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Showing posts from 2014

How Credit Cards Work: Billing Cycle and "Grace Period"

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You may not think that credit cards are "complex or controversial", but you might be surprised to find that you don't quite know how credit card interest charges work, once you decide to carry even a small balance (e.g. pay anything less than that entire statement balance by the statement due date). I made this quick video demonstrate.


"My company offers an after-tax 401k. Should I contribute to it?"

I've spent a lot of time over the past few weeks educating myself on "after-tax 401(k)s." These are different than, and sub-optimal to traditional pre-tax 401(k)'s and IRAs as well as Roth 401k(s) and IRAs, which you should max out before considering contributions to an after-tax 401(k). To be clear: the topic of this post is "after-tax, non-Roth" 401(k)s. The basic 401(k) salary deferral limit of $18,000 applies to pretax and Roth contributions. But there is a total contribution limit of $52,000 annually, which includes the $18,000 pretax or Roth contribution limit, employer matching contributions (which will probably not be more than $10,000), plus after-tax non-Roth contributions.[2016 numbers]. This means that more than $25,000 of after-tax 401k space may be available to you. Unlike a Roth 401k, in which earnings are never taxed, earnings in an after-tax 401k will eventually be taxed at withdrawal at your marginal income tax rate. This will likely be h…

Are we alone in the Galaxy? Fossil Fuels as a possible "Great Filter" in answer to the Fermi Paradox

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The Fermi Paradox and the "Great Filter" If you aren't familiar with the Fermi Paradox, it goes something like this:

Assume Earth is a fairly typical planet orbiting a fairly typical but relatively young star. Billions of such planets exist in our galaxy, many of which should evolve life. Some fraction of these surely include intelligent life that attempts to travel between the stars. If we are only a few hundred years away from interstellar travel (more on this in a future blog post), surely some societies that have a billion-year head start on us should have gotten there first right? So "Where is everybody?" Why haven't we been obviously visited? Why don't we see intelligent radio signals coming from all over the galaxy? Why hasn't the entire galaxy been colonized (Given the fact that once interstellar travel is developed, exponential expansion would allow a society to do so in a "short" time)?

It's not really a paradox since there …