The Retirement Guys: Think globalWritten by Nolan Baker Mark Clair | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Many years ago, I (Mark) was a young kid of 9 years old and found myself being driven through the city of Seoul, Korea. I couldn’t believe I was there and was excited to find out more about a city and country that I had heard a lot about, but was now in the middle of. There were wall-to-wall people, taxicabs and city buses everywhere, and very heavy traffic on the city streets. Drivers honking their horns at each other (which in Korea is not considered rude), mothers carrying their babies on their backs amid the hustle and bustle of the big city. My parents had made the life-changing decision to go to this foreign country to become missionaries and to help various Korean communities start new churches.
In Korea there was such a different view of personal space and so many people packed into the area that it was not considered rude to bump into or brush against someone. My friend Lorne and I would later play a game that involved walking in a straight line down a busy street bumping into as many people as we could for a laugh. We Americans used to laugh at how many Korean people would cram into an automobile. When we thought the car had five more people than would be comfortable, they would cram in five more. To this day when I get into an elevator and the people inside seem to start getting nervous about their personal space, I laugh to myself and think of Korea. I left there in 1975 and if I remember correctly the population of the city of Seoul was about 6 million. The population today is more than 10 million. I guess they are cramming even more people into cars and elevators.
As you might expect, living for five years in a foreign country from age 9-14, had a profound effect on my life. First of all, while I was there I realized there were many things I took for granted in my home country. At that time, you could not pick up the phone and get a pizza. American food was not readily available. Ladies from our home church had canned for us what was supposed to be a four-year supply of Fritos corn chips that did not last a year. No more Fritos? Nope. You have to eat rice today. Aw, mannnn! Come on! American television? One channel on Armed Forces Television that was all the bad rejected boring documentaries that no one wanted to watch here in America. I was so desperate for American TV that when we did finally make the trip back to America five years later, my parents decided it would be a good idea to stop and visit beautiful Hawaii on the way. I stayed in the hotel room almost the entire time watching TV. I couldn’t tell you much about Hawaii.
We are now in a global economy rather than just limited to our own country. Amazing how a small country about the size of Indiana has affected us. I now own a Samsung TV (how ironic) and see Hyundai and Kia automobiles everywhere. As The Retirement Guys, we try our best to stay up on what is going on in the world to better advise our clients. We are now seeing an extremely high correlation between what is happening in foreign countries and our economy. Steve Hanley, who is in our portfolio management department, shared with me how it is now important to understand that everything globally can be correlated. It is important to know what is going on in places like Greece and the rest of Europe. We Americans think our country has a spending problem when we consider our current national debt, but Europe has had the same problem that is about five years ahead of our own. This continues to play itself out, affecting markets around the world. Steve said that even when considering American companies, close attention is paid to their international operations in order to get a better handle on what may be yet to come.
We can all learn things from our childhood and past experiences. It is amazing how an experience of a little kid living for a brief time in a foreign country can still have an effect on his life today. Time goes by quickly and the world seems to get smaller.
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