This Week In Your Wallet: We Moved…Sort Of
For those of you keeping up with the saga of my home sale/renovation/move etc., I have an update. Our beloved home of 16 years is now, appropriately I feel, in the hands of a lovely young couple with a baby and a yellow lab. I hope they find as much respite and calm there as we did, and I hope that they love and take advantage of the fact that they’re surrounded by amazing neighbors.
Our renovation on our place in Philadelphia is… close(ish) to done, but not really done enough to live in. We have no working bathrooms, for example. Ditto to a working kitchen. So, yes, we moved, but our apartment looks like this:
I’m not complaining. Our contractor is doing the best he can despite the fact that, like many others, he hasn’t been able to get as much help as usual. If we had started our job any later, soaring prices for lumber and other materials would have added another 15% to the cost of our renovation, he told me last week. The electrical work would have been 20% higher. And if we had sold our house a year earlier, as originally planned, we wouldn’t have profited as much from the pandemic real estate boom. And we totally did it right when it came to movers, thanks to a top-notch recommendation and crack advice like this.
So, I’ll take those wins and we’ll get there when we get there. In the meantime, like many of you, I have pledged to enjoy continuing to work remotely this summer as we see how everything shakes out. And to continue to bring you the money news of the week.
It’s Fed Week
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this because we talked about it in detail last week (you can catch up here), but the Federal Reserve meets for two days this week (starting today) to discuss, among other things, interest rates, inflation, and whether or not to start reducing its stimulative purchases of treasury securities. Things have changed significantly since they last met in March. The Consumer Price Index jumped 5% in May (following 4.2% in April), both numbers well ahead of where the Fed expected they would be in the fourth quarter of this year. (On Monday, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase said he believed that inflation was not transitory – but in fact would be around longer than that – and that Chase was stockpiling cash to put to work at higher interest rates.) Companies are struggling to hire (a WSJ headline from this week reads, Forget Going Back To The Office, People Are Just Quitting Instead). And there’s now a discussion of whether a spate of COVID-related retirements should lead to a reduction in the number the US has to hit to achieve full employment. Bottom line: Keep an open ear tomorrow when the Fed will release a policy statement and the minutes from its two-day confab.
Bye, Bye, Bonus
Have you ever: A) taken an Uber or Lyft in a city and wondered how in heaven’s name it was so cheap, B) signed up for one (or many) dinner kit subscriptions to take advantage of the free weeks, or C) zoomed around on a trendy scooter that cost $1 plus just a few pennies a minute to take you from here-to-there in style? Yes, you may have to think pre-pandemic to remember some of these prices. But they existed. And – like I’m sure many of you – I absolutely took advantage. I tried out those dinner kits, then cancelled in fairly short order. I didn’t rent cars in Chicago and LA because ridesharing was so unbelievably cheap. But, as Kevin Roose writes in The New York Times, those Millennial Lifestyle Subsidy dollars – which came out of the pockets of venture investors who were bankrolling the MoviePass, Uber, and countless food startups until they figured out how to make a profit – are a thing of the past.
In other words, if it seems like the fees for these and other services are up, way up, you’re not imagining things. As Roose writes: “Hiring a private driver to shuttle you across Los Angeles during rush hour should cost more than $16, if everyone in that transaction is being fairly compensated. Getting someone to clean your house, do your laundry or deliver your dinner should be a luxury, if there’s no exploitation involved. The fact that some high-end services are no longer easily affordable by the merely semi-affluent may seem like a worrying development, but maybe it’s a sign of progress.”
Keep Your Eyes Peeled For This New Facebook Messenger Scam
Finally, I got a message on Facebook from a cousin of my father’s this week, a woman in her 80s. It didn’t seem that out of the ordinary to me – she lives in Philly. Maybe she was reaching out to say hi and welcome me to the neighborhood. Then she asked me if I had heard about the “new program from the National Institute(sic) of Health…helping Retired, widowed, Disable(sic) and Non-Retired with cash. The initiative is a special funding program to help pay medical bills, buy home and starting of own business.” That did it. First of all, I doubt that this particular cousin would make one, let alone multiple, grammatical and spelling errors, but then she followed up with a hard nudge to text a number that would give me more information – after, of course, I coughed up enough personal details to steal my identity.
Just a warning: Scam artists. Phishers. Fraudsters…Whatever you want to call these scum-sucking excuses for individuals, they are everywhere. They want your data. And they will come at you in whatever way they can in order to get it. You block them on the phone, they’ll reach out through your social channels. You block them on email, they’ll pop in as a text message. Bottom line: If you’re ever going to give any personal data to another individual or company, make sure that YOU initiated the dialogue. If they’re reaching out to you, remember: Just Say No.
Have a great week,