Guest Post - Rethinking the Concept of Retirement

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Rethinking the Concept of Retirement

By Mrs. Cog



Cognitive Dissonance: Lately Mrs. Cog and I have been thinking about the expected fallout of the unfolding global financial/social/political crisis. Slowly but surely we are visiting, and re-visiting, the concept of 'retirement', something we were both sold on as 'real' all our 'working' lives. Considering many of us are depending upon various retirement income streams, especially those income streams not based upon actual cash in hand but rather on promises made by private corporations and public entities, it might be in our best interest to revisit our basic assumptions and premises. Simply put, we're not in Kansas anymore.

Mrs. Cog shares her thoughts on this subject below.

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It’s a funny thing how certain concepts have permeated throughout our culture and are just simply accepted as ‘normal’ without question. Even when faced with the reality that a given ‘normal’ situation is in jeopardy or worse, may all together cease to exist, we as a society still measure and plan our lives based upon what we thought was supposed to happen. If we feel we are entitled to it, then not only do we cling to it, but we do so with anger and righteous indignation.

One of the most brilliant public relations campaigns launched in modern times is the concept of retirement. The idea of working hard all our lives while carefully saving and investing so that we may spend our twilight years financially independent while relaxing, playing and enjoying all the things life has to offer as a reward is romantic and hard to resist. The people who believe this is still the norm will be the same ones who claim “I did everything right. I played by all the rules. It's not fair. I was robbed.”

To add insult to injury, those of us who will not benefit from this version of the bought and sold concept of retirement were a party to watching the generations before us experience precisely that. In the world’s greatest recorded wealth cycle and bubble of all ages, where the world eventually levered over a quadrillion dollars in bets, the wealth effect has been tremendous and many in the Western world were able to jump on for the ride. Overdue for the boom to go bust, the latter generations will not enjoy the picturesque golden years in style and comfort as sold to us in the retirement brochures.


Life Choices


Even as the more aware and savvy among us understand the wheels are coming off the economic bus presently on a worldwide centrally planned disaster tour, the continuity bias is astounding as I watch those with assets address this as an “extra rough patch” to get through rather than the clear paradigm shift it has been telegraphed to be. Furthermore, even those who see what is now underway and acknowledge this as a game changer think they can game the system, escape the worst of it or hedge enough to have one of their winning bets fall somewhere solid.

No, it isn’t fair. But blaming the generations who prospered before us or the central planners and bankers who we enabled will not bring back that comfy old age experience we had hoped and planned for. As painful of a time as this will be, perhaps this is a good time to think about "if not retirement, then what”.

For a brief time it may appear that working a low wage job in a position perceived far beneath our qualifications is the only future the system has left for us. And it may very well be so if we still allow the same system that sold us on ‘retirement’ to define what we will do, or be, without it.

Perhaps it's time to give deep consideration to rethinking any concept that depends upon the way the system is supposed to work. Public and private pensions, social security and annuity payments will not be getting the job done. We fully expect IRA and Roth retirement investment vehicles will be largely forced to convert some or all holdings into U.S. Treasuries……for your own safety of course. Capital controls and changing the financial and social rules will become the new normal. Cash and any residual savings can simply be ‘bailed in’ to ‘bail out’ the big boys through the banks and brokerages that hold the funds.

Finally even if these retirement vehicles could be liquidated and placed in currency stacks before us, after we pay outrageous penalties and taxes of course, there is no sure way to preserve it. Certainly there are no ‘good’ (read relatively ‘safe’) investments to grow it. The overt and stealth creation of money at the Federal Reserve will continue to erode the purchasing power of all who depend upon the money to be there when it matters the most.

If we put all emotion aside for the moment we can see that the government, while seeing itself as separate from the people, will gladly point out that it is of and for the people. So whatever the ‘collective’ needs to sacrifice in order to keep it going is the right thing to do. There is logic to this viewpoint if one believes the alternative is chaos and anarchy and lives in fear of those scenarios. Many involved in public policy setting do not think people are capable of governing themselves, let alone protecting themselves. This now seems to include planning for their elder years, both how one might live as well as die.




So what is the alternative? How might we view our elderly future? What can be done?

