Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Staff at Pearl City Nursing Home

I spent the morning at the Pearl City nursing Home this morning and decided to break out my Christmas music. There was a yet to be decorated tree in the lobby but the day room was decorated with Christmas trim and tinsels. There were some remnants of Thanksgiving decorations still up, but overall, the setting was festive. The floor that I was to entertain on has a piano with a broken foot pedal that controls the sustain sound so I knew I would be struggling.

Upon entering, I saw Theresa, who used to sing professionally with her band in a previous career. She and her band toured the Far East. I asked in passing if she could sing "O Holy Night" and she replied with an emphatic "YES!"

So, I'm figuring I could get at least a couple of songs out of her. The patients liked her so much that she ended up doing about 7 songs.

Theresa also uses her experience as a former performer to keep the patients involved with each song by hand-clapping and use of bells and other instruments. She does a great job in converting music as entertainment into music as therapy.

The staff at this nursing home has a loving attitude towards the patients/residents.

Yvonne, for example, sometimes sits with a patient who may be feeling badly about something and hold her hands while I perform. They sometimes tease Yvonne and "demand" that she sings a song.

Yvonne, singing at the request of her patients/residents. File Photo.

So, Yvonne, a Karaoke singer always complies. And the patients show so much appreciation for the effort that Yvonne puts in. Keep in mind that we don't rehearse anything beforehand and I'm only guessing at the keys that they sing in.
Theresa, relaxing with me after a song.
Yvonne shooting the breeze after one of my visits. File photo.

And the winners are the kupunas.

Friday, November 18, 2011

V.A. Center for Aging Memorial Celebration

I provided patriotic music for the V.A. Pacific Islands Health Care System Center for Aging this morning. This is the thirteenth year where they honor those who went through the Center for services and have recently passed away in the immediate past 12 months.

Looking like a peacock... wind was a factor. Messed up my increasingly sparse head of hair and I had to place the piano lower than I wanted to. Didn't want the wind to blow everything over.
Marty Parmelee, the Mistress of Ceremonies introduced Kumu Pomai Tenn to do the opening chant. He also did the closing chant.
 The color guard posted the colors.....
The Air Force sent a singer to sing the National Anthem and Hawaii Ponoi. That's the Air Force's new dress uniform for bands and special services.

The chaplain at the Center, Reverend Charles Card gave the opening prayer.

Mrs. Wanda Ulmer, who lost her husband  about two years ago, sang a Song of Aloha. She is very grateful for the services that the Center provided because she attests that she would not have been able to care for her husband after his stroke.
 Wanda would like to do more as a volunteer so I invited her to share her voice every Monday when I entertain there. I encourage anyone who has a hobby, skill, talent or just the time, to find some way to volunteer. If you teach them photography, for example, you have not only helped them to enhance their artistic skills, but also provided a therapeutic activity, engaging them mentally, physically and emotionally. Can be done at any nursing facility.
Nurses Janelle Ando and Devera Chun read off the roll call. As each name was read, Cecil Meadows rang a bell.
As each name was read, a family member placed a flag on the alter. Many of these veterans don't have family members here so staff members placed the flags in their honor. Each of the deceaseds received a salute from the honor guards as their names were called.
 The guy that made everyone sound good. For musicians, good sound men are worth their weight in gold. In this case, Tate is a nutritionist was outranked by the Doc, whose sound equipment we use every year. For an outdoor setting, he made me sound decent (vs. indecent, I suppose).
The staff at the Center always want to contribute something to the celebration of these soldiers. Today, they sang and danced to Aloha Oe. These folks have so much love and aloha for those placed in their care.
Closing remarks by the Medical Director, Dr. James Epure.
Kumu Pomai Tenn gave the closing chant and the color guards posted themselves while the bugler from the Marine Corp played Taps.

To all who took an oath to defend the Consitution of the United States seriously, even at the risk of life and limb, I salute you all.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hula Dancer livens things up for patients

I entertain every Monday morning at the Veteran's Administration Center for Aging. The guys asked for Hawaiian music so I complied with contemporary Hawaiian favorites. During my bantering with the patients, I mentioned that I had been looking for a hula dancer to help me for the past ten years. One of the patients happily volunteered his wife Lori who had stepped out of the room.

When she came back in, I told her that her husband  had volunteered her to dance. She was so gracious about it. She asked for Hanalei moon and got right into it. And, like all hula dancers, she guided me by calling out the first few words of the verses that she wanted.

 Here, Lori is calling out the key words to the verse she wants to dance to.

 When you see,
 Hanalei by moonlight
 You will be, in heaven by the sea...
 Here, she's likely scolding me because I sang the wrong words.. Har! At my age,
remembering lyrics is not easy.

The patients had so much fun. I hope Lori comes and participate again. Brings joy into the lives of the elderly.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Found on the internet

Editor: I found the following posted on Facebook. I don't know who the author is.

"A Letter from "Mom n Dad"...

My child,

When I get old, I hope you understand 'n have patience with me
In case I break the plate, or spill soup on the table because I’m losing my eyesight, I hope you don’t yell at me.
Older people are sensitive, always having self pity when you yell.
When my hearing gets worse 'n I can’t hear what you’re saying, I hope you don’t call me ‘Deaf!’
Please repeat what you said or write it down.

I’m sorry, my child.
I’m getting older.
When my knees get weaker, I hope you have the patience to help me get up.
Like how I used to help you while you were little, learning how to walk.
Please bear with me, when I keep repeating myself like a broken record, I hope you just keep listening to me.
Please don’t make fun of me, or get sick of listening to me.

Do you remember when you were little 'n you wanted a balloon? You repeated yourself over 'n over until you get what you wanted.
Please also pardon my smell. I smell like an old person. Please don’t force me to shower.
My body is weak.
Old people get sick easily when they’re cold. I hope I don’t gross you out.

Do you remember when you were little? I used to chase you around because you didn’t want to shower.
I hope you can be patient with me when I’m always cranky. It’s all part of getting old.
You’ll understand when you’re older.
And if you have spare time, I hope we can talk even for a few minutes.
I’m always all by myself all the time, 'n have no one to talk to.
I know you’re busy with work.
Even if you’re not interested in my stories, please have time for me.

Do you remember when you were little? I used to listen to your stories about your teddy bear.
When the time comes, 'n I get ill 'n bedridden, I hope you have the patience to take care of me.
I’m sorry if I accidentally wet the bed or make a mess.
I hope you have the patience to take care of me during the last few moments of my life.
I’m not going to last much longer, anyway.
When the time of my death comes, I hope you hold my hand 'n give me strength to face death.

And don’t worry..
When I finally meet our creator, I will whisper in his ear to bless you. Because you loved your Mom 'n Dad.
Thank you so much for your care.
We love you. ! ♥"

Monday, September 26, 2011


Every Monday morning, I’m at the Center For The Aging on the grounds of Tripler Army Medical Center. By far, the most popular person there is the lady with the crafts wagon.

Frankly, I’m glad she comes into the dining room where I perform because if she’s not there, the room would be empty. I’m not very popular. She’s prettier than me.

