Thoughts To Live By…

Archive for March 2009

 

John 12:20-33 – The Coming of Jesus’ Hour
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Sunday Gospel Reflection

Paradox, literally speaking, is a form of speech that contains a “seeming contradiction.” It has been said that “Life is a paradox.” There are many things in life which seemed to be a sort of contradiction but in truth and in reality they are not. The same also with our Christian life.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gave his disciples one of the most popular biblical paradox commonly referred to as the  Paradox of the Grain of Wheat, when he said to his disciples, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a grain of wheat; but if it dies,  it produces much fruit” (Jn 12:24).

What Jesus, indeed, introduces is a divine paradox.  The seed must die if it is to bear fruit.  The person who strives to play it safe, in his relationship with God dies, while the one who sacrifices life,  lives.  The road to glory is servanthood.  That was true for Jesus, and it is true for all who would follow him.  “Preachers should preach regularly on the apparent failure the Gospel invites to, ending in death.  A message of ‘success’ has to contain large elements of a siren song of ‘this world’….  In John, cross and crown are one” (Sloyan, 156).  Like Jesus, we are expected to be faithful even unto death and to trust God for vindication.  “If Jesus’ willingness extends to the point of death, his ‘deacons’ must follow him there.  It is a hard place to go…, but if (this step) is taken, it is rewarded with a great gift:  ‘honor’ from the Father” (Howard-Brook, 281).

Pope John Paul II said something very beautiful about this divine paradox:

Christian logic is really ‘original.’ Nobody can consider himself safe except when he risks all for the Lord; neither always can he consider himself saved if, in turn, he does not make himself an instrument of salvation, since spiritual gift grow when they are shared” (L’osservatore Romano, June 1991).

The Church in her Catechism (CCC 1816) teaches how to be productive Christian:

“The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it: “All however must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow him along the way of the Cross, amidst the persecutions which the Church never lacks.” Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation: “So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

The imagery of the grain of wheat and the message it contains and wishes to deliver illustrates the life, teaching and the fate of Jesus and his disciples. Before his passion and death, Jesus is limited to his earthly ministry and he was met with opposition, hostility, rejection, and persecution not only of the Scribes and Pharisees in particular and the Jews in general but also of his relatives to the point that he was thought to be mad or out of his mind. But after the resurrection, his life gains a cosmic dimension. Many people repented, converted and began to believed him as their Lord and Savior. The Holy Spirit is sent and the disciples are given knowledge of Jesus and his teachings. They are also inspired to spread and give witness to the Gospel to all peoples: Jews and pagans alike. Jesus by being faithful to saving mission entrusted to him by God the Father to the end has become a fruitful servant of God. Jesus in his life, death and resurrection, like a grain of wheat who was sown and died, lives and produces and abundant harvest.

The imagery of the grain of wheat also illustrates the life of Lawrence, a deacon and martyr of Rome. Tertullian, an irascible Carthaginian theologian around A.D. 200, writes: “We become many whenever you mow us down; the blood of Christians is seed” (Apology, 50). Simply said, the “Blood of martyrs is the seed of Christianity.”  Martyrs like Lawrence, “are truly a luminous beacon for the Church and for humanity, for they have made Christ’s light shine in the darkness. They strove to serve Christ and His “Gospel of hope” faithfully, and by their martyrdom expressed their faith and love to a heroic degree, putting themselves generously at the service of their brethren” (Pope John Paul II, Message for eighth Public Meeting of the Pontifical Academies, November 3, 2003).

Christianity, like any other system of belief, thrives on commitment, and the commitment of martyrs is inspiration for the ages. As a Christians by virtue of our baptism and confirmation, we are anointed by the Holy Spirit as a prophet, priest and king. As a prophet, therefore, we should “be ready and willing to become a consistent witness even at the cost of suffering and great sacrifice. Because as a prophet, even in the most ordinary circumstances we are called to a sometimes heroic commitment” (see Veritatis Splendor, 93).

