Archive for March, 2011

The Census

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

“I have dual citizenship. With the United States and Florida.”

OK. This is not very timely, but I still laugh out loud every time I watch.

This is from a Saturday Night Live skit, via Flowing Data.

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Saturday, March 12th, 2011

Financial Education

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

Tim Harford captured my attention with the opener of his recent article, Illiteracy rules

I hope you won’t mind me setting a little test of financial literacy. You buy a new £1,000 computer and borrow money to pay for it. You have a choice: either (a) pay 12 monthly instalments of £100; or (b) borrow money at an APR of 20 per cent, meaning you pay back £1,200 at the end of the year. Which offer is better – or are they (c) identical? (The answer is at the end of this column.)

It seems a simple question, but 93% of Americans get it wrong, according to the article (so you’d better not assume you got it right.)  The article goes on to make the case that we need formal financial education.

The sophistication of financial products has increased dramatically; the sophistication of consumers has not. “Knowledge hasn’t caught up with the real world,” says Lusardi. “The important word is ‘literacy’. You can’t live in society without being able to read and write, and now you can’t live without being able to read and write financially.”

The obvious answer is financial education. But it has been tried and doesn’t seem to work terribly well. According to a survey published by Lewis Mandell of the University of Washington, financial education seems to have no impact on formal measures of financial literacy, although, puzzlingly, it does seem to improve financial decisions a little later in life.

Why doesn’t it work?  Does it not work?  I love the assessment offered by Annamaria Lusardi, an economics professor and director of the Financial Literacy Center. While the track record of financial education is not encouraging, the evidence that is available now tells us very little about whether it would work if done right. … perhaps the reason that financial education doesn’t seem to work is that nobody has tried it properly.

Ouch.

On a barely related note, Terry Zink posted a graphic the FBI put together explaining how a money mule operation works.  The article doesn’t say so, but I believe many of the mules are [willfullyl] ignorant of their roles.

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Slightly less related is this video about online cons (again, via Terry Zink’s blog)

And one final link related only by criminality:

Criminals Steal Cars by Calling Tow Trucks

That’s right, you can just call someone to haul that car away.  Like to the scrap yard.

The law does little to protect a car’s owner when the vehicle is at least 10 years old. Thieves can call in a wrecker service and have it towed right out of an owner’s yard; they don’t even need a title.