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Terry's Original Quote Keepers

A minute of silence can be more productive than an hour of debate.
~Terry Braverman

Arrest yourself when under the influence of a negative thought.
~Terry Braverman

Give me levity, or give me death!
~Terry Braverman

An intimate relationship is the ultimate training.
~Terry Braverman

Clarity of purpose is the ultimate decongestant.
~Terry Braverman

Faith keeps the voice of fear out of your ear.
~Terry Braverman

Peace begins between your ears.
~Terry Braverman

Peace begins between your ears.
~Terry Braverman

Be patient, before you become a patient.
~Terry Braverman

Over-analysis causes paralysis.
~Terry Braverman

May the 'farce' be with you.
~Terry Braverman

Plan some time to be spontaneous.
~Terry Braverman

Laugh at yourself, and you will always be amused.
~Terry Braverman

Imagination sharpens the dull blade of routine.
~Terry Braverman

Inquisitiveness cures boredom; nothing cures inquisitiveness.
~Terry Braverman

Feed your soul, starve your worries.
~Terry Braverman

Avoid time in the Tower of Babble.
~Terry Braverman

Release any false sense of insecurity.
~Terry Braverman

Life is a fantasy, made real by our thoughts.
~Terry Braverman

Mending the Cost of Healthcare

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "America's health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.” ― Walter Cronkite

In November, the New York Times reported that the cost of a single medical suture in the U.S. had surpassed $500. The cost was based on a national average of the procedure performed in doctors' offices, out-patient clinics and hospital emergency rooms. Compare that to a doctor in Ecuador who estimates the average cost of a stitch in Ecuador to be $30 to $35. The comparison is in line with the latest World Health Organization's survey of health care costs by country. As of early 2013, the per capita expenditure on health care in the U.S. was $8,635 compared to $750 in Ecuador. Spending on health care in the U.S. represents 18.2% of the national GDP, the highest in the world, while it represents 8.8% in Ecuador.  For the record, the per capita cost in Canada is $4,500, 11.5% of GDP; $3,750 and 9.9% in the U.K.; $1,425 and 9.9% in Argentina; $1,135 and 8.4% in Panama; and $725 and 7.7% in Colombia. Is it any wonder why a growing number of baby boomers are heading south?

According to a new book in progress by economics advisor Ron Robins, one way to address the issue is to re-organize the health care system according to well-studied methodologies that show huge potential cost savings. While another way—garnering increasing attention—is by utilizing scientifically validated disease prevention interventions such as meditation: “Interestingly, by deploying the known methodologies and interventions, it might not be necessary to reduce benefits yet still be able to cut health care costs a stunning 50-80 per cent,” asserts Mr. Robins. “The current deficit account of the U.S. Government includes an astounding unfunded liability of $205 trillion. It equals a current debt of about $665,000 for every living American adult and child. And most of this sum pertains to health care. The health care costs quagmire poses a financial deathblow to the U.S. economy and its citizens. To avert this calamity, America’s health care system must be revamped.”

The major health care cost drivers cited:
The increasing incidence of chronic disease in an aging population

Relatively fewer workers to pay for increasing costs

Exceptionally high professional fees relative to other developed countries

Huge oversupply of services, equipment

Administration costs and fraud (worthy of specific mention here are costs of malpractice insurance and litigation)

As the elderly are responsible disproportionately for health care costs, some researchers suggest they be particularly encouraged to practice preventive modalities, be it a healthier diet, consistent exercise, and/or relaxation techniques. One leading researcher on health care costs, Dr. Robert Herron, wrote in the Huffington Post on July 13, 2012: “In the Medicare population… the highest spending 25% of seniors accounted for 85% of total expenses’ and that there was ‘a 28% reduction in doctors’ bills over five years from baseline for persistent high-cost people who practiced the Transcendental Meditation technique.’"

After reviewing the book, “Tracking Medicine,” by John E. Wennberg, researcher Arnold Relman commented, ‘[Wennberg] provides convincing evidence that oversupply of services throughout the U.S. adds greatly to the cost of care…that since the medical care in the low-expenditure areas is not discernibly different in quality from that in the high-expenditure areas, a huge amount of money could be saved if the country were to receive care the way it is provided in the low-expenditure areas. Wennberg estimates the savings would be about 30 to 40%.’”

Regarding administrative costs, OECD Health Division Director Mark Pearson notes that these costs constitute about 7% of all health care costs in the U.S., roughly double those of other developed countries.  And the FBI calculates that fraud costs the health care system about $80 billion annually—or about 3 per cent of all health care expenditures.

