AmazonSmile

What is AmazonSmile? It is an option offered by Amazon to donate 0.5% of your Amazon purchase price to a charity of your choice, with no additional increase in the price you pay, according to their statement. If you are a customer of theirs, the benefit for you is that you can select the charity that you wish them to donate to.  AmazonSmile (no spaces) appears to be a somewhat painless and optional way to donate a little money at a time to a good cause of your choosing. Amazon began this program in the Fall of 2013 but they are now (March 2014) reminding people that it exists with a pop-up on their site.

Because of my interest in Life Extension and anti-aging research, I selected the SENS Foundation (find it by searching for another charity than the ones presented–there is a button for that) and Amazon allows that choice but replies that they will have to check with SENS to see if they qualify and are prepared to receive donations from Amazon. I don’t know the potential gotchas at this point on all this but I will be happy if SENS is able and willing to do this. Amazon will inform me if they are not able to route my donations to SENS and will give me a chance to select another organization. I am letting you know about this now in case more numbers of people selecting organizations like SENS might help with the whole approval process somehow. SENS is a good place for your charitable dollars regardless. Worst case, there are some other good charities that may still make this a compelling option for your consideration.

Please check this out.
See http://smile.amazon.com/about/ref=smi_se_ft_abt_saas

You may get a pop-up asking you to consider participating in AmazonSmile the next time you go to Amazon. Or, you can follow the instructions shown in the above link to log in to your account and go to your settings page.  Signing up does not mean you have to exercise this option but I imagine you will want to.

Going forward, you will need to go to smile.amazon.com instead of the usual amazon.com web address (URL). It is the same site, but now your purchases will help your favorite cause. This is the biggest hurdle to taking advantage of the AmazonSmile program. You can put this URL, smile.amazon.com, in your browser bookmarks or favorites or you can search for “amazon smile addon” or “smile always” or “smile redirect” and find browser-specific addons that once installed will automagically redirect you to smile.amazon.com whenever you go the regular Amazon.com web site. I am not going so far as installing the browser addon for myself at this time but I may in the future.

I would like to think that it will truly not cost me anything more to participate — but there is no free lunch after all, is there?  I still like this option regardless. But I will be endeavoring as time goes by to determine more exactly the effects of utilizing this option. BTW, I get nothing from this–there is no affiliate relationship or participation.

Update:  Since the original posting I have placed a small order ($50) and the process from beginning through shipment was seamless and identical to previous experiences buying from Amazon.  When I go to smile.amazon.com I see a “Supporting: SENS FOUNDATION INC” over my name in the top left corner, which is nice. That area is clickable, showing a pop-up with more information about the organization and a link to “Change your charity,” which you can do anytime you wish.

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Life Extension Soup

Rather, Alphabet soup of the word kind, that is.  Sorry for the hook and lead-in.  Couldn’t resist.  But all this does tie into the points and content below.

I am still just a few months into educating myself about the possibilities for life extension and have posted a very modest amount of information so far on this site relating to my efforts.  By necessity this is a part-time process for me but it is on my mind frequently.

Life Extension Soup!  Maybe. Could be.For example, I have been thinking of my next post all week and after much thought I  decided to take a small step back and get into some basics. In my day job, when learning about something new in the Information Technology field, one of the first things to do is make sure you learn the major terms and acronyms. As I sometimes do with my non-professional interests, I did not begin with a regimented program of learning–I just dove in.

First a little background history on myself. Back to the 80’s and earlier I have been interested in the subject of “Life Extension.”  Before the Internet, information like we are used to now was scarce. I read a single book called “Life Extension” by Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw — but I never got into heavy supplementation.  Later, I recall being excited to be one of the original subscribers to the printed Life Extension magazine. Fresh information–on a schedule! Somewhere along the way I let my magazine subscription lapse and life happened.  When the internet came along and surfing became popular, I would occasionally search for either “life extension,” “immortality” or ” anti-aging” and casually try to keep up with progress and new ideas that way. I considered myself something of a life extension “enthusiast” but I was really naive as to what was going on. Again, it has been only recently that I have begun the more serious effort of transitioning to the role of advocate (and improving my health). My, how things have changed in 30 years! Keeping up with new information is a major challenge, much less learning even enough to “get up to speed.”

So, to facilitate searching and identifying relevant information, just what is the best term or phrase for this overall field of interest?  Is there one ideal catch-all that everyone would recognize and understand? Doesn’t appear so. I think most people understand what you mean when you talk about human life extension so for myself I have been trying on the title of Life Extension Advocate. Works OK, but is it any better or clearer than Longevity Advocate or Anti-Aging Advocate? Indefinite lifespan gets to the heart of what I am interested in and is very popular with some. But Indefinite Lifespan Advocate may not have quite as good of a “recognition factor” with the general population.  And one person I ran that phrase past said “that (indefinite life) means immortality, right?” Some entrenched minds shut down when hearing that word. With others, that is exactly what they are searching for. Anyway, back to the point. Most all the phrases I have encountered have issues in that without a clarifying word like “human” included, the same or similar phrases are also used in unrelated fields. I learned that and how hard it is to obtain relevant results when I created my own Google news group for the subject of “Life Extension.” After that experience, I did more research with Google and Twitter trend tools to see what is used the most and what people are talking about when they utilize a particular word or phrase.  I could not determine a clear “winner” but it seems to me that anti-aging is on one end of a spectrum and immortality is on the other, with longevity and life-extension somewhere in-between. Anti-aging, while a meaningful and descriptive phrase, unfortunately seems to have been adopted for use by all sort of cream sellers, clinics and health spas, etc. Some really good, some questionable. It is perhaps the most mainstream and recognizable phrase for that reason though. Immortal or immortality on the other hand, while legitimate, seem to have some baggage or negative connotations due maybe to association with ancient myths, or they bring to mind stereotypes often repeated in popular fiction and movies of varied quality. You see quite a variety of names in organizations and web-based groups too–making them hard to find out about sometimes.  So, I will likely use different phrases from time to time, depending on who I am addressing, but I think my “go to” phrase most often will be these most widely recognizable and least-threatening (IMO) words–“life extension.” For now. And I personally like Life Extension Advocate better than other options such as life extensionist or immortalist (for examples)–no offense intended toward any who may prefer those or other phrases.  Any comments?

