MLK Monday Musings: Phone Company Charges, Inflation Rises, and Mortgage Rates Fall

Monday, January 4, 2010 , Posted by Johnny Fuery at 1:38 AM

Originally Published 2008-01-21 17:07:41

What's the 411?

No, this isn't an homage to Ms. Mary J. Blige, it's an alternative to the phone company's directory service. I started paying my own mobile phone bill last summer (off the corporate-sponsored plan, and yes, do I ever miss it), and have been struck by how many hidden charges there are. I've tried calling AT&T three times since my last billing cycle about some random $20 charge I don't recognize, and have yet to get through. I imagine that's one of their strategies, though, seeing as how at some point, it isn't worth my time.

The answer? Why, Google, of course. Printing all that money with adwords let's them do an awful lot of really cool things. Put 1-800-GOOG-411 into your phone and use it next time instead of the $1.50 a pop your we-can't-even-have-an-offshore-employee-answer-your-call-and-we-own-the-damn-lines phone company charges you.

Inflation is Up

The CPI (Consumer Price Index) for the 12 month window ending 11/2007 rose 4.3%. Check out the numbers for yourself at the government's CPI site.

If you are leveraged to the hilt, this is good for you, because you can pay off your debts with inflated dollars (why do you think the powers that be don't stress too much when the dollar weakens? Hmmm).

If you're not, well, there's a reason you're feeling pinched. Wages haven't kept up. (Actually, you're probably feeling pinched anyway -- the energy index was 21.4% for the same time frame -- a number that effects an individual much more drastically as they slide down the socioeconomic scale because it represents a larger chunk of their income. In other words, this effects the working and middle classes the most.)

Still, there is some benefit to this...
Mortgage Rates Are Down

Folks with good credit are locking in 30-year rates below 6% again this month. Considering a 4.3% inflation rate and the ~2% you'll get back in income tax incentives (assuming, of course, that you <ahem> work for a living :-) ), you get to borrow that money for free.

Read that last sentence again. Go on, I'll wait. For Free. Think about it. Then tell me again why real estate is a bad investment. Because I can't seem to remember how borrowing a half million bucks interest-free and reinvesting it at any positive rate of return is a bad idea. Anyone? Bueller?

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