Bloomberg Terminal: Create a New Login

IMPORTANT: You need a cellphone with you.

  1. Open the Bloomberg application.
  2. Select your language at the welcome screen.
  3. Click the “Create a New Login” link near the bottom of the login screen
  4. Fill out the multi-page registration form
  5. Select to receive your validation code via text message
  6. Wait for Bloomberg to send you the code
  7. Type the validation code in the appropiate input box
  8. Finish registration, go back to login page, and login with your user name and password

New Bike, The Specialized Sirrus

My old bike was stolen a while ago when I went to the bank one day. I was very busy for a while so I didn't have the time to purchase a replacement until now. (I welcomed the delay as it gives me time to do some market research.)

The old bike that got stolen was a toy store mountain bike I bought a long time ago. The bike was starting to rust and the ride quality wasn't satisfying at all. Simply put, it's more like a toy than a dependable bike.

This time, I decided to purchase a "real" bike from a local bike shop, as I planned to do some serious commuting on it. After doing some research on the internet, I settled on the Specialized Sirrus. It was designed with commuters in mind with a lighter weight aluminum frame that has a more upright riding position, steel fork, bigger 700×32 tires, and 21-speed Shimano branded drivetrain.

After riding it for a few days, I found it very different from the bike I used to ride. The lighter weight, of course, makes it easier to pedal but also makes the handling more sensitive and the bike has better weight distribution. The aluminum frame is stiffer than a full-suspension mountain bike, further improve handling. Together, they increase cornering speed and make the bike feels faster. One down side riding on a bike without suspension is that you will feel every road vibration. This is especially troubling when your local government doesn't do a good job at maintaining the roads. But I rather have speed instead of a more comfortable ride.

The biggest compliant I have with the old bike is that my back always hurt when I ride with my backpack. The Sirrus has a more upright riding position. Backpacks are no longer a concern. Also not having to bend over, I can ride on the Sirrus a longer distance and still feel comfortable.

The Sirrus is not without flaw. It uses "Body Geometry" grips that are supposed to fit the hands better. Trouble is, the grips assume you can always hold them at the optimized position but that is never possible. First the grips themselves don't want to stay in one fixed angle. They will rotate slightly forward or backward as you ride. Second, your body will move around as you are riding. It's hard to stay in one fixed location. When holding the grips not optimally, they will cause discomfort or even minor pain during long rides. The size of the grips are also smaller than I would like.

This is a relatively easy one to fix. I just need to change the grips to a more traditional cylindrical one with a larger diameter.

Here are some pictures for you:

Birthday Wish

Today, June 19, 2011, is my twenty third birthday.

I am always interested in vegetarianism. Eating no meat, for me, just seems impossible and in my twenty three years of living I have never once considered becoming a vegetarian.

However, I've set myself up for a challenge this birthday: I will endeavor to be a vegetarian for a period of time and see how it feels. Right now, my goal is a week without meat. If all went well, I would try a month or even more.

As with any challenge, rules must be set. This challenge will only have one simple rule: vegetarian means ovo-lacto vegetarian, i.e. eggs, milk, and dairy products are acceptable. I will be eating my normal caliber, anytime and anywhere as long as the food that goes into my mouth doesn't violate the rule above.

One important note is that I am only interested in experiencing vegetarianism. I am not trying to loose weight, although many think I should. That said, body weight will be one of the telemetry I monitor.

Check back after a week for a summary report.

Cooler in New York City

The temperature in New York City is cooler today. The weather forecast said it will remain so until the rest of the week, a very welcome news. 

It was very hot the past few days here. So hot that nothing could be done during the afternoon hours. (Every time I move, I started to melt.) Cooler temperature is very good news. Cooler body and less sweat make the body and the mind more comfortable, which translate to higher productivity. There is just no way one can concentrate when overheating. 

Staying cool is so important in summer. Don't let the heat stop you from doing things, would you?

The Recent Slip in Oil Prices

Last week, NYMEX oil prices slipped almost $15, the biggest ever single-week drop. Brent crude also posted similar result. The largest single-day drop was recorded on Thursday. This may not be long-term, however.

