Archives for July 12, 2017

How Badly Underfunded is Your State’s Retirement Pension Fund? (Infographic)

The state of Illinois narrowly avoided having their S&P credit rating dropped to “Junk” status, but their current rating is already the lowest ever for any state. Their pension promises now total over $200 billion, but they are a bit short… $120 billion short. That’s only 40 cents saved for every $1 owed. Unfortunately, your state might not be doing that much better. Here is a Bloomberg graphic America’s Pension Bomb which shows the funding ratio for every state available:

pensionmap

This reminds me of a car wreck in slow-motion. Politicians get to make financial promises that can last 30-50 years, but they are only interested in being elected for the next 2-4 years. How will it end? Will states accept the pain now to fix things and get back on track? Or will they just keep kicking the can down the road until faced with huge tax hikes or maybe even a federal bailout?

If you are a municipal bond investor, Vanguard says not to worry: Despite Illinois’s financial troubles, muni market looks strong. Well, it’s good to see that Illinois is only about 1% of their national, investment-grade muni bond funds. I’m not worried about a crisis in the next few years either, but I also don’t see any evidence that things are getting better. I was planning to diversify my muni bond holdings anyway as my income drops in early retirement. Perhaps it’s time to speed up that timetable.

Amazon Prime Day 2017: List of Deals Still Available

primeday2017Updated. Amazon Prime Day is now over, but some offers are still available. I’ve removed the ones that I notice are expired. Hopefully you picked up some credits and savings to offset that membership fee.

Many deals still require Prime. New members can sign up for a 30-day free trial (6-month free trial + 50% off afterward with student .edu address).

Deals that are still live.

Alexa-Only Deals. View all the Alexa-only deals here. Must be ordered via Alexa Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, Tap, Fire TV, Dash Wand, or compatible Fire tablets. The prices you see on the pages below will be different.

Other Amazon-related deals:

The Incredible Shrinking Cell Phone Bill

iphonepixel200If you wanted to shave $1,000 a year off your housing expenses, you’d have to move or at least refinance a mortgage. That takes a pile of paperwork and lots of time. Meanwhile, with a few clicks on a website and a SIM swap, many people on a major carrier plan can easily save $1,000 on their annual cell phone bill. I just transfered my service to Sprint’s Free Year of Unlimited promotion (extended to 7/30) and my new bill is $3 a month per line including all taxes and fees. Took maybe 15 minutes of my time.

The average cell phone bill has dropped by over 12% from a year ago. If you haven’t shopped around in a while, you might be missing out on big savings. The WSJ article The New Sticker Shock: Plunging Cellphone Bills (paywall?) shows us how cell phone bills are dropping across the board:

wsjcell1

Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint have all been losing net customers this year. Most went to either T-Mobile or various MVNO/prepaid providers which can provide 95%+ of the coverage at a fraction of the cost. (MVNOs don’t have the same roaming agreements as a postpaid major carrier.) Sprint was both a smaller competitor and losing customers, so apparently they felt they had to do something drastic.

wsjcell2

I expect to switch to either T-Mobile or an MVNO after my year is up, unless Sprint can come up with another deal.

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