Heidi making a moccasin

Heidi works for an organization called Help Hospitalized Veterans. She’s on the grounds of TAMC at least four days a week, helping the veterans do projects that keep their minds and hands busy.

Heidi grew up on the mainland and makes Hawaii home with her husband and family. She is half Okinawan and tries to stay in touch with her heritage by cooking Okinawan pig’s feet soup and other popular dishes.

Help Hospitalized Veterans has been around since 1971 and celebrated its 40th anniversary in April. The National Headquarters is in Winchester, California but Heidi works out of the VA Medical Center on the grounds of TAMC.

The services are available to anyone who is considered a veteran and to those who retired from the military. You don’t need to be a disabled veteran to use their services.

Some of the art work by the residents at the Center include paintings, building model cars and planes and even making moccasins.

Many of the residents look forward to Heidi’s visits and help. She is very positive and encourages everyone no matter how much difficulty they have utilizing their hands.

Sunday, September 18, 2011



We have very recently passed a law raising the amount of debt that the government can acquire. In exchange, the government has agreed to cut future spending over the next ten years. This means that the government can spend money now but may or may not cut future spending because no Congress can dictate how a future Congress will handle the country’s finances.

Sure enough, our government has just announced that they plan to spend another $447 billion or so to create jobs. The last time they did that, one can argue that the temporary jobs they created cost us about $250,000 per job. Instead of hiring more teachers and public workers, the money was diverted to shore up public union pension funds. And it appears that they plan to do this again.

Poor Taxpayer

Here is where we stand right now. The budget deficit is at 10% of Gross Domestic Product, the Federal Debt is 67% of GDP and Federal spending is 25% of GDP. Keep in mind that we are not talking about the income the Federal government collects in one form or another. We are talking about the Gross Income of all producers in the United States.

A business normally shoots for a net profit margin of 5% of gross sales. So if sales are $100,000 per year, a $5,000 net profit would be ideal. Using the figures above, the government, if it were a business, is spending $110,000, or, $10,000 more than its gross sales. This also means that the business has credit card debt of $67,000 and must also pay $25,000 in taxes to support the government.

Only 58.1% of the population is working and of those 9.1 % unemployed, 45.9% are considered long-term unemployed. The home ownership rate has dropped to 59.7%, even though the foreclosures have been delayed by force of law for the past few years.

Only 49% of taxpayers pay income tax. Most of the 51% who don’t pay are actually receiving refunds called “refundable tax credits” like earned income credits, child care credits, etc. We have made our citizens into slaves because 47% of the population are receiving one or more federal benefit payments. We are punishing those who are productive and rewarding those who do not work.

And we have given our government this power. You hand our politicians a baseball bat and everything looks like a baseball and they’ll swing away just for the fun of it.

The ones who are being hurt the most are the very elderly. Most live on a fixed income and see the prices at the grocery stores rise every week. Dining at fast food restaurants is not something that they can afford anymore. Even plate lunches from lunch wagons are no longer affordable for them.

Does it make sense that the government proposes to spend more? I am of the belief that the elite schools that our elected officials attended no longer teach common sense.

How will the government obtain the $447 billion it intends to spend? From you, of course. The government is a parasite. It has no money of its own. It feeds off of productive people.

They propose to tax the wealthy and the corporations. Most citizens are covered by pension plans and those plans invest in stocks. If the corporations are taxed more, then the corporation earn less and your plans’ investments will decline in value.

Or, the corporation could raise their prices on its goods and services and you pay more when you consume their products and services. It is likely that you will be subjected to both. Stated another way, if you're financially responsible, you pay two ways. Once when your corporations that you invest in pay taxes and again when you consume their goods and services.

A corporation is in business to produce a profit. It has no other purpose for existence. It is not there to provide employment, pay taxes, pay unemployment insurance benefits, provide medical insurance or any of those silly things we’ve forced them to do. If it cannot produce a profit, it goes out of business. Or move to a climate that is friendlier to businesses.

The politicians have taken away our rights under the 10th Amendment. AMENDMENT X: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

We cannot change the politicians. They have demonstrated that they will say one thing and do another. They plan to increase their voter base… those who do not pay taxes so that the politician can be rewarded by getting re-elected.

We can change our behavior. Investing in the short term can produce good returns. As long as the market’s moving one can make money. If you believed that the market will drop as predicted early this summer, you would’ve sold short (sold stocks you do not own) and then buy when the market actually dropped to cover your shorts. If you believe that the market will go up, you would buy when it’s down and sell when it eventually rises.

Nothing will save us in the long term if the politicians continue on the path they’re heading. The currency will collapse. Imagine a society where there is no currency. No public safety, no food at stores, unsafe water because no public workers and no utilities. There will be chaos because those who prepare themselves and plan for this new way of life will be attacked by those who do not.

Hopefully, we can come together as a society and a community to help each other without governmental interference. There will be no care homes and our kupunas have no chance of survival unless we all pitch in.

Thursday, August 25, 2011



We all know that when we spend $1.20 for each dollar of income, we are headed for financial trouble. Some of us even believe that cash from a loan is income. So to make up the twenty cent shortage, we borrow or make purchases using a credit card. And with this abundance of ignorance, we are happy.

Let’s go over some basic rules that highly trained financial folks like me look at to determine whether a person can pay his bills. Sometimes, what is laid out in the first paragraph simply goes over people’s heads.

If the dollar collapses, at least it can be used for decorative purposes

One of the first things I look for is to see if a person (or a business) has a current ratio equal to 2 : 1. In other words, to be able to pay one’s bills, one must have $2 of current assets for each $1 of current liabilities.

Current assets are cash, assets convertible to cash in 30 days, receivables and inventory. Current liabilities are short-term liabilities that are payable within a short period of time, like credit cards and portions of long-term liabilities that are due and payable in 30 days.

The more critical ratio is the quick or acid test ratio, which is the relationship of current assets minus inventory as it relates to current liabilities. If this ratio is less than 1 : 1, then the person or business is considered to be insolvent and cannot pay his bills. If that person approaches you for a loan, you will be giving such a loan at your own great peril because I can assure you that he won’t be able to pay you back.

If  we use this tool to determine financial stability, the Federal, State and County governments can be determined to be insolvent. If they were individuals, their credit rating would likely be below 400. The only thing they have going for them is their power to confiscate from the citizens using their taxing powers.

Standard and Poor did not downgrade the credit rating of the Federal Government because the politicians did not compromise, but did so because they did compromise.

Here’s what happened. It was already determined that the Federal government could not meet its obligations. Rather than get these ratios in line with responsible financial management, they raised the debt ceiling, meaning that they could borrow more, thereby increasing the current liabilities.

There was an agreement to cut future spending in exchange for the ability to borrow more and to spend more today. In other words, they opened up another credit card so that they can spend more today in exchange for the promise to cut future spending within the next ten years.

Not a responsible move. No Congress can dictate what future Congresses can or cannot spend. Each Congress has the Constitutional power to set its own budget.

