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171.39MDow Volume:
Avg Vol: 111.86M
Unchanged
163
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Advancers
1172
Price Chg %Chg 1 Day
Range: 1 Day
  • 1 Day
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Dow
/quotes/zigman/627449/realtime 16,058 -470 2.84%
Nasdaq
/quotes/zigman/12633936/realtime 4,636 -140 2.94%
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/quotes/zigman/3870025/realtime 1,914 -58 2.96%
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/quotes/zigman/629063/realtime 2,292 -4 0.16%
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/quotes/zigman/3173214/delayed 4,536 -5 0.10%
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/quotes/zigman/16008136/realtime/sampled 1.13 0.00 0.27%
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/quotes/zigman/16008150/realtime/sampled 119.82 +0.44 0.37%
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/quotes/zigman/16008140/realtime/sampled 1.53 0.00 0.07%
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German 10y
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Italy 10yr
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Spain 10yr
/quotes/zigman/15866444/realtime 2.13 0.00 0.16%
U.K. 10yr
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Japan 10yr
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/quotes/zigman/2331095/delayed 44 -1 2.16%
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Pay Dirt
A daily look at what we buy, how we spend, and the companies that do right - and wrong - by their customers.

Why Americans Are Unhappy

Les Misérables 2.0: the American consumer.

That’s the theme of of Dean Bakopoulos’ second novel, “My American Unhappiness.” The book follows the personal and financial struggles of Zeke Pappas, a 33-year-old scholar who interviews Americans about why they are discontented for his pet project, the “Inventory of American Unhappiness.” Bakopoulos started writing this book in 2007 – just before the recession hit. “Like many people, Zeke was living pay-check-to-pay -check and was willfully ignorant about what was coming.”

Bakopoulos, 36, a professor of creative writing at Grinnell College in Iowa, had his literary debut with “Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon” about the men of a small, depressed Michigan town who take off for the moon, leaving the women and children behind. And he has just finished a new yet-to-be-published book called “Evolve.” That too is another bleak commentary on American consumerism. The plot? Class warfare breaks out over an addictive new energy drink.

In the spirit of Zeke’s “Inventory of American Unhappiness,” Pay Dirt asked Bakopoulos why he believes Americans need cheering up.

Pay Dirt: In the book, Zeke’s ex-wife “friends” him on Facebook 14 years after their split. It seems there are no goodbyes anymore in life and no escape. Do you think Facebook unrealistically raises the bar for happiness? We seem to want to present a highly distilled, contented and successful version of ourselves?

Bakopoulos: It’s a highly constructed version of our own reality. It follows a narrative of contentment and bliss. People might post something mundane, but it becomes a euphoric moment about cooking a hot dog on their new grill. I just deactivated my personal account two weeks ago. Everyone on Facebook appeared to be doing better than me. I thought, “I don’t need this. I don’t need to see how many pages someone has cracked out in one day or how many awards they won that week.”

Zeke spends a lot of time in Starbucks. What’s the appeal to him?

For Zeke, it’s a manufactured community. He pretends he’s avant-garde and a lone wolf, but he finds so much comfort in predictability and mediocrity. Starbucks always has exactly what I want, too. I feel so cheap and easy. I live in a town where there’s no Starbucks at all. I now have a favorite independent coffee shop. But I was driving through rural Tennessee a while ago and I felt so alone in the world. Then I saw Starbucks and felt reassured. There’s something about the music Starbucks plays and the color choices that say, ‘It’s going to be okay.’

Not always. One character in your book has a major breakdown when he starts to talk about a new Cracker Barrel that’s going up outside his town.

There are people I love who get so excited when they see a Cracker Barrel on a road trip. If I owned a real family diner, I’d be very upset.

Poor Cracker Barrel.

There are more things to get excited about on a road trip than a Cracker Barrel.

In your book one character has an existential crisis brought on by ATM surcharges.

When you have a nation under enormous stress, something little can gets stuck under your skin, and it just gets worse and worse. I didn’t have much money writing the book, so I started thinking about having to pay extra to get the money I did have. Those little expenses began to keep me up at night. Health insurance was huge for me that year. At the end of 2007, I quit my day job as an arts administrator. I thought it was a good time to make a leap to self employment. Between 2008 and 2009, my health insurance went from $500 to $1,500 per month. There was no way I could keep up with it. That one expense was so scary and unpredictable. I applied for a teaching job. At that time, I had six months of living expenses left in the bank.

You’re a supporter of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, then?

It’s not perfect, but it’s a solution in an economy where entrepreneurs weren’t penalized for starting something on their own without fearing that they would lose everything with the wrong hospital bill. I don’t think the private sector is providing that.

In 2012, negative equity is another unseen menace.

