Archive for the ‘Idiots’ Category

Cell Phone Jerks

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Are you a cell phone jerk? Do you know one?

Here is an example of cell phone jerkery:

(more…)

Why I’m Cautious About Economics in 2010

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

It’s very simple:

  1. An economy can’t overcome hundreds of billions of dollars of debt in one year.
  2. An economy can’t recover in one year when “real” unemployment is over %10.

By “real” unemployment, I mean people who are capable of working and want to work for compensation or who are on any significant form of tax-backed support;  but excluding people who have sufficient non-tax-backed income-generation by other means to support their household (such as “trust fund babies”. I also put “homemaker” as “real” employment. It’s a job like any other, and strongly affects income (negatively or positively). If it weren’t, housekeepers, baby-sitters, pre-school, and day-care would all be non-profitable.

(That’s a complicated way of saying: Real unemployment takes into account only people willing and able to work. It excludes people who have their own means of self-support – like being independently wealthy, or owning your own gold mine.)

So far, our elected officials have done what I’ve expected:

(more…)

Predictions for 2010

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Here are my predictions for 2010.

  • Stocks will go higher.
  • Stocks will go lower.
  • Employement will get worse.
  • Employment will get better.
  • There will be at least one more crisis – probably three.

(more…)

What If… The Other CC Companies Do What Chase Did?

Monday, July 27th, 2009

If you read the previous post about me firing Chase, then you probably also have read how a lot of people are getting similar notices from various financial institutions about closing accounts.

I’ve gotten a few for various reward accounts that I’ve left alone. These were accounts that I got “bonus money” for opening up. Now, the financial institutions are panicking the other way (during the boom, they gave money away; during the bust, they want it all back).

So, what will I do if more – even ALL – of my credit cards get cancelled? I mean, I did dare them to do it.

Well, for starters, I will laugh at them.

Mrrrr? Pookah is not playing for human entertainment. Why are you amused?
(more…)

I Fired Chase

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

I’m back from dealing with the various body blows life has thrown at us. I’ve even got a good example of how living life like Pookah allows you to deal with “problem” credit card companies.

I had two credit card accounts with Chase. So, Friday evening, I got a letter from Chase:

  • Dated 06/02/2009.
  • Closed a credit card account I hadn’t touched since 10/2007 (October last year).
  • Reasons given were items on my Experian credit report: failure to pay as agreed, and past due history on one or more accounts.
  • Listed a phone number to call if I had any questions – but with no office hours on the weekend.
  • Website still shows the account as open and usable.

Here were the red flags:

(more…)

Credit Card Companies Threaten To Be Mean

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

In recent news, our federal legislature has passed bills restricting the bad behavior of a certain class of financial institution: The Credit Card Company. Under the new legislation (if signed into law), all credit card companies will have to follow certain rules and regulations. Not least of which:

* No More Universal Default. Previously, if you were late paying your water bill, the financial institutions could jack up all your credit card interest rates to 20%, 30%, or more.
* Interest rate increases are no longer retroactive. In other words, if they do increase your interest rate, they can do it only for new expenses, not back-date it to the amount that you’re paying down.
* Reasonable notification of increased interest rates for missing a payment – 45 days notice (depending on which story you listen to) – AND if you make a minimum payment in that time, the interest rate goes back down to normal.

(more…)

Toxic People – Different Worlds

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

If you haven’t read my post on Toxic People, please take the opportunity to do so now.

Ok, ready?

Many years ago I had to work with John Doe. Within ten minutes of talking to him – after he’d been hired – I knew several things: John was a pretty darn smart guy. John had an easy-going personality. John had in-depth knowledge of the type of work we did, and knew the buzzwords to prove it. John was a little weak on the documentation side, but most techies are. John didn’t mind sharing information about his own life. John had some problems with letting other people participate in the conversation.

That last one is what I call, “A CLUE.” I really should have paid more attention to it at the time. The management that made the hire/no-hire decision REALLY should have paid attention to it.

See, if a smart person can’t shut up long enough to let someone else finish a statement, they are A) Rude, B) Egotistical, and C) Blind.

You can’t have an in-depth discussion or transfer of information with someone who is Rude. They will keep interrupting you whenever they feel like it. Their reason is simple: You’re just not good enough compared to them, you don’t know as much as they do, and, frankly, you’re not as smart as they are. They have stopped seeing you as a person. They have stopped listening to you. What you have to say isn’t important. They already know the answer. You’re not worthy of listening to.

You can see the Egotistical part already. They already know the answer because they already know what you’re going to say. Talk about a Geek Social Fallacy! Once a person becomes so impressed by their own knowledge, skill, and ability that they stop listening to people in general, they have become the problem. They are so certain of their own greatness that they can’t even conceive of the “help” they’re giving you is actually toxic.

