Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

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Re: Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

Postby cherijoh » Sat Feb 09, 2013 10:33 pm

Austintatious wrote: As I mentioned, I've not read her book. I think I can say, correctly, that the word "latte" was never mentioned in the 55 minute C-Span interview I watched earlier this evening, though I cannot swear to it. If Ms. Olean actually suggests that saving money by cutting back on one's lattes, and going out for lunch five days a week, instead of brown-bagging-it, or splurging on a Beamer instead of settling for a Corolla doesn't make a difference, then she would be wrong. But I haven't read her book, yet. Have you? And how about all the others posting here who have rejected her work so readily? Have they all read her book?

There is this thing called "context", and it just mioght apply to this woman and her work. Why don't you "invest" in the 55 minutes it takes to view the C-Span interview and see what you think? And if you already have viewed that interview, what do you think, Victoria?


Lattes may not have been mentioned in her C-span interview, but here is a quote from her opinion piece that is linked from an earlier post in this thread (Vhttp://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/opinion/sunday/cant-save-heres-why.html?ref=contributors):

"THE odds are good that you haven’t yet given up on your New Year’s resolutions and that one of them is to swear off those expensive cappuccinos and save money for your old age. That’s a typical suggestion from finance gurus, who say we can add thousands of dollars annually to our nest eggs by eliminating such wasteful spending. But deciding to take your lunch to work or to cancel your cable television won’t help nearly as much as you’d think."

I think most of the earlier posts that you are skewering about jumping to conclusions, relate to her opinion piece rather than the book.
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Re: Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

Postby hq38sq43 » Sat Feb 09, 2013 10:35 pm

For most of my 30 yrs+ career I brown bagged. Whether it helped a lot or not, it surely didn't hurt.

Best regards,
Harry at Bradenton
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Re: Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

Postby Austintatious » Sun Feb 10, 2013 10:03 am

hq38sq43 wrote:For most of my 30 yrs+ career I brown bagged. Whether it helped a lot or not, it surely didn't hurt.

Best regards,


For most of us, brown bagging it would represent meaningful savings. Unlike you, it took me longer than I care to admit to realize that going out for lunch with office colleagues 5 days a week, instead of brown bagging it, really was a significant and unwise drain on our finances, hundred of dollars a month. Clearly, that practice over 30+ years saved you some serious money, and something tells me that you were putting it to good use. Congratulations.
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Re: Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

Postby Austintatious » Sun Feb 10, 2013 10:48 am

cherijoh wrote:

Lattes may not have been mentioned in her C-span interview, but here is a quote from her opinion piece that is linked from an earlier post in this thread (Vhttp://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/opinion/sunday/cant-save-heres-why.html?ref=contributors):

"THE odds are good that you haven’t yet given up on your New Year’s resolutions and that one of them is to swear off those expensive cappuccinos and save money for your old age. That’s a typical suggestion from finance gurus, who say we can add thousands of dollars annually to our nest eggs by eliminating such wasteful spending. But deciding to take your lunch to work or to cancel your cable television won’t help nearly as much as you’d think."

I think most of the earlier posts that you are skewering about jumping to conclusions, relate to her opinion piece rather than the book.


My read of that opinion piece is that she was trying to say (and not very well) that there are bigger financial problems facing most Americans today that can be resolved by cutting back on those daily unnecessaries like one's regular morning cappuccino. I agree that the idea was not well stated, and I'll attest, based on personal history, that cutting back on the unnecessary spending so many of us are guilty of can result in very meaningful savings. If she intended to suggest otherwise, I think she'd be wrong but, IMO, she simply was using the recommendation of "the finance gurus" , of whom she is particularly disdainful, to point out that there are some very real forces at work in our economy that are negatively influencing our ability to generate and save income. I do think the way she put it was unfortunate and was bound to draw fire, but I'm going to be surprised if I learn that she believes cutting back on unnecessary spending can't yield meaningful results. And yes, I did conclude that some who posted here had jumped to the wrong conclusions about her message, as had I, having read only the thread and her opinion piece before viewing that C-span interview. Thanks for responding.
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Re: Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

Postby DaleMaley » Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:12 am

Austintatious wrote:
VictoriaF wrote:
Austintatious wrote:Of course, if after I've read Ms. Olean's latest work, I conclude that my 16 bucks was poorly invested, I'll just have to put off retirement for another year.

