Tag: Money

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Sign of the Times

Two weeks ago, while walking around Hillcrest, my wife and I briefly stopped by the local, massive, used bookstore. To my surprise, the place was three-quarters emptied and going out of business. Yikes! I hadn’t shopped there for nearly a year, when purchasing a paperback for myself later given to my father-in-law. While 5th Avenue Books is gone, online counterpart Schrader’s Books will continue selling used titles through Amazon. As someone who almost exclusively reads ebooks, I occasionally—but, honestly, rarely—shopped out-of-prints not available in digital format, almost always finding the sought-after read.

That last purchase: The Past Through Tomorrow by Robert A. Heinlein, an old-time favorite selling for three bucks. When I first bought the anthology in high school, it came as a set with two other titles: Stranger in a Strange Land and Time Enough for Love. During the last year of my father-in-law’s life, reading became his main recreation. I donated the Heinlein title to that cause. Following the 95 year-old’s death nine weeks ago, I reclaimed the book to read and as remembrance. 

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Lemonade Stand

The Fujifilm X100F is now my nearly-always outdoor companion—a role iPhone 7 Plus had filled. The camera is compact and light and comfortably slings over the shoulder attached to the ONA Lima strap. Earlier today, my wife and I walked down Maryland Ave. toward The Hub plaza in Hillcrest. Along the way, we passed a lemonade stand, with some kids fundraising for the local elementary school, Alice Birney. They had already raised $60 when I snapped the pic, at 1:15 p.m. PST. Somebody paid more than the requested 25 cents a cup. Hehe.

The Featured Image is a crop of the original, which is visible below the fold. Both versions are unaltered, except for horizontal cropping to the first and straightening of both. The visual cue is different in each, though. The first is aligned vertically with the lemonade stand and the original against the house in the background. 

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You Don’t Need Overdraft Protection

I knew it! Today’s Wall Street Journal story “Wells Fargo Managers Pushed Overdraft Services” exactly recounts my experience as the bank’s customer. Few years back, during a routine phone call, a banker offered to add overdraft protection to my account. She pitched it as an important benefit. I paused and replied that the account never overdraws. But she pressed, encouraging me to take the service—and did so four more times.

See, we had an exchange, where I pushed back hard. “If I overdraw the account, you don’t pay, right?”—being well aware of the 2010 Federal Reserve regulation regarding overdrafts. If customers don’t opt in, the bank doesn’t pay the bill and there is no fee. “You can charge only for overdrafts if I sign up, right?” She sidestepped, at first, avoiding the answer and touting the benefits to me. 

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The Man on the Street

This afternoon, while walking along Adams Ave. in Normal Heights, I passed what appeared to be a homeless man sitting on a cement step inside an abandoned storefront doorway. He was grizzled but neat, with the leathery-brown skin hue common among people overexposed to the Southwestern Sun. His hair and beard bled gray all over what might have one time been black.

As I passed, he stopped over, arms resting on knees, alongside a small, black luggage bag with wheels and pulled-out handle. About 5 meters beyond him, my pace slowed. I rarely carry cash but today had a 10 dollar bill, which is more money than I usually give—and he had asked for none. I turned around and walked back, finding him up and moving. We passed. I hesitated once more then spun back and spoke. 

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Hey, Washington Post (and Other Investigators), How About Comparing Candidate Spending Habits?

Let me preface: this is not a political endorsement for Donald Trump or anyone else. But the comedy and drama of this early campaign cycle sure is interesting. Among yesterday’s dramedy stories catching my attention: Washington Post on Mr. Trump telling super PACs to return contributions gathered in his name.

The presidential hopeful finances the campaign from his wealth and smaller donations from individual contributors. I got to wondering: Wouldn’t a candidate largely using his own money spend differently from someone getting to what amounts to free cash? There’s a stereotype that people spend their own (say, savings) more prudentially than what comes easily and freely (like credit). Is there a difference this early on among the would-be nominees in how or where they spend on the respective campaigns? 

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Apple Music Takes from Artists to Give to Subscribers

For a company that generates more profits than any other ($18 billion during fiscal first quarter 2015), sits on a cash horde of nearly $200 billion, and has the gall to charge $150 for a watchband, stinginess is an unbecoming trait. Scratch that. Greediness. Putting profits before people, particularly devoted customers, when corporate advertising is all about how they matter more, is simply stupid public relations. In business, perception is everything.

