Coffee heat rising

The Biggest Bugaboo of Hallowe’en…

Tax records.

Actually, the real biggest bugaboo this year was covid-19, which pretty much put the eefus on Hallowe’en in our neighborhood. Over in lower Richistan, the young parents insisted on entertaining Hallowe’en tricksters and treaters, many of them creating hilarious long ore slides through which they could deliver candy without having to get close to the kiddies and the teenagers. But over here in the peanut gallery, most people simply shut down their property. I turned off the lights and hunkered down in the back of the house, and noticed that most of the houses around me were darkened, too.

Usually Mr. & Mrs. WonderAccountant host a little party on their driveway. Ruby and I go over there and hang out all evening, and a great deal of fun is had by all. The kids are such a kick in their costumes, and they’re usually accompanied by adults who are commensurately decked out. But this year, even if the WonderAccountants hadn’t decided to opt the festivities…well…with a shiny new life-threatening condition, I surely can’t afford to expose myself to a disease that is likely to carry me away, just for the fun of handing out candy to a bunch of strangers’ kids in costumes.

That notwithstanding, I left a big box of candy out on the sidewalk for passers-by. Usually when you do that, someone will steal the whole thing. Not even the thieves were out and about! 😀 The junk was still out there this morning, and now I’ll have either to throw it away or to donate it to some charity. Personally, encouraging kids to eat that crap is agin’ my religion, so I’ll probably toss it.

Meanwhile, we’re nigh unto the end of the year, and so it’s time to organize this year’s transactions for WonderAccountant’s delectation. Arrrhhhhhh!!! How I hate that task!!!!!

And THAT is the Biggest Bugaboo of Hallowe’en! Eeeeeek!!!

After last year’s torture, I decided I would download and organize a month’s worth of transactions at a time, so that by the end of the year only one miserable month’s worth would await.

But no. Not a chance. I am simply too, toooo lazy to force myself to attend to an aversive task on a regular basis. Plus it’s been a bit of a shitty year health-wise, and so I surely haven’t felt like farting with that garbage. From what I can tell, I kept up with the credit-union transactions through the end of May and the AMEX transactions…well, not at all. I’ve only got one AMEX download: May through June.

It will take hour after hour after brain-numbing HOUR to download these hundreds and hundreds of transactions and organize them by category in Excel.

This used to be an easy task in Quicken. But the program I was using turned out not to be compatible with newer Mac operating systems, so about all I can do is track the stuff in Excel and then pass the Excel files along to WonderAccountant. She can access my CU statements, but of course she has no idea how to categorize about 95% of that stuff. To save her time and my money, I really need to do the scutwork myself.

Ohhh gawd!

You know…as my time on this earth grows shorter and shorter, my patience with things electronic grows shorter, too. I am SO goddamn sick of hassling with computers! And wrangling data. And trying to overcome every damnfool new “improvement” and “update” foisted on us, most of which are far from improvements but represent some new headache. The last thing on this earth I want to do is spend several hours a day the next three or four weeks wrestling with data from the credit union, from American Express, from Medicare, and in Excel.

Well, with any luck at all, given the current state of affairs, maybe this will be the last thing I’ll have to do in that department.

Thank heaven for small blessings…


At last! Monsoon season is almost over, and here we get our first thunderstorm of the summer — with rain. About time, I’d say!

Ruby the Corgi is unnnerved. She contemplates jumping off the bed, but it’s a drop from the top of the mattress to the floor. Too exposed up here: she craves her den, under the toilet.

Clearly, under the toilet is the only safe place to be during a noisy storm. 🙂

And noisy it is. The light show is going on about 5 to 10 miles away, by my count. But still, a few thunderclaps are…arresting.

Amused myself this evening by starting to figure out next year’s budget, the annual required minimum withdrawal having just arrived from Fidelity. The numbers do not look good.

It appears that over the next year, I’ll have a shortfall of $12,470. This year’s RMD plus Social Security total up to $31,460, but when I set aside the amounts I paid for 2019 taxes and insurance plus the $300/month for emergency savings, the net available to live on for a year is $20,085. Meanwhile, my total average living expense per year is now $32,556, not including any little surprises like dental work and pool repair. That’s a shortfall of $12,471. If I don’t put anything aside for emergencies, we still end up with a shortfall of $8870.

