Everyday Life Issues

December 19, 2016
Strapped for a gift idea for a bright, inquisitive high-school student, a college student with career aspirations, or a young professional in finance & accounting, engineering, or any of the many other disciplines where presenting numbers is a critical success skill? Well, I have a suggestion!

May 28, 2016
For a course I teach at U.C. Berkeley about presenting numbers, I ask students to write a blog for this website. I don’t always get one I choose to post, but this term Lyman Yip’s paper, “How Do Vegetarians Get Their Protein?”, was definitely worthy. Lyman presents his numbers clearly, carefully, and effectively, the text is well-written, and the words in the text and the numbers in the exhibits work well together. Enjoy!

June 06, 2015
We look at the fun subject of marital infidelity, and how it’s affected by the husband’s and the wife’s relative income. How a recent study was reported illustrates how numbers – and especially graphs – can be presented to reflect a certain point of view or agenda, often in subtle ways.

April 01, 2015
In celebration of April Fool’s Day, let’s take a look at some of the most messed-up, incomprehensible recent examples of quantation. Not surprisingly, all are graphs. But some come from sources that definitely should know better.

March 24, 2015
In the last two posts, we looked at the basic “mathematics” of the decision about when to start collecting Social Security. In this post, we look at the “soft” stuff – the more subjective considerations that might shade your decision in one direction or the other.

March 17, 2015
In the last post, we looked at how time affects your decision about when to start collecting Social Security… more specifically how your life expectancy assumptions come into play. But time doesn’t affect just the value of your life, it affects the value of your money as well.

March 11, 2015
When should you start collecting your Social Security? The standard retirement age is 66. The law does allow you to start collecting as early as age 62, but your monthly benefit will be about 25% less. And if you’re willing to start collecting as late as age 70, you can collect about 32% more per month. How do you decide what to do?

March 04, 2014
We’ve recently run posts about bad quantation in the media, about Olympic medal counts and Oscar betting odds. This time we discuss good quantation – the Food & Drug Administration’s proposed changes to the “Nutrition Facts” label. This is a great example of how small changes in the way we present numbers can have a significant impact.

February 26, 2014
Far be it from me to help a gambling website present information better, and one based in Curacao to boot, but I can’t help myself. My friend John Cardozo sent me a link to the Pinnacle Sports website, where the betting odds for the upcoming Academy Awards are posted.

December 28, 2013
At this holiday time, what could be more festive than driving all over the place in your car? Of course, at today’s gas prices visiting far-flung friends & family can be expensive. A partial solution is to drive a few miles out of your way and buy cheaper gas.

June 12, 2012
PBS NewsHour ran a story today, about a triennial Federal Reserve Board report on household income and net worth in the United States. Median household income fell 7.7% in the three years from 2007 to 2010, while median net worth fell over the same period by a deeply sobering 38.8%.

June 04, 2012
Last post, we talked about the miracle of compound interest, and how that “miracle” gives you such a strong incentive to start contributing early to 401Ks, IRAs, or any other pension or savings plan. In this post, we’ll talk about another powerful incentive driven by the “miracle” – the fact that in a pension plan your money compounds at pre-tax rather than after-tax rates. For most of you, this will make an even bigger difference.

May 29, 2012
On Tuesday’s “On Point” on NPR, we heard a spirited debate about the right direction for reforming pension plans in the U.S. One guest asserted that the combination currently in place, of 401Ks, IRAs, defined benefit plans, and social Security, just hadn’t done the job and major reform was needed to ensure an acceptable standard of living for tomorrow’s retirees.

April 15, 2012
It’s tax-filing time again, and that means many of us are going to get refunds. Is that a good thing? Well, it’s always nice to get a check from the government, but let’s face it: all it really means is that you’ve already paid Uncle Sam more than you ended up owing him. In other words, you’ve given the government an interest-free loan for several months.

July 13, 2009
“Can’t anybody here play this game” is one of Casey Stengel’s best-known profound observations – and he made many of them – when he found himself having to watch the team he managed, the brand-new New York Mets of 1962, attempt to play baseball.

March 22, 2009
Spring has come, and the thoughts of many of us — well, those of us with teenage children of a certain age — turn to the letters (or e-mails) that will shortly be arriving from colleges. Soon, at cocktail parties throughout the land, we will hear the animated, high-pitched chirping of parents, relating anecdotes of superteens they know of who received those dreaded thin envelopes in spite of being captain of the state champion quidditch team, receiving the Nobel Prize in robotics, and scoring 1600 (well, 2400, these days) on their SATs.

January 01, 2009
Happy New Year! Today’s post is about an easy way to quickly estimate annual return for very high returns over several years, without needing a calculator. My New Year’s wish to you is that this will actually be useful to all of you, and soon.

November 18, 2008
Let’s talk about a gritty, real-life issue: What should your car’s collision insurance deductible be? The decision is based on pure math, but every one of you can figure this out. And you might save a few bucks! Here’s how:

October 10, 2008
I launched this blog by practicing on uninteresting, non-controversial topics like the U.S. financial meltdown and software revenue recognition. Now that I’ve gotten a few posts under my belt, it’s no more Mr. Nice Guy for me! I now take on the really tough issues, like tipping in restaurants!

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