Standard deviation, also known as historical volatility, is used by investors as a gauge for the amount of expected volatility. Volatile TSP funds like the C, S, and I fund have a high standard deviation, while the deviation of the G and F funds is lower. When comparing investments, a low standard deviation is preferable.
Drawdown: the peak-to-trough decline in the TSP fund value, measured as a percentage between the peak and the trough. Perhaps best expressed in the historical drawdown charts for each fund, which show the magnitude and duration of each periodic decline. A good investment strategy aims to minimize drawdowns.
The Sharpe Ratio measures risk-adjusted performance. It's calculated by subtracting the risk-free interest rate from the rate of return for a specific fund, and dividing the result by the standard deviation of the fund returns. Since we only track TSP funds on this website, we use the G fund returns as our risk-free investment. When comparing investments, a high Sharpe Ratio is preferable.
[Source: http://www.tspfolio.com/tspfunds November 29, 2015 ++]
* General Interest *
Notes of Interest ► 15 thru 30 Nov 2015
Honda Hands. Go to https://www.youtube.com/v/AgYLr_LfhLo?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0 to view a really impressive editing job.
Electric Bill. Ultra-high-definition (UHD) TVs, which feature 8 million or more pixels, are hyped for adding more detail, extra depth and increased color resolution to your TV viewing experience. But better picture quality could come at a hefty price to consumers. According to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, UHD TVs use a whopping 30 percent more energy than high-definition TVs.
COLA 2016. The October Consumer Price Index (CPI) is 232.373, starting the year .8 percent below the FY 2016 COLA baseline. The CPI for November 2015 is scheduled to be released on December 15, 2015.
Passport. Under a law expected to take effect in January, the State Department will be permitted to block or revoke passports from seriously delinquent taxpayers, defined as those who have $50,000 or more in unpaid federal taxes (including interest and penalties),
Data Breach. Starwood Hotels & Resorts is the latest victim of a cyberattack. The popular hotel chain said debit card- and credit card-stealing malware was discovered on payment systems at restaurants, gift shops, bars and other retail areas at 54 of its North American hotels, most of which are in the United States. The hotels’ front desks, where guests pay for their stay, were not affected by the data breach.
Bah Humbug. Administrators at the VAMC in Salem, Virginia, have reversed their decision to ban Christmas trees following backlash from veterans and staff. The reversal comes after a letter from administrators to employees that read, “trees have been deemed to promote the Christian religion and will not be permitted in any public areas this year.”
VA ID Card. The new veteran identification card to be issued by the Veterans Affairs Department will not be available before 2017. The wallet-sized proof of veteran status is intended to be a substitute for a paper document given to all veterans upon discharge.
Legion of Honor Award. If you know a veteran who served during WWII to liberate France, either on land, sea or in the air and you would like him/her recognized by the French Government, you may complete and send the application available at http://www.consulfrance-miami.org/spip.php?article2604 to the Consulate General of France: 1395 Brickell Avenue, suite 1050, Miami FL 33131 Tel: (305) 403-4157.
[Source: Various | November 30, 2015 ++]
Prescription Drug Advertising ► AMA Calls for Ban
The American Medical Association is calling for the federal government to ban consumer-directed advertisements for prescription drugs and medical devices. The doctors’ group says the ads are fueling consumer demand for costly treatments and driving an increase in drug prices. Market research firm Kantar Media says that drugmakers have increased their spending on drug ads in the United States by 30 percent in the past two years. They now spend a whopping $4.5 billion per year on glossy magazine spreads and television commercials promoting their drugs. “A growing proliferation of ads is driving demand for expensive treatments despite the clinical effectiveness of less costly alternatives,” the AMA said in a statement.
The Chicago-based association recently adopted a new policy supporting a drug advertising ban that “reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices,” AMA board chair-elect Dr. Patrice A. Harris said in a press release. “Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate.” New Zealand and the United States are the only countries that permit direct-to-consumer ads for prescription medications. In addition to a ban on drug ads, the AMA is also calling for increased transparency in drug pricing and costs. “Physicians strive to provide the best possible care to their patients, but increases in drug prices can impact the ability of physicians to offer their patients the best drug treatments,” Harris said. “Patient care can be compromised and delayed when prescription drugs are unaffordable and subject to coverage limitations by the patient’s health plan. In a worst-case scenario, patients forgo necessary treatments when drugs are too expensive.”