I got by for about 10 or 11 months this year on the RMD and Social Security, but had to take the RMD a couple of months early. Financial Dude just transferred $16,500 from Fidelity, but after taxes & insurance, that will not cover my costs for 12 months. Or even, I’m afraid, for 10 months.

Coincidentally, we’re de-incorporating The Copyeditor’s Desk, changing it from an S-corp to a sole proprietorship. What that will mean tax-wise escapes me. But the business account has just about enough to make up the shortfall, assuming I don’t have to buy any new computer hardware. But…that’s this year.

Then what?


Batten Down the Hatches! Prepare for the next recession NOW

So Mr. Trump, our mentally ill President, just crashed the economy with one of his acts of lunacy. The Dow is down over 600 points, and that was after showing some signs of instability in the past couple of weeks.

Like it or not, China is a major trading partner for the US. Shut it off, and we cut off our own nose to spite our proverbial face. Trump’s act of spite will harm every business in this country, large or small. Mine, for example, the smallest of the small: Trump just closed my business. China has always been pretty woozy about sending money beyond its borders, so when you’re selling a service to clients on the mainland, getting paid can be a challenge. When I decided to quit using PayPal and found that Bank of America couldn’t figure out how to accept a wire transfer to a business that has an apostrophe in its name(!!), that left only Western Union as a way to transfer payments owed. This was questionable enough as it stood, but now that the Moron in Chief has cut off trade with China, it presumably will be impossible.

Presumably, indeed, I will never be paid for the two difficult academic articles I just finished editing and preparing for publication. And presumably after this The Copyeditor’s Desk will get no (zero, zip) further business from its bread-and-butter clients in China.

That is about as micro- a micro-example of this fiasco as you can get.

On a far more macro level, there’s a reason the market lost over 600 points before it closed. This country does a lot of business with China. Cut it off, and you close a lot of businesses, end a lot of commerce, lose a lot of jobs.

And lose a whole lot of income for the American middle class.

Mark my words: The Trump recession will make the Bush recession look like a walk in the park. If you have any illusions that you can survive it, now is the time to prepare yourself and your affairs. How?

  • First, pay off debt. Pay all your outstanding credit cards right now. If you owe a lot on a mortgage, it may be wise to sell your house while it’s still worth something and rent someplace until such time as this recession comes and goes. If you have a car loan, pay it off if you can, or get rid of the car if you can.
  • Do not take on any new debt. Do not buy a car. Do not buy a new house or apartment. Do not go off on some expensive vacation or indulge yourself with anything that requires you to charge up more than you can pay off at the end of a billing cycle.
  • To the extent possible, place investment funds in money market, CD, or other relatively “safe” instruments. These will not make money for you, but they won’t lose much, either. Get out of securities.
  • Charge nothing on a credit card that you cannot pay at the end of the billing cycle out of your bank account. Pay off credit cards at the end of each month or, if that is a challenge for you, simply stop charging on credit cards. If you can’t pay for something with cash, don’t buy it.

If you’re a retiree with most of your life savings in an IRA, 401(k) or 403(c), the timing of this latest moment of lunacy could hardly be worse. Along about now, retirees with deferred investment instruments have to make their annual “required minimum withdrawal”: a forced withdrawal of a percentage of savings, so that you will have to pay taxes on it. With the market extremely depressed, two things happen:

A drawdown generated by the required percentage will be substantially less than normal (think of it this way: 10% of $100 is $10. But if one day your $100 loses $60 (say 1 stock market point = $1), then you get 10% of $40. That would be $4. Which ain’t a-gunna be enough to live on. And of course the remaining $40 will not rebound to $100 or even to $96 very soon, because it will be short 10% of the funds you would, over time, reinvest to recover the value of your losses.

There aren’t a lot of ways to prepare for a little catastrophe like that. One way or the other, you’re not going to have enough to get by. But you’ll be a lot less likely to have your house foreclosed out from under you and your car towed off to the impound yard if you don’t owe anything on them.

I have to say, for the first time in my adult life, I’ve begun to think seriously about decamping to some other country. Permanently.

Apparently one of the best places you can go to live as an expat is Panama. A little town called Boquette, to be precise. Check out the real estate in this place! How about the view from this hovel, 3520 square feet in a gated community, for about $100,000 less than I could get for my house today…

Crime levels are low in Boquette. The local expats say there’s lots to do and the weather is great. Medical care, we’re told, is more than adequate and is reasonably priced.

