People often think of different things. For many people the first thought when the word annuity is mentioned is that an annuity provides an income – a pension is a type of annuity. However, while every annuity could be used to provide an income, the ways in which the income is provided differs depending on the annuity.
A period certain income annuity provides income for a certain period. You provide the principal and the insurer will pay back the principal plus interest for 5 years, 7 years, 10 years, 20 years, whatever timeframe you select.
Why might you do something like this? Perhaps you are forced into early retirement at age 57 and you need an income to carry you through until you are old enough to collect Social Security. Perhaps you want to help a grandchild with their college expenses, without giving them a lump sum, a period certain annuity could help cover college costs for the years needed for them to get that bachelor’s degree. Perhaps you already own an annuity and you’d like to convert a part of that annuity value into a tax-free life insurance benefit; a period certain annuity could fund that conversion.
The use of a period certain annuity can also offer certain tax advantages because most of the income produced is not only free from federal and state income taxes, but it isn’t included in calculating whether you owe taxes on your Social Security benefit. It would take too much time to get into all of these different uses, so the main point you should take away from this is a period certain annuity pays out a steady income for a specified number of years.
Those Roman legionnaires were given a life income annuity that paid an income as long they lived. When they died, the income stopped. You can also get the same type of annuity today. It’s a great deal if you live a long time and a bad deal if you get hit by a bus next month.
Why would you buy this type of life income annuity? People buy them when they don’t plan to leave this particular money to children or charities and want to get the maximum income. A person typically would not put all of their assets into buying a life income annuity, but they might purchase one to ensure they have a guaranteed income to cover the essentials if something happens to their other assets.
A life annuity can be set up to last as long as one person lives or two. If your health and genes are good, a life annuity can provide a dependable monthly income for a long time, so it is often used in conjunction with other assets to provide for a tranquil retirement.
The rap on a life annuity is if you die the insurer keeps any money that is leftover, but that isn’t necessarily true. You can buy a type of life annuity that guarantees that if you die early the annuity will continue to pay out to your beneficiary until your original principal is returned – if you put in $100,000 the insurer will pay out at least $100,000.
There are a variety of other options. You can have the annuity pay out until you die or for 20 years, whichever is longer. You can arrange it so that your spouse would still get all or half of the original income amount if you die. You can even buy a life annuity that won’t start payments until 10 or 20 years from now. The different options offer different amounts of income. The first annuities were issued by the Roman Empire as a reward to legionnaires for their service. Two millennium later annuities are still being used to provide a dependable income.
A young person’s imagination can be a wondrous thing to behold. And, when adults play into the fantasies, it becomes even more wonderful. As a child of five years, my imagination knew few boundaries. If it existed in our backyard, I could imagine all sorts of marvelous adventures. Just give me a piece of rope and a wagon, and I was off to the never-never land of excitement. Add to this an occasional weekend trip to my Grandma Wilkens house, and the adventures took on a completely different dimension.
An over-night stay at Grandma’s would usually begin on a late Friday afternoon. I was delivered to the care and feeding of my grandparents by my mother who would drop me off usually after the evening meal. After a short play time with the local in-house toy chest, it was off to a big double-bed with snuggle-down blankets. I remember the bed because it was at least three-times larger than my bed at home.
The waking process was the beginning of the “Adventure” for the weekend and my growing imagination. My grandmother would awaken me with the sound of a buzzing bee. And, she would gently come beside me in the bed and pretend to “sting” me awake. The stings were more like tickles and proved the awaking process was effective.
Once washed, dressed and fed, it was only a matter of a short time before Grandma and I boarded a local streetcar for an exciting trip to downtown Indianapolis. These weekend adventures took on a basic format over the years. Usually, we would arrive in the center of the city in time to do a bit of adult shopping. My Grandma was aware of my lack of interest in this part of the weekend festivities, so, she would speed through her list of things to acquire.
