Today I Learn… I make a point of learning something new everyday. This is what I learn each day

1, Jul 20, 2013

The most expensive places in the U.S.

Filed under: American Culture,Economy — admin @ 12:29 am

Of course, we have both the cheapest and the most expensive cities in the U.S. here are 10 most expensives ones in the U.S.

10. Los Angeles
9. San Diego
8. Oakland, Calif.
7. Boston
6. Washington, D.C.
5. Stamford, Conn.
4. San Jose, Calif.
3. San Francisco
2. Honolulu
1. New York Cost of Living in NY: 125.4% above average (Manhattan only)

My son has been living in Manhattan since he graduated in 2011. I wrote this to him. “Everything has a cost. The ultimate cost is time. You use time to earn money, with money to buy convenience, health, entertainment, etc. How much you can afford depends on (1) amount of time you pour in and (2) value of your time.”

1, Jul 19, 2013

Places where you can live cheaply in the U.S.

Filed under: American Culture,Economy — admin @ 12:06 am

I can’t say they are among the greatest cities in the U.S. but they are certainly the cheapest ones. Here it is from Kiplinger site — 10 Cheapest U.S. Cities to Live In. I am surprised that some of the southern poor states like Mississippi and Georgia didn’t make it to the list. I am curious to know how Kansas goes when comparing to east and west coastal cities.

10. Idaho Falls, Idaho
9. Conway, Ark.
8. Springfield, Ill.
7. Pueblo, Colo.
6. Wichita Falls, Texas
5. Fayetteville, Ark.
4. Memphis, Tenn.
3. Norman, Okla.
2. McAllen, Texas
1. Harlingen, Texas

1, May 10, 2013

Boeing to cut up to 1,700 engineering jobs this year

Filed under: Economy — admin @ 12:52 am

I read this piece of news on 4/18, posted by Dominic Gates on The Seattle Times.

“The head of engineering at Boeing Co.’s Commercial Airplanes unit informed managers Thursday the jetmaker will reduce its engineering workforce by up to 1,700 positions this year, with as many as 700 job cuts coming through layoffs. Layoff notices to the first of those employees will go out today.”

I don’t need to get into the details of why and when. The news reminds me of the time when Sprint was laying off people in thousands and I was one of them in early 2001.

Over a decade has passed since then. We expect the end of tunnel is near and economy will pick it up soon. But it doesn’t seem so. I shared the news with my daughter. She said they shouldn’t have any problem finding another job soon. Glad she is optimistic about job market. Let us hope there are plenty of jobs for engineering people.

1, May 5, 2013

Slow growth forecasts by IMF

Filed under: Economy — admin @ 12:46 am

On 4/16, I read this one about U.S. economy. “IMF Lowers 2013 Economic Growth Forecasts” by Scott Neuman.

“The International Monetary Fund has lowered its projections for global economic growth, including in the United States, citing sharp cuts in government spending and the struggling eurozone.

The Washington, D.C.-based international lender’s World Economic Outlook shaved its 2013 forecast to 3.3 percent from 3.5 percent. It also trimmed its projection for 2014 to 4 percent from 4.1 percent.

The IMF on Tuesday also pared back its forecast for growth in the U.S. economy this year, to 1.9 percent from 2.1 percent.”

From this I think of many college graduates who have already been unemployed for a year or even longer. The dreadful part is this prolonged economic downturn will indeed create a lost generation.

1, Apr 17, 2013

16.2% youth unemployment rate for millennial generation

Filed under: Economy — admin @ 12:22 am

Last week I read about Millennial Jobs Report for March 2013 from Generation Opportunity site: 16.2% youth unemployment rate.

The youth unemployment rate for 18-29 year olds specifically for March 2013 is 11.7 percent non-seasonally adjusted (NSA).
–rate for African-Americans for March 2013 is 20.1% (NSA);
–rate for Hispanics for March 2013 is 12.6% (NSA);
–rate for women for March 2013 is 10% (NSA).