Geo-political unrests in many oil-producing countries are hurting supply. In Libya, the stalemate caused more than a million barrels of crude to be off the market everyday.

On the demand side, as developing countries become ever more wealthy and the size of their bourgeoises expand, more cars will be owned world-wide. Unless the automobile industry can produce clean-energy vehicles at an affordable price quickly, demand for gasoline, thus oil, will increase with the expansion of international car ownership.

The fundamental demand and supply structure for oil hasn't changed. It is better to think of the recent price fall as a correction rather than a long-term adjustment.

Another Useful Applescript (for moving files around)

Why This Script

The Applescript that I am sharing today is a Service that I created a while ago. The main purpose of this service is to move files quickly from one location to another. One problem that I enounter everyday is moving and organizating my downloaded and newly created files. (I like to place my working files on the Desktop then move them to the final destination after I am done.)

Tools

To create this script, you will need Automator and some knowledge in Applescript. It might be possible to achieve the same result using only Automator, but I think it will be more complicated for me as I am not very familiar with Automator.

How To Write The Script

Step 1: Open Automator and create a new Service workflow.

Step 2: Select what type of items the Service workflow will receive. Here we want it to move files and folder, so we need to choose "files and folders" in "Finder.app."

Step 3: Drag the "Run AppleScript" Action to the workflow.

Step 4: This is where the hard part comes in. You have type in the code that actually moves the files around.

on run {input, parameters}
    --define a list of predefined location you wish to move your files,
    --e.g. the "Applications" folder, etc. (shown here)
    --you can define as much location as you want
    set loc_list to {"Applications", "Documents", "Music"}

    --display a prompt to let you choose a location from the list above
    --to move the file to
    set loca to (choose from list loc_list)

    --set the actual path of the destination folder
    --when you add your own locations, you need to
    --add a new statement to define the folder path
    if loca contains "Applications" then
        set to_loc to "Mac HD:Applications:"
    end if

    if loca contains "Documents" then
        set to_loc to "Mac HD:Users:hinyeungyu:Documents:"
    end if

    if loca contains "Musics" then
        set to_loc to "Mac HD:Users:hinyeungyu:Music:"
    end if

    --actually moving the file
    tell application "Finder"
        move input to to_loc
    end tell
end on

Step 5: Save the Service, give it a name like "Move to."

How To Use The Script

You can run the script anywhere within Finder. For example, say you have a file on your Desktop and you want to move it to Documents. Just right click on file and you should see the "Move to" Service at the bottom of the contextual menu. Click on it and then choose the destination, in this case "Documents," when you are prompted. Click "OK" or press "return" and the file will be moved.

Follow up: Automating BackBlaze Backup

This is a follow up to the original post "Automating BackBlaze Backup"

The last post has generated some interest among BackBlaze users. I received a few comments asking me to share the script I used to automate my BackBlaze Backup speed changing. Well time have changed a little. I improved my code a great deal. I am no longer using Automator as a helper, the code now is purely in Applescript. In the spirit of Creative Common, I am making the script available to the public. You can download it right here.

Happy 10th Birthday Wikipedia!

I am not sure what the exact date is, but Wikipedia is celebrating its tenth birthday this week. Being a student, Wikipedia did saved me a lot of time on a few occasion, but I do have to say I have never quoted directly from Wikipedia during my undergraduate study, and I don't think it will be any useful for my graduate study.

Quoting from Wikipedia is not as much as an academic crime as plagiarizing, but I think it is an academic etiquette. Some professional scholars are so afraid of the idea that anyone can edit and insert information that they completely reject the idea of an open source encyclopedia. My opinion is more moderate toward this debate. While I believe that no professional writing should quote directly from Wikipedia, it is a excellent place to start a research.