Next would be a stop at Woolworth’s, a local “Five and Dime” Store, for a bite of lunch. We always sat at the counter, but I was usually too excited to eat more than a “bite.” Grandma would insist that I needed to finish my meal to keep up my energy for the rest of the adventures. It was what was about to take place, that was the best part of the day! We were off to one of the local movie houses for a show!
Downtown Indianapolis had at least a dozen movie theaters in those days, and, quite often, there was a stage show that accompanied the matinee. Keep in mind, this was years before television. Not only did we get the latest Hollywood comedy or drama, but live performances as well. It is difficult to imagine what all that glamor and excitement did to my childhood life. It added another dimension that a whole backyard couldn’t provide. The various acts of acrobatics, juggling, dancing and singing, opened my eyes and mind to a world of entertainment that had no boundaries. And, when you throw-in “Laurel and Hardy”, the “Bowery Boys” or a “shootum-up Western,” on the same bill, it just didn’t get better than that.
After leaving the theater, there was time for a quick ice cream treat, and picking up an inexpensive toy that would occupy the rest of the day at Grandma’s. My Dad would usually pick me up early on a Saturday evening and bring me back to the reality of home life minus the expanded adventure of the city.
These adventures at Grandma’s continued for several years until my sister, who was two and a half years younger than I, joined the experience. She didn’t have an iota of the interest in movies or stage shows that I enjoyed, so, it didn’t take too many downtown visits before we decided that we would discontinue the excursions.
Even though it has been over seventy-five years since those early days of “adventure”, they remain vivid reminders of times that were real…not imagined!
Once upon a time, taxpayers could generally deduct 50% of business-related meal and entertainment expenses. However, several exceptions allowed larger deductions in certain circumstances.
The Before and After of Exceptions
Under prior law, the following exceptions to the general 50% deductibility rule were available. (In some cases, as you'll see below, the exceptions have been retained under the TCJA).
An employer could deduct 100% of:
In addition to the above tax write-offs, business taxpayers could, under previous law, deduct 100% of the cost of:
Effective for amounts paid or incurred after December 31, 2017, the TCJA disallows deductions for most business-related entertainment expenses, including the cost of facilities used for most of these activities.
Specifically, nondeductible expenses now include:
Deductions Still Allowed
Apparently, you can still deduct 50% of the cost of business-related meals with business associates. If so, the time-honored rules for proving that meals are business-related still apply. Once again, this conclusion isn't completely clear at this time. We are awaiting IRS guidance.
It's clear that you can still deduct 50% of the cost of meals for you or an employee while away from home on business-related travel.
In addition, a business's costs for meals and food and beverages that fall under some of the exceptions listed above are still 100% deductible (for example, when the cost is reported as taxable compensation to recipients who are employees and non-employees). Meals provided to employees subject to the DOT hours-of-service limitations are still 80% deductible.
Key Point: If a hotel or other lodging establishment includes meals in its room charges or you give employees per-diem allowances that are intended to cover meals, you can use a reasonable method to determine the portion of expenditures allocable to meals and subject to the 50% deductibility rule. Ask your tax advisor about this.
Tax Planning Considerations
Taxpayers should assess their current expense allowance policies to determine if the unfavorable TCJA provisions warrant changes in policy — especially for entertainment expenses incurred by employees. Accounting system changes may be necessary to separately track employee entertainment expenses and employee business-related meal expenses, which may still be 50% deductible.
As you can see, the treatment of meal and entertainment expenses is complicated after the TCJA. Maybe more complicated than you thought! Also, understand that what you read here is based purely on our analysis of the applicable provisions in the Internal Revenue Code. Subsequent IRS guidance could differ.
Feeding Employees: Then and Now
De minimis meals. Under prior law, employers could deduct 100% of the cost of food and beverages supplied to employees, if the food and beverages were tax-free to employees because they qualified as a de minimis fringe benefit. Those benefits are defined as having a value and frequency of occurrence so small as to make accounting for them unreasonable or administratively impractical. Examples include:
Employer-Operated Eating Facilities: Under prior law, employers could deduct 100% of the cost of operating a qualified eating facility for employees, such as a company cafeteria. The facility had to meet certain requirements.
