Older and, Hopefully, Wiser

Nor' east Thinkin'

Younger reader takes aim at archaic thinking

Published on: October 22, 2009

I'm always glad when readers respond critically to anything they find in American Agriculturist. As I recently told a younger critical thinker, “You keep me sharper and hold this magazine accountable. And that can only make it better. I consider it a privilege to write for you and to challenge your thinking – so you can challenge mine!” 


He took aim at October’s Food for Thought column: “Avoid clunky thinking, short foresight”. He doubted that many “Cash for Clunkers” participants bought new vehicles without considering their financial position. I have to disagree. And the new car loan data confirms it. Far too many purchased a new vehicle without weighing more frugal alternatives. (Knock $4,500 to $5,000 first-year, new-car depreciation off and buy a smaller, used vehicle, and you’re already many dollars ahead.)


America has a great many "financially dysfunctional" people; many are middle class – and sliding. You only have to sit in on one financial management training session to discover it.


You only have to look at average savings per capita plus the incredibly small percentage of people putting away money for retirement. Hoping to have retirement money” won’t buy much once you’re there.


On the more positive side, there’s great value – particularly in today’s economy – to being tight with a buck, fiscally conservative. 


The young man was correct that there are conveniences of electronic data management. But most Americans have no clue how often and how easy electronic financial data management is compromised either by inadvertent or deliberate corruption. And when you’re lulled into checkbook balancing complacency by automatic payments, you victimize yourself.


Trusting a computerized system means trusting thousands of people who access that system – employees, contracted IT experts, etc. – from all over the world. This also contributes to America’s huge identity theft problem.


Yep, I’m archaic. I'll take personal service and my own accountability surveillance every time over a system where no one can be held accountable. Just try to get correction made when a remote-based banking computer screws up!


I'm also archaic to suggest that credit card charges of 28 to 40% interest and $50 to $100 overdue fees are outrageous. But that's exactly why new tougher restraints are being imposed on credit card perpetrators.


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