Two of my friends have already moved to Mexico. They’re both ecstatically happy. One is a native speaker of Iberian Spanish…but Spanish is easy to pick up if you don’t already have it. Especially if, as happens to be my case, you speak two other Romance languages and have a spattering of Latin.

Lookit this thing: it’s easily a hundred grand less than I could get for my house here, and it’s freaking gorgeous. Much, much nicer than my house, and 1478 square feet larger.

The time may be a-comin…


So today’s “If You’d Asked Me” post managed to get up before the crack of dawn: short, to the point, and guaranteed to enrage my two friends (that I know of) who are anti-vaxxers. This, after the mile-long doggy walk and before the pool guy showed up to provide an estimate for replastering the crumbling pool. Proposed price range: $7,000 to $10,000.

One could knock something off that by opting for plain old-fashioned plaster, which in the past had a life expectancy of around 10 years. But — wouldncha know it — my guy reports that manufacturers have cheapied down the product so it no longer lasts as long as it used to. The so-called “premium” plaster is said by its maker to last about 7 years; he said it would last around 10 if cared for properly. The regular plaster is now estimated to last 4 years(!!); his guess was it could last 7 years with proper care. Premium plaster is $4,970, which is a savings…but not if you have to replace it in 8 or 10 years. For comparison, what I have out there now is plaster that was expected to last 10 years but has survived 14 years. The PebbleTec and PebbleSheen products, he said, last 15 to 20 years, which is about as long as I expect to be in this house before I croak over or am dragged off to the nursing home.

So I’m opting for the PebbleSheen, a finer, slightly smoother version of PebbleTec. The price, we’re told, is the same.

There’s a fair amount of cash lurking in Fidelity, which I guess we’ll have to withdraw to cover this little exploit. Depending on how bad the damage behind the cracked tile is and whether I decide to try to reinstall the pipeline that would let me plug Harvey the Hayward Pool Cleaner into a dedicated port rather than sticking his tail into the skimmer basket, price could waver by as much as three grand. Oh, whee.

I’m having to take the next RMD before the usual September date, because I’m out of money as of…just about now. This is because I paid off the damn car loan…never did recover from that hit. For at least the next year, I’m going to have to maintain an ascetic lifestyle. No clothing purchases, no new shoes, no meals out, no travel, no driving from one end of the Valley to the other, no indulgences…  Blech.

Having the laptop off in Apple’s precincts is a real inconvenience. Thank the heavens for DropBox! All the projects I’m working on are easy to access. But sitting on an office chair in front of a desk still does make the back hurt. A lot. So that puts the eefus on getting much done. Hence, I’m putting off converting the “Asked” page to the same PDF offerings that now grace Ella and Writer.

That notwithstanding, this afternoon I managed to write about a third of Drugging’s chapter 3. Converting the stuff from Bloggish to more formal English replete with citation & documentation is quite the little job. The Drugging of America posts can only serve as rough outlines from which to spin upwards of 2,000 words per chapter.

Figure it’ll take about two more days to finish the draft of that chapter. At that point I’ll be ready to write the proposal. Meanwhile, my friend La Bethulia, who’s a psychiatric nurse practitioner, agreed to read chapter 1, the weightiest of the three chapters that will go out with the proposal. Actually, the NNT chapter is a little bracing, but I think it will be OK. I actually may contact the NNT website and ask if someone there would review that chapter, since I take their project’s name in vain repeatedly. If I can get them to vet it for facts — and do so promptly, not an easy trick for an academic during the summertime — I think I’ll have a lot better shot at selling the thing to a real publisher.

I hope.

How to Deal with Elder Exploitation

Recently a friend who’s down on her luck proposed that she should move in with me as a roommate. I was tempted: an extra plug of money — even though it would be far less than what it would cost her to rent an apartment here in lovely (increasingly expensive) uptown Phoenix — plus some help with the utility bills would be nice. And at times one would enjoy the company and another pair of hands to help with the upkeep.

And at about the same time, a reader wrote to discuss a new development in his aged mother’s welfare: a “friend” from the past has resurfaced, essentially broke and homeless, and has talked her into renting a room for about a third the going rate.

