Unsafe America

mcdonaldsfriesfront1 Last Friday in June. Time to clean out the queue of news stories.

Sleeping at the Airport

The TSA has fired eight of its screeners at Newark Airport “after they were captured by surveillance cameras sleeping or violating other standards.”

I have never thought that TSA screeners were the sharpest knives in the drawer, but this makes me wonder. Did they not know that their workplace was under video surveillance? You would think they would be familiar with airport security measures. Or perhaps they assumed that their colleague monitoring the video would be asleep too.

In what is apparently a separate incident, the Newark Star-Ledger

reports the TSA also is looking into photographs of screening supervisors who appear to be sleeping in front of monitors used for detecting explosives and other threats.

Two of the supervisors say they were not working at the time the photos were taken.


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The EuroCrisis: An American View

I know many of you have been asking yourselves, what does Frank think of all this crisis stuff going on in Europe?Train_wreck_at_Montparnasse_1895_2 Is he worried about it? Should I be?

The trouble in Europe has been going on for rather a while now, arguably since the financial crisis began in 2008, although it took a while for everybody to really notice. So quite a lot has already been written and said about it. If you have not been paying close attention, then 1) good for you and 2) maybe my comments will help fill you in.

It is really a pair of twin interrelated crises on the very slow burn in Europe. There is a banking crisis. And there is a sovereign debt crisis.

The European bank problems are similar to the ones we had on this side of the Atlantic. Indeed, in as much as European banks bought surprisingly large amounts of American mortgage backed securities, it is the exact same problem. But European banks, particularly Spanish and Irish ones, also lent heavily into their very own hometown real estate bubbles.

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Renting vs. Buying

It is real estate day again. The S&P Case-Shiller for April came in at +1.3% from the previous month and –1.9% from a year previously. Since the great swoon in house prices ended three years ago, house prices have given Two-story_single-family_home up another -2.5%. I had predicted sideways motion from that bottom, and I consider –0.84% annual decline to be essentially sideways. So good for me.

I have also previously declared house prices to have become boring. And boring is good.

Keeping with the theme of the day, SmartMoney just ran an item on buying versus renting houses. It was based, loosely I am assuming, on a Deutsche Bank report from March that said that although as a nationwide average owning is a better deal, in some places including California and the Northeast, renting is cheaper.

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The iPhone Nanny

The WSJ ran an article entitled The New Money Apps over the weekend. I was iPhonehoping it would be about smartphone apps designed for the nouveaux riches. Something to help decorate McMansions or navigate country club admissions perhaps.

But it is even better than that. The article is about the burgeoning field of  personal finance in the form of bossy phone apps. No longer do those hapless consumers need to worry their little heads about how to spend and save. They can just do what their phone tells them.

Think of it as a really really sophisticated GPS system. Just enter “rich and happy” as the destination and follow the turn-by-turn directions.

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Inheriting Money in America

John D and Son Consumerism Commentary carried a post yesterday by its founder Flexo, who seems to be changing his nom-de-blog to Luke Landes, which is more alliterative and almost sounds like a real name. Should Rich Families Leave Their Wealth to Their Children? is a reflection on one of those topics that would be a recurring theme, if only we were comfortable discussing it.

It boils down to an important financial planning question. Are you saving so that you can have enough to live a long and happy retirement or so that you can have a long and happy retirement and then leave a little something to the kids? Or maybe even more than a little something?

If you poke around the mainstream personal finance literature, you will find that leaving money to the kids is rarely discussed or even mentioned as a possible savings goal. Indeed, there is a vein of personal finance literature that emphasizes how important it is to not give money to your grown children.

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