Deadly Halloween

As parents we tend to fret about children and every Halloween there are stories about hazards such as tainted candy and “stranger danger.”  These stories often prove to be overblown but the real danger on Halloween is that it is the most deadly day of the year for young pedestrians.

That’s a fact we uncovered in a research project we recently completed for State Farm insurance.  Kids have a greater chance of being fatally injured by a car on Halloween than any other day of the year, including the Fourth of July.

We analyzed more than four million records of auto fatalities in the Department of Transportation Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), ranging from 1990 to 2010.  Here’s what we found…

Halloween Was Deadliest Day of the Year for Child Pedestrian Accidents
One hundred and fifteen child pedestrian fatalities occurred on Halloween over the 21 years of our analysis. That is an average of 5.5 fatalities each year on October 31, which is more than double the average number of 2.6 fatalities for other days.

Middle of the Block Most Hazardous
Over 70% of the accidents occurred away from an intersection or crosswalk.

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Drive 95 miles per hour – Save 12 minutes

a highway sign in Texas showing the 85 mph speed limit

Texas will soon have the highest posted speed limit in the United States (heck, in the Western Hemisphere. Take that, Honduras.) – 85 miles per hour.

In November, Texas will open a new toll road on a heavily-used corridor between Austin and San Antonio, where the current highway (I-35) has a speed limit of 65 miles per hour. The higher speed limit is expected to appeal to drivers looking to shave some time off their drive. The new toll road will look especially attractive since the old highway’s speed limit will be reduced to 55 miles per hour. Pretty clever.

But how much time will drivers of the new toll road actually save? Not as much as you might think.

First, the new road is pretty short, only 41 miles long. Let’s assume that people will travel 10 miles per hour over each posted limit, not uncommon in Texas, and maybe even a bit conservative.

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What You Think About Iowa Is Wrong

Or so says a short film from the YouTube channel of “IowaFilmmakers”.  You may not be surprised to learn that this is a group of filmmakers in Iowa.  Their stated purpose is to “bring the world great film from a state not usually associated with filmmaking.”

They’ve made a fun film which sets the record straight about popular Iowa misperceptions.
I like it. Check it out.

(Warning – they’ve used a few naughty words to show how badass and edgy they are in Iowa. It’s nothing worse than you can hear on HBO, but you’ve been warned.)

Charity in America – Surprising Insights

Charitable Giving in the United States
Who tops our “Shame Score”?

A report was released today by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, titled “How America Gives.”  The report maps charitable giving by state, city and neighborhood, by analyzing IRS personal income tax data at the zip code level.  Using the amount of charitable deductions, The Chronicle’s report showed which places gave the greatest (and least) portion of their income to charity.  (Actually, the report would be more accurately named “Where America Gives,” not “How.”)

I did a similar analysis about a year ago, using the same data, and I’m pleased to see we reached the same conclusions.  To summarize it simply, the poor give a greater percent of their income to charity than the wealthy, and people are more likely give more in states that vote Republican and are strongly religious.

The states with the highest percentage of claimed charitable contributions are Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina.  The least generous states are New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

I must admit, this is not what I had expected to find.

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Retiring on $100 a Day

senior citizens riding bikes together

Can you really retire in America and only spend $100 a day?  Turns out it’s a lot more possible than you might think.

When I started this recent study with AARP, I’d expected only about 20 or 30 U.S. cities would be this affordable.  But I was surprised to discover that most U.S. metro areas have a low enough combination of housing prices and property taxes to meet this criteria.

So what are the best cities for a $100/day retirement?

Based on things like arts and culture, rich community and great restaurants, here’s the Top 10:

City State Population
1 Spokane WA 471,221
2 Las Cruces NM 209,233
3 Eau Claire WI 161,151
4 Roanoke VA 308,707
5 Morgantown WV 129,709
6 Pittsburgh PA 2,356,285
7 San Antonio TX 2,142,508
8 Omaha-Council Bluffs NE-IA 865,350
9 Grand Junction CO 146,723
10 Gainesville FL 264,275

I’m assuming a 25% tax rate, which will reduce your yearly income of $36,500 to $27,375 spendable income.  That’s $2,281 per month.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses a percentage of 31.5% for the housing component of the Consumer Price Index.  That means that we have $719 per month for mortgage payments and property taxes.