First, it had to be:
TCJA Change: For amounts paid or incurred from January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2025, the new law allows employers to deduct only 50% of the cost of operating a qualified eating facility for employees. After 2025, no deductions will be allowed.
Employers that operate eating facilities for employees should review the costs of running their facilities and determine if the temporary 50% deduction rule and the eventual complete disallowance rule dictate a change in policy.
Meals Provided for the Convenience of the Employer. Under prior law, the cost of meals furnished to an employee for the convenience of the employer could be fully deducted by the employer and treated as tax-free to the recipient. However, 100% deductibility for the employer only applied if a bevy of requirements were met. Otherwise the general 50% deductibility rule for meals applied.
TCJA Change: For 2018-2025, the TCJA allows employers to deduct only 50% of the cost of meals that are provided for their convenience. After 2025, no deductions will be allowed.
Then came the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which dramatically shifts the playing field for expenses paid or incurred after December 31, 2017. The new law also creates some uncertainties, as this article will explain.
Your tax advisor can keep you up to speed on the issues and suggest strategies to get the biggest tax-saving bang for your business meal and entertainment bucks.
Liquidity means the ability to turn an asset into cash. Having liquidity gives you the feeling of control, but liquidity provides both real control and the illusion of control. The financial reason for wanting liquidity from what are intended to be dollars left untouched until some future date, is the ability to cope with or avoid potential risk. If you have an unexpected financial emergency, being able to sell or transform an asset quickly to get dollars in your hands is real control. This is generally what is thought of when one thinks about their asset being liquid, but liquidity isn’t that simple.
Does liquidity also mean getting the money without a cost? If so, then certificates of deposit within their penalty period could be viewed as illiquid. Indeed, even money market accounts could be viewed as illiquid since federal law limits free withdrawals to not more than six per month. Typically there is a commission or fee if you sell a stock or bond – does this mean stocks and bonds are illiquid?
What is the time limit on liquidity? We use words like immediate or instant liquidity, but unless the money is in our mattress or wall safe we can’t get it this very second. You typically can’t get the money for two days or more when you sell securities; is this liquid? A check is called a demand deposit, but the bank can stop access to those funds for a week by saying they have concerns over “doubtful collectability”. And if a week delay is viewed as liquid, why wouldn’t the two to four weeks it usually takes to get the check from cashing in an annuity also be liquid?
And then there is the illusion of liquidity. Typically a bank will let you cash in that CD or make that seventh withdrawal from the money market account this month, but they don’t have to. A bond sale settles in two days, unless you were trying to sell many of the mortgage-backed bonds in 2008 for which there were no buyers. And, an extreme case, there was zero investment liquidity in the days following 9 -11. Although that was extreme, governmental authorities in some countries believe that some exchange traded funds (ETFs) could become illiquid during a market panic. The financial markets, banks, and even governments all operate on the illusion of liquidity believing there will always be buyers, enough people paying their debts and a government that will be able to ultimately bailout any crisis, but this is only true if people still believe the illusion.
The illusion of control imagines that you will exercise that liquidity well. In the stock market the mirage is that the investor will sell out of the market just as it begins its fall – or will use the liquidity to keep moving from liquid choice to liquid choice to maximize returns. The reality is that doesn’t happen. Indeed, as Investment Company Institute data shows time after time, the liquidity is used to sell at the bottom of markets and often to leap out of rising markets.
The concept of liquidity is not as clear cut as it first appears. If liquidity is defined as not having a cost then many annuities would be excluded, but so would any ETF, stock or bond where a commission or transaction fee is involved in the sale. If liquidity is defined as having instant access to the funds then every investment is ruled out as well as many bank products. What this all means is you need to ask yourself how you define liquidity and what it means to you.