Contrary to what politicians would like to have you believe, compromising was a bad thing.

Let us assume that one has a child who is 5 years old and that child is a borderline diabetic. It is one hour before dinner and there are five pieces of cake that the child wants to eat. The child whines and throws a tantrum.

In the interest of being deemed to be reasonable, the parent compromises and allows the child to have two pieces of the cake and the child happily stops whining. The child is overloaded with sugar and goes into shock. Not very  responsible on the part of both the child and the parent.

This is what our politicians did. One side announced that they planned to spend more in order to get our economy going and the other side compromised and allowed for the debt ceiling to be raised in exchange for FUTURE spending cuts. S & P rightfully deemed this to weaken the government’s ability to pay and lowered the credit rating.

Politicians, do what they do best and immediately began trashing S & P for lowering the rating.

Our economy is based upon monetarist economics, or Keynesian economics. It measures growth or productivity using phony money. The government hires and pays a person $100 to dig a ditch. The next day, that person is paid another $100 to fill in the ditch he dug the day before. The government then announces that productivity was $200, but in reality, nothing of value was created.

Raising more revenue by increasing the tax rates for the rich is one solution that those who advocate more spending offered. They consider  the individuals and corporations that make more than $250,000 a year are rich. If you are covered by a pension plan or have a 401 K plan, you are likely owners of these “rich” companies because you own these companies through your plan. A raise in tax rates would diminish your return on your investments.

You further end up paying more when you buy the products and services you consume because these businesses will have to raise their prices to pay the additional taxes. Companies that are profitable are left with fewer dollars and would be unable to expand or hire more employees. Unemployment will remain high or will go higher.

The dollar will erode further and those on fixed income like our Kupunas, will have to pay more for goods and services or do without. Those who feel entitled to government funds could riot. They’ll even trash those who drive luxury cars or live in expensive homes. What they’ve done in Europe is what could happen here.

Kupunas won’t be able to defend themselves and their property. Flash riots are hard to prepare for and to defend against.

Right now, there is no safe place to invest your money other than into hard assets. We need to wait and see what the markets are going to do when the investors come back into the market after Labor Day. More importantly, we need to see if we can get past September 11 safely and without a major terrorist attack. An attack will cause a market crash, putting further downward pressure on an already vulnerable dollar.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Meet an outstanding person


I was at Saint Francis West Hospice a couple of weeks ago and a young lady came into the lobby with a patient in a wheelchair. She parked him about 5 feet from the piano and settled in to listen to my offerings for the remainder of my hour.

While they listened, she was massaging the patient, doing dance moves and singing along with the music. Both were, I guessed, to be Filipino, so I played whatever Filipino music I had with me that day. They danced to Ma Ala Ala Mokaya, Ikaw and a few more numbers. They were having so much fun that I wanted to stop playing and join them. The young lady’s personality was intoxicating.

Most of the patients in a hospice are admitted if they're expected to pass within six months. The majority actually pass within two weeks because they're in a state where they deteriorate quickly. Many can't laugh or even smile. If they tap their feet to the musical beat, we know they're enjoying themselves. So laughing and carrying on is something I've not seen in my 8+ years that I've entertained at hospices.

Julie Peralta, it turned out, was a volunteer and has been volunteering at St. Francis Hospice since this past April. She is a caregiver by trade and decided to volunteer to help with the elderly, sick or handicapped. She is hoping to be a volunteer at the Community Living Center at the Tripler Army Medical Center.

At St. Francis, she assists wherever there is a need for help. She provides companionship, assists the staff in personal care of the patients, feeding and taking the patients out for fresh air.

Julie was born and raised in the Philippines. She grew up in a farming village high in the mountains and earned a degree in Animal Science and in Agriculture. She was employed by the Philippine Government, working in farm communities helping with sick animals as well as introducing technologies to help the farmers to improve their crops.

Julie went through the Red Cross training program for nurse’s aids when she arrived in Hawaii with her then husband. She soon developed an allergy to latex while working in a nursing home and went back to the Philippines in 2000 because the allergies made her severely ill and she was unable to work. The fresh air at the village’s 7,000 foot elevation and the care her family gave her brought her back to good health.

She and her son came back to Hawaii and she has been working as a personal caregiver since 2005. Her son is in his fourth year at the University of Hawaii, majoring in electrical engineering. She beams with pride when talking about him.

Most of her work comes from referrals from those in the industry, the Child and Family Services and from a home health agency. She struggles to get by but is grateful that she is healthy and able to also give of herself to help others through her volunteering activities.

But life is not all work for Julie. She’s involved in ballroom dancing and is a member of the Hawaii Ballroom Dance Association. If she dances with the same gusto and enthusiasm that I’ve observed in her interaction with patients, she’s likely very good.

Our community is indeed lucky to have people like Julie giving so much of herself to her adopted community and country. She's certainly a jewel of a human being.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Using our Kupunas for political gain


Only if our politicians believe that it will hurt the other party.

The Federal Government receives over $200 billion each month in tax payments. That is enough to pay the interest on the bonds they’ve issued, pay Social Security obligations and make good on the paychecks for those serving in our military.

Social Security is a program that required citizens to pay in to under force of law. In exchange, the government promised to pay benefits when the citizen retired. That’s an obligation and our government shouldn’t be so chicken sh arrogant as to threaten to withhold payments on it.

Those who serve in our military should not be second guessing as to whether they’ll get paid. They risk their lives so we can enjoy our Constitutional freedoms. When a person is deployed, he shouldn’t have to worry if his family has enough to pay for food, clothing and shelter. He has enough to worry about. For our country to threaten to withhold that is pilau despicable.

Paying the interest on the bonds that our government issued also must be done. And we have enough coming in that these obligations can be met each month. There is no threat of default if the interest is paid.

If an individual has loans on credit cards amounting to 70% of his income, we can all agree that he’s in serious trouble. He can’t go to the bank and demand that they lend him more money so he can spend more. Unless, of course, he went to private school or to an elite university. All our top dumbbell  much respected government officials went to Punahou and  Ivy League schools.

Our government does exactly that. They pass a law increasing the amount that they can borrow because they can’t control their spending habits.

Where can they cut? As a proud graduate of the prestigious Farrington High School, I'll explain it to you.

1. Suspend all payroll payments to all elected officials and their staffs until the budget is balanced.

2. Suspend all EPA regulations and funding for the agency indefinitely. You will immediately see investors build more refineries and energy prices will go down. You may even see ferries operating in Hawaii, transporting goods and people between the islands.

3. Suspend all regulations and funding that is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

4. Suspend all programs and tax credits used for social engineering, like subsidizing farmers to produce ethanol. Tax credits for installing energy efficient systems should also be suspended indefinitely. Make everyone pay some income tax and suspend all tax credits which amount to welfare payments. If everyone pays something, they take pride in, and ownership of the country.

5. We can save an additional $20.2 billion if we suspend the Department of Education budget. They pay for 10% of each school’s budget but make up 100% of the rules. When the Federal Government collects $1 for anything, only 27 cents actually is distributed to the recipient. The rest is used for bureaucratic payroll and for administering their rules and regulations. Very inefficient.