“Now is the time to understand more, so we fear less.”  —  Marie Curie, Polish Scientist and Nobel Prize Winner

The internet really is a wonderful advance but the amount of knowledge available is staggering. Continuing the thought process from the last paragraph, what words or phrases are best for keeping up with the latest info in life extension news? I’m still in the process of finding new sites and information every week and expect that to continue for quite some time. The sites of others who have gone before me have proven invaluable in furthering my education. But still, there are so many phrases and “keywords” relating to the field of life extension (or, you know–anti-aging, longevity, indefinite lifespan, anti-senescence, immortalism, youth extension, etc., etc.–the alphabet soup thing) that just trying to take the pulse on things, or spot something new, requires mutliple searches using a wide variety of phrases and keywords.  Plus, according to Google, people enter the above related search words in literally hundreds of different combinations.  In addition, across the whole scope of things, we also have gerontology and geriatrics to consider for possible searches, plus other subjects like cryonics and transhumanism; then from the latter, the related words transcendence and singularity. Well, I could go on and on.  There are so many other associated words and keyword phrases in play, especially considering all the scientific or research and health-related words. To complicate matters even further, Google alone has their regular web search, their separate news search, and their blog search–and probably have other special searches I don’t know about.  You can set up web alerts which help somewhat but they have their limitations. Currently I am stumped as to how to do searches more efficiently and about once a week I have been entering an alphabet soup of phrases in Google searches. One of my goals going forward is to investigate ways to make this whole process easier.

Well, the thought just occurred to me that this post may not interest many people and I have been long-winded as usual. One thing is clear–that there are a lot of new words and topics I need to learn about if I want to be more involved. I sympathise with anyone else trying to do the same as me. One of my long-term goals for this site is to help others find information they might be looking for relating to life extension. So in the spirit of documenting what I learn, and in the process wind up with a resource that I (and perhaps others too) will find useful, I am going to begin working on a “Knowledgebase” page under the menu Resources (above) to record all the new words and terms I learn.  I know, that is why we have Google, Wikipedia and online dictionaries.  However, this old-fashioned index of sorts will be targeted to life extension related topics only. Sometimes I cannot recall a word or topic name and a page like this will give me a place to scan as a “rememberall.” Doing this should help me learn better and retain the information better. As with everything else I do with this site, it will be a work in progress.

This is admittedly just a small additional step in my personal advocacy efforts. My hope is that if enough people educate themselves, advocate and contribute or raise money (with enthusiasm) that useable results can be achieved in just a few decades. Even if my impact on the world is small, it helps my attitude to believe I am doing something constructive. Other than general advocacy, one of the most important functions we can perform is to become fund-raisers–speaking of which–have you considered donating to the SENS Research Foundation?  OK, that was not the smoothest segue ever, but please give it some serious thought because their Strategies for Engineered Senescence may ultimately result in regenerative therapies to undo the damage underlying the diseases of aging. This approach is probably our best hope at this time for good old indefinite life extension. I really want to continue living in this body as long as I can–without interruption please. The SENS approach just makes the most sense (pun intended) to me of anything I have learned about so far.

Here’s hoping our future meals of Life Extension Soup with a side of Longevity Chow taste better than what I had for lunch today.  And as always, may we all live long and rewarding lives,

Bob

PS:  The phrases Life Extension Soup and Longevity Chow are used above in good fun. Who knows if any potential life extending treatments or regimens will even involve food? Maybe you will be able to eat whatever you want in the future and just go in for a “reset” every few years.  I thought it would be interesting to mention that a new company with a product called Soylient (yes, a take-off from the Charlton Heston movie) is about to begin shipping product version 1.0 in the next few weeks.  They have been working on a nutritional drink that is purported to supply all a body needs.  I am not going to be an early-adopter (or maybe even an ever-adopter) but I have checked in on their progress from time to time.  I am definitely not promoting them and as a matter of fact, I would advise extreme caution with this product. But here is a link if you want to read more about the product and it’s perceived advantages over regular food.

 

 

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Death is Wrong

Death is wrong.  Simple as that.  Continuing rationalization, acceptance and even glorification of it by some are holdover, barbaric attitudes (to put it bluntly). Changing minds and societal norms and beliefs is a difficult task often taking generations to accomplish.  A good step in that direction has been taken by Gennady Stolyarov II in his new children’s book, Death is Wrong.

Death is Wrong Amazon link

The author is teaching that lifespan can be indefinite and is targeting the book for those age 8-up.  In my opinion, based on the maturity level of the kids I know, it is a bit more suitable for the more mature or thoughtful middle-schoolers and older teenagers.

The author hopes to inspire kids to want to go into anti-aging occupations and make a difference. I think that is a worthy goal.  With no miracle cures or treatments anticipated in the near future we need more people working on life extension related science.

As expected for a book that is breaking new ground in an already controversial area, there have been many reviews both positive and negative.   Many are available from more experienced people than me so I don’t intend to offer another rendition.  Below I am going to provide you a few links to learn more about this book’s contents, what is being said about it, and a link to the Indiegogo campaign to get 1000 free copies into the hands of children.

For expediency’s sake, I bought the Kindle edition (you don’t have to have a Kindle device to read Kindle edition books), which also turned out to be very inexpensive at only $.99. Most anyone can afford to obtain the book at this price and it is a short read.  You can then decide if you want to purchase hard-copies for the younger loved-ones in your life.