I’m assuming a 20% down payment, which means that with current low interest rates, we can afford a house priced at $192,000.  Of course, putting up the nearly $40,000 (20% of $192,000) for the down payment may be challenging.

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“Millionaire Flight” theory – Don’t fall for it

a world war one or two plane crashes

There have been a number of news stories over the last two years about how the wealthy are fleeing states which have increased taxes on the highest tax brackets.

I’ll show you this line of thinking is not borne out by the facts, and is irrational to boot.

Here’s an example; a new story from the Wall Street Journal  – titled “Millionaires Fleeing Taxes” (August 7, 2012).

The description of the video interview with the reporter (Arden Dale) states “When states raise taxes millionaires move out.”  And the interviewer starts the piece by declaring, “Millionaires are fleeing from taxes!”

Wow, that sounds serious, and certainly very definitive.  Let’s learn more.

Interviewer – “So tell us, where are the millionaires going?”

Ms. Dale – “People don’t want to be taxed… but when we looked the actual numbers, the actual studies of whether ‘Millionaire Flight’ occurs, what we found was that there is no really great statistical data that shows that it does.” (Note: while this is being said, a banner on the screen reads “Millionaires moving to avoid taxes.”)

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Natural Disaster Risk

You’ve seen the news – Dallas, Texas has been hit hard by major tornado activity.

I can’t say I’m surprised, because about this time last year the New York Times published my rankings of Natural Disaster Risk.

And my top pick of the 379 metros areas in the United States?  Yes, Dallas.

Check out the link to the story.  The New York Times creates beautiful and insightful infographics.

(Click map to expand in new window)

I hope this all this tornado activity and unseasonably warm weather isn’t a precursor to a summer of extreme weather.  Meanwhile, I’ll hunker down here in the soggy Northwest, and feel lucky that the most we usually suffer from are unrelenting gray days and drizzle.

Retirement Relocation

img src: http://www.mobilelifetoday.com/

I was recently interviewed by the AARP about ways to get the most from your assets as you move into retirement.

I noted that a great way to do this is by relocation.  Not on a large scale, like how so many automatically move to Florida or California, but on a micro-scale.

I’m talking about 50 or 60 miles, to just outside a major metro area.  You’re still close enough to get most of the benefits of the city, but avoid the premium prices of real estate and other goods and services in its heart.

This way, you can keep all the friends and routines you’ve built up over the years and extract up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in equity from your housing investment.

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Positive U.S. Education

Asian children in a classroom working

I use a lot of metrics to measure and rate the quality of life in different cities and towns.  I haven’t seen anyone else use this particular measure but I think it provides a good insight into the sociological health of a place.

So, I was heartened to read about a trend in New York City.

Where the cost of living (and private schooling) is amongst the highest in the world, some of the wealthy are opting to send their kids to public schools.  There’s a twist as well – it’s foreigners who are leading this charge.

Why do they do it?

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Two more reasons I’m proud to be an American

Here are two headlines on today’s NPR home page.
Be sure to click on the links and read the complete stories.

Muslims Rescue Bagel Shop, Keep It Kosher
Coney Island Bialys and Bagels claims to be the oldest bialy bakery in New York City. Founded in 1920, it’s faced hard economic times and changing neighborhood demographics.
Now, the shop has been rescued by two Pakistani Muslims — and they’re keeping it kosher.

 Texas Town Embraces New Refugee Residents
Though some states have cracked down hard on illegal immigration, one small Texas town has rolled out the welcome mat for hundreds of foreigners and wouldn’t mind seeing more move in.
It started about a year ago when a chicken processing plant in Nacogdoches, Texas, announced it would hire a couple hundred new workers, all of them refugees from Myanmar, also known as Burma.