The declining labor force participation rate has created an additional 1.7 million young adults that are not counted as “unemployed” by the U.S. Department of Labor because they are not in the labor force, that is, those young people have given up looking for work due to the lack of jobs.

If the labor force participation rates were factored into the 18-29 youth unemployment calculation, the actual 18-29-unemployment rate would rise to 16.2 percent (NSA).

The conclusion is: job opportunities remain scarce for young people after years of debt-fueled government spending.

1, Apr 14, 2013

Economic downturn hits everybody

Filed under: Economy — admin @ 12:07 am

During the weekend of 4/6, while my daughter was out of town, I read this article —
Law School Graduates Continue to Face Brutal Entry-Level Market

“The Class of 2012 outcome data shed considerable light on how difficult the job market remains for law school graduates.

“These graduates fared 1% better than last year’s graduates in lawyer jobs: 56.2% of 2012 graduates were employed in full-time, long-term lawyer jobs. Exclude jobs funded by the law schools from this figure and it is 55.1%.

“A devastating 27.7% were either underemployed (short-term or part-time job, or non-professional) or not employed (unemployed or pursuing an additional degree). The national non-response rate was 2.6%.”

1, Apr 12, 2013

Bad time hit the underpriviledged and the elderly hardest

Filed under: Economy — admin @ 12:37 am

Ouch! I learned this piece of news about the suicide of an Italian couple due to financial trouble. The news came from CNN in Rome.

The man was 62 years old and his wife 68 years old. “He was a clerk at a shoe company, though he hadn’t worked for some time. She was a retired artisan. Together, they had no more than 500 euros a month, from her pension, to live on.
On Friday (4/4), they were dead.” The wife’s elderly brother “threw himself into the Adriatic Sea soon after the news broke about his sister.”

It was a sad day when I read this. And for a long time, the news stuck in my mind.

1, Mar 30, 2013

The savings of one-year used car

Filed under: Economy — admin @ 12:48 am

On 3/20, a friend of mine took my daughter to BMV to take written driving test. While waiting for her turn, my friend had a long chat with my daughter. Here’s what this friend told me of part of their conversation.

“When you grow up and get a high paid job, you will buy a BMW and can drive me around in your car,” my friend told my daughter.
“Sure, I will drive you, but I will buy a used car because it cost too much to buy brand new one,” replied my daughter.

My friend was impressed by her down-to-earth approach. Instead of boasting of spending big and chasing coolness like some young people that she knows, my daughter knows the saving of used car and the best of all, she doesn’t care about being pretentious.

I told this friend, “The cost of a new car runs at least $10,000 more than a one-year old used one when you combine the cost of car purchase, sale tax, annual registration fees, tax property, and insurance.” She was surprised to learn the savings of a one-year used car. I was surprised that she didn’t know all this.

1, Mar 14, 2013

Yale, Penn and George Washington University have all sued former students over nonpayment

Filed under: College,Economy — admin @ 12:15 am

On 2/4/2013, I read an article, “Yale Suing Former Students Shows Crisis in Loans to Poor,” by Janet Lorin.

Many college graduates, unable to find a job upon graduation, “are defaulting on almost $1 billion in federal student loans earmarked for the poor, leaving schools such as Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania with little choice except to sue their graduates.”

The worst part is the record high defaults on federal Perkins loans “may jeopardize the prospects of current students since they are part of a revolving fund that colleges give to students who show extraordinary financial hardship.”

Perkins loans are earmarked for students with extraordinary financial hardship. They are administered by colleges, which use repayment money to lend to other poor students. Yale, Penn and George Washington University have all sued former students over nonpayment.

I have learned that not just the government but also the universities that will go after those who can’t pay. But given the current job market, what can they get from suing their graduates who are unable to pay back their student loans?

1, Feb 15, 2013

Barnes & Noble’s is following Border’s footstep

Filed under: Economy — admin @ 12:52 am

On 2/6/2013, I read a rather sad story on The Wall Street Journal “B&N Aims To Whittle Its Stores For Years”– Mitchell Klipper, chief executive of Barnes & Noble’s, says the bookstore will close a third of its stores in the next decade. This further confirms the decline of the physical book stores when facing competitions from online bookstores like Amazon.