WNYC did a segment on Wikipedia turning ten a few days ago. In that segment, it said there was a study that shows, on average, science entries on Wikipedia have four errors, while the Britannica has three. I don't know how the study was conducted, but if the result were true, the Britannica seems like a waste of money. Paying money to buy a volume of books written by the so-called experts can only improve the quality of the information one is getting from the volume by one error. Keeping in mind that the Britannica is not a small sum of money, it seems like a very bad investment, specially when the alternative, Wikipedia, is totally free.

I am not trying to defend the credibility of Wikipedia here, I still think no one should quote directly from Wikipedia because the idea that anyone could insert false information at will just frightens me. The point I am making here is that Wikipedia does have its merits, people just have to know when is the right time to use it.

iPad Software Keyboard

I am always a fan of the traditional keyboards. I just think they feel better than the newer low profile laptop-style keyboards. So, when I purchased the iPad I thought I would not like the software keyboard on it.

However, as it turns out, it is quite good. Now, after about a week with my new iPad, I found myself mostly typing on the iPad using the software keyboard instead of using a Bluetooth keyboard.

One reason why I like it may be because the software keyboard is always next ot the body of text I am working with. That means I can sort of use my peripheral vision to peek at the keys. If I can't feel the keys, I might as well look at them.

The Charcoal Burner And The Fuller

There was once a charcoal burner who lived and worked by himself. A fuller,* however, happened to come and settle in the same neighborhood; and the charcoal burner, having made his acquaintance and finding he was an agreeable sort of fellow, asked him if he would come and share his house. "We shall get to know one another better that way," he said, "and besides, our household expenses will be diminished." The fuller thanked him, but replied, "I couldn't think of it, sir. Why everything I take such pains to whiten would be blackened in no time by your charcoal."

--
*A fuller bleached and thickened woolen cloth through a boiling and pounding process.

Ashliman, D. Aesop's Fables. New York City: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2005. 

Perhaps one of the most important things Adam Smith taught us is that individuals acting in their own interest will make the overall economy better. This principle is the fundamental of study of economics.

But is it true? Not always. In the fable, if the burner and the fuller decided to share the same household, it is true that their "household expenses will be diminished." However, the fuller can no longer produce white woolen cloths. Suppose the fuller is the only fuller in town, that means no woolen cloths for the whole town. So even if the fuller doesn't mind the charcoal burner blackening his cloths, the township will probably not allow the charcoal burner and the fuller to live together.

Individuals acting in their own interests don't always make the overall economy better off, in fact, they could worsen the economy sometimes.

Handwriting

A recent article on the Wall Street Journal website, "How Handwriting Trains the Brain" by Gwendolyn Bounds, pointed out that writing by hand will help the brain learn better. 

Anyone who has some knowledge on math can confirm that. Writing out the symbols, equations and formulae helps understanding the concepts. 

But enough about handwriting is beneficial to the brain, and it is, isn't it a basic skill? Being able to write seems to be the only thing that separates human from animals. (Science tells us that animals are quite intelligent; they can communicate with one another, with humans; they have good memories; and, sometimes, they are simply better than human at performing some specific tasks.) I've been complaining about people having bad handwritings for a while now, and by bad I mean incomprehensible. I don't have good handwriting myself, but at least my handwriting is comprehensible by others. Some people I know just beat me hollow when it comes to bad handwriting. They make me feel like I am looking at a Picasso. What is the point of writing if nobody can decipher it? People, come on, improve your penmanships! 

Mobile Workspace

Currently I am using an iPod touch and an Apple bluetooth keyboard as my mobile workspace. In my opinion, nothing can replace the computer at my home office so there is no point trying. Traditionally, the concept of a mobile computing device is a laptop, which is just a slim down version of a desktop. The most important thing about a mobile workspace is, well, mobile. Laptops are big, in fact some are huge and heavy. But when you make them smaller, like netbooks, they become very difficult to use (small keyboard, small trackpad, etc) because all the softwares on laptops are designed for desktops. That's why I dislike the idea of bring a laptop with me. With the iPod Touch and Apple keyboard combo, I can solve both problems. I can have a small, hence mobile, device with me (this thing is smaller than my hand) while maintaining usability. The Apple keyboard is a full size keyboard and since the iPod Touch has a touchscreen, I don't even have to worry about the mouse/trackpad. It is true that the iPod Touch cannot perform a lot of the task that a laptop can, but, as I mentioned before, the point of a mobile workspace is not to replace the main office, but to augment it. If the task that you need to complete is so important that you need a laptop to do it, maybe you should do it in a quite environment like your office, and not out on the street with all those distractions

