Coffee heat rising

What’s a Dollar Worth, Anyhow?

The other day I was reminiscing about my father and his times.

Born in 1909 in Fort Worth, Texas, he was a change-of-life baby. His mother apparently was in her late 40s, and, having raised two sons to adulthood, his father decidedly did not want to bring up another child. He walked out, ran off to the Chisolm Trail and waypoints. After some time (how much time, I do not know), he was found by the side of a road, a bullet in his head and a pistol in his hand: presumed suicide.

The mother, however, prevailed. She had inherited what was then a handsome fortune from her father, who’d struck it rich freighting buffalo hides out of Oklahoma into Texas, there to be shipped to the East Coast. By the time her husband ran off, she not only had that substantial chunk of dough, she owned a gas station (in 1909 that must have been a novelty!) and a large home. Fort Worth was a wide spot in the road, where the family presumably enjoyed a very comfortable lifestyle.

My father’s two brothers were adults by the time he came along. One was a cowboy who eventually became a ranch manager, and one went to work for Metzger’s Dairy, where over time he became a mid-level manager or executive.

In her husband’s absence, the mother fell prey to any number of opportunists and con artists. She got into spiritualism, which was quite the rage in the early 20th century. Adherents to this nouveau-religion believe the soul persists after death, and that it is therefore possible to communicate with your deceased loved ones. This activity drew the woman right in: my father described séances conducted by supposed mediums…who really acted not as a medium to chat with the dead but to funnel the credulous client’s money into their own bank accounts.

Then she got taken in by some building contractors, whom she had hired to make a few improvements on the family manse. Next thing anyone knew, she was paying them to construct grand additions to the house.

By the time the absent father was found, kaput, she had diddled away all of the money she had inherited from her father, including the gas station (which she sold to help fund her spiritual advisors and her construction crews). My father was still a teenager, but his two older brothers fell to blaming each other for not keeping an eye on her. This led to a permanent alienation between the two men. At 16, my father dropped out of high school, lied about his age, and joined the Navy.

Naval service started him on a decently-paying career in the Merchant Marine. By then he had formed a lifelong ambition: to earn back the entire amount his mother had squandered, and, once he reached that goal, to retire and live the life of Riley for as long as he had left to inhabit this earth.

That amount was $100,000, and that was his target. He worked, he scrimped, he saved, and he invested every spare penny.

By 1962, he had stashed away that amount: the cache he figured he could retire on.

So the other day I was contemplating the absurd rise in housing prices that has taken place recently — a house just down the street from my first house here in the ‘Hood, for which I paid $100,000, is on the market for $640,000. Same model as mine, a block closer to Conduit of Blight and its crazy-making noise. For a middle-class tract house, apparently it was underpriced: it sold in a few days. Six and a half times what it was worth when I moved into the neighborhood!!!

This led me to wonder how much that $100,000 of his would be worth today.

To live in the style to which that amount would have supported my father — just about in my present rather modest middle-class style — you would need $923,185.43…almost a million dollars!

And how much would he have needed to replace the buying power of his mother’s hundred grand in the year he retired, 1962? $173,563.22 when he bought their little house in Sun City.

He wasn’t so far off: only $23,563 short.

What it means is that in the time since he retired — 60 years — inflation has vastly devalued the dollar’s buying power — much more so than during the time he worked: 37 years.

So what does it mean to us, here in the first third of the 21st Century?

My guess is that if you’re a young adult today, you would need to calculate how much you need to earn now and how much you need to save to retire comfortably in middle- to old age, and then multiply that figure by a factor of two to ten. Depending on the style to which you hope to remain accustomed…

You can’t rely on today’s dollar to support you tomorrow.

Tell me we’re not this old…

…are we?

Walking the dog this morning, I fell into a reverie about my father and his life’s ambitions…this, stemming from the realization that my house, all by its little self, is worth FIVE AND A HALF TIMES the amount he had set himself as a goal to accumulate so that he could retire.

And “retire” was his life’s goal: he just wanted to quit working.

Quite reasonably: his job was hard (most of us would find it grinding), it kept him at sea most of his life, and at heart the man was a homebody.

He had dropped out of high school and lied about his age to get into the Navy by way of running away from home. So as you can imagine, he was not a real sophisticated guy when it came to things that you and I might have learned in high school and college, or in the sort of jobs we would have had as adults. He didn’t understand, for example, about inflation. For him, a dollar was a dollar and always would be a dollar.

He figured that if he could accumulate, in savings, $100,000, he would have it made. Whenever he reached that goal, at whatever age it happened, he would quit his job and retire to Possum Kingdom. 😀

Once $8,000 would buy you this house…

Well, Sun City came along at just about the time he was approaching his goal. He thought that was a grand idea: cheap houses and no damn kids barreling around outside squealing and laughing.

