When suing your bank

From today’s Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON—Consumers are set to gain new powers to sue banks under a proposal unveiled Thursday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.


When suing your bank take great heed

just how you intend to proceed.

You might find it hard

when your debit card

won’t even cough up chicken feed.

What Would Rip Van Winkle Think?

So what would Rip Van Winkle think of mattress prices now?

I bet that the old snoozer would collapse and have a cow.

He slept fine upon a bed of moss and morning glory —

he dozed so long that he woke up bearded and quite hoary.

I guess that in this day and age I can’t afford to crash,

unless I’m loaded down with a lethargic pile of cash!


Consumer Debt is a Good Bet

There’s one thing more, and one thing more, and one thing more to buy;

this is the consumer’s everlasting battle cry!

There’s one thing less, and one thing less, and one thing less to save;

this is what they mutter as they’re digging their own grave.

In between the spending and the grave, the primrose path

of debt  hopes that consumers can no longer do the math.

Reported as statistic, it’s the usual condition —

but when you’re living in it, you may well call it Perdition.   

from an article in the Wall Street Journal 


Is your home at risk in a natural disaster?

(This informational blog is brought to you by Hikingware.com. They remind you that even though natural disasters cannot be avoided, they can be planned for. Do your planning NOW, with the help of Hikingware.com.)

Four hurricanes are currently brewing in the Pacific and Atlantic. Wildfires have ravaged more than 8 million acres in the U.S. in 2015 alone. And in just the first two weeks of May this year, nearly 150 tornadoes touched down in the U.S.

Many American homeowners might still be surprised at the risk their home faces of getting hit by a natural disaster in the near future. A report released this week by real estate research firm RealtyTrac found that 43% of U.S. homes and condos — that’s a total of 35.8 million homes — are at a high risk or very high risk of at least one type of natural disaster. The report examined 2,318 counties nationwide and assigned each a score of natural disaster risk score from 0 to 300 based on their risk of wildfire, hurricane, flood, tornado and earthquake; the higher the score the higher the risk of natural disaster.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that there were three times as many natural disasters from 2000 through 2009 as there were from 1980 through 1989, of which nearly 80% were due to climate-related issues.

Furthermore, “during recent decades, the scale of disasters has expanded owing to increased rates of urbanization, deforestation, and environmental degradation and to intensifying climate variables such as higher temperatures, extreme precipitation, and more violent wind and water storms,” the study authors note.

The impacts of this trend are devastating people’s lives — and their homes: “Since 2008, an average of 26.4 million people per year have been displaced from their homes by disasters brought on by natural hazards,” a report from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, an independent, non-governmental humanitarian organization studying displacement, reveals. “This is the equivalent to one person being displaced every second.”

That’s unlikely to change anytime soon. The report notes that “the trend over decades is on the rise,” meaning that more people are displaced from their homes now than in previous decades. By one estimate, twice as many people are displaced from their homes because of natural disasters than were in the 1970s.

The states with the most homes in high or very high risk counties, according to the latest RealtyTrac report, include California (8.4 million homes at high risk), Florida (6.7 million), New York (2.4 million), New Jersey (2.3 million) and North Carolina (2.3 million). The cities with the most homes in high-risk counties are not surprisingly (due to their large number of homes): New York (3.5 million homes at high risk), Los Angeles (2.5 million), Miami (1.9 million), Houston (1.2 million), and Riverside-San Bernardino in Southern California (1.1 million).

Buying a home in a high-risk natural disaster area is, of course, risky in that your home may be more likely to get damaged or destroyed than one in a low-risk area. It may also be a bad financial move even if you’re heavily insured: “In lower risk natural disaster markets, home price appreciation is steadier and larger over the last 10 years,” says Daren Blomquist, the vice president of RealtyTrac.

Home sales prices in counties with a low risk and very low risk for natural disasters increased an average of 6.6% and 9.5%, respectively, between 2005 and 2015. Meanwhile, home sales prices in counties with a high risk and very high risk for natural disasters decreased 2.5% and 6.4%, on average, over that period.

However, home values in high-risk areas tend to be higher than in low-risk areas, and over the last three years, home price appreciation has been stronger in higher risk counties than in lower ones.  And of course, many people have to live where their jobs are — disaster-risk area or not — so they just need to make sure they’re properly insured.

