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th(Recently a reader wrote to ask me to re-run this post. So I did. And a happy Throwback Thursday to you all.)

Yesterday I had the use of a car so I stopped at the Division of Motor Vehicles to get my driver’s license switched over. The clerk asked if I’d been licensed in Alaska previously, and was in fact able to find me in the system. Fill in form ABCXYZ, take the written test and you’re good to go.

Written test? Really? Couldn’t I be grandmothered in, based on the fact that I was once a licensed Alaska driver?

Nope. Moments later questions like “How much liability insurance is an Alaska driver required to carry?” were flashing before my eyes.

The answer is “$50,000/$100,000/$25,000.” Who knew? Not me, apparently, because I got four questions wrong and the testing system kicked me out.

I’ve been driving for 38 years and I flunked the blankety-blank written test. Still can’t quite believe that. The real surprise of the day, however, came from filling out the form.

 


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thToday was a true Sabbath: We kicked back and  didn’t do anything we didn’t want to do. In fact, DF and I didn’t leave the property once he’d returned home from early Mass.

It was a day for naps, a bit of gardening in between rain squalls, reading and eating stuff from our own yard: cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, raspberries and rhubarb.

It was also a day for pie. Although I love the confection dearly I rarely make it. Today I decided pie was the perfect way to get rid of some of last year’s raspberries, some of this year’s rhubarb and all the blueberries that DF got in prison.

All the best stories include the word “prison” in them, don’t they?

 


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thOur house smells of smoke thanks to a wildfire just south of town. The recent unusually sunny and warm weather has left the area ready to burn.

The linked video above shows an uninhabited, mountainous area. Unfortunately the blaze is spreading toward a part of town with wonderful homes – and no utility infrastructure.

That’s the trouble with living in an isolated area: Even if fire trucks can get up there, they can use only the water they brought with them.

Residents are packing their bug-out bags and creating what the fire folks call “defensible spaces” around their homes (e.g., removing trees and mowing down brush) and everyone’s sort of on tenterhooks. I expect even the atheists are praying for a downpour right about now.

Down here on the flats I’m feeling sad for anyone in the fire’s path and also experiencing a bit of survivor’s guilt. Our house lot is mostly treeless; if fire broke out in tree-heavy areas nearby, we have two hose hookups that would let us squirt out any embers that blew our way.

Thanks to the city water system we’d have a steady supply. One of us could be on the ground watching for hot spots and the other on the roof to protect the shingles. Since this is a one-story house it would be a simple scramble up the ladder; DF does this every year when he sweeps the chimney.

Right now I’m praying (for real) for rain.

 


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th-1Saw the “Ghostbusters” reboot on Friday and laughed quite a bit, especially at the antics of Kate McKinnon. While she didn’t actually steal every scene in which she appeared, McKinnon certainly borrowed some of them without permission.

The woman is damned funny. Since we don’t have a television, I’ve never seen her work on “Saturday Night Live” or “The Big Gay Sketch Show.” I might go see the movie again just to watch her. (The others were great, too.)

As for the fanboy bro-haha about the reboot being a heretical sacrilege against all that’s good and holy about dude films, all I can say is “Grow up.” Movies get rebooted all the time. You either go see them or you refuse to go see them. What you don’t do is wail about how this has ruined your childhood.

Seriously. Some guys, and maybe some gals, actually say this. If the first 18 years of your life are rendered meaningless by a movie remake, I suggest you seek help. Or maybe some anti-hyperbole tablets.

In keeping with my theory that personal finance lessons are where you find them, I went to “Ghostbusters” in full money-geek mode and with a notebook. Here’s what I found.

 


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th-1Take a look at personal finance articles aimed at women. How many of them focus on topics like using coupons, getting the best prices for school clothes and cutting back on our purse collections?

Those are all good things to do. But why aren’t women getting information about building real wealth?

Women make 85 percent of consumer purchases. (Hint: Not all of them are of Jimmy Choo footwear.) Yet they are too often ignored, patronized or marginalized by the financial planning industry.

Kimberly Palmer, author of “Smart Mom, Rich Mom: How To Build Wealth While Raising A Family,” has a friend in that line of work. He told her about a colleague who talked to the husband and referred to the wife in the third person. The wife was sitting right next to her spouse.

That’s why we need books like this one. We do need to worry our pretty li’l heads about money.

 


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th-2It’s 77 degrees here and I’m melting, melting

Which is a little embarrassing to admit. Although I grew up in a hot-and-humid area and also sweltered through the occasional 100-degree heat wave in Seattle* my blood has done got thin.

