Friday, April 20, 2007

A revelation and then the color green

I finally have figured out where this blog is going. It was a subconscious evolution but one that is now obvious to me. I felt sports were too limited and better covered. So while I dabble with what's on my mind occasionally, this site offers next to nothing in the way of sports. I enjoy covering various TV shows and occasionally movies as seen by Tuesday's post, but this is no "what's hot and happening" blog either. And while everyone loves stupid criminal coverage, it's a safe bet that Jay Leno maintains a safe lead over me in this avenue, too.

So what then has Wolfden V become? Perhaps if I began labeling each post with a blue, red, green, or purple tab it might jump out at you as it recently did to me. I love the USA Today. I read every day's newspaper and even in the event that I get backed up a few days, a stack forms waiting for me to catch up (much to my wife's dismay). Each section of the paper appeals to me, and over time has manifested in a variety of blog topics that does not much differ from what I consume from the USA Today.

With that in mind, there's plenty of purple (life) and red (sports) coverage here on a regular basis, including the previous few posts. I occasionally jump to blue (news) for items such as Don Imus, but due to a whack job out in Virgina there's nothing but morbid and awful news to cover. As such, I feel it's time to embrace the green (money) section - a part of the paper that I have only dabbled in.

I decided to drift over to CNN Money, which frequently offers quality retirement writings, and examine an article by Carolyn Bigda. The starting point comes in the form of a letter from a 38 year old man who has spent his entire fiscal life spending and not saving.

"My instinct is if I want something I'll just go and get it...Up until now my life's really been about recreation."

The man naively believes that he can fix 15+ years of bad spending habits in two years where he will fiscally mature at age 40. The author happily points out that he has failed miserably thus far, and while it's fixable, this "I can always fix it later, so screw right now" approach is going to sting after while.

Those early-adult years offer the richest potential for growth: Invest $10,000 at age 30, and by retirement it will grow to more than $100,000, assuming a 7 percent annual rate of return. Wait 10 years and you'll have only half as much.

So not only has the guy dug himself a hole with the $40,000 in credit card debt he's carrying into his 40s, he has wasted away the most valuable years to have savings snowball. The small steps involves a $350 to $400 a month commitment to pay off that 40k. Instead of paying a credit card company some double digit a month cut on the interest, wouldn't it be preferable if that chunk of change was going into a saving, IRA, or 401(k) plan where you would not only keep that original dough, but turn it into more money through investing and/or interest?

Bigda suggests, as many personal finance writers and experts do, that young people take their retirement savings out first. Especially if done through an employer, that money comes out of paychecks pretax, meaning it will go further as taxes are not taken out of that cut of the check, and the temptation to spend the money need never exist as it is already deducted from the paycheck. Taking the time to set up the account and coming to terms that you really can live without that extra few percent is the hard part. Reaping the benefits in retirement is the fun part.


Eli said...

Drew. I am so, so, so sad that you like USA Today. I'm tempted to un-link you.

lonewolf said...

The USA Today is not a newspaper, this I realize. It's an untimely news magazine that comes once a day, offering insight into a variety of fields of interest.

If I recall correctly, JR does not care of this publication much either and I do not understand the intense dislike for my beloved USA Today.

Becky said...

Mr. Retirement strikes again... What did we talk about last night? Our IRAs and the amount we should/could put into them.

One a side note, I don't like the USA Today either. There are PILES of them laying around my house threatening to make the carpet grey from the ink. I always joke that the first thing I will do after Drew kicks the bucket is to cancel our subscription. Now, I really don't Drew doesn't die anytime soon, but I still hate that paper.

Eli said...

*clearing my throat*

Well ...

USA Today is single-handedly responsible for the downfall of the modern newspaper.

I'm being mostly serious.

It used to be that newspapers would write long, interesting stories that forced the American public to read words and sentences. Sure, it was gray and boring-looking, but there was plenty of information there. People liked settling in with the newspaper every day and taking their time to get in-depth coverage on events and stories.

Then USA Today showed up and began appealing to the lowest common denominator, writing 200-word stories about major events like presidential elections and shoving seizure-inducing, colorful graphs, sidebars and charts into their stories. In doing so, they made the news "easier" to digest. In essence, they dumbed it down and people forgot how to read because of it.

Thus, since most Americans are illiterate, they began flocking to USA Today so they didn't have to work so hard to read their news. Other newspapers followed suit and now, there is only one newspaper in the entire country that is written at a sixth-grade level or higher, and that's the New York Times.

Because of the horrible success of USA Today, newspapers feel like they have to be entertaining and fun, and they're now trying to compete with television news. Which is silly ... TV news is always going to be more dynamic and interesting. It has video, it has people talking, it has the ability to be immediate. Those are big advantages. The disadvantage is that it isn't as in-depth a well-written, thorough newspaper article. But newspapers have taken away that advantage and replaced it with ... well, nothing.

Think of it like transportation. TV news is like taking an airplane to a destination. It's fast, flashy and efficient. A newspaper is more like a carriage ride. Instead of trying to figure out why some people like taking a carriage ride and marketing THAT, newspapers are now just trying to build a faster carriage.

And it's totally USA Today's fault. I hate them with the fire of Steve Nash, Shawn Marion and 5,000 other Suns.

JR said...

Well said. Yay.

I get the same feeling every time I read a USA Today article -- one of emptiness. While I am delighted by the colors and pretty pictures and ponies rainbows leprechauns unicorns, just as any other eight-year-old boy, I still wind up feeling as if there were three or four good paragraphs cut out of the story.


What draws me to sports writing is the slight license to move beyond the pedestrian reading level. It's not AP writing (you have three sentences to tell us EVERYTHING that happened. Go), but rather a subtle fusion of fact and feature, using both sport-specific jargon and often creative and interesting ways to present a story.

To me, it is the only acceptable form of journalism for someone who appreciates higher-level thinking, save for what the Times does and extensive investigative reporting. But I'm not sure enough people read the latter to give a shit.

However, I like colors.

lonewolf said...

So basically you dislike it for pretty much the same reason I dislike satellite radio. I'm hard pressed to disagree since I have similar thoughts in a similar media field. I suppose one of these days we are just going to have to adjust and go with the flow of what's trendy.

But I will say this in defense of the USA Today. I admit it's my dessert. In an example of a recent news event, I have read very little about the Virginia Tech shootings because it interests me very little. By offering a bulk of small (and admittedly lesser quality writings) articles, the USA Today enables me to get a wide variety of stories in four diverse fields. I simply prefer to get my non-6th grade reading level material from other sources.

Please don't unlink me. I have only three links on the entire Internet and I'll write more complex sentences so as to not lose 33% of my entire universe. May I remind you that you did beat me without beating me for the second time in the NBA playoffs, so there is that. And a check for $40.

Eli said...

Uh, yeah, I think we should go roto next year. I'm almost embarrassed.