Gelden Geld

Gold

If all of the world’s gold were squished together, it would form a cube just 68 feet on each side.  That’s a very small amount of gold in a very big world.  No wonder it’s so expensive.  In times of economic uncertainty people often rally around what they see to be smart, safe investments.  For some people this is treasury bonds and low-risk stocks, for others it is physical assets like gold.  Although gold does have substantial value, ($1,553.65 per ounce as of May 15th) nothing can be produced from it and thus the only value gained from it is having it when others do not.  This is also a quandary because the price of gold can only rise when it is highly sought after, meaning that many people must buy gold in order to keep the price of gold up.

There are tangible benefits to owning gold, such as fiscal security in the event of an extreme economic downturn or global disaster. However, the astute financial mind of Warren Buffet likens it to building a bomb-shelter in your basement.  If you ever end up needing the bomb shelter than you have made a terrific purchase. However if no crisis occurs where a bomb shelter is necessary, you will be stuck with the sunk cost of a bomb shelter.  I suppose it could make a decent man-cave.

The uncertainty in economies and markets has helped fee a frenzy in gold-buying.  GLD, the exchange-traded fund introduced by State Street in 2004 is the second-largest ETF measured by assets under management.  But with an average daily trading volume of over 10 million shares it seems that buyers aren’t  ‘investing’ as much as they are placing a bet.  Nothing wrong with trying to win a bet but with gold trading at historical highs maybe there are better bets to place.

Students and their Mountains of Debt

Student debt has become such a problem that it has even surpassed credit card debt in terms of both money owed and delinquency rates.  What is truly staggering about this is that the United States citizens’ credit card debt of $697 billion comes from 80% of the population who own credit cards, compared to only 15% who have student loans.

The student debt crisis can largely be traced to the almost disgusting increase of college tuition over the last 30 years.  Since 1982, the cost of a 4-year college tuition has risen by 400%, which really causes problems when taken into account that the Median Household Income over this time has only risen by 150%.  Many prospective college students of today are also under-informed or misinformed when they are making their decision on where to go to school as well as how to fund it.  Most students go into college with the expectation that they will be able to get a job relevant to their degree right out of college, and thus will not need to worry about their expensive student loans.  This has not been the case, and as the economy continues to twist and turn, more and more recent college graduates are finding themselves in a bind.  Student default rates rose from 11.6% to 15% in the last fiscal year as over 9% of recent college graduates find themselves unemployed.

Fortunately there are a few things that can help with the payment of loans, such as loan consolidation or forgiveness.  If you know someone who is saddled with student debt and unsure of their options, http://www.finaid.org/loans/forgiveness.phtml  and http://www.finaid.org/  are loaded with information on student loans as well as ideas on how to lower your debt.

Digital Spring Cleaning

With the growing digitalization of life, it is  harder to keep personal information personal.  The two easiest targets for advertisers and spam to exploit are e-mail addresses and phone numbers, which now-a-days are required for accomplishing or purchasing practically anything.

E-mail

E-mail spam has been around for years.  There have been MSNBC programs about prolific spammers and why people spam, but unfortunately the spammers have harnessed new technology to make spamming even easier.  The best way to prevent spam from reaching your inbox is to use an accredited e-mail service and its respective spam notification system.  Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail all pride themselves in preventing spam but a few messages still slip through the cracks.  Aside from choosing a secure email service, do not ever post your email address online, and be wary of phony-looking websites that ask for your email address or other personal information.

Text

Text spam is a newer form of spam that has taken off with the amalgamation of telephones and the Internet.  Sending messages via the Internet costs the spammer nothing, but could cost you something depending on your data plan.  An easy way to get rid of spam is to call your service provider and ask them to prevent all Internet messages from getting to your phone.  If you still encounter spam after this, the next best step is to forward the message in question to 7726 (SPAM), which will alert your service company that the message your received is from a spammer.

Phone

The quickest way to get rid of telemarketing calls is to visit the National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov  Simply enter your information and within thirty days you will no longer receive those annoying telephone calls.  Unfortunately this does not apply for calls from political candidates, as the government believes we should be fed a large ration of fabrication and slander leading up to the election.

Catalog Mailing Lists

Although the process to remove yourself from catalog mailing lists requires more work than the previous 3 options mentioned, once you get the hang of it it is the easiest of them all.  The best way to do this is to go to catalogchoice.org and sign up for free.  Once there you can enter the names of catalogs that you no longer wish to receive, and after providing your address and the customer ID and key from the back of the catalogs you will be kept up to date on the status of your cancellation.  As you cancel your subscriptions, the website also tracks the trees and gallons of water you have helped save, as well as the reduction in greenhouse gases and solid waste your cancellation has made.