February 21, 2005
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank

Dear Marketplace Friend, 

      Who do you trust? Truth is, anyone asking you that question should be double-checked before you put much confidence in them. Bad grammar may just be sloppy vocabulary ... or, it may be a reflection of a character chaos (it's "whom," not "who!").

      No one cared about the grammar, 48 years ago. That's when Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon first teamed-up for daytime television. Who Do You Trust? was an afternoon gameshow, without a script (or FCC tensions!). McMahon was the announcer; Carson was the host ... and he played it loose. The daily guests - placed in a "question from the 3x5 card" hot seat - were also a chance for Johnny to ad-lib ... and he did it in trademark fashion. After five years as starting-pitcher in that "minor league" slot, he was "called up" to the dugout of The Tonight Show (following Jack Paar) ... and brought Ed McMahon with him. He tamed his schtick for the nighttime crowd ... and stayed in that slot for nearly 30 years. Turns out Johnny was the one NBC trusted with the after-the-late-news assignment ...

      We've got a new season of Who Do You Trust? playing on the national stage. This one is hardly entertainment; it involves people who plan to live past 65, beginning in 2018. The premier of the program was broadcast, nationwide, during the State of the Union address. News bulletin: Baby Boomers are heading for their "retirement years." Their kids are heading into their prime earning years. Those two plottable phenomenon are on converging train tracks. A collision seems inevitable; a solution seems essential. Someone has to come up with the strategy: Who(m) do you trust?

      The folks with the slide rules all agree: in 2018, the outflow of SS $$ will, for the first time, exceed the inflow of FICA dollars (that's the deduction from the paychecks of the currently employed). Gore's assertions aside: there ain't no "lock box" (bad grammar, for emphasis). Congress has been spending the annual overwithholding every year, putting an IOU in the lockbox as a "thank you" note. When the shortfall occurs, all bets are off. An IOU from a bankrupt brother-in-law isn't worth much - and the bank won't consider it as collateral.

      Here's the head butt: there are two mindsets out there. One position says "trust the government." Those folks feel less compelled to act now; it isn't a problem yet ... so leave it for the folks who are looking for votes in the election following the shortfall. When in doubt ... reaction is preferred (why be proactive, and get people all agitated?) The other position says "trust the individual." That position proclaims that people ought to make their own solution for future funding ... and government ought to enable that by allowing them to invest some of their now-seized FICA dollars into accounts they self-control. Who(m) do you trust: government or individuals? No small matter ...

      The Social Security war is just heating up; the winners won't be announced until around 2020, when my contemporaries and I go down to our mailbox to look for the check. Hope we take the right course ... If it makes sense to think-ahead about the retirement account that will carry you for 25 years, how smart would it be to think-ahead about the Kingdom account that will carry you ... for eternity?

      Around 50 AD, Paul gave this advice: "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good works, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life." (I Timothy 6:17-19).

      Investing for retirement requires a plan ... and discipline. The outcomes affect your quality-of-life for the rest of life (plus/minus 30 years). Investing for the Kingdom requires a plan ... and discipline. The outcomes affect your quality-of-life for the rest of eternity. Do good and be rich in good works (that's an investment of time and expertise); be generous and willing to share (that's an investment of resources). Who do you trust for your financial future: your money ... or, God?

Bob Shank

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