6. HUD is also another department that we can do without. The sole function of HUD is to enrich community organizers who redistribute wealth. That’s $6.7 billion each month.

If we need to cut more, then the Justice Department could be trimmed some.

“We, the People of the united States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Any department that doesn’t fit in with the above Preamble should be shut down. That includes Social Security, by the way, but the United States Government forced this contract upon the people so that obligation must be fulfilled. Bernie Madoff tried the exact Ponzi scheme and was quickly sent to prison. Something only our dedicated government officials can get away with.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cheyne Andrade. Refreshing to see some of our young step up


A few weeks ago, I noticed a young man helping at the Center for the Aging, on the grounds of Tripler Army Medical Center. He had a pleasant personality and stood out among the workers.

I have since found that he is a volunteer at the Center. He seemed to enjoy the music and as I went about the usual chatter that I do while performing and I found that he plays the ukulele and the guitar. So I invited him to join me.

Here's Cheyne with his 12 string guitar

He did so the next time I played there, bringing his ukulele. The next time, he brought his 12 string guitar.

Cheyne (pronounced “Shane”) is a 2008 graduate of Saint Louis High School and is home from the University of Hawaii at Hilo where is will be entering his fourth year. He originally was a Marine Science major and is seeking approval to switch to Pre-Nursing.

Cheyne had a few events in his life that made him realize that he could help relatives, friends and family members if he had “hands-on” knowledge and experience in dealing with health issues, and could better assist in their healing process. Thus, the decision to switch to pre-nursing.

At the Center for the Aging, he volunteers at least four days a week from 8 AM to 4 PM. He often goes in five days a week. His mother works for the Veterans’ Administration at Tripler so he goes into work with her and leaves when she does. Very impressive.

He has also previously volunteered with the V.A. at the E-Wing of Tripler at the State Office. When he’s at school in Hilo, he’s also volunteered at the V.A. in the outpatient clinic.

Cheyne was taught to play the ukulele when he was ten years old by his father. A couple of years later, he taught himself to play the guitar and has been playing both instruments ever since. I admire those who can play both because I get confused trying to convert the fingering whenever switching between the two. I personally use a baritone ukulele whenever called upon to play (which isn’t often because I’m so bad at it) only because the fingering is the same as the guitar.

He’s likely a better piano player than me, having taken lessons for about three or four years when he was younger. But, he’s too humble and polite to say anything.

Cheyne was able to keep up with me whether I played simple contemporary Hawaiian music with three chords or Sinatra type ballads. Very impressive because many aren’t able to do the complicated chords that I use.

Mostly, I’m impressed that someone as young as he is would rather volunteer than to cruise the beach with friends while he’s home from college. He has a very bright future ahead of him. Any business or organization that hires him in the future will have acquired a gem of a human being.

Quality people like Cheyne are hard to find. If more of the young ‘uns are like him, we in geezerdom can have more confidence in our society’s ability to care for the Kupunas.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Elder Abuse by Family Members


In my past life as a financial Guru, I’ve had many encounters with unscrupulous CPAs, lawyers, trust officers and bankers who advise elderly clients to transfer assets to their children so that they may be able to qualify for Medicare and other welfare benefits provided by the government.

Many of these “suggestions” are often instigated by the children or other family members who would be the beneficiaries of such transfers. When a person is a financial advisor to others, whether they’re family members or not, he has to remove himself as a potential beneficiary as a result of any advice put forth.

One case that I’m intimately familiar with involved an older couple with substantial assets, including a house in an exclusive part of Honolulu. The elderly couple had two sons and one daughter.

About 30 years ago, all assets, including the house that the couple owned were transferred to the oldest son as is the custom in a lot of oriental households. Over the years, the elderly couple became restricted to their room. They were able to get their food from the kitchen but had to go back to their room to eat.

The husband passed on a few years ago and the elderly widow became more of a prisoner in her own home. The daughter lived on the mainland and the other son came by once a week to take his mother shopping. That was the only time she was able to enjoy the outside world and to see and talk to real people.

As her health deteriorated, the oldest son placed her in a nursing home. Her younger son visited her weekly and the older son visited sporadically. It was rare that her daughter-in-law visited. Even her grandchildren, who were raised and grew up in her house rarely visited her.

But, she was happy at the nursing home because there were other people that she could socialize with. All costs were paid by welfare or Medicaid.

Another situation I was involved in was where the oldest son was given a “Remainder” interest in the house and the elderly couple retained the “life estate”. The remainder interest means that the house passes to the son only when the elderly couple both pass away. The elderly couple retains all ownership rights to the house while they‘re alive with their life estate.

The elderly father passes on and asked the younger son to protect the mother from the eldest son. In the two months it took to transfer the mother to the younger son’s home, the elder son had already made arrangements to break the life estate by putting himself on title for 50% of the property so he could obtain a loan for a substantial amount.

When the mother passed away, the house didn’t pass to the older son by deed because the life and remainder interests were broken when the son put himself on title. Thus, the mother’s 50% was passed by her will, which gave the younger son everything.

The older son wanted the entire house because he believed he was entitled to it so he ended up suing his younger brother to gain the mother‘s 50%. Once the life estate is broken, the Will controlled how the mother’s half would pass. Needless to say, the brothers are estranged.

The abuse came about because the mother was frail and the elder son bullied her into signing over half the house to him in order to obtain a loan. What’s worse, is that she lived for the rest of her life with the fear that the younger son would find out about the bullying and the transfer.

In many of these cases, the children believe that their parent’s assets are theirs and do whatever they can to keep the assets intact. By transferring the assets, then the government pays for all long term care costs.

Many parents are also of the same mindset. They transfer their assets because they want their children and grandchildren to remember them in a positive way. In my observations, once the assets are transferred, the children and grandchildren will ignore the elderly parents. The elderly become paupers and must live with whatever bone is tossed their way by their children or the government.

These abuses are very commonplace in our society. There are lawyers and estate planners advertising that they can show people how to save your assets and get taxpayers to pay for elder and nursing care.

And we wonder why our government is bankrupt

Thursday, June 16, 2011



I ran across a very special person doing extraordinary things for people who are  facing a difficult period in their lives. She has been volunteering with hospice programs for 20 years and has been using hula as therapy for cancer patients and their families. I wanted the readers to be aware of people like Nancy, who quietly go about their volunteering because she believes she's making a difference in her community and for people in her community.

Nancy was born and raised on the Big Island of Hawaii. When she was about four years old, her father, Master Sergeant Robert Sweeney, was killed in Korea. He was a Silver Star recipient. That was one of the many profound events in Nancy's life that led her to the path she has chosen.

In 1979, when Nancy was 33 years old, she joined the Army where she spent the next 21 years serving her country. She would've likely have been the oldest person at boot camp. Older than the cadre, I'm sure. She did that to honor her father and joined despite her family's disapproval. She even took back her maiden name after her divorce to keep her father's name alive.