  • All Amazon versions can be found here.
  • Here are a couple of positive reviews of the book here and here.
  • And here are some interesting comments from the author on the feedback he has received, both pro and con.
  • Here is that link to the Indiegogo fund-raising campaign that I mentioned above.       Update 4-24-2014: Congratulations to Mr. Stolyarov for the completion of a successful campaign!

This is an important step in a long-term effort to win minds and change attitudes. I applaud the author’s efforts and plan to share a copy with my 15 year old.  I actually hope that his efforts will result in some competition in this area though.  Children’s editions of the bible and bible stories come to mind as being in this “space” somewhat, but they take a different perspective of course. I know of nothing else like Death is Wrong and I would be curious to see how others might approach this subject. Even if you don’t have children, please consider supporting the author in what he is trying to accomplish.

May we all live long and rewarding lives,
Bob

 

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Keeping up with Health News (and deciding what to act on)

While catching up on recent popular-press health news, three widely reported stories caught my attention.  One was related to the dangers of being underweight, another was about the benefits of eating 7 or more fruits and vegetables, and the third was a month or so back about the potentially harmful effects of eating too much protein (animal sourced being the worst).  I do wish studies like this were better designed because they never seem to get to the root of things. Too often I find myself questioning whether anything new, definitive and actionable really comes out of these type studies.  So, how do I decide whether or not to act on anything I read? Though I remain skeptical of the findings of the week, I figure that I don’t have many alternatives. And it is because of these type studies after all that many of us have all decided to follow various supposedly healthy habits. So I usually wind up trying to put my “common sense” to work and make use of any information I believe is pertinent to me. It is either that or do nothing and just wait idly by for the grim reaper

You can read the articles noted above and form your own conclusions. Even if I had a science background (which I don’t) it would take a long time to analyze these studies in depth. If anyone feels qualified to comment on these articles please do so. Most articles cite their sources and you can usually learn more if you  have time to drill down further. Anyhow, the most frequent result for me after reading these type articles is to do nothing. In the case of these three, below are example items from each that seemed reasonable to me and pass my personal safety filter. At least,  I can see no harm in doing the things I note below.  

First, the article about the dangers of being underweight. Here is a listing of Body Mass Index (BMI) Categories for reference (BMI is measured by our own company wellness program by pinching the fat width at 3 locations on the body):

  • Underweight = <18.5
  • Normal weight = 18.5–24.9
  • Overweight = 25–29.9
  • Obesity = BMI of 30 to 34.9
  • Severely obese = 35 or greater

According to the article a BMI of 18.5 or less had a 1.8 times higher risk of dying compared to those measuring within a normal BMI range. People who were obese had a 1.2 times higher risk of dying compared to people at a normal weight, and people who were severely obese had a 1.3 times higher risk.  So, it appears that being overweight is better than being underweight. A question that comes to mind immediately however is whether this has any implications for athletes who get their BMI’s really low?  That wasn’t mentioned but could have been part of the original source material.

My personal take-away?  Continue to lose weight (I am currently obese–down this last year from 269 to 230) by a pound or so a week but I will not strive to be skinny (wasn’t really planning on that anyway). Yeah! I’ll be content with any BMI in the low 20’s.

Fresh strawberries

Next is the article about eating more vegetables and fruits. People who ate one to three servings were 14 percent less likely to die during the study; those who ate three to five servings were 29 percent less likely to die, and those who ate five to seven servings were 36 percent less likely to die, compared to people who ate less than one serving. Recommendations in the United States are for 5 veggies and 4 fruits per day (half-cup servings). “Vegetables have a larger effect than fruit, but fruit still makes a real difference,” according to the study.  Fruit appears to have a benefit about one fourth that of vegetables. But the results flip-flopped where frozen or canned fruit was used instead of fresh. Each serving of canned or frozen fruit increased the risk of death by 17 percent–perhaps traceable to the high levels of sugar in the canned fruit in Europe where the study was done and where canned fruit is more commonly consumed.

My take-away?  Honestly I often take in just 3-4 a day. I think this is mainly because to-date I have been more focused on eliminating the bad things (which was most of what I ate). Therefore, I am going to resolve to start making vegetables in particular a higher focus and start keeping an end of day food count diary to try and get to an ultimate goal of 7-9 a day.  If I had done that all along I would have eliminated the bad things anyway.  But frankly, I was not that excited about eating more veggies and needed to “ease” into a better diet.  I am going to see if this article (and my log) will help motivate me to eat more fruit and vegetables (fresh particularly) going forward. I’ll start with a beginning goal to average 5-6 a day within the next 6 months.

Finally, to the article about the dangers of eating too much protein.  The contention is that eating too much protein raises the levels of IGF-1 in the body and that “Cancer mortality was higher for high-protein [eaters] compared to current smokers.”  A study author recommends people should consume nine to 10 percent of their daily calories from protein – or .36 grams for every pound they weigh.   But when we reach our mid-60’s we may need to reverse course and eat more protein, according to the article. Another flip-flop in results!

My take-away? At 54, I plan to change my menus to include less protein overall and to substitute plant-based proteins where possible.  Doing this while adhering to my other goals of avoiding wheat and corn is going to be a challenge.

To conclude, changing my diet this last year has been a greater challenge than I originally imagined and there is no end in sight to determining what is best for me. I have reached a personal conclusion that diet is much more important than supplements so this is a key area for me to do better in.  So, I will continue to do my best at interpreting the data that I want to act on by using just plain old common sense. Anyone know of a better way? I hope to get better at it as I learn more.

FYI, at some point soon my desire is to start capturing study highlights on a web page so that I can go back and reference the info at will. I wish that all studies with all their parameters and findings could just be queried from a master database at will.