Once they stop listening, they quickly become Blind. They can’t see that they’re actually damaging the person they’re talking to. Since they have stopped listening to you, and willfully blinded themselves, they will cheerfully lead you off a cliff – dragging you the entire way in spite of your yelling, screaming, and pleading to stop before you both die. In a business situation, if they are not the manager, they won’t be there for long… unless the management is also toxic.

Now, if you’ve read this far, and thought about what I’ve written, I’d like to point something out. Rudeness, especially the egotistical, casual kind, was actually the second Clue that John Doe was a Toxic Person. The first Clue was his buzzword proficiency. See, the hire/no-hire management didn’t actually give him even a simple test of basic competence (do you know where the on/off switch is on this model of equipment that you say you’re expert on?). They certainly didn’t invite any of the techie staff in to ask questions and make sure personalities wouldn’t clash, or, maybe, find out that John Doe was extremely good at talking the talk, but only mediocre at being a techie — in that environment. Talking is only so much hot air. Actions make the difference. However, being able to talk well, speak to the benefit of the listener, and use good people skills in the process will determine whether your John Doe is a Toxic Person, or not.

Don’t get me wrong – John Doe had techie smarts. But because he was in that particular kind of work environment, dealing with the personality types that already worked there, he became a Toxic Person. Three full-time staff lost six months of effort trying to contain the poison. That’s four (including John Doe) full-time employees dedicating 90% of their 50-hour work week to… poisoning. That’s some expensive damage control on so many levels.

When John Doe left that work environment, he was hired into a different one. There, from the little bit I heard, he wasn’t a Toxic Person. And I am very glad.

So watch out for people who might be Toxic to you: They talk a good game, use casual rudeness in conversation as a habit, and do not listen to you. The other lesson is this: Toxic People may be Toxic to you, but not to others. But you still need to get them out of your life.

The Sky Is Falling

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

The mass media is full of doom and gloom. This isn’t your father’s country anymore. The economy is going worse than the Great Depression. The President’s stimulus plan is a dud. Those of us who handled our finances with care and consideration are watching the foolish get a free ride while our backs get whipped into a bloody, ragged mess.

Hogwash.

Uncontrolled greed has been, and always will be, the cause of major national and international problems. Lack of wisdom and due consideration has been, and always will be, the cause of economic meltdowns – big and small. When the economy goes through a periodic contraction – as it must to maintain its own health – inadequately prepared people will suffer and victims of accident will abound. In combination with any manner of man-made or natural disasters, these problems have been, and always will be, made much worse in effect and duration.

With any major spending spree by a government, it will take weeks – at a minimum, with an emergency expenditure – or even months for any real effect to occur. The President has been in office for less than three lousy months. Though we may very well expect our charismatic leadership to walk on water, he has adequately proven his humanity and must use a foot bridge like the rest of us. No doubt his feet are becoming very blistered and sore, just like ours. I say give our elected leaders time – not much, but a modest amount of 120 days – to start fixing it or start screwing it up.

I am only just beginning to parse through the stimulus plan. So far, there are parts that I heartily approve of. Along with parts that I am very suspicious of. Time will certainly tell whether this plan is well-made and well-executed, or ends up as another boondogle TARP give-away. However, I would like to challenge all the nay-sayers to cite, specifically and in detail, their complaints about this plan with complete references to the appropriate parts of the plan. This way we can have intelligent and at least semi-rational discussions, instead of endless rounds of “Democrats are going to spend us into oblivion; Republicans are giving truckloads of our savings to Corporates.” You were endowed by your Creator with a spine, two eyes, and sufficient neurons for cogitation. Use them, or stop distracting those of us who are actually trying to do something about the situation.

So, until the lines stretch around the block to buy a single loaf of bread, quit spitting into the wind about the Great Depression. You obviously have not read about it, looked at any pictures of it, reviewed even semi-biased statistics about it, or lived through it. Our leaders, whether you approve of them or not, are the ones making the decisions. They need more than a couple of months to do their jobs successfully, or fail miserably. I fully expect that we will experience both – successes and failures. It will be the degree of success or failure that dictates whether we have chosen wisely or foolishly. My limits are well-defined. There are numerous issues dear to my heart that I am willing to bend on, up to a point, to ensure that my fellow U.S. citizens (and even complete strangers in other parts of the world) are productively employed so they do not have heart strain worrying about how to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves and their families.

Either way, it is YOUR responsibility as a human being to prepare, as best you can, for either outcome: Success or Failure.

One important note: The next member of Congress who complains about not having enough time to read all one thousand plus pages of the plan must be expelled from office for criminal negligence, inexcusable laziness, and outright stupidity. You are paid rather well to read all one thousand plus bloody pages of what may well be the most important piece of legislation you ever touch in your career. Thank you, jackass, for signing a contract on our behalf without bothering to read it. May your constituency show their full appreciation for all your professional due diligence sooner rather than later.

