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Thread: The material question: your thoughts on money

  1. #1
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    The material question: your thoughts on money

    “Money it's a crime. Share it fairly but don't take a slice of my pie. Money so they say. Is the root of all evil today.” - Pink Floyd

    Due to recent circumstances, I’ve been thinking about money more than usual lately. I’m convinced that the way in which we view money and how we save or spend it says more about one’s philosophy on life, regardless of whether one has articulated or thought it through for themselves or not, than just about any other external factor one can name.

    Do we spend our money on providing every creature comfort possible? Should our purpose in this world be to enjoy as much lobster thermadore, Dom Perignon, and watch as much ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ on our 72” plasma screen tv’s as we can at our vacation home in the Catskills? Do we scrimp and save so that we can pay for our children’s college education…and by making it so that our children will not have to pay for that expense, are we actually doing them a favor (along similar lines, if you always pick up your children’s bedrooms for them are you really doing them a favor?)

    Very wealthy people view money quite differently than middle or lower class folks. Beyond a certain point, access to more money provides increasingly marginal returns; one only has so much time to live in this world and acquiring/using more yachts, vacations to Paris, and Rolls Royces doesn’t much improve the quality of one’s life experience (there’s a great line from Scarface “is this all there is?...eating…drinking…F’ing, sucking?”). Once this level is attained, we frequently see these folks using their money to influence the world around them. The only differences on this plane being the scale on which this influence occurs. It’s easy to heap more condemnation or alternately praise on folks occupying this station in life than they probably deserve, but the question most fail to ask is what would YOU do with those resources – would you really do differently?

    What is money and what does it measure? Why do we want more money than we currently have? What is it we desire in life that money provides? I guess I’m prodding folks to go a step further than usual and examine the whole WHY angle that seldom gets discussed…e.g. okay, so you want to pay off your credit cards, retire in comfort at age 50, party hearty, live a life of philanthropy, or be a patron of the Arts, or whatever. Why is that?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    I don't think too much about the afterlife.

    I'm here to live and experience this life as much as possible.

    I don't save as much money as I should, but I want to experience life.

    I probabaly spend too much money on vacations, weekends away, cultural expericenes, eating out at restaraunts, etc., but I want my daughters to know the world, not just their own little corner.

    I'd rather go without later on in life, so that I show my daughters what is out there. If there isn't an afterlife, then we got to experience all that there is in this world.

    If there is an afterlife, well then it's a win as well. Kind of like my own Pascal's Wager.

    p.s. These above statements do not mean I'm going broke, far from it, just that I (and a lot of people) could save more than they spend.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  3. #3
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Until the parents divorce, I was in a marginally upper class situation. The society was not really that different from the marginal middle class existence that I now have. Just more money, as they say.

    There was a time when wealth was not so advertised as it is now. My high school neighborhood included three doctor's families that I knew. They had newer cars and took better vacations, but their life style was no different than others. Times are much different now.

    Time to get my lottery tickets...

  4. #4
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Money is in my thoughts a lot. It is a constant worry of mine. I have a pension. I contribute to a 401K. I have life insurance. We have a smallish house. We live comfortably, but by no means lavishly.

    Pretty much we are a single-income family. No COLA this year. But the cost of living certainly hasn't gone down. We live paycheck to paycheck. There is usually enough.

    We have in recent months been hit with the expense of a trip to attend my father's funeral, getting my son tutoring and hospital expenses (an emergency appendectomy). We fortunately have good medical insurance but the co-pay is still in the thousands. We were already on a lean budget and now we have to figure out ways to make that stretch a little bit more far into the foreseeable future.

