You Should Not Ignore Housing Data

The ironically named SmartMoney had a blog post yesterday raising the issue Should You Ignore Housing Data? That depends. Houses for Sale Signs

You should keep tabs on the health of the housing market if one of the following is true:

a) You are a person involved in the real estate business, including brokers, bankers, developers, and the construction trades.

b) You own, or hope to own, a house.

c) You rent real estate.

d) You have a financial interest in the health of the US economy, for example if you work in the US or any of its major trading partners.

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Most Kids Should Not Go to College

There are a few recurring themes here at BMA that arose unplanned. One of them is college, specifically the wisdom of paying so much for it. I have asked Is a College Degree Worth Anything? and followed-up with Is a Fake College Degree Worth Anything? I mused on the big picture with Why Go to College? and Does it Matter Which College You Attend?

Grads Kit The answers to those titular questions were yes, college degrees are generally economically valuable, and even fake ones have their uses. Which is why most high school graduates should go to college. And it matters which one you go to, sometimes a lot.

However, my advice to the generic 18 year-old, that he or she should go to the best college he or she can get into (where “best” considers cost) is in conflict with my broader society-wide view. Way too many of us go to college.

In 1940, there were 1700 institutions of higher learning in the US and 1.1% of the population was enrolled in college. 5% of the US population over 25 then had a bachelors degree or better.

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Friday Round-Up: Soda, Citizenship, and How Not to Have an Affair

It is the last Friday of the month, and the start of a holiday weekend, so time to clear off the desktop of items I have been meaning to get to.Sodas Crop - Marlith

Soda

I will kick it off with a story from Salt Lake City. It seems that a public high school in suburban (exurban?) Kaysville, Utah has been fined $15K by the Feds.

As we all know, it is a Federal offense to sell carbonated beverages at public school lunches. Davis High had arranged to turn off their vending machines during the 47 minutes allotted daily for lunch, but they overlooked the fact that their bookstore also sold the vile liquid. Luckily, Federal inspectors caught it and stopped the madness.

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Houses Have Never Been Cheaper

VA_house Ever since the Great Debacle of 2007-08, we have all had house prices on our minds. Other topics may be grabbing headlines, but there has always been a recurring interest in how the old US residential market is doing. And there are good reasons for that. Not only is it a massive asset class, representing a sizeable portion of our national wealth, but for many families the house is the single biggest asset, often exceeding the value of the household’s net worth. And housing is, after all, where this whole nasty economic mess started.

Lately the house theme has been about whether now is the time to jump in and buy. Two days ago Time decided to share Why This May Be the Ideal Time to Buy Real Estate. That echoes the sentiments at such places as MSNMoney and The Simple Dollar. And even celebrity rich guys as diverse as Warren Buffet and Donald Trump are in on this one.

Skeptical cynic that I am, my first instincts are always that popular trends are probably wrong, and that goes double if The Donald is involved. But I long ago learned to discount my instincts when it comes to big money issues.

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Your Kids and Your Money

I have always thought that the parenting sub-genre of personal finance was a bit odd. Yes, I recognize that for many of us kids are a big part of life, and anything that is a big part of life is a big part of personal finance. But there is more to it than that.Birthday party - Tudokin

The parenting sub-genre is not just about saving money on school supplies.  When people talk about their offspring and personal finance there is at least a subtext of teaching the next generation valuable lessons that, it is implied, will keep them from being as screwed up as their elders. Good luck with that.

A case in point is an overwrought piece at the WSJ Is It a Harmless Gift…or Is It an Indulgence? Now, for the sake of argument, I am willing to concede that there could be such a thing as a harmful gift for a child. For example, a shotgun or a bottle of bourbon, or both, for somebody too young to appreciate the dangers of misuse could end very badly.

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