Financial Education and Financial Decision-Making

People are living longer. One of the consequences from this is that we are going to have a longer retirement. A longer retirement requires a larger sum of money to finance. Several tax-favored retirement saving/investment plans were created to help people prepare for their retirement. These plans allow people to invest their savings in a number of financial products and the income is tax-deferred. However, the amount and complexity of financial products are increasing. hence in order not to jeopardize their retirement, sound financial decision-making is more important than ever.

A number of studies have shown that the level of financial education is closely related to the level of financial literacy. And people with higher level of financial literacy tend to make better financial decisions. Therefore, financial education is an adequate tool to promote effective financial decision-making.

How do people make decisions?

To understand the connection between financial education and financial decision-making, we first have to understand how people make decisions.

Classical economics theories assume that people always act rationally on the information available. From this notion, we can derive the efficient market theory. This theory states that if people act rationally on all the information available all the time, then the market is always efficient (Shiller 10). However, Shiller pointed out that "the stock market if anything but efficient" (11). Why is this the case? The only logical conclusion from this observation is that people, in fact, don't act rationally on the information available. If this is true, the how do people make decisions?

According to Knight, people make decisions base on the subjective probabilities they assign to certain events. In other words, people make decisions base on their "judgements" and "intuitions" (Knight 14-16). The reason is, many times during the process of decision-making, people are facing "events that are essentially unprecedented in nature, whose probability must be judged by thinking by analogy and induction" (Shiller 12). Knight, in Risk, Uncertainty, and Profit, called this type of event uncertainty, to distinguish it from events with known probability distributions, which he called risk. According to Knight's theory, factors that can affect "judgements" and "intuitions" will affect the process of decision-making. Therefore, the question we have to address is: What can affect "judgements" and "intuitions?"

Many times, people make decisions following the "conventional wisdom" (Shiller 8). They think, because other people are doing it, it must be good. The problem of following the "conventional wisdom" is that it might be wrong. Also, as Shiller pointed out, people have to interpret "conventional wisdom" in order to use it as a standard for decision-making (9). However, the definition of "conventional wisdom" is never concrete, in fact, it is very vague. One person's interpretation might be very different from the next.

The news media is another factor that affects people's decisions because it "play[s] a prominent role in generating our "conventional wisdom" (Shiller 9). A well-written story often catches people's attention and "can have powerful impact on public thinking" (9). Research also suggest people pay a lot of attention to the media when it comes to learning about finance. Beverly, Hilgert and Hogarth found that "households [prefer] to learn about money management through media sources (television, radio, magazines, and newspapers)" (319).

As mentioned before, people don't like to deviate too much from the "conventional wisdom," i.e. the norm. There might be a conformity pressure that drives people to follow the norm (Shiller 11). Shiller observed, even experts and professionals are subject to conformity pressure, not just the public. This pressure is motivated by, as Shiller explained, the desire for members of the group to "preserve their status within the group" (11).

Perhaps the most obvious factor that can affect "judgements" and "intuitions" is a person's experience. Their development "requires years of experience in "problem-solving" (Khatri and Ng 4). This is also where education comes into play. Since education, formal of informal, makes up a relatively large portion of a person's experience, naturally, it must also play an important role in the development of "judgements" and "intuitions."

While on the subject of education, we will also define the word "education" here. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, "education" means "the knowledge and development resulting form an educational process." This definition is a good starting point. We must also be aware that "[t]here is a difference between providing information and providing education" (Beverly, Hilgert and Hogarth 321). Providing information is just providing the facts, e.g. the current interest rate. Education is the next level, it "require[s] a combination of information, skill-building, and motivation to make the desired changes in behavior" (Beverly, Hilgert and Hogarth 321). Education is a process with an intention of changing behavior. The effectiveness of education changing behavior is the subject of this paper.

