April 29, 2016

Best of Blogs for April 29th

Every Friday afternoon I share some of the more interesting or notable posts that I have seen in the personal finance blogs and other sources for the past week

MyMoneyBlog discusses Secret Shame: Will We Ever Talk Openly About Money?

MoneyTips lists 2016’s Top 50 Social Influencers in Personal Finance & Wealth found via TheBigPicture.    They seem to have made a clerical error and failed to list my name.

Also found this via TheBigPicture, though it doesn't really have anything much to do with personal finance... Mapping Every Power Plant in the United States

April 28, 2016

Home Lot Sizes in the US

The median size of a home lot in the US is 0.25 acres.   This does not include mult-unit housing like apartment complexes, etc.

The data on home lot size is from the American Housing Survey 2013 national tables.

Here is a graph of the size distribution :

(numbers in thousands)

Percentage distributions :

Table form:

size  #
Less than 1/8 acre   16,223
1/8 up to 1/4 acre   25,008
1/4 up to 1/2 acre   16,841
1/2 up to 1 acre  10,199
1 up to 5 acres   20,593
5 up to 10 acres   3,117
10 acres or more   4,177

I live in an area with relatively small lot sizes where most lots are 1/8 acre or less.   So I'm a little surprised that most home lots are larger.   But I'm not especially surprised.   Where I grew up our neighborhood was full of lots in the 5-10 acre size range and I think a lot of people had 1/4 acre size lots in the city boundary.


April 27, 2016

What is the Normal Retirement Age For Social Security?

I think a lot of people still associate 65 years as being the normal (full) retirement age for Social Security.   But that hasn't been the case for people retiring for many years.  

For most people now the full retirement age is 67 years. 

The statement you get from Social Security will list your full retirement age, but if you don't know it you can look below.      If you are between 56 and 73 years old then it 66 plus a number of months depending on your exact age.

Below is a table that I directly copy/pasted right off the Social Security website:

1937 or earlier65
193865 and 2 months
193965 and 4 months
194065 and 6 months
194165 and 8 months
194265 and 10 months
195566 and 2 months
195666 and 4 months
195766 and 6 months
195866 and 8 months
195966 and 10 months
1960 and later67


April 26, 2016

Its Worth It To Leave My TV On All Day Long

We have a newer TV that we bought earlier this year.   It is a 58" Samsung LED.    The TV has built in apps and wifi and we can watch Netflix, Youtube and Amazon Prime among other things direct through the TV.    Its a neat feature that we use quite a bit.    However when you turn on the TV it takes a while to initialize the apps and you have to wait a while.    When you first power up it takes a couple seconds for the TV to come on.    Then you hit the smart hub button and select the app you want.    Then it will initially give a message that its "Preparing the TV... please try again later."  with an OK button and no other choice.    The TV is probably setting up its internal computer and connecting to the network.     It takes about a minute for the TV to turn on and then get to the point that you can load the apps.  

The TV uses about 60W of electricity.    If I leave the TV on for 1 hour then it uses 60 Wh.    Thats 0.06 kWh.     A kWh costs me about 11c.     So leaving the TV on for 1 hour costs about 0.66c of electricity.       Leaving the TV on 3 hours is roughly 2c.   If I left it on all day long it would be roughly 10c.

If equate my time to be worth the national minimum wage of $7.25 per hour then 1 minute of my time is worth 12c.

Because turning the TV off takes 1 minute that is worth about 12c.    Therefore...

Leaving my TV on all day is worth it to save the 1 minute of my time.

Now I cant exactly magically take 1 minute of my time and turn it into money.  But I do value my free time more than minimum wage.   If I could pay money to do away with all the wasted time in my week and it added up to 2 hours then I'd happily spend 1 hour of that time in a money making endeavor in order to pay the money and end up with 1 extra free hour.   I  don't think I'll leave my TV on all day because I don't like wasting electricity.   But if I know I'm going to be using the TV off and on over a day I may leave it on a few hours to save waiting 1 minute multiple times after it powers up each time.


April 25, 2016

Howardsalespro.com is a SCAM

Just a very short public service announcement:

Howard Sales or howardsalespro.com is a scam.

