Life’s Little Money Mysteries
Periodically I encounter a situation in my money and personal finance life that causes me to scratch my head and rhetorically ask how that can be. I guess you can call them life’s little money mysteries. I decided to start a list of them, beginning with one that we all have heard often:
2. If we are in a recession, why is Starbucks so busy? Some of the biggest money wasters in our consumerist culture are the overpriced caffeine drinks at Starbucks. With millions of Americans unemployed or otherwise broke, shouldn’t a retailer like Starbucks – which sells zero products that fall in a “definitely need” spending category – be in bankruptcy?
3. Why is economics still called a science? If you tally up all of the fuzzy, inaccurate and just plain dumb predictions made by highly educated economists in recent months, how can you call what they do “science”? There should be a special category established for fields of study that cause us to roll our eyes when practitioners in those fields make predictions. Clearly, meteorology would be in there, since even predicting rain is a crapshoot. (Let’s not even talk about hurricane predictions.) Economics is right behind in its level of predictive accuracy.
4. If the government wants us to stop wasting money and growing landfills, why doesn’t it ban bottled water? Seriously people, is there any cultural phenomenon in the past century any more wasteful than bottled water? The way some folks robotically wander around embracing their personal plastic water supply, it makes you wonder if earlier generations were constantly dehydrated. Maybe that’s why we are also so fat. When you actually had to walk to a source of drinking water, you burned calories. Now we just reach for the bottle sitting in one of our 47 vehicle cup holders.
5. Why doesn’t the Federal Reserve have “reserves”? As best as I can determine, the only “reserves” the Fed has are balance sheet entries and printing presses. The U.S. Mint has Fort Knox but those gold reserves are hardly large enough to be effective.
6. Why do we still call it a “piggy” bank? It seems to me that we have been consuming and spending more like pigs the past ten years, not saving. Since the pigs are spending, not saving, we need a new name for our coin banks.
7. Why don’t we have a proper name for the non-taxpayers? According to the Tax Foundation, at least 33% of all tax filers owe no federal income taxes. Some actually get more money in the form of refundable tax credits. That number may increase to 44% when Obama gets finished with his selective tax cuts a/k/a income redistribution plan. Yet all those who receive a paycheck seem to get lumped together as “taxpayers” whether they pay taxes or not. I want those who don’t pay taxes to have their own label. “Non-taxpayers” doesn’t sound right to me – too vague. “Moochers” may be a little crude. “Tax freeloaders” may be too harsh. How about “tax pretenders”? That would describe people who file tax returns, brag about their refunds, but don’t actually admit that they paid zero taxes. Lots of businesses would be “tax pretenders” as well. This makes me think of a related money mystery: Why don’t votes from actual taxpayers count more than votes from tax pretenders? In most aspects of life, if you don’t ante up, you don’t get in the game.
8. Why can’t a new car be new for more than five minutes? You know how they say that a new car depreciates 10-20% as soon as the buyer drives it off the lot? It turns out to be true. Why is that exactly? After all, that “new car smell” sticks around for at least a few weeks. Is it because new cars generate a substantial emotional purchasing component causing them to be overvalued by most consumers? I’ve got an idea. Maybe in addition to requiring estimated EPA mileage stickers on all new cars, dealers must post a sticker that provides the “estimated value of this car five minutes after you drive it home.” That might scare some reality and common sense into prospective buyers.
9. Why do they call it the Social Security Trust Fund? First, there is no actual “fund.” Instead, it’s a pile of government IOU’s. Second, very few young people “trust” that it will be there for them anyway. How about we call it the “Hypothetical Collection of Social Security Obligations?”
So those are a few of my little money mysteries. I’m sure there are hundreds of others. Let’s hear about them in your comments.