When he retired, he did have that hundred grand — and then some. As I recall, it was about a hundred & ten.

He worked SO hard. A ship’s deck officer worked 24/7, with crushing responsibility for a multi-miillion-dollar vessel filled with enough oil to destroy a hundred miles of coastline.

This line of thought arose when, God only knows why, I recalled how angry my mother used to make him when she would go out and diddle away some phenomenal amount of money on make-up or clothes. She loved make-up, probably because her endlessly toxic smoking habit had wrecked her complexion and traced a road map of wrinkles over her face. I can remember one time, when we were living in Southern California and I was in high school, we went into a department store and she spent two hundred dollars on makeup.

$8,000 wouldn’t buy you the front porch at this place…not today!

How much was that, really? Well… Two hundred bucks in 19 and aught 60 was worth $1,853.45 in 2021 dollars.

Holeeeee crap!!! Can you imagine? It’s a wonder she survived…clearly the man was a marvel of self-restraint.

Redfin thinks my little house is now worth $579,225. Well over FIVE TIMES the net worth he figured would sustain him from the age of about 55 through his dotage until he toppled over into the grave.

It didn’t, of course. He ended up having to go back to work, not so much because of inflation but because — another outcome of his financial naiveté — he had almost all his savings invested in insurance securities, which tanked shortly after he quit.

Never put all your eggs in one basket…

Wow. It’s hard to believe I am SO OLD that as I was entering adulthood a grown man could, quite reasonably, figure he could retire on a fraction of what my house alone is worth. A tract house that is most certainly not Mrs. Gotrocks’ dream home!

Their little house cost $8,000 when it was new. Redfin thinks it’s worth $274,000 now. That’s pretty cheap for middle-class housing hereabouts. Cheap because…well…Sun City. 😉

SDXB wants me to move out there, partly to get away from Tony the Romanian Landlord (who busies himself just now with installing a nursing home two houses up the street) and partly, o’course, because you can’t beat the price of the real estate there. But oh, my…Sun City.

I just do NOT want to live in a ghetto for old folks. This morning as Ruby and I were strolling around, we passed pretty houses with irrigated lawns, and xeric yards with lush trees and shrubbery. (Yards in Sun City are “desert landscaped” with gray gravel. Or gravel dyed green, presumably to ape the look of a lawn.) Stopped to chat with a neighbor who was having her kitchen cabinets refinished — woo HOO! Gossiped while we watched the carpenter work. Watched a nitwit roar up Feeder Street N/S on an unmuffled motorcycle. Frolicked around a grassy public park (there is no grass in Sun City, except on the private golf courses where no, your dog is not allowed). We admired a gaggle of little kids playing on the swings and slide (no, your kids are not allowed in SC, either). Roamed into the Richistans where we assessed the progress of a spectacular renovation job (no, there are no Richistans in Sun City: the houses are all of a kind). Hopped in the car and darted down to AJ’s (no, there are no AJ’s grocers in Sun City or anywhere near it) and bought a roll of spectacularly expensive dog food for the Queen of the Universe.

Yes. I could bank about $275,000 if I sold the Funny Farm and moved to Sun City.

But between you’n’me, I don’t think it’s worth the cost.

I do NOT know what, if anything, can be done about Tony’s empire-building at the expense of all the other neighbors’ property value … or even if it will come at our expense. But I do know I don’t wanna live in Sun City, no matter how much cash I can pocket by selling this place and moving out there.

But still, the thought lingers: I am SOOO OLD I can remember when a brand-new middle-class house cost eight grand, and when a house just like mine (same model, same size, same tract) cost a mere one hundred grand. And when a bag of make-up worth $200 would have bought you a freakin’ trip to Switzerland.

RIP, Jack Bogle

Jack Bogle, founder of Vanguard and inventor of the index fund, died this month. The “patron saint of the small investor,” Bogle’s strategies and advice saved many a middle-class owner of an IRA or non-deferred savings fund a bundle of money, by suggesting that paying hefty fees for often ineffective mutual fund and stock portfolio managers is unnecessary. By tracking the stock market, an index fund earns the average stock market return, performance that beats that of most professionals — at a fraction of the cost.

You can’t beat common sense. And Bogle was the avatar of common sense. His eight rules for small investors:

  1. Select low-cost funds
  2. Consider carefully the added costs of advice
  3. Do not overrate past fund performance
  4. Use past performance to determine consistency and risk
  5. Beware of stars (as in, star mutual fund managers)
  6. Beware of asset size
  7. Don’t own too many funds
  8. Buy your fund portfolio – and hold it

Works for me…

Skip the Coffee and Invest in These 3 Affordable Ways Instead

There are many people who look at investing as something beyond their reach and only affordable for the wealthy who have the disposable income to buy hundreds of thousands of shares in a company. The truth is that investing is for everyone and the sooner you start, the quicker you can grow your wealth and prepare yourself for your financial future.