With our eyes wide open, questioning everything is a good start. Rethinking our needs and wants, reevaluating our priorities, and assessing what we might really value versus what society has told us is important. These are no small tasks and indeed can be a most humbling process to consider, but the upside of doing so could make all the difference.

While Cog and I continue to question and rethink our plans, these are the ways we have gone about replacing the concept of retirement with a different type of perceived security.

1. Getting our money out of money has perhaps been the most difficult step to take. The world still operates with money and the US dollar still spends. Sure, things cost a bit more, but nothing has spun out of control on a day to day basis to change the function of money just yet. But because the US dollar ‘trigger event’ and its timing will remain unknown to us plebs until it unfolds, we are erring on the side of caution and assume there won't be time to re-jigger our finances then.

What does this mean? We begin by only keeping enough cash in the bank to cover bills and immediate shopping and spending needs. Savings accounts and money markets don't earn interest, so they were eliminated.

2. Minimizing our counter-party risk was similar to a Wild West shoot out. Everywhere we looked targets had to be taken out. The rules for musical chairs (Calvinball style) say that whoever doesn't possess a seat when the music stops loses. And furthermore the rules can be changed at any time. So as we looked at just where our assets were distributed it turned out that most, if not all, of them were dependent upon a third party (oftentimes several layers of third parties) to do (or be) something in order to return the value of our investment to us.

Most obvious to us were brokerage accounts and safety deposit boxes that we closed out. Eliminating counter-party risk involves taking possession of any assets and items that will store earnings and wealth. Taking possession of precious metals, aka stacking gold and silver, is the most common way discussed. More contrarian ‘experts’ are now coming forth to say farm land, useful tools and investing in the knowledge of an valuable trade or skill are some of the best assets one can possess, none of which depends upon another party.

3. Arranging not to be at the mercy of rising interest rates is a key element to forwarding our plan for independence. This means getting rid of any debt which may be subject to rate increases. Ben Bernanke may have stated that interest rates will not rise in his lifetime, but he has been mistaken and/or disingenuous in the past. I cannot adequately express the personal relief it has brought us to not be subject to credit card interest or the worry about resets on mortgages with an ARM in five years.

When the day finally arrives when interest rates begin to raise substantially, certain costs will go up in tandem. Government entities on the Federal, State and local levels will get socked with rising interest payments payable on new or reissued bonds, and all taxes will rise accordingly. The same is true of corporations that depend upon debt issuance such as utilities. Supplying ourselves with alternatives at today's prices may be a bargain in hindsight.

4. Creating streams of income not reliant on a collapsing job market or an employer with constraints is providing us continuity in a rapidly changing landscape. Charles Hugh-Smith has recently written about the emergence of a new type of entrepreneur he has labeled Mobile Creatives. That article is a fascinating analysis of an emerging class of workers; this idea seeks to eliminate income dependency upon the state and corporations.

5. More self sufficient living arrangements was an essential step in preparing for our second half of life from several aspects. We collapsed previously diversified ‘retirement’ funds into a home with some land that has no debt as well as resources and tools that supply us with the ability to feed ourselves. By doing so, we now enjoy a much healthier lifestyle while converting our ‘money’ into tangible assets that will retain value for us.

6. We have taken charge of our health (care) because the current system is so dysfunctional and the previous methods for doing so (a good health insurance plan and reliable medical care) are now largely obsolete. Cog and I have made the decision to take complete responsibility for our own wellness. What this translates into is no dependency upon prescription or regular over the counter medicines. Nature provides far more potent remedies including powerful antibiotics and anti-cancer substances. We have elected to maintain our high deductible ‘health insurance’ policies in case the need for emergency medical treatment arises. Most important we do not mentally or emotionally rely on the members of the medical profession to keep us well or ‘heal’ sickness. I personally feel this has been the most empowering of all the steps we have taken to become more self-reliant.

Without question there are things we cannot provide for ourselves. No man is an island. As we get older, we recognize that we may need help with things and act accordingly by trying to assist others in the spirit of the Golden Rule.

There is little doubt that the years ahead bring promises of drastic and unknown changes. By addressing our future years and making changes while we are able, we are both less dependent upon our community and have an increased ability to contribute. It is never too late to reevaluate the way we take responsibility for ourselves.