Idiot Parents

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Attention to all parents with very active offspring!

No, not you skilled and/or harried herders of the next generation of homo sapiens, who have skipped meals and eating out when your offspring fails to maintain self-control. You’re fine. Kids need the chance to practice, and you obviously recognize that there are designated areas for child exhuberance and high-energy release. You also recognize that a grocery store or food establishment (barring those dedicated to children) is NOT one of those designated areas and requires a modicum of balanced behavior in one’s conduct. It is my pleasure to smile tolerantly and with understanding as you train or discipline your child in the manner of acceptable public activity, or remove your misbehaving child to a more appropriate location as needed. I tip my hat to you and will gladly hold the door for you, while you look after your child’s safety and that of the people around you.

I’m talking to the so-called adults responsible for producing the little villains spreading crushed chips and apple juice all over the floor around the cash register. Or the bratlings running up and down the aisles screaming, yelling, and throwing things off of shelves.

Yes, you.

Especially you who think it is my responsibility to put up with your offsprings’ atrocious behavior, because, “he/she is just a child!”

You, sir or ma’am, are a thoughtless, selfish, jerk who shouldn’t have been allowed to reproduce.

I’ve got some sad news for you: Your child is your responsibility. Not mine. Yours. Because I assure you that if little precious becomes my responsibility, I will remove said offensive brat from the premesis with great alacrity and judicious application of appropriate reminders that little men and little women will BEHAVE in public.

You do NOT have the right to impose your family’s history of self-indulgent, histrionic, screeching, tantrums, and inflicting harm to body and property on others. You do NOT have the right to permit your spawn to disrupt or disturb me except as required by basic courtesy – such as a polite, “Excuse me,” while you drag your out-of-control hellspawn out of said public eating establishment and to your transportation vehicle (or other semi-private location) for a quick and appropriate lesson of how little men and little women will BEHAVE in public.

So don’t be surprised when, after your hellspawn dumps my tray of food on the floor, I walk over to your table, wait patiently for you stop yakking into your high tech brain replacement communication device and actually NOTICE the DAMAGE that your offspring is causing, and pour my 16 oz. caffeinated sugarwater in your lap and purse when you fail to close your yap and act like an adult. That’s called consequences. See, you are RESPONSIBLE for your hellspawn’s behavior, and the consequences of little master or miss wonderful’s actions. Your lack of basic attention to your offspring’s safety also means the consequences can be quite severe.

I can also pile the now inedible food that your pampered, over-indulged, ill-trained dogling wrecked, and ceremoniously bestow it upon you, the new owner. Dreadfully sorry about your food, though. But I do hate to ruin perfectly good food, so I am loathe to do this.

Or I can announce to the establishment at large about how wonderful it is that you are allowing your child to destroy the restaurant’s property, aggravate its patrons, and otherwise show what an ass you are. I don’t often get to use my oratory skills. I was quite good at Debate in college, and my voice carries well. I find that publicly pointing out what a mean, venal, lowly, maggot-brained twit you are will often have the desired effect of embarrassing you into leaving. I can also drown you out your usual incoherent shrieking. Personally, I’d rather not be so rude to the other patrons myself, but this method is less likely to result in physical violence for both of us, so it is my preferred way.

Your choice.

However it goes, you WILL get your misbegotten, out-of-control, untrained, bastardized little terror away from me.

Oh, don’t even try that line of, “Do you have children?” It is pathetic and makes you look more stupid. I’ve hauled more squalling and bawling brats, ostensibly members of my own genetic line either by marriage or biology, back out to the car, while my companion tries to enjoy what’s left of a ruined evening out, than you have. Obviously.

Grow up or your brat will beat you to it.

Macro Economics – Encourage People To Save Part II

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

In Part I, I went over some very basics on how banks work, and ended with introducing inflation into the mix. The last questions I asked was: Now everybody’s hurting some, right?

Wrong.

Banks are for-profit businesses.

Banks have lots of smart number-crunchers working for them. They pick an interest rate that they charge for loaning out your money that allows them to not only fund their expenses, but also make a tidy profit and thereby increasing their purchasing and lending power in spite of inflation.

Savers aren’t quite so lucky. The savers’ purchasing power goes down if the saver leaves the money in the bank.

This leads to the bank’s greatest fear: Savers taking their money out of the bank all at once.

See, in our overly-simplified example, the bank has less than the $1000 plus savers’ interest available at any given time. (Remember, for this example, the bank wants to keep about 30% of the assets loaned out at all times so it can collect interest and fees on those loans to pay itself and then the savers.)

If 80% of the savers take their money out of the bank in one month, the bank is in trouble.

