How homeowners can go back into debt, lose their home, and pay for the privilege

Photo courtesy of James Thompson

I’ve long said that if they are advertising something, you don’t need it. This was one of my very first blog posts from years ago, and I stick by it.

Now “need” is different from “want”, of course. You may decide that you want to acquire or experience something that was advertised to you. But it’s still not necessary.

I’d like to add a corollary to this though: if a celebrity is advertising something, not only do you not need it, but you probably don’t want it either.

This sprang to mind recently as I noticed a trend in how a particular product is marketed: the reverse mortgage.

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You’ll never believe what we can do to reduce the prevalence of clickbait and fake news

Reading the paper

If you’re anything like me, you’re horrified by the revelation that we’re living in a “post-fact world“,  where being truthful seems to not matter as much as the emotional appeal.

I’m not on Facebook (thank heavens, now more than ever), so I miss a lot of the countless fake news stories swirling around. But I do use news aggregators like Google News to find articles of interest, so who knows what kind of nonsense I’ve ingested?

Here are two articles that sum up the problem:

(You would be right to question the veracity of these articles themselves, but even if you do, let’s move on for now.)

Now, fake news has been around about as long as, well, news.

But the buck needs to stop somewhere. We need to put an informational stake in ground. There needs to be a place where we can start. A place where we can trust.

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More lying with numbers: What it really means to be half-wrong about interest rates

Half car

It is possible to lie with numbers, or at least mislead. We’ve seen this before when talking about how many hours you have available to work in a given week.

It’s not the numbers that are doing the lying, of course; it’s the interpretations we make with them. When Einstein added his famous cosmological constant to his field equations, it wasn’t because the data fit the equation better that way. Instead, it was because he believed in a static universe, and changed the equation to allow for this belief.

(Recent research has actually validated the existence some form of cosmological constant, leading to the term “cosmological irony”, denoted by the Greek letter “iota”. But I digress.)

Another potent way of lying with numbers is when talking about interest rates and, especially, compound interest. And this confusion could cost you.

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The one thing we all need more of now

Empathy noses

(I had another post queued up for today, and right at the almost-literal 11th hour, I decided there was something else I wanted to say. So I pushed that one off for another time.)

Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S. For me, Thanksgiving has long been about gratitude, a complex and adult emotion that is not innate to any of us, I don’t think. Rather it is a skill that is learned. (I believe there are at heart two ways to train yourself to be grateful.)

But right now, something else feels even more important than gratitude.

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How to lie with numbers: How many hours can you work?

Library cubicles

One might argue that numbers are apolitical. I mean, how do you spin the number 4? How do you argue about it? Whether to close the top loop or keep it open? There’s not much there.

Unfortunately, numbers can be used to promote anyone’s agenda.

So in the spirit of Mark Monmonier’s classic “How To Lie With Maps“, here is a way that one can lie with numbers.

It starts with the question: how many hours a week do you have where you could be working at a job?

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Should you get a loan to pay off your debt?

"Do Not Paint" sign

Paying off debt is hard. It can feel like you’re not even making progress.

Sometimes this is actually true. If you make minimum payments on your credit cards, you’re basically never going to pay anything off. And if you’ve got an income-based repayment plan on your student loans, your loans may actually be growing each month. Now that’s a scary thought.

I wish I could tell you that there is a “secret method” that allows you to pay off your loans much more quickly and costing you less.

Unfortunately, such a method doesn’t exist. But that doesn’t stop people from claiming there is.

So here are a few ideas that people claim are a way to pay off your debt faster. And why they are all terrible ideas.

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How to move forward when you feel like the world is going to end

Energizer Bunny

On a Tuesday morning in September, a little over 15 years ago, I was waking up for work.

At the time, my alarm was set to play classic rock radio (I believe it was 94.1 WYSP). While I usually woke up to something by Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and the like, this morning, the DJ was talking, and with a very odd tone to his voice.

I’m not great in the mornings, but I do distinctly recall something like the following:

…so, I don’t really know what else to do here, so I guess the only thing we can do in the meantime while we wait for updates is to keep playing your favorite classic rock hits…

What was going on?

Of course, you’ve anticipated the punchline. The day was September 11, 2001, and I was waking up to the first real-world crisis of my adult life.

That day, everything around me seemed different. People who normally walk past each other and avoid eye contact would look, nod, and grimace in understanding. Strangers would hug. People would spontaneously be crying in the street.

There was a sense that things were different now, and that they would never be the same again.

I don’t know when you’re reading this post, but whether you’re reading this on the day it was posted or many years in the future, I want to take some time to talk about how to respond when you feel like the world has changed for the worse.

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How to search dozens of airports at once to figure out where to travel

Fleet week airplanes

Most of the time, we know where we want to fly. We want to find the right price, and we also usually have a little bit of play in the date and time.

But what about the times when you want to fly, you have a price limit, and you have a little date/time wiggle room, but you don’t know where to go?

What, you’ve never experienced this? Why not?

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What David Foster Wallace taught me about voting

Old Voting Machine

Tomorrow is Election Day in the U.S.

This site was launched a few days after the previous presidential election in 2012, so this is the first presidential election under this site’s watch! I know that elections happen all the time in this country, but presidential elections have the kind of game show power and high visibility that other elections lack.

In short, it’s a big deal.

I can’t say I always believed this. The first presidential election in which I knew I was eligible to vote was the year 2000. I didn’t vote, as I was in college and failed to get an absentee ballot in in time. Now before you start chastising me too much, I was in a state that wasn’t in contention, so it mattered a bit less than if I had lived in, say, Florida.

But while I believed at the time that voting was important, like the velleitier that I was, it didn’t quite lead to action. It was important, but maybe not important enough.

And then I read David Foster Wallace, which changed everything for me.

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Why I may have life insurance even if I never purchase it

Boot laces

What’s the purpose of life insurance? It’s to help replace your income to your beneficiaries in case of your death.

With regard to the giant payout that a term life policy generates, if invested properly, not only can it be used to take the place of your lost income, but it can also be invested, and the interest from the windfall can be used perhaps to perpetuate that income.

Conventional wisdom states that one purchase 8-10 times your income in life insurance, depending on how much income needs to be replaced.

And as mentioned, I have none of this. I have no one who depends on my income, and should a piano fall on my head, that’ll be that.

But even though I haven’t purchased any life insurance, it might turn out that when the time comes to need life insurance, I might already have it.

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