Summer Musings

by Gary Foreman


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When Opportunity Knocks

Lottery Losers

It's summer. When the days are long and lazy. And you have time to think about unusual things...

Recently I glanced at some notes that my wife was taking. She had written 'reflected', but due to my "getting-older" eyesight it looked as if she had written "deflected". That completely changed the meaning of her notes. The dictionary gives multiple definitions for reflection. Among them is "efficiently reflecting light, heat or radiation". A second one talks about thinking deeply about a subject.

Some people seem to reflect opportunity. Taking the time to think allows them to see possibilities clearly and explain them to others in a way that makes sense. They make the most of what comes to them.

On the other hand, other people have an uncanny knack for deflecting opportunity. Even when they're in the right place at the right time something always comes up to prevent them from cashing in on good fortune. Somehow good things bounce off of them.

How can you become a "reflector"? The first thing is to hang around reflectors. They're the ones who seem to be "lucky". The next thing is to build some time into your busy schedule to think. Henry Ford said that thinking was hard work and that's why so few engaged in it. Old Henry was a reflector.

Speaking of opportunity, here in Florida we have a state lottery. The state has purchased billboards that stress the size of the current jackpot. It's usually in the $10 million dollar range. I know that they're trying to get people thinking that the jackpot is an opportunity.

But, I can't help looking at that big number a little differently. I know that they pay out less than they take in. So to pay out $10 million, they'll need to collect somewhere in the neighborhood of $14 million. What that means is that my chance of winning the whole jackpot is much less than one in 10 million. Pretty long odds. I know that a ticket is only a buck. But it sure seems like a waste to me.

Guess that maybe I'm especially frustrated because that's not the only way that the lotto is misleading. People voted for the lottery because they were told that the money raised would all go to education. No more trouble paying for schooling. You guessed it. Years later we're still scrambling for school money. And now we're starting to see people with addictive gambling problems.

On the other side of the coin, every so often you hear something that really rings true. Here's one. "Opportunity only knocks once, but temptation leans on the doorbell." Unfortunately, I don't know who said it, so I can't give them credit. But they've spoken the truth. Most of us only get a certain number of real significant opportunities in our lives.

Temptation, however, is always around us. Temptation to cut corners. To just sit back and let someone else do the work. To avoid the risk that comes with opportunity. It's funny. If you study people who have had large, public failures, they usually didn't make one very big, very bad decision. Mostly they made a small, bad decision. Then followed it up with another small, bad decision. And kept doing that until the consequences of those decisions built up and came crashing down on them.

The morale of the story? Everyone will give in to temptation some time. That's just being human. But when you're going the wrong way, turn around as quickly as possible. Although it's easier said than done, don't make a habit of giving in to temptation.

On a whole different path, I admit that I get a kick out of the ads for psychics. Often there's a disclaimer that says their advice is for 'entertainment purposes only'. Of course it's in small print. Much more prominently displayed are promises that they'll help you find the right mate, riches and happiness.

I've got a couple of questions for them. If they can see the future, why don't they buy tomorrow's winning stocks today. Then they'd have plenty of money and could offer their services for free. Wouldn't that be a better way of helping people with their special abilities?

Or how about this. When you call in, they ask for your birth date and credit card number so that they can charge for their services. If they know so much, why do they need to ask? Maybe I'm just being too hard on them. But it would seem that divining someone's age would be easier than predicting how his or her love life is going to turn out.

Ah, well. It's time for another iced tea and more summer contemplation.


Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money and he's a regular contributor to CreditCards.com. You can follow Gary on Twitter or visit Gary Foreman on Google+. Gary is also available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

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