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marcfrey150As a high school graduate I wrote an essay inspired by Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” It’s time to see if the future has caught up with us. So, if you are up for it, let’s get into some science fiction:

It all started so innocently. A person’s desire to connect to a distant person seems all so natural. Think back in time, and you will find that we always employed technology to achieve the long-distance connection. First came drums and smoke signals, then the written word allowed us to create messages and transport them via messenger on foot. Organized services like the United States Post Office (founded 1775) and the short-lived but legendary Pony Express added regular delivery schedules. The next invention made it possible to transmit electronic Morse signals via telegraph services, followed by the next breakthrough that came about 100 years later with the invention of telephone services. Then one day about 40 years ago, another quantum leap propelled humans’ ability to talk to other people to a whole new level: The age of the mobile telephone has arrived. In order to put this breakthrough into perspective, it is enough to look at the statistics: The number of U.S. mobile phone subscribers grew from 300,000 in 1985 to 300 million in 2010.

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marcfrey150

By now, most of our readers have picked up on the feud between Skip Hoagland and the Hilton Head Island–Bluffton Chamber of Commerce. Hoagland has been taking out full-page ads in the local newspaper to draw public attention to what he claims is “Chamber abuse.”

I would pay money to see a presidential-style debate between self-made entrepreneur Skip Hoagland and Chamber President Bill Miles—especially if it would be followed by a boxing match.

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stevenweber

Valentine’s Day is a day for candy, special events and quiet candlelit dinners. For some, it’s a time to express love and gratitude to their partner; for others, an opportunity to renew and rekindle a relationship. It may seem an awkward time to talk about money. That conversation can often cause words of love to decay into uncomfortable and angst-filled silence. While a meaningful dialogue on this day might seem unromantic, Valentine’s Day can present an opportunity for a fresh start.

Many marriage counselors place finances and money second only to sex as a significant cause of marital stress. Most frequently identified are differing attitudes toward spending and saving, lack of communication about financial status, and secrecy. Couples tend to discuss their dreams and goals pretty openly but learn each others’ attitudes towards money gradually. Can a saver and planner ever be happily married to a spender and dreamer?

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marcfrey150By now everybody has heard of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that is spreading across the country, inspiring such offshoots as “Occupy Boston,” “Occupy Charleston,” etc.

According to its various websites, the “occupy movement” is representing 99 percent of Americans, claiming that the other one percent is holding the majority of the money and the power. Not surprisingly, the 400 richest Americans, according to Forbes, have had an “amazing year” while the rest of us have grown poorer. The political process and those who represent it are not offering any comfort, because instead of offering real solutions and actions, the two parties block each other and “Main Street” is paying the price.

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Let’s face it; 2011 has not been the most stellar year on record for most of us.

As a I write this column, it has become official that the “super committee” can’t agree on how to reduce the American household deficit, Europe has the financial markets on the edge, the “Occupy Wall Street” movement has spread around the country, the NBA season is on hold, your neighbor’s house is in foreclosure and you have not had a raise in three years. The list could be expanded endlessly…

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Many investors tend to underestimate their life expectancy, and in doing so miss a critical element in the calculation of future income. To avoid running out of income or assets, you need to know what you have to start, how much you spend and how long it needs to last.

A recent study by Actuarial Consultants based on 2013 mortality rates for people who do not hold annuities showed that half of all 65-year-old men will live to 86 years, and half of all 65-year-old women will live to nearly 88. A quarter of 65-year-old men and women will survive to over 90 years old.

There is no rule of thumb as to how much can be withdrawn safely from a portfolio. How could there be?  It depends on your age, your portfolio value, your life expectancy and the performance of your particular mix of investments.

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The lion’s share of charitable contributions every year are made between October and Dec. 31, so the last three months of the year present a window of opportunity for you to make sure your favored charities are spending your money the right way. Last month we looked at gifting from your IRA; this month, in the second of two parts, we look at evaluating the charities themselves.

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Hiltomarc_freyn Head has an opportunity to establish a real town center — but it’ll take everyone’s cooperation.

Every community has its pivotal moments, times when it must make fundamental decisions that will affect its evolution for years to come.

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stevenweber

 

A quick primer on the averages that define our daily financial lives.
When we ask “How did the market do today?” we’re usually looking for averages like the Dow and the Standard & Poor’s 500. But we tend to be unclear about how they came about and what they really reflect.