Conclusion:  The solution to the health care financial debacle requires radical changes to the health care system and Americans’ attitudes about their health and health care. It requires each one of us to assume greater responsibility for our health and well-being. This means we become knowledgeable about an array of healthy options and take action via our lifestyle choices toward disease prevention. As the demand for preventive medicine and healthy living continues to grow, reforms to the health care system should occur naturally and spur implementation of known cost-effective modalities. It means introducing scientifically validated cost-saving disease prevention programs such as meditation, T’ai Chi, and Yoga that also create an inner fulfillment and self-sufficiency, as opposed to externally-driven, instant gratification consciousness that engenders frustration, feelings of lack, and ill health.

Ron Robins estimates these recommendations could cut U.S. health care costs by 50-80% and dramatically improve health outcomes—all without reducing benefits.

“Patient refused an autopsy.”
“Vaginal packing out. Doctor in.”
“Large brown B.M. Walking down the hall. “
“Exam of genitalia revealed that he was circus sized.”
“Patient was to have a bowel resection. He took a job as a stockbroker instead.”





An Investment That Bears Fruit

Later this year, Google will celebrate its 10th anniversary as a publicly-traded company. And the conventional wisdom is that GOOG has been one of the best performing investments of the last decade. If you had invested $85 in the Google IPO back in 2004, your investment would be worth over $1,100 today... a 13x return. Over the same period, the S&P 500 has returned just 66%. And if you had taken the plunge into US Treasuries back in 2004, you would have been paid 4.15% per annum for the last ten years.


In light of all this, Google's stock performance has been undoubtedly stellar. But there's an entirely different asset class that few people ever consider which has beaten the pants off of Google's long-term performance. It's agriculture. I thought about this yesterday as I was walking around the orchard here picking fresh, ripe plums off the tree. We'll be starting our harvest soon, and the workers are getting everything ready.


The average plum tree can easily produce over 100 pounds of fruit, starting a few years after you put a well-developed seedling in the ground. And even on a standard-sized residential lot, you can plant 20+ fruit trees. Assuming a long-term average price of just $0.50 per pound and a 2004 plant price of $4, investing $85 in plum trees 10-years ago instead of Google stock would have yielded well over $6,000 so far. Even if you're not a do-it-yourselfer and allow for harvest costs, loss, pruning, water, and other expenses, you'd still be up more than GOOG. Plus you'd still be grossing $1,000 per year... not to mention the increase in your home's market value. More importantly, you would be owning (and producing) REAL assets instead of paper assets-- something that can be traded, sold, stored, or if need be, eaten.


It's not just plums, either. Or even fruit trees for that matter. You could have bought $85 worth of organic tomato seeds in 2004 and grown thousands of dollars’ worth of organic tomatoes over the last decade from your backyard. Of course, this sort of notion makes most serious investors laugh. They can't think past their own noses and only know how to follow the investment herd off the proverbial cliff.


And while this missive isn't intended to convince astute readers to rush out and plant trees, it's at least worth pointing out that there are always profitable options far from the mainstream investment mentality.  (Reprinted from the newsletter “Sovereign Man”)



Bull Market: a random market movement causing an investor to mistake himself for a financial genius.

Bear Market: a 6 to 24 month period when the kids get no allowance, the wife gets no jewelry and the husband gets no sex.

Bull: what your broker uses to explain why your mutual funds tanked during the last quarter. 






Treatment for Gadgetry Dependence

Quote of the Week: "Email, instant messaging, and cell phones give us fabulous communication ability, but because we live and work in our own little worlds, that communication is totally disorganized.” - Marilyn vos Savant      


Is the convenience of today’s modern technology of texts and e-mails offset by glaring misunderstandings that compromise business effectiveness? Important findings from The Economist Intelligence Unit Global Study (sponsored by Cisco Corp.) conclude:


• In-person communications matter to business leaders, with 75 percent indicating in-person collaboration as critical to business success, affecting business outcomes more than other forms of communication. Although results indicate that this trend spreads across the globe, slightly stronger responses from Europe (77 percent) and the Asian Pacific region (78 percent) may reflect regional experience and cultural differences in regard to business practices.


• Today, businesses are increasingly exposed by limited in-person communication options within organizations as well across their suppliers and customers. More than 60 percent of communications today do not occur in real time.


• Misunderstandings resulting from the lack of in-person communication on major projects and strategic initiatives present business risk—88 percent of business leaders indicate business exposure and resources significantly affect business outcomes.


