Weddings are “really, egregiously, horrifically expensive” says Caitlin Dewey for the Washington Post. And she is right. CNN Money put the average cost of a wedding in 2012 at $28,400. Caitlin Kenney, a reporter for NPR’s Planet Money paid $3,500 just for her dress.
When my wife and I were married at the end of 2006, we didn’t have a lot of money, so our entire wedding cost just a bit more than Kenney’s dress. She wore a bridesmaid dress and looked amazing in it, but I think she would have looked pretty seriously at this dress if it were available at the time.
I guess it’s fine if couples want to blow nearly 30 grand on a wedding, if they or their parents actually have that much money to spare. But if I had the choice between spending $20,000+ on a wedding or a down payment on a house, I know which one I would choose.
A 12-inch pizza is more than twice the size of an 8-inch pizza, but generally only costs a little bit more. This is true all the way up the pizza-size ladder, as NPR’s Planet Money found out after compiling data from over 3,678 pizza restaurants into one amazing pizza-value chart:
Two weeks ago, it was big news when a Salt Lake City school took lunches away from students when their card was declined at the register. (Students at many schools use a card to buy lunches, and parents are responsible for depositing money to the student’s lunch card account through the school’s website.)
It turns out that many Minnesota schools do the same thing. According to the StarTribune:
A majority of public school districts in this state deny hot lunch — or any lunch at all in some cases — to children who can’t pay for them. Some schools take the meals from students in the lunch line and dump them in the trash when the computer shows a deficit in their lunch accounts.
A “child-nutrition manager” in Salt-Lake City, notified of an unusually-large number of students who owed money for lunch at Uintah Elementary School, came up with a brilliant plan: take away their lunches. Students with delinquent school-lunch accounts went through the lunch line as usual, but when their card was declined at the register, the lunch-room staff tossed their meal in the trash.
Several parents told the Salt Lake Tribune that they were not notified that they owed money for their children’s lunches. It doesn’t seem like anyone was notified that their children would have their lunches taken away from them, either. The school has said it is “currently investigating to see if [notification] guidelines were followed correctly.”
McDonald’s had published an etiquette guide on a company website full of advice from Emily Post on how families should tip their help during the holidays. If you were a McDonald’s worker with a pool cleaner, a personal trainer, or massage therapist, corporate had you covered.
For more budgeting advice from McDonald’s, here’s my earlier post with more ridiculous McDonald’s budgeting tips
Pretty striking. Can we all agree this is a problem, even if we can’t all agree on the solution?
At the Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal explains how retailers use “retail price” to make it look like you are getting a good deal. At Macy’s, for example:
“‘Regular’ and ‘Original’ prices are offering prices that may not have resulted in actual sales, and some ‘Original’ prices may not have been in effect during the past 180 days,” it read (emphasis added).
Before you click the buy button on what seems to be a good deal, make sure you look for the same product at other retailers. Don’t trust the retailer to give you an honest “sale.”
On the McDonald’s “Practical Money Skills” website, which was surely created with the best of intentions, the fast-food company offers a sample budget to show its employees how to make ends meet on a McDonald’s paycheck — as long as they are also getting another paycheck. That’s not even a joke. According to Robyn Pennacchia at Death and Taxes, here’s how much you would have to work to fit into the budget:
Yeah– now, when I first saw that, I assumed that the top line was for a part-time McDonald’s employee. Then I got out my calculator– that is actually what you would make if you were working full-time at McDonald’s.
Now let’s say that the “second” job that they budget in here (feels like cheating, but OK) is also minimum wage. … That translates to 74 hours a week. That’s almost a whole other full time job.
I watched Frontline’s “The Retirement Gamble” with my wife tonight. It starts with the shift from company-managed pensions to 401K funds managed by all of us — or our financial planners. It is not a feel-good documentary. Many Americans are losing huge chunks of their retirement savings to fees, possibly for little or no benefit (well, not to the savers, anyway; the fund managers are getting plenty of benefit).
This was not a problem in the roaring 90s, when a monkey could make money in the stock market, but it’s a big problem now, when many Americans have seen their retirement accounts fall off a cliff, or at best, go flat.
What’s the root of the problem? According to Frontline, it’s not so much the fees, but the fact that financial advice is mostly doled out by salespeople whose only ethical requirement is to sell you something “suitable.” In other words, the financial products they sell you just have to sort of resemble the kind of product you want. They can’t sell you an insurance policy if you’re looking for a mutual fund, in other words.
Few financial advisors are fiduciaries, a word that means they would be required to put your interests ahead of their own. (Not salespeople, in other words.) It doesn’t seem to matter that most Americans have no idea what that word means or how to identify a fiduciary (hint: ask).
Are there good, well-meaning financial advisors out there who are not fiduciaries? I’m sure there are. I think my financial advisor is one of them. But whether you go with a salesperson or a fiduciary, you need to ask yourself (and your financial advisor, fiduciary or not) some important questions:
Above all, be involved in your retirement planning. If your investments aren’t growing, find out why — or find someone else to help you manage your investments more effectively.
I picked up a few “Trader Ming’s” noodle boxes at Trader Joe’s the other day, thinking they would be good for a quick lunch. And the image on the box looked pretty great. The product inside does not really measure up to the cover art, though. Check it out:
I can’t say that I am all that surprised. Most food packaging is like Glamour Shots for the contents — which are, in this case, 600 calories and nearly 25% of your fat, sugar, and salt allowance for the day.