PhRMA, the largest U.S. trade group for the pharmaceutical industry, told Reuters that drug ads are used to increase consumer awareness about available treatments for illnesses and also provide information about potentially undiagnosed conditions. “Providing scientifically accurate information to patients so that they are better informed about their health care and treatment options is the goal of direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising about prescription medicines,” PhRMA spokesman Tina Stow said in an email. Banning drug ads is easier said than done because restricting the ads could run up against free speech protections. If the government agrees with the AMA and bans the ads, “it’s very unlikely the ban would stand up to a legal challenge, which would almost certainly be mounted by both the pharmaceutical industry and media,” said Julie Donohue, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, in an interview with Marketplace.
Drug prices have been front and center in recent months. Turing made the news when it hiked the price of a 62-year-old generic drug by 5,000 percent overnight. A Senate committee is investigating Turing and other pharmaceutical companies for massive increases in drug prices. The latest call from the AMA suggests the debate over prescription drugs will continue to heat up. [Source: MoneyTalksNews | Krystal Steinmetz | November 21, 2015 ++]
Household Item Longevity ► What to Expect
Unexpected expenses can really throw off your budget, so it’s important to have some idea of when your major appliances will need to be replaced. Taking care of your stuff tends to make it last longer, but eventually most things wear out and need to be replaced. That's not a big deal when it's something relatively inexpensive like a pair of sneakers, but it can be a VERY big deal, when it's something major, like your refrigerator or your car's transmission, and you haven't planned for the expense. That kind of unexpected expense is enough to wreck your budget for months, or to send you spiraling into debt. Here’s how long you can expect your stuff to last:
Refrigerator - Many of the refrigerators that were made from the 1920s to the 1950s are still running today. Unfortunately, the life expectancy of a fridge has gone down quite a bit since then. You can expect to get 9 to 13 years out of a modern refrigerator. Want to squeeze extra years out of your fridge? Then, opt for a model without all the bells and whistles. Less working parts means less to break, and cheaper, easier repairs. You can also extend the life of your refrigerator by quarterly performing some simple maintenance tasks which can be found at found at http://frugalliving.about.com/od/doityourself/ht/Fridge_Maintain.htm.
Oven - A modern electric range is usually good for 13 to 15 years of service, while a gas oven is good for 10 to 18 years, and a gas stove is good for 15 to 17 years. Of course, If you never cook, your stove could last you a lifetime. A lot of it depends on your usage habits. Want to buy one stove and be done with it? Consider purchasing a vintage stove. Since there aren't any computer components involved, they're easy to work on. The parts are also surprising easy and cheap to come by.
Dishwasher - Your dishwasher should relieve you from dish-washing duty for 9 years. To squeeze more years out of your dishwasher, and keep it cleaning as well as the day you bought it, give it 15 minutes of TLC every few months. At http://frugalliving.about.com/od/homemaintenancerepair/ht/Clean_Dishwasher.htm you can find what you need to do to keep it going strong.
Washer and Dryer - Expect to get 5-15 years out of your current washing machine. That's down three years from a decade ago. Blame it on all the steel parts that have been replaced with plastic. Your dryer should last you around 13 years. Before you replace a broken washer or dryer, see if a repair is possible. Many of the parts are inexpensive, and some are easy to swap out yourself. If you have an older machine, (i.e. one that was made before the world turned plastic), definitely pursue repairing it. You just won't find the same quality in a newer machine. And of course, as with all appliances, cleaning your washer and dryer periodically will greatly improve its performance and life. Refer to the following to keep them going:
How to Clean a Stinky Washing Machine
How to Clean a Dryer Vent
Washing Machine Troubleshooting Guide
Dryer Troubleshooting Guide
HVAC System - HVAC systems are painfully expensive, so no matter how long they last, it'll never be long enough. Here's how long you can expect your home's HVAC system to last: Central Air - 7-15 years; Furnace - 15-25 years; Heat Pump - 10-15 years; Boiler - 40 years; Electric Radiant Heater - 40 years. Your HVAC system will probably require service and/or repairs, long before it needs to be replaced. Start saving for a replacement now, and you'll have money to cover those maintenance costs, too.
