Your Take Column

Every Friday morning I post a “Your Take” article in which I share my opinion on a particular subject and ask for yours. While I hope readers always share their thoughts, Your Take is more like the start to a conversation, a kick-off if you will, rather than an article in the traditional sense. I hope that you share your opinions about some of these subjects as I’m always interested to hear other people’s perspectives.

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 Your Take 

Your Take: Ever Take an Unpaid Internship?

When I was in college, I had internships nearly every summer of the year. In each of those internships, I was paid a decent salary and never once had to decide whether or not to take an unpaid internship. I remember what I was like back then and if the right opportunity opened up, chances are I’d have worked for free if I could convince my parents to stake me for the summer.

I was fortunate in that I was in college during much of the dot com boom so all my internships were paid. It also helps that the idea of an unpaid internship, for “experience,” isn’t popular in technology. It happens a lot more in other industries where the need for experience trumps all.

In most instances, unpaid internships are illegal. The Department of Labor has really tight criteria for what internships can be unpaid and very few internships apply. There was no chance of my internships would’ve been legitimately unpaid, though there are plenty of illegal unpaid internships!

Have you ever taken an unpaid internship?

 Your Take 

Your Take: The COINS Act

DollarEvery once and a while, someone introduces a bill to either kill the penny or kill the dollar bill. The one to kill the dollar bill is known as the Currency Optimization, Innovation and National Savings (COINS) Act and it’s made an appearance several times now, most recently this June. Senate Bill 1105 proposed to slowly transition away from the $1 bill in favor of the $1 coin. It’s estimated that the move would save $5.5 billion over 30 years, which sounds like a lot but it isn’t. US Federal spending for the 2012 fiscal year is $3.5 trillion. It is, however, still a savings and honestly I prefer $1 coins to $1 bills.

The problem is that they try this all the time and it never gets out of committee. In 2011 it was introduced, with the same name, and never left committee (House Version, Senate Version). Each had a handful of co-sponsors, was introduced again by the same Senator (Harkin, Democrat from Iowa), and who knows if it’ll make it out. I’m not hopeful.

Do you want to phase out the $1 bill in favor of a $1 coin?


 Your Take 

Your Take: Marriage Decisions Based on Credit?

Wedding RingsSo… here’s a pretty wild one. Apparently 20% of men and 30% of women say they won’t marry someone with a bad credit score, according to a poll by They polled 1,000 adults and had a few other interesting findings but that one was the most eye opening.

Financial responsibility is sexy again!

When I started dating my lovely wife, finances never came up. It helped that we were both in college at the time so finances were simpler then. For us, a $60 dinner was incredibly nice (they are still nice now but not these epic affairs as they once were… plus it was $60 in Pittsburgh, which goes a long way) and we didn’t make that much money. We never talked about money because we didn’t have any.

I can’t imagine what it’d be like to be dating after college in the “real world,” when these types of discussions become increasingly important. While the CNN story gets a little ridiculous (does Linda Basloe really want the credit score before giving out her number or did she just say that to get a quote in an article?), it confirms the bigger point of how finances do play a role in the marriage decision. I think it’s smart to have these conversations.

Should a person’s finances (or their credit score) factor into your dating decisions? Was it a factor for you? Please someone have a funny story!

(Credit: Caucas’)

 Your Take 

Your Take: Restaurant Week!

DessertToday marks the first day of Baltimore’s Restaurant Week (and the second week of Howard County’s Farm 2 Table Restaurant Week), and an opportunity for diners to try out nice restaurants at a discount price. I didn’t know the history of Restaurant Week (that it was started by Joe Baum and Tim Zagat in 1992 in NYC) but I’m glad the idea caught on and expanded!

If you don’t know what this is, Restaurant Week is where restaurants offer a fixed price menu at a discount. Do a search of restaurant week and your city or county to see if there’s one going on near you. Every year, we try to make it out to one new restaurant during the week in order to try something new. There are plenty of restaurants out there and being able to dine at a discount is a great way to see if we like a place without committing too much money. We also tend to visit an old favorite or two simply because the prices are often very good.

