Perspectives and Insights
October Issue 2020
Born and raised in New York as a Puerto Rican in the 1980’s I associated with the term Nuyorican for as long as I can remember. That was what I was, a Puerto Rican born in New York. I wore it with pride and anytime I had the opportunity to let someone know, “Yo soy Nuyorican”, I would. I did not question it or think anything of it, that was just me, I spoke broken Spanish, not to say we all did, but it was a mix of English & Spanish in every sentence. We endearingly called it Spanglish, the language of who I was, a Nuyorican.
As those 80’s babies and I got to the 90’s, we were so excited to finally make our own money by getting our first jobs! We wanted to buy our own things without putting a strain on mom’s pocketbook, but we were in for a big surprise. It turned out NUYORICAN wasn’t an option for race or ethnicity on the job application! How could that be? But what was even sadder was that Puerto Rican wasn’t an option either. I found myself sitting there trying to fill out this paper application questioning my whole existence. What am I? I thought I was going to fail this application as if it were a test, “what do I put? I don’t know, I’m not going to get the job, damn. After speaking with the hiring manager (who was Puerto Rican herself), I was guided to mark “Hispanic”. I wasn’t sure what it was but it sounded right and at least I could put something. I was relieved to say the least. I did get the job; I was a concession boy at the local theatre.
I was Hispanic? No I wasn’t! I learned Hispanic was and is just a comfortable label the establishment created to put every group that spoke Spanish in. We are not from Spain; our origins did not start there.
WE ARE LATINO, and Puerto Ricans specifically of TAINO descent have a rich history and culture that goes back thousands of years. We were thought extinct, but we live on, as do many Indigenous people. Let us know our history, our stories, our struggles, our triumphs. We owe it to our ancestors, we owe it to ourselves and we owe it to future generations. To celebrate, expand and promote indigenous cultures I am currently creating a brand line called 1NDIG3NOU5. I would love your support and encouragement in getting out the message and products throughout this journey.
September Issue 2020
Who is right? Is it you? Is it me? Is it the Christian, the Jew, the Muslim, the Buddhist, the Hindu, the atheist? Or the Democrat, Republican, independent, or socialist?
Who can tell you the answer? How can they tell you with certainty while also disproving the other with as much certainty? Seemingly, each of the above have and continue to try to do just that. Though it might seem as if I am questioning your divinity and or political alliance — I am more so questioning the exclusivity we as a people claim to have over the dominion of what is right and what is wrong. Outside of basic morality, I just do not see how any one person or group can make such assertions. I am a proponent for unveiling truths. There is more value in discovering WHAT is wrong to then find a way towards resolution versus trying to find WHO is wrong to pass judgment and blame.
Let us go back to the basics; we are all created and developed in the same manner with little understanding of how the body guides itself to create life. Surely discoveries in science delineate the biological processes that take place but the true inner workings of why and how the body commands itself are not understood. How can we then create such certainty when we are still in a discovery mode to understanding our true selves? Yes, at times that certainty has led to great discoveries and inventions, but we have also seen the wrath of ignorant certainty.
This leads me to a great strain that has been endured through the ages — religion. How many wars have been waged in the name of God? How could one religion think it is better than the next? When the same book (whichever you choose) implies that the workings of the world, God, the universe is beyond our understanding. So, what good does it do to fight, kill, and destroy based on some knowledge we truly don’t have? As humans we simply do not possess the ability to decipher the world from our limited understanding, and after all, we are nearly identical on a molecular level.
In the grand scheme of things, when it is all said and done, in our brief existence in the history of the world, we will all be regarded as one people, one race, Just humans. Just as fragile, just as temporary, just as miraculous as the next. Let us make the best of our experience while we still can and create resolutions instead of wars!
THE PLAN – PART III
August Issue 2020
Hope everyone and their loved ones are well! We have been in some trying times of late with our health, our safety, and our financial situations all under siege. At the same time some of these events are nothing but echoes of the past. These situations hopefully opened more eyes not just for the moment but going forward. We have seen tragedies come and go and just resurface repeatedly we need a lasting change but how?
In the previous parts I have focused on financial freedom and building up assets because it seems that is the only way to prosperity and truly have a lasting impact with the ability to invoke change. In this capitalist society we live in, real wealth seems to be the only way forward. Maybe because we have the heavy burdens of life such as living month to month with the bills, not earning enough, unable to invest and grow cash flow all leads to just letting important issues fade away, not because we want to but because we are just trying to survive. If we stay in this survival mode, we will never be able to grow and expand and that is why the consumer/producer mentality needs to change. We need to produce. Until our communities are producing and supporting ourselves without giving our money back to the same people and corporations that are supporting the oppression these situations will continue to occur.
