Personal Finance Round-Up: Seeing the Glass Half-Full

glass half-fullI’m going to admit it: I’m usually a “glass half-empty” kind of person. It’s not that I don’t like those proverbial silver linings, it’s simply that I have a hard time seeing them in the first place. That’s especially true during the 2012 election cycle, which are full of doomsday-like campaign ads that have made me feel particularly pessimistic these days about just about every issue out there including – most notably – the economy.

So this week, I’m going to look at some things optimistically. Where to start? How about marginal tax rates in the United States? The candidates are busy arguing about how much to tax and on whom to levy those taxes. There’s talk about raising tax rates on certain demographics, while holding rates steady – or even dropping them – for others. But I think we can all agree that, no matter what Congress or our next president chooses to do with taxes, we’re better off than the folks in France: That’s where the country’s new president wants to bump up the tax rate of those earning over one million Euros a year to a whopping 75%.

Think that’s high? The average tax rate for top earners across most of western Europe is around 50% – so there you go, reason number one why it isn’t horrible to be an American.

And there’s more glass half-full news: When it comes to struggling economies, the U.S. isn’t the worst offender in any category! Not highest inflation (Belarus), lowest per capita income (Congo), or even highest debt (Japan). So rejoice! Things may be bad here, but they’re worse elsewhere.

This is exactly the point of this post over at Money Walks. In the article, Struggling World Economies, the author takes a closer look at exactly how bad the debt situation is over in Japan, saying, “We think the United States’ national debt is bad? I have no idea who ‘owns’ Japan, but their debt is through the roof.”

Here are some other posts that gave me reason to think my economic glass was, truly, half-full…or at least not totally empty:

Are You a Competitive Person? [Dinks Finance]
The United States doesn’t have the world’s worst debt, but it does have something else: the world’s most competitive people, and that’s a good thing if you’re looking for economic positives such as innovation and intellectual curiosity. Check out which other world cities made the list.

Capitalists Must Address the Causes & Consequences of Income Inequality [Monevator]
“I do believe the evidence is capitalism is more effective at improving the lives of more people than the alternatives. And yes, I believe it’s better for me, too,” writes The Investor over at Monevator. He brings up some good arguments why capitalism is still the economic policy of the future – and targets specific issues that must be repaired to make it stronger than ever.

Saving Money in the Era of Record-Low Interest Rates [Frugal Dad]
Record-low interest rates on your home loan? Brilliant! Record-low interest rates on T-bonds? Not so brilliant. Jason – The Frugal Dad – separates the good, the bad, and the ugly to help you find the positives of low-interest rates for your specific situation.

Invest for the Future Without Wall Street [Consumerism Commentary]
Luke begins by granting absolution for our distrust of the stock market and everything tied to it. He then gives us a choice: “Ninety years from now we may look back on the 21st century and see a booming global economy that has expanded into more developing nations, or we may see a world that from a capitalistic growth perspective has past its peak.” Which perspective will you choose?

The Company Man’s Guide to Starting a Side Hustle: Part II [The Art of Manliness]
In the second of this two-part series, guest blogger Tyler goes into further detail about how to turn a passion, an idea, or simply a customer into some extra income (a “side hustle”). With more and more companies taking advantage of contract or freelance workers to fill temporary or permanent gaps in their employment, it’s a must-read piece.

Success By Accident [MoneyMate Kate]
Sometimes, success is made – and other times, according to Kate, we simply stumble upon it: “I did things in a weird, unconventional way that just worked out,” she writes. It’s a post that made me feel inspired, motivated, and ready for luck to head my way.

How to Save Money When Remodeling Your House [Financially Poor]
You can thank the sluggish housing market for making now an ideal time to hire a contractor to assist you on your home remodel. Since so many are out of work – or still not working on a full-time basis yet – many contractors are giving deals, leading this author to remind us to “implement a bidding system for contractors.” That’s right – you don’t have to tackle every job yourself – and that’s good news in my book.