First, we saw Border’s bookstores lost its battle in the Internet age. Now, the inevitable thing seems to happen to Barnes & Noble bookstore.

It is sad as we have spent so many hours in these bookstores and so many good memories are associated with these places. And now they are on the road to be history. What can you do? Nothing.

1, Feb 4, 2013

You cannot afford to get sick at work

Filed under: Economy,work — admin @ 12:48 am

On 1/25/2013, a Friday morning, I learned that one of my colleagues was let go by the HR because of her excessive sick leave days.

This colleague fell and broke her shoulder bone, which required some surgeries to fix the bones. I don’t know the details of her condition but I know she is single and has been worried about the medical bills and her job security.

I thought she needed not to worry as there must be some kind of law protecting people like her. “How can the company fire you when you are sick and specially need income to cover all the cost thus incurred?”

Well, by the end of the day, a company is not a charity place. I guess I was too naive. Still, the news made that Friday a really sad day for me when I think of the fact that people just cannot afford to be sick. When you are sick, the company multiplies your miseries by cutting off your income. That hurts especially if you are single and have no other income.

1, Dec 23, 2012

Where is the American dream?

Filed under: College,Economy — admin @ 12:12 am

Yesterday I talked about college degree and its following debts for many graduates. On 12/3 I read another even more depressing piece of news “Downward mobility haunts US education” by Sean Coughlan.

For many people, a part of the American Dream is the upward mobility through education. If they didn’t have college education and have been trapped in their economic status, their children will move upward through college education and that the children will always be better educated and more prosperous than the previous generation.

With the depressing job market, the prolonged economic downturn, and heavy student debts, that American dream, that upward mobility in the next generation is under serious threat.

“Andreas Schleicher, special adviser on education at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), says the US is now the only major economy in the world where the younger generation is not going to be better educated than the older.”

Instead of moving upward, are we going to see “downward mobility?” as some people suggest. The author cites many examples to reach this conclusion — yes, we will have “the opposite of a Hollywood ending.”

This is a serious matter for the future of U.S. economy and of course for the coming generation.

1, Nov 28, 2012

Competition and survival of the fittest in life, business, organization and all

Filed under: Economy — admin @ 12:43 am

During this holiday season, we see how local retail stores like bestbuy, Walmart, Microcenter, etc adapt, evolve, and compete in the ever thriving e-commerce culture.

All these retailed stores have their online stores and have local store pickup option if customers place an order online. Many of them have price matching and deal guarantee policy. Some even have same-day delivery policy, with a little bit of extra cost.

All these new policies serve to provide the benefits of the low price of e-commerce and the convenience of local stores, resulting in positioning them well in the competition with Amazon and other online only stores. Without constantly adjusting their policies accordingly, they might lose customers and go out of business.

A business and a national party are very much like an organism. In the face of heated competitions for survival, they have no choice but to adapt, change and evolve. This often reminds me of people who survive well in time of economic downturn.

1, Oct 25, 2012

You know it’s a bad economy when…

Filed under: Economy — admin @ 1:02 am

Early this month I started reading Aftershock by David Wiedemer, his brother and Cindy Spitzer. Here are something interesting from the book.

“You know it’s a bad economy when…
1) Your bank returns your check marked as “insufficient funds” and you have to call them and ask if they meant you or them.

2) The most highly paid job is now jury service

3) People in Beverly Hills fire their nannies and are learning their children’s  names.

4) McDonalds is selling the quarter-ouncer.

5) Obama met with small business-GE, Chrysler, Citigroup, and GM–to discuss the stimulus package.

6) Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars are now trading at higher prices than GM’s stock.

7) You got a pre-declined credit card in the mail.

8) Your “reality check” bounced.

9) The stock market indexes have been renamed: the Dow is now the “Down-Jones” and  the S&P is the “Substandard & Very Poor.”

