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Try the Elvis

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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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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Training the Mind

Jim Wasserman  |  Dec 19, 2021

WITH THE SURGE of urbanization in the 19th century, many folks became concerned by the seeming rise in bad behavior. This behavior could be illegal—such as theft—or legal but undesirable, like alcohol abuse.
Nascent social sciences, including sociology and psychology, developed two alternative theories. “Moral Deficit” theorists said people engaged in bad behavior because they were internally “weak.” You might have seen a movie scene where a hysterical person is slapped with the admonition to “get a hold of yourself.” Or you might be familiar with the approaches of The Salvation Army and YMCA,

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Me Fighting Me

Jim Wasserman  |  Dec 12, 2021

PSYCHOLOGISTS and biologists call it a supernormal stimulus response. Basically, organisms evolve in the direction of what’s good for them. There doesn’t seem to be an off switch to this instinct, however, so organisms can pursue these “good things” even to their detriment.
For instance, field researchers have shown that birds instinctually drawn to colorful eggs will roost on more colorful fake eggs—and ignore their own. And, no, humans aren’t immune to such mistakes.

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Schooled on Taxes

Jim Wasserman  |  Dec 8, 2021

IT’S PROPERTY TAX time. Amid the holiday mail from friends, many of us get notices of payments due from our friendly local tax assessor.
No one likes getting taxed. But in many places, property taxes make up a huge part of the funding for public education. What always surprises and irks me are those who say the tax is unfair because they don’t “use” the public schools.
One neighbor says he has no children.

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Beyond Dollars

Jim Wasserman  |  Dec 4, 2021

“RIFFING OFF” is a term used in music and particularly jazz. It describes when a musician picks up a musical line played by another musician and then runs with it, adding his or her own style or take.
I love riffing off my co-writers—and when they riff off me. I also do it sometimes with HumbleDollar articles and blog posts. I read a thoughtful piece and then, as the day goes on,

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Creative Tension

Jim Wasserman  |  Nov 29, 2021

PAUL MCCARTNEY SAYS he originally wrote lyrics to a song that began, “She was just seventeen. Never been a beauty queen.” When he showed it to John Lennon, his writing partner, Lennon roared with laughter and said, “You’re joking.”
Lennon, who was a bit cheekier, then had McCartney change the second line to “you know what I mean” to add a wink-wink-nudge-nudge element. The eventual song, I Saw Her Standing There,

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Rainy Days

Jim Wasserman  |  Nov 23, 2021

ONE FALL DAY, my father and I were watching the rain ruin our outdoor plans. “The one thing about rain,” he said to me, “is that there’s nothing you can do about it.”
My father was a go-getter. In 1941, he volunteered for the Army Air Corps right out of high school. He flew 35 missions in a B-17 Flying Fortress. After the war, he took over a local curtain manufacturing company operating in the red.

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Paths to Success

Jim Wasserman  |  Nov 18, 2021

MY FRIEND HAFIZ has a common midlife problem. He’s built a successful career over 20 years. But now he wants a change—a new direction to focus his energy and talents. Over coffee, we kicked around the different paths he might take.
Some were offshoots of his current job, such as becoming an industry consultant. Others were wholly new, like becoming a writer.
“The problem,” Hafiz sighed, “is that whatever I do, it’s gotta pay for the country club.”
Hafiz explained that,

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Enough Stuff

Jim Wasserman  |  Nov 8, 2021

IT’S HARD TO IMAGINE writing about gifts when the perfect essay on the topic already exists. I can’t improve on Emerson’s sentiment that expensive but impersonal presents are not gifts but “apologies for gifts” or that the true gift is “a portion of thyself.”
Still, I’m dismayed by the reaction to news that supply chain woes may negatively affect gift availability this holiday season. Naturally, retailers are worried. Some media outlets are reporting the lack of toys and other gifts in apocalyptic fashion,

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YouTube, You Save

Jim Wasserman  |  Nov 4, 2021

GOT SOMETHING THAT needs repairing? Faced with the increasing specialization of people’s knowledge, ever-growing technical complexity and our perennial lack of time, it’s often tempting to just call in an expert or even buy a replacement.
But repairs can be costly, which is why we’re told to get multiple bids. One of the “bid” options I always check out: fixing it myself with the guidance of that repository of collective step-by-step knowhow, YouTube. Perhaps not since the Great Library of Alexandria has so much expertise been collected in one spot—along,

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Getting Nudged

Jim Wasserman  |  Oct 18, 2021

INFLUENCERS ARE people who use their popularity and social media presence to nudge our decision-making, especially our spending choices. They’re a powerful force in today’s marketing world, particularly with younger consumers looking for cues as to what’s hot.
In one survey, 60% of those ages 16 to 24 credited influencers with purchases they’d made in the past six months, more than any other age group. Combined with the bandwagon effect and FOMO, or fear of missing out,

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Haste Makes Waste

Jim Wasserman  |  Oct 4, 2021

IN SPAIN, “CHAPUZA” means something botched because of inattention or sloppy work. We learned the word when repairmen rewired the buzzers in our apartment building. They finished the work quickly so they’d be done in a single day. At 2 a.m. that night, we discovered the job was chapuza when our neighbor kept buzzing our apartment—because the buzzer had been mislabeled.
Chapuza can be found everywhere. Back in the U.S., we hired a highly recommended electrician to do major work on our home.

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Share What You Know

Jim Wasserman  |  Sep 27, 2021

MOST EVERYONE AGREES financial literacy should be taught to some degree in schools. Even the basics, like how to set up a bank or credit card account, or how to make a budget and avoid debt, should be explained to those soon to enter the workforce.
Another group of newcomers to the U.S. financial system who could use guidance are immigrants, particularly refugees. Jiab and I have been volunteering for a number of years to help refugees get acclimated to American life.

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A Nice Complement

Jim Wasserman  |  Sep 12, 2021

THE RIGHT PARTNER is not one whose outlook is the same as yours, but rather one whose outlook complements you. For me and my wife Jiab, we agree on shopping decisions most of the time. When we disagree, however, it’s due to each of our “leans.” I lean toward spending a bit more money to save time. To be finished with shopping, I’ll say at some point that what we’ve found is good enough.

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Shared Spaces

Jim Wasserman  |  Sep 10, 2021

WHEN YOU’RE STUCK in traffic, have you ever idly wished for another lane to ease the congestion?
Not long ago, I listened to a podcast about the eternal problem of highway congestion in Texas, especially in the Dallas-Houston-San Antonio triangle. The expert said that our fundamental problem is that planners think of traffic as a liquid, so their answer to flow problems is always to “build a bigger pipeline”—meaning more highways.
Traffic, however, behaves less like a liquid and more like a gas.

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