Let’s start with the definition of actuarial assumptions from Investopedia,
“An actuarial assumption is an estimate of an uncertain variable input into a financial model, normally for the purposes of calculating premiums or benefits. For example, a common actuarial assumption relates to a person’s lifespan, given their age, gender, health condition and other factors.”
I have worked with actuaries for many years in my career. First, as president of life insurance companies when we deliberated over benefits, premium, payouts etc. The actuary was the sound voice of reason that kept us in a profitable mode. I also worked with actuaries when contracted to
develop products for insurance carriers. Again, in most cases, the numbers don’t lie - that’s why we need the actuaries.
So, why is it that we as human beings tend to ignore the actuarial tables when we look at our life expectancy and calculate how long our retirement funds will last? Maybe it’s because we have anecdotal evidence of premature deaths of people we have known. I have also witnessed the early deaths, but the actuarial tables show the big picture. And, chances are you are going to live longer than you might think. So, I ask you... how lucky do you feel?
Let’s go to Wikipedia and look at the definition of longevity risk, “A longevity risk is any potential risk attached to the increasing life expectancy of pensioners and policyholders, which can eventually result in higher pay-out ratios than expected for many pension funds and insurance companies.” They go on, “One important risk to individuals who are spending down their savings is that they will live longer than expected and thus exhaust their savings dying in poverty or burdening relatives. This is also referred to as “outliving one’s savings” or “outliving one’s assets.” So, what does this mean? Let’s explore…
First off, we all feel good about Social Security being there (at least for baby boomers) and can count on that as one source of income. Some of us are also lucky enough to have a pension. And, in most cases, that payout won’t be in danger (unless the institution is in serious financial distress). But what about the rest of your money? What about the essential income needs: housing, medical, taxes, insurance, food, etc? Is there enough cash flow? We then look at discretionary needs... vacations, gifts, new cars or whatever. How about that source of funds? Is it in good shape? Let’s look at few factors and a solution to help you sleep better at night.
Okay, pull out your driver’s license and look at your date of birth. Are you at the age where you should be shouldering high levels of risk in your portfolio? Only you can answer that… but the answer is probably no. If you are withdrawing funds in this low interest environment, this could affect how long the funds will last unless you reduce withdrawal amounts. What about your money in equities? If you are like me, you’ve been enjoying the ride. But, will there be a day when the markets will decline? I don’t think I even have to wait for your answer. If that becomes the case, then your portfolio could become very damaged and the amount of your income would have to be reduced or curtailed for a while. Is there an answer? Yes…
There are annuities available which will provide you with an income for life... regardless of interest rates or market turmoil. These annuities allow you to participate in the potential of growth while taking distributions. Many also provide access to funds, on top of your distributions, to be used in the case of emergencies or opportunities. And finally, you are guaranteed to never lose a penny of principal or previous gains even in the case of a market turndown.
So, there you have it. The actuaries say that the risk is there. The result can be painful, but there’s an answer to this risk, and it will allow you to sleep like a baby. All you have to do is inquire and check it out. Want to know how this can be personalized to your portfolio? Contact me and I’ll give you some safe money solutions.
Over twelve million American men and women experienced service during World War II. Of that total, only several hundred thousand are still living today. They have been called the “Greatest Generation” because of their willingness to make the supreme sacrifice for their country and fellow men and women. It is to their honor we dedicate this story.
Reford Young was just twenty-one when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942. A native of Pike County, Kentucky, he began his service at a basic training camp in Tennessee. Reford continued his orientation in desert training in Arizona and spent time at a base in Wichita, Kansas before disembarking for Europe from Fort Dix in New Jersey. He sailed aboard the Queen Mary to England. Upon landing, he spent a week adjusting to climate and being outfitted for combat.
Reford was a part of General George Patton’s Third Army – specifically Company C 317th First Platoon. He was designated a rifleman and photographer. Because of a special request by his mother, Reford’s twin brother, Raymond, was assigned to the same outfit as his brother. Raymond had been wounded early in the fighting, thus the brothers saw limited service time together although they did see action almost immediately upon arriving in France.
