Archive for January 28th, 2013

Schwab, on the other hand…

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Given the grumpy tone of this post about our travails with a Panasonic plasma HDTV, I thought a little karmic balance might be appropriate. To wit, a recent encounter (begun last Thursday, completed today) with Charles Schwab, with which we have a modest account.

We have little CDs maturing. We find the current rates for CDs, thanks to the Fed’s “Punish the Savers” initiatives, absurd.

Not sure why the Fed has determined that savers are required to shove all our money into the stock market, but that appears to be the case. Maybe gambling interests have taken over behind the scenes and want to demonstrate that everything’s a gamble? Is getting 3%–or, say, 1% above inflation–on guaranteed savings such an outlandish notion?

So we were looking at possible safe havens–low-risk investments that might yield, say, 3% or 4% without losing capital and with flexibility if interest rates are ever allowed to return to levels that encourage actual savings.

One mutual fund–part of Schwab’s Select List, with no purchase or redemption fees and very low overhead–looked promising. But there was one aspect of the information card & prospectus that troubled us.

So I called last Thursday and talked to a representative about it. He didn’t have an answer, and wasn’t sure he could get one, but said he’d look into it (emailing the fund manager, since it’s a Schwab fund) and call me back. I think he forgot that he wasn’t working on Friday, since he said he’d call me back the next day.

This morning (Monday), he did, in fact, call. He read me the response from the fund management, which was in English (not Managementese or Legalese), was understandable, directly addressed our concern, and was actually a satisfactory answer. He also forwarded the response to my email, so I’d have it in writing.

Did I mention that this was free? (OK, so I do have a Schwab account…)

I think we already felt positively about Schwab. After this interaction, we feel more positively about it. Kudos for responsive customer support on a difficult question.


Michigan public libraries

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Another post commenting on Chapter 20 of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13)–now available as a $9.99 Kindle ebook or $21.95 paperback with ISBN 978-1481279161 on Amazon, along with the usual Lulu options.

The 382 libraries profiled (three libraries omitted) are distributed fairly typically in terms of expenditures, except that the highest bracket is 4.7% of libraries as compared to 9.8% overall.

Circulation is “bulgy,” with very few libraries at the top and bottom and slightly more libraries in the lower middle brackets; median expenditures consistently rise with circulation per capita. Program attendance is low, with 29% having at least 0.4 attendance per capita (compared to 42% overall).

Libraries by legal service area

LSA Count % Outliers
<700 3 0.8%
700-1,149 6 1.6%
1,150-1,649 5 1.3%
1,650-2,249 11 2.9%
2,250-2,999 16 4.2% 1
3,000-3,999 35 9.2% 1
4,000-5,299 34 8.9%
5,300-6,799 39 10.2%
6,800-8,699 31 8.1% 1
8,700-11,099 36 9.4%
11,100-14,099 32 8.4%
14,100-18,499 27 7.1%
18,500-24,999 21 5.5%
25,000-34,499 25 6.5%
34,500-53,999 21 5.5%
54,000-104,999 22 5.8%
105,000-4.1 mill. 18 4.7%

Circulation per capita and spending per capita

Circulation per capita correlates strongly (0.64) with spending per capita.

Circulation per capita plotted against spending per capita

Circulation per capita (rounded) occurrence by spending category