IT’S TRUE! As recently reported in a Nov. 1 article in, I am making my acting debut in “Annie.” It will be presented at Kodak Center, 200 West Ridge Road (you may have known it as The Theatre on the Ridge), Nov. 18-26. For this show, I will be elevated from a retired Federal Bankruptcy Judge to a Justice of the United States Supreme Court, as I play Justice Brandeis. As I have often said in the past, with all of my educational activities, I have been known to “act out” a lot, but now I will actually be acting. I will also be the House Manager for the show, so if you go (please go), say hello to me in the lobby.

Turning to some items in the news, here is something encouraging that you may have heard or read about. Canisius College, in Buffalo, is returning its tuition to 2008 levels, and it is reducing room and board by $2,000. It is part of an initiative to improve accessibility and affordability, which it refers to as Excellence Within Reach. I have no idea whether application and acceptance levels may underline some of this Initiative, but it is still a bold and welcome move that people like me wish other institutions could find a way to follow.

As someone who has been in the schools for 21 years, talking about ways to minimize college costs and student loan debt, I can tell you that more and more students, and their families, are finally really focused on and concerned about these costs and this potential debt. It has finally sunk in that, as we have often discussed in this column, today a college degree is not a guarantee of a lucrative career, the same way that it almost always was in the 1960s and 1970s, when there were not as many college graduates, and there were many more good paying opportunities for graduates. Also, they now realize that too much student loan debt has real and financially crippling consequences. Well thought out, and well implemented, programs for free tuition at state schools, and more high-quality online courses, are steps in the right direction.

Let’s just hope that more institutions, like Canisius College, can not only find more financial aid and scholarships for their students, but also lower some of the costs.

On a different subject, naming cars may seem odd to some drivers. After all, it’s just a machine. However, a recently reported survey indicated that over 34 percent of Americans name their cars. Interestingly, according to, over half of UK motorists admit to giving their car a nickname. I have no idea if people who name their cars take better care of them, or are more likely to have a sufficient amount of money set aside for car repairs —  something I am always talking about as an “anticipated expense.” As a result, I don’t know if it’s anything like being a “pet parent.” As you know, I believe that if you think of yourself as a pet parent, instead of a pet owner, you will need a bigger pet budget. Maybe naming your car is similar — a “car parent.”

When it comes to naming cars, you may also find this to be interesting. The top five car names for men are, Betsey, Beast, Sally, Lucy and Bertha. For women they are Betsey, Bessie, Baby, Bertha, and Herbie or Precious. Also, I found this very interesting. The most named car models are Ford Mustang, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus and Ford Fiesta. Lastly, in New York, the most common names are Betsey, John, Machine, and Baby.

Speaking of cars, gas prices are going up again, as you have no doubt noticed. I still believe that of all of the financial things that are beyond our control, gas prices have the most significant impact on how we feel about our own personal finances. Sure, some say that the stock market makes many of us feel good or bad about the economy, but not everyone owns stock. However, most of us have cars and have to pay for gas, and that price is very noticeable. As I am writing this column, the national average for regular is $2.527 per gallon, and for Rochester it is $2.597 per gallon. It is amazing that, for once, our price is not significantly higher. By the way, Costco in Henrietta, as usual, is the cheapest at $2.34 per gallon.

Last, recently, on my way back from presentations at Pavilion High School, I heard an NPR piece on a new book, not out yet, titled “Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend it Smarter,” by Dan Ariely and Jeff Kreisler. In the next column, I want to discuss some of the things that I heard in the interview with the authors. I must say that I was encouraged that the things they talked about were things that we had discussed that day. Then, I will no doubt purchase and read the book, and report more on it in the future.

John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous weekly columns at or at