How can we be faithful and loyal prophets in the midst of this corrupt and depraved generation? When we consistently hold to what is right, true and beautiful and reject what is evil, denounce injustices, decry violence, condemned human rights violations, take care of our environment, protect human life and dignity and promote integral human development.

Not all of us are called to martyrdom in the real sense of the word.  Not all of us are called to follow the footstep of Lawrence. But all of us are called to become consistent witnesses of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Every time we choose life over death its also bloodless martyrdom. Every time we choose good over evil, its also bloodless martyrdom. Every time we choose grace over sin, its also bloodless martyrdom. Every time we choose truth over lies, its also bloodless martyrdom. Every time we choose God over Satan its also bloodless martyrdom. Every time we choose heaven over hell its also bloodless martyrdom.

The countless thousands of Christian martyrs who have gone to their deaths for “the truth of the faith and of Christian doctrine” (cf. CCC 2473) are the ultimate witnesses. Be counted among the chosen ones, therefore, and make your “consistent witnessing a seed of the Church and of Christianity, a “fragrant offering” (Eph 5:12), “holy, living and acceptable sacrifice to God” (see Rm 12:1).

 

When is it time to say, “My relationship is in trouble, and we need help?” How do you know when that time is?

By Sharon Rivkin, M.A., M.F.T, for www.hitchedmag.com Updated: Dec 9, 2008

When couples wait too long to ask for help, the relationship may be beyond repair. The sooner help is sought, the better chance there is of recovering, saving and actually strengthening the relationship. This includes issues dealing with affairs or other types of betrayal.

‘The longer we wait, the more entrenched we get in destructive patterns and resentment and all hope for change is lost.”

The longer we wait, the more entrenched we get in destructive patterns and resentment and all hope for change is lost. At a certain point we don’t even want change… we just want to be done.

The seven warning signs that a relationship is in trouble are:

1. Fighting has become the rule rather than the exception to the rule.

2. You find yourself looking outside the relationship for comfort, care, and understanding.

3. You can’t remember what attracted you to your partner in the first place.

4. There is little or no intimacy in your relationship — sleeping in different rooms or different beds, lack of interest, anger, and hostility so that intimacy is out of the question.

5. Spending very little time together, friends seem to be more important than your partner.

6. Reactions to situations are disproportionate to the content of the disagreement (i.e., feeling your partner doesn’t love you because she/he didn’t like the meal you cooked).

7. Feeling helpless and hopeless to change anything. Feeling done with the relationship, but unclear as to where to go and what to do. Feelings of anger, resentment, pain, and desperation are predominant.

If any or all of these describe you in your relationship, your relationship is in trouble and it won’t be long before something more drastic happens, such as an affair, arguments get worse and inflate with intensity, increased jealousy, silence for longer periods of time, and sometimes even physical and/or verbal abuse.

Before your relationship reaches that critical crisis point, look at the warning signs and do something before it’s too late:
  1. Seek psychotherapy
  2. Read books
  3. Talk to a spiritual/religious advisor
Without help, the relationship will never get better with time; once a certain level of resentment, anger, and hostility hits, it will simply get worse and worse. Avoiding a total crisis and saving the relationship is done by knowing when you’re in trouble and taking immediate action.

http://dating.personals.yahoo.com/singles/relationships/24165/dating-101-seven-warning-signs-of-a-troubled-relationship

Getty Images

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Why do I find it so easy not to cheat?

Maybe I’m not very attractive,
so my options are limited. Maybe I’m too jaded to go for the cheating opportunities. Maybe I still have some mental wounds lingering from when my dad temporarily moved out because he had met another woman. Maybe I’m too afraid that I’ve reached my sin quotient and one more big sin will keep me out of heaven.

Cheating is not a caught in the moment thing if you are really into your significant other, you miss them when you are not with them, you don’t look for a way to hurt or deceive them.