What is a good decision?

Decisions are evaluated ex post. In other words, the decision itself has no value. The value of a decision comes solely from the results, or the expected results, it yields. To say a decision is good is to say that the decision yields, or is likely to yield, good results. Therefore, to study the quality of a decision, we must answer the question: What is a good result?

Since the focus of this paper is to examine the connection between financial education and financial decision-making, we will follow the financial standard - a result is good if it increased a person's financial well-being.

What is the evidence?

It is logical to assume that the complication of financial products would suggest a higher level of financial literacy, either because people feel the need to understand more or the complication is a result of higher level of financial literacy. however, data shows the opposite. Empirical evidence suggests that the general public is not well-educated in finance and the level of financial education varies among demographic groups.

People approaching retirement or already retired have very little basic financial knowledge. A study shows that only 50% of this group understands compounding interest and inflation and only one-third understands the concept of risk diversification (Lusardi, Financial literacy 6). The lack of financial knowledge makes this group particularly vulnerable to financial fraud. According to an interview with Eric Stein, a man who is convicted for running a Ponzi scheme, "scammers" usually go after people hitting close to retirement or who have recently retired" (Ruffenach 6). Aside from the lack of financial knowledge, another reason that this group is more vulnerable to financial fraud is that this group of people "don't have the business opportunities they had when they were younger," as Mr. Stein explained (Ruffenach 7).

Women, generally, when compare to men, have less financial knowledge. The difference is greatest with regard to risk diversification (Lusardi, Financial Literacy 11). The impact of this difference is especially stroung after the death of a spouse. Lusardi's description - "a husband's death can precipitate his widow's entry into poverty" - should give us a sense of the severity (Saving 3).

Financial knowledge varies widely among people with different level of education. Only half the people with less than a high school diploma can perform simple calculation on interest rate and close to 20% don't know how. The large majority of people without a college degree fail to understand the concept of risk diversification (Lusardi, Financial Literacy 12).

Differences in financial literacy can also be observed across different racial groups. Only about half of African-Americans can perform interest rate calculation and an even smaller ratio among Hispanics (Lusardi, Financial Literacy 12).

One might think that, with a better education system today, at least the younger generation would have higher level of financial knowledge. this idea is very wrong, unfortunately. According to a Time magazine article, high school students' financial literacy test scores are dropping.

Even when we look at the demographic with higher level of financial literacy, the result is disappointing. Only one-third of this group "knows the relationship between bond pricing and interest rates, indicating striking ignorance of how assets are priced" (Lusardi, Financial Literacy 10).

It is clear that financial literacy is not common. However, what about the ability of making sound decisions. Are people making sound decisions? Empirical evidence suggests no.

Planning for retirement makes a huge difference. "[T]hose who plan [for retirement] have more than double the wealth of those who have not done any retirement planning" (Lusardi, Financial Literacy 13). However, a large number of people don't plan for their retirement. "Only 39 percent of workers in 2001 have tried to determine with some accuracy how much they need to save to fund their retirement" (Lusardi, Saving 4). When ask why they have not done any retirement planning, most respond that "it was too difficult and they did not know where to find help to do it" (Lusardi, Saving 4).

There seems to be difficulty in making good decisions even for those who did some retirement planning.

Many households are not saving enough to maintain the quality of life they are used to after their retirement. Some simply don't save enough for their retirement. A study suggests that "about half of working middle-class American households will not have fully-funded retirements [and s]ome will actually run out of resources very shortly after retirement" (Lusardi, Saving 3). The reason is that people fail to understand the concept of saving. most households started saving too late, either because they don't have enough until late in life or because they fail to recognize the importance of saving early in life. Statistical data suggests that even thought most households have a saving account, "fewer than half ... saved regularly out of each pay check" (Beverly, Hilgert and Hogarth 316).