    Barring a winning lottery ticket or finding a paper sack full of $20s, we will just have to scratch and scrimp until things get better.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

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  5. #5
    Cyburbian Joe Iliff's avatar
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    I could try to look it up, but if I remember correctly, a recent study found that once someone's annual income starts to rise above $70,000 or so, their level of happiness doesn't continue to rise in correlation. That is, one is not 10% happier with each new 10% rise in income, and persons with $140,000 in income don't register twice the happiness of those with $70,000, etc. Happiness seems to plateau there even as income continues to rise.
    JOE ILIFF
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  6. #6
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Joe Iliff View post
    I could try to look it up, but if I remember correctly, a recent study found that once someone's annual income starts to rise above $70,000 or so, their level of happiness doesn't continue to rise in correlation. That is, one is not 10% happier with each new 10% rise in income, and persons with $140,000 in income don't register twice the happiness of those with $70,000, etc. Happiness seems to plateau there even as income continues to rise.
    I like what Mark Cuban says:

    "Money can’t make you happy, but it sure can make your life a lot easier. If you were happy without money, it’s easy to be ecstatic with it!”
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  7. #7
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    I struggle to pay all my bills quite often because I don't make much to begin with and with recent cuts in pay and increases in costs I am definately starting to struggle. So I would like to have more money. But I don't want to be rich. I would like to be comfortable, that's all - though that is starting to seem out of grasp unless I decide to become an evil wealth accumulator.

    The pursuit of money above all other things is what characterizes us as Americans nowadays, and its a shame. I feel that it turns people into evil hollow beings. Everything is done for the almighty dollar. People with money look down on people without (I've even seen it first hand with some family members).

    I think many rich people are immoral. In fact- I believe that to truly be rich most people need to have an immoral soul. Sure some good people become wealthy- but generally you need to be willing to screw over fellow humans to become wealthy. Its not just looking out for number 1- but actively not caring about the harm you might inflict on others to make an extra few pennies.

    The pursuit of wealth above all other things is immoral. If there is a hell, alot of people are going to be going there because of this pursuit. I'm more interested in beneficial relationships with people and the planet, than I am about wealth. Wealth is one of the last things ever on my mind.
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    All bills paid in full and on time.

    Credit card (down to 1 from 3), car payment, and wife's student loans are getting paid down as well.

    Groceries and gas are getting tight otherwise.

    Not a lot of extra $$ floating around for intangibles.

    We're doing okay. Although with a raise for both my wife and I, we're still running a tight ship and I am beginning to wonder why that is. Seems that money is being spent wisely, but despite the extra income coming in, there is little extra.

    Seems that the fate of the USA is on my back as a middle class drone. Rich dudes, poor folks, PM me for my address so you can send a thank you card...
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  9. #9
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Joe Iliff View post
    I could try to look it up, but if I remember correctly, a recent study found that once someone's annual income starts to rise above $70,000 or so, their level of happiness doesn't continue to rise in correlation. That is, one is not 10% happier with each new 10% rise in income, and persons with $140,000 in income don't register twice the happiness of those with $70,000, etc. Happiness seems to plateau there even as income continues to rise.
    I've seen that study as well. My guess is that at that income, you don't have to constantly worry about finances, and financial difficulties don't interfere as much in relationships, etc. at that point.

    I'll admit that I'm a saver--I could cover six months of expenses with savings, not including the Roth IRAs. This is a learned trait for me, because my natural state is much closer btrage. The main reason for this is that my dad got laid off while I was in college and I saw the struggle they went through even with careful planning. Also, I consider it an ethical 'fall on my sword' fund should I ever find myself in a situation in which I'm asked to act unethically and am forced to make an employment decision. I was able to do this by living below my means--smaller/older house, cheap cars, etc.

    I'm happy with my and my wife's salary. We are comfortable, and I don't want more because I think too much money can f-up your personal priorities. I have everything I need as well as a few wants. I like to give money away to charities, especially during the economic downturn when other folks have been less able to and are more in need. I also like to help my nephew out in college with some of his expenses--he has been doing good in school and I want to make sure he is able to have some fun along the way since he's been working a lot.

    So I guess I view money as security in our economic culture--I don't go off buying fancy 'show-off' things. Having financial security allows me to focus on more enjoyable aspects of my personal life and leads to better relationships. It gives me flexibility to do what I want without necessarily sweating the financial implications of a decision. I also view it as a tool to help others and what I consider 'common good' charities. When I do spend on myself, it is on things like vacations and cultural stuff--I like to experience & learn new things. When I'm an old dude, I can easily picture myself as one of those 80 year olds that decides to get another degree just because I find a topic interesting.