If the $16 is poorly invested then you will disagree with Ms. Olean's premise that saving on lattes does not matter, and therefore you will immediately start saving on lattes. By saving on five lattes you would recoup the cost of the book and put off your retirement by mere eleven months.

Victoria


As I mentioned, I've not read her book. I think I can say, correctly, that the word "latte" was never mentioned in the 55 minute C-Span interview I watched earlier this evening, though I cannot swear to it. If Ms. Olean actually suggests that saving money by cutting back on one's lattes, and going out for lunch five days a week, instead of brown-bagging-it, or splurging on a Beamer instead of settling for a Corolla doesn't make a difference, then she would be wrong. But I haven't read her book, yet. Have you? And how about all the others posting here who have rejected her work so readily? Have they all read her book?

There is this thing called "context", and it just mioght apply to this woman and her work. Why don't you "invest" in the 55 minutes it takes to view the C-Span interview and see what you think? And if you already have viewed that interview, what do you think, Victoria?


I did read every page of her book. She devotes 6 straight pages to the latte factor, pgs 48 to 53, in Chapter Three titled The Latte is a Lie.
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Re: Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

Postby KyleAAA » Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:26 am

DaleMaley wrote:I did read every page of her book. She devotes 6 straight pages to the latte factor, pgs 48 to 53, in Chapter Three titled The Latte is a Lie.


Her point wasn't that cutting back on small luxuries CAN'T help: clearly, mathematically it can and does. Her point was that it probably WON'T help most people. It's being peddeled as a cure to our financial woes when it just isn't. For one, very, very few people are going to be able to follow through. Even if it's good advice in theory (and it is), it doesn't matter if you can't put it into practice, as most people can't. How many people do things they know are bad for them? Everybody. Second, even if you never buy another latte in your life, it isn't going to magically cause you to have a secure retirement. There just isn't that much savings there. Third, even if you assume said person does absolutely everything perfectly, it's going to have a miniscule impact on the amount they save for retirement compared to the big things said person has little to no control over (illness in the family, economic crash causing long-term unemployment, disability, etc). Yes, IF all else is equal and the ONLY thing you change is that one person doesn't buy lattes and the other one does AND you assume the non-buyer saves all that money for retirement, it's obvious who will be better off. But that's not real life. I think everybody is grossly misreading what Olen is actually saying. She is just saying there are forces at play you can't control that have a bigger influence on whether you can or cannot save enough to have a comfortable retirement than scrimping and saving, and she's right. Middle class Americans are going to find that fact difficult to accept because it means they have to admit they DIDN'T entirely pull themselves up by their bootstraps but were instead born into privilege, but it's absolutely true. They will have to accept that if they did exactly the same things in exactly the same ways and the only difference is they were born into less privileged circumstances, things probably would have turned out very differently. When we can take the zip code somebody was born in and guess with an extremely high degree of accuracy what level of wealth that person will eventually attain, something is wrong. That's Olen's point. For what it's worth, I attended a speech by Condoleeza Rice recently and she basically said the same thing, so it's not a partisan issue.

Waiting for this thread to be locked...
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Re: Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

Postby Austintatious » Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:41 am

[quote="DaleMaley"] I did read every page of her book. She devotes 6 straight pages to the latte factor, pgs 48 to 53, in Chapter Three titled The Latte is a Lie.[/quote

I'll be reading it, as well. In the meantime, what is the gist of her message in Chapter 3, "The Latte is a Lie"? Is she saying that cutting out unnecessary spending like that daily and relatively expensive cup of coffee at America's favorite coffee shop, in and of itself, just won't make a real difference, or is she saying that it's a concept that's oversold by those finance guru's she's not so keen on as THE way to financial bliss? Or is it something else? Having viewed the C-span interview, it seems that she's less than happy with financial advisors in general, at least those not assuming a fiduciary relationship and responsibility to those they're advising.
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Re: Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

Postby Austintatious » Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:55 am

KyleAAA wrote:

Her point wasn't that cutting back on small luxuries CAN'T help: clearly, mathematically it can and does. Her point was that it probably WON'T help most people. It's being peddeled as a cure to our financial woes when it just isn't.

Waiting for this thread to be locked...