It’s the quiet desperation of the 21st Century that people who think they’ve done everything right reach their 30s and realize that may never get ahead again. They either have more credit card debt than they ever thought possible, or else they are saddled with negative equity. There’s a feeling among my generation that, “This is it: we will never be free.” That demographic should be getting ahead financially and taking risks. But all this debt is weighing them down and perpetuating the recession.

Humor me. The iPad improves our quality of life and makes us all deliriously happy, right?

It sells what it delivers, which is rare. But that’s what makes them so addictive. You get a new iPad and you feel rich for a couple of weeks, and that the whole world seems easy to navigate. But once you enter that world you feel behind almost immediately. I already feel like I don’t have the right equipment as there are better iPads and iMacs out there.

And high gas prices depress consumers like nothing else?

Rising gas prices are coming at an unfortunate time for the middle class, especially when people have to drive further to find a job. However, it costs a lot of money to harness and protect that resource and I don’t believe it should be cheap. In fact, gas prices should be higher. Subsidizing resources like oil and food can set a dangerous precedent. Corporate agriculture keeps food very cheap and unhealthy. When you look at our obesity epidemic and the use of pesticides, it’s not always necessarily a good thing when it leads to more expensive health problems later on.

Thanks, Dean. Weirdly, I feel better now.

Oh, good. Some days it works like that.

Read more:

“Facebook’s “Like” Button: Friend Or Foe”

“Coffee Talk With Starbuck’s Exec”

“4 Upsides to Higher Gas Prices”

“Why Nutritionists Can’t Eat Fast-Food Products” 

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    • By WebOsPublisher

      schedule pieces free boardmaker activity and picture communication symbol board for boardmaker software.
      Boardmaker Share

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      Number of Boards:
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      Then I have asked Dzhoan: itAs to me to arrive?it itUndertook it do, it she has told. It before sorts even two weeks. You will have time to returnit. We have sailed, dissecting waves on our boat Virgin Atlantic Challenger. In the end of the first day of swimming I have received the message that my son it Sam was born. We saluted to champagnes and have continued our way. The prize for the best result of all times was at us almost in hands when on the way to Ireland we have got to the most powerful storm, and for sixty miles to finish we were covered with a huge wave. The boat case has broken up half-and-half, and it has gone to a bottom.
      SOS! SOS! SOS!
      We have appeared in the sea on saving to a raft, in the middle of a roaring storm. The ship going to America, has saved to us a life. We have failed in the first attempt to win itthe Blue tapeit, but did not surrender. Six years later I again left on start on boat Virgin Atlantic Challenger II. All went well while we have not found out that sea water has got to our fuel tanks. Cars have decayed. Hours we cleaned tanks and tried to start engines. It seemed, all uselessly. At last the others have told that it is time to surrender. They have decided that all is terminated. But I knew, what is it our last attempt. If we do not make it now we will not make never. I should convince them not to surrender. And I have told: itYes it is fine to you, we should make it, let’s tryit.
      We have been exhausted to a limit. Eyes have reddened for weariness. All it. We hated the yacht. We hated the sea. We dreamt to oversleep week successively. ItIt is necessary to continue!it it it I. ItIt is fine, it the others have nodded. It we will try last timeit.
      Somehow we managed to start cars and to begin movement. But any hope was not. We have lagged behind so that, appear, there is no sense and to try. But we continued to go forward, making up for time. Eventually we have broken a record of all at two o’clock and nine minutes it but we have beaten it! A lesson which I have taken also to which I follow all life, consisted that it is necessary to try, and to try, and again to try it but never to surrender.
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    • I have lived in the apartments aocrss the street from Yogi’s for the 4 years at TCU. I love Yogi’s but even I can admit the amount of idiots that block the intersection and are timid deter from going there at times. Which is unfortunate, because Yogi’s has the best huevos rancheros around town (drenched in ketchup of course) with a blueberry bagel topped with blueberry cream cheese.

    • @Chris:

      Since you are in your 40s now, you must have graduated from college in the 70s or 80s and ridden your career over dual booms in the 80s and 90s.

      Your experience has no applicability to today whatsoever. Even people doing the “right thing” by going to college for good degrees (mine is in chemical engineering) find meager prospects, having to settle for less pay and no benefits.

      You showed more restraint than most of your generation which is nice, but that doesn’t change the fact that the world is radically different for today’s college graduates entering the job market.

      There are a few good jobs to be had right now but as always it’s “who you know not what you know”.

    • Americans have very short attention spans. The problems imam obama claimed he could solve with massive unchecked federal spending remain (he had NO SOLUTION, a clue to a real solution or a desire to solve the problems)Trillions of NEW debt: for what?
      The Emperor is an exibitionist?

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.

