I’ve gathered enough random thoughts that are both suitable for online publication, but not good enough for a full post. What range of topics this time? Trash, medicine, eye injuries, houses, coffee vs investing, and tax reform.
I read an article on trash collection in New York City by private companies. Wow. I did not realize how crazy and dangerous the industry is. I don’t have any grand insight or lesson from this. It was just a really interesting piece of investigative journalism:
Well, fictional medicine.
I recently read the book The Physician by Noah Gordan. This is my new favorite book. It’s the story of a man in 11th century England that a loses his family, becomes a barber surgeon, and travels to the Middle East to learn to become a physician. I think it’s a great piece of historic fiction, which is one of my favorite genres. It’s a long book (10,000+ Kindle pages), but worth it.
I read it for free using Amazon Prime reading. If you have a Prime account, there are a series of books available every month that you can “borrow” to read for free. I’ve read nearly 20 books this way in the past year. It makes a Prime membership even more valuable.
There’s a movie based on the book available on Netflix, but I haven’t seen it and can’t make any recommendation.
Besides the entertaining story, this book constantly reminds me of how lucky we are to live in the modern era. One personal example: it’s based in the 11th century and childbirth is relatively dangerous. We have four kids. While many people of that time had many more kids, many women also died during childbirth.
I don’t know what the statistics are for that time, but four pregnancies in the 11th century would add up to a high probability of maternal mortality. Our youngest in particular had a challenging birth that would have ended with Em and our youngest probably dying, instead of leaving the hospital in 2 days.
The other point is that the total amount of knowledge that was repeatedly lost over the centuries due to wars and destruction is incredible. The book has some discussion of the destruction of the library at Alexandria. I hadn’t thought of it before, but part of the current rapid acceleration in technology is due to the widely distributed nature of humanity’s knowledge.
The World Wars, while consuming millions of lives and more total destruction than the ancient wars, could not eliminate the knowledge base the same way as occurred in previous eras.
If the knowledge that was in those ancient libraries had been distributed, where would technology be now?
Did you know that more kids really are shooting their eyes out? We make the kids wear safety glasses when there’s a Nerf war. This usually happens with friends over, so we have about 15 pair. I recommend Harbor Freight for cheap safety glasses in quantity.
Our kids don’t have an air rifle, although they repeatedly ask.
According to CNBC, homeowners are sitting on trillions in cash.
Yeah… home equity isn’t cash. I seem to remember this being a problem a few years back where people thought home equity based on increased valuations was cash. What was it that happened there? So hard to remember the details about a global financial meltdown or something.
Coffee vs Investing
A classic personal finance boogyman. If you only cut out that daily latte, you would be a millionaire in no time! Then imagine how many lattes you could buy!
I found these two articles on the same day:
I enjoyed finding these on the same day. I made a helpful Venn Diagram to explain them:
I found myself caught in the car without my trusty podcast listening device. After a mild panic attack, I turned on terrestrial radio. The local NPR station had a show on with local non-profits that were discussing tax reform. Non-profits are concerned that since the standard deduction is so much higher now, people won’t have an incentive to donate.
Charitable contributions are still deductible, but it’s not worth it to deduct them unless you surpass the increased standard deduction. That means that if you normally give a little to charity, you don’t have to worry about it going on your return and also end up with more money on net due to reduced rate.
If you give a lot to charity, you still get the deduction. Also, the cap is now higher. You can deduct up to 60% of your income instead of 50%.
They continued to make the point that there is less incentive to give now. I’ve heard this argument before and it’s disheartening. The point of giving isn’t to get a tax deduction.
Even with the tax deduction, donating still reduces the total amount of money you have. It doesn’t earn you additional money somehow.
This line of thinking is equivalent to saying “If the charity can’t get the full amount (because the IRS gets a cut) then I don’t want to get any! That will show them.”
Of course, if the charity operated more on the basis of providing services for the donors with a wink and a nod that their donations were tax deductible, it may reduce that.
That’s it for this time. Check back next week for a new post.