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stevenweber


 

For most of us, end-of-life decisions — those issues relating to medical care and advanced directives to doctors and health care providers — are among the most difficult to discuss. They carry their intimations of illness and mortality like so much excess baggage, and they grow heavier as we age. In addition, they bring with them religious beliefs and moral considerations that are deeply personal, and these can result in conflict between spouses, parents, children and siblings. That’s a shame, because this kind of discord can be easily prevented.

 

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marc_freyYou know that desperate feeling you get when you realize you’ll be pressed right up until the last minute to fulfill a deadline?

Unless you are disciplined enough to let an electronic agenda dictate every hour of your life, you know what I’m talking about. The “last minute call” is an inside joke at Monthly referring to yours truly about when I fail to deliver my column in a timely manner, despite the constant reminders of our talented and organized editor.

A “last minute call” is also how I would describe the circumstances under which we secured RBC as a title sponsor for the Heritage literally days before a looming deadline. I don’t know about you, but all of a sudden I feel this special connection to all things Canadian, so in celebration of our new title sponsor, I decided to compile a good-natured list of five things Canadians are doing better right now:

  1. They keep alive the cultural heritage of their ancestors.
  2. They don’t try to fix foreign countries.
  3. They don’t depend on foreign energy ?sources.
  4. They know how to throw a party.
  5. They saved the Heritage.


All joking aside, I’m jubilant for the fact that the Heritage has been given a second life, but at the same time I would like to see us use this close call as a wake-up call. Unless we want to relive this period of extended uncertainty (even though we can breathe out now) we should start now the process of securing a sponsor for 2017 — which will be here before we know it. I truly hope that we won’t simply return to the idea that everything is perfectly fine now, because there’s still a great deal of work to be done.

I do apologize for constantly using this space to sound an alarm bell, but the fact remains that we have much to accomplish in the next five years if we want to avoid having to be bailed out via a last-minute call. We have to fix our infrastructure, our image and our marketing message, and we have to create a culture of excellence in every respect when we receive a new sponsor, visitor, business or neighbor.

Many people believe that the best times to be here in Hilton Head are spring and fall, but most of our visitor dollars (which represent 2/3 of our economy) are made during the 12 weeks of summer. There must be a better way to sell our best seasons — and that task requires the same type of re-thinking and rejuvenation that will lead us back to the path of success.


Keep on the sunny side

Meanwhile, does anyone remember six-month recessions? The ones with the short, steep dips and quick recoveries? These days we’re bogged instead by a two-year drought, which has been followed by a miserly recovery. It’s no wonder that many of us feel tired and burned out, but now is not the time to be complacent. Quite the opposite: Now is exactly the time to summon your last resources of energy and optimism — the ones you didn’t know you had — because better days are ahead of us, and as the Heritage deal proves, we’re digging ourselves out of it.

If you want to get out of the doom-and-gloom mood here are a few tips:

Do you wake up and go to bed with CNN, Fox or MSNBC? Stop the noise and fear-mongering and seek the truth. Are your only friends the ones you have on Facebook? Close the computer and talk to a neighbor. Are you discouraged that Apple only employs 50,000 people in the U.S. but a millions in China? Be proud instead that every BMW X3 (the company’s best-selling SUV) worldwide is being produced in the upstate in Spartanburg. Are you tired of bipartisan bickering? Stop listening and go vote when the time comes. Are you discouraged about your own situation? Go out and help somebody that is worse off than you. Reality is what we make of it and for every piece of negative information we can so often find a positive counterpart!

Upwards!

 

Email: mfrey@freymedia.com

 

marc_freyIn my last column I asked readers to comment on the future of our community, which is of great concern right now. At the time this issue went to press there was still no official word about the Heritage. At the same time we learned that we’re in danger of losing the last commercial airline service to Hilton Head Island: US Airways is contemplating cutting off its service to Charlotte.

While these two incidents are only a small part of what drives our economy and quality of life, they are symbolically very significant because they signal that this region may be falling from its elite status.

It is evident that we need to come up with a long-term plan to revive our image and the quality of the user experience for residents and visitors alike. The ideas need to go much further than merely cutting a few trees at the landing strip and extending the runway. We should look at this as important opportunity to ask ourselves what type of community we want to be. There are many great possibilities, but most of them revolve on the following central themes: nature, learning, sports and arts, which all have an element of discovery at their core.

Here are some other suggestions from our readers, as gathered in our online poll:

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