Protected: To buy or not to buy
Rent vs. buy
Okay, so while this is just one person’s opinion, he identifies a lot of the reasons that I rent a house instead of buying one.
It had been my plan to get some Euros while at the airport before my trip in two weeks. However, this morning, a coworker just back from Europe offered me hers (at the current exchange rate) and so as of this morning, I am the proud owner of a stack of Euros.
It looks like fake money to me.
The most interesting thing about the Euro, if you’ve never seen one, is that their denominations vary in size based on their value. Thus, the E20 is slightly larger than the E10, which is slightly larger than the E5, and so on.
At least I can check another item off of my checklist.
The best policy
My take is that honesty is always the best policy, even where it might hurt you. Thus, when I opened my pay stub today, I noticed right away that the amount of money that my company contributes to my retirement was wrong in my favor by more than $60. I could think of no immediate explanation, sighed heavily and went to pick up the phone to call payroll and explain that they had given me too much money–and before I finished dialing, the reason suddenly occurred to me.
You see, my company contributes a small percent of my income to a retirement plan. (I also contribute my own money to the plan, but the amount they contribute is something above and beyond my income and is part of the retirement program, in lieu of stock options and the like.) Anyway at various stages, the percentage which they contribute can increase. For instance, if you make above a certain amount of money, it can go up. I do not make above that amount of money. However at two different times, it also goes up: when you turn 35 and when you turn 50. (Ultimately the company is contributing amounts equal to 10% of your income, which is nice, but I still have about 15 years to go before I get there.)
Anyway, I just turned 35 at the end of March. I must not have noticed this in my last paycheck, but once I did the math, the excess $60 account exactly for the fact that the percentage which my company contributes to my retirement has increased. $60 doesn’t sound like much, but I get that extra $60 26 times a year, so it is essentially an extra $1,560/year contributed to my retirement. And all I had to do was turn 35!
Of course, if it had been a mistake, I would have contacted payroll and insisted that they fix it. But happily, it was no mistake!
Walking home from the metro station this evening, I thought of an interesting question. I don’t know the answer to the question, but perhaps someone does. My question is:
In this day and age, is it a practical possibility that a middle class person, making the average income for a family in the U.S. run for and win the presidency?
The best figure I could find for average family income in the United States is about $70,000 per year. I ask this question because to me it seems nearly impossible. Everyone who runs for president either comes from wealth or has substantial self-made wealth. But they also seem very disconnected from reality. They don’t know the cost of a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk. Besides, it seems that you need lots of money even to run a campaign. In much the way that real estate in some parts of the country are out of the reach of people who reside in those areas, I wonder if there is a practical minimum income that would give someone a fair chance at winning the presidency. It would be an interesting study I think, in part because it would narrow the types of professions one could have. Doctors might make enough money (Howard Dean); lawyers make enough (Bill Clinton); businessmen make enough (the Georges’ Bush); actors make enough (Ronald Reagan). But could, say, a stevedore make it? Could teacher? Or an administrative assistant?
Given my knowledge of presidential history, the last president to come from nothing and to run for president while still having very little was Abraham Lincoln. Subsequent to Lincoln, a case may be made for Ulysses S. Grant. But that was then. If they were alive today, I’m not sure they would have made it. I think that the dream that anyone can be president is just that: a dream; and the first hurdle that must be overcome is having the money to do it.
I’m just curious what that income threshold is.
And people complain about A-Rod…
A-Rod got $250 million over 10 years. This guy got $400 million for 2006 alone!
Protected: Practical ramifications of diminishing returns
When I was a kid (or younger than I am now, anyway), it was always exciting to find money you forgot you had. You know, you’d find it buried in a pants pocket, or under the couch or something. Cool! It’s a little different these days, of course, when I have more money than I did when I was 18 or 20. Today, on the bus back to NYC, I reached into my jacket pocket to adjust my iPod volume and found a $20 bill.
Now, this wasn’t a “misplaced” $20 bill. It was a “planted” $20 bill, and as a courtesy, I will avoid mentioning the name(s) of the villains who put it there. I suspect I even know why it was placed in my jacket to begin with and all I can say is that two wrongs don’t make a right. But I did notice it and there is no way that I could have “forgotten” about it. It’s simply not my $20 bill. So I am now in the position of owing these fiends $20 worth of food or drink at some later date. And I pay back all my debts.
Top-earning dead celebrities
In one of it’s more obscure lists, Forbes recently released its list of top-earning dead celebrities. At the top of the list (and the reason it was newsworthy) was Kurt Cobain, who recently overtook Elvis as the top dead earner ($50 million in the last year alone).
But of all of the celebrities on the list, 2 stood out and 1 surprised me.
Those that stood out to me (and I was pleased in both cases) were Charles M. Schulz who, at #3, earned a cool $35 million last year. I’ve always enjoyed the Peanuts cartoon. I take it as a sign of popularity that it is still selling. (Of course, a lot of the money comes from licensing rights, but that still indicates a level of popularity.)
Also on the list was author Theodore Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss. At #7 on the list, Dr. Seuss earned $10 million in the last year. I grew up with Dr. Seuss books. I learned how to read from Dr. Seuss books. I’m glad to see that they are still popular too.
Most surprising on the list, at least to me, was #5, Albert Einstein. That’s right, the guy who came up with E = mc2 earned $20 million in the last year, most of which came from rights to his name and likeness. He is still probably the most recognized scientist in the world, and he hasn’t been around for 52 years.
It was an interesting list, and I am happy for these three dead people. On the flip side, it is somewhat depressing to think that there are dead people out there making two orders of magnitude more money than someone like me, who is still alive and kicking, and working (relatively) hard. Sometimes.
I don’t use Quicken or Microsoft Money for keeping track of my finances. Since 1997, I use some software that I developed myself and which I call “The Model” for doing this and it has worked very well for me in all of that time.
I am about to start down the road of doing the first major revision to this software in several years, adding in some new features and making some efficiency enhancments.
37 degrees of separation
There was a thin layer of frost on my car windshield this morning when I headed out to work. The temperature was 37 degrees and marks the first time this season that I’ve had to scrape frost or ice of the car windows.
The first colder days of the season are always nice, but this was strange in that temperatures were into the 70s the last several days, and the temperature difference between the afternoon of the last few days and this morning has been as much as 37 degrees–thus the “37 degrees of seperation” in the subject of this entry.
I woke up with a headache this morning. I’d had a headache yesterday afternoon as well, but I ignored it. This morning I couldn’t and when I got into the office, I took some medicine. Now I’m waiting for it to kick in.
My flight to L.A. leaves BWI at 6:30 this evening. I’m planning on leaving the office at about 2 PM. I still have some packing to do. I’m debating picking up a spare battery for my iBook today, but I haven’t decided for sure yet.
Got paid today, and an additional $400 is now being deducted from my paycheck and being put into retirement. I had estimated what my net pay would be after that deduction and as it turns out, I over estimated by $163 so my check was actually $163 more than I thought it would be. Now I’m trying to decide whether to hold on to that or add that to retirement as well ($163 * 26 = $4,238/year). That would essentially max me out as far as what is allowed to be contributed to retirement tax-free. I haven’t decided yet.