Never was working class Baltimore happier with its lot in life. Yesterday, neighbours greeted each other with a smile. Co-workers exchanged stories, laughed and slapped each other on the backs
No one seemed to care about crime or trash or corruption or school teachers who can't read or acres of boarded-up houses. Baltimore may be a dump. But no one complained yesterday.
It was pandemonium on Sunday night. Fireworks, horns, street parties, accidents, the drunks poured out of bars and basements, eager to give each other high fives and find their cars. Old timers said they couldn't recall so much merriment – ever. Even when WWII was over.
But this is a sports town. American football is more important to Baltimoreans than warfare. The typical resident of the Hampden or Dundalk neighbourhoods would sooner lose a major war than lose the Super Bowl.
But the Ravens came through. They got so far ahead in the first half we worried that the ref would have to stop the game out of pity for the opposing side. Instead, a cunning 49er fan must have thrown the switch and stopped the game.
When the power came back on, the birds couldn't find their mojo. But they didn't need it. They had enough of a cushion accumulated to protect their lead. And this morning a parade took the team from City Hall to the stadium. Woe to uninformed travellers in the downtown area: you shall not pass!
Meanwhile, over in the stock market, the Dow fell 129 points yesterday. And here is some advice, worth every penny you pay for it:
Yes, dear reader, get out of the US stock market. Stocks are near an all-time high. Barron's tells readers to prepare to break the record this week.
Maybe. But when you are near the top you have more to lose than to gain. Besides, we have a better idea.
"I took my money out of the stock market", said a friend over the weekend. "I figure stocks went up... they can go down. And I'm too old for that. So, I used the money to buy two new houses down by the military base at Solomon's Island. I paid only $160,000 for each. And they're new. And I'm renting them for $1,900 a month to soldiers with families. You can do the maths yourself, but I figure I'm netting about 10%. And I don't think they're going to go down from here. I think they're going up."
We gave our friend some advice too: "Want to do even better? Get the biggest mortgage you can. You can get 30-year financing for... what?... about 3.5%? And the real inflation rate is probably about 10%. So, you're making about 6.5% on borrowed money... plus the rental income. Let's see, that's about 16.5%... With very low risk. That's a lot better than the stock market."
Try it. Let us know how it works out for you. Just send your 'thank you' notes to our email address.
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Meanwhile, The New York Times tells us that the people who suffered most from the financial crisis were neither the young, nor the old, but people preparing for retirement:
In the current listless economy, every generation has a claim to having been most injured. But the Labor Department's latest jobs snapshot and other recent data reports present a strong case for crowning baby boomers as the greatest victims of the recession and its grim aftermath.
These Americans in their 50s and early 60s — those near retirement age who do not yet have access to Medicare and Social Security — have lost the most earnings power of any age group, with their household incomes 10 percent below what they made when the recovery began three years ago, according to Sentier Research, a data analysis company.
Their retirement savings and home values fell sharply at the worst possible time: just before they needed to cash out. They are supporting both aged parents and unemployed young-adult children, earning them the inauspicious nickname "Generation Squeeze".
The article goes on to tell us that people who lose their jobs shortly before retirement actually live shorter lives. This is because they also lose important health benefits, says the NYT.
Hmm... How valuable are those health benefits? We've never seen any evidence that getting healthcare benefits (whatever they are) adds to your life expectancy. It seems odd that taking them away would reduce it.
A person who has to pay his own medical bills might be a little more careful. And he'd be less likely to get caught up in the drugs and constant testing of the modern healthcare industry. He might actually live longer. We say that with no evidence whatever. Don't bother to argue with us. It's just a hunch.
We also have a suspicion that while the initial punch might have hit baby-boomers hard, over the long run young people will take the bigger beating. In a few years, the boomers will fall back on the ropes – enjoying the Medicare and Social Security benefits they so generously voted for themselves. Younger people will be pummelled for years – maybe their entire lives – trying to pay for them.
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