In 1991, her daughter Tiare passed away in Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington D.C. from an inoperable brain stem tumor. Coincidently, Nancy's mother passed away just 3 months prior to that so it was a trying time for her. This was when she was first exposed to hospice services in Virginia which further molded Nancy's choices in life.

After she was transferred to Hawaii by the Army so she could heal emotionally, she underwent training through Hospice of Hawaii to become a hands-on volunteer. She underwent 18 hours of training and was determined to help the dying and their families transition during this very emotional time in their lives. She has been volunteering at every station that the military assigned her to since then.

Nancy decided to retire from the Army after 21 years and settled down in Washington State to complete her education where she received a B.A. in Psychology and another B.A. in Social Work. She did a thesis on "Death and Dying Across Cultures" in her senior year. Shortly after receiving her degree in 2009, her sister passed away as a result of leukemia and Nancy was able to put her 20 years of hospice experience to use in managing her sister's emotions as well as the emotions of her family.

Many people are afraid to volunteer at nursing homes or in a hospice setting because they fear that getting close to the patients and their eventual death will emotionally depress them. I asked Nancy about that and how she deals with the emotional ups and downs.

She said that she believes that death is a transition into another life and therefore she doesn't experience sadness when a person passes on. And perhaps she has a point there.

Many people look at life and death in terms of themselves and how these events affect them. When one is as giving as Nancy, it is about helping the person and their loved ones to accept death as a transition and only then, can she help them to let go of life.

Nancy still works for the government in finance as a pay officer. While she was completing her college work, she had to do 18 hours of internship. Since she was familiar with the hospice program, she decided to do hospice work for her internship and also included dance therapy for the elderly. Much to her surprise, she learned that many of the breast cancer survivors were young and not elderly as she expected.

The program worked so well that in 2009, the Parks and Recreation department hired her to teach hula as a form of therapy. Her students include people who are breast cancer survivors and well as family members of breast cancer survivors.

They perform at various public functions like the 2010 Dickens Festival.

Nancy's work has even been touched by a child who was the recipient of the "Make a Wish" Foundation.

Hula wish will come true for Iraq veteran's ill 4-year-old daughter | County G

The dance group dances under the name Kaimiola Polynesian Dance. Kaimiola is Nancy's name that she shares with her grandmother. It means "One who seeks life and to heal" and she fully intends to live up to the name.

Nancy has always considered Hawaii as her home and if things work out, may be making the move to Hawaii in a couple of months if she is accepted by Hawaii Pacific University into their masters program. If that happens, she will be looking to offer hula as therapy for the elderly in nursing homes and continuing her work as a hospice volunteer.

Hawaii will be enriched with the love and aloha that she shares. And our kupunas will benefit from it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011



After observing our elected officials this past session, one can confirm that people should stop being taxpayers in Hawaii. A good example of "kicking the can down the road" for future government officials to solve.

At any social gathering, you're sure to find someone who is receiving a State or County Retirement System pension and obtaining free Part B medical reimbursement as well as Part D benefits. Ask them what they think the solution to the state's insolvency problem is. In my experience, every one of those who were asked the question went into a tirade about how they were underpaid and took government jobs because these benefits were a part of the package promised.

When asked how, since the pension fund and the medical fund are both bankrupt, do they think the government will come up with the money, the reply is always to tax the rich and the businesses. Therefore, if your replies are the same as mine, then they plan to go after your money if you invest it here in Hawaii. They will further get your money if you remain a Hawaii taxpayer.

Hawaii's excise tax is unique in that it taxes an investor's or business' cash flow. It is not a tax on profits. So if you lose money in your investment or business, but have cash flow, you still must pay this tax. If you have rental property in Hawaii, then you must pay excise taxes on the gross rental income.

We have examined the different types of investments that people would consider and if real estate is your choice because you want to hedge against inflation, then you ought to invest in property outside of Hawaii because the excise tax will drive your investment into insolvency. Better yet, you may want to buy into a Real Estate Investment Trust, which is a mutual fund that invests in real estate. The fund itself pays excise taxes if they're dumb enough to invest in Hawaii property, but in general, you would be free of the excise tax.

If you owned the out-of-state rental properties directly and lived in Hawaii, the Hawaii tax collectors will still go after you for this excise tax. They get you if the property is located in Hawaii and if it's not, they will tax you on the cash flow if you're a Hawaii taxpayer.

The U.S. is in the second phase of printing vast amounts of currency. It's called QE2. For those of you who went to private school, the following link explains everything.

If you believe that your currency will go down in value, then you could invest in energy mutual funds. Or, perhaps into International Funds that invest in companies operating in foreign countries. When doing so, you're investing in both the profitability of the company and the movement of the U.S. currency.

Kupunas need to be more conservative because they're past their productive life. Most invest their funds in investment grade 10 year bonds. When interest rates go down, bond prices go up. Similarly, when interest rates go up, bond prices come down. If inflation looms, then the government has to raise interest rates to stifle inflation. Well, inflation is here, but the government has chosen to redefined what is taken into account when they calculate the inflation rate. Thus, they've determined that we have no inflation even though food, housing and consumer prices keep going up and they're able to do it by simply redefining what inflation is. Their reason is that if interest rates go up, they too, must pay higher interests to those who bought government bonds. On $14 trillion of debt, the interest costs will exceed the operating cost of the government.

For the short term, those who own intermediate term bond funds can cover themselves by buying more shares with each monthly interest payment when bond prices go down. When bond prices rise, they'll buy fewer shares, but, they can sell the shares at a higher price.

Each summer, stock prices generally go down until after Labor Day. Most investors take the summer off. It's generally a good opportunity to reallocate one's portfolio at this time because if one plans to buy more stocks, you'll do so when prices are low.

Too complicated? O.K. For those who went to Punahou or Iolani, here's a simple way to lower your risks and increase your returns. If you have a mortgage where the interest rate is at 5% and you have a bank account where they pay you 1/4 of 1%, you would increase your returns by 2000% by paying down your mortgage. So if you put $500 a month into your bank account, use that money to pay an extra $500 towards your mortgage instead, and you'll be saving the 5% interest on that $500.

I've had lots of people upset with me for recommending that investors take their investments out of Hawaii. Words like "traitor" are used frequently when I go further and suggest that investors think about investments in foreign companies.

We all agree, though, that taking investment money out of Hawaii will further spiral the State into insolvency. But if investing in Hawaii is a losing proposition, then unless your goal is to lose your investment capital, then you'd better invest elsewhere.

We cannot control what our government does. We know that they are not truthful. What we can control is how we react to them and their policies.

My money loves Hawaii and this country. Hawaii and the country doesn't love my money.

Uh, oh! I stole that somewhere.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011



I performed at the Center for the Aging on the grounds of Tripler Army Medical Center Monday. I've been volunteering there since early 2003 so I know most of the long-term residents.

One such resident, a Navy fighter pilot, was absent. I call him "Top Gun" since he not only has to take off and land a jet while fighting wind conditions which throws the plane into yaws and unplanned banks, he must also do so while his tiny landing strip is also moving side to side and back to front.