    I also don't like talking or thinking about money. It makes me very uncomfortable for some reason--like it makes me feel greedy & materialistic to talk about it.

    I'm also a bit like mike gurnee in that I remember a time when wealth wasn't on display like it seems now. A heart surgeon lived in my neighborhood growing up, but you'd hardly know it. His house wasn't much different from ours, and his pickup was a little nicer.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  10. #10
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by imaplanner View post
    I think many rich people are immoral. In fact- I believe that to truly be rich most people need to have an immoral soul. Sure some good people become wealthy- but generally you need to be willing to screw over fellow humans to become wealthy. Its not just looking out for number 1- but actively not caring about the harm you might inflict on others to make an extra few pennies.
    Whether you are screwing over other people or the environment, it does seem that beyond a certain threshold, there is almost always a trade-off between selling a part of your soul and making more money. Another facet is working at a job that demands incredible amounts of time and energy - something I shy away from because of how that would impact my family (having grown up in such a setting, I am not anxious to repeat it for my kinds. Frankly, I don't really know my father very well because we have not spent all that much time together).

    Maybe what I consider "immoral" or "soul-selling" in terms of what I am willing/not willing to do for money is not the same as others, and those wealthier folks perhaps don't view their actions as problematic, but this is an issue I have wrestled with a lot in life. Indeed, part of my lower income is based on what I am willing to do as a career. Doing the "good work" that I can say has a positive impact on the world is actually very important to me (an affliction I blame on my Quaker school education...) but seems, by definition, to not be well rewarded financially.

    Currently, I am working F-T and my wife works 30 hours a week with the plan to go down to 20 in a few months (she was at 40 so she is scaling down incrementally). We spent a good deal of the last 7 years paying off debt and getting our finances within some manageable level. Right now, things are pretty good. We can pay our bills, meet our needs, have some fun, and still have a little leftover (most months). Its been dicier in the past when we were aggressively paying off debt and we have had many very tight months for sure. But these days, things are a little easier. Fortunately, my wife keeps a pretty tight ship and has been good about keeping us on a frugal budget even when we have some extra money. It makes the bigger outlook so much more manageable.

    Like many Americans of late, we have made many decisions of late NOT to get/replace things and make do with what we have. Cell phone contract is up for renewal, but we will stick with the old decrepit one until it dies. Why spend more before you need to? Planned to get a new camping vehicle - maybe something with 4X4 - but after looking into it (a used vehicle after selling ours would run us about $3-4k) we decided to hang on to our Vanagon and invest $600 to fix some problems with it instead. Stuff like that.

    That's our relationship with money these days.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  11. #11
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    I don't worry about money. I probably should more, but I know we would do fine on whatever income we had. I like the Daniel Tosh quote...

    "Money doesn't buy happiness." Uh, do you live in America? 'Cause it buys a WaveRunner. Have you ever seen a sad person on a WaveRunner? Have you? Seriously, have you? Try to frown on a WaveRunner. You can't! They're so awesome."
    To me money buys you time. You might have to work REALLY hard at times to get it, but it affords you the ability to go places, do things, and get away. I have never really cared what my parent's made. I have never actually asked. I didn't grow up rich or poor for that matter. I didn't care.

    Personally I think money corrupts and people care WAY too much about getting it. A person that can't be happy with 30k a year isn't going to be happy at 200k a year. It is all what you do with it. I bought my parents their first TV in 20 years. It wasn't about the cost of it, it was because they didn't care to get one. They are happy with what they have.

    Quote Originally posted by Maister
    What is money and what does it measure? Why do we want more money than we currently have? What is it we desire in life that money provides? I guess I’m prodding folks to go a step further than usual and examine the whole WHY angle that seldom gets discussed…e.g. okay, so you want to pay off your credit cards, retire in comfort at age 50, party hearty, live a life of philanthropy, or be a patron of the Arts, or whatever. Why is that?
    Money to me measures time. If you are the jealous type it measures differences in wants and needs. But if you have enough money to get by, it measures your ability to be with your family and friends. Money gives you the avenue for happiness. I don't think it matters how much you have, it is how you use it.

