Current Issues and Related Thoughts on Finance


There are so many current issues being reported by the media and clearly on all of our minds these days. I’m sure I have the same concerns and thoughts, but after all these years of financial literacy and writing this column, I can’t help but link many of them to personal finance issues.

A perfect example is the legalized online betting that has arrived in New York. The administration of former Governor Andrew Cuomo has forecast online gambling revenue to reach $99 million in fiscal year 2022, $357 million in fiscal year 2023, and $500 million in Israel. fiscal year 2024, which would easily be the most on record for a state. Whether that’s a realistic projection or not, I can’t help it, as a New York taxpayer, but wonder if I’m going to benefit from this new tax revenue. Will my taxes go down? Will it fund programs that I will directly or directly benefit from? Will our New York State government really use this new revenue effectively and efficiently, getting the best value for every dollar, which we are all trying to do with our own hard-earned money?

Another issue with the arrival of online gambling in New York is something that, as a retired bankruptcy judge, I am very sensitive to. These are gambling issues, particularly their impact on individual and family finances and the increase in bankruptcy filings.

As a recent op-ed in the Buffalo News noted, the addition of mobile sports betting in New York State has brought access to gambling within everyone’s reach. Anyone in New York with a cell phone can now play 24/7 from anywhere. As access to gambling increases, opportunities will inevitably lead to an increase in the number of individuals, families and communities affected by the negative consequences of problem gambling.

When I was on the bench, it was clear that when a new casino opened anywhere in the country, bankruptcy filings inevitably increased. I’m aware that new online banking will mean many New York gamblers won’t be heading to casinos in New Jersey and other states to gamble, but it won’t be a zero-sum game (no pun intended ). There will undoubtedly be many more New Yorkers who will experience financial problems, and that should affect all of us.

Many advertisements for online gambling contain messages in fine print with a number to call for assistance. Here is another option. Call the Western Problem Gambling Resource Center at 716-833-4274 for assistance with gambling issues.

On another topic, after the holidays, I, like many, tried to cut back on sweets, snacks, and sodas, as well as eat smaller portions and less overall. Then I had a comeuppance this week. It reminded me how too many Americans are willing to go into debt for fake needs, which are really just wants, wishes, luxuries and conveniences, and fake emergencies, which were just anticipated expenses. Mentally, they say, “what was I supposed to do, I or my family needed it” or “I had an emergency.” Then they can give themselves “permission” to go into debt and not feel guilty. Well, I gave up on the sweets, but realized I didn’t consider this chocolate-peanut butter protein bar a sweet. “It’s just a healthy, low-calorie, high-protein bar.” Delirious!

Talking about the post-holiday period, they say two things you can count on are death and taxes. Another thing is that in late December and January you will see a dramatic increase in advertisements for weight loss programs, exercise equipment and gyms. This year I have also noticed a dramatic increase in advertisements for senior life insurance. One of our promised reminders is to review all of your insurance coverage, so it works. Interestingly, one explanation I’ve heard for the increase in these insurance advertisements is that people feel more vulnerable with all the Covid deaths.

Another reminder for those over 72½ with a tax-deferred retirement fund, you need to plan your required minimum distribution. Most advisors are saying to delay the distribution until later in the year, to hopefully generate more revenue. There is some good news. New longer life expectancy tables will mean less required distributions for the same fund balance than in the past.

On another subject, we are told that unemployment is down, economic growth is up, wage growth is up, there is a “worker’s wage market”, but inflation affects us all and, as we said, will be for some time. With the “big quit” that has allowed many people to get higher salaries, whether in their existing jobs or in their new jobs, despite higher inflation, I can’t help but remember the one of the age-old personal finance tips. Somehow, save some of any raise, don’t just spend it all!

On yet another topic, there are still several stores I shop at that have signs at checkouts asking that due to the national coin shortage, please try to get exact change or use a debit card or credit for your purchase. It’s not a problem for me,” said Mr. Cash is King “with his wallet, but I wonder if there really is still a shortage of coins. Shopping appears to be roughly back to normal, and we all know the virus isn’t primarily spread through contact with objects, and every store has some form of sanitizer readily available. Either way, I hope these signs go away soon, and people who otherwise would — because they know that using cash for discretionary spending leads to less spending — will start using more cash again.

Finally, as expected, mortgage rates are now higher than they have been in the past two years, and they are expected to rise further in 2022. If a refinance or home purchase is in your near future, you may want to be quick to act.

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


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