And regarding supporting and building up our communities, WHY IN THE HELL WERE WE LOOTING IN OUR OWN DAMN NEIGHBORHOODS?
That is counter-productive and self-defeating. Loot the big American corporate stores if any, but what we needed to loot was the US Treasury by forcing and electing politicians that support long overdue reparations. We saw how the Treasury printed over $2 Trillion with much of it going to Billion-dollar corporations, they can print some more for the original people who built this country up from nothing.
We cannot just give our vote blindly, we need to get to know these candidates and ask the basic questions of what you are going to do for my people, my family, and myself. Not voting is allowing officials with contrary agendas in office. Blindly voting just because of party affiliation has done nothing. Both parties are two wings of the same bird, which is a corrupt system. Again, knowing who and why you are voting for is the only way. The why to vote for a candidate is because they are change makers, they are not going to put up with the status quo, and they will fight for you.
This is a crying call for everyone to wake up, our lives and entire livelihoods are at stake, let us make the changes Now!
THE PLAN – PART II
July Issue 2020
The accumulation of what was previously discussed in The Plan, arises the need to protect it all from further taxation and probate. This is done by creating a Living Revocable Trust (LRT) in which all assets will be transferred to whomever you choose, specifically your home, business, and investments will not be under your name, but under the LRT which is under your control. Within that Trust, you select your beneficiaries and how your assets will be distributed and handled. The greatest benefit of this is that it eliminates many taxes that occur in distributing wealth upon death. Again, with this LRT document, you and your beneficiaries will be better- protected legally and financially. For other specific items and instructions, a Will is still needed and should be accompanied by a Power of Attorney and Healthcare Proxy.”
Health insurance is a key component in protecting our wealth. Wealth goals can easily go astray if health is not prioritized. Therefore, ensuring we are getting our routine examinations and maintaining our health throughout life is vital. Furthermore, a healthy lifestyle, a balanced diet, and exercise are complementary to building Wealth. Good health leads to a better quality of life and enjoying the fruits of your labor. After all what are all the riches worth if you lack your health.
A Fixed Income Annuity can be a helpful tool for those later in life in paying out a guaranteed monthly income to yourself for a set amount of time. This can be a great supplement to social security, pension, or retirement accounts.
If people are dependent on you and your income, life insurance is not negotiable. We know, and it is being further proven during these times, tomorrow is not promised to anyone. A 20-year Term Policy is the most affordable, and recommended. The amount of the policy depends on your personal situation to ensure that whoever is dependent on you will not be financially affected by your passing.
These tools are great management instruments for you and your loved ones, possibly leaving wealth for not one but several generations. Parallel to that you will be educating and promoting self-empowerment to our people through well-defined actions.
THE PLAN – PART I
June Issue 2020
Picking right up where we left off, this month we will be getting into some asset, monetary, family, and community building actions to generate wealth and opportunity. f your job is offering a retirement account in which they are matching a percentage of your salary, this is truly a no brainer, you should certainly contribute up to their match. Some employers match anywhere from 50-100% on 3-6% of your salary….
If your salary is $10,000 and you contribute 3% ($300) of your salary, your employer will match that 3%. This is essentially a 50-100% ($150-$300) return straight-off, not including the long-term gains through compounding interest. It is a win considering most employers did away with guaranteed pension plans. If you do not have an employer and are a small business owner there are alternative self-employed 401k plans you can create and contribute to. Another account to consider is a personal Roth or Traditional IRA. I prefer the Roth IRA because it offers tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals. A Traditional IRA is the opposite. You do not pay any taxes on the money contributed but you pay taxes upon withdrawal. A bonus of the Roth IRA, unlike the Traditional IRA, is that if an emergency arises requiring access to cash, you can withdraw up to the amount you contributed with no penalties or tax bill, but any gains you withdraw will be taxed. Both IRA plans have contribution limits, which can adjust from year to year. Additionally, you can open a guardian IRA account on behalf of your child. Your child’s income (via lawn work, trash work, etc.) is what makes them eligible for this account. The advantage is that as the guardian you can match the child’s contributions 100%.
Subsequently, with your credit in good standing, major debts paid off, and a 6-month emergency fund you can make your way into real estate. To begin, a savings account needs to be established to stow money towards an investment property. The initial goal is to create cash flow and growth which eventually results in financial freedom. The effects of this financial freedom will bring about significant changes. Not only your own life but also that of your family and community. For starters, saving for a 20% down payment on a property, plus closing costs, rehab, and unexpected expenses is crucial. This will give you a strong position with the property by lowering your mortgage payment. Once you have a tenant you will see a larger return on your investment. Presumably, a $100,000 house will have around a $500 mortgage payment, if you rent it out for $1,000 that will be around a 30% annual return on your down payment, not including the potential increase in value on the property.