For us Aged, a rental arrangement along these lines presents some advantages. If you own the property, a little rent amounts to some spending money. If instead you’re paying a mortgage on it, the effect is the same because the rent defrays the cost of the mortgage payment, leaving something in your checking account to pay for food and glad rags. Less obvious: if you carry what the person pays you on your books as “rent,” it turns your home into a rental property and everything you do to improve or repair it is tax-deductible as a business expense.

It works. When SDXB lived with me, he paid half the mortgage and half the utilities. For the IRS’s purposes, I described the income as “rent,” and that substantially defrayed the cost of the new carpeting, the paint, the new kitchen counters, the new toilet, the new swamp cooler, and various bits and pieces of maintenance. It worked out quite well. And since the mortgage alone consumed half of my entire take-home pay, that “rent” made it possible for me to live in the house at all.

Though my friend is neither male nor a love interest, the possibility of having her share space seemed, in passing, interesting enough. I enjoy this person quite a lot. And it has, after all, been long enough since SDXB’s exit for me to forget why roommates make me crazy…

Presented with this proposal, my son put his foot down. He was having exactly none of it, and he announced in no uncertain terms that no roommate was moving in.

Now…you could observe that I’m a grown woman and can decide for myself who I will and will not live with. And there’s something to that. But I wouldn’t have asked him about this if I hadn’t had some misgivings.

And as a  practical matter, my son being at the height of his vigor still has all has marbles. As I skateboard toward senility, there’s some question as to whether every one of mine really is intact. He has shown himself to be eminently responsible with money and all-around smart about life, the universe and all that.

So, I tend to take his advice, he clearly having a better grip on his marbles than I have on mine.

Really, once you’re in your 70s, you find that you’re more easily persuaded – “railroaded” may be le mot juste – than you were just a few years earlier. You’re less skeptical of other people’s motives and less inclined to believe the worst of others. So it’s easy to take advantage of you. And people know it. People who don’t necessarily mean you well know it.

This isn’t the first time someone has proposed to move in with me. About two days before I was scheduled for the first of the six surgeries that occupied a full year, my neighbor across the street sold her house. By the time the deal closed, she still had noplace to go: she hadn’t bothered (or couldn’t afford) to find an apartment or arrange lodging with family members.

So she shows up at my door and suggests that she should room with me temporarily, until such time as she can find a permanent place.

At this point, I’m pretty bat-brained with stress. I say…uhmmm…okayyy, I guess that would be OK. And before I know it, she’s marching around my house saying “my chair will go here and my TV will go there and my refrigerator will go in the garage”! And I’m thinking…holeeee shee-ut!

When my son got wind of this, he mounted his white charger and galloped across the road. He showed up at her door and said, “You are not moving in with my mother.”

Thank you, God…and son. He thereby extricated me from what was obviously about to become a very messy situation.

Financial exploitation of the elderly is a serious problem in America, partly because families splinter and scatter all over the country. An older person really needs someone who sincerely wants to watch over his or her interests to keep an eye on all aspects of the person’s life, including finances. But when families disperse, there often isn’t any such person left.

Victimization of this nature has become so common that physician’s assistants are trained to recognize it and lawyers are advised that cases of elder financial exploitation can form a part of a successful practice.

The state of Florida (home of the world’s most spectacular con artists) has inscribed financial elder abuse into its statutes:

(1)  “Exploitation of an elderly person or disabled adult” means:

(a) Knowingly obtaining or using, or endeavoring to obtain or use, an elderly person’s or disabled adult’s funds, assets, or property with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the elderly person or disabled adult of the use, benefit, or possession of the funds, assets, or property, or to benefit someone other than the elderly person or disabled adult, by a person who:

1. Stands in a position of trust and confidence with the elderly person or disabled adult; or

2. Has a business relationship with the elderly person or disabled adult;

(b) Obtaining or using, endeavoring to obtain or use, or conspiring with another to obtain or use an elderly person’s or disabled adult’s funds, assets, or property with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the elderly person or disabled adult of the use, benefit, or possession of the funds, assets, or property, or to benefit someone other than the elderly person or disabled adult, by a person who knows or reasonably should know that the elderly person or disabled adult lacks the capacity to consent;