Top, I believe, is the recipient of the Navy Cross. It's difficult to confirm these things because vets don't like talking about themselves and their achievements. He also used to play the guitar and loved music. That is, until he ended up with a body that is totally broken and can't move his hands or legs. If his nose is running, he needs to call for help so someone can wipe his face for him. Calling for help is a very difficult thing to do for a vet who is trained and conditioned to adapt and improvise in everyday life.

Mr. Gun was the first one in the room every Monday morning. I begin at 10 so I arrive at 9:45 to set up my keys and sound system. And there was Top waiting for the music to begin. I found out that he was younger than me (at my age, everyone's younger than me) having been born in 1947. That was noted only because when people sit in wheelchairs with broken bodies, they look older than they really are.

He loved the old ballads so I planned to sing Sinatra songs for the first part of the show and then switch to patriotic music in celebration of Armed Forces month and Memorial Day. Memorial Day is a Federal Holiday so I normally skip those days because they are short on staff on holidays.

Then, one of the staff members came up to me and told me that Top had passed away this past weekend. I felt a heaviness in the atmosphere that morning and that confirmed my uneasiness. Top was loved by residents and staff alike. His passing also reminds everyone we are all vulnerable and that makes us uneasy.

As a volunteer at nursing homes and at the hospice, I've accepted that each visit may very well be the last interaction I may have with a person. I work hard at finding music and songs that will feed that person's soul for the brief hour that I'm there. If I can bring peace to the person through music, I've done something useful.

I dedicated one of the numbers "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" to Top that morning. And some songs like "America the Beautiful" were difficult to get through. Most of these vets have at least one American flag attached to their wheelchair. If you want to witness people who love their country and the Constitution that they have vowed to defend, visit a Veterans' Hospital or facility.

I am reminded of the Rambo line, "I love my country, but my country doesn't love me".

Someone sent me the following so I can't give credit to the author:

It is the Veteran, not the Preacher who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Veteran, not the reporter who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Veteran, not the poet who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Veteran, not the campus organizer who has given us the freedom to assemble.

It is the Veteran, not the lawyer who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Veteran, not the politician who has given us the right to vote.

Have a safe Memorial Day!

Sunday, April 24, 2011



When energy costs rise, then costs for everything else rise. It takes energy to produce food, construct housing, transport goods and services as well as to energize our homes and transport us to work. Let's look at what causes our energy costs to rise.

Many people, particularly the politicians and the media, will tell you that the oil companies are gouging us and making huge profits because they have a monopoly or oligopoly. Perhaps they are correct. More likely, though, are the following factors that play into the mix.

FUTURES SPECULATORS. There is a market for commodities called the futures market. Individuals and various financial entities buy contracts of certain goods like grain, corn, pork, etc. in order to hedge themselves against a rising market. Included as commodities is the oil market.

When a person believes that the price of oil is going to rise to $140 a barrel and the price of that barrel, if purchased now, is at $100, then the person buys the contract at $100 now so that he has oil at $100 while everyone else has to pay the "spot" price of $140. The market goes one step further by allowing for the person to buy the option of purchasing at $100 sometime in the future for a small percentage of the actual price of a barrel of oil.

This gives the person a hedge against the increase in the price of oil by paying the option price, say $10. If the price of oil stays the same or goes down, they let the option expire without exercising the option. Thus, the oil companies ( or energy companies) can insure themselves that they won't get caught with huge increases in oil prices by buying options. California's PG & E put the state into bankruptcy because they refused to buy futures and when the spot prices spiked, they had to substantially increase energy costs immediately or go belly-up.

If, however, you're one of those who believe the politicians that the energy companies are gouging the public and reaping huge profits on the backs of the people, then you should buy energy stocks. Being a crybaby won't do any good.

NO NEW REFINERIES. The EPA has made it so expensive to build new refineries that no new refinery has been put in service for at least 35 years in the U.S. Yet, demand for refined oil and gas has continued to rise each year. The old refineries are outdated and inefficient, but repairing these refineries is a lot less expensive than building new plants. Environmental impact statements, public hearings and regulations make building new refineries in the U.S. too expensive. It's easier to build the new plant overseas and import the refined products back into the U.S.

OUR GOVERNMENT REFUSES TO ALLOW DRILLING IN THE U.S. The United States has huge amounts of oil and gas in the continental United States. We have huge amounts available offshore but the companies are prohibited from drilling by our government. Yet, U.S. taxpayers are funding other countries like Brazil to drill in the Gulf in exchange for the rights to buy the oil they produce. Yes, we pay them twice and lose American jobs in the process. Thus, the cost to the U.S. consumer goes up.

ETHANOL. We require that our gas be blended with ethanol because we want to encourage "green" energy in the U.S. Ethanol is a lot more expensive to produce than oil. We use much energy to plant, harvest and refine the corn into energy. These laws also take the corn and grain out of the food supply so the costs of these items go up at the retail store. Corn and grain are also used as feed for livestock so the price of beef, pork and poultry also goes up. So, the U.S. citizen again pays double for things because of government interference in the free markets.

Ethanol has also caused some fuel tanks, lines and injectors to break down. If you have a tank for your boat made of fiberglass, that tank will break down and the particles will get into your fuel system and clog your injectors/carburetors. So you have to do some expensive retrofitting to assure yourself that you won't get caught at sea when your engine fails.

DIFFERENT BLENDS OF GAS REQUIRED BY DIFFERENT STATES. Some states require as many as 10 different blends of gas to be offered to the consumers. These blends may change with the seasons. The refineries must not only make sure that they have the right amounts of gas at different blends available at all times, but must shut down to reconfigure the plant every time they change the production of the different blends.

Can you imagine the inventory headache caused by these regulations? If you have a lawnmower that requires one type of fuel, a car that requires another type of fuel, a gas blower requiring yet another type of fuel and a chain saw requiring another type of fuel, you'd have to keep a gallon of each type on hand rather than just one gallon to refuel your powered tools.

DOLLAR IS WEAKENED. The United States has printed trillions of dollars in the past three years. The dollar is the currency of record in the world markets. The dollar is used to measure the cost of oil. It is the dollar that has gone down. The oil has not gone up in price. China, the Soviets and other countries are meeting right now to replace the dollar as the currency of record. When that happens, you will see chaos in the world's financial markets. That includes oil.

It would be interesting to see how people recharge electric cars without the cost of electricity going up. Electricity is produced by burning oil or other fuels so it's unlikely that electric cars can be considered "green" and safe for the environment. The electric companies don't yet have the infrastructure in place to use solar, wind and geothermal energy.

When these costs go up, it hurts everyone. The Kupunas are the most vulnerable because the vast majority of them are on fixed incomes.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Editor's Note: I've had a number of emails inquiring about new articles. I've had some issues come up the past few weeks, but one of the emailers was kind enough to offer a warning for all the older men who read my blog.

Warning: Scam Against Older Men

Women often receive warnings about protecting themselves at the mall and in dark parking lots, etc. This is the first warning I have seen for men. I wanted to pass it on in case you haven't heard about it.