The structure of a typical household's portfolio also gives us insight as to why many of them have little or no wealth close to their retirement. For many households, the majority of their wealth portfolio is their house. Many households "hold neither high return assets (stocks, IRAs, business equity), nor basic assets such as checking accounts" (Lusardi, Saving 2). Obviously, they are not making good financial decisions.

As we have seen, there is a healthy amount of statistical data that shows people are not well-educated financially and they are not making sound financial decisions (retirement decisions, in particular). Is there a connection between education and decisions? Empirical evidence suggests so.

People "who studied economics (in high school, college, or at higher levels) were much more likely to display higher levels of financial literacy later in life" (Lusardi, Financial Literacy 12). Furthermore, people with higher levels of financial literacy are more likely to plan for their financial future, i.e. their retirement. Retirement planning is a sign of good financial decision-making as it generally yields good results, as we have seen. Some many argue that people who want to plan for their retirement will be more interested in finance, hence naturally, they must have a higher level of financial literacy compare to other people. However, Lusardi pointed out that data suggests "it is [financial] literacy that affects planning and not the other way around" (Financial Literacy 14).

Households with higher level of financial knowledge are more likely to participate in the stock market. In the long run, stocks usually yield higher returns than other assets commonly held by households. As we have seen, the lack of participation in stock market is one of the reasons why so many households have very little or no wealth close to their retirement. similar to the above, it can be shown that it is financial literacy that encourages participation in the stock market and not the other way around (Lusardi, Financial Literacy 14).

"There are tremendous differences in wealth holdings for households on the verge of retirement" (Lusardi, Saving 8). The level of education, which can be a proxy to measure financial literacy, seems to matter here. "[H]ouseholds whose head is college educated have more than twice the wealth ... of households with high school education" (Lusardi, Saving 9).

People who attended retired retirement seminars are better off financially close to their retirement. It appears that, on average, there is an 18% gap in wealth between people who attended retirement seminars and those who don't. The difference becomes greater as we move toward the low end of the distribution and for people with the lowest level of education (Lusardi, Saving 14).

What types of education are more effective?

As we have seen, financial literacy matters in financial decision-making. Financial education can increase financial literacy. However, there are many types of financial education available, are they all as effective?

Most people prefer to learn about finance from three major sources: personal experience, friends and family and the media (Beverly, Hilgert and Hogarth 318). People who like to learn by doing would prefer to learn about finance from personal experience. Friends and family are regarded by many as trusted source for information. Therefore, people are more willing to learn from them. The media being one of the three major sources is really not surprising. As mentioned before, the media can affect behaviors by changing "conventional wisdom" (Shiller 9).

The effect of these sources on financial behavior is statistically significant. Households that reported acquiring financial knowledge from these sources score higher on financial practice indexes (Beverly, Hilgert and Hogarth 318).

One thing that is worth noting is that "just in time" sources - sources that are available to people whenever and wherever, e.g. the Internet - seems to have a larger effect on financial behavior. "Households that scored high on financial practices indexes where more likely than those scoring in the low or medium group to prefer the Internet as an information source" (Beverly, Hilgert and Hogarth 319).

Beverly, Hilgert and Hogarth also mentioned the idea of "teachable moment" (320). In order for people to take full advantage of the information provided, the information must be presented at the moment when people are most eager to learn. For example, providing purchase counseling to first-time homebuyers (Beverly, Hilgert and Hogarth 320). If the right information were presented at the "teachable moment," it is more likely that the information will bring the desirable behavioral change.

Does that mean education cause good decision-making?

In his interview, Eric Stein described a set of personal traits that he and other "scammers" look for when choosing their targets. He talked about people already in retirement or approaching their retirement. These people are easier to fraud as they are more desperate in earning enough wealth to fund their retirement. Dentist will fall for the scams because they want to be loved by other people. A little "sweet-talk" and they sure will bite. Entrepreneurs love to take risk. Anything that involves a large sum of money you can count them in (Ruffenach 6-7).

There is one thing that Mr. Stein never mentioned - education. So far, this paper have shown that there is a strong correlation between financial education and financial behavior. If that is the case, then Mr. Stein should have targeted people with less financial education, as they are more likely to make bad decisions. The only reasonable explanation is that, although there is a strong correlation, financial education is not the only contributing factor in the decision-making process.

As mentioned before, people make decisions based on "judgements" and "intuitions" and they can be influenced by many factors, education being one of them. In his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell explained that intelligence, in determining a person's success, is only important up to a certain degree. Using the same notion education is only important up to a certain degree in the decision-making process. In other words, there is a diminishing marginal return on education. The rest depends on other equally important, or even more important, factors. Therefore, it is impossible to conclude that education caused good decision-making.

The conclusion

In the earlier part of this paper, we established that people make decisions based on "judgements" and "intuitions" and they can be affected by many factors. Many of the factors that can affect "judgements" and "intuitions" are psychological. Then, we asked: How effective is education in changing the quality of decisions?

From the empirical evidence, we can see that financial literacy is not common among the general public, especially among people who are retired or approaching retirement, women people with low level of education, and certain racial groups. We can also see that financial literacy promotes positive financial behavior, e.g. retirement planning and participation in the stock market. Furthermore, empirical evidence also found statically significant association between financial education and financial literacy. Ultimately, we can conclude that there is a positive link between financial education and financial decision-making. In the later part of this paper, we explained that there is not enough material to determine the causality between education behavior.

The high degree of involvement in the financial market today means people have to make more financial decisions And because the stakes are high, i.e. their retirement, it is very important for people to make sound financial decisions. Or as Lusardi put is: "[I]t is very hard to live and operate efficiently today without being financially literate" (Financial Literacy 16). In this paper, we have examined the connection between education and its effect on decision-making. The conclusion from this is that financial education can boost financial literacy and ultimately leads to better financial decision-making, however, causality cannot be determined.


Works Cited

Beverly, S., Hilgert, M., Hogarth, H. "Household Financial Management: the Conncetion Between Knowledge and Behavior." Federal Reserve Bulletin. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. (U.S.) Jul. 2003. 309-322.

"Education." Def. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Web. 10 Mar 2010 <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/education>

Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers: The Story of Success New York: Little, brown and Company, 2008.

Knight, Frank H., Risk, Uncertainty, and Profit. 1921. Library of Economics and Liberty. 23 March 2010. <http://www.econlib.org/library/Knight/knRUP6.html>.

Khatri, Naresh, Ng, H. Alvin. "Role of Intuition in Strategic Decision Making" 1997.

Kiviat, Barbara. "How to Teach kids About Money." Time Online. 25 Jan. 2010. Web. 7 Mar. 2010 <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1953695,00.html>.

Lusardi, Annamaria. "Financial Literacy: An Essential Tool for Informed Consumer Choice?" Jun. 2008. NBER Working Paper No. W14084.

--- "Saving and the Effectiveness of Financial Education." Pension Design and Structure: New Lessons from Behavioral Finance. Ed. Mitchell, O. Utikus, S. Oxford University Press, 2005.

Ruffenach, Glenn. "Confessions of a Scam Artist." Wall Street Journal 9 Aug. 2004: R1.

Shiller, R. "Bubbles, Human Judgement and Expert Opinion." Cowles Foundation Discussion Paper, NO 1303. 2001 <http://cowles.econ.yale.edu/P/cd/dy2001.htm>.

Automating BackBlaze Backup

I am learning Applescript recently. Combining Applescript, Automator and iCal, I solved a problem that has bugged me for a long time. Currently, I am using a service called BackBlaze for off-site backup. The software that controls BackBlaze can control the upload speed but it doesn't have upload speed scheduling. I was controling BackBlaze's upload speed manually, but that is very inconvenient because the control is deep inside System Preferences on the Mac.

Then I looked around for ways that I could use Applescript to control BackBlaze. However, the BackBlaze software is not scriptable. Later, after some thinking, I had the idea of using the recording feature in Automator to create the part of the script that I needed to control BackBlaze. My idea worked perfectly this time. Now I am able to control the BackBlaze upload speed without digging through System Preferences.