You don’t even have to deplete your savings to begin your investment journey. Just put aside the money you would spend on your morning latte or other small items that you can do without to start your investment portfolio. If you are looking to invest with little to spend, consider some of the low-cost investment options listed below.


Image via Flickr by marcoverch

A small investment option for investors just starting out are dividend reinvestment plans, often referred to as DRPs or DRIPs. These stocks allow investors to directly obtain stocks from a company without the added expense of using the services of a broker. Most of these options only require you to purchase one share of stock to get a piece of the action.

There are many benefits with opting for a DRP, such as the ability to invest a specified dollar amount on an ongoing monthly basis. This allows you to be able to invest in the market during both its ups and downs which will provide you with a more representative return over the life of the stock. DRPs also provide dividend reinvesting which means the dividends you make will be reinvested, giving you a larger portion of stock.

Individual Stocks

The advent of discount brokerages online has allowed armchair investors the ability to invest in individual stock purchases themselves with as little as $5 to $10 fee per trade. This leaves you a large portion of the money you have to invest to be put into the stock itself instead of them being spent on brokerage fees. With these services, investors also have the option of being able to purchase fractions of large shares in up to 70 companies traded publicly. If you want to invest in major companies like Virgin American, you can spend as little as $10 towards the purchase of fractional stock.

Penny Stocks

A great investment opportunity for those looking to trade for less than $5 per share is to invest in penny stocks. Penny stocks represent smaller companies that are trying to establish themselves on the open market. Since the companies are just starting out, the investment is considered a more volatile one with the risk of considerable drops in share prices overnight. Though when proper research is done and investors learn the knack for trading them, they can also result in an incredibly high profit.

When choosing penny stocks, you will be making your trades from one of four tiers that these stocks fall into.

  • Tier 1 – Shares trade at $5 a share or slightly higher.
  • Tier 2 – Shares trade for less than a dollar a share.
  • Tier 3 – Shares are less than a penny.
  • Tier 4 – Prices are triple zero rates for a share.

Take advantage of investing early even if you don’t have much in the bank by considering one of the low-cost investing options listed above.

4 Stocks That Surprised Investors

The stock market’s only constant is its unpredictability. You can’t always count on stocks to do what you expect them to do, which is exactly what makes it so fascinating. Let’s take a closer look at some of the stocks that have made unexpected moves in recent years. Whether they suddenly shot up without warning or unexpectedly dropped in value, the following stocks sent shockwaves through the market and those who keep tabs on it daily.

Axon Enterprise

Image via Flickr by Elvert Barnes

Axon Enterprise (AAXN) used a risky promotion to give their company a boost. Instead of continuing their focus on selling TASERs, Axon switched to body cameras along with cloud storage solutions for the data produced by the cameras. To get things rolling, they offered free body cameras to every U.S. police officer for a year. The promotion tanked their stock to $21, but the risk paid off. After the year-long free trial, orders began to pour in for more cameras and AAXN stock rose to over $40.

Kush Bottles

It’s no surprise that marijuana stocks have been performing well in recent years. With the legalization of marijuana becoming a hot topic in just about every state, and the widespread development of dispensaries, it’s only natural that these stocks continue to rise.

But Kush Bottles (KSHB) is an outlier in a field of hot stocks. Kush Bottles rose more than 120 percent on the market over the course of the year in 2017 and reported revenue of $10.6 million for the second quarter of 2018 alone. Even more surprising is the source of the company’s revenue, which isn’t actually directly tied to marijuana sales. Instead, Kush Bottles specializes in wholesale supplies for dispensaries, including vaporizers and child-resistant containers.


The recession hit the large banks hard, but Citigroup (C) really reached a low point during this financial crisis. In April 2009, the company’s price fell to 97 cents per share. It seemed as though Citigroup was on the brink of shutting down altogether, and few investors thought they’d recover from such a hard hit. But over the last decade, the company was able to recover due to a massive government stimulus. The unthinkable has happened — Citigroup now trades at over $60 and continues to rise.


Not all stock surprises have a happy ending. In the case of Zynga (ZNGA), a high earnings forecast that didn’t pan out resulted in a major drop in the company’s stock price. In the second quarter of 2012, Zynga’s price dropped over 40 percent in a single day in after-hours trading. By missing the mark on its financial forecast by such a wide margin, Zynga became a cautionary tale of the stock market.

