Here is another one of those things that makes me ask myself — am I really the only one noticing this?
Now I am not talking about when it is in the single digits in the winter, when you may think that it is just too darn cold, when there are health issues, when there are small children in the car, or when there are no cars, or one or two cars in a drive-up window line. I am talking about in the nice weather, when there are already 10 or 11 cars lined up for the drive-up window at that coffee or fast food establishment, and there is virtually no one parked in the lot. Then I see car number 12 join the line. From my observations, these lines are getting longer, and are there more times during the day, than ever before.
Before I get into this any deeper, let me dispel one myth.
In 2018, what wastes more gas, idling or restarting your car? According to the Environmental Defense Fund, turn off your ignition if you're waiting more than 10 seconds. Contrary to popular belief, restarting your car does not burn more fuel than leaving it idling. In fact, idling for just 10 seconds wastes more gas than restarting the engine.
I can’t help but wonder, how much time and gas, and therefore money, people are wasting, not to mention that many of the people are probably wearing Fitbits or fitness watches as they wait in the drive up line?
I tried doing some Google searching on the subject, but I couldn’t find much, other than a few 2008 and 2009 articles where some reporters did their own experiments. They got food in an eight-or-so-car line at the drive-up window at a busy meal time, then went right into the restaurant and ordered the same meal when there was still an eight-car lineup. Their unscientific result should not surprise you — they saved time. Not necessarily a lot, but some.
I know some people would say that they are doing "work" when they are in the line, so that they are not wasting time, but I can’t believe that we are not wasting millions of dollars in gas a year in this country, as well as some opportunities to be more fit.
On a different subject, we still don’t know all of the real winners and losers under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, but we do know one set of winners and one apparent set of losers. As an aside, I am struck by all of those letters to the editor and comments on radio talk shows, about how this may finally be the time to move out of New York state. It may be better to let all of the dust clear, and see whether all the creative workarounds we are hearing about — like an increased payroll tax to reduce or eliminate the income tax, and a freeze of the school taxes for seniors, with an eventual elimination of school taxes — actually happen and make it worth staying. Then there are other taxpayers who wonder if there is a way for New York state to just spend less and lower taxes.
The winners are parents and grandparents, who will still itemize, even after the doubling of the standard deduction, and who send their children or grandchildren to private school for K-12. They can now contribute to a college savings program, like the NYS 529 Direct Plan, and deduct up to $10,000 per year on their taxes.
The apparent losers, which I would never have known about if my wife did not have so many professional actors as former students, are "working actors," like those in Hollywood and on Broadway, who are not the big stars in film, television or theatre, who are mostly incorporated. According to Actors’ Equity Association, the new law is hitting those actors who earn wages under a W2, which is generally how these working actors get paid when they are in a show, because unreimbursed employee business deductions are no longer allowed. For those in the performing arts, in the past, those deductions have covered expenses ranging from acting lessons, agents fees, union dues and the costs of headshots, to travel costs for auditions.
As promised, here is some food for thought from the book "Dollars and Sense." In our "hyper-consumer, consumption society," we can just look around us, or check out Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites, and see what people have done or are doing — those experiences like vacations, dinners out, camps we send our kids to, and so much more. But we don’t see whether people are deeply in debt, or how they are doing on saving for retirement or for their children’s education. In the book it asks what if we changed the culture and everyone had to have thermometer posters on their lawn, like the United Way uses to chart its annual campaign progress. We would have one for our emergency savings plan goal, one for our retirement savings plan goal, and one for our college savings plan goal. Then we would show the world how we are doing on those goals.
Also as promised, one more quote from the book "Debt-Proof Living" to think about: "No matter what your income is, your ‘necessary expenses’ will equal it." Next time, what the book has to say about credit card myths.
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