I am just now patching up a friendship with someone I was seeing while they had a boyfriend (that may make me a cheater). At different points she told me that she had broken up with her boyfriend, that they were back together, and that he was boring and I was fun. It was total confusion.

I told her she wasn’t being fair to herself, me, or him.

Finally, she said, “you just don’t understand, there are things you don’t know.” Thing is she’s been cheating on him for a couple of years with different guys, and he keeps taking her back.

So, are cheaters born cheaters, or do certain situations cause people to cheat? Probably a little bit of both. Here are some situations that make people cheat:

1. Bored
I’d say this is the most common reason that people cheat.It’s tough to keep that edge throughout a relationship. Things start off grand and then level off and then you both realize that it’s still real life. When you meet someone else, that inaugural excitement of a new relationship kicks back in.

2. Dependence
At first glance, cheating seems like independent behavior. It could be interpreted as doing what you want, when you want. But I would argue that cheating is a dependent behavior. A cheater is dependent because they are not strong enough to break up with their significant other in order to get with the new person.

3. Confusion
Sometimes life or a particular situation can get to you. When the perfect storm of confusion is going on in your head, you make mistakes.

4. Because They Let You
If any girl ever cheated on me, I’d break up with her immediately. Forgiving a cheater is putting up with it, and starts a vicious cycle. That person who cheated may lose respect for you and might continue to cheat-because they know they can get away with it, because you’ll continue to take them back.

5. Nurturing
If someone is mistreating you, then your first instinct is to get away from him or her. But sometimes it’s not that simple-maybe you are raising kids together. If you feel trapped in a bad relationship, it’s only natural that you will run to the open arms of a person who treats you well.

6. Revenge
This is quite simple- an eye for an eye. Cheat on them if they cheat on you. If they continuously hurt you or abuse you in some way, you do it to get them back.

7. Confirmation of Attractiveness
Sometimes when you’re in a long relationship, or if your significant other is taking you for granted, you begin to wonder if you’re still attractive. Perhaps, because you were out on the dating circuit, you felt more attractive when you were single. If you have an affair, you’ve proven that a new person can be attracted to you.

8. The Thrill
Some people just enjoy the thrill of cheating: running around secretly, risking getting caught, andcreating thrilling moments with a forbidden romance.

9. They Don’t Consider It Cheating, Even Though You Might
Relationships have that grey area, usually right before you become exclusive. He thinks date #4 is when you’re “together,” and you think date #2 is when you’re “together.” If you haven’t talked about exclusivity, someone may think they are well within their rights to see other people, even though the other person in the relationship may not.

I don’t understand why people don’t break up as soon as they have an urge to cheat. Is it natural to have temptation, or is temptation a sign that the relationship is losing its fire? What reasons would you add to this list, and do you disagree with any? If you’ve ever cheated, why did you do it? Could you forgive a cheater? If you are single, but seeing a person who is in a committed relationship, does that make you a cheater?

Posted by Rich

http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/sex/9-reasons-people-cheat-430729

By CARLA K. JOHNSON, AP Medical Writer Carla K. Johnson, Ap Medical Writer Tue Mar 24, 12:15 am ET

– Study: Too Much Read Meat Is, Uh, Too Much

CHICAGO – The largest study of its kind finds that older Americans who eat large amounts of red meat and processed meats face a greater risk of death from heart disease and cancer. The federal study of more than half a million men and women bolsters prior evidence of the health risks of diets laden with red meat like hamburger and processed meats like hot dogs, bacon and cold cuts.

Calling the increased risk modest, lead author Rashmi Sinha of the National Cancer Institute said the findings support the advice of several health groups to limit red and processed meat intake to decrease cancer risk.

The findings appear in Monday’s Archives of Internal Medicine.