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Markets »

171.39MDow Volume:
Avg Vol: 111.86M
Unchanged
163
Decliners
5264
Advancers
1172
Price Chg %Chg 1 Day
Range: 1 Day
  • 1 Day
  • 5 Days
  • 1 Month
  • 3 Months
  • 6 Months
  • 1 Year
  • 2 Years
Dow
/quotes/zigman/627449/realtime 16,058 -470 2.84%
Nasdaq
/quotes/zigman/12633936/realtime 4,636 -140 2.94%
S&P 500
/quotes/zigman/3870025/realtime 1,914 -58 2.96%
GlobalDow
/quotes/zigman/629063/realtime 2,292 -4 0.16%
Gold
/quotes/zigman/662444/delayed 1,142 +2 0.16%
Oil
/quotes/zigman/2331095/delayed 44.43 -0.98 2.16%
FTSE 100
/quotes/zigman/3173262/delayed 6,046 -13 0.21%
DAX
/quotes/zigman/2380246/delayed 10,012 -3 0.03%
CAC 40
/quotes/zigman/3173214/delayed 4,536 -5 0.10%
FTSE MIB
/quotes/zigman/1482176/delayed 21,525 +73 0.34%
IBEX 35
/quotes/zigman/2759620/delayed 9,883 -110 1.10%
Stoxx 600
/quotes/zigman/2380150/delayed 352 -1 0.19%
Asia Dow
/quotes/zigman/6959860/realtime 2,707 -11 0.41%
Nikkei 225
/quotes/zigman/5986735/delayed 18,095 -70 0.39%
Hang Seng
/quotes/zigman/2622475/delayed 20,935 -250 1.18%
Shanghai
/quotes/zigman/1859015/delayed 3,160 -6 0.20%
Sensex
/quotes/zigman/1652085/delayed 25,570 -126 0.49%
Singapore
/quotes/zigman/1709939/delayed 2,886 +3 0.12%
Euro
/quotes/zigman/16008136/realtime/sampled 1.13 0.00 0.27%
Yen
/quotes/zigman/16008150/realtime/sampled 119.82 +0.44 0.37%
Pound
/quotes/zigman/16008140/realtime/sampled 1.53 0.00 0.07%
Australia$
/quotes/zigman/16008115/realtime/sampled 0.70 0.00 0.14%
DXY Index
/quotes/zigman/1652083/delayed 95.59 +0.21 0.22%
WSJ $ Idx
/quotes/zigman/41508961/realtime 88.36 +0.19 0.22%
U.S. 10yr
/quotes/zigman/15866666/realtime 2.15 0.00 0.12%
German 10y
/quotes/zigman/15866409/realtime 0.78 -0.02 2.90%
Italy 10yr
/quotes/zigman/15866497/realtime 1.98 -0.02 0.77%
Spain 10yr
/quotes/zigman/15866444/realtime 2.13 0.00 0.16%
U.K. 10yr
/quotes/zigman/15866328/realtime 1.80 -0.02 1.30%
Japan 10yr
/quotes/zigman/15866525/realtime 0.40 +0.03 8.91%
Crude Oil
/quotes/zigman/2331095/delayed 44 -1 2.16%
Gold
/quotes/zigman/662444/delayed 1,142 +2 0.16%
Corn
/quotes/zigman/7599553/delayed 370 +1 0.27%
DJIA F
/quotes/zigman/38649152/delayed 16,199 +112 0.70%
S&P F
/quotes/zigman/30356461/delayed 1,930 +14 0.75%
Silver
/quotes/zigman/3134148/delayed 15 0 0.14%

Quotes

Symbol Price Change % Change
FB /quotes/zigman/9962609/composite 87.23 -2.20 -2.46%
AAPL /quotes/zigman/68270/composite 107.72 -5.04 -4.47%
GOOG /quotes/zigman/30194416/composite 597.79 -20.46 -3.31%
BAC /quotes/zigman/190927/composite 15.58 -0.76 -4.65%
C /quotes/zigman/5065548/composite 50.94 -2.54 -4.75%
F /quotes/zigman/264304/composite 13.72 -0.15 -1.08%
T /quotes/zigman/398198/composite 32.32 -0.88 -2.65%
BP /quotes/zigman/247026/composite 32.14 -1.40 -4.17%
GE /quotes/zigman/227468/composite 23.88 -0.94 -3.79%
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5 yr CD
1.5%
2 yr CD
0.8%
1 yr CD
0.6%
MMA $10K+
0.3%
MMA $50K+
0.4%

National averages from Bankrate.com

You Don’t Need Another Credit Card, You Need A Better One.
Avg. APR Last Week 6 Months
Low Interest 11.62% 11.62% 11.53%
Business 12.85% 12.85% 12.85%
Student 13.14% 13.14% 13.14%
Balance Transfer 14.12% 14.12% 14.00%
Airline 15.10% 15.10% 15.15%
Reward 15.14% 15.14% 14.99%
Cash Back 15.27% 15.27% 15.26%
Instant Approval 18.00% 18.00% 17.93%
Bad Credit 22.73% 22.73% 22.48%
Source:CreditCards.com

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