plonkee money an english-er's thoughts on personal finance

August 30, 2008

because some days…

Filed under: Uncategorized — plonkee @ 12:00 pm

because some days, I can has cheezburger is too good. And personal finance related.
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August 29, 2008

what is good to do in New York?

Filed under: shopping — Tags: , — plonkee @ 12:03 pm

My sister and her boyfriend are going to New York in a few weeks, and I promised that I’d ask whether anyone had any tips, or ideas for things that they might want to do whilst they’re out there.

I guess that they’ll want to see tourist-y things, and she’s not into personal finance, but loves clothes. With the $:£ still being in our favour, she’ll be able to stock up without racking up credit card debt.

But, what about food and drink? I know that New York is expensive, is there anywhere in particular they should head to or avoid? Or transport – I guess the subway is the frugal choice? Anything else you can think of?

All ideas, tips, tricks, and suggestions are warmly welcomed, just add them to the comments.

August 28, 2008

personal finance is like public health

Filed under: philosophical — Tags: , , , , , — plonkee @ 6:00 pm

I drink far too much caffeine

I have an excuse though. At work we get free (instant) coffee and tea, and I don’t like tea. Of course, that’s a simplification. After complaints, there’s now a choice of coffees, you can have Fairtrade caffeinated coffee, Nescafe caffeinated coffee or Nescafe decaffeinated coffee. I’m not a big fan of Nestle, and I do like to trade fair so I drink the Fairtrade caffeinated coffee.

what was wrong with Nestle?

Does anyone remember The Mark Thomas Comedy Project, where the comedian campaigned against various unethical practices and did a stand-up show about the experiences? That’s what put me onto the idea that Nescafe are one of the least ethical companies for their gross marketing of formula milk in the third world. This is formula milk without necessarily having instructions that people can understand, and suggesting in advertising that it is somehow better than breast milk. Not cool.

so is baby feeding that simple?

These days, the situation is somewhat more nuanced, as many public health issues are. The complications are caused by the HIV/Aids epidemic. Breast feeding is better than bottle feeding, unless the mother is HIV+. In that case, not passing on the virus through breast milk is more important than the nutritional benefits of breast milk (all formula milk is safe to use as directed), and of course in some areas of the developing world HIV/Aids is endemic, particularly amongst people of childbearing age.

Think it’s sorted? Wait a minute. Although the risk of an infant catching HIV through breast milk is approximately %, there’s another hitch. Formula milk is expensive and not everyone can afford it. It requires clean water, which not everyone has access to (certainly not clean enough to give a newborn). Where everyone breastfeeds, mothers who bottlefeed can be stigmatised and mixed feeding is more dangerous than breastfeeding. The instructions are not always clear enough for people to understand, or may be in a foreign language. For a significant number of mothers and children, the risk of contracting HIV through breastmilk is less important in the survival of the child than the risk that they will be malnourished or get sick by being given poorly prepared formula.

So the final answer for mothers of new babies is that you should breastfeed, unless you are HIV+ in which case you should bottle feed, unless you can’t safely/easily make up formula milk over the first 6-12 months, in which case you should breastfeed. Can you see the catchy slogan now?

and what does this have to do with personal finance?

Like I said, public health issues are nuanced. Much like personal finance issues. There’s never a single right answer that suits everybody in every circumstance all the time. Sure, you should live within your means, but that’s like saying that you should feed your baby – not big on the practical details. And for everything else, from whether you should pay off debts before saving, to how much you should contribute to kids college, to how much money you’ll need in retirement, the only simple true answer is, it depends. Because personal finance, is well, personal.

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