Over 10 years, eating the equivalent of a quarter-pound hamburger daily gave men in the study a 22 percent higher risk of dying of cancer and a 27 percent higher risk of dying of heart disease. That’s compared to those who ate the least red meat, just 5 ounces per week.

Women who ate large amounts of red meat had a 20 percent higher risk of dying of cancer and a 50 percent higher risk of dying of heart disease than women who ate less.

For processed meats, the increased risks for large quantities were slightly lower overall than for red meat. The researchers compared deaths in the people with the highest intakes to deaths in people with the lowest to calculate the increased risk.

People whose diets contained more white meat like chicken and fish had lower risks of death.

The researchers surveyed more than 545,000 people, ages 50 to 71 years old, on their eating habits, then followed them for 10 years. There were more than 70,000 deaths during that time.

Study subjects were recruited from AARP members, a group that’s healthier than other similarly aged Americans. That means the findings may not apply to all groups, Sinha said. The study relied on people’s memory of what they ate, which can be faulty.

In the analysis, the researchers took into account other risk factors such as smoking, family history of cancer and high body mass index.

In an accompanying editorial, Barry Popkin, director of the Interdisciplinary Obesity Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, wrote that reducing meat intake would have benefits beyond improved health.

Livestock increase greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming, he wrote, and nations should reevaluate farm subsidies that distort prices and encourage meat-based diets.

“We’ve promoted a diet that has added excessively to global warming,” Popkin said in an interview.

Successfully shifting away from red meat can be as easy as increasing fruits and vegetables in the diet, said Elisabetta Politi of the Duke Diet and Fitness Center in Durham, N.C.

“I’m not saying everybody should turn into vegetarians,” Politi said. “Meat should be a supporting actor on the plate, not the main character.”

The National Pork Board and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association questioned the findings.

Dietitian Ceci Snyder said in a statement for the pork board that the study “attempts to indict all red meat consumption by looking at extremes in meat consumption, as opposed to what most Americans eat.”

Lean meat as part of a balanced diet can prevent chronic disease, along with exercise and avoiding smoking, said Shalene McNeill, dietitian for the beef group.

___

On the Net:

Archives: http://www.archinternmed.com

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090324/ap_on_he_me/med_diet_meat_mortality

By Lucy Danziger, SELF Editor-in-Chief – Posted on Tue, Jan 20, 2009, 5:26 pm PST

Shoehorning your workout into a few days a week is challenging enough—don’t make it tougher by buying into those nagging exercise misconceptions that may divert your attention from pursuing your better body goals.

SELF went to the pros to poke holes in these popular fitness myths that pervade gyms, pools and exercise classes. Arm yourself with the facts to keep you slim, strong and even smarter.

MYTH: Muscle turns into fat
REALITY: Muscle and fat are two completely different tissues that have different functions, so it’s physiologically impossible to turn one into the other. If you stop exercising, your muscles atrophy, so you lose the tone you worked so hard to create. And if you eat more calories than you burn, you’ll gain fat.

MYTH: You need to exercise 30 minutes straight to get fit.
REALITY: Three 10-minute cardio stints offer the same healthy payback as a single 30-minute one. If you are trying to peel off pounds, of course, the more you do, the faster you’ll succeed. But don’t feel guilty if all you can squeeze in is a few minutes here and a few minutes there—it all adds up.

Short on time? Ratchet up the intensity of your workout: Go hard for 30 seconds on the elliptical or jog for a minute in the middle of your walk to maintain your fitness level and your habit. And remember, anything you do—whether it’s a brisk 5-minute walk or carrying heavy groceries to your car—for any period of time, provides some benefit.

MYTH: Overweight people have a sluggish metabolism.
REALITY: Though some folks do have metabolic disorders that slow their metabolism, fewer than 10 percent of overweight people suffer from them. In fact, the more you weigh, the more calories you’ll burn during exercise at the same relative workload as a slimmer person. If you notice the scale climbing higher, worry about your activity level, not your metabolism. Try this fat-burning workout to really see results.