So Apple’s reported decision to give away music for three months, without compensating artists, is cheapskates behavior that demands criticism, particularly about a company claiming that music means so much. Speaking to developers last week, CEO Tim Cook: “We love music, and music is such an important part of our lives and our culture”. Oh yeah? If it’s so important, why diminish its value? To zero. “We’ve had a long relationship with music at Apple”. For how much longer without artists’ cooperation? You don’t own the content, Mr. Cook. 

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Apple Fiscal Q2 2015 Snapshot

If there be ghosts, Tim Cook should expect sleepless nights ahead. Surely Steve Jobs can’t stand to be so overshadowed by his successor, who takes Apple where the cofounder couldn’t: Massive earnings and margins. Today, after the closing bell, the company reported yet another ridiculously blow-out quarter, largely lifted by iPhone. If the smartphone market ever collapses, Apple Armageddon will follow. In the present, momentum is unstoppable.

Some perspective: Apple’s net income was more than two-and-half times Microsoft’s during the same time period (calendar Q1 2015)—and 3.8 times that of Google. To reiterate, those comparisons are put-in-the-bank profits, not revenues. By the numbers: $58 billion in sales, $13.6 net income, and $2.33 earnings per share. Wall Street consensus was $56 billion revenue and $2.16 EPS. Year over year, revenue rose 26.6 percent and net sales by 33 percent. 

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What Sucks about .Sucks Domains

As someone whose name also is his brand (welcome to 21st-century journalism), I watch with interest the new .sucks top-level domain, which is available for select preregistration through May 29—the only time to surely secure your .sucks. Yesterday, i looked to a reputable registrar to see what joewilcox.sucks would cost me. Cough, cough: $3,797.99 now, during the so-called Priority Access (e.g., Sunrise) period, or $407.98 when general pre-reg starts in June.

The new TLD is just one among hundreds of available or forthcoming domain extensions sanctioned by governing body ICANN. “I think the motivation behind the release of all these new domains is money”, says Roger Kay, who describes the sellers as shady land speculators. “The .sucks domain is particularly nasty”, the president of consultancy Endpoint Technologies Associates emphasizes. “It’s pretty close to blackmail”. But is it really? This analysis means to help you decide. 

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You Could Buy So Much More Than Apple Watch

As Apple Watch hype increases and the preorder date (April 10) approaches, a question gnaws me: Why would anyone spend so much money on the device? A buying poll I posted on BetaNews now exceeds 1,000 responses, which is large enough sample-size to get some sense of the readership’s intentions. Two percent of respondents—that’s 14 people—plan to buy the Edition model, which price ranges from $10,000 to $17,000. No disrespect, but talk about money to burn! Forty-five percent of respondents plan to purchase any Apple Watch, while another 5 percent of you are undecided.

So I wonder: What could you buy instead of Apple Watch? I intentionally single out the big spenders, settling on $13,000 as mean between $10K and $17K, being it’s such a lucky number and Apple looks to make lots of luck—eh, money—from the smartwatch. Before continuing, an important reminder: Functionally, there is no difference between the cheapo timepiece ($349) and its massively-expensive sibling. The price difference is all bling. 

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Perpetual Prosperity Psychology and the Housing Bubble

Something about the housing bubble narrative bugs me: Conspiracy. Evil bankers conspired to bilk Americans by financing home loans to people who could never pay, to then repackage bad mortgages as good investment products. While I lauded Matt Taibbi news analyses in 2010 and 2013 for exposing financial institution malfeasance, the blame game always seemed to ignore one other party’s culpability: Borrowers.

New research paper “Changes in Buyer Composition and the Expansion of Credit During the Boom” is a fascinating post-bubble autopsy. Its conclusions, if they survive the test, rewrite the bubble narrative, which revision makes more sense to me. 

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Who Should Get This Found Money?

Two days before Christmas, I sat in the local coffee shop waiting to meet someone who was late. Way late. Bored, I switched between cleaning crap mail out of my iPhone 6 inbox and watching patrons. Looking up from a text message, I spotted something green under a chair about 5 meters away. I walked over and picked up unexpected cash, and an amount someone surely would miss. What to do with it?

Found money is a blessing if you need it, but a curse to the loser. This particular WiFi-equipped barista bar, LeStat’s on Park, is popular with college students. I imagined some impoverished, scholarshiper losing the last of his or her Christmas cash, and I wanted to return it. But how? To whom? You can help answer the latter question, either here or on one of the social networks where I will link. This post is plea for advice.