Obtaining a property manager is optional, however, a lot of information can be found online and/or in books and can be done remotely. Speaking from experience, this can be accomplished. In 2013 when I got laid off from my job in Virginia and moved to Florida, I did exactly that; remotely managed the rental of my property. I posted ads in Zillow/Trulia/MLS/Realtor.com and I am hesitantly going to disclose Craigslist. Though truthfully that is where I got my first and best tenant. I ran my own credit report and reference check, got a generic lease from Google docs, collected my deposit and ongoing rents through a mobile app and kept in touch via telephone. I did have a friend that helped with the showing and transfer of the keys. I share my story to say, if I can do it, so can you! In next month’s column, we will continue to dig deeper into other strategies and ideas
Note: Please consult a professional before making any final decisions
CONSUMER VS. PRODUCER
May Issue 2020
We live in the land of the free, with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is what we as a nation have signed up for, regardless of race, religion, or socioeconomic status. Countless historic documents allude to the notion above but has this nation lived up to that?
We are living in a time in which half of 1% of the population controls 90% of the wealth. This didn’t happen overnight. This is the making of generational laws, rules, regulations, and access control embedded in the foundation that has been manipulated to fit those in power. From slavery to current day mass incarceration, there has been no let-up in this system. One breaks and another is formed, old money, new money, old rules, new rules, we have remained in the same predicament, still aiming to believe in documents not written for us.
In former times, uprisings and revolutions were stirred up when political institutions failed to incorporate changes that would benefit us all. Modern day pioneers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King did everything in their power to bring about change; unfortunately, their force was met with deadly force resulting in assassinations. Dr. King was shortly assassinated after he re-positioned his message to self-empowerment and using buying power to impact change. The re-direction was for the people to start building up their own businesses, their own network and putting that money right back into the community. Just imagine if his vision would have flourished. This could have kept our money within our communities promoting growth and thrusting us into wealth via land, property, and resource accumulation. “United we stand divided we fall” never rung truer. But it was evident, unification was not going to be tolerated or allowed. The establishment’s agenda was and is to control our money and mobility while upholding their powers, ironically, by any means necessary.
Which leads me to another tactic that has been used on us: Welfare, designed to meet temporary basic human needs at best partially responsible for controlling people since its inception decades ago. It has kept people from pursuing their talents, hopes and dreams through fear of no longer qualifying. It creates a crutch to the extent that you remain in the same income bracket feeding a perceived security net. It conditions you to stay poor, stay in your bubble, not to reach for a bigger slice of the pie. Before you know it, you fall victim to the welfare mentality not even realizing you are comfortable being uncomfortable. We need to destroy all chains designed to hold us down and relive Dr. King’s dream. The one he had while awakened, to save, to build, to own, to invest, to unite, to grow, to dream, to explore, and to expand our capacity. Let us do away with the grip commercial consumerism has had on us and begin to produce no matter how small. Currently the total of Black and Latino buying power is nearly $3 TRILLION! Let’s make our money work for us, build our communities, lets support our small businesses, add new skills, lets expand, gain real estate assets, open up more savings accounts, Roth IRA’s, workplace 401k’s, where we can invest and grow our money in our own banks to reinvest in our families and ourselves. We are the ancestors of future generations, let us begin to build a foundation they can not only stand proudly on, but also soar to new heights.
April Issue 2020
If our current situation were a sci-fi show, it would land a spot-on prime time television, with a script possibly written by Stephen king.
Collectively, our lives have been turned upside down in an overnight fashion. Our norms have come to a screeching halt as we scramble in our minds to make sense of many uncertainties being delivered our way.
Store shelves are empty, people are outside masked and gloved, healthcare workers and first respondents are fighting an invisible threat, vital supplies are running low, elderly and immune compromised, people are dying, hospitalizations to no end, families torn and quarantines in the works for entire cities, states and countries.
All governments are in response mode, but they are up against something they have no manual for. Strong, smart leadership is the necessity, and while some have ‘let the ball drop’, it’s important to highlight that many have also acted in response to this pandemic.
I have seen firsthand the overwhelming response some elected officials are providing to their constituents. They are having personalized conversations, holding late night conference calls, working the 7 days of the week, gathering and prepping staff to be prepared to help as many people possible. In this moment there are more questions than answers but at the core of it all, the people just want to know that all bases are being covered to achieve the best possible outcome.