Like many other Alaskans, I perceive temps in the 60s as warm enough, thanks. When it his 70 I start fanning myself. Now that it’s closer to 80 than 70, I’m panting like a black dog in the noonday sun.

Right now I’m pet-sitting a black dog (Rottweiler/black Lab mix), a furry solar collector whose solution is simple: When he’s not in the house, he spends his time underneath the deck attached to the greenhouse DF built

I’m the wrong size – and the wrong flexibility factor – to follow him under there, so I cope by staying out of the direct sun and drinking lots of water and iced tea. It’s supposed to be in the mid- to high 70s all week.

 


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thYesterday I had a stimulating conversation with a Surviving and Thriving reader who was traveling with her family. It was a frugal meet-up: We talked for a couple of hours in the play area of a Carl’s Jr. restaurant, since I figured the two kids would be bored spitless by grownup blather about  money and frugality.

Both the reader and her husband have names that begin with the letter K, so henceforth they’ll be referred to as “K-she” and “K-he.” (Didn’t get permission to out their true identities.) We talked about not just how to save money but also about the sense of freedom that comes with taking control of your cash.

K-he revealed that initially he was nervous about his wife’s proposal to be a full-time parent, fearing it would deal a death blow to their finances. But now he’s not only in awe of his wife’s mad frugal skills, he’s on board with the whole idea.

He also asked an interesting question: “Why aren’t more people like you two?”

 


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thThe “we” is me and my daughter, whom regular readers know as the brains behind the I Pick Up Pennies website. Abby and I are participating in the #FinHealthMatters writing competition and we want to hedge our bets.

Specifically: We would really appreciate some social media lurve.

 


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What(1)Physical health is more than merely the absence of symptoms. Ditto financial health.

Just being not-sick doesn’t mean you’re actually well. Ever know someone who seemed fine until the heart attack? It’s likely he had underlying issues such as poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle.

Now: Ever know someone who seemed fine until the bankruptcy? Chances are he had issues, too, such as compulsive spending or champagne tastes and a tap-water budget.

He’s not alone: According to the Center for Financial Services Innovation, 57 percent of U.S. adults struggle financially.

We get annual physicals because catching a problem early beats trying to cure an entrenched ailment. Our finances need checkups, too.

 


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The unfriendly skies.

th-1Dreading being seated next to or near a baby on your next flight? You should probably be just as concerned about the adult passengers. Recently I’ve read two accounts of teen-aged girls (one of them an unaccompanied minor) being molested by adult men at 35,000 feet.

As we used to write from the city desk, “Police said alcohol was a factor.” Then again, plenty of people drink on planes and don’t grope strangers. Liquor may break the chain and free the beast, but only if the beast was already there.

The family of one girl (just 13 years old!) is suing American Airlines. The other, aged 16, kept pushing the guy away until another passenger intervened.

The moral of the story: Save the stinkeye for creepy drunken dudes and give parents of small children the benefit of the doubt.

 


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th-1My personal-finance pal J. Money started an interesting conversation over at Budgets Are Sexy. A reader asked if it were “a poor decision” to use an item for years, then return it for a refund.

(That’s even a question?)

In “Returning used stuff – cool or no?,” J. Money said he wrote back to the reader saying, among other things, that this was a question of personal ethics. The blogger added that he would not return anything unless it was broken or otherwise not delivering on its promise.

(In his wild youth he’d returned a used boombox two days before the return window expired, and was thoroughly shamed by the customer service rep before he got his refund. Lesson learned!)

The reader then shared that he’d needed to move and “just couldn’t throw out my bedroom set that was in perfect condition and 10 years old.” (Emphasis added.) So he took it back to Costco and, unbelievably, the store refunded his money.

 


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th-1Some observations about the town of Valdez, Alaska, where the 24th annual Last Frontier Theatre Conference is winding up:

Coming into town were greeted by one of those temporary electronic signs, the kind that road crews put up. However, it wasn’t advising us of “ROAD WORK NEXT FEW MILES” or “ABRUPT EDGE MOTORCYCLES USE EXTREME CAUTION,” however.

No, this warning included the phrase “GRIZZLY BEARS MOVING THROUGH TOWN.”

Sad to say, I have not seen ursus arctos horribilis myself. Kind of hoped to do so, from within a vehicle moving past said critter. But I did hear about someone whose yard was monopolized by a mama grizz and three cubs for several days.

Finally she called Fish and Game to beanbag ’em out of there. She was tired of not letting her own kids go outside to play, lest they become Scooby snacks for the charismatic megafauna next to the swing set.

 


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