I’m an OK swimmer, good enough that I don’t worry about drowning, but no so good that I’m willing to venture far from the shore. I always told my kids not to go past where the water is above their belly, because I knew that when a wave came in it could be over their heads. I don’t exactly follow my own advice, but I do try to stay where I can easily touch the bottom, so that I’m always a short swim to safety.
One time when I was swimming in the ocean, my son pointed out that two teenage girls and a younger boy thirty feet past us appeared to be in trouble.
“Are you all right?” I shouted. The girls shook their heads. My son swam in to get a lifeguard while I swam out to the kids.
“He can’t get in,” one of the girls told me.
“If I take him, can you girls get in?” They assured me they could.
As soon as I reached for the boy, he reacted as I’d expected he would. He grabbed for my neck, pushing me under as he clung to me. I was surprised that the girls had been able to keep him from doing this to them. With a bit of struggling, I was able to swim in enough to be out of danger, where the lifeguard met us and took over. The two girls had also made it in safely.
Later, the boy’s mother found me on the beach and thanked me for saving him, but the credit goes to the two girls. If they hadn’t been there, the boy would have been pulled out by the ocean without me even knowing. I had assumed they were all together, that maybe the girls were his older sisters, and didn’t learn that they were heroic strangers until the boy and his mother came to thank me.
Drowning is a leading cause of death. It’s the number one killer of children age 1 to 4 except for death related to birth defects. Among children age 14 and under, drowning is among the top five causes of death. And for every child who dies from drowning, another five are treated for drowning related injury, some suffering severe brain damage and/or lifetime physical disability. In the United States, there are about 3,500 unintentional drownings each year. The boy I swam to shore with was very nearly one of these statistics.
I regret that I didn’t heap praise on the girls that day in Ocean City, NJ. In the unlikely event that they read this and recognize themselves, I just want to say that I’m grateful they were there, grateful that they held the boy afloat, and grateful to know there are caring people in this world. And I hope the boy, now a young man, realizes the gift they gave him and, in whatever small way, pays it forward.
There’s an amusing saying that goes like this: “I’m unique, just like everyone else.” It made me smile the first time I heard it. It sounds contradictory, but there’s a lot of truth to it. We’re all unique in one way or another, and it’s our differences that make life interesting. In other ways, we’re pretty much the same. It’s universal, for instance, that we hate being stuck in traffic. Me, I don’t handle that well. I find myself having bad (if not evil) feelings toward the other drivers, particularly those drivers that don’t merge well or pass others on the shoulder. And, though I hate to admit it, I sometimes get annoyed at my wife for not being as angry at the traffic as I am.
We travel from PA to NY often, leaving by 6:30 am on Saturday to beat the traffic on the George Washington Bridge. That works out well. Coming back on Sunday, we’re not so lucky. Leaving pre-dawn would mean not seeing the kids, and leaving any other time means we’ll hit traffic. We usually opt for the traffic.
Occasionally, being stuck in traffic has provided an opportunity to do a small bit of good. On the Cross Bronx Expressway during traffic times, there are always homeless or otherwise needy people, standing on the highway, asking for help from the passing cars. My wife and I have taken to traveling with a care package to give: peanut butter, crackers, canned tuna, Breakfast Essentials, etc. The recipients seem grateful for our gift, thanking and blessing us. You could argue that we haven’t changed anything, but you’d be wrong. At the very least, we’ve changed our outlook.
I know we’re not unique, that more people than not want to help others. Yet doing something big can be overwhelming. So don’t start with something big. Do something small, something that helps just one person or just one family. And if everyone else is just like you, maybe the world will become a better place.
I showed my father a picture of a cooler I made for a friend’s retirement. It was a simple design, a wooden box with legs, built around an Omaha Steaks shipping container. It had a bottle opener on the front and a lower shelf. My father loved it and asked me to build one for him.
Each year, I rack my brain to think of some unique gifts for Father’s day and dad’s birthday, so I welcomed the thought of making him something he wanted. But I decided to take it a step further. “We’ll make it together,” I told him. “Next time I’m in Florida.” Next time is now.
We spent Friday, in the Florida heat, building the cooler. We talked a bit, joked a bit, and worked more than a bit. We took a break for lunch and a trip to Lowe’s, and finished about 3:00. We were happy with the finished product, but more important, we had a good day together.
Building the cooler with my father was as much a gift to me as it was to him. If you’re lucky enough to have parents, spend time with them. It will mean a lot to them. But just as important, it will mean a lot to you.
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My CFP friend has a client, an author, with no employees. His income (net Schedule C - ½ SE) is consistently about $300,000 per year. “He’d like to contribute $100,000 per year,” my friend says. “But he’s only 38 years old, too young for a defined benefit plan. What can he do?”
My friend remembers a time when DB plans were for older business owners, but now 38 is not too young. For this particular client, we designed a plan with a required minimum contribution of about $75,000 and a maximum deductible contribution of about $180,000. It’s a perfect fit!
Even if this client had been in his 20s, we could have designed an appropriate plan, using the DB plan plus a 401(k) plan. For those clients who want to contribute more than the defined contribution limit of $55,000, it’s worth looking at a defined benefit plan.
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