I was just browsing on google to find the specs. for our TV and I got a hit for howardsalespro.com     Their site is a well designed fake copy of Best Buy's website.    The content, look and a lot of funtion is pretty well done rip off of Best Buy.    And better yet you can get a nice big screen 58" Samsung big screen TV for a bargain discount price!    

The site rang lots of alarm bells given how its a clear copy of Best Buy.    Just a little research found people saying the site is just a scam to get your credit card number

Here is a scam report : https://reportscam.com/howardsalesprocom/

The site has a 0% trust rating and is based in Russia:  http://www.scamadviser.com/is-howardsalespro.com-a-fake-site.html

 If you were shopping online for a TV and got the google result that I got you might hastily make a purchase at the site and unknowingly hand over your credit card info to thieves.

howardsalespro.com is a scam.

(edit:  I originally had a typo in the article title which I've fixed)

April 24, 2016

State to State Migration for July 2014 to July 2015 by Percent Changes

Interested to know how much the state of Illinois, or any other state, shrunk (or grew) last year due to people moving out to another state?    Of course you are.   I got the figures off the Census site for state populations and specifically had to figure the % change due to state to state movement over the state populations.    These are the % changes which are different of course than the total number of people moving.   North Dakota only gained about 10k people but relative to their smallish population thats a 1.3% increase.    Texas gained 170k people but thats only a 0.62% increase to the large existing population.

In total about 760k Americans moved from one state to another.   Only 17 states and D.C. gained people through state to state movement.  

First the biggest movers.


North Dakota 1.32%
Florida 1.00%
Colorado 1.00%
Nevada 0.97%
South Carolina 0.93%

Alaska -1.04%
Illinois -0.82%
New York -0.80%
Connecticut -0.77%
New Jersey -0.73%

Here is the full list alphabetically :

Alabama -0.05%
Alaska -1.04%
Arizona 0.67%
Arkansas -0.04%
California -0.20%
Colorado 1.00%
Connecticut -0.77%
Delaware 0.45%
District of Columbia 0.56%
Florida 1.00%
Georgia 0.33%
Hawaii -0.49%
Idaho 0.42%
Illinois -0.82%
Indiana -0.22%
Iowa -0.13%
Kansas -0.45%
Kentucky -0.17%
Louisiana -0.16%
Maine -0.13%
Maryland -0.41%
Massachusetts -0.32%
Michigan -0.39%
Minnesota -0.22%
Mississippi -0.41%
Missouri -0.14%
Montana 0.51%
Nebraska -0.15%
Nevada 0.97%
New Hampshire -0.09%
New Jersey -0.73%
New Mexico -0.64%
New York -0.80%
North Carolina 0.38%
North Dakota 1.32%
Ohio -0.27%
Oklahoma 0.21%
Oregon 0.86%
Pennsylvania -0.32%
Rhode Island -0.44%
South Carolina 0.93%
South Dakota -0.21%
Tennessee 0.32%
Texas 0.62%
Utah 0.31%
Vermont -0.36%
Virginia -0.28%
Washington 0.57%
West Virginia -0.25%
Wisconsin -0.27%
Wyoming -0.32%


April 19, 2016

Craigslist & Zillow Rental Comps for April 2016

About 3 months ago I posted my Craigslist & Zillow Rental Comps for January 2016.    That was the first time doing comps using Craigslist.org and Zillow.com   Previously I was using Rentometer but I decided to abandon them because their data wasn't being updated properly.    Since its been about 3 months I went out and checked the figures again.

Here are the Zillow Rent Zestimate figures :

Jan-16 $1,500 $1,400 $1,675
Apr-16 $1,600 $1,300 $1,750

The Craigslist median rents are :

Jan-16 $2,000 $1,450 $620 $700 $2,200
Apr-16 $1,800 $1,230 $650 $825 $1,830

And the bottom 10% rents are at :

Jan-16 $1,300 $900 $525 $495 $1,500
Apr-16 $1,395 $850 $550 $575 $1,500

Some of those numbers are up or down quite a lot.   This actually makes sense for the A and E properties where rent has been going up a lot lately.      The C and D rents are up more than I'd expect in the period in question.   B is down a bit but I'm not really sure whats going on there.    I'll need to see a longer trend to have a better idea how solid these figures are.   But I believe the numbers generally.     I'm not sure if having rent to up or down $100 in just 3 months is valid but we'll see.   I could also be seeing seasonal changes in the market as well as I'd expect increases to happen more in the spring than not as housing markets heat up.

