Carnival of Wealth, Innumeracy Edition


Of course she's confused. She's studying trigonometry, HTML, physics, economics and currency exchange simultaneously. Well, that and she's female.

Of course she’s confused. She’s studying trigonometry, HTML, physics, economics and currency exchange simultaneously. Well, that and she’s female.


CYC Winter Headquarters is at a condo complex in the North Pacific. 13 buildings, 32 units in each. The complex is clean and well-maintained, but the buildings themselves are ancient. The condo board decided to float some bonds to pay for a multi-year renovation. Which is fine, except this was their excuse for wanting more money after the initial outlay:

we are uncovering some unpredictable issues that were only discovered as work progressed. Surprises include: far more spalling than anticipated that was fully observed after lanai tile was removed; far more concrete (in excess of a million cubic inches more than originally budgeted) needed to repair the extensive spalling;

Okay, those are legitimate issues, as were the electrical conduit replacement and the corroded railings. What bothers us is the pandering to the mathematically inept dues payers.

A million cubic inches of concrete! No wonder they need more money. That’s a lot of…cubic inches.

Why didn’t they say 21 cubic yards, i.e. small enough to easily fit in our second bathroom? Have we as a species gotten so flighty and ignorant of details that we see only the big number and ignore the tiny units? It’s like when our slow friends in the media tell us about a wildfire that’s burned 257,314 acres, instead of 402 square miles. How far is it from Jacksonville to Los Angeles? Why, 12,750,000 feet. Better start packing.

For God’s sake, use the appropriate units.

When I come back from a journey, I haven’t had a vacation; I need a vacation.
-Paul Theroux

The good news is that the lovely Pauline Paquin at Reach Financial Independence has decided to rejoin us in a carnival that’s been mired in mediocrity lately. The bad news is that between 2 blogs, a chicken farm, international travel, tutoring, fighting off Central American corruption and inspiring the rest of us, something had to give. Hopefully not for long. We could write at length about how Pauline’s life is an endless series of prudent decisions that affords her more freedom, enjoyment and opportunity than any debt blogger could dream of, but we do that every time she submits.

Fortunately we still have the somewhat less lovely Jason at Hull Financial Planning, whose genius is that he consistently shows us how the decision that makes reactionary sense isn’t necessarily the best one. For instance, why live in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (America’s 2nd-priciest city, after Rancho Santa Fe, California) when you can move 25 miles to downtown Detroit and pocket the difference?

Because if you’re sane, you’d be miserable, among other reasons. Jason wouldn’t want to live in Pauline’s conditions, away from many 1st-world conveniences – he says as much – but understands that for her, it’s paradise. Different strokes, indeed. Your humble blogger rented what was probably too fancy of an apartment during his senior year of college, throwing away money that could have been socked away, but the idea of taking on roommates or living anywhere but in the heart of the action sounded too depressing.

Does that mean you should ignore dollars and cents and do whatever you want? Of course not. We’re assuming that you’re not $200,000 in the hole. If you are, suck it up, put on some pajamas and move back in with your parents. No, you’ll still be pathetic, but at least you won’t be digging yourself a deeper hole.

Would someone please get Harry Campbell at Your PF Pro a bigger font for Christmas? This week’s 6-pt pica goodness is a detailed account of how he paid for a visit to Kauai solely by spending the past few months charging sufficient purchases to his credit card.

We’re right around the 500-word mark now, and remember when that used to mean that we were 8 or 9 awful posts deep at this point? An old-school resurgence led by luminaries such as Andrew at 101 Centavos means that we’re seeing a smaller and smaller ratio of bad posts every week. Who else opens his posts with a Robert Heinlein quote, and not even from something famous like Starship Troopers or Stranger in a Strange Land? Andrew looks at how much of certain developed nations’ gross domestic product goes toward health care expenses, and finds the United States lacking. Even when we disagree with Andrew, as we kind of do this week, his arguments still provoke plenty of thought.

This week’s submitters are turning out to be the 1927 Yankees of personal finance bloggers. Defending CYC Woman of the Year Paula Pant at Afford Anything returns, with an email concerning a 23-year old woman who mistakenly has an emergency fund, but who on the other hand is not only carrying zero student debt, but has found a fiancé willing to help her pay for a new car. (She must be really hot, or he must be really old. Maybe both.) Should the woman in question take out a car loan? More specifically, should she borrow money to pay for the car so her credit score will improve? Paula has the unambiguous answer. She’s right, the woman (and her fiancé) shouldn’t take out a loan for such an indirect reason, especially since there are better ways to improve one’s credit score. But we’d want to know what rate the loan was offered at before making such a recommendation. (Anything over .9% or so and we’d certainly agree with Paula.)

Kevin Mercadente at Critical Financial says you should get a 2nd job or start a business so you can afford to pay your health insurance premia as Obamacare continues to spread destruction across what was a hampered but still functionting health insurance landscape. Take on a 2nd job so you can pay for the health insurance policy the federal government forces you to buy. We’ve come a long, long way from “a chicken in every pot.”

When you’re PKamp3 at, you’ve earned the right to be lighthearted with every 50th post or so. This week, the 7 Best Finance-Related Songs. You know what makes PKamp3 brilliant? He made a pre-emptive self-deprecating joke about putting Pink Floyd’s “Money” on his list before anyone else had a chance to. However, we can point out that PKamp3 must have suffered a temporary brain cramp, as he confused the Aerosmith guitarist who plowed through bushels of cocaine in the ’70s with the Eagles guitarist who plowed through bushels of cocaine in the ’70s. And for one shining millisecond, we were smarter than PKamp3.

Joshua Rodriguez at CNA Finance explains what secured credit cards are. For those of you whose credit is so poor or nonexistent that you need to put money down to get access to more money, these handy little pieces of plastic will get you on the road to consumer debt in no time! (Most of you, that is. The few responsible ones among you will eventually figure it out, qualify for an unsecured credit card, and only then start taking on insurmountable debt.)

You have 8 days to complete every one of the 11 recommendations Justin at Root of Good lays out, by his recommended deadline. That’s 1.4 recommendations per day. Can you do it? Recommendation 1-3, 7, and 9-11 you should be able to do within the hour. 4-6 might take most of a day, and 8 might require a scalpel and some grain alcohol.

Mark Hanna at Debt, Dividends and Diversions examines the dividend champions – companies who have paid out an ever-increasing dividend (or at least a non-decreasing one) for several years. Includes tables and graphs to put a DQYDJ Excel maestro to shame.

Finally, Jon Haver at Pay My Student Loans opens with a sentence that looks like it was written by a college freshman who’s just started incurring overwhelming debt while still applying the prose techniques that earned her an A- in her high school senior English class:

Graduation day is arguably one of the best days in the entire college experience.

Because it means you’ll be “ready to pursue a career in (your) chosen field,” you see. Especially if your chosen field is selling dresses at TJ Maxx or coffee at Tully’s, which it probably wasn’t.

On balance, a solid carnival if we do say so ourselves. Read us on Investopedia, listen to us on the Stacking Benjamins podcast, and have yourself a delightful diminished work week.

[Late addition: Nick at Step Away From the Mall, who uses what is hopefully a semi-fictitious dialogue to illustrate the points that 1) big-ticket retailers will screw you if left to their own devices, and b) our initial assumption is accurate, and innumeracy is a more dangerous deficiency than illiteracy and anemia combined.]

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