I even created a schedule in iCal and set it to run the two workflows I wrote one for slow speed, one for full speed to let my computer control the upload speed automatically.

Pay by the Piece Workers

Currently, I am reading Revolution In Time by David S. Landes. The book is about the history of time keeping, but it also introduced an interesting economics question (somewhere in chapter 4): how to increase the output of a firm that pays its workers by the piece.

Workers who are compensated by the number of units they produce often only work until they've earned "enough". Of course, enough is different for every worker but it's very hard to ask workers to work more.

There is usually no contract between the firm and its workers, so workers can come and go as they wish. However, the supply of skilled workers is limited to a certain extend in the short run. Therefore, the firm is not likely to hire more workers in the short run to increase its output.

Increasing the rate will not do either. As mentioned above, workers will only work until they've earned enough. Higher per piece rate will only decrease output from each worker because workers need to work less to reach that "enough" point.

If workers were only willing to work until they've earned enough and the firm wanted more output, then how about lowering the per piece rate? Workers need to work more (produce more output) in order to earn enough to satisfy their needs if the per piece rate is lower. The result is exactly what the firm wanted - more output and more product to sell.

This policy sounds good at first, but I am sure it will fail. Assuming that the workers work in a perfectly competitive industry, when the firm lowers the rate, workers can simply leave this firm and work for another one. Not only will the firm not able to increase its output, lowering the rate will likely to cause the firm to loose its ability to product all together. Also, this plan simply doesn't make sense. When the firm makes its decision to produce more, that means the demand for its product is going up. When demand goes up, price goes up (at least in the short run). When price goes up, profit goes up, usually. Profit is going up and the firm is cutting compensation? It just doesn't make sense. This policy will likely to achieve what Stravinsky had done in Paris with the Rite of Spring in 1913.

How, then, should we solve this problem? To solve it, we must first understand the problem. The problem here is that workers value the money they earn after a certain point (the point where they've earned "enough") less than the free time they have after work (or, more precisely, whatever it is that they do with their free time after work). In other words, the marginal utility workers get from working more than "enough" is less than the marginal utility from other activities.

Then, to increase the output with fix amount of workers, the firm simply needs to pay workers a higher per piece rate after they've eared "enough". This is not the same as just increasing the rate, because, in order to earn a higher per piece rate, the workers first have to produce a certain amount of output at the normal rate. Using this two tiers compensation system, workers are more willing to keep producing after earning "enough", because they know they are going to get more utility out of working than other activities.  

My Christmas Present

This year, the Christmas present I bought myself is the limited edition Beatles USB apple. The Beatles apple is much smaller than a regular one. Inside this small green aluminum apple is a USB stick that holds the 24 BIT remaster of all the Beatles albums.

I just got it this evening and still haven't give it a listen but I've read reviews on the internet priasing the remaster CDs, so the 24 BIT FLAC will only be better for sure. The only problem is I don't have a DAC that can decode 24 BIT files so I will not be able to enjoy the full glory of the 24 BIT FLAC files.

Stay tuned for more information on the music "inside" this apple.

Smart Phone Plans

Recently, I am researching the price of owning a smart phone, which is composed of the price of the phone and the monthly service charge. Regardless of which carrier you look at, the same result always occurs: Pick a voice plan that suits you, add $30 to $40 for the data plan, and extra if you want text messages. 

Although I think they are too expensive, voice and data plan are easy to understand. The thing I don't understand is text messages. Why do cell phone owners have to pay more for text messages. If the marginal cost of transmitting phone calls is low, then the marginal cost of sending a text message can only be lower. 

The cost of sending a text message is lower because it uses less resources on the network. Cell phone carriers should be encouraging users to send more text messages and make less phone calls. Charging extra for text messages is definitely not encouraging them to do so. 

Besides, there is no difference between a phone call and a text message. They are both 0s and 1s. There is no reason for carriers to distinguish between them.

In a prefect world, I would like to see just one plan: a data plan. Let the users decide how to use their plans.