Mail: March 1980
Effort, not words
Ray Landis’ American dream [One Family’s Finances, February] is the sort that should be encouraged. I say that partly because our efforts in the world of small business are so similar, his in custom furniture and mine in custom woodworking. I taught school for 11 years, had enough, and opened a one-man shop. As in Ray’s experience, there have been scary times financially. But all in all the change was good. We eat on a regular basis and are making steady, modest progress. It was good to read about someone else who is trying to go it alone and survive through actual effort instead of words, investments, and various other “income production through paper-machination” techniques.
KIM MOORE, Chicago Park, Calif.
The marriage penalty is the biggest damn lie ever concocted [“Making Marriage Less Taxing,” January]. It is only fair for a married couple to be in a higher tax bracket than a live-alone single person, because a couple’s cost of living is only 1 1/2 times as high. We singles are the most discriminated-against Americans. We are taxed to hell and back to pay for married freeloaders’ welfare programs.
FRED T.S. SCHROER, Chicago
“The New Math of Love and Marriage” [January] tells of exceptional people who have attacked myths and social customs that need to change for the sake of both men and women. In substance, though, they are fairy tales. On average, women earn 59% of what men do. A female college graduate’s salary is comparable to a male high school dropout’s. So address yourselves to more than the dreams and fantasies of the elite.
MARGE THOMAS, Santa Monica
Five years ago, in your article “How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Inflation” [April 1975], Roger Klein and William Wolman argued that high and volatile inflation was here to stay but that investors could profit by switching to different investments at different stages in the inflation cycle. Those stages are foreshadowed two years in advance by changes in the growth rate of the money supply [see the chart above]. The other night 1 took a look at how well this strategy would have worked. Wow!
At point A on the chart, when inflation peaked in 1975, investors would have bought stocks and bonds. At B, when inflation neared the bottom of its cycle, they would have moved into cash. At C, they would have switched to gold and real estate. At D, with inflation nearing another peak, they would have retreated to the money market.
If $25,000 had been invested initially in two big stock and bond mutual funds, Windsor and Affiliated, and later put in a gold fund, United Services, and a real estate investment trust, General Growth Properties, with in-between stints in a bank account and a money-market fund, the investment would now be worth over $82,000. And the investor would now be back in stocks and bonds, poised to repeat the cycle.
ALFRED TRAYLOR, Stow, Ohio
Cheaper by the liter
The item “A Liter Bit Cheaper” [Current Accounts, February] said service stations are selling gasoline by the liter so that they can “calibrate their pumps in a way that allows them to post a more palatable price.” Shell Oil believes dispensing by the liter is inevitable. Many states will soon forbid half-gallon pricing. Switching to liter pricing is only a fifth as costly as converting pumps to measure the price at more than $1 a gallon. To prevent confusion. Shell is also posting the price per gallon on all pumps.
NORMAN ALTSTEDTER, Public Affairs – Shell Oil Co., New York City
Not to take anything away from George Smith [“A Pipeline to Prosperity,” January], but I feel that the Fortunes from Scratch award in the January issue belongs to Lynda Carter. After all, she made a million dollars with nothing but a belly button.
PAM WILSON, Pittsburgh
Throttled car brokers
Some time back you reported on car-buying services such as Car/Puter and Nationwide Auto Brokers [“How to Pay Less,” August 1979]. If my experience is typical, you may be doing your readers a disservice by publicizing these brokers. In October 1979 I phoned Car/Puter for a price quote on a new car. Many weeks later I had not received the quote or the refund I had by then requested. My experience with Nationwide was virtually identical.
L.E. GAMBLE, Laguna Hills, Calif.
After many such complaints. Nationwide and another broker. Computerized Car Costs. recently signed agreements with the Michigan attorney general that they will keep their promises to customers. Car/Puter has an almost complaint-free record with consumer protection agencies and says it sent you a price quote promptly.
Address letters to Money, Time & Life Building. Rockefeller Center, New York, N.Y. 10020.
The smallest expenditure qualifying for an energy-conservation credit against your income tax is $66.67, not $10 as reported in “Whose Side Is Your Tax Preparer On?” (February). Also, you cannot claim an accumulation of smaller outlays over two or more years.
Cover: Hairstyling and makeup, Hannah Brown; 42: Roberto Brosan; 92, 93: Henry Grossman; chart, Nicholas Fasciano.