2011_Nissan_Leaf_--_2011_DC

So I Leased a Leaf

By: Alan Meincke

Pretty high at the top of my list of financial “no-nos” was the idea of leasing a new car. Dave Ramsey and Clark Howard both generally say to stay away from this potential money pit (the former being much more adamant than the latter). The dealer will kill you on junk fees, it’s better to keep a car for as long as possible, etc.

Here in the great state of Georgia, however, there exists a little extra incentive to change the cost analysis. Georgia residents get a $5,000 tax credit for buying or leasing an electric vehicle! The theory of leasing in this instance is that the technology is changing so quickly that you’re better off not being stuck with an older model two years down the road. Notably, the Nissan Leaf has an increased range by about 10 miles each model year.

Lots of folks have written about how you can drive a “free” car on a two year lease based on this tax credit. That is a misleading statement because those writers never account for electricity usage and car insurance – although those costs are fixed no matter what type of vehicle you drive (obviously I’m talking gas if you’re not driving an EV).

A few caveats:

1) The $5k tax credit is only applied to your state tax liability. Drivers are also not going to be able to get the money from the tax credit until they actually file their tax return for that year. You don’t get a check for $5,000. For example, if my Georgia tax liability is $4,000 for 2014 and I paid in $4,500 over the course of the year through my payroll, only $4,000 of the $4,500 liability refund is due to the EV credit (assuming you have no other deductions).
2) The tax credit can be spread out over 5 years. So, if I cannot take all of it on my 2014 tax return, I’d claim the remainder the next year, which certainly makes the credit less beneficial short-term.
3) There may be some federal tax liability for the credit you receive. *Ask a CPA about all of this to be sure!
4) The state legislature tried to kill the tax credit last year, but the bill did not pass before the end of the session. It is likely to go down in the future.
5) There is a non-negotiable $395 return fee at the end of the lease. They will also dock you for any wear and tear on the car. I happened to accidentally run over something that put a pretty good scrape on the bottom edge of our car, so I’m not really sure how that will play out at the end. There may be some wiggle room here if you leased another vehicle or bought another car from the dealer.
6) If you plan to use the trickle-charger (the 20′ cord that comes with the car that you plug into a regular wall socket), it takes 20+ hours to reach a full charge.

Now, for my wife and I, the lease made good sense. I confirmed we would be able to capture most of the tax credit next year based off of our 2013 state tax return. We were also spending approximately $250 a month to maintain and gas up my 14-year old Volvo, so we could basically cash flow the lease payment without missing a beat. Additionally, we avoided driving my old car on most weekends because it was so expensive to maintain. I also got a quote for car insurance so I knew exactly how much it would increase (for me, about $3 extra per month).

Insider tips:

1) See if you qualify for the vehicle purchase program (VPP) through your employer. This program enables you to get an additional discount.
2) Buy at the end of the month. We got a great deal since the dealer was trying to hit sales goals on the last day of the month.
3) Be realistic. Understand you cannot road trip in a vehicle that has an 85 mile range. 90% of our driving around town is close enough this hasn’t been a real issue. The Leaf probably couldn’t be your primary vehicle unless you were willing to rent another car for road trips.
4) Check out plugshare.com. This app/website enables you to lookup public chargers near where you live.

So, there you have it. If you have an older vehicle, the Nissan Leaf may be a good car option. Three months in, there have been a few hitches here and there for my wife and I to plan our trips around the battery life, but overall it has been great to spend the same amount of money (or less, including the tax credit) to have a new car as opposed to an older car that risked major repairs at any time.

- Alan wants to throw off stereotypes by putting “NRA” and “Impeach Obama” stickers on his Nissan Leaf, but he has yet to do so.

Boston1904

World Series Quick Facts

By: Andy Crawford

Game 1 of the 110th World Series commenced last night. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or are just an obnoxious soccer fan, you would know that it features everyone’s favorite underdog, the Kansas City Royals, versus perennial championship contender San Francisco Giants (best known for employing one of the most disgraceful players of the steroid era).

I don’t watch much baseball during the year unless my Texas Rangers are on television, but I always watch the World Series. The Fall Classic is filled with intense moments, and draws from a rich tradition which I cannot help to get wrapped up in every October. Some of my favorite sports moments have been during the World Series, such as when the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees on a walk-off in Game 7 in 2001, or when the Red Sox swept the Cardinals to finally break the Curse of the Bambino.

So, to celebrate this year’s 110th iteration of the World Series, here are some quick facts.