MYTH: Lifting heavy weights make women bulk up.
REALITY: Women don’t have enough of the muscle-building hormone testosterone to get bulky, even using heavy weights. The truth is, some people will gain muscle faster than they lose fat, so they may look bigger until they shed some of the flab and reveal the slim, toned muscles underneath. Shape sleek muscles with this workout from The Biggest Loser‘s Jillian Michaels.

MYTH: You can’t lose any weight by swimming.
REALITY: OK, it’s true that long-distance swimmers who navigate colder waters tend to retain body fat for insulation. But ask anyone who laps it up while training for a triathlon: You will sizzle off pounds in the pool, since swimming burns 450 to 700 calories an hour! One reason you might not shed flab doing freestyle? If you throw in the towel and cut your workout short. Keep it going with this full-body water workout from gold medalist Amanda Beard.

MYTH: Stretching before exercise prevents injuries and enhances performance.
REALITY: Researchers are still scratching their head over this one, since studies have yet to show conclusively that limbering up has any effect on staving off strains and other injuries. But they do know that stretching regularly can make bending, reaching, twisting and lifting easier. Best move: Save your stretching for post-exercise, when muscles are warm.

MYTH: You burn more calories exercising in chilly weather.
REALITY: If you shiver through a long run in the frigid winter air simply to experience the extra calorie burn, you might want to come in from the cold: You do torch a few extra calories during the first few minutes, but once you get warmed up, the caloric expenditure is the same whether you’re exercising in Siberia or the Sahara. Try a treadmill circuit workout with a great playlist to keep you going!

MYTH: When your body gets used to an exercise, you’ll burn fewer calories doing it.
REALITY: Unless you’ve adjusted the intensity, you’ll burn as much jogging or cycling today as you did last week, last month, even last year. Experts say that this principle only applies to exercises that we’re naturally inefficient at, such as using the elliptical machine: After five to six sessions, you’ll be smoother in your movements and expend fewer calories—but the difference is only about 2 to 5 percent.

MYTH: The calorie readout on machines is accurate.
REALITY: If only! Research has shown that some types of machines can be off by as much as 70 percent. The culprit? Contraptions such as the elliptical machine haven’t been around long enough for exercise scientists to develop the appropriate calorie-burn equations. On the upside, stationary bikes and treadmills, the grandfathers of the gym, generally give a fairly precise reading, particularly if you enter your age and weight.

Rather than swearing by what the machine says, use the calorie readout to monitor your progress. If the tally climbs during the same workout for the same duration, you’re working harder and getting fitter. An online calorie calculator can give you a sense of which activities burn the most.

http://health.yahoo.com/experts/healthieryou/8078/fitness-myths-busted/

John 3:14-21 – Nicodemus
Fourth Sunday of Lent

A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art.

When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle, while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.

About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door  A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands.

He said, “Sir, you don’t know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety, when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly.  He often talked about you, and your love for art.” The young man held out this package. “I know this isn’t much. I’m not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this.”

The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture. “Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It’s a gift.”

The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home, he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected.

The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection.

On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel… “We will start the bidding with this picture of the son…who will bid for this picture?”

There was silence.

Then, a voice in the back of the room shouted, “We want to see the famous paintings…skip this one.”

But the auctioneer persisted,”Will somebody bid for this painting? Who will start the bidding..$100, $200?”

Another voice angrily shouted, “We didn’t come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts…get on with the real bids!”

But still the auctioneer continued: “The son! The son…who’ll bid on  the son?”

Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. “I’ll give $10 for the painting.”  Being a poor man, it was all he could afford.

“We have $10, who will bid $20?”

“Give it to him for $10. Let’s see the masters.”

“$10 is the bid, won’t someone bid $20?”

The crowd was becoming angry and  did not want the picture of the son.

They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections.

