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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?
Old 04-15-2006, 10:28 AM   #61
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?

But I live in the same house, drive the same cars, am not comparing my costs with prior generations, and i'm far from the "keep up with the jones's" lifestyle guy.

My consumption, year on year, is pretty comparable from what I can see.

I guess the big question for me is why you seem a bit hell-bent on defending the CPI?

When I read the hedonics paper on electronics and it made the most half-assed pitch for why computer costs should be ratcheted down because they simplify our lives by being faster than last years crop (which is bullshit), and after my third read of how health care cost changes are applied and came to the conclusion that they really arent (which is bullshit), and noting that CPI only factors in the fairly stable rents and not home purchase costs (which is bullshit), I stopped regarding the statistic as being very effective in measuring inflation.
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?
Old 04-15-2006, 11:00 AM   #62
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?

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Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny
I thought about this a lot more yesterday and the upshot of it is that I wonder if inflation doesnt have a far more profound effect on the ER than the average person.* Heck, the hit from healthcare alone might be a bigger bite than the 3-5% of your total annual budget that CPI claims is the inflation rate.
Almost certainly. In fact, the BLS came up with an experimental CPI for retirees (CPI-E) a while back, and it looks like the CPI-E was generally about half a point higher than CPI-U. And these were retirees with medicare benefits, not ERs who pay their own way.
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?
Old 04-15-2006, 11:13 AM   #63
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?

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Originally Posted by wab
...an experimental CPI for retirees (CPI-E) a while back, and it looks like the CPI-E was generally about half a point higher than CPI-U.* * And these were retirees with medicare benefits, not ERs who pay their own way.
They must've decided that:
- they were scaring people off, or
- they were going to have to address the issue of retirement CPI-adjusted investing, or
- the whole project was irrelevant if these people weren't planning to or saving enough to retire in the first place.
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?
Old 04-15-2006, 11:19 AM   #64
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?

http://www.aarp.org/research/socials...-327-DD52.html

Interesting read on the CPI-E.

Most of the difference in the CPI-E being higher is higher medical costs and slightly higher housing costs (?), the rest of the costs are dialed downwards.
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?
Old 04-15-2006, 11:23 AM   #65
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?

I, for one, can certainly agree that CPI will not accurately reflect "individual inflation" rates for everyone; and can further agree that "inflation protected securities" do not securly protect against inflation. But I'd not, as some (no, not you C.F.B.) seem to, jump to the conclusion that it's a result of some vast conspiracy.

Two issues were raised in the more recent posts which are certainly deserving of attention: 1) tax impacts and 2) the housing component. *

Among the reasons that "inflation protected securities" do not securly protect against inflation is that we pay taxes on the return, so that the after tax return is clearly less than "advertised" and if inflation itself is large enough, the "real" after tax return will indeed be negative. *

CPI measures the housing component by including the rental value of owned property, i.e. not the current price of residential realestate. *This is a reasonable approach, since at least in part home ownership is investment rather than consumption; but the result is that over short periods of time CPI does not reflect complete home ownership costs.
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?
Old 04-15-2006, 11:43 AM   #66
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?

I dont hear any "vast conspiracy" arguments, although I cant say i've ever been comfortable with the idea of the govt figuring out how successful their economic policies are and making payments against something when they measure it themselves. Consciously or subconsciously, I find it tough to believe there isnt any influence or effect to that, albeit minimal.

I honestly think they overthink the whole thing, and that the overthinking produces a somewhat bogus result. If they dropped the hedonics and the basket substitutions, I'd probably feel a lot better about it. There is an opportunity to morph cost of living/inflation measurement into an adjusted quality of life measurement. That aint supposed to be what its for. :P

CPI and housing? Try that trick in california where you can rent a house for $1000-2000 a month that costs $400k-800k to buy. Housing prices have been leaping almost every year for over a decade. Rents...not so much. If a decade == "short periods" per your description...well...okay. Rents tend to be tied to how much a paycheck-to-paycheck renter can afford. Housing prices are a different beast. In some areas of the country. Not a problem for a homeowner thats indexed into the current high prices. Good thing for someone who can sell a 400k house and buy the same home somewhere else in the country for $200k. Bad problem for someone wanting to move into the area or for a new buyer thats been renting.

