York ($8.75), and Vermont ($9.15)—have significantly wider gaps between rich and poor than states without a super minimum wage.

No, I am not an economist, but I think that this is because the real minimum wage is ZERO, and that’s what more people in high minimum wage states make compared to people in low minimum wage states. If Seattle raises the minimum wage to $15 and the workers end up making the real minimum wage (ZERO) because job creators can’t pay them, then naturally the gap between rich and poor increases.

I think it’s always a good idea for people to think about things from the point of view of the small business job creator, and it all makes sense. If you want to get trained in how to do this, I recommend picking up introductory books by economists like Thomas Sowell, Milton Friedman or even F.A. Hayek. The goal here is to achieve good results, not to have good intentions.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , ,

Does the New Testament book of James undermine salvation by faith alone?

Theology that hits the spot

Theology that hits the spot

Are people brought in a right relationship with God because God provides for their salvation, or must we do works in order to earn our place with God in the afterlife?

The Bible is pretty clear that God provides our salvation from our rebellion by himself, all we have to do is accept it.

Look at Romans 3:21-30:

21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,

22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;

26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.

28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the Godof Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also,

30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.

Here’s theologian R.C. Sproul, to explain a passage from the Bible that seems to contradict the passages that teach that faith alone is sufficient for salvation.

Here’s James 2:18-24:

18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.

20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?

21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?

22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;

23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God.

24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Sproul explains the apparent conflict:

What James is saying is this: If a person says he has faith, but he gives no outward evidence of that faith through righteous works, his faith will not justify him. Martin Luther, John Calvin, or John Knox would absolutely agree with James. We are not saved by a profession of faith or by a claim to faith. That faith has to be genuine before the merit of Christ will be imputed to anybody. You can’t just say you have faith. True faith will absolutely and necessarily yield the fruits of obedience and the works of righteousness. Luther was saying that those works don’t add to that person’s justification at the judgment seat of God. But they do justify his claim to faith before the eyes of man. James is saying, not that a man is justified before God by his works, but that his claim to faith is shown to be genuine as he demonstrates the evidence of that claim of faith through his works.

So yes, works are important as a sign to others that you believe what you say you believe, but not important for balancing your sins. Your sins are already paid for by Jesus, what you do in your life doesn’t add or take away anything from that. But I will say that if you can see that a person is spending a great deal of their time performing actions that are consistent with a concern for God’s purposes and reputation, then that’s a good sign that his faith is in good shape. Yes, even if he doesn’t do as much Bible study, devotions, singing and praying as he should. The important thing about actions (works) is that you can look at a person’s life and see evidence that he is taking God seriously – that Jesus is his leader, and that Jesus’ character is informing their decision-making and prioritizing.

Filed under: Commentary, , , ,

RSS Intelligent Design podcast

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Evolution News

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
Click to see recent visitors

  Visitors Online Now

Page views since 1/30/09

  • 5,044,623 hits

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,694 other followers

Archives

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,694 other followers

%d bloggers like this: