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: Do You Owe Anything for Free Sporting Event Tickets?

Golden State Warriors Oracle ArenaHere’s a good question for you sports fans out there – Do you owe your friend a beer if he takes you to a game? The basic gist is that someone (James) wrote in that he sometimes gets tickets to games from his employer and when he takes a friend, he expects the friend to buy him two beers. Drew Magary, always an entertaining and outspoken writer, responded that he shouldn’t expect it because James was getting them for free from work (and if the tickets are to see the Golden State Warriors… I would agree!).

Personally, I can see it from both sides. As the giver of tickets, I don’t think you can ever expect anything. You can’t give gifts and expect something in return, that’s just a bad way to go about life because, honestly, you’ll be met with a lot of disappointment. People don’t appreciate things that are free, they appreciate things they have to pay for.

As the recipient of tickets, you should buy your friend some beers. You don’t need to buy as much as the value of the tickets but some sort of thank you would be nice and a couple beers is cheap relative to many tickets. James cited $425 NBA tickets and while I suspect there are probably more $20 baseball tickets than $425 NBA tickets, it’s still more expensive than a $7 beer. The only exception to this is if you get tickets to a box where the food and drink are free… then you’re both making out like bandits anyway and griping about beers is like stealing ball point pens during a bank robbery.

What do you think? Do you owe a beer to a friend if he gets you free tickets? Do you expect a beer or some free food?

(Photo Credit: bryce_edwards)

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Your Take: Would You Pay $5 to Go Into a Store?

Best Buy Showrooming!One of the big problems many retailers face is the issue of “showrooming.” That’s when customers go to your store to check out products but then leave to buy them online, where they are cheaper. There are plenty of smartphone apps that will do the online search for you after you snap a photo of the bar code, that way you know whether or not it’s available for cheaper online. I do this all the time using an app called ShopSavvy.

So I laughed when I saw this article about an Australian store charging $5 per person who enters the store. You get the $5 back if you purchase something. I think it’s foolish, no one is going to pay a cover to go into a store. :)

What do you think of this grand plan?

(Photo Credit: matteson.norman)

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Your Take: What Are Your Plans for Your Tax Refund?

Tax ReturnThe average tax refund is always in the neighborhood of three thousand bucks and we always enjoy asking you what you plan on doing with yours. Some people use it like “forced” savings and put the whole slug away for a rainy day. Others look to pay down debt. I always like hearing the stories of people who take a fun trip with the funds or buy something for themselves. Whatever it is, I want to hear it.

We typically don’t get a refund, we usually owe a tiny amount on our tax return, so I don’t get to weigh in on this particular topic this time. To help make this Your Take a little extra fun, we’ll be giving away a $50 gift card to the Cheesecake Factory.

(click here to continue reading…)

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Your Take: Sheryl Sandberg’s, Leaning In, and Embracing Success

Lean In by Sheryl SandbergThis week we did a series inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s new book Lean In and the associated media blitz. I first learned about it on NPR’s Morning Edition (a good 8 minute piece if you have the time) and the subsequent discussion about the message she was trying to convey and people’s responses to it. The book’s title, Lean In, refers to how women should lean into success and embrace it.

(click here to continue reading…)

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Your Take: Have You Had Trouble Claiming Missing Money?

Handful of CashEvery few months, I write a post about how you should check for missing money (that’s the first one – linking to each state – but nowadays I would just recommend using MissingMoney.com because it’s easier).

When I found money owed to me from Pennsylvania (an old paycheck from my days at Carnegie Mellon), the process wasn’t difficult but it did take some time. I had to fill out a form, get it notarized, and then mail that form back. After a couple weeks (probably more like months), I received a check for like $30. I wouldn’t call the process difficult, it just took a long time and, honestly, I had forgotten about it by the time the check arrived.

Of course, it wouldn’t surprise me if the missing money departments in each state ran their operations differently. It also wouldn’t surprise me to find out that people are having trouble recovering their missing money. I suspect my process was simpler because the funds were relatively small, under a hundred dollars. I bet the process would be different if we were talking about thousands of dollars and involving an estate, as was the case in the CNN Money article.