A 'heads up' for those men who may be regular customers at Lowe's, Home Depot, Costco, or even Wal-Mart. This one caught me totally by surprise.

Over the last month I became a victim of a clever scam while out shopping. Simply going out to get supplies has turned out to be quite traumatic. Don't be naive enough to think it couldn't happen to you or your friends.

Here's how the scam works:

Two nice-looking, college-aged girls will come over to your car or truck as you are packing your purchases into your vehicle. They both start wiping your windshield with a rag and Windex, with their breasts almost falling out of their skimpy T-shirts. (It's impossible not to look). When you thank them and offer them a tip, they say 'No' but instead ask for a ride to McDonald's.

You agree and they climb into the vehicle. On the way, they start undressing. Then one of them starts crawling all over you and having her way with you, while the other one steals your wallet.

I had my wallet stolen Mar. 4th, 9th, 10th, twice on the 15th, 17th, 20th, 24th, & 29th. Also Apr. 1st & 4th, twice on the 8th, 15th,  and very likely again this upcoming weekend.

So tell your friends to be careful. What a horrible way to take advantage of us older men. Warn your friends to be vigilant.

Wal-Mart has wallets on sale for $2.99 each. I found even cheaper ones for $.99 at the dollar store and bought them out in three of their stores.

Also, you never get to eat at McDonald's. I've already lost 11 pounds just running back and forth from Lowe's, to Home Depot, to Costco, Etc.

So please, send this on to all the older men that you know and warn them to be on the lookout for this scam. (The best times are just before lunch and around 4:30 in the afternoon).

Wednesday, March 9, 2011



I am more convinced than ever that our elected officials have no interest in solving the financial problems we're in. Or, they're just incompetent. Or they lie. Maybe all three.

On the national stage, (one of many examples) we find that the "savings" promised under Obamacare is really spending money twice. They've promised to cut Medicare by $500,000 in order to pay for the millions of uninsured people. Then, in another Bill, they've provided $500,000 to support those cuts that they've made in Medicare. I suppose they had to pass the law so we can find out what's in it.

Another thing that was just discovered under the healthcare law is that they quietly snuck in $100+ billion in funding to administer Obamacare. No debate was done on the funding even though it was a spending issue which required debate. That $100 billion funding was only discovered in the past couple of weeks.

Locally, our elected officials are wrestling with the $700 million operational budget for the next two years. Yet, we have an unfunded Employee Retirement System liability of between $6.2 to $7 billion and another estimated $10 billion unfunded liability for the retirees' medical insurance reserves. That's $16 - $17 billion, which, when amortized over 10 years amounts to $1.6 - $1.7 billion a year. Adding in one year of the budget shortfall, we're talking about a shortage of $2 billion a year. And states can't print money the way the Federal Government does.

Will the government employees agree to give up their benefits? I don't think they will.  Wisconsin's budget shortage is only about $3.6 billion and they have a much larger population than we do. How are we going to pay off a $17 billion liability?

Politicians often pass laws and don't score the cost of such laws, so we don't know how much each law will cost. Laws must have staffing to administer and to enforce them. It takes manpower, record keeping as well as staffing to enforce noncompliance of such laws. So the government gets bigger and bigger. That traditionally suits the elected official because it feeds the public sector employees/unions who in turn funds and votes for certain politicians.

If the union assesses $20 a month to each public sector employee and there are 65,000 of them, they have $1.3 million a month to elect or defeat any elected official. So everyone plays along. If, however, the government is not allowed to collect the $20 from the employees' paycheck and pass it on to the union, then membership and the service fees would drop substantially because many would not voluntarily mail in their $20 to the union. So, it'll be business as usual even though we hope for a different outcome.

We've suggested that in order to plan for a possible chaotic situtaion, people should consider growing their own food. And consider becoming a taxpayer in another state.

Hawaii has a general excise tax that punishes all investors and entrepreneurs because it is a tax on gross income and is assessed at all levels of transactions a product or service goes through. That includes rental income. If the situation presents itself, selling your rental property and buying (or doing a 1031 tax-free exchange) in another state ought to be considered. If possible, also consider a move to a state that doesn't have a tax on personal income. These states are Alaska, Nevada, S. Dakota, Texas, Washington, Florida and Wyoming. Two states don't have a tax on earned income but do tax your dividends and interest. These states are Tennessee and New Hampshire.

One might consider incorporating in a state that doesn't tax corporate income. These states are Texas, Nevada and Wyoming. Your holdings in rental property (non-Hawaii real estate) can be put into these corporate structures. See your CPA or tax/financial advisor. Not taking action may cost you dearly.

Hawaii's elected officials show no propensity for cutting down the size of the government and in fact, have already indicated that they will be looking to those who are productive for additional taxes. I suspect they'll try to increase the general excise tax.

Government does not create a product. The services that government provides are limited to compliance and administration of laws and regulations that they create. Like in transfering wealth. Whatever the cost of the administration of rules and regulations is, they must consfiscate from the private sector which produces products and services. The government has no source of wealth.

The public sector employees will not give up their benefits. Street violence, in my mind, is a possibility. They can also readily shut down our ports if they don't get their way. Thus, being able to grow your own food is essential to your survival.

Meanwhile, if things get chaotic, our kupunas would be left to fend for themselves. Says a lot about our society.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Arts and Crafts as therapy

Valentine’s Day… so much anxiety.

I entertained at the Spark Matsunaga Center for the Aging on Valentine‘s Day. I noticed that there were no hearts and flowers as wall decorations celebrating Valentine’s Day. Regardless, I wore a red shirt, although my only red shirt had an ink stain on the pocket that I hoped wasn‘t noticeable. No such luck with military vets who are accustomed to inspecting every loose thread on one’s clothing. Regardless, even though the guys noticed it, they presumably appreciated my effort.

What is interesting is that Valentine’s Day is mostly to please women. When I had a relationship in my life, the days I dreaded the most were 1. Her birthday, 2. Christmas, and 3. Valentine’s Day.

It got to the point where if I didn’t spend enough on her on these special days, she went into a state of depression. I’ve terminated relationships based upon how women reacted to how much I spent during these special days.

These vets obviously felt the same way and may have been relieved to not have to dwell on Valentine’s Day.

What got the patients’ interest most was what the Arts and Crafts Lady brought for them. She represented a company called Help Hospitalized Veterans, which provided projects for the veterans  so they could create things with their hands by painting, putting together crafts and other projects. There are a number of organizations that help these vets. One, which is funded by private funds with no government help or intervention is

The above shows the art selections that are available for the residents

Some of them aren’t able to move their limbs so can’t create art projects. One guy, a Navy fighter pilot who had to land his plane on a moving ship, didn’t have use of any of his limbs. I believe he’s a recipient of  the Navy Cross but I can't confirm that because they don't like to brag about those things.

For those who have the use of their hands, making model cars is definitely a favorite activity

Another resident , was a navigator in the Air Force. Other residents nicknamed him “Wrongway” claiming that if the flight plan is set for Japan, he would navigate the plane to Alaska. Of course, it doesn’t help that “Wrongway” keeps bumping into things and people with his wheelchair.