Mrs. Cog



Old Age

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MsCreant's picture

Good post Mrs. Cog!

hollymurs's picture

I admire how you and Mr. C are planning for retirement. It’s a very great approach you have there. I definitely agree with number six and if I may add, it’s also important to plan for long-term care. Even if people maintain a healthy lifestyle well into their senior years, it’s no guarantee that they will never need some form of assistance, especially with simple day to day activities.


I’ve learned a lot from this post. Thanks so much Mrs. C! Also, we featured this in our Weekly Digest. You can read it here


dizzyfingers's picture

5 stars.

Find a good holistic doctor. Eat traditional foods: butter, cheese, cream, meat, fish, greens from your garden.

alexcojones's picture

Hi Cog n Mrs Cog,

Do you know about the Farm Colony near Stannardsville? My cousin Mike lives there. A working farm of 400 acres. Retirees and worker bees and reg folks, not hippies.

Great place with all the stuff you like and need except big city.

I spent a month there working for Mike, who is the elected prez currently.

Good luck, write again soon.



Otto Zitte's picture

Retirement. Isn't that when The Man feeds you to the pigs?

IMACOINNUT's picture

I'm very surprised that of all the comments and suggestions above there weren't any for the newest and most overall inexpensive method to improve and maintain your health independently.

Here in GA we have one of the fastest growing areas in the use of kangen water. Water that is hydrolyzed and thus restructured to be perfect for hydration of our bodies.

Many people of riches and of course those like myself of average means have made the commitment to change their life. Many of those actors, actresses, sport professionals etc are now perfecting their health with kangen water.

What is it? Go to  and then select kangendemo  for a great video on what could be your most inexpensive yet most reliable means to achieve independence from health professionals like myself.

You can even listen and watch for ongoing resesrch in uses of kangen water.

If nothing else and you want to improve your health the very first action you need to take is to stop drinking soda, any kind of soda destroys your health.

And please dont respond to what you have no first hand knowledge of in a critical way. Kangen water by Enagic is a proven success story and is a medical device in Japan.

Thanks Mrs. Cog for a great blog.

Edit- sorry had to edit to bypass system interference by who knows who.


theyjustcantstop's picture

you want to know what do to protect yourself from, a year ago the ebt card system had a eletronic glitch for a few hours, a walmart was over run,and emptied in a couple hours, and this wasn't any large metropoltian area either.

another time ebt cards wouldn't accect any charges,in a small area, the rioting started, so walmart management just had the customers sign their names, to come back and reconcile the transaction, but americas judicial system worked at lightning speed and ruled against walmart, it was walmarts fault for making the sales without the ebt cards working properly,and got no reembursment.

if don't have the means, in case of ebt card failures, either in your area, or nation-wide, to keepaway from foodstores, or convienent gas-food stores for 1-2 wks. you defenently lose a large % of self survivial.

then the worst, 25%-30% of the cash from ebt cards go for alcohol, and drug addiction, those are the ones you do want to be anywhere near.

PoliticalRefugeefromCalif.'s picture

America made the choice to raise the cup of indebtedness in the sixties, I listened and watched my dad's example so I have fought the urge all my life and somewhat succeeded; the tide of change that is coming is one this nation has never seen before and probably will not see again.

A nation with leverage of true wealth (food, shelter, a means of survival) held in the hands of the oligarch employing a statist government to manage it is the rip tide that will abandon many to a dismal fate in an endless sea with no pity.

I truly expect to see the return of debtors prisons and involuntary servitude practiced once again in this country, In fact I am nearly sure HL Mencken would agree, in the end we will probably demand the masters lock us up for our own safety.

sister tika's picture

Mr & Mrs. Cog: Thanks for writing/posting this essay. Great food for thought methinks.

I have been 'retired' now for over two years, living in a small, paid-for condo with very little personal debt (soon to be no debt). Everyday, I learn new ways to live cheaper/better on less. It has become a daily routine and mindset for me. I have long since kicked 'lifestyle' to the curb and simply focus on survival. Cheers!

Comte d'herblay's picture

Life is a Temp Job.  Act accordingly.

Mrs. Cog's picture

@DrData02 - so... you have never had a bank account, a loan of any type, a credit card? You don't think our borrowing from these institutions supported or enabled them to do what they do? Loans are money created out of thin air. They require a borrower for them to lend. That's us. I do choose to take responsibility for my small part in it.