  • It doesn’t have enough money to give those savers *their* money back – like the bank is required to under the agreement with the saver.
  • It hasn’t saved enough of its own profits to make up the difference. The bank is now in debt – it owes money.
  • We call this “bankrupt”. The bank doesn’t have enough money to cover the debts.

(This is why banks tend to offer better rates on CD’s – they’re guaranteed to have the savers’ money to loan out for that period of time, and can use those assets to cover themselves better. It’s less risk for the bank, less risk for the saver.)

Bluntly, the banks want to pay savers (the asset providers) the absolute lowest possible return, and charge lenders (borrowers) the absolute highest possible fees. The monetary difference becomes the gross profit/loss for the bank.

Now comes the trick that short-sightedness misses: Banks need more savers to give them the new assets that they can then loan out and use to generate profit.

But banks and the Federal Reserve have been punishing savers by paying very low rates to savers for providing those assets. Those assets have declined in value due to inflation. A certain percentage of savers noticed this, and moved their money to greener pastures. This had the net effect of reducing the bank’s total pool of assets (influation plus losing savers).

(Yes, I know that there’s a LOT more to it than this. Please bear with me, and remember that my focus is on people like me – savers.)

With a smaller pool of assets relative to their loans, banks are harmed more by defaults on those loans, and by people losing confidence/trust in the financial safety of the bank. The net result is more and more savers start moving their savings out of the bank, the bank’s asset pool shrinks more, the risks increase for the bank, who charges higher interest on the loans, resulting in fewer borrowers providing profit to the bank, and makes it even harder to regain savers’ confidence/trust to give the bank more assets. When financial institutions started buying and selling “securities” (basically, selling loans as if they were stocks), they started going beyond their core business of money management and jumped headfirst into gambling: When the price of those securities drops below what a financial institution paid for them, the institution just lost some of its critical reserves — the savers’ money entrusted to their care.

So this boils down to one essential question:

Why would anyone keep their savings in a bank?

1. Safety. The FDIC insurance means that, if the bank goes under, the savers will get up to a certain amount of that money back courtesy of the United States Taxpayers (currently set at $250,000 maximum, though historically it’s set at $100,000 per institution).

2. Habit. Growing up, my generation was hammered with the “save it in a bank” mantra. Don’t think about why you would want to save it in a bank — just do it without asking any questions.

3. Inertia. Once a person makes a decision, especially a “safe” decision, we are loathe to change it.

People, savers, do eventually wise up and start moving their savings elsewhere to get better returns.

This, of course, makes lots of trouble for the banks.

Got all that?

Okay, now look at the reverse: What if savings earned a higher-than-inflation rate of return?

Then we have the opposite problem for the bank. The bank has to loan out assets at higher interest rates in order to cover costs (such as paying the savers that Inflation+ percent) and make a profit. Always remember that banks are for-profit businesses.

Since the cost of the loan is now so much higher than infaltion, fewer people/businesses will ask for loans — it’s better for them to become savers than borrowers. Now the bank has a harder time lending out money, makes less profit, and eventually can’t afford to pay its employees or savers.

The net result of this is that any savings account that earns a return too far below inflation is bad for both savers (due to inflation) and banks (due to the presence of higher-interest accounts that are closer to inflation level or higher). This result, however, is worse for savers.

The break-even point, savers getting the inflation rate, is constantly moving, and less profitable for the banks (businesses exist to maximize profits within the constraints of law and good sense. Banks are businesses.) Therefore, it seems to me that the best savings interest point is 2/3 to 3/4 of the last 10 years of average inflation. At this level, the assets provided by savers or profits from bank operations, aren’t deteriorating as much due to corrosive inflation. And the bank’s ability to generate profits (the bank’s main reason for existing in the first place) is still solid and reliable.

But I don’t think that banks, even the theoretical overly generous and conservative bank in our simple example, will raise their savings interest rates at their rock pile centers that high. It would cut too much into their profits (and reduce executive compensation by millions – a crime beyond imagining).

So for these reasons, I think savers should understand and do the following:

  1. Savings are not an asset because of inflation. As long as inflation is higher than the rate of return on your account, you are losing purchasing power. That’s a continuing expense.
  2. Use savings accounts only for short term goals (1-2 years at most) and as an emergency fund. There are better alternatives for both of those, but they require more effort on savers’ part.
  3. Put your savings in the highest interest account that you can, or ladder them as CDs that earn as close to or more than the inflation rate.
  4. Stop being just a consumer. If all you do is consume, you never produce anything of net worth.
  5. Stop being just a saver in mindset. You’ll never get ahead being just a saver.
  6. Start being a frugal investor in mindset (Pookah Finances 201 and 301).

Now, what should you take away from all this? Two basic things:

1. A better understanding about banks in relation to savers and our current (and developing) economic situation as a nation. Well-run banks are NOT your enemy; but they are not your ally either. They are in it for the money.

2. Motivation to take an active role in your own finances.