The Company arrived at Omaha Beach in Normandy and were under fire within a few days at Argouten, France – a hilly part of the country still held by German forces. Being new to fighting, Reford would rise up to see what enemy was near only to be shouted out by his brother, “Keep your head down!” It was ironic that Raymond was the one who was wounded and Reford went unscathed through all the action.
Reford reached the rank of Buck Sergeant during this time in the service, but refused on numerous occasions to take a leadership role in his company. It was his feeling the majority of men in the command didn’t care to take orders, and he didn’t want to give them. He was content in remaining a member in the ranks – a foot soldier who wanted to complete the assignments given him, and do them as well as he could.
Toward the end of 1944, the war had reached a stalemate. The Allied forces were perched on the border of Germany just waiting for the weather to break so that a successful attack could be mounted. There had been talk about the Christmas Holiday and maybe taking some time off from the front lines. That all changed on December 16th, 1944, because Hitler had other plans in mind. He would launch one more major offensive through the Ardennes Forest to divide the Allies and to secure a port cutting off their supplies. This battle was to be called the “The Bulge” and brought the siege of Bastogne to the headlines of newspapers throughout the free world.
As history tells us, Hitler’s December offensive was initially successful. If it weren’t for the fortitude of a meager defensive group of the 101st Airborne in Bastogne under General Anthony McAuliffe, who refused to give ground, and a tactical chance taken by Patton’s Third Army, the outcome might have been quite different. Reford Young remembers the bone-chilling cold of foxholes and marching in mud and snow for miles to relieve the men fighting in the holding action in Bastogne. Even with their effort, the success of the operation depended upon the Army Air Corps to bomb an enemy that was dedicated to one last, desperate operation.
Reford remembers an icy, snowy day in December when the skies cleared and for the first time in days, he could see the bombers and fighters overhead seeking targets that would clear the way for the Allies to break out of “the Bulge.” He was deep in his foxhole, but he couldn’t help feeling a joyful relief even though he was bitterly cold. It was the beginning of the end for the war in Europe. Hitler had spent his last effort. General Patton is quoted as saying, “The war is almost over. The God of battles always stands on the side of right when the judgment comes.”
For Reford Young and his fellow soldiers, there was still plenty of war to be won.
They fought their way through Germany and doubled back to end up in Austria where he ended his active war service. To his credit, Young ended up with four battle stars and numerous medals to exhibit. He was discharged from the Army in October of 1945, having sailed back to the United States aboard a luxury German ship.
Today, Reford divides his time between Florida and Franklin, Indiana, where he can still be found on a local golf course tying to shoot his age which is ninety-six. We wouldn’t bet that he doesn’t do it!
The Battle for Bastogne was just one example of the fortitude and desires of the men and women who are a part of the “Greatest Generation.” And, even though their numbers are reduced, the American Spirit they represent lives on in their heritage. God bless them each and every one.
This article was written by:
A nationally recognized speaker and writer, Norman Wilkens has traveled to forty-seven of the fifty states speaking on topics of marketing, advertising and public relations.
Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies, recently reported a massive data breach. Are you among the 143 million U.S. consumers whose personal information was hacked? Here’s how to find out — and how to help protect yourself against future breaches.
What Went Wrong?
On July 29, Equifax discovered that, starting in mid-May, criminals had exploited a vulnerability in a website application. Although management took immediate action to stop the attack, hackers had already gained unauthorized access to millions of consumers’ names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses, along with thousands of credit card numbers and credit dispute documents that contained sensitive personal information. The attack affected individuals in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Equifax immediately launched a forensic investigation and began working with law enforcement officials to discover the source and scope of the breach. Equifax has also responded by offering a free year of identity theft protection and credit file monitoring to all U.S. consumers.
Has Your Personal Data Been Breached?
Go to Equifax’s website and click on the “Potential Impact” tab to find out if your personal information has been compromised. The website also allows you to sign up for free data protection and credit monitoring services — regardless of whether you were affected by this particular incident.