10) Webster’s is keeping its dictionary length constant by adding words that are commonly used, used as Twitter, tweet, and Facebook, and dropping those no longer needed, such as retirement, pensions, and Social Security.

1, Aug 26, 2012

The Unsustainability of US Economy and the Need to Diversify Your Savings

Filed under: Economy,Money — admin @ 12:42 am

On 8/15/2012, I read an article — “Economist Richard Duncan: Civilization May Not Survive ‘Death Spiral'” by Terry Weiss.

The article warns of the pyramid scheme, that is very sharp downward turn of American economy. “America’s $16 trillion federal debt has escalated into a death spiral.”

American lifestyle is sustained by a huge personal and national debt and by a colossal consumption of gas, water and electricity.

Totally unsustainable is US economy, energy, ecological resources, and the whole American lifestyle.

The article conveys a strong sense of urgency. Imagine what would happen if US dollar becomes worthless! It does you no good to keep telling yourself “This is impossible.”

We individuals have to diversify our savings in case the pyramid does collapse. Don’t put all your savings in the form of US dollar. We already know that we should not put all our eggs in one basket.

1, Jul 1, 2012

More college graduates have debt than have jobs

Filed under: Economy — admin @ 12:32 am

I heard this news on NPR on 5/10 about college graduates struggling to gain financial footing. To be sure, it is not a cheerful situation for many of them and its long-term impact is rather depressing.

First of all, “A new Rutgers University survey of those who graduated from college between 2006 and 2011 finds that just half of those grads are working full time.”

Second, the sad part is, as Cliff Zukin said, “More come out with debt than come out with jobs,” NPR interviewed Caitlin LaCour who graduated from Columbia College in Chicago in 2011. She earns just $10 an hour, which was far from enough to take care of her $100,000 student loan debt. So she had to take on a second part-time job at a shoe store, and then a third… She said “I got addicted to working. I just burned myself out, because I didn’t want to have to worry about not being able to pay my loans.”

Third, your college major plays a role. “An engineering grad from a top school, for example, can job-hop and get back to a higher earning level in three or four years, von Wachter says. But ‘students who come from smaller, less-well-known schools and have majors such as humanities or arts — they tend to have depressed career paths lasting for a very long time.'”

1, Apr 11, 2012

Six Foundamental Principles of Economic Thinking, Part II

Filed under: Economy — admin @ 12:40 am

Third principle: No thing is just one thing; there are always at least 2 sides to every interaction. I recently read a column arguing that it was unethical for those of us who had jobs in a period of economic difficulty to continue spending when others are unemployed. But the reality is that every dollar of my expenditure is a dollar of income coming in for someone else. If there’s less total spending, there’s also by definition less total income.

Fourth principle: The law of unanticipated influences. We can see this with a concept from chaos theory called the butterly effect. In chaos theory, hypothetically, a butterly on one side of the world can flap its wings and, through a chain of causation that’s totally unpredictable, cause a hurricane on the opposite side of the world.

This is true in economics: No event ever takes place in a bubble; a change in any one part of an economic system is going to have ripple effects, often in far removed places.

Fifth principle: The law of unintended consequences. In our interconnected world, our actions are always going to have multiple consequences. A number of cities have installed red light cameras, which take a photograph of the license plate of any car that enters an intersection after the light has turned red. The unintended consequence is an increase in accident when cars try to make a sudden stop at the traffic light.

Sixth principle: No one is, and no one ever can be, in complete control. If you apply an incentive to some subset of 6 billion complexly interrelated people, whose interactions are totally unforeseeable and have unintended consequences, and then predict the final result, that would be monumental. To go further and try to control that outcome would be utterly impossible.

Sounds interesting, right? Will share more later.

1, Apr 10, 2012

Six Foundamental Principles of Economic Thinking, Part I

Filed under: Economy — admin @ 12:36 am

On 4/1/2012, I watched one of the Great Courses that I bought the day before. The course title is Thinking like an Economist: A Guide to Rational Decision Making. Well, I know it is a bit late for me to learn to think rationally. Still, I couldn’t resist the temptation of some improvement.

