Archives for category: Economics and Money
Sunrise Over the Pacific

The bronzed Aussie, the shimmering ocean, and the inviting beaches are images that I’ll carry away from Australia. Yet, the thing that makes me envious of Australia is its apparent lack of economic disparity among its citizens. While the gap between rich and poor Americans keeps growing, Australia is still relatively egalitarian. Australians enjoy a high standard of living, relatively low taxes, and a social safety net that Americans can only dream of.

Australians may complain that their country is becoming less equal; however, the statistics don’t bear it out. And although Australia’s huge investment in infrastructure, social programs, and health care may be cause for alarm among some economists, there is no doubt Australia’s commitment has paid off in terms of an improved standard of living for all of its citizens. It’s this commitment toward shared responsibility that stands in sharp contrast to America’s lassez-faire approach, which leaves thousands homeless, without work and health care.  

In addition, Australia has also done pretty well toward breeding tolerance and diversity. There is no anti-foreigner political party in Australia, unlike most of Europe and large factions within the Republican Party in the US. This generous Aussie spirit toward immigrants may be one reason enterprising young people flock to Australia adding to its economic prosperity, an advantage America traditionally enjoyed. 

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T-Mobile, the US cell phone provider, has announced that it will reduce the cost of its foreign cell phone service. That’s great news for me. Up until now, I’ve had to use three different cell phones when traveling abroad, one for the USA, Germany, and Australia.

For years, the cell phone industry has been bilking customers with outrageous foreign service rates, and this announcement will certainly shake things up. T-Mobile’s decision follows last year’s announcement to eliminate its service contracts. T-Mobile is taking an aggressive marketing strategy in the cell phone wars, and I hope it pays off. 

T-Mobile doesn’t have a ticker symbol by itself. They are a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekon, which trades on the NYSE under the symbol DTIt also trades under the symbol DTE on many European exchanges. This is one stock to follow. 

Update:
As of October 20, 2013, eligible T-Mobile plans will include international roaming at no charge, unlimited web and messaging, and voice calls at a flat rate of $0.20/minute. For more information visit: international services.

T-Mobile, the US cell phone provider, has announced that it will reduce the cost of its foreign cell phone service. That’s great news for me. Up until now, I’ve had to use three different cell phones when traveling abroad, one for the USA, Germany, and Australia.

For years, the cell phone industry has been bilking customers with outrageous foreign service rates, and this announcement will certainly shake things up. T-Mobile’s decision follows last year’s announcement to eliminate its service contracts. T-Mobile is taking an aggressive marketing strategy in the cell phone wars, and I hope it pays off. 

T-Mobile doesn’t have a ticker symbol by itself. They are a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekon, which trades on the NYSE under the symbol DTIt also trades under the symbol DTE on many European exchanges. This is one stock to follow. 

Update:
As of October 20, 2013, eligible T-Mobile plans will include international roaming at no charge, unlimited web and messaging, and voice calls at a flat rate of $0.20/minute. For more information visit: international services.


President Obama on the GOP:  “Once it’s working really well, I guarantee you they will not call it ObamaCare.”
                                                            September 26, 2013

Here’s an interesting study from Britain that divides people into seven social classes: Elite, Established Middle Class, Technical Middle Class, New Affluent Workers, Emergent Service Workers, Traditional Working Class, and Precariat. Traditionally, classes have been divided into working, middle, and upper classes. This new classification system evaluates economic, social, and cultural factors in determining social class. Take the Social Class Test (some questions refer to British Pounds, so answer accordingly), and see where you stand.

Here’s an interesting study from Britain that divides people into seven social classes: Elite, Established Middle Class, Technical Middle Class, New Affluent Workers, Emergent Service Workers, Traditional Working Class, and Precariat. Traditionally, classes have been divided into working, middle, and upper classes. This new classification system evaluates economic, social, and cultural factors in determining social class. Take the Social Class Test (some questions refer to British Pounds, so answer accordingly), and see where you stand.

I’ve used TurboTax to file my federal and state taxes for years without any problem. It has been fast, efficient, and moderately inexpensive. This year my TurboTax experience has been frustrating. A small glitch in the software program almost prevented me from filing my state taxes electronically.