(Hats off to Market Watch for some of the information in this article.)


A Carny’s Life

A carny’s life is what I want, so easy and carefree.

You get up with the chickens and you shower where there’s pee.

Stale donuts for your breakfast and you stand for half the day,

and when the weekend rolls around you do not get your pay.

Bedbugs will not tolerate the place you have to sleep.

But if you mention anything the boss calls you a creep.

He says go back to Mexico if you are so darn triste,

then sticks you with the kettle corn upon the blazing midway.

Who doesn’t want to run away and join this happy throng

who need to be re-educated ala Mao Zedong?

from an article in the New York Times


What the Hell is the Dow Jones Average, and Why Should I Care?

The Wall Street Journal headline screamed at me from my laptop: U.S. Stock Plunge Picks Up Speed!

The subheading was even worse: Ugly week ends with worst day for the Dow and other indexes in years.

The New York Times also used the dreaded P-word in its ominous headline: Stocks Plunge Sharply for a Second Day on Wall Street.

The article attached to this fear-mongering headline gives us the somber details: “Such concerns on Friday helped push stocks far below the peaks they reached just weeks ago when investors were ebullient. The Dow Jones industrial average is more than 10 percent below the high it reached in May. At Friday’s close, the index was down 530.94 points, to 16,459.75, a loss of 3.1 percent on the day.”

CNBC does not help matters any with their headline: Dow, Nasdaq plunge 3% into correction.

Okay. I get it. The stock market is all screwed up. Again.

But will somebody please tell me just exactly what the hell is the Dow Jones industrial average? Or Nasdaq?  I’ve been hearing about them ever since I was a child in Huggies, and nobody has ever taken the trouble to tell me what this stuff is. Or why I should care about it.

It’s like Mark Twain’s old adage about the weather: Everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything to explain it.

Naturally enough, I have Googled the Dow Jones, and this is what I got: “The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted average of 30 significant stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq. The DJIA was invented by Charles Dow back in 1896.”

Clear as sludge.

But I will admit I did find out what Nasdaq means:  National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations.

My pappy done told me to never trust an acronym with more than three letters in it.

I get the feeling that “Dow Jones” and “Nasdaq” are not meant to be understood by the layman; they are meant to overawe us, like sawing a woman in half. The wizards of Wall Street can make money disappear like Houdini, that’s for sure.

The whole schmegegge is moot for me anyways, since I sold the last of my stock holdings years ago and invested in an anchovy farm — making me independently destitute.

When Nasdaq droops and Dow Jones dips

I know I’ll not be in the chips.

My broker won’t return my calls

and moves his office to Sioux Falls.

Take my advice when you invest,

and learn to live on lemon zest. 


A Picture of some Turnips is now worth $10.00.

Sunday afternoon, after a sturdy meal topped off with a hunk of apple pie the size of Guam, I tilted back in my recliner to peruse the news on my trusty laptop. Just as my eyelids began to make their final descent I was jolted out of my approaching postprandial coma by a story in the New York Times:

LONDON — Though paper money here typically bears the visage of Queen Elizabeth, the Brixton district of the city last month released a new 5-pound note designed by Jeremy Deller, an artist who won the prestigious Turner Prize in 2004. It features a fuzzy, psychedelic image of an androgynous face surrounded by rainbow clouds and coruscating, swirling etchings. 

So British private citizens are printing their own money harum-scarum, I thought to myself in disgust. It figures.

But my smug attitude was soon shattered as I finished the post. Right here in the good ol’ USA, in the region of Great Barrington, Mass, solid citizens are using funny money called BerkShares to purchase everything from bandoline to bumbo.

The article took great pains in listing all the benefits to the local economy of using this so-called ‘secondary currency’, without bothering to explain how the heck you do it without a federally-funded vacation to Sing Sing.

I find it outrageous.

Let them mess with make-you-own postage stamps, but when folks start pumping out watercolors of turnips as the real financial deal I have to draw the line.

It was bad enough when this whole bitcoin monkey business started up a few years ago — now I’m going to have to deal with complementary currencies like Chiemgauer?