Important note: The link requires you to enter personal information. So, access it using only a secure computer and an encrypted network connection.
After you request to enroll in the free service, the website will provide you with an enrollment date. Write down the date and come back to the site and click “Enroll” on that date. You have until November 21, 2017, to enroll for the free services. In addition to the website, Equifax plans to send direct mail notices to consumers whose credit card numbers or dispute documents were breached.
“This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do. I apologize to consumers and our business customers for the concern and frustration this causes,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Richard F. Smith, in a recent statement. He added, “I’ve told our entire team that our goal can’t be simply to fix the problem and move on. Confronting cybersecurity risks is a daily fight. While we’ve made significant investments in data security, we recognize we must do more. And we will.”
What Should You Do If a Breach Occurs?
If you suspect a data breach, help protect your identity from thieves and minimize losses by taking these steps:
Call the relevant companies if you suspect that a breach has occurred. Ask for the fraud department and explain the incident. Then change log-ins, passwords and PINs to minimize your losses.
Consider freezing your credit. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts, however. Alternatively, consider placing a fraud alert to warn creditors that you may be a victim of ID theft. Fraud alerts are free from all three major credit reporting agencies and last for 90 days. After the 90-day window, you can renew a fraud alert, if necessary.
Obtain free annual credit reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Identity theft usually results in accounts or activity that you won’t recognize.
ID theft often happens long after your personal information has been stolen, so don’t allow yourself to be lulled into a false sense of security after your initial response. Ongoing credit monitoring is essential. Proactive consumers continue to watch credit card and bank accounts closely for unusual activity. They also file their taxes as early as possible — before a scammer can.
If your personal data was exposed in the Equifax attack or it’s affected by another breach, contact your financial and legal advisors to guide you through the recovery process.
This article was written by:
The TMA Small Business Accounting, P.C.
Their staff has been delivering professional services to small businesses in Central Indiana for over 20 years. Having worked with hundreds of small business clients, we have significant expertise with a wide variety of service businesses in Indiana. We have especially strong experience and expertise in working with businesses in the healthcare (medical, dental, etc.) and foodservice (restaurants, caterers, etc.) industries.
Unless we all move to Europe, though, we’ll have to make do with the cards currently in our wallets. They’re getting safer year by year, but trouble seems to lurk around every corner where billions of financial transactions are concerned.
If you’re buying online with a credit card, look for an “S” to be tacked onto the “HTTP” in the web address line. This stands for “secure,” and indicates that the merchant is scrambling communications between its website and your browser. That should keep the bad guys at bay. (HTTP, btw, means Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, which is the protocol over which data is sent).
Most merchants these days also will ask for your CSC – card security code. This is a three-digit numbers group that is separate from your account number. Thanks to these transactions taking place at the speed of light, the merchant is transmitting your data to the card issuer and instantaneously halts the purchase should those numbers not match.
Of course, anyone who holds your card and isn’t blind also knows that CSC (thus, the PIN is to my way of thinking a better idea).
Now, if you’re at a restaurant or department store and use your card, you’re going to get a receipt to sign. Bank of America advises that if you see any blank lines on that receipt, draw a line through it to make sure no one can come in after you and pencil in some fresh numbers.
If you have a choice between a credit and debit transaction with the same bank card, experts say you should choose credit. There are stringer fraud protections with credit cards. And if something bad does happen, a credit card liability is capped at $50. With a debit card it’s $500, or in some cases more.
Plus, bear in mind that your debit card is linked to your bank account. Not so with a credit card.
Have a merry, safe shopping, holiday season.
In evaluating the do’s and don’ts of estate planning, business succession, assistance with aging parents and general family matters, one commonly overlooked and extremely valuable tool is the General Durable Power of Attorney form. Most states have enacted and adopted statutory legislation that governs what may be included in a General Durable Power of Attorney. For example, the State of Indiana provides an exhaustive listing of what acts may be undertaken and these acts may include: selling property (real and personal), making investments and making healthcare decisions.