The lecture starts with a brief review of the 6 foundation principles of economic thinking, which I think rather interesting. Below are the  from the lecture.

First principle: People respond to incentives. No premise is more central: If you reward a behavior, people will do more of it and more intensely; if you penalize it, they’ll do less of it.

Second principle: There is no such thing as a free lunch. It sounds silly, but that expression captures a lot of economic thought. Any use of time or limited resources for one purpose is an opportunity forever gone to use them for another.

More of anything always means less of something else; and it’s that option that you had to give up that economists call opportunity cost.
To be continued…

1, Nov 20, 2011

Education, Pursuit of Your Dream, and Pure Sense and Cent

Filed under: College,Economy — admin @ 12:24 am

During the last weekend of October, both my daughter and I read the 10/31/2011 issue of Time magazine. She made several comments on some of the articles there.

On this article “I Owe U: Student debt is on track to top $1 trillion this year. What happens when diplomas stop opening doors?,” the author lists many sad cases in which students incur tremendous amount of debts, yet upon graduation, unable to find a job or well-paid one to meet its debt obligations.

“OMG, how could one borrow nearly $170, 000 to study documentary filmmaking? You can’t even find a job with that major. How can you pay off your debts if you don’t have a job?” my daughter commented. The sad part is we have too many unfortunate cases like this.

While I applaud for those who chase their dreams and follow their passions, regardless of the cost, I lament the hard consequence of this impractical approach to life. I believe they are much better off chasing something practical if they cannot excel by a giant step in their dream yet not-marketable field. After all, one needs food and shelter and a decent human existence before anything else.

1, Sep 15, 2011

Retire as Early as Possible, Start Taking Care of Yourself, Part II

Filed under: Economy,Health — admin @ 12:59 am

It makes absolutely no sense to toil beyond age 60 and reaching 70 only to find oneself drop sick or even worse drop dead. I am sure in case like this the only beneficiary is U.S. government who does not have to waste a penny on your benefit. What a bless!

Against the advice given by the article, I believe the best strategy is to retire as early as possible, without having to stress out and burn away your life for that meager 30%.

Here’s a simple math: on the one side of equation is stay on till full retirement age + a high probability of poor health with a huge medical bills + 30% retirement benefit; on the other side is early retirement + time to take care of your body with a small medical bill – 30% retirement benefit. See how little that 30% counts?

When you have more time to take care of your dear body, you can have a better chance of living up to 100 and going strong from there. Plus, you can use a small percent of your early retirement benefit to invest and make more money. If your return is greater than 30%, hey, you beat Uncle Sam more than once, while having a good time!

All this is made possible by your total savings. If you are short on savings, too bad you have no choice but to toil till you drop. How dreadful to be poor!

1, Sep 14, 2011

Retire as Early as Possible, Start Taking Care of Yourself Part I

Filed under: Economy,Health — admin @ 12:48 am

On 9/9/2011, while I was on a teleconference, I saw an article “5 Crucial Questions for Retirees.” The word crucial caught my attention more than anything else, because I want to make sure I have done the right thing all the way. Well, too late if I have not.

The first crucial issue is the time of retirement. The article advices people to stay on their positions till full retirement age, 67 or 70, whichever the government defines, instead of the earliest possible age, that is 62. The argument goes like this. If you start getting social security benefit at the earliest possible age, you only receive 70% of what you would get monthly if you were to stay till full retirement age. You will suffer a “permanent reduction” of your monthly social security benefit for the so-called early retirement.

The argument makes sense if you could live long enough to enjoy the full benefit. This is the key, which, sadly to say, no one can guarantee. When I look at our chemotherapy infusion room, with people in their 60s and 70s and their quality of life, I have no doubt that they would rather retire early and be able to enjoy what little life has left for them, however reduced is their benefit.
To be continued…

1, Aug 17, 2011

Spoiled Children as the Debtors and Workaholic Parents as the Lenders

Filed under: China,Economy — admin @ 12:08 am

The economic mess that the U.S. is enjoying now originated from (1) over consuming, under production, either in housing bubbles and credit card abuse, at individual and national level, like going to war with borrowed money; (2) Negative saving, that is deficit, again on both levels.

