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Dollars & Sense:
Answers! I Want Answers!

  Column published in DM Review Magazine
April 2005 Issue
 
  By Susan Osterfelt

There are so many things I want to know more about. While there is a huge amount of information available and an awesome way to access it (the Internet/Google), I still have questions that need answers. I'm going to present here, in true David Letterman format, the top 10 questions to which I would really like answers. Maybe some will ring true for you as well.

I recently read that Wal-Mart (yes, Wal-Mart) is the #1 seller of furniture in the United States. 10. Why is Wal-Mart the nation's #1 seller of furniture? This makes no sense to me. Yes, they sell small appliances, plastic goods, beauty supplies and closet organizers, but furniture? I would have guessed that traditional furniture manufacturers in my home state of North Carolina might lead the pack, but Wal-Mart? Amazing!

9. Why would anyone still pay their bills using checks? Bill payment options on bank Web sites and biller Web sites are extremely easy to use, as are credit or debit card payments, and take a fraction of the time that it takes to write a check and clear that check through the U.S. check-clearing system. I have reduced the number of checks I write per month to about two - for one-time payments to companies or individuals that don't accept the other options.

8. Why hasn't Tiger Woods won more major PGA golf tournaments? This guy has intensity, the best golf swing, the best distance and one of the best work ethics within the PGA. I saw him in person at last year's Wachovia Championship and was amazed by his talent. While he won the Buick Invitational in January, that was preceded by an 18-month slump. Go, Tiger!

7. Why do people still not practice cell phone courtesy? By now, we should be accustomed to the fact that we need to turn our cell phones to "stun" when going into a meeting. Pardon the interruption? I don't think so.

6. What exactly is a wormhole router and why do we need one? I do happen to know that wormhole routing has emerged as the most widely used packet switching technique in massively parallel computers. However, I'm not sure how that balances with my mental image of a rotten apple with a wormhole when I hear the term. How can this be a good thing?

5. What is really in your wallet? I have several credit cards, a debit card, a healthcare identification card, a prescription drug card, a car insurance identification card, a driver's license, a corporate travel card, a long distance phone card, several affinity credit cards, my frequent flier card, seven loyalty cards, a prepaid debit card, my employee ID card, a building access card for after hours use and card for daytime building access. Oh, and my YMCA member card.

4. What is "legal crime" and is it an oxymoron? We see many accusations against companies and their employees regarding conflicts of interest, taking advantage of tax loopholes, etc. The line between legality and illegality is very fuzzy right now. How exactly could something "legal" be a "crime?"

3. Will I have Social Security when I retire? Based on what I have read, the answer is "No!" The U.S. government's unfunded liability for Social Security, Medicare, etc. is said to be $46 trillion (that's "trillion" with a "t"), and its budget deficit planned for 2005 is $550 billion. We're in a pickle with this one!

2. Can the U.S. prison system hold all the accountants, controllers, CEOs and CPA audit partners that will be found guilty of non-compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act? 'Nuf said.

1. Just exactly what do the Security & Exchange Commission and the New York Attorney General's Office do with all the settlement money they receive from fining companies for improprieties? Marsh and McLennan recently paid $850 million to settle charges that it rigged bids for insurance contracts. That's a lot of chump change. Some of it goes for restitution to those that were harmed. But where does all the rest go?

I need answers!

...............................................................................

For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Business Intelligence and Strategic Intelligence.

Susan Osterfelt is senior vice president at Bank of America, in Charlotte, North Carolina. She can be reached at susan.osterfelt@bankofamerica.com.

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