Hoping we all live a long and rewarding life,
Bob

PS:  The problem with letting this post’s development drag out over a few days is that new health news keeps coming out. Now there is an article saying that getting 20-30 minutes of sunlight early between 8 and noon could help me reduce my BMI.  I can’t “jump” and change what I do according to each and every new study I read about but I’ll keep that in mind. It sounded well reasoned–and maybe it is. As it gets warmer it may make sense anyway to move my daily lunch walk to earlier in the am. Also, another article presents evidence claiming we need to exercise no more than an hour vigorously at a time and run/jog no more than 2-3 hours a week. It does make sense to me that going to extremes with anything, including exercise, is potentially a bad thing.  I certainly like the idea of not exercising too much!

 

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Will you be able to afford life extension?

Are you “takin’ care of business” in regards to your health and longevity?   I’m talking personal finances. If living a longer than normal lifespan is your goal, you will likely need to possess significant wealth to participate fully. Saving money is a given, but unless your income is quite large, simply saving money in savings and money market accounts will not make you rich or keep up with inflation. To be more fully in control of your future, you will need to think like an “owner” and invest your savings like rich people do—in things that grow in value like real estate and stocks (equities). If we are lucky over the next few decades, we may enjoy a whole series of rejuvenation treatments until something more fundamental or all-encompassing is available. But there will be no free lunch from corporate entities and you won’t be able to count on the government to help you live longer.  It will not be in the government’s best interest for you to live longer (think Social Security payments and Medicare).   This post is for those who intend to take responsibility and actively do something about their own future.

I am heartened by the recent entry of Calico (Google) and Human Longevity Inc. (involving Craig Venter).  I don’t know if their approaches will result in anything we will be able to use to lengthen our lives but at least their existence is a sign of this effort becoming more mainstream. It would be a shame though for treatments and options to be made available from companies like these and you could not afford them.   Something similar happens every day with ordinary healthcare–even sometimes with those having insurance. You may have your exercise routine down to a science, your menus and shopping lists planned a week in advance, etc. but do you have your economic house in order? You may have money saved for retirement, but will you have the money needed for a potentially longer life and the accompanying medical/treatment bills? Sure, as an alternative you could maybe work 30 years then take 30 years off, repeatedly; but who wants to have to work to survive?

Even if you think life extension is something your children or grandchildren only will benefit from, you will still need plenty of cash just to pay for your own health care through your normal retirement years–over and above what it costs to live during retirement. Fidelity in 2013 estimated that $220,000 is needed overall per retiree couple for medical expenses alone. Most of us on this web site today are diligently working on improving our diets and exercising our bodies and even our brains.  Some are also taking supplements in the hopes of extending their lives. In my opinion, your finances deserve equal time and attention.

In this post I am not going to speculate on how much anti-aging treatments might cost. My first assumption for the purposes of this post is that it will cost a lot (that is a technical term meaning “more than I’ve got”).

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”  –  Ben Franklin

I look at acquaintances, relatives and friends (whether life extension is on their radar or not) and see a consistent lack of knowledge and attention to building up their wealth and finances. They see the subject as something hard to learn or something that involves too much sacrifice. Many just leave it up to fate. We could explore why people are that way but it would take more time and space than we have available.  So my second assumption is that you are interested in life extension and that that alone is enough motivation for you to do something about affording it.  It could take a significant change in attitude and mindset for many of us.  One thing is for sure though. If you do nothing and make no plans–then you are virtually guaranteeing you will die permanently when your “time comes.”

My third assumption is this: That you are OK with being an “owner,” and maybe in being rich someday. I am not talking Elysium (the movie) rich with you as a “have” and everyone else as “have-nots,” unable to afford or restricted from rejuvenation treatments.  I believe that money in itself is not evil.  What the Bible actually says in Timothy is that the “love of money is the root of all kinds of evils” (English Std. Version).  A little further along in that book, a charge is given to the rich that “They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.”  I’m not giving Bible lessons today but just making a point that simply having money is not a problem. If your idea of social fairness is equal pay for any effort or that it is wrong to accumulate money to help yourself and others later on, then I doubt that I can change your mind in a few sentences. We could go on and on with this but I will just stop now.

My fourth and final assumption is that you don’t have a clear idea of what to do next. If you are already a master investor or wealth accumulator you may still enjoy reading further but either way, please know that basic retirement planning is not covered in this post–there are tons of resources elsewhere for that.  What I want most of all for you to take away from reading this post is that you need to make a decision to go beyond just saving and develop a rich person’s mindset about making and keeping money. We need to adopt several uncommon mindsets if we are going to advocate for life extension research–among them, a mindset that it is OK (socially acceptable) to want to live longer, a mindset that extending life is a possibility and an endeavor worthy of our time and attention, and the mindset I am talking about in this post: enabling you to be ready to take advantage of treatments by being able to pay for them.

Time for the bad news. This will take time and education and work on your part to take action on what you learn. On the plus side the most common and easiest way to accumulate wealth is over a long period of time, so there is no need to overly stress about it in the short term. Another point to make: I don’t have any magic bullets or personal words of inspirational wisdom to share. I am no smarter than average in this area but I do have a desire and drive to learn about it. I am going to share with you the resources and wisdom from others that I have utilized to change my own mindset about making, having and keeping money.

“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.”  –  Earl Nightingale

OK, now we are ready to discuss some very basic initial steps you can take.  Below I have compiled a starter list of wealth building and wealth preservation suggestions:

  • First of all there is no better technique than to live below your means.  If you don’t do this then there won’t be any money to save, invest or put into a business.  Again, there are tons of web sites that can help you with this. I encourage you to start today–make up your mind to do this–for your own stable future and potential life extension.
  • Another timeless principle is to adjust your priorities and pay down your debt (you can’t have everything!) and avoid credit except for your house and car.
  • Maintain your health.
  • Marry someone you want to spend your whole life with.  Divorce can destroy wealth.
  • Buy liability and term life insurance (especially if you have dependents). Consider disability insurance.
  • Establish an emergency fund and build it up to 6 months net pay, or a year’s worth if you are middle-aged.
  • Own things like stocks (ideally through index funds) instead of socking money into a savings account and just leaving it there. Savings accounts are “safe” in most cases but they won’t make you rich or keep up with inflation.
  • Pay yourself first (that means put money from your earnings into savings or investments) — at least 10-15% of what you earn—off the top.  I know for some that the money doesn’t ever seem to be there but most everyone can squirrel away $10-20 bucks a month for starters, and build up from there.