China is doing the opposite: (1) Under consumption, over production; (2) Over saving. Hence, China lends the surplus to the US so that US can keep importing from China, which will perpetuate the consumption in the U.S. and the running of factories in China.

Sometimes, I see China as hard-working parents who toil themselves to generate value and save them for their children (the dear Americans), while the US behaves like spoiled children who demand high-level consumption even running on empty purse. We would expect the US, with a mountain of debts, to save more and spend less and China does the opposite. It is not likely to happen this way, though. The children must be spoiled because of their dollar dominance in the world. Something will happen eventually. Let’s wait and see.

1, Aug 14, 2011

The Poor and the Powerless: No Fun in Times of Economic Woes

Filed under: Economy — admin @ 12:52 am

Last Friday, 8/12, while I was reading “U.S. Debt Reaches 100 Percent of Country’s GDP” from fox news, I received an internal email on selling “cheap” Worlds of Fun ticket —
Adult $35
Junior (under 48 inches) $24
Season ticket holder wanting the meal only $13.02
With the country’s debt exceeding the total GDP, that’s the fun that most people have to forgo now.

It is very hard to become sanguine when we vision a few years down the road. The US economy is very much consumer driven, consisting of consumption by US government and ordinary citizens. Now, with Republicans calling for government spending cut and consumers increasingly squirreling away their meager savings for lack of confidence, we are seeing less and less spending instead of the other direction as people have expected?

Now talk about increasing productivity and revenue, a sheer empty talk. With the majority of manufacture jobs moving overseas and the lack of the required skills for the emerging technology market, where do productivity come from? No job, no income.

To be honest, forgoing the Worlds of Fun is a small sacrifice compared to the fact that many people will have to face the shrinking of their retirement pension and health care service. Keep in mind the government always stands by the side the rich and powerful while the poor and the powerless can never escape bearing the brunt of economic woes.

1, May 9, 2011

Avoid these Wasteful Habits, Part II

Filed under: Economy — admin @ 12:02 am

Continued from previous posting on this topic

16. Not reading the fine print.
17. Mismanaging your flexible spending account.
18. Being an inflexible traveler.
19. Sticking with the same service plans and the same service providers year after year.
20. Making impulse purchases, when on second thought you don’t really need or you can get it cheaper elsewhere.
21. Dining out frequently.
22. Trying to time the stock market. In trying to buy low and sell high, many people actually do the opposite. Instead, employ the simple strategy of “dollar-cost-averaging.” By investing a fixed dollar amount at regular intervals, you smooth out the ups and downs of the market over time. If you take out the emotion and guesswork, investing can become less stressful, less wasteful and more successful.

23. Buying insurance you don’t need, e.g liability for an old car.
24. Buying new instead of used. Cars lose 20% of their value the moment they’re driven off the lot and 65% in the first five years.
25. Procrastinating. Time is an asset money can’t buy. Start investing for retirement as soon as possible. For instance, if a 40-year-old saves $300 a month with an 8% return per year, he’ll have $287,000 by age 65. If he had started saving 15 years earlier at age 25, he’d have more than $1 million.

P.S. my son called yesterday morning. He sounded rather sleepy, not fully awaken. I was concerned, as he seldom called this early, “What is the matter, son?” He said, “Happy Mother’s Day, mom.” On occasions like this, both of my children know not to upset me by squandering unnecessarily on my behalf. Indeed, a call phone like this will make my day.

1, May 7, 2011

Avoid these Wasteful Habits, Part I

Filed under: Economy — admin @ 12:01 am

We are living through the times when children frequently hear about the hardships related to one of the worst economic downturns in the nation’s history. On the same line, I often read articles teaching people how to stretch their limited resource to last longer. Here’s one of them which I read on 3/2/2011, “25 Ways to Waste Your Money” by Erin Burt, that is, how to avoid the following behavior.