The auctioneer pounded the gavel. “Going once, twice… SOLD for $10!”

A man sitting on the second row shouted, “Now let’s get on with the  auction and the other art in the collection!”

The auctioneer laid down his gavel and stated, “I’m sorry, but the auction is over.”

“What about the paintings?”

“When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time and the son was sold.  Only the painting of the son would be auctioned and whoever bought that painting would inherit the man’s entire estate, including the paintings!

The man who bought the son gets everything!”

God gave His son 2,000 years ago to die on the cross. Much like the auctioneer, His message today is: “The son, the son, who’ll take the son?”

Because, you see, whoever takes the Son gets everything.

FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, WHO SO EVER BELIEVETH, SHALL HAVE ETERNAL LIFE…THAT’S LOVE

Picture:  http://www.heartlight.org/gallery/99.html

by Jeffrey R. Kosnett
Friday, March 13, 2009
provided by

Before the economic rout, you could rely on certain iron laws of personal finance. For example, it was a given that house values didn’t fall. Money-market funds never lost a dime. And no matter how ugly the market, expert mutual fund managers could protect you from drastic losses.

Alas, in this Hydra-headed global financial crisis, another generally accepted principle of financial strategy or economic logic finds its way into the shredder almost every day. We gathered ten truisms that no longer pass the test.

MYTH 1: There’s always a hot market somewhere. When U.S. markets began to blow up, you heard about “decoupling” and “the Chinese century.” The idea is that Asia — or Russia or Latin America — can grow vigorously independent of the U.S. and Europe. Invest there and you’ll offset losses at home. Instead, Chinese, Indian and Russian shares have crumbled. Net investment money flowing into emerging-market economies fell 50% in 2008, to $466 billion, and is forecast to sink to $165 billion in 2009.

Truth: In this age of globalization, economic downturns and bear markets observe no borders.

MYTH 2: Real estate behaves differently from other investments. Call it a bubble instead of a boom if you like, but it was supposed to be “proof” that real estate returns don’t strongly correlate with the returns of stocks and other financial investments. The message: Rental properties or real estate investment trusts can make money despite drops in Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index or the Nasdaq. Wrong. REITs lost 38% in 2008 because the credit crunch and overly aggressive expansion plans hammered profits and dividends. REIT returns used to have little correlation with the stock market. Now they closely track it.

Truth: Real estate won’t overcome other risks when credit problems are harming all investments.

MYTH 3. Reliable dividend payers are safer than other stocks. Companies recognized as dividend “achievers” or “aristocrats” — because they could be counted on to increase their payouts regularly — used to perform more steadily than most stocks. That’s because shareholders seeking income tended not to sell. But now shares of dividend achievers can be as volatile as the overall market. One reason: more mass trading of blue-chip stocks in baskets, a la exchange-traded and index funds. Another factor: Banks, insurance firms and real estate companies can no longer afford to pay high dividends.

Truth: Companies aren’t too proud to stop increasing dividends. If you want stable dividends, ignore the past and look for companies with lots of cash flow.

MYTH 4. Foreign creditors can drain the U.S. Treasury overnight. Puny Treasury yields suggest that it’s bad business for the rest of the world to lend so much money to the U.S. But think: What else would these investors do? And who has the power to impose this dramatic sell order? Nobody. Foreigners own $3.1 trillion of Treasury debt. Of that, $1.1 trillion is with private investors — mainly pension funds, which cannot safely ignore a class of investment that is absolutely liquid and has never defaulted. Governments and institutional investors hold the rest. On occasion they have sold more U.S. debt than they have bought. But massive private buying has overwhelmed the modest pullbacks.

Truth: If what you want is super-safe bonds, the U.S. Treasury is the go-to place.