Understand that I'm prewired for 440V on the "real return" thing because we had a pair of trolls running around here a little over a year ago with the hairbrained idea to buy a 100% tips portfolio, take the "2.5% real" payout, and eat 1/40th of the portfolio principal every year, over a 40 year period. The "completely safe 40 year ER" was the pitch. But it ignored the fact that the "real" return wasnt "real" for everyone, and the fact that turning off the life switch after 40 years might not be too thrilling for a lot of people.
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?
Old 04-15-2006, 11:54 AM   #67
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny
..."real" return wasnt "real" for everyone
totally agree
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?
Old 04-15-2006, 11:56 AM   #68
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?

This is the best discussion we've had yet on inflation and CPI. Someone should sticky it or bookmark it for the next time the question comes up (about once every other month apparently).
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?
Old 04-15-2006, 12:36 PM   #69
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?

im going back to my slice of pizza at the local pizza shop index
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?
Old 04-15-2006, 01:05 PM   #70
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?

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im going back to my slice of pizza at the local pizza shop index
to each his own
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?
Old 04-15-2006, 02:21 PM   #71
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny
I guess the big question for me is why you seem a bit hell-bent on defending the CPI?


I actually came to this discussion pretty much as an agnostic on the issue. I will admit my predisposition was to think the government stats were pretty good. I never believed they were massively manipulated as some people seem to think. I did assume there was a tracking error, but judging by the discussion on this board, the tracking error was huge. By some people's count (and I think CFB counts among this number) the tracking error was somewhere in the 3% range. So I wanted to look at historic prices where I could find them and see how badly CPI tracked with what we know prices are today. And low-and-behold what I found was that CPI tracks pretty darn well - it certainly doesn't seem to be off by anywhere near 3% per annum.

Now as hard as I look in the 5 pages of posts, no one has claimed my numbers were bad or posted alternative calcs that show a different result. Notwithstanding that, CFB and others are "hell-bent" on proclaiming CPI "is a joke."

It's a price index! And from what I can tell it seems to do a pretty good job of tracking prices over pretty long periods of time. If you want it to do something else (which seems to be CFBs real gripe) then you won't get any arguments from me. It is not, nor does it claim to be, an individual consumption index.
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?
Old 04-15-2006, 02:29 PM   #72
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?

well said
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?
Old 04-15-2006, 02:43 PM   #73
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?

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Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny
But I live in the same house, drive the same cars, am not comparing my costs with prior generations, and i'm far from the "keep up with the jones's" lifestyle guy.
I don't consider myself a keeping up with the jones's kind of guy either, but when I look back over the past 15 years here are some of the things that factor into my "personal inflation rate":

1) 15 years ago I didn't own a computer . . . now we own three.* Along with the expense of the three computers comes a printer, toner, paper, wireless router, etc.

2) No internet connection 15 yrs ago . . . then dial-up service . . . now a cable modem

3) 15 years ago we had a basic land-line telephone connection . . . now our land line has call waiting, caller id, etc. all of which costs extra

4) 15 years ago we didn't have A/C . . . now we have central air

5) 15 years ago we had basic cable service with about 30 channels . . . now we have digital cable with more channels than I can count plus video on demand

6) 15 years ago we didn't have cell phones . . .* now we have two

7) 15 years ago a vacation was a road trip to Cape Cod . . . now it is a flight to Europe

8 ) 15 years ago we had a VCR . . . now we have a DVD player and Tivo

All of this stuff, and more, comes about incrementally.* You don't think you are spending that much more when you first sign up for the cell phone, or add telephone services, etc. but it adds up to a lot of dough over time.* That doesn't even consider the incremental costs of "premium" brand purchases (e.g. Starbucks vs. Maxwell House, wine instead of beer).*

Obviously my "personal inflation rate" over the past 15 years is greater than CPI . . . but that is not because CPI failed to accurately track prices.

