Carnival of Wealth, Razor Blade in the Apple Edition

Earlier this week, a visit to the dentist meant the inevitable clichéd exposure to our local lite rock/soft hits/Best Variety of Yesterday and Today radio station. On which played an ad for a communal Halloween get-together at an outdoor mall. The ad encouraged responsible parents to bring their kids along for some “safe” trick-or-treating, the implication being that taking your chances in your own neighborhood means risking exposing your kids to death, injury, and poisoning. Presenting that bane of helicopter parents, now in its 4th decade or so, the weaponized Granny Smith:


death apple


The razor blade inserted in an apple is the single least plausible urban legend of all time. The rankings go like this:

  1. Someone is indirectly tearing kids’ mouths apart.
  2. David Stern suspended Michael Jordan for gambling, hence the latter’s baseball career.
  3. Everything else.

Let’s start with the assumption that there’s indeed a psychopath who’s shoving razor blades into apples and handing them out in lieu of candy bars or, if you’re a dentist, miniature toothbrushes. This would be the ultimate imperfect crime. If only there were a way to determine where the modified apples were coming from. You know, some method of tying the apples to a particular address. “We’re stumped,” say local police. “It’s a shame that not one of these kids whose mouths now open vertically happened to pay attention when someone placed an apple in their trick-or-treat bags. We’ll remain at the mercy of a monster whose location just cannot be pinned down. If this were Boston, we’d put the city on lockdown for good measure.”

Meanwhile, the true criminals are the people who give out Mounds® and Almond Joy®. Coconut tastes like drywall.

Barbara Friedberg’s multi-part series (a phrase that is gallopingly redundant) continues. Barbara maintains, quite correctly, that you can’t invest until you determine your tolerance for risk. If you’re the kind of person who takes your kids to a communal Halloween event because you’re concerned about safety, put options are probably not for you.

The remarkable Paula Pant at Afford Anything isn’t afraid of anything, least of all the idea that you’ll dismiss her implorations to stop living your life timidly. Paula figured life out in her 20s, or about 50 or 60 years earlier than most of you do. You don’t have to spend your days doing something you hate, at the mercy of a boss whose life is just as miserable as yours except that he advanced one additional step up the ladder and can thus order you around. Most people refuse to believe in personal autonomy on principle, so much so that they’ve already concocted excuses why it can’t work. Paula can’t hear you, because she’s too busy sipping lattes on the Left Bank and fraternizing with the hippies at Burning Man. If there were ever a CoW submission that you decided to just read our summary of, and not the submission itself, don’t let it be Paula’s. All her stuff is awesome, but especially this.

We’re not sure if Jason Hull compared notes with Paula before submitting, or the other way around, or neither, but he writes something similar at Hull Financial Planning. Jason, a graduate of the United States Military Academy, points out how the military has less tolerance than the civilian world does for excuses. Intentions matter less than results do. “No excuse, sir,” is always preferable to citing the name and breed of dog that ate your homework. Unfortunately, our brains are wired to justify and to rationalize. More to the point, excuses directly hamper your ability to build wealth.

Justin McCurry at Root of Good preaches something we’ve been harping on for years. The stark and unjust truth is that our circuitous tax system is that way for a reason. It’s designed to screw wage-earners for the benefit of the small fraction of people who derive their income via other means. That’s one reason we’ll never have meaningful tax reform, the other being that most of our influential politicians are attorneys. Justin not only pays an effective tax rate of less than 1% (not a typo), he shows his work. Even better, his conclusion puts a dollar value on the existence of his children. A price still too high for our tastes, but thanks.

Kurt Fischer at My Money Counselor cites a study that claims rich people behave less ethically than poor folk. A quick check of your local police blotter will prove otherwise; unless domestic violence, crystal meth sales and home invasions indicate something other than unethical behavior.

You know what else rich people are good at? Holding onto their money. If that sounds tautological, it isn’t. After a well-deserved brief hiatus, PKamp3 returns to the director’s chair at with a chart that illustrates several truths, several of them unexpected. For instance, savings proportionate to expenses seem to level off asymptotically at a certain income level. As to whether savings rate indeed approaches a de facto limit less than 100%, or instead diverges like the harmonic series, you’ll have to read the article.

Sandi Martin at Spring Personal Finance is convinced that large banks’ (and in Canada, there’s no other kind) business model is flawed. Not that the banks aren’t making plenty of money, but rather that the strategy of exercising car-dealerish sales pressure on clients does more harm than good. Sandi knew that the CEOs of Royal Bank and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce only have a perfunctory interest in others’ opinions, so she outlined her plaint to them in the form of an open letter. A frank and unapologetic open letter:

[W]hile you’re mulling over customer satisfaction reports that analyze “length of time spent waiting in line” or “accuracy of transaction” to the fourth decimal point […] you’re missing the signal for the noise.

Harry Campbell at Your PF Pro is circumventing banks in his own way, by using Lending Club and looking for notes to invest in. He even went so far as creating a Lending Club Roth IRA, and so far has no or minimal regrets. Lending Club isn’t the high-risk, junk-bond-quality venture you might think it is.

Let’s see…ObamaCare is extremely difficult to access, has cost hundreds of thousands of people their insurance, is tripling and quadrupling premia across the country, turns health care from the ultimate private concern into a public one, requires a massive redistribution of tens of billions of dollars, is rife with perverse incentives regarding prevention, and is being implemented without a concern for remedying any of those issues. Aside from that, awesome program. It also puts health care under the purview of the Internal Revenue Service, previously known as a tax-collecting agency. Steve at 2014 Taxes points out that TurboTax now incorporates a calculator that shows how big of a swig you can take at the taxpayer teat while calculating the subsidies you’ll be eligible for under the new scheme.

Thanks for coming. Check us out on the Stacking Benjamins podcast, this and every week barring further notice. runs on the Genesis Framework

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