One detail I've found is that some of the very low rent figures are not valid.   In the B market I was looking at the bottom 10% figures on Craigslist and found that anything under $1000 was a suspicious listing.   Some of them were "rent to own" properties and others were "too good to be true" listings with no pictures or little actual detail.   My conclusion is that the real bottom of the market may be higher than the figures I'm finding due to the fake listings polluting the results.

For Zillow I just check the Rent Zestimate figure for the single family homes.

 Checking comps on Craigslist is much more involved. I have to pull up the housing search, center the property and search for the number of bedrooms. Then I also limit it to similar style properties (houses vs apartments) and designate if we do or don't take pets. Then I have to do a little trial and error to see where the median and bottom 10% rent levels fall. I look at the total number of properties for rent and then find the price level below which 50% and 10% of the listings fall. For example if there are 59 units then I try and find the price point where ~30 are above and blow for median and then about 6 units are below for the bottom 10%.


April 17, 2016

Average Hours Worked by Occupation and Industry

The BLS tracks labor force characteristics which includes hours of work.    I'm only going to pull out the figures for people who work full time.   People who work part time of course work fewer hours so removing them gives a better picture.

Here are the most recent figures by occupation groups:

Total 42.4
Management, professional, and related occupations 43.1
Management, business, and financial operations occupations 44.4
Professional and related occupations 42
Service occupations 41.3
Sales and office occupations 41.5
Sales and related occupations 42.9
Office and administrative support occupations 40.3
Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations(1) 42.3
Construction and extraction occupations 41.6
Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations 42.8
Production, transportation, and material moving occupations 42.9
Production occupations 42.2
Transportation and material moving occupations 43.6

And by Industry:

Total, nonagricultural industries 42.3
Wage and salary workers(1) 42.2
Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction 48.4
Construction 42.2
Manufacturing 42.9
Durable goods 42.9
Nondurable goods 42.8
Wholesale and retail trade 42.3
Transportation and utilities 43.7
Information 42.5
Financial activities 42.1
Professional and business services 42.5
Education and health services 41.4
Leisure and hospitality 41.7
Other services 42.2
Other services, except private households 42.4
Private households 40
Public administration 41.9
Self-employed workers, unincorporated 43.4

What stands out to me is that everyone works over 40 hours average and there mostly aren't huge differences between occupation and industry.   Couple exceptions are that the mining industry works 48 hrs and management types tend to work a bit more in the 43-44 range.

I'd like to see the numbers for more specific occupations.    Construction occupations might work 41.6 hours but what about roofers or laborers or plumbers specifically?     There could be pretty big differences within the broad occupation categories.

I found this bit older 2005 study for hours worked by doctorate holders in the sciences and engineering from the NSF:    All In a Week's Work: Workweeks of Doctoral Scientists and Engineers
That shows that the Phds in STEM work 45-50 hours average.

I did find the CNET article Shorter hours in software

Which has a table citing hours per week for software jobs as : 

Self-employed workers, unincorporated 43.4
Software engineers 41.5
All US workers  38.3

I suspect that would be all workers rather than just the full time people.  I say that because the figure for all workers is 38.3 which is below the 40+ average for full time workers.   But then it could be things changed a bit from 2005.   But in either case that 41.5 hrs for software engineers isn't astronomical versus any other occupation group or industry.


April 10, 2016

Tiny Homes Might Be a Whoooping 1% of New Homes (if that much)

An article on GoBankingRates discusses The Secret Costs to Owning a Tiny Home.     You might want to read that if you're planning to live in a small over priced shack.   But while reading that I noticed they start out saying "... tiny house movement is sweeping across the U.S ...". I'm not really sure what "sweeping" the nation means. But I tend to think this implies a lot of people are doing it, rather than just talking about it.
The American Housing Survey for 2013 has summary table data.   Looks like that data is from 2010 so its not exactly brand new.    But its the newest we've got to look at for now.  If you dig around the XLS sheet with all the tables we can find on tab C-02-AO that they give both the square footage of houses and break to down by the new construction within the past 4 years.      From there we can see that 26 thousand of the total 1,960 thousand new construction homes are under 500 sq. ft.     Therefore 1.3% of new homes built in the previous 4 years were under 500 sq.ft.    Of those, we don't know how many are just tiny studio apartments in NYC versus the small single family, cute shacks which are what we all consider to be Tiny Homes.   But it is certain that the number of very small homes of any nature are a very small portion of the total new home market.