(c) Breach of a fiduciary duty to an elderly person or disabled adult by the person’s guardian, trustee who is an individual, or agent under a power of attorney which results in an unauthorized appropriation, sale, or transfer of property. An unauthorized appropriation under this paragraph occurs when the elderly person or disabled adult does not receive the reasonably equivalent financial value in goods or services, or when the fiduciary violates any of these duties:

1. For agents appointed under chapter 709:

a. Committing fraud in obtaining their appointments;

b. Abusing their powers;

c. Wasting, embezzling, or intentionally mismanaging the assets of the principal or beneficiary; or

d. Acting contrary to the principal’s sole benefit or best interest; or

2. For guardians and trustees who are individuals and who are appointed under chapter 736 or chapter 744:

a. Committing fraud in obtaining their appointments;

b. Abusing their powers; or

c. Wasting, embezzling, or intentionally mismanaging the assets of the ward or beneficiary of the trust;

(d) Misappropriating, misusing, or transferring without authorization money belonging to an elderly person or disabled adult from an account in which the elderly person or disabled adult placed the funds, owned the funds, and was the sole contributor or payee of the funds before the misappropriation, misuse, or unauthorized transfer. This paragraph only applies to the following types of accounts:

1. Personal accounts;

2. Joint accounts created with the intent that only the elderly person or disabled adult enjoys all rights, interests, and claims to moneys deposited into such account; or

3. Convenience accounts created in accordance with s. 655.80; or

(e) Intentionally or negligently failing to effectively use an elderly person’s or disabled adult’s income and assets for the necessities required for that person’s support and maintenance, by a caregiver or a person who stands in a position of trust and confidence with the elderly person or disabled adult.

(2) Any inter vivos [gift from a living person, as opposed to a legacy] transfer of money or property valued in excess of $10,000 at the time of the transfer, whether in a single transaction or multiple transactions, by a person age 65 or older to a nonrelative whom the transferor knew for fewer than 2 years before the first transfer and for which the transferor did not receive the reasonably equivalent financial value in goods or services creates a permissive presumption that the transfer was the result of exploitation.

As you can see, this is a pretty broad definition. Just about anyone who has any kind of access to an elder person, whether officially as a cosigner on an account or whether as a matter of trust or family relationship, is in a position to wangle any of these abuses.

What can be done?

If you’re already older but still have full possession of your marbles:

  • Designate someone that you trust to keep an eye on your finances and on your personal activities and relationships.
  • Designate someone else that you can trust to “second” or oversee that person’s activities where your finances and lifestyle are concerned.
  • Provide a power of attorney for that person.
  • Put your wishes – especially should you become incapacitated – in writing, give copies to more than one person, and file a copy with your lawyer or accountant.
  • Make it possible for the trusted person to view your bank, brokerage, and credit-card statements; arrange to have statements sent to this trustee, or give him or her the password to view statements online.
  • Arrange for a financial manager to oversee major investment accounts, with responsibility to you, not to your relatives or supposed friends.

It’s important to be aware that just because someone is your child does not make that person trustworthy. The sister of a dear friend assumed the care of their mother, who was at the time sliding into Alzheimer’s. As soon as she got her talons into the woman, she cut off all communication with her siblings. The woman’s estate was worth about $6 million. By the time my friend and her brother realized what was going on, the sister had drained the estate of at least $3 million, diddling away the money on houses for herself and her adult child, on cars, and on luxury items. The lawsuit is under way as we speak – but no one will ever be able to recover the money that was stolen from the mother’s estate.

If you have a parent or loved one who needs help or who may need help:

  • Keep an eye on his or her living conditions and note any abrupt changes. If the person is suddenly living high off the hog or suddenly living like an anchorite, consider that a warning sign and look more deeply into the situation.
  • Watch for the absence of valuables, such as electronic devices, jewelry, or furniture. Any unexplained disappearance of such possessions is a loud and clear warning sign.
  • Regard any new roommates, caregivers, or “best friends” with skepticism. Be sure they do not have access to funds or property. This is a case in which silence is golden: watch, don’t talk.
  • Observe whether such a person accompanies him or her to the bank, knows their Social Security number, or knows PIN numbers for debit cards.
  • Watch for signs that bills aren’t being paid, such as past-due notices, bill collection harassment, eviction notices, cancellation of utilities, or the like.
  • Review bank statements regularly. If statements stop coming in the mail, find out why and where they’re going.
  • Question any unexplained financial transfers or disbursals.
  • Examine cleared checks to confirm that the signatures have not been forged.