Computer - Laptop. Most businesses and consumers seem to follow the computer replacement plan (http://www.promethius.com/blog/how-many-years-should-my-desktop-or-laptop-computer-last) that Promethius Consulting follows. Plan on three years; hope for four; and don’t push past five years. That's a good rule of thumb, but it doesn't mean you can't squeeze a 6th (or even a 7th) year out of your laptop or desktop, if it's still working for you. So, save enough to be able to buy a new computer at the three year mark, but keep using your computer as long as you're happy with it. Check out http://pcsupport.about.com/od/fixtheproblem/u/fix_a_computer_problem.htm if you decide you want to attempt to fix your problems yourself.
TV - TVs use a lot less energy nowadays, but they also have a much shorter lifespan. Expect to get 4-10 years out of a LCD/LED TV and three years out of a plasma TV. To stretch your time between TVs, opt for a big name brand (which will use better parts), and position your TV away from heat sources, like windows or a fireplace.
Hot Water Heater - A traditional tank hot water heater has a life expectancy of 6-12 years; a tankless hot water heater can last 20 years. For more years of reliable service, add to yopur to-do list the maintenance indicated at http://homerepair.about.com/od/plumbingrepair/ss/hwh_maintenance.htm. Drain the sediment once a year (twice if you have hard water) is also a smart move (http://plumbing.about.com/od/water_heaters/a/How-To-Drain-A-Water-Heater.htm). It will ensure that your water heater doesn't have to work any harder than it supposed to heat your water. Have a tankless water heater? Hire a plumber to flush the system once a year.
Roof - A new roof is a major purchase, so it's definitely one you'll want to plan for. The life expectancy of various roofing materials is: Asphalt Shingles (3-Tab) - 20 years; Asphalt Shingles (Architectural) - 30 years; Metal - 40-80 years; Wood - 25 years; Slate - 60- 150 years. Want to go longer between new roofs? Then, consider upgrading to a longer-lasting roofing material, the next time you need to replace your roof.
[Source: About Money | Erin Huffstetler | 17 Oct 2016 ++]
Presidential Retirement Benefits ► Former Presidents Act
Presidential retirement benefits were non-existent until the enactment of the Former Presidents Act (FPA) in 1958. Since then, presidential retirement benefits have included a lifetime annual pension, staff and office allowances, travel expenses, Secret Service protection and more.
Pension - Former presidents are offered a taxable lifetime pension equal to the annual rate of basic pay for the heads of executive branch departments, like the Cabinet Secretaries. This amount is set annually by Congress and in 2014 was $$201,700 per year. The pension starts the minute the president officially leaves office at noon on Inauguration Day. Widows of former presidents are provided with a $20,000 annual lifetime pension and mailing privileges, unless they choose to waive their right to the pension. In 1974, the Justice Department ruled that presidents who resign from office before their official terms of office expire are entitled to the same lifetime pension and benefits extended to other former presidents. However, presidents who are removed from office due to impeachment forfeit all benefits.
Transition Expenses - For the first 7 months, beginning one month before the January 20 inauguration, former presidents get transition funding the help them transition back into private life. Granted under the Presidential Transition Act, the funds can be used for office space, staff compensation, communications services, and printing and postage associated with the transition. The amount provided is determined by Congress.
Staff and Office Allowances - Six months after a president leaves office, he or she gets funds for an office staff. During the first 30 months after the leaving office, the former president gets a maximum of $150,000 per year for this purpose. Thereafter, the Former Presidents Act stipulates that the aggregate rates of staff compensation for a former President cannot exceed $96,000 annually. Any additional staff costs must be paid for personally by the former president. Former presidents are compensated for office space and office supplies at any location in the United States. Funds for former presidents' office space and equipment are authorized annually by Congress as part of the budget for the General Services Administration (GSA).
