The Lucrative Business of Swearing

Over the Easter weekend, my 15-month old son scored a couple easter eggs stuffed with dollar bills. He wasn’t too impressed and quickly tossed the bills aside as he stomped off towards another plastic egg to pull apart. My wife and I remarked that it was perhaps a bit young for my mother-in-law to be stuffing money in his easter eggs. He strongly preferred running outside over looking for eggs, let alone money over candy.

But while I was taking his two dollar bills and stuffing them into his “piggy” bank (which is actually a dinosaur, because I mean why not?), I stopped and thought to myself that he must have a pretty sizable chunk of change stored in there now.

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Getting the Garden Started for Spring, Late

Ah, the month of April. It comes in fits and starts – cruelly tempting you with hot warm days full of sunshine, and then punishing your optimism by swinging violently back into winter. This past weekend we had a much needed injection of sunshine and heat, getting up to 80F and just as quickly this Monday we dropped 50F and had sleet and snow, continuing on into today.

But while we did have the nice weather, we took advantage. We spent lots of time outside with our son, walking around the neighborhood, chasing him around the yard. And while he and his pregnant mother napped, I took the time to get the vegetable garden ready.

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Paid to Quit

I happened to run into an article on CNN Money about a little nugget they read in a letter from Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos. Amazon is announcing publicly that they have a program where they actually pay warehouse employees to quit. Well, sort of.

The plan actually is one that stems from a company Amazon acquired long ago: Zappos. In case that name doesn’t ring a bell, they are an online shoe retailer. And I recall reading years back that they actually had this same “benefit”. They would periodically offer employees a contract to quit for a small bonus. Looks like Amazon has taken that policy and extended it to it’s warehouse employees as well. The thinking is that it helps eliminate people who aren’t really motivated to work anymore. The offer starts at $2000 and is made after a year with the company. Then each year they offer you again bumping it up another $1,000, until a max offer amount of $5,000.

The idea sounds neat to me, and it certainly would make employees take a moment to pause each year and re-evaluate if the job is really worth it. The question becomes how beneficial it is to the employer (Amazon) to make these offers. Presumably they’ve done some studies in-house to confirm that a replacement worker who is more motivated is worth the buyout amount to the previous employee who became demotivated?

The idea isn’t too far-fetched when compared to the traditional buy-outs that companies have offered senior employees to help get rid of their salaries and replace them with younger, cheaper labor. The only wrinkle here is that the motivation for these buyouts presumably isn’t to replace these workers with younger, cheaper versions – but to replace them with fresher, more enthused employees.

Net Worth: March 2014 Progress

March was a “catch-up” month for us financially, which resulted in a standstill from a net worth viewpoint. The market mostly moved sideways, so our investment balance barely moved – despite contributions to my 401k. Let’s dive into the numbers…

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Monopoly House Rules

Not sure if anyone else caught the news last week: Hasbro is calling for submission of house rules that people typically institute when they play. In their press release they list a number of pretty common house rules that people play by – though I have to admit I’ve never played with most of those rules.

My family used to play board games during the summer months when we had a rainy day. I always loved Monopoly the most. I’m not really sure why, but I did tend to win it the most. (OK, I admit it – that’s exactly why I liked it the most). Who knows, maybe it was a good predictor of my turning into a landlord later in life?

When we learned to play we never read the instructions. We played on a set that had the remains of at least three old sets: plenty of cash with the same denomination having multiple shades (they tweaked the colors over time), duplicates of pieces and a handful of them missing, and a ton of houses and hotels. So it’s safe to say, we pretty much never played by the real rules. With our amped up bank holdings and property supply we tended to get into some long epic battles. We also never played by the rule to auction off properties not bought when landed upon. We could play Monopoly over the course of an entire rainy weekend and still not be done. For the record, I typically chose the cannon or shoe. We lost the top hat and race car, and sadly the cannon is no longer a standard piece.

Out of that list, we tried out the “See the Sights” rule where players must do a lap of the board once before buying – but that rules never stuck.  But our house rules tended to consist of Free Parking, Fast Cash and the Frozen Assets Rule. That taxes and fees collect int he middle of the board and get redeemed when landing on free parking; and that jailed players couldn’t collect rent, respectively.

Slate has an interesting take on the plans to move some house rules to become actual rules for Monopoly. They cite an economist who argues the freer money supply encouraged by many rules better mimics the real world economy and leads to a less conservative playing approach. If that’s the case, he would have loved our cash-a-palooza version cobbled together from multiple sets worth of money.

Any of you guys have your own odd take on the Monopoly rules?

Payday Loans… From Your Local Post Office?

There’s a world of poverty out there surrounding us and most people in the middle class never run into it. I didn’t even know it existed until my 20’s when I saw the signs driving through the poorer sections of the city: Payday Loans. Rent to Own. Pawn Shops. Cash 4 Gold. We see it all the time now. When the recession hit, it seemed like every other commercial was for some company claiming to pay top dollar for your gold jewelry. Continue reading