1. Opinion

A bear market has financial lessons to teach kids

Here’s what readers are saying in Saturday’s letters to the editor.
Stock trader Thomas Lee works at the New York Stock Exchange, March 13, 2020. Stocks are opening sharply higher on Wall Street a day after the worst drop since 1987. [MARK LENNIHAN  |  AP]
Stock trader Thomas Lee works at the New York Stock Exchange, March 13, 2020. Stocks are opening sharply higher on Wall Street a day after the worst drop since 1987. [MARK LENNIHAN | AP]

A bear market’s lessons for kids


As we enter our first bear market in 11 years, we watch the evening news and see store shelves emptied, we hear fear-mongering and see finger-pointing, but none of this changes what our greatest concern might be — the economy. So, if your health truly is your wealth (and it is!), how do we financially prepare for the next COVID-19 type of epidemic? Simply put, through education.

For 44 years, the Florida Council on Economic Education (FCEE) has been preparing students across Florida for their financial futures. Lessons on protecting yourself and your family — through health insurance, diversifying your portfolio to safeguard against a bad loss or market crash and saving early and often because there is a time value to money — have changed lives and pushed the needle toward a financially literate population.

Currently, there is a course available for all high school students to take on managing their finances from classroom to career — Personal Financial Literacy #2102372. Students just need to sign up for it. This course naturally covers all these topics, but it does something more. It teaches young people how to make wise decisions that can have a significant impact on all areas of their adult lives. Truly, at its core, it is a class on decision-making.

Students with a financial literacy skill set in their back pockets are more savvy with money, less likely to default on a loan and feel more capable of managing a financial hardship. The help we need is out there, but it’s not found on the grocery store shelf. Parents, teachers, grandparents and friends need to encourage all high school students to invest in their future and protect themselves against anything life might throw their way. Students need to register for the Personal Financial Literacy Course and enjoy the peace of mind it will bring, knowing that they are secure.

Suzanne Costanza, Tampa

Patient health comes first

Surprise medical bills

A wheelchair sits outside the Atlanta VA Medical Center in Atlanta.

For over 30 years I served my community as a nurse. And as a person who dedicated my life to wellness and improving health in others, it breaks my heart to see the impact a surprise medical bill can have on a patient. Because while the financial impacts on a patient are obvious — a big bill they had no idea that was headed their way — it can also have an impact on a patient’s health if they don’t get the follow-up care that’s needed for fear of more bills.

I’m glad that this important issue is now on the radar of Congress. But it’s time to stop talking about it and do something. The insurance industry has, of course, spent large amounts of money lobbying Congress on the issue but there is still a chance a good bill that puts patients first can come out of the process. I believe good policy can still win out over special interests.

The House Ways and Means Committee, the group of lawmakers tasked with writing a compromise solution, has a good first proposal, but there’s room for improvement. It needs a significant Independent Dispute Resolution process that’s already been passed by several states and is working well. That process needs strong safeguards that prevent the insurance companies from tinkering, looking for loopholes allowing them to set their own rates.

As I mentioned, I am a nurse, not an accountant and definitely not a lawyer, but it’s clear to me, based on the patients I saw and the stories I hear, that the surprise medical billing issue needs a fair solution that puts patients first. We prioritize patients by pulling them out of the dispute between doctors and hospitals and the insurance companies. This is common sense, and I hope Congress acts soon. I don’t want to hear another story about a surprise medical bill.

Valarie Olson, RN, Palm Harbor

A danger to shorebirds

Florida lawmakers are poised to legalize fireworks — for these days only | March 10

Nesting black skimmers care for their young at one of several nesting colonies of black skimmers along Pinellas' municipal beaches.

As an Audubon Florida volunteer each summer on St. Pete Beach, I can tell you: July 4th fireworks are deadly for our imperiled nesting shorebirds, which are protected by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Fireworks also terrify our pets and upset our veterans with PTSD. I wish that our state legislators would listen to reason.

Ginger Goepper, Treasure Island

What a baton can teach

Maestro’s long life was well played | Epilogue, March 11

Maestro Anton Coppola poses for a photograph prior to a performance on Jan. 27, 2012 in Tampa. [CHRIS URSO | Times]

As principal second violin in the Opera Tampa Orchestra for 30 years, I had the same view of Maestro Anton Coppola as the photographer. At one point I told the maestro that I had learned almost everything I knew about conducting from playing under him. He was somewhat surprised and said, “Well, of course, that was not my intention.” We learn from example.

What did I learn? Study the score. The goal is to know the opera like you know Happy Birthday or the national anthem. Prepare the parts for the orchestra the best you can. Coppola required the opera company to rent his orchestra parts from him. He condensed the parts from large orchestras, which were originally required, to smaller ones playable by regional orchestras. The results were almost identical. He marked the parts: bowings for the strings, special dynamics for all, clear cuts indicated, word cues from the stage before your entry after long periods of rests.

Use your time efficiently. There was no wasted time in rehearsals. No small talk and few questions from the orchestra. Use clear baton technique. Hours can be saved if the beat pattern is clear. Treat the players with consideration. Be serious. Be a firm and decisive leader. Use words clearly and effectively. Use humor.

One telling anecdote: There was confusion as to a specific entrance of the seconds. He told me to bring my part up to him where he was perched on his stool at the break as was his wont. He looked at the part and said, “The part is right. What I am doing is right. What you are doing is wrong.” I said, “Thank you, maestro.” Next time it was right.

Bruce LeBaron, St. Petersburg

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