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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?
Old 04-15-2006, 05:51 PM   #74
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?

Quote:
Originally Posted by 3 Yrs to Go
Now as hard as I look in the 5 pages of posts, no one has claimed my numbers were bad or posted alternative calcs that show a different result.
Look again. I posted a web site that offers a very reasonable alternative set of numbers. I also posted my own personal numbers, which are different.

Quote:
Notwithstanding that, CFB and others are "hell-bent" on proclaiming CPI "is a joke."
Never said that. Not even once. Not even anything close to that.

I even spelled out exactly what I agreed and disagreed with. Never said there was a conspiracy. Never said it was a "joke".

Now actually read what I said and tell me where we diverge.

I'll save you the time: I am "hell bent" on making sure people understand that CPI<>inflation, and that "inflation protected" pensions, social security, investment bonds and other CPI indexed products are not "inflation protected" to their cost of living (necessarily) and that early retirees may in some instances be more succeptible to inflation than wage earners.

No more. No less.

Quote:
It's a price index! And from what I can tell it seems to do a pretty good job of tracking prices over pretty long periods of time. If you want it to do something else (which seems to be CFBs real gripe) then you won't get any arguments from me. It is not, nor does it claim to be, an individual consumption index.
It is utilized as a broad based indicator of inflation, which I'm not sure its very good at due to the lack of exposure to housing prices, medical insurance and other major factors that effect peoples out of pocket expenses quite strongly. It is used to apply cost of living increases to pensions, social security and "inflation protected" investments.
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?
Old 04-16-2006, 10:39 AM   #75
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?

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Originally Posted by 3 Yrs to Go
It's a price index! And from what I can tell it seems to do a pretty good job of tracking prices over pretty long periods of time. If you want it to do something else (which seems to be CFBs real gripe) then you won't get any arguments from me. It is not, nor does it claim to be, an individual consumption index.
It may be great at tracking prices in the aggregate, but it's not so good at applying them to the individual. Unfortunately that's where our inflation-adjusted pensions & investments collide with the government's irresistible desire to mess with the numbers. Hedonic adjustments are especially slippery.

It also does not track well over long periods of times. Read "Triumph Of The Optimists" and their "adjustments" to a century of inflation data from indices including whalebone corsets... and that's the American CPI, let alone those of 15 other countries.
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?
Old 04-16-2006, 11:28 AM   #76
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?

If you want a real tome to put you to sleep laugher interesting read, try the BLS document on hedonic adjustments for clothes dryers...in 30 pages or less, they describe why clothes dryers really cost less than they do because they have better motors, more cycles and some other nice features. Except that part where 20 year old clothes dryers lasted 15-20 years and now you're lucky to get 10. I tried the hedonic argument with the appliance store salesman. Unfortunately he didnt study economics and wouldnt sell me the dryer for less because its better.

http://www.mises.org/story/1873
http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/P72746.asp
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?
Old 04-16-2006, 02:33 PM   #77
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny
If you want a real tome to put you to sleep laugher interesting read, try the BLS document on hedonic adjustments for clothes dryers...in 30 pages or less, they describe why clothes dryers really cost less than they do because they have better motors, more cycles and some other nice features.* Except that part where 20 year old clothes dryers lasted 15-20 years and now you're lucky to get 10.* I tried the hedonic argument with the appliance store salesman.* Unfortunately he didnt study economics and wouldnt sell me the dryer for less because its better.

http://www.mises.org/story/1873
http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/P72746.asp
CFB, I tend to distrust "analysis" that leads with its conclusion (i.e. articles titled "Illusions of Hedonics" and "How the government manufactures low inflation").* When in doubt I try to verify these things on my own.