Among many, here are some basic investing terms and concepts you will need to study and understand (Google can be your friend with this–at least in this instance):

  • Learn the difference between stocks, bonds and commodities (for commodities people usually think of metals like gold and silver), at least. The later part of this past decade was an aberration.  Know that over the long haul stocks usually have the best returns hands down.
  • Compounding and the time value of money.  Don’t procrastinate.  I have seen various examples to illustrate this but the basic idea is explained this way: Assuming all the variables like the amounts invested, returns and taxes stay the same, if there are twin brothers and the first invests say $5,000 a year for 10 years starting at age 20 and then stops investing, and his twin starts saving the same amount starting at age 30 until retirement age, the second brother never catches up to the first brother in dollar value of his investments even though the overall amount he invested is considerably more. Hence, this example illustrates the time value of money.  Lesson?  Start saving and investing early, continuously and consistently, ASAP.
  • Diversification.  For our purposes, this simply means don’t put all your eggs in one basket, be they stocks, bonds, commodities or whatever. Sometimes one asset group is down while the others are up.  It would be great if someone could consistently pick which group will next perform the best but no one can do that, so diversification smooths out your returns and risk over time. Diversification may also mean putting a fraction of your money into foreign stock index funds for example to take away some of the single country/market risk.
  • Dollar cost averaging.  It has been proven over and over, at least where the stock market is concerned, that investing similar amounts every month, over time will result in more purchases being at a lower cost overall than if you tried to time your purchases at market lows.
  • Learn the value approach to investing.  In other words, go for value funds and be like Warren Buffet who buys and holds. Don’t shoot just for the big winners or chase what is popular.
  • Index funds.  These are a low cost way (and often, the best way) to own stocks. They are great for buy and hold investors. An S&P Index fund for example is one good first option to consider for your investment dollars. Other index fund options exist even for real estate investment trusts to better enable diversification.  ETF’s and Target date funds are appropriate for many and good to learn about too.
  • Minimize taxes by utilizing 401k’s and IRA’s first for your investment dollars.

Now, to the issue of mindset particularly. This is the most important part of this post. Here are my favorite three books for your consideration that apply to developing the rich person’s mindset for wealth accumulation.  I suggest reading them all and in this order:

I know some of you don’t like to read books so consider audio books as an option for the above three titles at Amazon’s Audible.com (a la carte downloads and subscriptions are available).  I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to gain the knowledge in these books for the sake of your future.

Again, the above reference books are most related to developing an “owner” or rich person’s mindset. After reading those books, there are investment guides galore to consider. For those new to saving and investing, try “That Thing Rich People Do: Required Reading for Investors” by Kaye Thomas (this short book is the only one recommended here that I have not read but it is recommended by someone I respect) and then maybe the classic “The Only Investment Guide You Will Ever Need” by Andrew Tobias (also on Kindle).  Many other titles are available. Note that the above links are all affiliate links.  If you don’t want to participate you can just go directly to your favorite bookseller and find most of these titles.

For those wanting or needing to take things to the next level, consider membership in the American Association of Independent Investors.  Investor education is their forte and they also have available model portfolios for members that have beaten the market indexes over long time periods.  Another community-type option for investors is the offbeat Motley Fool franchise with their education, news, commentary and product offerings. Other good education options that I utilize include subscribing to Money magazine and listening to podcasts. Podcasts are for both iPhone and Android (see the low-cost Pocket Casts app for one option that allows syncing between devices) and excellent programs are available. Check out NPR’s Planet Money, Morningstar’s Investing Insights and the Pimco Investment Outlook or Bloomberg Surveillance–though some of these are aimed at more advanced investors.

For serious wealth acquisition you need to take this subject – seriously – and at least spend the time you might allocate to a part-time hobby.  There is a whole industry ready and eager to help you achieve your financial goals but my thought is that you should learn as much as you can and make your own decisions if you are comfortable doing that, or to at least educate yourself enough to help ensure that an adviser is giving you the best advice for your situation. There is nothing wrong with using advisers and planners; they may be a good choice for some people. You may even want to have an occasional checkup with a fee-only planner. However, my overall conclusions about gaining wealth for myself don’t include paid advice and revolve mainly around these few time-proven techniques:

  • Saving/investing 15-20%+ of my earnings consistently over time
  • Dollar cost averaging using mostly index and value funds
  • Diversification into multiple asset classes
  • Utilizing my 401k and IRA accounts first

To begin summing up, I think it is a given that living a longer than normal life will take a lot of money.  Unfortunately, most of us were not born rich, nor can we count on a huge inheritance. For most of us, money comes only when there is a plan for its acquisition and stays around for those who make ongoing plans to keep it (both are part of developing that mindset I have been talking about). For the record, I am not yet rich but I am working hard on it. We need to try to emulate the rich in being “owners” who invest their savings in equities like stocks and real estate and often, their own businesses. Once they reach a certain level, they have access to additional options like venture capital funds, angel investment funding and hedge funds. Don’t envy the rich, become one of them!  There is nothing wrong with that. Then you can follow the biblical advice in Timothy and share some of your wealth with organizations like the SENS Foundation that are working to extend your healthy years.