• Successful in-person communications are characterized by fully engaged interaction—with 54 percent of business leaders indicating the most important communication factor to be discerning the level of engagement and focus through a combination of visual and audio cues.


• There is a strong desire to increase in-person collaboration, and survey results show the potential to increase productivity and business outcomes by more than 20 percent across critical business.


The importance of effective communication aligned to business goals cannot be overstated. Factors and motivations for increased in-person communication include more efficient problem solving and conflict resolution, creating and expanding relationships, and comprehension of new opportunities. While electronic communication can be handy for situations like appointment confirmations, in-depth understanding of more complex issues and proposals, and the multiple communication cues (eye contact, voice tone, facial expressions, body language) afforded by face to face meetings will ultimately prove more productive, and more human.


E-MAIL DISTORTION HUMOR                              


From CEO to Manager: “Today there will be a total eclipse of the sun…time will be allowed for employees to view it in the parking lot. Staff must meet in the lot at ten to eleven, when I will deliver a short speech introducing the eclipse. Safety goggles will be available at a small cost.”


From Manager to Department Head: “Today at ten to eleven, all staff should meet in the car park. This will be followed by a total eclipse of the sun, which will appear for two minutes. For a moderate cost, this will be made safe with goggles. The CEO will make a short speech beforehand to give us all some information. This is not something that can be seen every day.”


From Department Head to Floor Manager: “The CEO today will deliver a short speech to make the sun disappear for two minutes in the form of an eclipse. This is something that cannot be seen every day, so staff will meet in the car park at ten or eleven. This will be safe, if you pay a moderate cost.”


From Floor Manager to Supervisor: “Ten or eleven staff are to go to the car park, where the CEO will eclipse the sun for two minutes. This doesn’t happen every day. It will be safe, and as usual this will cost you.”


From Supervisor to Staff: “Some staff will go to the car park today to see the CEO disappear. It is a pity this doesn’t happen every day.”  





Employee Loyalty (Part 2): Readers Feedback

This blog topic proved to be a popular one, provoking much response to the inbox. Here are some of the comments:

“When it is obvious that all employees are expendable, it is hard to understand why or how any company can expect true loyalty.” – S.C.

“I tend to agree with you Terry. Employee engagement, investment in training, and focus on retention are all ways to boost productivity...and ultimately, that is what boosts the bottom line for many companies. Ironically, when that's the end game getting all the attention, employees know it and have less loyalty.” – D.P.

“It is essential to make companies 'right-sized' (not over-hire or discount attrition) and invest in employee engagement, retention, and training. We don't need to keep employees that are a liability for the company...and we shouldn’t cut company banquets for our diligent work force just to save a few bucks (it tends to create more resentment and lower productivity).”  - F.M.

“I am quite confident in saying employee loyalty has come to a point from where it can only improve. Need convincing? Then look at the dilemma every union is facing." – A.W.

“We’ve seen a steady decline in loyalty since the industrial age. Given increased individualism and globalization, people now must reorient their attitude towards the workplace. In other words, with many more options like home-based locales and shorter term contractual work, both worker and company have to establish a new kind of relationship.”  –  J.B.

“There are still companies who prioritize their employees in difficult economic times. This results in much more motivated employees. The problem seems to be the focus only on the next quarter and an absence of long range thinking.” – B.V.

“I don’t believe that employee loyalty is dead. I think human beings by nature are loyal, that people take pride in having loyalty to family, friends, colleagues, and to an organization, if they are treated with respect and sufficient remuneration.” – S.F.

“In this new paradigm, we’re all ‘temps’. In today’s competitive global economy, organizations cannot realistically assure a permanent job. I think it is a reality that we must accept, and we must adapt ourselves to it.” – T.W.

“Nowadays, the question of employee loyalty has changed to ‘how do I move forward in my career’?  The mindset is to be loyal to one's profession, expertise, and goals, not the company. Nothing else really is more important to them. If their employer provides enough opportunity to achieve those objectives, it works. The minute someone comes along to offer better opportunities, they move along.” – H.T.

“The internet has revolutionized workplace mobility, making it easy to job search and research what other companies have to offer. Most companies provide the same basic benefits, but the ones that attract and retain workers are the ones who have ‘add-ons’ such as work from home alternatives, bonus plans, flexible work hours, etc. Companies are changing with the times, and so are the people they hire. In general, the seeming lack of loyalty may have more to do with incentives offered by other companies than building tenure at their current job.” – L.J.

This will certainly continue to be a hotly debated topic…stay attuned to The Replenisher for future trends in the realm of employee loyalty. 



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