Monday, April 27, 2009
"Whether it is reputations created through brands, relationships created through services, ideas created through knowledge, or access created through networks, many more forms of value are now created in our modern information society. And yet, our economy does not measure those in any meaningful way."
It's so interesting that this is written by a religion professor. He must be a brave guy.
Graduate School In the Humanities--Just Don't Go
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Fast Company likes to cover businesses that do well by doing good. But sometimes the opposite is equally true. Earlier this year, the nation's leading tax-preparing company paid $4.85 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over its "refund anticipation loans"--high interest, high-fee cash advances of consumer's own money that California's attorney general, along with many others, said were deceptively marketed. H&R Block is still selling these loans, only with the effective APR lowered to 36 percent from the insane heights (500%?!) previously seen. The list of consumer complaints goes on and on--an overpriced IRA product, hidden fees and charges, employee identity theft. And to top it all off, just yesterday, they were ordered to pay $2 million to a software contractor in a fraud and contract fight.
Yet despite all these black eyes, and despite the strong emergence of do-it-yourself online alternatives like TurboTax, H&R Block is going gangbusters in the final sprint of tax season. They're doing twice as well as the Dow Jones over the past year, and their revenues are up this tax season as individuals and businesses cope with a tsunami of tax complications: foreclosures, unemployment claims, and billions of brand-new tax credits and incentives found in Obama's stimulus package. Tax preparers are leasing newly vacant storefronts to cope with the growth.
This is a company that demands you turn over all your financial and personal information for the year. it's hard to think of a business model that depends more on trust. So how long can H&R Block go on brushing off the bad press?
Well, everyone has to do their taxes. And most people would rather not think about them. H&R Block is fast, they have a ubiquitous, easy-to-recognize brand, and best of all--they have the ability to offer money to everyone who comes in the door. Sure, it's the customer's own money, but that doesn't matter. As long as there's a group of Americans--possibly less educated or less digitally savvy--who prefer not to spend time thinking about managing their money, retail tax preparers will probably continue to thrive.
I'll be talking about H&R Block and tax time on WNYC's Financial 411 Podcast today, you can listen here:
Thursday, April 02, 2009
I hear great things about Toronto but apparently young people get depressed there too.
Kamenetz says “Debt and lower income can affect your choice of jobs. It can take longer to move out of your parents’ house or stop accepting those cheques and become fully independent. And many young people find themselves asking the question: ‘Why haven’t I made more progress?’ It makes people feel like failures when really there are larger trends at work.”
I'm only 28, by the way!
"The longer this crisis continues, the more our four-year public and private colleges are likely to be transformed (in the words of Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity) into "gated communities of higher education" and engines of inequality. "