Want to reduce the cost of U.S. health care? A whole bunch of us need to eat less and exercise more.
A new federal report says more than 72 million Americans were obese in 2009 -- a 2.4 million increase in just two years. That excess poundage adds an estimated $147 billion to U.S. health care costs each year.
How fat are the folks in your home state, and what's the extra health care cost there? 24/7 Wall St. calculated the Obesity Index based on information in a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.
But first, some background (post continues after video):
Americans recently lost more than $10 million to bogus credit card charges from a single ring of scam artists.
You open your credit card statement and give the charges a glance. There's one charge you don't remember making, but the amount is only $5.95, and the company name looks vaguely familiar.
Since your bill doesn't include the merchant's phone number or website address, further investigation would take more time than it's worth. So you pay the bill and get on with your day.
That's exactly what the scam artists were counting on.
They work pretty well in money matters, unless you need absolute certainty.
The other day, I was explaining the Rule of 72 to my lovely wife. It's a simple little mathematical trick that almost epitomizes the advantages and disadvantages of rules of thumb. If you want to know how long it takes to double a sum of money, divide 72 by the interest rate.
At 10% a year, the rule says a balance doubles every 7.2 years. It's really slightly less than 7.275 years. At 5% a year, the rule says a balance doubles every 14.4 years. It's closer to 14.21.
It's a pretty good rule of thumb and good when you have nothing on the line.
Some shops are pulling the plug to make space for paying customers and change the ambience.
Coffee shops and free Wi-Fi once appeared to be the perfect match. Free Wi-Fi drew customers and made the shop seem cool. Even Starbucks finally inaugurated free wireless Internet service July 1 -- possibly influenced by the fact that McDonald's was offering cheaper coffee drinks AND free Wi-Fi.
The love affair may be over, at least in some shops. A number are pulling the plug on free Wi-Fi, saying it hurts business or detracts from the ambience they are trying to create.
People do not really think that they will never see any Social Security money. It is just something they tell pollsters.
It is time to make another visit to the bounty of information that our nation's intrepid polling companies gather for our enjoyment. I usually start these visits with a short proviso about how survey data about what people say to strangers who call them on the phone can't hold a candle to data about what people actually do. Often I point out that survey respondents tend to be neither candid nor thoughtful in their responses.
Today I am going to skip all that. I will just give examples.
The rich are optimistic?
Lawsuit claims that some producers and retailers are misrepresenting an inferior product as 'extra virgin.'
Has your olive oil been lying to you all these years?
That's the allegation made in a lawsuit filed by prominent chefs and restaurants who claim that a number of companies are mixing their olive oil with cheaper alternatives while still branding it as "extra virgin."
The IRS stops aiding and abetting tax preparers in making high-interest loans to those who can least afford them.
Ultimately, deciding when and how to leave the workforce isn't about some number in a retirement account.
I recently returned from my annual weekend trip to Oregon's Opal Creek Wilderness Area. Every year, I join five other friends to hike into the forest, pitch our tents on the banks of the creek, and sit around the fire talking about life. We drank a lot of whiskey this year, and spent a lot of time at the swimming hole.
This year, we also talked a lot about where we're going in life. All six of us are about 40 years old, and we're all dealing with career transitions of some sort. We chatted about "talkers and doers" (a topic I hope to write about soon), about building social capital, and about retirement. I mentioned that my wife hopes to retire when she's 52, and that caused a lot of envy. It also prompted an interesting discussion on Sunday afternoon.
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