We Americans don’t like anyone fooling around with our currency. Case in point, from a Hawaiin currency and coin website:

In January 1942, one month after Pearl Harbor was bombed, the U.S. government, fearing enemy invasion, announced that “New Money” was on its way.  Specially imprinted notes became the only legal tender and had no value outside Hawai’i. The new money consisted of $1, $5, $10 and $20 denominations. Brown seals and serial numbers replaced the green and blue ones and the word HAWAII appeared twice on the front and once really big across the back. The ‘old’ money would no longer be legal tender in Hawai’i. Due to citizen resistance, it took 27 months to complete the transition and to have the new money in circulation. The government appointed a special committee to dispose of some 200 million dollars of old money.  The enormous quantity of notes was hauled to the Aiea Sugar Mill on Oahu and incinerated.

Don’t mess with our dead presidents — that’s all I have to say on the subject.


Innovation is the watchword of great enterprises;

when the money’s running out, counterfeit arises.

Printing money is a breeze, if you don’t mind chances

that your bogus bucks will boomerang on your finances.  


Retirees Stung by ‘Universal Life’ Cost

My life insurance policy has comfort given me;

prudent and so stable that I’ve felt a quiet glee.

 Now I find that int’rest rates have taken such a dive,

the premiums I’m paying will not let me live and thrive.

I cannot bear to walk away from all that money spent

on a policy that’s hardly worth one damn red cent. 

I should have been a grasshopper and spent all of my dough

on the fleeting moment and delayed the quid pro quo.

The cheapening existence I have chosen is a farce;

my old age will be barren and my memories quite sparse.  

from an article in the Wall Street Journal

lanceonfloor 003

Who is poorer than a man that cannot feel the Lord

Who is poorer than a man that cannot feel the Lord

in his ev’ry fiber, sinew, loins and rigid chord?

Beggars in the marketplace and homeless before dawn

are those that to the Savior do not feel completely drawn.

Poverty is not the cure I thought best suited me

for the illness of stout pride I battle constantly.

But I am pruned of wealth by One whom I have learned to trust

will raise me up beyond the reach of shabbiness and dust.

I have not funds sufficient, with security and scrip;

but what the Lord is giving me is all of it blue chip!

blue chip

Hacking: It’s better than you think.

When checking out at my local supermarket the clerk always cheerfully asks if I want to use my perks card for additional savings.

“No!” I snarl back. “I don’t have one.”

I never get those things from drug stores or supermarkets or fast food places, even though I know I could save some money. With all the hacking of consumer information going on, I’m hoarding my information like Scrooge McDuck. No black hat in Beijing or Minsk is going to gain access to MY $300-limit Visa card, thank you very much!

But now I find out, thanks to the New York Times, that despite the scary headlines there’s little reason to worry about those darn hackers messing up my financial affairs.

I quote from the Times article: ” . . . the impact of data breaches is an example of a threat that looks worse than it turns out to be. The sheer size of hackings shocks and startles when the attacks are first reported, but it’s rare that journalists check on the actual consequences.”

What’s more, there’s dirty work afoot to exaggerate the dreadful fallout from these all-too-common data breaches. Again, I can do no better than to quote from the same article: “Moreover, consumer fears can be stoked by the incentives of the people providing the data. Many of the statistics on identity fraud and online attacks come from security firms that want more people to buy their services.” 

So, despite what the media Chicken Littles have been screaming for months, I’m safer than I think. Even if my info does get hacked, the Times claims,  I am not liable for bogus purchases made in my name — it’s the company that accepted the phoney order that has to pay.


And not only that, but if I’m feeling particularly litigious I can now sue any business I want that has my consumer information and carelessly lets it fall into the hands of hackers.

Check it out, from Fortune.com:

“Hackers are breaking into major companies and making off with hoards of customer data, including credit cards, at an alarming rate. But one minor consolation for the companies, so far, has been a legal rule that shields them from damages. Until now. In a ruling causing a stir on legal blogs, the influential 7th Circuit Court of Appeals last week reinstated a lawsuit against Neiman Marcus over a 2013 data breach in which hackers stole credit card information from as many as 350,000 customers.”

All I can say is that Walmart better watch their step with my zip code, or I’ll sue that stupid yellow smiley face right off ’em!

Shakespeare said who steals my purse steals trash; I beg to differ.

Who steals my purse can clean me out much better than a Swiffer. 

I’ve got a little list of the things I’d do to hackers;

 like water boarding them with a pail of soda crackers.

When Dante wrote “Inferno” he forgot to save a spot

for hackers that is deep enough and very, very hot.