Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Debt Consolidator Calls Hank Hill

A rep from a debt consolidation scam called looking for Hank Hill. Of course, I obliged and did my best Hank Hill voice (with drifted in Creole towards the end). At first Hank accused her of being a communist for wanting to record the conversation. Then, Hank said that the only help he needed was in selling his propane and propane accessories. Hank asked the rep what kind of fuel she uses for her grill. When she said she uses electric, Hank again accused her of being a communist.

Monday, May 27, 2019

I Got A Pension Buyout Offer

For my first "real" job, I worked as a programmer/analyst for a large insurance company. They had hired me as an intern during my last year in college and then hired me outright once I had graduated. For just under three years, I worked creating C++ programs and eventually moved towards being their intranet webmaster. The bottom finally fell out after our Y2K conversion work and the company merged with two other similar companies in order to stay afloat. I declined the opportunity to work with the new company, as it would have involved me moving to Rhode Island. As an incentive to stick around for six months to help migrate my programs to the new company, I was offered a generous severance package.

About five years ago, I got a notice from the new company telling me about the health of the company pension system. I found this odd as I had moved at least three times since working for them and they had obviously went through some effort to track down my latest address. I called the company's benefits department to tell them that I didn't need such notifications, as I hadn't worked for them nearly long enough to qualify for a pension. Turns out that, as part of my severance package, I was vested into the new company's pension system. I guess I should have read the fine print. I was told that the monthly payout when I retired would be very small.

Now, several years later, I found myself with a pension buyout offer. The company was offering to pay me a lump sum of money in order to rid themselves of their pension obligation to me. Companies offer pension buyouts for a number of reasons from funding issues to long-term cost savings. I suspect that my own company just wanted to get rid of all pensions and move everyone over to a more modern 401(k) model.

For anyone getting a buyout offer, there's a temptation to take the lump sum payment and put it directly into a trip or a big home improvement project. Problem is, if you take the payout directly, you have to pay taxes on it. Right off the bat, you lose 20% directly to the government. Then, of course, the remaining payout will raise your overall income for the year, possibly putting you into a higher income bracket.

Me, personally, I opted to have the buyout paid to the order of my deferred compensation plan which is separate from my main retirement plan. The thing is, I couldn't just give the account info to my old company and have them wire the money. My old company is going to cut me a check made out to my deferred compensation plan which I will then have to forward to my plan administrator. Pain in the butt, for sure, but that's to make sure that you aren't taking a payment directly.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Expectation vs Reality: Golden Girls Dorothy Chia Pet

At our last Faculty social of the semester, I was the stunned winner of the door prize, which is usually something goofy. This time, it was the Golden Girls Dorothy Chia Pet. "Thank you for being a friend!", I exclaimed as I accepted the prize. The organizers of the social asked if I would document my growing experience. I was trepidatious at the prospect, as I am known to have a a real brown thumb when it comes to growing things.


So, it was to absolutely nobody's surprise that my first attempt to grow a chia-pet resulted in something that fell far below advertised expectations. You can see the results in the comparison below:


Expectation

Reality


Ultimately, the issue seems to be that the Golden Girls Dorothy Chia Pet grew mold, which, I am told, is somewhat common with chia pets. Part of the issue may be that I didn't rotate poor Dorothy in the window. Her face was always looking inward, so I suppose her crown and forehead didn't get enough sunlight. Or maybe I'm completely wrong. I have no idea. Like I said, brown thumb.

Those White Fluffs Aren't Little Chia Sprouts

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Credit Card Scammer Gets A Wrong Number

Another credit card scammer called me. When he asked me for my name, I told him that my last name was "Rotchhurtz" and that my first name was "Mike". I then asked him to say my first and last name together. So when he said "Mike Rotchhurtz", I asked him what he did to it to make it hurt.

The rep then asked me if I wanted a zero percent interest rate. He asked me if I had a card with a large balance on it. I told him that my Mastercard is perfectly balanced, as all things should be and wondered if he could snap his fingers and decimate my interest rate. When the rep asked for my card number, I feigned stupidity for a bit and then gave him a fake number. He figured it out pretty quick yet still tried to get my SSN and zip code. He then went offline for a bit and told me that I had provided him with wrong info.

I started to give him some new number and told him it was "5178 GO F--- YOURSELF". He promptly hung up on me.


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Merkury Innovations BR30 Smart Light Bulb

My father is enjoying his smart home deployment so far. So much so, that he asked if I would install some smart bulbs into the recessed light fixtures in his room. I have a number of recessed light fixtures in my own living room, and, for them, I went with Merkury Innovations Color Smart A21 Light Bulbs simply because I had already had them on hand. For my father's recessed lighting, I wanted something that would be a better physical fit, so I went for the Merkury Innovations BR30 Smart Light Bulb which cost only $14.88 at Wal-Mart.

Like all other Merkury Innovations smart bulbs, the BR30 is controlled through the Genni App which is easily managed via Amazon Alexa and/or Google Home. The bulb's teardrop shape fits perfectly into the recessed lighting and operates as expected. Dad wasn't too keen on having a color changing bulb, so the BR30 fits his needs just fine. There isn't a Merkury Innovations branded version of the BR30 that supports color, but there is a Geeni branded version.