DrData02's picture

Blaming "the central planners and bankers who we enabled". 

Bullshit.  I didn't enable any of these pirates or murderers.  Unless you blame me for not having assasinated them.  I voted against them (third parties), argued and canvassed against them. 

Stop categorizing ALL of us into a group (perhaps like you) who DID support and enable these crimes.  Short of breaking the law many of us DID NOT enable this.


Jstanley011's picture

I'm in a trade where a significant portion of my clientele is in the 55-up age group. From what I've seen, it's the traditional types who seem to find themselves, far too often, staring involuntarily in horror into the Great Void of the Big Gulp. And dying off sooner than need-be as a result. It's the ones who stay productive that remain both alive and happy.

I just found out that one of my favorite elderly clients has died. She had to have been ninety at least. Last time I saw her she was at her desk, sitting on the edge of her chair, dividing her attention between me and her computer screen, with a call on hold, and smiling.

R.I.P., Marge...

Comte d'herblay's picture

 "Many involved in public policy setting do not think people are capable of governing themselves, let alone protecting themselves".


Not only those involved in public policy, but Comte d'herblay, too.

Just a half hour spent watching any morning show on TV, or visit to a grocery store, or a trip to the mall, the voters that give CONgress a 14 % favorable rating, but term after term after term for 40 years keep returning their own members to office, the posts on so many blogs by opinionated, uninformed, two digit IQ human beans, and so much more in the culture like the exploitation of women, 'reality' shows,  girls barely out of their teens, the dumbification of our education (indoctrination)  system, TARP, Maiden Lane I and II.....the list is endless.... should convince that the vast majority of people are incapable of controlling themselves, their appetites, their children, their intake of information.  

The governors are not wrong in presuming that 99% of the people do not and do not want to learn how to protect themselves on a personal level. 


JRobby's picture

I have a coffin standing in the corner of the office. More than likely be killed commuting to work in NASCAR conditions though.

dontgoforit's picture

You must live in Roswell (Atl).

SFGM's picture

This is a great article.  I've been having discussions with my wife over the past few months on this very topic--how the traditional idea of retirement is a pipedream, and the income that we feel necessary to survive past our professional working years will not come from an average "8% yield off of a fat 401k", but from reduced expenses, more modest living, some kind of small income-generating operation, and perpetual WORK.  As a family we realized that we are over exposed to the financial system with our various 401k's, IRA's, savings/checking accounts, etc. and are moving towards "diversifying" into either usable land/property, usable equipment/tools, a small business, PM's, etc. --- something in preparation for a different kind of "retirement"... one that in my mind (and the minds of lots of others here) is more satisfying, healthy, and rewarding. 

For us, this includes cashing out of 401k's, minimizing cash going into savings (paying off the mortgage first, stacking a little bit), which goes against everything we have been conditioned to believe about saving and preparing for some eventual retirement perma-vacation. 

Tried discussing this idea with my parents a few times (father has ~40 years at a single company and will retire in the next year or two) and they can't grasp the concept of doing anything but living off of his 401k disbursements and/or social security and fucking around all day.  To them there is no other option, and there is no need for another option.  Same goes for my wife's parents. 

I really do hope it works out for them and the other Baby Boomers' who followed the recipe.  For me and my family, we're going to be cooking a different dinner.

Mrs. Cog's picture

Good for you. It's hard when parents are locked in the old paradigm so not only do they not adjust their own situation, but the affirmation they might have otherwise given for tough decisions we make is absent. I think making changes for our older years goes along with the old saying that the best investments we can make are the ones that truly let us sleep best at night. Those 401Ks just don't get it done any more. Of course, I also hedged by kidnapping a ZH contributor, but that's another story. ;-)

pashley1411's picture

I think the paradign that is going away is full-time employment.  

If you get out into rural communities, the people work on multiple seasonal/part-time income opportunities, whatever fancy name you want to dress that up with, including hunting and farming.  

