Thursday, June 14, 2007

Taxes on the Financially Challenged

Last night I was watching an episode of Last Comic Standing. I don't know, I had nothing better to do, I guess. Watching television is a great thing to do if you want to learn about the latest and greatest in scams, schemes and useless innovations. Last Comic Standing introduced me to a brand new one. Just before each commercial break a slide appeared on the screen with the first part of a joke. Viewers were then asked to send a text message to a specific number to receive the punch line for that joke. Naturally, those text messages are subject to standard text messaging rates.

One example of a joke: "What's orange and sounds like a parrot?". If you are curious, the answer is "carrot". I Googled it. I am sure that at this point you are on the floor laughing.

First of all, what kind of a lame, 2nd grade joke is that? I could understand if the show was being aired at 8PM and was aimed at grade-schoolers, but the show ended at 11PM. I am pretty sure that anyone who would find that joke funny was already tucked away safely in bed with their teddy bear.

Second, isn't it weird that there are people who would spend a dime on a text message to get that horrible punch line? I am guessing that the show is making several thousand dollars or more on each of these five second spots. You find a large enough audience and there is always someone who will fork over some cash, regardless of what you are selling. My thinking is that this is one of many "taxes" levied on the financially challenged.

Here is a list of five other "taxes" that are levied on the financially inept:

1. The Lottery - according to Wikipedia, the odds of winning the California State Lottery jackpot are 41,416,353 to 1. Compare that to your chances of getting hit by lightning that are about 700,000 to 1, depending on who you believe.

2. Extended Warranty - this one is clearly a tax on the uninitiated. Extended warranties are often a company's biggest money maker. In many cases vendors make more on the warranty than they do on the product itself...

3. Credit Card Balances - I am not talking about those PF bloggers taking advantage of 0% teaser rates on new cards. I am talking about the folks who pay 18% APR to finance the new garden gnomes they just have to buy.

4. Time Shares - This one is a classic. My friend's father once purchased two, count them, two time share units. He bought the first for the family vacations, and the second... as an investment. Several years later, when he figured out that the time share units were costing him more money than they were saving him, he sold them both. Naturally, he lost money on the sale.

5. Keeping Large Balances in a Checking Account - talk about giving away money... why would people keep large positive balances in their checking acounts when they could be making about 5% in a high-yield money market account, with very little risk and complete liquidity?

Know about any other taxes on the financially challenged? Add them to the list.

1 comment:

plonkee said...

Paying insurance premiums monthly. I don't know what yours are like but lots of annual insurance plans have a pay monthly option - which is actually a finance plan with really high interest rates.