Friday, March 14, 2014

Not in my area of expertise but here is what I think happened to Malaysian Flight 370.

I want to go on record with my theory of what happened to Malaysian Flight 370.

I just saw a profile of the pilots on CNN.  The co-pilot is a young-ish man and has been photographed smoking AND carousing with ladies in the cockpit.

The plane seems to have exhibited a pattern of flying that is intentional (sharp turns and a gain/loss/gain/loss in elevation) and under the control of SOMEONE.

In a 777 flight simulator, CNN reporter Martin Savidge sitting in the co-pilot chair, easily turned off  the transponder beacon.  Could do it with little notice from the pilot. 

I think the co-pilot was under pressure (real or imagined) and in fear for his job/career as a result of "indiscretions".  He cracked, folded, went crazy, choose your descriptor.

Well, that is what I think at 6:07pm Eastern on March 14.  

TurboTax e-mails price increase threat without giving ANY details. Not cool, Turbo Tax, not cool...

Just received this e-mail a few minutes ago from TurboTax, which I use for doing my Federal and State tax returns.

The yellow highlight is mine.

If I don't finish my return by March 21st they are going to increase the price for their so-called "Valued Customers".

Checked their website and could not find any pricing information in regards to this specific e-mail.  The message itself does not provide a clue as to how much it will increase.

Bad marketing move, Turbo Tax, in the middle of tax season.  Why make this "threat" on your customers at this point?

Did I say bad marketing move yet?

Give me a break...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

More evidence the Federal government is a book-keeper and not a doer.

Here is some isolated data from the just released 2015 Budget Outlook by the White House.

Once again I find myself staring at numbers that demonstrate the Federal Government has become more of an entity that writes checks ("Transfer Payments") to people and less of one that "does things".

Below you see blocks of decades and a high lighted portion that shows transfer payments as a percent of ALL Federal government outlays for that last year of the decade (it is NOT an average for the decade).

Less of the budget spent on transfers, more available for "fun stuff" like defense, roads, bridges, education, space program, etc ad infinitum...sort of.

In 1950 we could spend 68% of the budget on all those fun things.  In 2014 we have only 30% to spend.

I am not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing, but it IS a thing.

I think most people don't give this much consideration on either side of the political spectrum when debates about the Federal budget take place.  Did I say "debates"?  Oh, I meant shouting matches. My bad.

One observation.  I do not know what happened in the 1950's that almost doubled private transfer payments (before dipping again in the 60's) but if I had to guess I would say it was a result of the GI Bill and the various benefits conferred on WWII vets.

Anyone else have any idea(s)???

If you are a "salaried manager" making MORE than $455 per week but LESS than ??, you will want to read this. Your paycheck may be changing in the near future.

Today the Obama Administration will direct the Department of Labor to revise an important regulation on the payment for overtime as it pertains to workers classified as "managers/supervisors" who are paid a fixed salary instead of an hourly wage, regardless of the number of hours worked.

There is a VERY low threshold under the Department of Labor regulations that allows employers to classify someone as a manager. It can be as few as TWO workers that the manager manages or if they have some day to day control over functions of a business. See HERE for more on that.

Right now, a business is required to pay someone in a management position at least $455.00 per week in salary to avoid paying over-time.  The Department of Labor has some defined parameters for who is considered a manager HERE.

At this point, it is not known exactly what the Administration will propose as a new threshold BUT with a tiny bit of research it seems like there is a consensus that it will be around $650.

This means if you are now paid somewhere BETWEEN $455.00 and $650.00 (tentative!) for your management expertise, then your employer will have to consider ANY overtime hours you work and pay you accordingly for them OR they can bump you up to at least $650.00 per week.

Or they could decide you are not worth that much at that pay level and cut your position and consolidate your duties with a manager already making over $650.00 per week.  Ouch.

Implementation of this won't happen any time soon, though.  It has to go though regulatory approval.

I will provide more details when they are released.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A single mom with two kids will get a 39% pay increase if the minimum wage goes to $10.10, right? She will be the first one to tell you NO, not even close! See the numbers here.

Here is a table (I modified it a little) from The Economix that shows how an increase in the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour will affect different peoples NET INCOME. That is income after taxes are subtracted and benefits are added in.

Two things (at least 2) happen when your income increases: (1) the payroll taxes owed increases and (2) government benefits tend to decrease because they are "means tested". This means the amount a person receives depends on the level of income earned AND the benefit decreases as income increases.

I high-lighted the "Single Mother with Two Children" category because these families tend to have higher poverty rates than the other categories.  And we care about the poor, right?

The first table shows the minimum wage at its current level of $7.25. The wage earner would pay no income tax on that level of income, but pay $1,154 in mandatory payroll taxes (6.2% in Social Security and 1.45% in Medicare tax(es)).  They would receive tax credits (a "refundable tax credit") in the amounts of $5,460 and $1,812.  They would also be eligible for $2,898 in a food stamp (SNAP) benefit.

If you take the persons total income, subtract payroll taxes, then add in the tax credits and the SNAP benefit, their effective "take home pay" is $24,069.

Using this number we can calculate the "effective hourly wage rate" ($24,069/2,080 hours (40 hours per week times 52 weeks) or $11.57 per hour in wages/tax credits and benefits. Remember that number.
Source: Economix at The New York Times

But what happens to the single mother's effective wage rate when the minimum wage increases to $10.10 per hour (a 39% increase)?  Will here total compensation rise by that much?  See the 2nd table.

Wage income increases.  Payroll taxes increase (the more you earn, the more you pay).  Income tax at that level of income is still $0.  However, there are changes in the mix of tax credits and SNAP benefits. On net, those are LOWER than they were before.

When all totaled together NET INCOME is now $28,200.  Certainly higher than it was before, but how much higher? As much as the minimum wage increase, as I think most people would believe?

If we divide $28,200 by 2080 hours worked in a year we get an effective wage of $13.56.

If we compare the change AFTER we include all the relevant numbers we can see that the single mom with two kids is making $13.56 per hour instead of $11.57.

That is an increase of 17%.  Far cry from the 39% increase in the minimum wage.

So, when discussing the minimum wage and the magnitude of help it will give a single mother, we need to include more than the nominal increase in it.

It tells only half the story.  BUT a hardworking single mother will probably already be able to tell you that things are not always as they seem.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Nice graphic on how much it costs to manufacture US coins. Time for the penny AND Nickel to go???

The Washington Post has an excellent story and a few graphs on the cost of making money. Not earning money but the actual manufacture of currency and coinage.

Making a dollar bill is pretty profitable but making pennies and nickels is a money losing proposition.  

Isn't is really time to let the penny go and become a historical footnote?
coin cost
The cost of the metal bares much of the blame for the increased production costs.

The graph below shows how much it costs to produce $1.00 worth of each bill and coin.

historical coin production cost per dollar

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