Travel Expenses - Under a law enacted in 1968, the GSA makes funds available to former presidents and no more than two of his or her staff members for travel and related expenses. To be compensated, the travel must be related to the former president's status as an official representative of the United States government. In other words, travel for pleasure is not compensated. The GSA determines all appropriate costs for travel.
Secret Service Protection - With the enactment of the Former Presidents Protection Act of 2012 (H.R. 6620), on Jan. 10, 2013, former presidents and their spouses receive Secret Service protection for their lifetimes. Under the Act, protection for the spouses of former presidents terminates in the event of remarriage. Children of former presidents receive protection until they reach age 16. The Former Presidents Protection Act of 2012 reversed a law enacted in 1994 that terminated Secret Service protection for former presidents 10 years after they left office.
Medical Expenses - Former Presidents and their spouses, widows, and minor children are entitled to treatment in military hospitals. Former presidents and their dependents also have the option of enrolling in private health insurance plans at their own expense.
State Funerals - Former presidents are traditionally granted state funerals with military honors. Details of the funeral are based on the wishes of the former president's family.
[Source: About News | Robert Longley | November 3, 2015 ++]
Robocalls Update 01 ► Blocker Test Results
If you’re willing to spend money to rid your phone of robocalls, you can now pick from a handful of devices. And one other option is free. Consumer Reports recently put five robocall blockers to the test and released the results 28 JUL. One device is free and was dubbed “a winner,” but currently only works with voice over IP (VoIP) phones, which use an Internet connection rather than the traditional landline connection. The other devices work with both VoIP and landline phones but range in price from $45 to $110, with only the most expensive option dubbed a “buy.” Nomorobo, the free option, grew out of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s 2012 Robocall Challenge, which offered a $50,000 cash prize for the best technical solution to robocalls, Consumer Reports explains. Like most of these devices, Nomorobo features a “whitelist” and a “blacklist.” The whitelist contains numbers that you manually designate as safe. The “blacklist” contains thousands of preloaded spam numbers that the device automatically blocks. Consumer Reports results were as follows:
Nomorobo | Price: Free | Features: Blacklist, whitelist | Summary: “A winner”. [Note: No equipment needed. Sign up online at http://www.nomorobo.com and follow the prompts.]
CPR Call Blocker Protect | Price: $45 (on Amazon, where Consumer Reports purchased all tested blockers) |Features: Whitelist | Summary: “Bummer”.
HQTelecom.com Landline Call Blocker | Price: $59 | Features: Blacklist | Summary: “Mixed”.
Sentry Dual Mode Call Blocker (now replaced by Sentry 2) | Price: $59 |Features: Blacklist, whitelist | Summary: “Mixed”
Digitone Call Blocker Plus | Price: $110 |Features: Blacklist, whitelist | Summary: “Buy”
To learn more about the above devices, refer to http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2015/07/robocall-blocker-review/index.htm. Regardless of whether you try a robocall blocker, however, don’t press any buttons the next time a robocall gets through to you. Just hang up, Consumer Reports advises. Lois C. Greisman, associate director at the FTC, tells the magazine that, for example, pressing 1 to indicate that you don’t want to receive further calls only confirms for scammers that they reached a human being when they dialed your number: “And consequently, you may receive more calls.” [Source: MoneyTalksNews | Karla Bowsher | July 28, 2015 ++]
Mexican Inventions ► 10 Amazing Ones
Chocolate - The first recorded evidence of chocolate was found in Mesoamerica, in the region that later became Mexico. You have Mexico to thank for Belgian chocolates, Hershey’s kisses, Abuelita hot cocoa, German chocolate cake, and French silk pie.
TACOS - While the precise origins of the taco are unknown, Jeffrey M. Pilcher, a professor at the University of Minnesota and taco expert, believes that they date back to 18th century Mexico when men working in the silver mines invented the delicious food.
Flamin’ Hot Cheetos - These were invented by Richard Montañez, a Mexican immigrant and janitor at the Frito-Lay plant in California. He pitched his idea for a chili powder coated chip to the president of the company, who loved the idea. Now, Montañez leads the Multicultural Sales & Community Promotions branch of the company!