Though the stock market can certainly produce some great results, there will always be unexpected ups and downs to keep investors on their toes. These companies are great examples of the ways in which certain companies can produce incredibly surprising results when it comes to their stock market values and dramatic changes in performance over a short period of time.

Of phones and securities and numerals…

So, to start with the securities part: We’re told yesterday’s crash is a “normal,” nay even a “healthy” correction. The US market has wobbled around all day, closing up 567 points, though that’s not true all over the planet. My investment guru doesn’t seem to be very exercised. Says he: “We were certainly due for a pullback as the market has been going straight up for some time. I don’t think it is anything to get overly worried about. We do have a position that we will sell to raise cash if the market breaks down further.” Meanwhile, at the endlessly entertaining circus playing inside the Beltway, we have this amusing story.

Ever feel like you fell off the tightrope spanning the Gorge of Unreality? 😀

Yesterday I flew into one of my fits of hummingbird rage when SDXB jangled me up in the middle of the tedious morning blood-pressure measuring ritual, causing a spike into the 140s. DAYum, but I hate the sound of the accursed phone ringing.

Once I calmed down and alit on a branch somewhere, I began to reflect upon the effing phones, which very rarely are rung by friends. Most people email me these days. Usually what’s on the other end of the line is a robocaller, and of course that’s what made me so angry — I assumed it was another nuisance call. The phone is so fucking annoying because — among other things — it is so fucking LOUD.

For safety (so that I can reach a phone if I fall), there’s an extension in every room, many of them within easy reach of the floor. All well and good, in a little-old-lady sense, except…that adds up to eight phones!

No wonder the things lift you up out of your seat when they ring in chorus!

Contemplating this state of affairs, I chanced to wonder if it was possible to adjust the volume on the things. Or even turn the damn janglers altogether OFF.

Dug out the owner’s manuals. Believe me, figuring it out was not easy — the instructions are scattered in three places through 40 pages of obscure how-to instructions for functions you do not want, never have wanted, and never will want. But finally, LO! I did discover that not only can the volume be turned way down, you actually can turn the ringers off. Not only that, but the annoying, incomprehensible talking caller ID on the ancient Panasonic hidden in the family room cabinetry — which mysteriously is compatible with the vast set of Uniden cordless phones — actually can be made to SHUT UP!

I’ve tried to shut that thing up in the past, with no luck. Even though the manual says it can be done, it directs you to a function button that does not exist on the set! Of course. But somehow, by accident, I managed to shut it off. The other handsets were pretty easy to fix; turned off all but two ringers, and those I turned down as low as they will go.

So now when the phone rings, it’ll be annoying but it should not be tooth-jangling.

Speaking of annoyances, I made a surprising little discovery. If you take a nap in the afternoon — or maybe just lay down for an hour or so, without even sleeping — you can beat the tendency of your blood pressure to rise late in the day.

Yesterday I was pretty infuriated (you wonder why my BP is high? Because I’m mad as a hummingbird about half my waking hours…) when as an afterthought I took an evening reading and found the damn blood pressure elevated into the 140s. It hasn’t been that high in weeks, even though the hip thing has had me too crippled to walk more than about a quarter-mile — and that far only in the past couple days.

Yesterday was the last day of Week 4 in my six-week effort to lower average blood pressure into the low 120s or (preferably) the 110s, and this stratospheric set of readings was the last reading of the week! To my dismay, it pushed the week’s average from 125.7/82 to 128.4/82.7. I was enraged, needless to say, since there hadn’t been a reading in the 140s for quite a while.

Think this happened because right beforehand I spent two hours with a computer on my lap and my feet crossed and propped on an ottoman, without once budging. Obviously, that kind of immobility can’t be good for you. But still…seriously??????? 146/90? Really????

This morning, though, after an hour or so of physical therapy exercises and dog wrangling, the figures were back in their more typical range: 121/82. Not as low as I’d like, but not life-threatening.

Out of curiosity, then, I decided to see what would happen if I took a nap. In the past researchers have imagined that a regular afternoon siesta may lower overall blood pressure (this is not a great source, but just now I’m feeling too lazy to look up the studies…they’re out there, though). Some speculate that the mere anticipation of an afternoon nap may lower the numbers. More recently, though, other researchers claim to have found evidence that napping increases the risk of hypertension.

Well, I’m not fond of sleeping in the daytime. Life is too short as it is, without wasting part of every day in bed. On the other hand, I sure don’t want to take those pills. So as a practical matter, I didn’t actually fall asleep this afternoon. But I did lay down and rest. The result: average at 5:30 p.m. was 118/81, one helluva lot better than yesterday, that’s for sure. And the lowest reading in that set was an amazing 114/81.

Cardiodoc would be ecstatic.