To that end, I have to admit I wasn't able to find a historic cost reference for a clothes dryer.* I did, however, find this reference to the cost of a refrigerator:

Quote:
In 1918 Kelvinator introduced the first refrigerator with any type of automatic control. One manufacturer's 1922 model had a wooden cabinet, a water-cooled compressor, two ice cube trays and nine cubic feet of storage space. It cost $714. In 1923 Frigidaire introduced the first self-contained unit. Steel and porcelain cabinets began appearing in the mid-20s.
If you adjust the $714 1922 refrigerator to today's dollars using CPI, refrigerators should cost $8,394!!!* Prices in this week's Sears flyer range from $399-$999.

The more I look at this the less I'm convinced there is any problem with how CPI is calculated.* It appears that people have extrapolated their general distrust for government to a distrust of government statistics.* And then latched on to "hedonic" adjustments as the boogeyman mechanism by which the government cheats the populous out of its social security benefits.* Problem is, it seems not to be true.
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?
Old 04-16-2006, 02:52 PM   #78
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?

Just for kicks, here is a reference to the price of a blender in 1937:

Quote:
In 1937, the Waring-owned Miracle Mixer blender was introduced to the public at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago retailing for $29.75.
Adjusted for CPI a blender should cost $422 today.* But I can get one at Walmart for $17.72.* Must be some serious deflation going on.

I don't imagine any of the conspiracy theorists account for the fact that some things actually have fallen in price in their analysis . . . do they?
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?
Old 04-16-2006, 03:34 PM   #79
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?

I think this settles it (at least for me).*

Here is a site that lists prices advertised in the Daily Record newspaper over the past 100 years.* I've chosen a sampling of prices from 1935, adjusted them for CPI and then compared them against the 2005 listing from the same site.* Here is the results (feel free to waste your own time on this as there are many, many more prices and dates to play with at the site).*

Item* * * * * * * * * * * * * *1935 price* * * CPI adjust* * * 1935+CPI* * 2005 Price
Automobile* * * * * * * * *$495* * * * * * * *14.47* * * * * * * $7,163* * * * $18,485
Men's rain coat* * * * * *$24.90* * * * * * 14.47* * * * * * * $360* * * * * *$70
Ground Beef $/lb* * * * $0.125* * * * * * 14.47* * * * * * * $1.81* * * * * *$3.29
Cereal* * * * * * * * * * * * $0.21* * * * * * * *14.47* * * * * * * $3.04* * * * * $1.99
Butter $/lb* * * * * * * * * $0.40* * * * * * * *14.47* * * * * * * $5.79* * * * * $1.99
News paper* * * * * * * * $0.02* * * * * * * *14.47* * * * * * * $0.29* * * * * $0.35
Mattress* * * * * * * * * * *$18.50* * * * * * * 14.47* * * * * * * $268* * * * * *$279
9 pc Dining room set* *$99.50* * * * * * * 14.47* * * * * * * $1,439* * * * $1,599
Toothpaste* * * * * * * * * $0.26* * * * * * * * 14.47* * * * * * * $3.76* * * * * $2.49

Over a 70 year period the prices seem to track amazingly well.* There are outliers on both sides . . . automobile inflation is much greater than CPI, but the cost of a rain coat is inflating much slower.* Ground beef is more costly but butter and cereal are less expensive.* The price of a mattress is almost spot on and a 9 piece dining room set is nearly so.

CPI seems to be very representative of changes in prices.* Sorry folks.

Incidentally, a 3% per year tracking error would mean the “1935+CPI” column should be wrong by 800%.
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?
Old 04-16-2006, 03:43 PM   #80
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Re: CPI ... Your Confidence Level in this Statistic?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny
If you want a real tome to put you to sleep laugher interesting read, try the BLS document on hedonic adjustments for clothes dryers...
Hey CFB, the previously mentioned site does have a listing for a clothes dryer in 1955 at 159.95. In today's dollars that would be $1,142. Kenmore washer & dryer set on sale at Sears this weekend for $329 . . . sounds like a deal.
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