The Nagging Nanny State

[This Thursday Re-Run first ran November 4, 2009.]

There is a movement amongst earnest policy wonks that might be called Nanny State Light. It’s a compromise position between full-on centrally  planned we-know-what’s-best-for-you Toddler Cart Crop - Remi  Jouancontrol and you’re-on-your-own-kid libertarianism.

The idea is that instead of making people do the right thing or hoping that they do what’s best on their own, you give them a little nudge and hint in the right direction. This is, I am told, the topic of a clever and popular book, Nudge, which I haven’t yet gotten around to reading. (But I bought a copy a few weeks ago.  That’s something, isn’t it?)

The latest scheme along these lines to hit the media is in today’s Wall Street Journal. Apparently, all we need to do to get people to save more money is to send them a text message reminding them to save more money.

Read more »

The Holidays Begin

[This Thursday Re-Run is from November 20, 2009. I’ve updated the dates to fit with 2010.]

We are coming up on what we Americans call the Holiday Season. And it is a season: not just one holiday, but a joyous period in which every day is special. A few of those days don’t have names yet, but I am sure that in time that gap in our culture will be filled. Here’s a rundown of the next week or so.

Christmas Tree The traditional fun begins with Travel Nightmare Wednesday. Observed the day before the last Thursday in November, this holiday is celebrated around the nation by crowding into planes and spending quality time with loved ones inside cars crawling along interstates.

Then comes Thanksgiving, when we solemnly thank the Almighty for football and giant balloons in the shape of cartoon characters. Some families also give thanks that once again they deep fried the turkey without burning the house down.

Things pick up a bit with Black Friday, a holiday that celebrates the simple pleasures of buying stuff. Traditionally, it is observed by talking about how everybody else is going to the mall that day and recounting how it is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year. It is not, nor has it ever been. That honor usually goes to Most Busy Saturday, which falls this year on December 18th.

Read more »

Hiatus Again

Sorry. You have probably noticed that I’ve been failing to post on my usual schedule lately. Non-blog life is once again rearing its ugly head in a higher-priority way.

For the next few weeks, likely through the holidays, I will be engaged in another of my quixotic efforts at attaining actual employment. Everybody keep fingers crossed.

So, once again, I am officially declaring a Bad Money Advice hiatus. And, once again, let me take this opportunity to thank all the members of my ego-boosting cult-like following. Please try and notice that I am not around.

No End of Year Tax Planning

Normally, this is the time of year that money advisors and gurus trot out the old canned advice on end-of-year tax planning. Not this year. This year we are all just too confused.

Generally, we can do little things in November and December to slightly lower our tax bill because, generally, we can predict what the tax rates will be in January. Not this time. Congress managed to adjourn for the elections without doing anything at all about the expiring Bush tax cuts, and when they Capitol reconvene for the lamest of lame duck sessions today I do not foresee a sudden clarity of purpose.

Could there have been any larger indication that the Democrats were in very serious trouble than that they passed up an opportunity to enact tax cuts a few weeks before an election? Yes, there were (and are) differences of opinion on what bits of the Bush cuts should be extended, but those differences ought to have been bridgeable. Instead, the Democrats became frozen in fear and indecision, petrified (and not entirely without reason) that any legislation they passed, whatever the particulars, would cost votes.

Read more »

Forex for Everybody?

[This Thursday Re-Run first appeared November 18, 2009.]

Last week Moolanomy ran a long post on Forex Trading Basics and How It Works. Although reasonably factual, the post qualifies as bad money advice Chicklet-currency for strongly implying that there is a possibility that investing in forex might be a good idea. It also ends with a paid link to a forex broker-dealer.

Forex, if you don’t know, is trading in currencies, also known as foreign exchange. And if you didn’t know that, I’m sorry I told you. You could have probably lived happily ever after without knowing that this particular intersection of investing and gambling existed. Oh well. Too late now.

Superficially, currency markets are simple. A person might buy some Japanese Yen, for example, in the hopes that it would go up in price relative to the dollar. If it does, it can be sold for a profit, if it goes down, for a loss.

Read more »

WordPress Themes