Mother Earth and Nature are Precious

Let me repeat, Mother Earth and Nature are precious. Sometimes we all get so caught up with our busy life and we forget. We forget that humans are part of the animal kingdom. We forget the existence of nature that sustains our livelihood. We have come to act like we are separate and bigger than nature, while the entire time…

We human beings are a part of nature…
As the air we breath.
As the water we drink.
As the ground we walk.
As the sun that shines.

Upon expressing my sentiments, a colleage shared with me a poster on his wall. It is a wonderful piece written by Chief Seattle, as a letter in response to President George Washington’s offer to purchase his tribe’s land. Upon research, I found that it is not the authentic writing. Nonetheless, I love the messages brought to life by the words.

THIS EARTH IS PRECIOUS

How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

ALL SACRED

Every part of this earth is sacred to my people.

Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the trees carries the memories of the red man.

The white man’s dead forget the country of their birth when they go to walk among the stars. Our dead never forget this beautiful earth, for it is the mother of the red man.

We are part of the earth and it is part of us.

The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers.

The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and man–all belong to the same family.

NOT EASY

So, when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy land, he asks much of us. The Great Chief sends word he will reserve us a place so that we can live comfortably to ourselves.

He will be our father and we will be his children. So we will consider your offer to buy our land.

But it will not be easy. For this land is sacred to us.

This shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water but the blood of our ancestors.

If we sell you land, you must remember that it is sacred, and you must teach your children that it is sacred and that each ghostly reflection in the clear water of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people.

The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father.

KINDNESS

The rivers are our brothers, they quench our thirst. The rivers carry our canoes, and feed our children. If we sell you our land, you must remember, and teach your children, that the rivers are our brothers, and yours, and you must henceforth give the rivers the kindness you would give any brother.

We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs.

The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on.

He leaves his father’s graves behind, and he does not care.

He kidnaps the earth from his children, and he does not care.

His father’s grave, and his children’s birthright, are forgotten. He treats his mother, the earth, and his brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered, sold like sheep or bright beads.

His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.

I do not know. Our ways are different from your ways.

The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the red man. But perhaps it is because the red man is a savage and does not understand.

There is no quiet place in the white man’s cities. No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in spring, or the rustle of an insect’s wings.

But perhaps it is because I am a savage and do not understand.

The clatter only seems to insult the ears. And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry of the whippoorwill or the arguments of the frogs around a pond at night? I am a red man and do not understand.

The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind darting over the face of a pond, and the smell of the wind itself, cleaned by a midday rain, or scented with the pinion pine.

PRECIOUS

The air is precious to the red man, for all things share the same breath–the beast, the tree, the man, they all share the same breath.

The white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes.

Like a man dying for many days, he is numb to the stench.

But if we sell you our land, you must remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh.

And if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where even the white man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow’s flowers.

ONE CONDITION

So we will consider your offer to buy our land. If we decide to accept, I will make one condition: The white man must treat the beasts of this land as his brothers.

I am a savage and I do not understand any other way.

I’ve seen a thousand rotting buffaloes on the prairie, left by the white man who shot them from a passing train.

I am a savage and I do not understand how the smoking iron horse can be more important than the buffalo that we kill only to stay alive.

What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit.

For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected.

THE ASHES

You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin.

Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the earth is our mother.

Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.

This we know: The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know.

All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.

Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth.

Man did not weave the web of life: he is merely a strand in it.

Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

Even the white man, whose God walks and talks with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny.

We may be brothers after all.

We shall see.

One thing we know, which the white man may one day discover, our God is the same God. You may think now that you own Him as you wish to own our land; but you cannot. He is the God of man, and His compassion is equal for the red man and the white.

This earth is precious to Him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its Creator.

The whites too shall pass; perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.

But in your perishing you will shine brightly, fired by the strength of God who brought you to this land and for some special purpose gave you dominion over this land and over the red man.

That destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses are tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires.
Where is the thicket? Gone.
Where is the eagle? Gone.
The end of living and the beginning of survival.

Whatever we do to nature, it will come back to us. If we don’t live to experience it now, then may our children do so in our place. People can keep talking about going green. People can market about carbon offsets all they want. People can keep urging for lower emission cars. People can keep arguing. People can keep asking for more and better evidence.

In the end, if people truly care for nature and the environment, they will come to understand that we are part of nature and their action will speak such understanding. If their intention is pure, it will be clear in their action. The same for ill intention.

Everything’s connected. What we do to other things on earth will be done upon us eventually. If our doings cause fast extinction to other species, then so shall be our fate. We are part of nature. If we are harming it, we are harming us. We are all one.

Originally posted 2008-01-09 23:26:19. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Housing Slump Saga Continues

On the topic of buying my own place, it has always been my thought to wait until half way through next year to make a decision on buying. This MSN Money article, House prices expected to fall until 2009, reaffirms it for me.