1. Carrying a balance on your credit cards. Debt is a shackle that holds you back.
2. Overspending on gas and oil for your car.
3. Keeping unhealthy habits like smoking and indoor tanning.
4. Using a cell phone that doesn’t fit. Your phone is not a status symbol. It is a way to communicate.
5. Buying brand-name instead of generic.

6. Keeping your mouth shut. By simply asking, you may be able to snag a lower rate on your credit card.
7. Buying beverages one at a time instead of a box of 12 or 24.
8. Paying for something you can get for free, like using library.
9. Stashing your money with Uncle Sam rather than in an interest-earning account.
10. Being disorganized. e.g. Lost bills and receipts, forgotten tax deductions, and clueless spending.

11. Letting a large quantity of your money wallow in a low-interest account.
12. Paying late fees and missing deadlines.
13. Paying ATM fees. Expect to throw away nearly $4 every time you use an ATM that isn’t in your bank’s network.
14. Shopping at the grocery store without a calculator.
15. Paying for things you don’t use and you can get it free from the Internet, like cable TV.


1, Apr 23, 2011

Old Rental Agreements and an Old Dream

Filed under: Economy — admin @ 12:06 am

While digging out old stuffs, I found some old rental agreements, which reminds me of what I once planned to do but never actually did it.

I kept all the old rental agreement thinking someday I would buy some apartment complex nearby a university and lease them to college students. I would use their rental fees to pay for the mortgage. I would need to learn how to create leasing agreement for my tenants. I started harboring this idea ever since I took accounting classes in 1993, back in Ohio.

One of them is from Dolley Madison Apartments in McLean, Virginia on 1/25/1997, 2-bedroom apartment monthly rent for $930. We lived there between 1/1997 and 5/1998.

The other from Corinth apartment in Prairie Village, Kansas, 2-bedroom for $603. We stayed there between 5/1998 an 7/1999. Another one from Jamestown townhouse, in Fort Wayne, Indiana back in 1994. We left Indiana for Virginia in January 1997 when my daughter was two months shy of two years old.

Well, these documents at least serve to witness a dream or a plan that I once had but never materialize. I don’t know exactly what stopped me from carrying out my plan, but I know my brain does not work well when it comes to accounting.

1, Apr 5, 2011

The Smart Ones Set the Fashion and the Crowd Follows

Filed under: Economy — admin @ 12:36 am

On 10/13/2010, I had a monitor from Michigan. She is so different from the mainstream culture in her spending habit. First of all, she said she always bought things from Wal-Mart or wherever is cheaper. “I never spent more than $25 on a piece of clothing,” she declared proudly.

The loveliest part is her strong feeling against buying any designer stuff. She lampooned those who chased designer clothes or designer bags. “I am not like those suckers who work their butts off to spend $700 on a designer bag.” She really sees through it all when she said, “Those designers can live in their majestic mansions and drive their limousines because of all these stupid suckers [who are] willing to dump in their hard-earned money for these designer stuffs. Those designers suck every hard-earned penny out of those suckers so that they have everything they want.”

Nothing is more true than this. Once the smart ones set the fashion, the opposite ones follow to the letter. That is how the rich get rich and the poor stay this way forever. Too bad there are too many people who fall for this schema. That is how the social order is well maintained.

1, Jan 15, 2011

Recession Should Change People’s Spending Habits

Filed under: Economy — admin @ 12:08 am

On 8/19/2010, I read an article by Phil Taylor, “15 Things You Shouldn’t Be Paying For.”

The recession seemed to have changed some people’s spending behavior. When people are running low, they try to get to places with less gas. I hope people can keep up the thrifty habits even after economy picks up. Here is the list of these 15 things.