MYTH 5. Gold is the best place to hide in a lousy economy. In early February, an ounce of gold traded for $910. That’s just where it sat a year ago, when world economies weren’t so bad off. But foreign and domestic stocks, real estate, oil and riskier classes of bonds have all tanked since, and now gold looks — ahem — as good as gold. However, gold does not typically benefit from a recession. As inflation slows, people buy less jewelry, industry uses less gold, and strapped governments sell reserves to raise cash.

Truth: Gold tends to rally in prosperous times, when you have inflation, easy credit and flush buyers (kind of reminds you of real estate. . . ).

MYTH 6. Life insurance is not a good investment. This canard spread as 401(k)s and IRAs supplanted cash-value life insurance as Americans’ most popular ways to build savings while deferring taxes. True, the investment side of an insurance policy has higher built-in expenses than mutual funds do. But two factors point to a revival of insurance as an investment. One is guaranteed-interest credits on cash values, which means that if you pay the premiums, you cannot lose money unless the insurance company fails (see “Savings Guarantees You Can Trust,” on page 55). The other is the boom in life settlements. If you’re older than 65, you can often sell the insurance contract to a third party for several times its cash value — and pay taxes on the difference at low capital-gains rates.

Truth: A good investment is one in which you put money away now and have more later. Checked your 401(k) lately?

MYTH 7. The economic downturn dooms the dollar to irrelevance. No question, the U.S. is deep in debt and going deeper while the economy contracts. History teaches that when a country can’t pay its bills, lags economically and cannot control inflation, its currency loses value. That’s why currencies in Argentina, Iceland, Mexico and Russia have all crashed within recent memory. The dollar does swoon, and it’s lost punch in places as unexpected as Brazil and India. But — and here’s the surprise — as recession gripped the U.S., the dol-lar got stronger. For one thing, there aren’t many alternatives. For another, some other currencies were temporarily inflated by oil and commodities speculation.

Truth: The dollar has survived a tough test and remains the world’s “reserve” currency.

MYTH 8. Mass layoffs reward investors. In the 1990s, news of layoffs would boost a company’s stock for several weeks. Stock traders lauded bosses for tightening their belts, so it was smart to buy or hold the shares. But mass firings no longer impress investors. Lately, firms as varied as Allstate, Boeing, Caterpillar, Dell, Macy’s, Mattel and Starbucks have all announced enormous layoffs — only to learn that, if anything, doing so spooks the market even more. For example, on the day in January when Allstate axed 1,000 of its 70,000 employees, its shares fell 21%.

Truth: Don’t buy a stock thinking that a layoff will help profits. More likely, trouble’s brewing.

MYTH 9. It’s crucial to diversify a stock portfolio by investing style. Experts say a sound fund portfolio fills all “style boxes,” starting with growth and value. Growth refers to companies with expanding sales and profits. Value describes stocks selling for less than the business is worth. In 1998 and 1999, growth stocks soared and value stocks stalled. Then, for a few years, value rose while growth got crushed. But since 2005, the differences have been melting away. In the current bear market, both styles have been disastrous, and it’s hard even to classify stocks as growth or value anymore. Many former growth stocks, such as technology companies, are so cheap that they act like value shares. Banks and real estate, once lumped into value, are a mess.

Truth: Pick mutual funds that are free to search for good prices on stocks, whatever their labels.

MYTH 10. A near-perfect credit score will get you the best loan rate. Before the credit bust, if you could fog a mirror, you could get a mortgage. You know what happened next. But bankers still need to make a buck, so it sounds logical that if you can show a strong credit score, you’ll win the best of deals on any kind of loan. Not so. Mortgage lenders prefer large down payments. Credit-card issuers are just as apt to reduce your credit line or raise your interest rate. And those 0% car loans? Often they last for only three years, which puts the payments so high you’ll need to come up with more upfront cash anyway.

Truth: Credit is going to be tough to get for a while no matter what. So don’t obsess over every few points of your FICO score.

Copyrighted, Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc.

http://finance.yahoo.com/banking-budgeting/article/106741/10-Financial-Myths-Busted


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