The hardest part is the accumulation phase. Of course, to become wealthy you don’t want to live like a pauper, forever anticipating anti-aging treatments that may never materialize. But on the other hand you don’t want to potentially miss out either. Everyone has to find his/her own balance. For starters you need to plan for your retirement at a minimum. College saving for your kids is important but it should be a secondary priority–there are no loans offered for retirement. A big motivation for me, whether I live a longer than usual life or not, is that I simply do not want to run out of money or be destitute in retirement. I’ve seen that and it isn’t attractive. I want control.  I want choices. Having money helps with that. One big difference with saving for life extension as opposed to retirement is that there is no magic number or goal; it is more of an open-ended thing. Regardless, we should try our best to achieve wealth even if life extension appears to be a far-off chance for us–maybe our children can benefit from our efforts.

“Time is money says the proverb, but turn it around and you get a precious truth. Money is time.”  —  George Gissing

To repeat what I have said above, the main thing I want you to take away from reading this admittedly long post is that in order to have life extension options later on you need to make a decision now to develop a rich person’s mindset about making and keeping money. Hopefully, developing that mindset will lead you to start saving as much as you can right away.  But there is no need to wait, how about starting today? Call HR and have them enroll you or increase your contribution in your company’s 401k. And maybe search the web for low cost investment providers like Vanguard or Sharebuilders to start an IRA.  Then you need to start educating yourself further using the resources mentioned above and eventually start investing your money–not just saving it. If you have procrastinated up to this point, please know that it really is never too late to start. At least take some baby steps and start learning and reading now.

Hoping you will have a long, healthy, happy and rewarding life,
Bob

PS: Some people are interested in Cryogenics but I have not yet researched the subject thoroughly for myself–so I am not personally advocating it as of this date. Financial and estate planning for the hope of future access to money is a more complex subject. But whether it is just for the long, long term life or for potential cryonic revival, control and ownership of your investments will be a key factor considering what all the governments of the world can throw at us over time. I would like to learn more and post about that at some point.

Note: This post is so long that I created a reference summary page of this article.

Disclaimer–Some may think I am a bit presumptuous in sharing my thoughts with you because I am not an investment professional, adviser or anything remotely similar. When all is said and done, you are on your own. I am on my own too. Investing is a risky business where you can lose what you invest due to bad choices, bad advice or just plain bad luck. Consult an adviser when appropriate until you gain the required knowledge yourself.

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Have you exercised your imagination lately?

I buy a lottery ticket every now and then because I enjoy thinking about what I would do with the money and my life if I won.  Even though the current odds are against us in being able to extend our lives I also like to imagine what the world and our lives would be like if we lived beyond the usual 3 or 4 score. What fabulous wonders might we experience and what amazing knowledge will we gain? I needed an extra boost of inspiration recently, so I decided to read The First Immortal by James L. Halperin.

The First Immortal is a fictional novel about Ben Smith and his family as they and the world make the transition from death as usual to immortality available to all.  The book starts out as historical fiction and transitions to science fiction.  Don’t worry about the SciFi label though.  There are no aliens, warp drive, or time travel involved.  The speculative part begins perhaps mid way through and involves cryonics (freezing the recently deceased for eventual revival) and continues by exploring the changes to science and the social structure once immortality is readily available. There is nothing too weird in the book except for a usage of cloning near the end that takes me a bit out of my comfort zone.

This is a story of Ben’s personal history, family and life experiences that led up to his decision to be frozen. He decides that a very small chance of success is better than no chance at all. His decision process and his wish that friends and family do as he does are chronicled as he and other characters die and are frozen. Decades later, Ben and his family are revived one by one and experience something of a complex reunion across multiple generations.  I have read that the research for this book was done by the author as part of his own explorations in real life as to whether cryonics made sense for him.

I cannot say this is the most riveting or entertaining novel I have ever read. It isn’t, but I thought it was well written and very well thought out. I enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone interested in thinking about what the world might be like once death is mostly conquered.  I do find that I am more reserved when recommending a novel compared to a non-fiction work because everyone’s tastes are so different.  This book feels a little “preachy” at times, like I am being lectured to; and all the made up near-future history is somewhat interesting but a little dated.  I never like it when an author takes real people and projects them into future events. He or she is invariably proven wrong. You will see what I mean if you read the book.

The major value of this book to me personally was that when I read it I found myself pausing frequently to muse and think about the future from my own perspectives.  Short news or current events sections are embedded that track along with the book’s timeline and help in providing “break” points. Not to take anything away from the book itself but I enjoyed it most when I was using it as a kind of a guide for my own imagination.  Like in the book, I believe the future will be better. Living conditions, health,  wealth, most everything, should improve across the board–a contrary vision to so many dystopian books and movies we are exposed to. There will be setbacks of course but history consistently reflects an overall upward march in the quality of people’s lives.

I needed some inspiration and I got it from this book. Please consider adding it to your reading list.  Unusual for a former best-selling novel this recent (1998), the author has supplied a Microsoft Word formatted version of the book for free download by anyone. Click on the image of the book or the Word link on this page. Don’t be concerned that this is a page on a Numismatic Auction site–Halperin is one of the owners of the company. Elsewhere on the site, it says that all the author’s royalties are donated to health and education charities.  If you prefer a physical copy of the book, here is LiveVsDeath’s affiliate link to the The First Immortal on Amazon.

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Wheat Belly and Grain Brain

The largest outside influence on my diet in the last year has come from two books — Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis and Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter  Both books espouse the notion that modern wheat is bad for us to eat (Grain Brain is more about the dangers of carbs in general). I knew about the issues people had with gluten but counted myself lucky to not be counted among the sensitive.  Little did I know there might be more to the story.  I should have had an inkling though when looking back to the early 70’s when my sisters would go on this or that diet to lose weight as teenagers.  They said then that bread would go straight to fat (“straight to the hips” is the exact quote) and that you could lose weight by just not eating breads (and anything made mainly with flour) and they proved it.  Since then we have gotten a whole lot “smarter” and somewhere along the way it became popular to eat “more whole grains” almost to the exclusion of other considerations. If these gentlemen are right, then what we are being told to eat is at least partly “wrong” and has been for a couple of decades. Consensus medicine/science/whatever at work again it seems.