If, as in my friend’s case, the victimized elder is mentally in no state to recognize exploitation or to ask for help, you may find yourself with a difficult problem. It’s not easy to challenge a caretaker’s authority, especially if the perp has been smart enough to engineer withdrawals and property exchanges in such a way as to make it appear they’re somehow in the victim’s interest.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Hire a lawyer. Some lawyers specialize in elder abuse cases.
  • Contact the person’s doctor or other health-care providers.
  • Notify other family members who are not exploiting the person.
  • Notify law enforcement officials.
  • Contact your state’s Adult Protective Services.

If you have evidence that someone you care for is being financially exploited — even if the apparent exploiter is a family member — take action. Do not delay. My friend and her brother are out $3 million of the money their father left to them — that’s $1.5 million apiece — because they hesitated to rock the boat. Even if the sister is convicted of a crime, they will never get that money back. And the mother will have that much less to support her safely and comfortably until she dies of Alzheimer’s.

Image: DepositPhotos, © Photography33

Smart Debt: Is there such a thing?

Influenced by Dave Ramsey, one of my honored students — maybe even a budding PF blogger, who knows? — writes on the horrors of debt. It’s pretty adorable stuff, in its lively and charming youth. The gist of his squib is that all debt is to be avoided, come Hell or high water.

There’s a lot to be said for that point of view. Matter of fact, our friend D. R. White (he of Motivating Minutes) has just published a new book on the topic: How to Get Out of Debt: Using the Internet. He includes the stories of fourteen PF bloggers (full disclosure: one of them is moi) plus ideas and tools to help you plot a course toward a debt-free life. He’s pretty proud of it…so now’s the time to run over to Amazon and grab your copy.

Reflecting on the student’s  jeremiad, though, it strikes me that true, full-blown debt-phobia entails a fundamental fallacy: it is not so that all debt is necessarily bad. What is bad is to get so deep in debt that should unforeseen circumstances occur (another recession or economic depression; illness; unemployment; whatEVER), you can’t make the payments.

Some kinds of debt are beneficial, though. For example, even though college tuition is now exorbitant, a typical young person with a bachelor’s degree will earn almost a million dollars, over a lifetime, more than a typical young person with a high-school diploma. Even after college loan debt and taxation are subtracted, the college graduate’s net gain amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The typical American college graduate  ends up with a relatively small student loan: about 30 grand. While that’s not pleasant, it’s actually about what a late-model car costs. Most people can pay off a car loan in five years. BUT the difference between a college loan and a car loan is that the college degree APPRECIATES over time (returning many thousands of dollars in enhanced earning power) while a car DEPRECIATES over time.

The college loan returns cash to the borrower and buys an asset that lasts a lifetime. The car loan takes money way from the borrower and leaves behind a devalued asset.

In effect, the college loan leverages debt to the borrower’s advantage. The car loan works to the borrower’s disadvantage. Thus one could argue that some kinds of debt actually benefit the borrower while other kinds work against him or her. The challenge is to identify what kinds of debt are worth taking on and what kinds represent a threat to your financial well being.

Similarly, a mortgage on a fairly priced house (not one whose value has been inflated during a “bubble”) may work to some people’s advantage. If you are earning money and investing it in a 401(k) or other type of fund, in an economy such as the one we’re in now, your investment returns about 9 percent. But today’s mortgage rates are still under 4 percent.

So, instead of paying off the mortgage, you’re better off to invest the amount in securities, which at this time are returning about 5% more than you would “gain” by throwing your money at the mortgage debt. Here, too, you leverage money to your advantage: you have to have a roof over your head, and the low-interest loan makes it possible to have your cake and eat it, too.

On the other hand, credit-card debt is usually disadvantageous, because most of it goes to buy material things that often are not needed at all. A television set, a closetful of clothing, a hundred dollars worth of fancy department-store make-up, a comic-book collection, a new computer game , a restaurant meal: none of these things appreciate in value or make it possible for you to build wealth. Thus this type of debt represents a drag on your financial well being.

These are important distinctions. They point to the fact that people need to have some financial sophistication to thrive in today’s extremely complex economy.

A loan that allows you to earn more or save more can be said to be “smart” debt. One that takes money out of your pocket and returns nothing of real value — well. Not so much.