“It’s going to be a long time before we see it bottom out and recover,” said David Lowman, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase’s Global Mortgage unit. “There’s too much inventory already in the marketplace.”

Lowman and the three other participants in a round-table session before most of the convention’s 4,000 participants differed slightly on the size of price declines still upcoming, but they agreed no price recovery is likely until at least 2009.

“I think this year we will see a 2% decline in national home prices, and we’re projecting about a 4% decline next year,” said Thomas Lund, an executive vice president at Fannie Mae.

Prices likely will flatten in 2009, Lund said, before gradually rising.

Lowman said it might be 2010 before the price decline ends.

This is not hard to imagine, because it is only since last year 2006 that the rate has begun to reset for many home buyers with ARM. Those ARMs are borrowed on a fixed rate for either 3-year or 5-year for many people spreaded over time. Hence, it is not difficult to imagine that as many more of those ARMs’ rates get reset in the coming years, there will be more defaults and foreclosures following. Together with an already over-supplied market, housing price is bound to drop further

So honestly speaking, who knows when the housing market is going to bottom out? Nonetheless, that is my vision and what I believe. That is the reason why I am waiting until next year to get a better perspective before making a decision to jump into home-ownership.

There is no hurry because while I wait,I will continue to put my money to work in some high-yield saving accounts and stocks/funds investment.

Originally posted 2007-10-27 13:08:41. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Beginning Investors Guide and Considerations

Investing can be intimidating and confusing. For people who’s wholely unfamiliar, the slight thought could be scary and give a headache. It’s like stepping in a foreign land where people speak a different tongue, and one would be in deep trouble if nature happens and bathroom is nowhere to be found.

I was like that. But I was not ready to run away. So I “paid” the market to learn.

After 3 years, I am still no expert. I learned a few things from experience and much magazines reading, news studying, and internet browsing. I put together today’s post as a stepping stone for you who are beginning to invest or still thinking about it. Hopefully it will give you a sense of direction.

Why invest? And getting ready

Investing is for people looking to grow their money beyond the rate of high yield saving account and certificate of deposit. If you feel saving is not enough and too slow to lead you to financial freedom, it will do you well to learn to invest your money. As the saying goes, “Make your money work for you.”

Before you start investing, it will be good to pay off debt with high interest rate, especially ones with doublt digit rate and/or are not tax-deductible. Doing so basically means you make a rate of return equivalent to as if you invest the amount of the debt. Additionally, how can you invest with a clear mind when debt is nagging you constantly.

Once the debt is paid off, saving up a comfortable amount of money is the second line of duty. By “comfortable” I mean an amount of money that will allow you to stay cool in case of emergency (ie. loss of job, doctor visits, urgent car fix…). More on this later under risk tolerance.

Investing is not…

… a get-rich-quick scheme. If that’s what you are looking for, you are looking at the wrong place. It’s important that we get this clear.

Know your time horizon

You must know the amount of time you can keep your money invested in the market. Anything less than 5 years is not enough to ride out the turbulance of the market. It is the general concensus to assume your money to grow 11% on average in stock market, but remember that 11% is an average taken over couple decades. Correct me if I’m wrong.

I would suggest to only consider investing when you have at least a 5 years horizon. Time is your best friend and greatest asset in investing. The more time you have, the more time the money can grow. The more time you have, the better hedge you have against the turbulance in the market.

What about short-term trading? Day trading?

If you can only invest in less time than that, I suggest to choose either cash account or short-term bonds. If you plan to buy a house in a year or two, keep the downpayment money in cash saving. Obviously, you don’t want to lose that money. But I can’t stop you if you want to do otherwise. It is your choice.

If you want to trade short-term or even day trade anyways, first assure that you have the time and effort available to do homeworks:

  • study and understand the balance sheet, income statement, cash flow, and other stats
  • read news about the market sector and undertand its flow and future
  • learn the structure and behaviors of the management of the company
  • learn as much else about the company as possible (if you cannot make sense of the business, forget it)

Again, I don’t suggest doing this because it’s not easy, and it’s more dangerous than it is fun.. But I am not here to stop you, nor can I. I did it at the beginning myself to learn NOT to do it anymore. I paid to learn a lesson that I think is worth every penny. Short-term/day trading is more like gambling. Sure you can hit a jackpot, but you can lose it all just as easily. Plus, you will have “a lot of fun” entering your transactions at tax time.

Know your risk tolerance

Can you stand to see your money fluctuate a lot? Will you sell everything out of panic when you see your portfolio down 20%? You should select investment relative to your risk tolerance.

If you are not very risk tolerant, your portfolio should contain more stable investments that fluctuate less (ie. blue-chip companies and bonds). If you don’t give a darn about the money you are investing, you can bet on riskier investment vehicles. With greater risk, comes possibility for greater gain, and loss.

