Twenty things I learned about economics in 1994:

- Good news is bad news. When the economy booms, when consumers spend money, when the unemployment rate declines, the stock market will catch cold and the bond market will catch pneumonia. The markets are obsessive about inflation.- Even more obsessive about inflation is Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. Greenspan and his colleagues have raised interest rates six times this year. The idea is to slow down growth and head off inflation. What inflation?

- It costs at least $99 more to go first class and often much, much more.

- Numerous companies and communities have lost money by investing in derivatives. Orange County, Calif., went broke. A derivative, whose value is pegged to interest rates or some other index, can be a smart hedge for investors who know what they're doing. Many don't.

- A chicken cut into pieces costs more than a whole chicken.

- People over 60 usually are richer than people under 30, but people under 30 can't get cut-rate tickets to go to the movies.

- Social Security will not run out of money in the next century, despite all the moaning and groaning by young workers that "my benefits won't be there when I retire."

- Big-time college sports are a form of show business, which is why football and basketball coaches earn more than college presidents.

- More workers would consider retiring early if they could keep their employer-paid family health insurance coverage until Medicare kicks in at age 65.

- Supermarkets on Sunday mornings are full of shoppers who probably would have been in church 40 years ago.

- Personal and business bankruptcies are declining, but well over 800,000 individuals and businesses still go bankrupt each year.

- Reducing the federal budget deficit is not a popular political issue. Reducing taxes is a popular political issue.

- The national unemployment rate has gone down to 5.6 percent, lowest in four years, but it's hard to be comfortable about your job when the guy next door has just been laid off.

- An amazing number of Americans, many of them retirees, are willing to give large amounts of money to charlatans who call on the telephone, knock on the door or send urgent messages saying: "Have I got a deal for you!"

- Junk mail now is being sent by fax.

- The pay gap between men and women is narrowing, partly because men without skills or education are losing ground and partly because men with good jobs like working with women.

- There are three important functionaries in every organization. One is the chief executive who does the hiring and firing. Another is the office manager who buys pens and paper clips. The third is the brilliant statistician who runs the office football pool.

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- Everyone but thee and me makes too much money.

- The upper class consists of doctors, lawyers, professional athletes, rock musicians, movie actors and business executives. The middle class consists of people who know about computers.

- You can judge a post office by the wait factor. If only one window is in service and half a dozen clerks are in a back room chatting over coffee, you'll know why the line is so long.

- If you keep small change in your pockets at night, the money will fall out and roll under the bed when you hang up your trousers.

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