This is life in 2020 right now and as we search for that silver lining let us also keep in mind that we must do our part. This virus indiscriminately chooses its host and our role is to flatten the curve by adhering to the prevention guidelines set.
Hopefully, sooner than later, we will reflect on these happenings and describe it as a time that ironically got us closer to what really matters. Our families, staying connected, looking out for one another and seeing past what has separated us. Not as a compromise, but as a realization that we ultimately are one people with the same basic needs, wants and desires. Everything else comes in as a distant second.
We will not only get better but also be better! Peace and love family, looking forward to life post COVID.
March Issue 2020
One of life’s treasures lies in the beauty of having a child. It’s an immense responsibility and as vast as the sky regarding parenting styles.
My perspective has allowed me to witness the changes that occur as the child goes through several developmental stages. Coupled with those stages, the parents also go through adjustment phases in which you aim to meet the child’s mental, physical and emotional needs. Within the context of this relationship, you carry the hat of life giver, caretaker, guider, first example, adviser, disciplinarian and the list are truly endless. Parents quickly learn the intensity of sacrificing and overcoming whatever obstacle to ensure the child’s well-being. Having a child is the purest form of unconditional love. It’s a sacred relationship that should be respected as such and held to the highest regard. However, I find that a shift is occurring where parents are trading parenting and aiming for the “best friend” title instead.
Let’s explore this a little further. According to the dictionary, a friend is one who is ‘attached to another by affection or esteem.” A friend is an individual you can trust, mutually support, love and choose. The key driver in a friendship is that you possess the choice for the person to be a part of your life for varying reasons. This choice is eliminated when it comes to your children. The relationship is not chosen but assigned to a degree and so naturally it takes on a completely different connection. I’ve asked myself plenty of times why the best friend path is chosen, and I’ve concluded that this generation would rather be “cool” parents because it’s the more popular option, and the one they never experienced with their parents; which merely reduces their roles to titles.
From the family unit to your work unit, or any unit, you are a part of – title means something. Your boss is not your secretary, your associate is not your CEO and your child is not your best friend! You are a mother or father and that encompasses so much more than that of a friend. A child might innocently say you are their best friend, which is inherently heartwarming, but clarity needs to be given to not confuse the roles. Declaring yourself as your child’s best friend will lead to confusion and skew the fine balance of the parental relationship and can eventually lead to a lack of respect.
In my family structure, I opted to delineate the parental roles and reinforce the unconditional love that I have for them, no matter the adversity; and subsequently, this strengthened my family unit. The phrase “friends are like a dollar in your pocket, here today gone tomorrow” sums up why your children are not your friends. It’s simply cannot be ranked in the same category.
In closing continue to navigate parenting with the approach of always looking to improve. Do it with love, honor, and respect.
Living with Multiple Sclerosis
February Issue 2020
|Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Is a disease that causes
the body’s immune system to attack the
central nervous system (CNS).
The CNS includes the brain and
the spinal cord.
Some say the “beauty of life is in the struggle.” German philosopher Friedrich Nietzche even went as far as saying “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Poetic in nature for the over-comers, but what about those during their despair. Could this ring true to them? Let me bring you into my world to demonstrate how that struggle can indeed lead to beauty.
Circa 2005, I experienced total numbness on the left side of my body. Several tests later, the doctor walked in to tell me what I then considered the definition of life being over. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at 21 years old! Filled with denial and despair, I simply could not see a way forward. The life I envisioned did not include having a debilitating condition in it. What it had were plans and dreams that now felt impossible.
The reality I described above is now 15 years behind me. With time, pain, and tears, I came to terms with everything. Truthfully it wasn’t due to some grand revelation or even a spiritual journey, but indeed the struggle life presented to me. I just needed to survive, and that survival was driven by two forces, my girlfriend (now wife) and my first son.
With reflection, it became clear to me that the beauty was in the paving. The paving despite the difficulties is what allows you to overcome. We must keep going even if it’s just to survive for that moment because you don’t know what is waiting for you in the next.
My survival in taking it one moment at a time, yielded me four (4) beautiful kids with my wife. I have accomplished and endeavored in things that not even my pre-diagnosed self could have imagined. The beauty is regardless of MS I still have more to do.
The roadblocks don’t stop you; you just become better at handling them. My most recent bump was being placed on disability and relearning how to walk. I will spare you all those details, but what I will say is that instead of being a recipient of Medicare at 36, I am a licensed agent distributing it. Keep going, keep fighting, keep striving, keep giving yourself a chance for the beauty of life to reveal itself to you….
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January Issue 2020