Your risk tolerance is closely related to how emotionally you are attached to the money you are investing. If you invest money that is of great importance like the fund for an engagement ring, consider yourself divorced. Go create your online dating account before dropping the money.

What I’m saying is that your chance of losing money is much higher due to panic caused by your emotion. This is why it is important to have saving for emergency before you plunge into the market. You don’t want to be forced to sell at a loss because you need to feed your dog.

Basically, the more you can emotionally detach yourself from your money, the better.

Allocation and Diversification

To lower the risk in investing, you diversify. Simply put, don’t bet it all on ONE thing.

Spread your money into different piles. That’s diversification.
Deciding how big each pile is. That’s allocation.

Once you know where to diversify, you decide an allocation that fits your risk tolerance. Your allocation should also change over time. For example, if you observe instability in domestic stocks for the near future, you will want to re-allocate bigger amount to bonds or foreign market. As you approach retirement when you cannot afford to lose your money, you will want to allocate to bonds or even cash.

Watch the expense

If you trade stocks, most brokerage account costs you each transaction, though I know that Zecco offers free trade (I use TDAmeritrade). Assuming otherwise, transaction cost can greatly lower your rate of return, especially if you day trade. If it costs you $10 to buy $1000 of stocks, you automatically lost 1% up front. Another reason to invest long-term.

This is also true for funds. You need to pay attention to its expense ratio. Don’t just look at the rate of return. Your true gain is the rate of return minus the expense ratio minus tax rate. Remember that.

The Simplest Way – Index Fund

Since I talked about cost, it would be blasphemous if I don’t mention index fund. An index fund simply traces a specific index in the market. If you bought an index fund that traces the S&P500, you would have made 11% annually for past few decades. If I further explain, it will becomes insulting to your intelligence.

The greatest benefit of index funds is their low expense ratio, versus traditional mutual funds or privately managed funds. You can have an entire portfolio of index fund, which keeps the cost low. And because they are already diversified, it saves you the tedious job of picking individual stocks and at the same time, provides you with safer and more stable growth than individual stocks.

If you go with index fund, all that needs to be done is to contribute regularly and control your portfolio’s allocation on intervals (quarterly or yearly). Doing so is enough to maintain a steady growth. It’s as simple and easy as it gets! Oh, and Vanguard has been wonderful.

Special accounts for retirement and college fund

Just a reminder… If you are investing for your retirement, you can open an IRA or Roth IRA account that provides tax benefits. Same goes for college fund, whether for you children or yourself, there are 529 plans available that differ by state, each with its own pluses and minues.

Some words of wisdom

Don’t be greedy because it can only be harmful. Don’t try to time the market because it’s a fool’s job. You can never catch the top nor can you catch the bottom.

Understand that a huge part of the market is based on speculation, and speculation is based on human emotion. Human emotion is never a predictable thing in itself and most fickle in nature. Conversely, how can you accurately predict the market? Especially when experts with advanced analysis tools have failed to do so.

Three key points

  • pick solid investment
  • diversify and allocate
  • invest long-term

With that, I’m done. But don’t just take my words and because this is only a quick guide for beginner.
Go study, read, try, and learn from your own experience.
Go build your own intuition of the market.

Let me know how you are doing later.

Originally posted 2008-02-28 23:32:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Get Started Handling Your Money

Couple days ago I went hiking with a friend at Ranch San Antonio, which is a gorgeous place for hiking, jogging, or running. It was wonderful hike, despite the blazing sun. And my friend, I will call her M.

During the hike, we chatted about many topics. The topic of money came up. M had seen me reading A Random Walk Down Wall Street before, so she asked me about stocks and investing.

However, instead of talking about stocks and investing, I suggested her to first understand her own situation before even thinking about investing in the market.

I believe a solid base is important. Therefore, one should start by figuring out their existing assets and liabilities (networth) and monthly income and expense (cash flow). Without first figuring out such information of yourself, it is reckless to begin investing.

M said that she has an idea that she spent a certain amount on average. Though I say, having an idea is not enough. Hard, cold numbers are the most honest proof of your financial situation. Numbers don’t lie, unless you tweak it of course.

M said that she will get anxious trying to handling money like so. Though I say, it is precisely that you do not want to get anxious about money that you should handle money like so. Plus, if you are not dealing with your personal finance because of anxiety, you are simply running away and not being honest with yourself.

I tried to be considerate and understand how, amazingly, hard it is for people to do differently. I suggested she should give it a shot. Perhaps start tracking the money flowing in and out and in her accounts. You have to start SOMEWHERE. If you haven’t, you are better off doing something than nothing to get started handling your money. You can learn in the process.

I am not sure how much she retained, but I hope she got something out of it at least.

Originally posted 2008-07-09 22:46:06. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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