Below I will make my first attempt at book reviews. First Wheat Belly, then Grain Brain. These books are important in that we must find ways to eat optimally, in order to live healthier and longer, to be around so that we can take advantage of improved anti-aging knowledge and therapies that are sure to come down the road eventually.  In short, I liked both books a great deal.  Maybe I am a little late to the party since the first book, Wheat Belly, was initially published in 2011. But better late than never as they say. As I talk with my friends I’ve learned that many still have not heard about any of this.  So here goes.

Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis is the best read if you want to understand more of the history of wheat and the background behind why the author feels that modern wheat is bad for you.  A wheat belly is a sign of an accumulation of fat from eating foods that trigger insulin, which is the key hormone in the body’s fat storage process.  Belly fat appears to be special in that it provokes inflammatory responses and is involved in abnormal metabolic signals to the body.  According to the author, wheat is different from other grains in that whole wheat increases blood sugar as much or more than table sugar does! A number of case histories are referenced from his own practice. He has seen his diabetic and obese patients become non-diabetic and lose large amounts of weight–just by removing wheat from their diets. He notes other improvements his patients have experienced relating to reflux, cramping and diarrhea, rashes, rhuematoid arthritis, and asthma to name a few.  Of course, these improvements are not so surprising for those suffering from celiac disease (gluten sensitivity). But more and more people are finding out that their problems can be traced to gluten and the author contends that these improvements can be gained by even the supposedly non-sensitive who may not test as sensitive or intolerant using standard methods.  Modern wheat again, is just plain bad for everyone.

The history of wheat is explained in that the earliest forms of wild wheat, such as einkorn, had only 14 chromosomes.  The wheat we eat today is not the same thing.  It has changed dramatically in the past 50 years or so as it has undergone hybridization.  It now has more than 40 chromosomes. It has changed from a tall, sparse grass to a knee-high, heavily producing plant that is dependent on modern farming techniques.  No in-depth animal or safety testing has been conducted to fully ensure the safety of these new strains before going into production. Beyond basic safety though, the glycemic index for whole wheat is higher than a Snickers bar!  The glycemic index (GI) according to Wikipedia  “is a measure of how quickly blood glucose levels (i.e., blood sugar) rise after eating a particular type of food.”  High blood sugar levels lead to fat development and wheat is more easily converted to blood sugar than most all other carbohydrates, simple or complex.

The author contends that over-consumption of wheat today is the main cause of obesity and diabetes in the US.  Even scarier to me are it’s multiple negative affects on the brain and the rest of the body. When people stop eating wheat products, 30% experience symptoms akin to withdrawal.  It is an appetite stimulant, making you want more of all kinds of foods. Gluten, one of the main components of wheat, is degraded in the body to a mix of polypeptides. Exorphins, as they are called, can pass through the blood-brain barrier and bind to the morphine receptor. Also, belly fat, once established, is special in that it can act like an endocrine gland like the thyroid or pancreas.  It can be a factory for estrogen production in both men and women. Of course, we have all heard of celiac disease, which can have all kinds of negative effects.  Wheat can make the small intestine permeable, allowing components of wheat into the bloodstream, resulting in autoimmune disorder effects.  On and on it goes…

In the book there are chapters addressing diabetes, skin and bone conditions, cataracts, brain effects, heart disease, and the aging process.  People have replaced lost fat calories (as directed by highly publicized guidelines for healthy eating) with whole grain wheat, resulting in historically unprecedented obesity levels, diabetes, and a myriad of poor health conditions. For example, our hunter-gatherer ancestors had simple diets consisting of meats, veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds, and roots which led to a slight alkaline effect in the body (and did not increase insulin).  Our modern diet is acidic, leading to bone loss.  In addition, high average blood sugar levels lead to the creation of AGEs (advanced glycation end-products) which have been associated with the aging process.  They muck up the body by collecting in the arteries, lenses of the eyes, brain, liver, kidneys, skin (such as acne) and other organs.  Eggs, nuts, olive oil, salmon don’t increase sugar levels but all carbs like apples, candies, and grains do. Further, related to heart disease, cholesterol numbers are waited for with dread by anyone going to the doctor today. But in reality it is such a necessary compound to the body that the body manufactures it.  Cholesterol has gotten a bad rap overall but as usual, there is more to the story. High carb intake results in the liver increasing production of tryglycerides, which in turn results in increased LDL levels–the really bad stuff.  These carb-induced “bad guys” are the cholesterol particles that collect in artery walls.

Wheat Belly wraps up with a discussion of foods to eat or not eat.    After reading the first 13 chapters I was mostly sold on the author’s message.   I had looked ahead a little and had seen some recipes but I did not find much here to suit my personal tastes. However, I recently noted in the local bookstore that a new Wheat Belly cookbook is out. After looking on Amazon, I see that there are actually two related cookbooks now: Wheat Belly Cookbook: 150 Recipes to Help You Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health and more recently, Wheat Belly 30-Minute (Or Less!) Cookbook: 200 Quick and Simple Recipes to Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health. I intend to look at these soon but I have no opinion to share about them as yet.  In abbreviated fashion, below is the Wheat Belly Nutritional Approach for Optimal Health.