    I save like a crazy person and live below my means because someday I hope to be rich. And when I do, I am going to use that money to enjoy my life. You know, the American dream.

    I believe that many rich people are good people. They have worked hard and deserve all they have. Doctors, lawyers, and CEO's all have good and bad apples. I won't demonize someone for being successful if they did it a fair and just way. I don't let the fact that I won't have a Billion dollars ever taint my world view.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  12. #12
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I want a lot of money. That way I can be like Charlie Sheen. A WINNER!
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  13. #13
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    I could talk about money all day - if I wasn't a planner I would want to be a credit counselor. People ask me about investment advice quite often and I really enjoy hearing how other people deal with finances. If I could moonlight as a counselor I definitely would.

    I grew up in a well-off family. We had two homes and went on many vacations. In that regard we were spoiled. On the other hand, we had everything we needed but my parents were "old school" so my mom drove a minivan without a CD player and my dad shopped for clothes at Sam's Club. My dad said a CD player was too expensive for the little music they listened to. My dad paid for my college but wouldn't ever give me money outright. He never bought me a car or paid for my insurance. He would take us to Hawaii but wouldn't buy me clothes. I bought into this mentality (although not aware of it until I was older) so my wife and I save money (about 20% net) but go on lots of trips. We make enough money to live on but not enough to have everything we want. I worry because our children will never have the childhood I had. My dad makes more in retirement than what we make working full time - so I can't give my kids what he gave me in terms of experiences. I always appreciate what I've been given and even though reading this probably makes me sound like a jerk, I still worry about money. I shouldn't worry but I do - worrying won't give Maybe it's this constant barrage of news about not having enough for retirement, the pensions systems crumbling, etc.

    I'll add that it's true - the only thing money really gives you is the sense of security should something happen. Money can't bring back old friends or erase ill words I've spoken to others, but it can protect my family from living in a bad neighborhood or not having enough to eat.
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    My wife comes from a very wealthy family and is an only child. I am not ashamed to admit that we gladly accept large monetary gifts from her parents on a regular basis. We do not need these gifts to survive but when we first got married they were nice because it allowed us to pay off my student loans and my car loan and also to have a much larger amount to use as a down payment when we bought our house a couple of years ago.

    By my wife and I are well educated and have been gainfully employed for years. She was lucky that her parents were able to pay for her college education and her employer paid for her graduate education so she had no student loans. So in the end, even if we didn't receive gifts from her parents we would still be able to pay our bills each month. The only difference would be that we would either still be renting or not living in the particular neighborhood that we are in. In fact, when we bought our house, besides the money for the down payment, we set our budget so that our maximum price would be no more than what we would be able to afford on just the lowest of our two salaries (mine).

    Now that the major purchase of a house is behind us and my student loans are gone, all gift money just goes into various savings accounts each year so it's not as if we are living high on the hog eating caviar, wearing mink, and driving around in a new BMW 750. Thankfully, although my wife was an only child in a wealthy family, she was anything but spoiled growing up, is very down-to-earth, and prides herself on how low-maintenance she is.

    One thing I have noticed about having even just a moderate amount of money is that there truly is some truth behind the saying that, "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer." Before I was married, I wasn't struggling to pay my bills, but there was never anything left over at the end of the month. I'd pay so much money each year in credit card interest, student loan interest, maybe a couple late fees, car loan interest, etc. Once I was able to start just paying those off, I realized just how much money I was spending on interest and fees each year and then after I was able to put away some substantial money in savings accounts just how much interest I could earn. It was as if I never really understood how interest could be a good thing until then!
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  15. #15
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WSU MUP Student View post
    My wife comes from a very wealthy family and is an only child. I am not ashamed to admit that we gladly accept large monetary gifts from her parents on a regular basis.
    This is interesting to me because I know many people who give their children money when they probably shouldn't and many who can but do not. It seems like we like to fill in the void about people's financial situation because we need to know! We are so afraid to talk about money when doing so may make our relationships stronger because we're not second-guessing each other.