The General Durable Power of Attorney is often chosen as a way to plan for those times when you are incapacitated. Consequently, having a General Durable Power of Attorney with a specialized agent allows your affairs to be handled easily and inexpensively. Prior to when the General Durable Power of Attorney was created, the only way to handle the affairs of an incapacitated person was to appoint a guardian; a process that frequently involves complex and costly court proceedings, as well as the often humiliating determination that the person was wholly incapable and in need of protection. Additionally, the Court proceedings would be of public record; therefore, allowing the world to know of this unfortunate time in a loved one’s life.
The most important part of creating a General Durable Power of Attorney is choosing an agent. The agent is the person you select to carry out the duties you have outlined in the General Durable Power of Attorney. The agent should be someone you trust to carry out your wishes, someone who will not take advantage of you when you are incapacitated, and someone who is willing to serve as your agent. The agent is usually a family member or a friend; however, you may choose anyone.
Once you have signed a General Durable Power of Attorney, you should inform your physician, your family, your banker, your insurance agent and your financial/tax advisor. You should also have multiple copies in case of your subsequent incapacitation. It is best to store such a valuable document in a personal safe or a safe-deposit box at your local bank branch.
In addition to the above, it is extremely important to note that if you change your mind after creating the document you may amend, modify and/or revoke said General Durable Power of Attorney at any time.
It happens almost every Spring. There’s something in the rarified air that whispers to me that it’s time to dust off the clubs and head out to a local golf course to test my limited skills in “the game.”
It has been my great pleasure, since my days in high school, to meet the challenges of the links of golf. Few times, if ever, have I achieved even a small degree of excellence in approaching the eighteen holes that comprise the “game.”For no more reason than wanting to beat myself up, I have returned throughout the years to test my clubs against the “shank”, “slice”, “missed putt” and “flubbed drive” ending in the drink even when the water was clearly not in my target area.
The “Game of Golf” to me was, and continues to be, a humbling experience. It has proven, more times than I could possibly count, that even though I might talk a decent game, I could not begin to achieve even a reasonable facsimile to back up the rhetoric. The “game” has shown that I can exaggerate with the best of them when called upon to do so! I always seemed to be at my best playing “customer golf” even when I wasn’t trying.
There was a time, when I was much younger, when less than one hundred strokes for eighteen holes, was achievable. In fact, my early range was relatively comfortable in the nineties. Once, I shot an eighty-six at a country club in Anderson, Indiana. If I had known that was to be the “high mark” in terms of a “low score”, I probably would have bought drinks for everyone in the club house. However, I was too young to realize that my future fame in the game had been achieved and it was going to be down-hill from that juncture on.
There were always the one or two shots on the course that forced me back for another stab at futility. I remember vividly playing in a tournament at the Elks Club in Indianapolis where my foursome started on the fifteenth hole. We turned the clubhouse corner, and I was one over par for four holes. One of the tournament directors took a look at our score card and pulled me aside to question my sizeable handicap. He obviously thought I was sandbagging. Another member of our group laughed and said, “Just wait! He’ll blow it very soon!” He was correct, on the very next hole, I shot a miserable “eight.” For the round, I barely broke a hundred. Even so, for just a few holes, visions of “Snead”, “Palmer” and “Chi Chi” danced through my limited vision.
As I was saying, there always seemed to be a couple of shots that would be memorable enough that they stood out from the miserable clutter to blot out the game as a whole. I still remember those special times with reverence, hope, and longing. Even though, I haven’t touch my clubs for almost four years, I still feel a twinge of excitement when I pass the closet where the “sticks” lie in- waiting collecting dust.
Today, I have come to the realization that my true golf calling is helping to conduct tournaments for charity; keeping score and selling mulligans; minding the “hole-in-one contests” and watching others trying to lower their scores.
This article was written by:
A nationally recognized speaker and writer, Norman Wilkens has traveled to forty-seven of the fifty states speaking on topics of marketing, advertising and public relations.