Here is a painting that "Wrongway" created. He only has use of one hand

If you’re artistic or have time to volunteer, please consider doing so with them. Or, if you don’t have the time, but can contribute money, you can help in that way. The HHV organization is not sponsored by the government and exists because citizens who appreciate our veterans give of their time and resources.

Sunday, February 6, 2011



As most of you know, I volunteer to do tax returns every year about this time. Yesterday was my first day for the season. One of the taxpayers that came in had a way about him that I couldn't figure out.

During the interview process, I found that he was paying for his parents' entire mortgage payment and, taking care of them. His mother had some health issues which limited her mobility. His father was also frail and wasn't able to lift her when she needed help. He also bought their medicine and paid for their hospital bills.

Yet, he was filing a simple return as a single person. I asked if his parents filed a return and he indicated in the affirmative. That means that the taxpayer had to file as a single person rather than as "Head of Household" with much more favorable rates. I suggested that he bring his receipts in for the medicine, the hospital bills and the mortgage statement (he indicated that he was on the mortgage with his parents) and his parents' social security numbers and dates of birth. Perhaps if his parents don't need to file a tax return, he would be able to claim them as dependents and gain "Head of Household" status.

He further would obtain tax credits like earned income credit and dependent care credits. I explained all of this to him and suggested that he come back after gathering these records. He was abrupt and said that he didn't have any of the paperwork. So he was O.K. with filing as a single person even though he could get back thousands of dollars by filing as a "Head of household". He wasn't upset with me (I don't think) but he appeared to be distraught. This happens when a person is stressed out.

He prepares everything for his parents every morning, including meals and whatever they need and then goes to work. When he comes home, he needs to clean them up, prepare their meal and do the household chores. He has no respite other than going to work every day. There are many in our society who do these things, quietly and without fanfare.

Since he insisted that we prepare his tax return as a single person, I did so. He didn't want to come back and felt that getting the documentation was a hassle. I gave him a list of things he needs to keep as records and proof of support he gives his parents so that he may be able to files his tax returns properly next year. The thousands he would get as a refund could be used to help pay for medication and perhaps hire someone to come in to give him a day off from caregiving.

I went to the grocery store early this morning to buy refreshments for the work crew who would be finishing up the installation of my new kitchen. The taxpayer was behind me at the checkout counter and told the cashier that I do tax returns as a volunteer. He appeared to be less stressed and let me know he truly appreciated the guidance I gave him.

Made my day.

Saturday, January 29, 2011



Many times, we tend to do everything for the elderly because they're too slow, make mistakes, or don't do things correctly. Yes, we can get things done faster if we do things ourselves, but are we hurting the elderly because they no longer engage themselves physically or mentally in everyday tasks? Do they lose their self-esteem because they no longer feel they're contributing to their ever shrinking community? Yes, many believe so.

We must be as patient with them as we are with children. The only difference is that children will build upon each success pattern and the elderly will eventually deteriorate with memory loss and physical frailties.

When my dad passed away in 1994, he made me promise to watch over my mother. So I moved her in with me and she remained with me until her passing in 2002. I was busy with two teenagers at the time and ran my business from my home so I didn't have much patience with her. I had her do the laundry and dusting around the house and gave her limited duties around the stove. I did the cooking and she heated her meal in the microwave oven most of the time because I also coached baseball and was very active in PTSA activities.

In early 1995, I got a puppy to keep her company. It was one of the best decisions I made. She was named Koge (Ko-gay) and my mom had someone to scold and discipline. Koge slept in my mom's room at night to keep a watch over her.

My mom was also a Buddhist and that required frequent visits to the family gravesites. So, I grew torch ginger, orchids and anthuriums. She would go out into the yard a couple of times a day and watch as each plant grew and flowered. Every few days, she would cut flowers and place them on the family alter in her room.

Another thing that the elderly enjoy is growing food. One can do this even if one doesn't have a yard. If you live in a condo where you have a lanai, you can plant vegetables in those storage bins made by Rubbermaid. If you have a yard and have the energy, you can plant a hydroponic garden that could make you self-sustaining in the event our government goes broke and the streets get chaotic.

Some of these gardens use tilapia in tanks to  fertilize the vegetables and the vegetables in turn, recycle and cleanse the water for the tilapia. In one system, one can have protein from the fish and vegetables for vitamins, minerals and fiber. You will find that the elderly in your care will spend more time outside watching the recycling of life.

The elderly also enjoy doing crafts or making things. I encouraged my mom to continue her crocheting where she made potholders, doilies, clothing and decorative items. It keeps them busy and focused on completing something and they have something to look forward to every day. I've noticed that at the care homes I visit, the people who come in with arts and crafts are more popular than those who run Bingo games. They bring in pre-drawn pictures where they can color by the numbers, make crafts and other items that they can show off to their friends.

If we don't give them something to be responsible for, then they're just waiting to die.

Sunday, January 16, 2011



Every year for the past couple of years, I've volunteered in the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance/Tax Counseling for the Elderly) sponsored by the Internal Revenue Service. The program is sponsored by a number of groups under the guidance and sponsorship of the Family and Individual Self-sufficiency Program.

To volunteer, one must pass a test set by the IRS. For geezers like me, I need all the help I can get so I attend a free seminar at Leeward Community College for two Saturdays. The class is conducted by Professor Roy Kamida, who is also a CPA. The first session is this Saturday, January 22. You can make inquiries about attending the session by emailing him at KAMIDA@HAWAII.EDU.

Also assisting at Leeward is Shelley Ota who is a Professor of Accounting and is the division Chairperson for LCC Business Division. She is a 2009 recipient of the UH Regents Medal of Excellence in Teaching. Professor Sharon Cox is an Assistant Professor of Accounting in UH West Oahu's Division of Professional Studies. They are both credentialed academically.

In the above photo, both professors are brainstorming on ways to attract more people in to utilize the tax assistance program. Some of their ideas made me blush. But you can see that they're not typical of the professors I had when I struggled through college. My professors all had beards, walked and talked slowly and were hard of hearing. As you can see, neither of them have beards.

They are always on hand to provide assistance when the volunteer has questions. And, I can attest that they will not giggle or snort when you ask a question that a simpleton should know. At least, they've never laughed while I was still in their presence.

One of the things most volunteers look forward to is the food cooked by volunteer chef, Vic Punua, Jr. His sweet/sour spare ribs are of the broke-the-mouth quality.

Then, there are the volunteers who keep coming back year after year. You get to renew old friendships while helping the people with their tax returns.
Of course, the main benefit you will get as a volunteer is the satisfaction in helping people to navigate through the complex process when preparing a tax return. You will also acquire a better knowledge of our tax system. At Leeward, where I volunteer, there are many accounting students who are part of the program to obtain class credits and hands-on knowledge of the tax preparation process. They obtain real life experiences in dealing with "clients" which will serve them well in their future endeavors. As a geezer volunteer, interacting with the young keeps me young and on my toes.