Have you experienced trouble trying to reclaim missing money?

(Photo Credit: stevendepolo)

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Your Take: Should We Increase Minimum Wage?

Minimum Wage SignIn President Obama’s State of the Union address last week, he talked about increasing minimum wage to $9 an hour over three phases. The last time minimum wage was increased was in 2009 (effective Jan 1, 2010) when it was bumped up to $7.25. Even bigger was the call to tie minimum wage to inflation, which is something we should do for everything (didn’t we learn anything from AMT and the million other non-inflation indexed numbers?).

I get the argument against raising minimum wage, it hurts job creation and increases costs. When you increase labor costs, businesses don’t hire as many people if they want to keep the same profit margins. You don’t automagically earn more when you add employees and you certainly don’t earn more when you simply up their pay. Business owners don’t like minimum wage increases because anyone earning minimum wage get’s a bump and it comes straight out of profits.

The problem is that minimum wage isn’t inflation adjusted. With every passing year, the minimum wage actually falls in terms of purchasing power. $7.25 in 2009 has the same purchasing power as $7.76 today. Go back farther and it’s even worse, that’s the painful magic of inflation.

What do you feel about minimum wage? Should it get increased or is it fine where it is? Or should it not even exist in the first place? Shouldn’t we let the markets determine what is a fair wage?

(Canadian! Photo Credit: mag3737)

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Your Take: College Rankings

Carnegie Mellon FlagBill Gates made a little bit of news last week when he said that the metric rating system for U.S. colleges was “perverse.” The gist of his argument was that rating systems gave more credit to schools that attracted the best students rather than for improving them the most. His words: “The control metric shouldn’t be that kids aren’t so qualified. It should be whether colleges are doing their job to teach them. I bet there are community colleges and other colleges that do a good job in that area, but US News & World Report rankings pushes you away from that.”

Personally, I never cared much for college rankings. They’re nice to have around but the top rankings are always to the same schools. US News is the most well known and you see the same colleges at the top… most are Ivy League schools with enormous endowments. This year’s ranking is no different. Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, and University of Chicago make the top five. MIT, Stanford, Duke, UPenn, and CalTech make up the next five. Last year had Harvard and Princeton tied for first, then Yale, Columbia, CalTech and MIT and Stanford tied for 5th, Duke, University of Chicago, and then UPenn. Shuffle around the deck chairs, same exact schools moving around.

My alma mater, Carnegie Mellon, comes in at #23. The value in these rankings isn’t the ranking but all the data that they provide. For example, you can see that 12% of males were in a fraternity while 13% of women. It’s also 58% men to 42% women. I can assure you that the Computer Science department does not have similar ratios… though I hear it’s getting more balanced, that’s a good thing! :)

What do you think about college rankings?

(Photo: duruk)

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Your Take: The End of Saturday USPS Mail Delivery

Antique USPS Delivery TruckThe United States Postal Service announced earlier this week that they plan on stopping Saturday mail delivery starting August 1st of this year. The USPS just increased stamp prices earlier this year to the current stamp price of 45 cents for a first class letter. To save money, USPS has often proposed terminating Saturday delivery in the past – the announcement this week is the first time they’ve actually been able to do it.

This only affects regular mail, the post office will continue to deliver packages on Saturday, just not regular mail. With the USPS hemorrhaging money (that’s really the only apt description for what happens when you lose tens of billions of dollars a year… after year after year), this move will save an estimated $2 billion a year.

What do you think? Personally, I’m fine with the end of Saturday delivery. The post office will remain open, packages will still be delivered, and I won’t miss getting junk mail on Saturdays. It’s not like anything urgent is ever sent by regular USPS mail anyway.

I am sympathetic to those who would lose their jobs as a result of reduced delivery but the USPS lost more than $15 billion dollars last year… something has to give.

What do you think?

(Photo: Hugo90)

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