Close this search box.

PERSONAL FINANCE/JOHN NINFO: Cash is a kingly gift –

For those of you who celebrate it, I hope that you have a most wonderful, holy, and safe Christmas Day.

You have heard me say that “Cash is King” forever in this column, because the studies show that people who use cash for their discretionary spending spend less. That is because cash is an object that connects you to your hard-earned money, unlike cards, which are not your hard-earned money. They are more of a concept. They just represent money. In addition, the studies show that it is hard to “impulse buy” with cash, but not so much with a card.

That said, cash is the gift that provides the recipient with the ultimate in flexibility, and it insures that they will get themselves a gift that they are 100% satisfied with and will definitely enjoy. It should be clear to all of us, given the rates of returns, that gift giving, no matter how well intentioned — unless you purchased something that the person specifically asked for, (model, color, size, etc.) — is not always effective, so why not just give a gift of cash?!

When I was growing up, from my teenage years on, cash was the gift we received in my family, and we loved it, because now we could shop and get WHAT WE WANTED. In that spirit, my wife will take our grandson and older grand-nieces and nephews out to have a breakfast or lunch, and then to shop for their Christmas or birthday presents. They get an envelope with cash and go from store to store, and sometimes back to a store, conscious of what they can spend, wanting to get good value for their purchases, and they never have to return anything.

It is something to consider for your future gift giving.

On a different subject, it is becoming clear now that inflation is going to be with us for a while, so, as we all know by now, the Federal Reserve Bank is planning to raise interest rates, perhaps as many as three times, in 2022. That means that many of those credit cards, home equity loans, car loans, student loans, and mortgages will bear higher interest rates, even if not by a lot, so if that will apply to you in your future, make sure to budget for it.

The other concern that I have about inflation, is that many providers of goods and services will raise their prices, even though they are not experiencing greater costs, just because we are all becoming accepting of inflation. For example, my excess liability (umbrella) insurance policy premium just went up 5.8%, even though it was exactly the same premium for 2019, 2020, and 2021. I find it hard to believe that the company has suffered a lot more excess liability losses or otherwise higher costs in that area. It is certainly something to think about.

On another subject, this week I had a conversation with a couple which really got my attention. The subject of the conversation was tattoos. They indicated that their granddaughter, who is in music theatre and living and auditioning in New York City, is studying to be a certified tattoo artist. She says it is a much better side-gig that bartending or waitressing. Then they informed me of how much some people spend on their larger tattoos, which could be thousands and thousands of dollars. I have to be honest, I was surprised. I had never thought or read about it.

Here is something that I found with some quick online research, “If you plan to get a cool half- or full-sleeve tattoo, be prepared to spend a decent amount of money. Obviously, the cost of your sleeve depends on the skill of the artist, difficulty of the design, body placement, color scheme, size, and geographical location, but prices should range from $500 to $3000.” Another thing to consider, perhaps even for some college students looking to make some money to pay for school.

In the last column I promised to set out some of the taxes paid in Europe in connection with the issue of the wealthy paying their fair share. A recent Wall Street Journal editorial laid out some of these statistics. The top 10% of American households earn about 33.5% of all earned income, but pay 45.1% of all income taxes, a 1.35 ratio. In France, the ratio is 1.10; in Germany 1.07; and in Sweden an even 1. In addition, in 2015, the bottom 90% of earners in the US paid 55% of the taxes, but in France they paid 72%; in Germany 69%, and in Sweden 73%. Finally, rather than the top 10% paying 45%, in France they only paid 28%; in Germany 31%,; and in Sweden 27%.

Please have a safe New Year’s Eve.

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

John Ninfo