Because I was unable to remove a “0” from the Schedule 1, line 3, the tax return could not be filed. It didn’t matter that the “0” was in the spouse column (I’m single), and that the “0” did not affect the tax, the program would not let me file.

The TurboTax (Intuit) help desk was useless, and the override function on the program ineffective. I was only able to remedy the problem after a time consuming Internet search. I will definitely think twice before using TurboTax again. 

To fix the problem:

  • click the override function (right mouse click) while hovering on line 3, spouse column;
  • enter a random number in line 3;
  • close the TurboTax program;
  • re-start the TurboTax program;
  • start the tax filing process again;
  • when prompted, delete the random number;
  • click transmit.
Now, your taxes will be transmitted and filed.
I’ve used TurboTax to file my federal and state taxes for years without any problem. It has been fast, efficient, and moderately inexpensive. This year my TurboTax experience has been frustrating. A small glitch in the software program almost prevented me from filing my state taxes electronically.

Because I was unable to remove a “0” from the Schedule 1, line 3, the tax return could not be filed. It didn’t matter that the “0” was in the spouse column (I’m single), and that the “0” did not affect the tax, the program would not let me file.

The TurboTax (Intuit) help desk was useless, and the override function on the program ineffective. I was only able to remedy the problem after a time consuming Internet search. I will definitely think twice before using TurboTax again. 

To fix the problem:

  • click the override function (right mouse click) while hovering on line 3, spouse column;
  • enter a random number in line 3;
  • close the TurboTax program;
  • re-start the TurboTax program;
  • start the tax filing process again;
  • when prompted, delete the random number;
  • click transmit.
Now, your taxes will be transmitted and filed.

Last December while connecting between flights at the Chicago O’Hare Airport, I decided to get the highly advertised United/Chase Explorer credit card. United Airlines had been promoting its new credit card like crazy and the benefits sounded good: priority boarding, 2 passes to the United Club Room per year, no annual fee for the first year ($95 after that), first checked bag for free, and lots of bonus miles. Unfortunately, as with most things, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

To make a long story short, none of the card’s benefits worked out as I expected. The free passes to the United Club Room never arrived (when I called United last March, they assured me the free passes would arrive soon), priority boarding meant being assigned to Group 4 boarding, and the free checked bag wasn’t automatic; it always involved a long discourse with the airline agent at check-in.

So rather than face a $95 annual fee, I recently called United/Chase and canceled the card. However, what surprised me the most was the attitude taken by United/Chase. There was no sincere apology, no attempt to rectify a wrong, and no enticement for me to continue with card, i.e., a waiver of next year’s $95 annual fee due to my inconvenience. (BTW: The United Club Room passes arrived 2 days after I canceled the card.)

If only companies would invest as much money in their product as in their advertising campaigns. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote,

“If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the wood.”

In other words, good products sell themselves and poor products need lots of advertising. I won’t be taken in by United Airlines again. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. 

Last December while connecting between flights at the Chicago O’Hare Airport, I decided to get the highly advertised United/Chase Explorer credit card. United Airlines had been promoting its new credit card like crazy and the benefits sounded good: priority boarding, 2 passes to the United Club Room per year, no annual fee for the first year ($95 after that), first checked bag for free, and lots of bonus miles. Unfortunately, as with most things, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

To make a long story short, none of the card’s benefits worked out as I expected. The free passes to the United Club Room never arrived (when I called United last March, they assured me the free passes would arrive soon), priority boarding meant being assigned to Group 4 boarding, and the free checked bag wasn’t automatic; it always involved a long discourse with the airline agent at check-in.

So rather than face a $95 annual fee, I recently called United/Chase and canceled the card. However, what surprised me the most was the attitude taken by United/Chase. There was no sincere apology, no attempt to rectify a wrong, and no enticement for me to continue with card, i.e., a waiver of next year’s $95 annual fee due to my inconvenience. (BTW: The United Club Room passes arrived 2 days after I canceled the card.)

If only companies would invest as much money in their product as in their advertising campaigns. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote,

“If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the wood.”

In other words, good products sell themselves and poor products need lots of advertising. I won’t be taken in by United Airlines again. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.