We’ve had good experiences and bad experiences (at one steakhouse, the meal took almost three hours and my dessert of a cheesecake came out half melted) but overall we’ve been pleased to be introduced to some fine restaurants. It makes for a nice date night!

What do you think about restaurant weeks? Fad? Marketing gimmick? Or do you enjoy them?

(Credit: lennard2305)

 Your Take 

Your Take: Do You Buy Generics or Brand Name Medicine?

AdvilI stumbled onto this NPR story about Matthew Gentzkow, an economist at the University of Chicago’s Booth school, and how he was trying to get to the bottom of why so many people bought brand name medicine.

What I found fascinating was that they looked at an enormous dataset (66 million shopping trips) and found that experts (nurses, doctors, pharmacists) were less likely to buy brands than average people. Pharmacists bought generics 90% of the time. Average people bought them 70% of the time.

They also asked people who bought brand name and it was all image driven. One guy didn’t want his wife to think he was cheap, one said Bayer reminded her of her grandmother, etc.

Personally, we buy generics all the time (OK not all the time, but pretty often). The price difference on some products is absurd. You can go into a Costco and buy a package of 365 pills of loratadine (the active ingredient of Claritin) for what seems like pennies. Go check out the price of Claritin in the grocery store, it’ll leave you gobsmacked.

That said, there are few medicines I use on a regular basis. If I’m not taking it all the time, does it really matter that much if I overpay a little? I don’t think so. I know we have both ibuprofen and Advil in our cabinet. So there was one day when we overpaid for ibuprofen… but that’s life.

Do you buy generics or brand name? Any reasons?

(Credit: An Nguyen Photography)

 Your Take 

Your Take: Oregon’s Attend College Now, Pay 3% for 25 Years Later

College Fund/LoanIt’s no secret that students graduate with a ton of student loan debt. It was front in center at the beginning of the month when Congress failed to do anything to stop a huge increase in the interest rate on Stafford loans. I relied heavily on subsidized Stafford loans (and other loans) in order to attend Carnegie Mellon and the favorable interest rate made the loan’s outsized balance manageable. And I counted myself lucky as my loan was under $30,000.

Instead of paying tens of thousands of dollars up front for the cost of your tuition, what if you just paid a small percentage of your salary, say 3%, for the next twenty five years? That’s the proposal set forth by the state of Oregon. The Legislature approved a plan that would let students attend state colleges without paying tuition and instead the students would pay 3% of their income for 25 years.

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 Your Take 

Your Take: Is Our Tax System Fair?

Tax CalculatorWhen Miranda approached me with the idea for this morning’s story, based on what she recently read in a CBO report, I thought it would make for an interesting (and lively, as all political and tax related Your Takes tend to be!) topic of discussion on the eve of the 4th of July. We’ll be taking tomorrow and Friday off but I wanted to discuss this before everyone left for the weekend, so we accelerated the Your Take to a very rare Wednesday afternoon. Hopefully you’re all still here and can chime in.

Personally, I think our tax system is overly complicated because it’s a series of tax breaks and tax punishments to incentivize and penalize certain behavior. The end result is something that analysts have to review and project the impact (they project to ten years and then freely admit there’s no way the projection is right because law will change in two) and it’s always complicated.

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 Your Take 

Your Take: Should We Label Genetically Modified Food?

Petri DishOne of the big issues these days, at least concerning food, has to do with genetically modified food. It gets mentioned a few times in the news from a food safety and consumption perspective but most often it is an financial issue for farmers. For years, farmers have been using genetically modified seed from companies like Monsanto to boost yields. The crops they grow are more resistant to the types of things that kill them. Most people are OK with corn that’s been modified to be heartier. Most people are OK with that corn being fed to cows, which then ultimately become our steaks, meatloafs, and hamburgers. In fact, according to BIO, a trade group, about 90% of corn, cotton, soybeans, and sugar beets grown in the United States is genetically engineered.

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