The 10 Weirdest, Wackiest Financial Factoids of 2014

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By Jeff Yeager

Here are the 10 most fascinating factoids I stumbled across in 2014 that pertain to your money (not all of which originated in 2014):

10. $558,328.83: The Cost of Every Item in 2014 Super Bowl Ads

This staggering calculation comes from former "The Price Is Right" contestant Alex Zeldin on Guff.com. Just for the record, the vast majority of that expenditure would be on automobiles advertised during the game -- you'd get about a dozen and a half vehicles for a total of almost $557,000. And if you're wondering, all cost figures are before taxes.

9. 73 Percent of Parents Ages 40 to 59 Support a Boomerang Child

A 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center found that a staggering 73 percent of parents ages 40 to 59 have helped to financially support an adult child in the last year. Where did that financial support go?

A 2013 survey by Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAC) found that, of parents who supported their grown children over the last five years, about 10 percent helped with credit card debit, student loans, and insurance, while 15 to 20 percent said that their help went toward health care costs, car loans, cell phone bills, and rent or mortgage expenses. The biggest shocker? In 36 percent of cases, parents forking over dough to their adult kids weren't sure how their money was being used.

8. Men Are More Likely to Make Tipsy Purchases

Two booze-related spending studies caught my attention in 2014. First, a 2014 study by CreditCards.com reported that 13 percent of men admitted to buying items they hadn't intended to buy while they were under the influence of alcohol; that's compared to only about 5 percent of women. This is supported by a 2012 Nielsen study, which showed that 31 percent of all purchases in liquor stores are impulse buys, with the most being shelled out on fancy, premixed bottled cocktails.

So, I guess if you're a guy who's already been drinking and you stumble into a liquor store, you should just throw in the towel, load a couple of bottles of kumquat-flavored schnapps daiquiris in your shopping cart and head for checkout.

7. Millennials Believe Losing a Phone Is Worse Than Auto Theft

A 2013 Zipcar study found that many millennials value their phones more than their cars. Nearly 40 percent of millennials believe losing their phones would be a bigger hardship than losing their automobiles, while only 16 percent of people age 35 and up felt the same way.

Millennials also said their phone use allows them to cut back on driving, as 47 percent of them said they substitute texting, email, and video chats for meeting with friends in person. A 2013 Kent State University research study found that cell phone use was linked to anxiety, lower grades and reduced happiness in students.

6. Credit Reports Reveal Errors 25 Percent of the Time

According to a 2013 study from the Federal Trade Commission, more than 25 percent of consumers who took the time to check their credit reports identified errors that might affect their credit scores. This might partially explain why, according to Time, 56 percent of Americans have subprime credit. Looks like more people should be taking advantage of their free yearly credit reports. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies -- Equifax (EFX), Experian and TransUnion -- to provide a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months, upon your request.

5. Cyberattacks Cost the Global Economy $500 Billion Annually

It seems like nearly everyone was a victim of cyberattacks in 2014, or at least became worried due to the sheer number of them and their scope. According to a 2013 report by McAfee, cyberattacks on companies are costing the global economy an estimated $500 billion per year. That's roughly the size of Norway's GDP.

4. Women Hit the Glass Ceiling Sooner (and by $35,000 Less)

According to a 2012 study by PayScale, the average ages at which pay peaks -- and stops growing significantly faster than inflation for U.S. workers with a college degree or higher -- is 39 for women and 48 for men.The typical pay for such a male worker at 48 is $95,000 a year, and the average pay for his female counterpart is only $60,000 a year when it peaks at age 39. So not only do men earn more than women, but men earn higher wages sooner and for a longer period of time.

3. People Buy a Lot of Harry Potter Books, Corollas and Lay's Chips

The folks at FinancesOnline.com are obviously as enamored with wacky financial facts as I am, having compiled their own comparison of "10 Best-Selling Products in the World." Among their fascinating findings:
  • 450 million copies of Harry Potter books have been sold since 1997, which is equivalent to 90 percent of all books sold in the world in 2013.
  • 40.7 million Toyota (TM) Corollas have been sold since 1966, which if put bumper-to-bumper would stretched from New York City to Los Angeles 48 times over.
  • 633 million bags of Lay's potato chips are sold each year in the U.S., weighing more than an aircraft carrier.
2. Forget the 1 Percent -- It's More About the Top 85 People

In my opinion, the rapidly growing wealth gap in the U.S. and around the world is one of the most critical issues facing civilization today. Over the last few years, we've heard a lot about the "top 1 percent," and the wealth they control is indeed staggering: In 2014, Oxfam reported that just 1 percent of the world's population controls nearly half of the planet's wealth.

But now, even within that top 1 percent, the relative divides are growing: Oxfam said that the world's 85 richest people now own as much as the poorest 50 percent of humanity. Eighty-five people is roughly the capacity of a public bus, which is something I'm guessing you don't know if you're among that busload of super wealthy folks.

1. Less Is More (and Longer) When It Comes to Marriage

This from researchers at Emory University: The more money spent on an engagement ring, the greater the chance that the marriage will end in divorce. For example, couples who spent $2,000 to $4,000 on an engagement ring were 1.3 times more likely to get divorced than those who spent $500 to $2,000 on a ring. And the same research showed that weddings costing $20,000 or more were 3.5 times more likely to end up in divorce that weddings costing $5,000 to $10,000. With the average U.S. wedding now costing more than $30,000, I guess today's weddings vows should be, "For richer, for poorer, until debt do us part."
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