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Bad Guy on Line One

Jim Wasserman

Jim is a former business litigation attorney who taught economics and humanities for 20 years. He's the author of a three-book series on how to teach students about behavioral economics and media literacy. Jim lives in Texas with his wife and fellow HumbleDollar contributor, Jiab. They have a book that examines the impact of social media influencers on youth consumerism and identity development coming out in 2023.

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Bad Guy on Line One

Jim Wasserman  |  Aug 4, 2022

GOOD PARENTS WARN their children about predators who look to take advantage of them. By the same token, good adults should warn and safeguard their elderly parents, as well as the other seniors they care for.
We all use our electronics for accessing information. We sometimes forget the information highway is two-way, and nefarious people use those lines of communication to get to the vulnerable. And it isn’t just about hacking online accounts. Often,

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Divide and Conquer

Jim Wasserman  |  Jul 29, 2022

IF WE GO TO the movies and buy a mega-tub of popcorn, we’ll eat a lot, probably too much. If, however, that same amount of popcorn is packaged into four bags, we won’t eat nearly so much.
Why? With the four bags, we keep arriving at a decision point—that moment when we have to ponder whether it’s worth opening a new bag. This is the insight of behavioral economist Dilip Soman of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management,

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Buy and Hodl

Jim Wasserman  |  Jul 7, 2022

I’M A FAN OF SLANG and newly coined words. Think of all the names for money we’ve had over the years, like cheese, clams and cabbage. New words catch on not only because they allow a new generation to put their stamp on the world, but also the words reflect changing attitudes.
That brings me to “stonks,” the name many millennials use for stocks—and one that reflects a different view of investing. No one’s sure where the word originated.

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Too Clever by Half

Jim Wasserman  |  Jun 9, 2022

I WAS EDITING a fellow graduate student’s paper. She’s in her mid-20s, less than half my age. She’s bright and communicates well in class discussion, but her paper—frankly—was a mess. Great ideas, but she expressed them in overly pretentious language. One bloviated sentence was more than 60 words.
When I asked her why she did this, she said she wanted to “sound smart” by not using the same old words she normally uses. She worried that no one would take her seriously unless she adorned her ideas in the polysyllabic jargon of academia.

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Under the Radar

Jim Wasserman  |  May 23, 2022

RESEARCH SHOWS HOW subtle sales pitches, called nudges, can influence our buying. Think of tricks like putting the more expensive potato chips on eye-level grocery-store shelves. Over time, such nudges create spending habits. Those habits become ingrained, nonthinking ways of dealing with money.
A collection of such poor habits begun in childhood can result in a hard-to-alter lifestyle of poor saving and foolish spending. Even worse, nudging sends a stealth message, especially to children,

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Talking Money

Jim Wasserman  |  Apr 22, 2022

APRIL IS FINANCIAL Literacy Month. If that doesn’t excite you, imagine how your children feel.
Still, consider this an opportunity to begin or reinforce your kids’ financial education. Many of my students told me one of their parents was into “finance,” but when I asked how the parent handled the family money, students would just shrug and say that was all they knew.
Children don’t like a straight-up lesson, especially from a parent. The trick is to make it seem casual and as blended into everyday life—theirs,

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Still Resolute

Jim Wasserman  |  Apr 7, 2022

AT THE BEGINNING of 2022, I wrote about our resolution to go back to grad school. The short update: Jiab and I are indeed doing it. We’re enrolled in the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program at the University of Texas at Dallas.
We scrambled to get the application paperwork done before classes started Jan. 18. Neither of us had applied to school for ourselves since the introduction of online registration, but we found it fairly easy.

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How to Be Bookish

Jim Wasserman  |  Mar 15, 2022

BY THE TIME WE GET to middle age, we all supposedly have a book inside us. (Maybe that explains the weight gain.) We have a wealth of experience we want to share. Perhaps it’s about money. Maybe we want to tell the family history. Perhaps there’s a great novel we’ve been writing in our head for years. We finally sit down and hammer it out and, of course, edit and rewrite, rinse and repeat,

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Saving the Day

Jim Wasserman  |  Feb 12, 2022

I ENJOY WATCHING superhero shows. It feels good to see the hero swoop in and save the day. Truth is, however, I also get a bit annoyed, as there are always some citizens who seem to ignore imminent danger. They sometimes just stare at it coming, doing nothing to get out of harm’s way.
It’s almost like they just count on the hero saving the day, and that’s a bad strategy. Strangely, many people in real life adopt the same strategy,

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Lucky WOOFs

Jim Wasserman  |  Feb 6, 2022

MY FATHER-IN-LAW was an avid tennis player and an astute coach. The first time he observed me play, he commented on how I—a soccer player growing up—had good speed and quick reactions. I had a terrible swing, however. As he put it, “You can get to any ball. You have no idea what to do when you get there.”
He was correct. To this day, what looks like a great shot is often actually a mishit off my racquet frame.

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The Sun-Tzu Also Rises

Jim Wasserman  |  Jan 31, 2022

I WAS SURPRISED to realize the other day that, despite the varied topics HumbleDollar has addressed, I couldn’t recall a single mention of Sun-Tzu, the 6th century B.C. military commander who purportedly wrote The Art of War. The book is a favorite read of business schools. Even a cursory search on Amazon shows how often Sun-Tzu and The Art of War are invoked regarding business, finance and investing.

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Better With Others

Jim Wasserman  |  Jan 26, 2022

IN THE COMPUTER gaming world—and I’ll openly admit to occupying that realm often—one measure of a game’s value is its replayability. If you shell out $60 and play a game through to the end, how likely are you to do it again? Each time you replay, you’re getting more value from your initial outlay, making it a better decision.
I sometimes use that economic logic to try to persuade my wife it’s better for me to “shoot and loot”

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Resolved: More School

Jim Wasserman  |  Jan 5, 2022

MOST FOLKS DON’T teach and write about a topic until after they’ve earned a degree in the subject. Owing to my career path, and the nebulous nature of my specialty, I’ve done the opposite—with the next step coming in 2022.
I went to law school just after college because—frankly—I had no better plan. I enjoyed being a lawyer, but I knew it wasn’t my passion, so I went into teaching. I loved it. I taught various humanities,

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Crocs and Cats

Jim Wasserman  |  Jan 1, 2022

THERE’S A PARABLE that I don’t claim to have authored, but which I think about at the beginning of each year.
A man became justifiably upset when he realized his home had been invaded by crocodiles. He wasn’t sure where they came from, but they were there, lurking and menacing him.
He went to a local store to ask for a solution. The salesman enthusiastically proffered his answer: kittens. Kittens are cute, their purr is soothing and,

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Try the Elvis

Jim Wasserman  |  Dec 29, 2021

ECONOMICS IS ABOUT supply and demand. Call me biased, but I think why people demand particular goods and services is a whole more interesting than how suppliers do their thing.
It seems, however, that the topic of supply is unavoidable these days. We’re all hearing about supply chain woes. We’re all tired of seeing the empty shelf where our favorite crackers used to sit.
Even though economists will scream from the tallest Federal Reserve Bank building that supply and demand are separate and independent variables,

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