1) Basic Computer Software; there are so many free downloads
2) Your Credit Report; you can always get a copy during a free trial period.
3) Cell Phone, absolutely. You don’t really need to keep up with the new products.
4) Books, of course — that’s why we have libraries. And no more books to crowd your room.
5) Water. It is also good for the environment when we consume less bottled water.
6) Credit Card. Why pay an annual fee for a credit card when there are plenty of free ones?
7) Debt Reduction Help. This is the last thing you should pay for, when you don’t have money to pay your debt. But I do know someone who hires an agent to manage all her bills.
8) Basic Tax Preparation. Do it yourself unless you have half a million to work on. I know some people are too hopelessly lazy to do it themselves.
9) News. Either go online and read or go to your local library or even bookstore. It is simply too old fashioned to buy news now.
10) Budgeting Tools; download free tools from the internet.
11) Pets. There are many lovely pets in animal shelters. You might have done a good deed by providing a home for one of them.
12) Shipping; look for free shipping deals.
13) Checking Account. Why pay for this when many banks offer a free checking account?
14) DVD Rentals. You can watch anything from the internet or get free rentals from
15) Exercise. Nothing is more true than this. You can exercise anytime anywhere, with free air and free sunshine.

Actually, there are a lot more things that people don’t need to buy, especially during back-to-school days. The weekend before school started, I saw many parents shopping for school supplies with a list from the school. What happened to the old school bag and supplies that they used last year? Why do people have to get a completely new set of school supplies every year?

1, Dec 27, 2010

The Cost of Poverty and Ignorance

Filed under: Economy — admin @ 12:35 am

On 8/20/2010, I went through a patient’s chart and met such a case — a stage IV breast cancer patient, in her 40s. When she was first diagnosed, she was already in this late stage. She felt a mass in her breast long before that, but since she did not have medical insurance, she decided not to see a doctor. When finally she had a chance for a free physical checkup, she related the mass on her breast to the doctor, who immediately asked her to do a biopsy, a thorough workout, then surgery. The workout reveals the cancer has metastasized to liver and brain.

I couldn’t stop thinking and feeling sad long after I closed her chart. I don’t know exactly what went through her head when she waited till the tumor became a palpable mass. Didn’t she understand that mass could kill her? Maybe she didn’t.

That evening I shared it with my daughter, “It is so dreadful to be this poor and ignorant. That’s why people of lower social status have both high morbidity and mortality rate. They cannot afford to seek medical help when they should and they don’t know the risk of delay.”

1, Nov 20, 2010

Habits that Make One Broke 2

Filed under: Economy — admin @ 12:53 am

On 10/8/2010, there is another article on thrifty living, “6 Habits That Will Make You Broke” by Claire Bradley.

I feel so unpatriotic when I constantly talk about saving, the opposite of spending and boosting up our economy. After all, consumer spending makes up nearly 70% of the nation’s GDP. If everybody were as thrifty as they should, we would never see the rebounding of our economy.

Still, you would not want to see this happen to you — “It’s still a week until payday, but your checking account is almost empty already. Where did all your money go?”

The money has been drained away by some of the following bad habits. Below is from Bradley’s article.

1. Window Shopping or internet goods browsing. To be sure, those window showcases are not without purpose.

2. Carrying Lots of Cash You know that paying with plastic is bad, but carrying lots of cash can be just as bad a habit. Avoiding plastic is great, but budgeting is just as important when choosing to pay cash.

3. Saving Your Info With the online Vendors. Those online shopping sites are so considerate to save your address and credit card information — some even have one-click ordering buttons, so you can buy something in just a second. It’s very easy, but also very dangerous.

4. Clipping Unneeded Coupons. The truth is that coupons can make us buy things even we didn’t plan for.

5. Shopping With Your Emotions — the worst type of shopping behavior. It was a rough week, or a good one, or you want to reward yourself for losing a few pounds, so you go shopping. You earned that new dress, that new gadget, that big pie — it was on sale, too. Letting your mood dictate your buying decisions is the quickest way to go broke. Sober up before shopping.

6. Not Planning Ahead. It’s Tuesday, you’re tired, and have no idea what you’ll make for dinner. A great night for takeout, right? Using data from the BLS, it’s estimated that the average family of four spends over $4,000 on eating out — a very expensive habit that will make you broke in a hurry.

I am writing this while thinking of the spending habits of my children. I surely wish they are all free from these wasteful habits.

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