College and high school graduation ceremonies are over now, although many graduation parties will continue throughout the summer months. I have heard a lot of inspirational language in commencement speeches, in articles and in cards and letters to graduates. I am waiting for someone, someday, to say, “and spend some time saving your future by learning about personal finances, and always having a realistic financial plan and budget that you can stick to, for wherever you are on, what we all know will be, your amazing life journey.”

By the way, we recently talked about cash and checks being a welcome wedding gift. Now in a Minted company survey, 88 percent of students and parents said cash is the TOP choice for a graduation gift. CASH IS KING!

As I am writing this column, my wife and I are making the final plans for our vacation to Italy later this summer. If you are a regular reader, you won’t be surprised to hear that the vacation is paid or fully provided for. As summer vacation season is upon us, I feel compelled, once again, to say that vacations are something that you should save for in advance. That way you can enjoy them to the fullest, without the worry of wondering how you will pay for them later. They are the classic ANTICIPATED EXPENSE.

Another one of those issues that may affect all of our personal finances eventually, and which we have discussed in the past, has resurfaced lately. It is the issue of mandated increased minimum wages. Two recent studies about the effects of the recent mandated increases in Seattle have started the debate up once again on the television news channels, including CBS and Fox News. Both of the reports that I saw acknowledged that there was a survey with different results, but reported that at this point in the phase-in of the mandated increased minimum wages, Seattle saw a 3 percent average increase in wages, but a 9 percent average decrease in hours for the affected employees, which equates to a $125 a month decrease in income.

From a discussion of the assertions that increased minimum wages will result in fewer hours and jobs, primarily because employers don’t want to, or feel that they can’t, raise prices  in order to compensate for the increases, which don’t increase productivity, the discussions predictably turned to automation. This is seen as a way in certain situations to decrease some staff, but to maintain overall service and productivity. The discussions included chain restaurants like Ruby Tuesday, Olive Garden and Chili’s using table tablets instead of wait staff for customers to order, and McDonalds installing self-ordering kiosks.

I wonder, in the end, whether the success of mandated “living wages,” as opposed to market driven wages in a capitalistic society, depends upon the willingness of enough Americans to pay more, either for the related goods and services, or in higher taxes in order for government to provide subsidies to achieve this social justice goal. I also wonder, with all of the difficult discussions that we are now having about health insurance and health care (the two are not the same), if, in the end, the question is not the same: How much are enough Americans willing to pay for everyone to have adequate health insurance/health care?

Are you willing to pay more for social justice? Are you willing to do some personal budget cutting and have you and your family get along with less, or do you think that it is for others to pay more, but not you? And it is not about affordability, because that is a relative concept.

For me, when it comes to health insurance and health care, and the future costs of goods and services, I am planning to save more just to be safe.

On a final subject, those of us who are a “little older” often talk about how different it is today when it comes to many Americans' attitudes about debt, spending and saving. We also often talk about the new reality today of identity theft, as well as steps that you can take to minimize it, and what to do if you have your identity stolen. The most important thing that we have talked about in this column is to BE PROTECTIVE OF YOUR SOCIAL SECUITY NUMBER — don’t carry it with you, and be careful about giving it out.

I recently had a wonderful conversation with a visitor at Ganondagan, whose father was a Marine Corps World War II Drill Instructor at Parris Island. He said that his father had a Marine Corps emblem tattoo on one arm and his Social Security number tattooed on his other arm. Things have changed for sure.

John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous weekly columns at http://www.mpnnow.com/search?text=Ninfo or at http://www.monroecopost.com/search?text=Ninfo