  • The first World Series was in 1903, when the Boston Americans beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5 games to 3. (Apparently the Pirates have been losing for a long long time.)
  • Through 2013, the American League has won 63 times to the National League’s 43.
  • The only no-hitter or perfect game ever thrown in a World Series was by Don Larsen of the New York Yankees in 1956.
  • While we are on the Yankees, let’s go ahead and mention that they have won a record 27 World Series. The next closest team is the St. Louis Cardinals with 11. This is one of many reasons to hate the Yankees.
  • The longest World Series drought belongs to the Chicago Cubs, who have not won since 1908. At least they made it to the Series in 1948 though (lost to the Boston Braves).
  • The longest streak for a team that has never been to a World Series belongs to the Washington Nationals (formerly Montreal Expos), who have been around since 1969. That’s 45 years of never even playing for a championship.
  • The Kansas City Royals had the longest postseason drought (28 seasons) before they made it this year.
  • Enough with the droughts. How about the fact that Yogi Berra played in 75 World Series games? That’s almost half a season’s worth! He also holds the distinction of being the most quotable athlete ever.Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.
  • Instead of rings, players used to get timepieces if they won. Personally, I think that is a much cooler award.
Babe Ruth's 1923 World Series watch. We need this tradition to come back. Watches > Rings

Babe Ruth’s 1923 World Series watch. We need this tradition to come back. Watches > Rings

Lastly, here is some footage of the 1924 World Series. It was long believed that no footage of that Series survived, as film was made of highly combustible and non-durable nitrate at that time. Much of it has been destroyed by fire or natural erosion over time. This has led to much of the earliest news reels and movies becoming lost forever. However, a collection of old nitrate films were recently recovered in an attic at an estate sale, and the old World Series footage was intact. It’s recovery has been called a miracle. The footage even includes a short cameo of President Coolidge.

Hopefully all of this has you in the mood to enjoy the Fall Classic. If not, then you probably hate America.

Andy wrote this article while watching the Royals get demolished by the Giants in Game 1, and drinking some Eagle Rare, neat.

They Think We Are Stupid

By: Andy Crawford

Last week I wrote about the importance of being an informed voter. While the right to vote is correctly accorded to all eligible adults, that comes with the responsibility to cast an informed ballot.  It is up to each individual voter to determine if they have met that responsibility. Only an informed electorate can ensure that our liberties will not erode over time.

Shortly after I published last week’s article I ran across this study and accompanying graphic analyzing the speaking level of Presidents throughout history.

Credit: vocativ.com

Credit: vocativ.com

To quote the authors of the study:

“Using the Flesch-Kincaid readability test—the most well-known reading comprehension algorithm—Vocativ analyzed over 600 presidential speeches, going back to George Washington. We measured syllables along with word and sentence counts, and gave each speech a numerical grade. For instance, a grade of four means the content is accessible to a fourth-grader, while a grade of 12 corresponds to that of a high school graduate, a 15 to that of a college graduate and a 21 or higher to that of a PhD.”

As you can see, there was a shift in the early 20th century when Presidents began speaking at a lower grade level- usually hovering between grades 6 and 10. The authors of the study credit this trend to a couple of developments.

First, modern audiences have shorter attention spans so speeches are more direct and shorter length. Secondly, the voters represent a much larger portion of the general population. While Thomas Jefferson’s constituents were college educated, white land-owning males, modern presidents are speaking to voters of every socio-economic group.

All of those reasons make sense, but they do not account for the fact that the line continues to trend further and further down. As recently as the 1970s Presidents Nixon and Ford were delivering major addresses that grade out at a college level. However, the highest graded speech this century was President Bush’s 2005 State of the Union at 11.6. President Obama’s ISIS speech last month graded as a 10.8, but his State of the Union speeches have consistently been middle school level.

Why is this? It isn’t because our Presidents are dumb. Only hyper-partisans would claim any of our Presidents lacked the ability to speak at a college or post-graduate level. Bill Clinton, for instance, was a Rhodes Scholar.

The dumbed-down language reflects less on our leader’s intellectual ability and more on their opinion of ours. In short: they think we are stupid.

market-research-stupid-voters

If you doubt this, consider that just last week it was reported the White House is going to begin using emojis to communicate its economic message to millennial voters. Apparently, they believe the key to getting Millenials to support Obama’s economic policies is to sprinkle some smiley faces into some tweets. (I’m not sure where emojis fall in the Flesh-Kincaid readability test.) And consider this masterful bit of marketing to young Americans encouraging them to sign up for Obamacare.

I'm not sure which is worse: that this is how men in their young 20s are seen by their government, or the improper English used in the domain yougotinsurance.com

You got insurance, bro? I’m not sure which is worse: 1) that this is how men in their young 20s are seen by their government, 2) that government health insurance is needed to prevent them from dipping into their beer money, or 3) the improper English used in the domain doyougotinsurance.com.

None of this is to pick on the Obama Administration exclusively. This is not a Republican vs. Democrat issue. This is a Political Elite vs. the Voting Public issue. Obama has been President for six years, so examples from his administration are the most accessible. Indeed, both the Right and the Left have each made this same point before.

Of course, it can be hard to blame politicians for having a low opinion of voters when 41% of registered voters can’t name which party is in control of the Senate and House of Representatives.

This is why I implore you to keep up with the news, read books on current events, and educate yourself on the candidates and policies they support. And if you have time, attend a town hall meeting and show your elected officials they have at least one constituent to whom they will not talk down or patronize.

Show them we are not stupid.

Andy promises he will move on to another topic next week. If you think he sounds like a broken record, try being his wife. He makes no apologies though.