LawsofPhysics's picture

Another pleasant post CD.  Of course old paradigm never goes away peacefully.  In addition, many do admit there is such a shift going on but have vastly different ideas as to what it is.  Looks to me like we are shifting back to a fuedal system for sure.  Oddly enough, one of the V.C. guys I know (who has a plantation near where we farm) keeps telling me that "gold is irrelevant to capital markets".  Something I don't imagine a fuedal lord, like himself, would say.

Interesting times means opportunity for those of us willing to take real risks.

It should now be clear to everyone that centralized governments and centralized power and control is really bad at deploying capital and resources efficiently and wisely.  the pendulum swings...  (again)

messystateofaffairs's picture

It all comes down to getting off the grid. Recognizing what constitutes the grid and knowing that it is poison is necessary to building the personal resolve needed to find and execute ways to fundamentally shift your entire life. Mrs. Cog's perception of the situation, her response to it, and the clarity with which she articulates it is sterling. Or as Rasta seh, away wid Babylon.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

As you allude to the 'grid' is so much more than just power coming in from the utility lines.

And who in the right mind would leave the 'easy' life and condemn themselves to a life of physical labor building and maintaining a viable working homestead? Someone who understands life is measured by more than just the 'easy' life.

Tompooz's picture

When you think of the secure independence of owning a piece of farmland in retirement, take it two steps further and think 1) in a more congenial jurisdiction 2) in a more congenial climate.

2 or 3 acres in the tropics will generate you as much fruit and products as a farm three times that size in a climate with a winter-shutdown.


Canuckistan Al's picture

This has been an option in my personal plan, however I can't get my mind around "what happens if/when the SHTF and I am a visible gringo" in a foreign land. Sure I get the fact that this avenue is doable if you can integrate into the society sucessfully, it may mitigate the risk... but then again, does crisis Phase 2 always include something like "look for the scapegoats"? Wouldnt foreigners who are land owners be perceived as members of the scapegoat tribe?

That issue and my brutal Spanish (which I can do something about, no question) is what's holding me back a bit. Canuckstan doesnt have a dirth of congenial climate ;-)

Piranhanoia's picture

employ your neighbors perhaps.  Make friends and influence no one in particular.

optimator's picture

Plan on your company retirement, defined Benefits, remaining the same for the length of your retirement while the dollar gets devalued and social security stays almost the same.  Nice of government pensions to have a cola. 

SamuelMaverick's picture

Mr. and Mrs. Cog: Talking the talk , and walking the walk. It takes courage to do what you two have done. Godspeed.

        On a side note, I lived for nine years in Bedford County, and drove on the Blueridge parkway every week. You definitely picked a beautiful part of the country to live in. Too bad eastern Va / DC corridor votes left wing and screws up the rest of the state.


Accounting101's picture

Political tribal bullshit. You are part of the problem.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Thank heavens you are not part of the problem. It's nice to see someone has escaped the insanity. :)

Mrs. Cog's picture

Thank you Maverick. It certainly is beautiful here. As a former city girl I wonder what the heck took me so long. I can't imagine going back to the urban jungle.

p00k1e's picture

Only buy well made, lasting cars like Toyota, Honda, etc... 

If you buy domestic without the employee discount you’re eating their perk in instant depreciation.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

While generally Toyota and Honda are of better quality and durability than some USA domestic vehicles, you are painting that fence with a very broad brush. Watch out you don't make a big mess.

Piranhanoia's picture

This is the conversation;     Where can we continue it as more and more people join in?

and on vehicles,  think about the old ford and chevy trucks,  no computers, and parts are everywhere.  You can buy a replacement engine today for a 50 year old truck.   


p00k1e's picture

Pay off the mortgage ASAP.  Even over unsecured debt. 

Sure, you’ll still pay taxes and insurance on the residence (after it’s paid off) but no P&I = a lesser monthly nut. 

Miss a rent payment and the landlord will toss your ass. 

Condos leave you at the mercy of a management team, which can BK at any moment. 

Toolshed's picture

I have a different perspective on my mortgage. I could pay it off in under ten years (I am 2 years into a 30 year fixed on a modest home), but if inflation takes off, as it inevitably will, I can pay it back with increasingly worthless FRNs. I look forward to paying off my outstanding balance with one oz of gold.....or less. My best guess is we will experience a brief bout of deflation, which will cause the FED to over react, as usual, and print even more insanely than they already have, and trigger the final episode of fiat crushing hyperinflation. The only problem with this plan is the timing. This slow motion train wreck could grind on for decades. Or not.