If you look at the AHS tables for specific metropolitan areas we can see if the trend of small houses might vary based on city.    Looking at Seattle I see that 0.4 thousand out of 47 thousand units are 500 sq. ft or smaller new construction.    Thats just 0.85%.     Smaller even than the national average.     Likewise in Austin the figure is 0.2 thousand out of 30.8 thousand.    Thats 0.65%.    Even fewer.     In New York City on the other hand there were 3.7 thousand such small housing units built out of 57.8 thousand total which makes it 6.4% of the sum.      I don't know for sure but when I think of a Tiny House I'd expect to see a bunch of them in Seattle or Austin and hardly any in NYC.    The land in NYC is more expensive than anything else so building a shack trailer on super expensive land has no real benefit.    I expect that small studio apartments in NYC accounts for a lot of that and they are probably raising the national average.

That gives the % of new homes under 500 sq. ft. as :

National 1.30%
Seattle 0.85%
Austin 0.65%
NYC 6.40%

I don't think the Tiny Home movement is really sweeping anything other than headlines in a certain subset of blogs.

Yeah, I'm looking at old data and I suppose the trend could have developed more over the past few years, but I really doubt it.


April 8, 2016

Best of Blogs for Week of April 8th

Every Friday afternoon I share some of the more interesting or notable posts that I have seen in the personal finance blogs and other sources for the past week

MyMoneyBlogs has Big List of Auto Insurance Premium Comparisons for All 50 States

TheBigPicture shares Bank Lobbyists Rebuttals to Fiduciary Standards


April 3, 2016

A Lot Of The People Defaulting On Student Loans Dropped Out of College

The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education published the report
Borrowers Who Drop Out A Neglected Aspect of the College Student Loan Trend in 2005.    Thats a good title.    Its the thing I was looking to find out about.   People will talk about the (alleged) student loan crisis and how so many borrowers are in default.   But rarely does anyone discuss if these borrowers actually finished college or not.   Turns out a lot of those people in default on student loans didn't graduate.   I would argue that the fact that a lot of student loan borrowers are in default isn't evidence that college isn't worth it but instead evidence that dropping out of college you borrowed for is often a financial disaster.

Anyway lets get to the numbers :
In that document, Figure 7 shows that only 2% of borrowers who completed degrees at 4 year schools were in default but 22% of borrowers who dropped out were in default.        Thats a nice graphic representation of how different the default rates are between those who finish and those who don't.

Table 2 in the report has all the data.   From there I get the percent of borrowers who dropped out, are still enrolled, finished with a certificate, got an associates or got a bachelors.   Plus they also give the percent of each of those groups who are in default.

% of borrowers in default
dropped 18.5% 21.8%
enrolled 15.8% 7.2%
cert 2.2% 21.3%
assoc 3.2% 3.7%
bachelor 60.3% 2.1%

As a whole 7.02% of the borrowers are in default.    But 57% of those are people who dropped out.   So for this group at the time 57% of the people defaulting on their loans had dropped out of college.

Only 18% of the people in default had finished bachelors degrees within 6 years.    82% of the people in default had not finished the bachelors they set out to get within a 6 year period.


April 1, 2016

Best of Blogs for Week of April 1st

Every Friday afternoon I share some of the more interesting or notable posts that I have seen in the personal finance blogs and other sources for the past week

TheBigPicture lists some Stupid Things People Do To Increase Their Tax Refund

They also shared a link to Charting the Automation Potential of U.S. Jobs  which you can use to see how likely you'll be replaced by a robot.

DoughRoller answers the question Can You Really Pay Off Your Mortgage Early with a HELOC?


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