Foods to consume in unlimited quantities:

  • Vegetables
  • Raw nuts and seeds
  • Healthy oils
  • Meats and eggs
  • Cheese
  • Non-sugary condiments

Foods to consume in limited quantities:

  • Non-cheese dairy
  • Fruit and fruit juices
  • Whole corn
  • Non-wheat, non-gluten grains
  • Legumes
  • Soy products

Foods to consume rarely or never:

  • Wheat products
  • Unhealthy oils
  • Gluten-free foods
  • Dried fruit
  • Fried foods
  • Sugary snacks
  • Sugary fructose-rich sweeteners
  • Sugary condiments

I highly recommend that you obtain a copy of Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health to read yourself.  I think you will find the information compelling and convincing.  More studies should be done but I agree with the author that enough information exists now to limit one’s consumption of wheat.

———————————————

Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter dovetails nicely with the book Wheat Belly.  I read them back to back, reading Wheat Belly first. Grain Brain is not focused on wheat in particular though.  Dr. Perlmutter expands greatly on the warnings in Wheat Belly to contend that carbohydrates thought of as healthy, even so-called healthy whole grains, are bad for your brain and that most everyone should be eating a low carb diet.  Your brain thrives on fat and cholesterol according to Perlmutter, the only doctor in the country who is both a board-certified neurologist and Fellow of The American Board of Nutrition.

Grain Brain contains up to date information about gluten sensitivity and why you should be tested, and how to get properly tested. Perlmutter explains diseases caused by gluten sensitivity and inflammation, leading to the neurological affects that gluten sensitivity can cause. He explains the difference between gluten sensitivity and celiac. But even if you aren’t celiac this book will outline in great detail the damage gluten is causing to your health. Gluten leads to gut permeability and gut permeability leads to inflammation. Therefore, the information in the book applies to everyone and not just the gluten sensitive.

Backed up with studies and case histories, Perlmutter makes a potentially complex subject highly readable and understandable to the layman.  He debunks the conventional wisdom about eating whole grains as espoused by some major health organizations. In short, eating carbs raises your blood sugar, not only in the short run but in the long run as well–leading to insulin resistance–a forerunner to type 2 diabetes. Complex carbs are actually worse than simple ones in that these highly recommended (by most health care professionals) options elevate the blood sugar for longer periods of time. Whole grain bread for example has a dramatically higher glycemic index when compared to pure table sugar! And high blood sugar leads to detrimental effects on the brain.

Ultimately, eating high glycemic index foods over and over again leads to an elevation of fasting blood sugars. Researchers have found that a fasting blood sugar, even in so-called high normal ranges and below what would qualify for a diabetes diagnosis, are associated with developing dementia.  Also, fats such as cholesterol and saturated fats are vitally important for brain health.   Cholesterol in general is not the problem but the LDL particles are at fault in that they get oxidized when bound to sugar, in a process called glycation. Against the common wisdom of today, people should be reducing their consumption of carbohydrates in favor of eating more foods like grass-fed beef, pasture-raised eggs, and coconut oil.

Maybe things are changing a little as of recently. Consider that the FDA has begun requiring consumer warnings on certain cholesterol lowering medications related to memory decline and other cognitive issues.

I highly recommend Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs,  and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers.  Every dietician/nutritionist, doctor, and wellness professional should read this book.

What are my personal conclusions or take-aways from reading the above two books?  First, for me, I am going to stop eating any more wheat than I have to.  I’m sold on that part.  I am not going to be fanatic about it or go cold-turkey since I don’t have a known sensitivity.  I am going to generally avoid breads and other foods where wheat is a major ingredient and endeavor to read ingredient lists for any wheat components more diligently.  Over time, I plan to eat less and less until maybe, I can get down to basically zero. I don’t plan to go on a high protein diet except maybe for short term weight loss.  So I am still eating a balance of carbs but I will try to get the bulk of them from other foods.  Secondly, these books have made me that much more aware of the dangers of high-carb diets and sugar in particular.  I was already concerned about the glycemic index of foods I consumed but these books helped to reinforce my opinions.  BL

Updated 3/10/2014: Both books discussed above challenge the conventional wisdoms relating to carbohydrate consumption. However, for additional information relating to the potential downsides of high-protein diets, see this FoxNews article (or the Cell Metabolism press release here) about research into the potential dangers of a high-protein diet.  The studies involved both humans and mice. Eating plant-derived protein resulted in a better overall outcome than eating protein from animal sources, but there was still a 3-fold increase in cancer mortality rates. A quote from the USC study author, Dr. Longo: “Cancer mortality was higher for high-protein [eaters] compared to current smokers.”   To complicate matters, the findings were reversed for people over 65.  It seems that at the least, from their findings (and other studies), that your current age, digestive health, gender, ratio/type/source of carbs/proteins/fats, and preparation methods,  must all be considered in determining what a healthy, balanced diet is for any individual.

There appears to be no end in site on identifying what the “best available” diet information is. This is a major challenge for the average person.  At present, everyone needs to adopt a continuous learning approach to find their own way.  The goal is to stay healthy and alive until something more direct and fundamental can be done to extend life. Even then, healthy eating will likely be a necessity for a long time to come.

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Slow Start

I created this site two months ago and this is my second post.  Wow.  And it is not even an on-topic post.   I need to do better, much better.  I have partially fleshed out some of the pages on the site but that is about it so far.  I’ll not go down my whole list of excuses.  I can usually tell when someone is not making a priority of something they need to do.  This time that person is me.  I can’t fire myself though.  No one else would want the job. Continue reading Slow Start

Why am I doing this?

I already have more than enough things to keep me busy.  So why do I want to start a website? First, I am much more interested in longevity and healthy aging than working on the car or repairing the porch screen or figuring out how I am ever going to retire and put two boys through college at the same time.  Second, it is at least partly because I want to stop watching so much TV.  Yeah–this is a great alternative!  I’ll still be staring at a screen and now I’ll have to think and type too ( I guess those last bits are good for me)!

I have been interested in longevity and the prospects for a longer, healthier life for many years.  You wouldn’t guess that from looking at me though. Continue reading Why am I doing this?