PoliticalRefugeefromCalif.'s picture

  .."I can pay it back with increasingly worthless FRNs"..

Unfortunately there is no guarantee the economy will supply you with an increasing supply of fiat once private money stops moving, by the way I see this as the mid term of stagflation we are experiencing rather than the popular notion of runaway inflation leading to hyperinflation- necessities such as food and fuel price increase due to a dying market while non essentials keep getting cheaper culminating in shortages.

I look at gold as a heritage investment rather than any short term advantage, maybe my kids can start over.

The notion we are in a secular inflationary period doesn't pass the smell test to me once you realize no real growth in money supply has been printed in fifteen years, just replacement bills- the fractional reserve system doesn't require it.

QE for what purpose been little more than an exchange of debt balances between the Fed and the Central bankers of course at the expense of the future debt serfs..

But there I go off topic again.

daveO's picture

I agree. I paid mine off in Nov. 2008. Before they started counterfeiting and before I knew about MERS breaking the chain of title!. I was most concerned with the banks keeping my money, as in a 1930's bank holiday. I couldn't think of anything worse than losing a house while having the money locked up in a bank.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Can't say that I agree. Unsecured debt often carries interest rates double, triple or quadruple that of the fixed rate mortgage you carry. The average interest rate of a credit card today is around 16% with many paying 25-30%. Yes, I know some of you have cards in your wallet at 9% or less. But the average Joe who is carry a $10k-30k balance each month is paying a lot more than single digit interest. Plus that interest rate can and will change.

Pay off the cards, then take the money you were paying on the cards and dump it on the mortgage each month.

logicalman's picture

I've made my living doing something I would do for free if I wasn't forced to take part in the game called money.

Retirement? Why would I stop as long as I'm drawing breath.

60 next birthday, still good for 50 miles on my bike any day of the week.

You are dead for a long time.

Enjoy the ride.


Citxmech's picture

I had a grandfather who was able to work hard on his farm until his late 80s.  Grisely old basterd ate all the fresh eggs, bacon, and butter he wanted.  I'm trying to follow in his footsteps.

Funny thing is, the more I actually do stuff with my body, the younger and healthier I feel.  It's pathetic to see so many folks essentially cripple themselves with inactivity and shit food.

ForTheWorld's picture

There's no better food than the food you grow yourself.

Brutlstrudl's picture

Godot is coming soon . let's  ask him what he thinks we should do.

ali-ali-al-qomfri's picture

thx Cogs good advice and comments,

“The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit.

The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.”
? Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Be settled in what you think and do, be aware and honest with yourself and others.

Best medicine available.

kurt's picture

Rethink the concept of Sticking It Up Your Ass, Fucker!

You don't get a second chance to retire. You can't live your life over. Promises must be kept. Stop trying to grab the SS budget, cock suckers, fuck you and FUCK YOU!

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

There are drugs you can take for that condition. They work for me.  :)

Accounting101's picture

I thought you and the lady advocated for some all natural bullshit.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Sorry you missed my sarcasm.

And we do not subscribe to 'some all natural bullshit'. What we actually subscribe to is more natural bullshit. It does not need to  be an all or nothing approach, but rather a slow learning and substitution process of weeding out the artificial bullshit and weaving in the natural bullshit.

Cow pies bitches.  :)

messymerry's picture

Hey Cog,  You might kindly point out that there are "herbal" remedies available in Colorado and Washington.  

Ms. Cog,  Thanks for a mighty fine thought provoking article.  

I might add that when it comes to homesteading an old Real Estate axiom comes to mind:  Location Location Location.  If you're not a thumper, stay out of the bible belt.  Water, lots of good clean water.  Perhaps someplace where the mountains meet the sea...

Oh, and don't forget.  The two single most important aspects of preparation are physical and mental health.  If you have those two things going for you then everything else is much easier.  

I'm 60 this year and teaching spin and yoga to the fascists over at the liberal arts university in the next town over.  Trying to teach them mindfulness is an execise in futility, but I do it to perfect my technique.  

Everybody, pay attention to the Cogs.  They are doing it right.