    I think sometimes people confuse "rich" with "has no kids and therefore more disposable income".
    Last edited by stroskey; 09 Mar 2011 at 5:02 PM.
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WSU MUP Student View post



    One thing I have noticed about having even just a moderate amount of money is that there truly is some truth behind the saying that, "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer." !
    But what about the fact that those who are born rich are just better people than the lazy no good poor? Those who aren't wealthy deserve nothing but contempt.

    (sorry to keep beating this point but I have a serious chip about it because my sister in laws family feels this way about my wife and I.)
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  17. #17
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by imaplanner View post
    But what about the fact that those who are born rich are just better people than the lazy no good poor? Those who aren't wealthy deserve nothing but contempt.
    I don't subscribe to that. My philosophy is that those who don't marry into money are worthy of my scorn!



    My serious answer...
    I don't think those who win the birth lottery deserve any extra respect. Rather those who lose the birth lottery should be provided with the tools and assistance to help level the playing field but unfortunately, all too often, they are not which only prolongs the cycle of poverty.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  18. #18
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Right now I am only concerned about keeping a roof over my head and the boat floating. I have no job because I quit one to go to another that paid substantially higher but has now been put "on hold" due to the city's budget crisis, state cuts to municipal aid, the state and city duking it out over the city's budget approval which is behind schedule, and the state needing to sign off on new hires which they won't do until the budget is approved.

    Because I left my job voluntarily (the work environment under the new dictator really sucked and continues to suck for my friends that are still there) I do not qualify for unemployment. I do not qualify for state disability because I left my job voluntarily. I now pay $455 a month for COBRA benefits for myself. I don't qualify for medical benefits from the state because I have unearned income in the form of child support. I had major surgery last month and not quite done recuperating from it, the insurance company has determined my share of cost is $4200. My savings and tax return are dwindling fast to say the very least. RT has a nice paying gig that does not interfere with school/track and will most likely continue through the summer. She's graciously agreed to pay for her day to day expenses, the cost of prom, and her driving lessons and share of car insurance/gas. (I have the best kid ever)

    I am over educated and under/over experienced for damn near every job opening that is out there. I may have to return to the restaurant industry for the foreseeable future just to have a paying job and health benefits that aren't sucking me dry. I am lucky to have generous friends that have really stepped up to offer us whatever we need to allow RT to finish the school year in the district and get off to college in August. Our lease is up at the end of June so RT and I will be making some significant decisions regarding our respective futures.

    Some of them may involve me leaving the US for India where I have a provided place to live, an extensive support system, and reasonable job opportunities that will cover RT's college expenses and my debt service. It's sad that it has had to come to this.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  19. #19
    Cyburbian cng's avatar
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    In regards to money, I have two main principles: 1) Control the money, don't let the money control you; 2) Get the most bang out of your buck.

    The first principle is more philosophical, the second, more methodological.

    I think most middle-income families are unnecessarily paycheck to paycheck. There are always things we can do to lower expenditures... Our usual problem is that many of this think we have mandatory, or obligatory expenses, when really, every expense is a choice, or at least, began with a choice. The rent/mortgage payment, the phone bill, the car payment... they may appear to be obligatory bills to pay, but one can always choose a cheaper place to live, a basic phone, and cheaper mode of transportation.

    It would make a world of difference if households could take what would be extravagances, and turn them into long-term savings. I think people still don't understand, or underestimate the results of compounded interest.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WSU MUP Student View post



    My serious answer...
    I don't think those who win the birth lottery deserve any extra respect. Rather those who lose the birth lottery should be provided with the tools and assistance to help level the playing field but unfortunately, all too often, they are not which only prolongs the cycle of poverty.
    I liked your non-serious answer better!

    But yeah- I don't believe that either. But hearing that from semi-family members (who are die-hard republicans) about my wife and I really just cemented my opinion that most republicans feel this way about wealth. So now I go on long winded hyperbolic political rants that may or may not be completely based in fact.
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    As Bat Masterson penned: "There are many in this old world of ours who hold that things break about even for all of us. I have observed for example that we all get the same amount of ice. The rich get it in the summertime and the poor get it in the winter."
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

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