Don’t shoot the carrier

With rising prices and declining service, “anti-airline sentiment has grown white-hot,” says Patrick Smith in The Washington Post. The rising prices are bad enough, but the “unbundling” of airfares—“the parsing of fares into a la carte nuggets”—leaves passengers feeling “doubly victimized.” While “nobody enjoys paying more for less,” though, fliers should consider that they have been “a bit, well, spoiled” by unsustainably low prices. Airfares dropped 2.4 percent from 2000 to 2008, even as fuel costs rose 200 percent. Today’s ticket prices just don’t make sense at $150-a-barrel oil, and they will rise, and so will the public’s “howling.” But try to have a “sense of perspective” about it.

Retiring some misconceptions

The “conventional wisdom on pensions,” says Tim Harford in Slate, is that “you’re a weak-willed and shortsighted fool who isn’t saving enough, and as a result you will spend your retirement in poverty.” Luckily, despite the “hand-wringing” (often from firms selling pensions), that’s probably wrong. Or at least overstated. Economists tend to look for “consumption smoothing”—the assumption that you’ll spend as much as you did when pulling a paycheck—when calculating pension needs. But most households spend less after retirement, because their expenses drop. The future, and thus retirement savings, are unknowable, but you won’t have to “live on ramen and cat food.”