Your interpretation of her message seems to be the most logical, for it just wouldn't make sense for one knowledgeable in matters of personal finance to be suggesting that frugality isn't going to make some difference in one's financial condition. And why do you say you're waiting for this thread to be locked? We certainly haven't discussed religion or politics.
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Re: Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

Postby DaleMaley » Sun Feb 10, 2013 1:16 pm

Austintatious wrote:
DaleMaley wrote: I did read every page of her book. She devotes 6 straight pages to the latte factor, pgs 48 to 53, in Chapter Three titled The Latte is a Lie.[/quote

I'll be reading it, as well. In the meantime, what is the gist of her message in Chapter 3, "The Latte is a Lie"? Is she saying that cutting out unnecessary spending like that daily and relatively expensive cup of coffee at America's favorite coffee shop, in and of itself, just won't make a real difference, or is she saying that it's a concept that's oversold by those finance guru's she's not so keen on as THE way to financial bliss? Or is it something else? Having viewed the C-span interview, it seems that she's less than happy with financial advisors in general, at least those not assuming a fiduciary relationship and responsibility to those they're advising.


First she points out the latte claim of skipping your daily latte and instead investing the proceeds does not get you $2 million as Bach has claimed. Her second theme is that since about half of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, it is impossible for them to cut any discretionary items and invest the proceeds. She summarizes that it is outrageous for Bach to profit so much from such a mathematically false claim.
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Re: Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

Postby Austintatious » Sun Feb 10, 2013 2:20 pm

DaleMaley wrote:

First she points out the latte claim of skipping your daily latte and instead investing the proceeds does not get you $2 million as Bach has claimed. Her second theme is that since about half of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, it is impossible for them to cut any discretionary items and invest the proceeds. She summarizes that it is outrageous for Bach to profit so much from such a mathematically false claim.


Thanks for responding. I'll be reading the book, shortly.
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Re: Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

Postby livesoft » Sun Feb 10, 2013 2:34 pm

As I read this thread and then the linked NYTimes opininion piece, I was left wondering: Does Olen have any recommendations? And at about the same time I saw an Edward Jones commercial on television which clearly pushed for "face time" and personal face-to-face advice. Clearly, Vanguard eschews the importance, if there really is any, to face time.

So how does one avoid the traps? And how does one write about it without seeming "holier than thou"?

I'll list some traps:

1. Whole life insurance
2. Many car loans
3. Housing choices, buying a house too soon, in the wrong location, rent too high, ...
4. Ridiculously expensive day care
5. Forgoing a company match on 401(k), not using a 401(k) or Roth early
6. Credit card debt
7. Spending too much on kids
8. Student loans to get a McJob
9. Paying for financial advice and face-time
10. ....

Does Olen go through these point by point and give wise advice?
It's all about short-term opportunistic rebalancing due to a short-term change in one's asset allocation, uh, I mean opportunistic rebalancing, uh I mean rebalancing, uh I mean market timing.
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Re: Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

Postby DaleMaley » Sun Feb 10, 2013 6:16 pm

livesoft wrote:As I read this thread and then the linked NYTimes opininion piece, I was left wondering: Does Olen have any recommendations? And at about the same time I saw an Edward Jones commercial on television which clearly pushed for "face time" and personal face-to-face advice. Clearly, Vanguard eschews the importance, if there really is any, to face time.

So how does one avoid the traps? And how does one write about it without seeming "holier than thou"?

I'll list some traps:

1. Whole life insurance
2. Many car loans
3. Housing choices, buying a house too soon, in the wrong location, rent too high, ...
4. Ridiculously expensive day care
5. Forgoing a company match on 401(k), not using a 401(k) or Roth early
6. Credit card debt
7. Spending too much on kids
8. Student loans to get a McJob
9. Paying for financial advice and face-time
10. ....

Does Olen go through these point by point and give wise advice?


In the book she gives zero recommendations. I assume she does not give recommendations because she continuously argues through-out the book that most people are helpless due to income and social inequality. Her only recommendation at the end of the book is to get out and talk about the income and social inequality.
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Re: Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

Postby livesoft » Sun Feb 10, 2013 7:10 pm

I'll send her a basket pound of Cheese,
It's all about short-term opportunistic rebalancing due to a short-term change in one's asset allocation, uh, I mean opportunistic rebalancing, uh I mean rebalancing, uh I mean market timing.
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Re: Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

Postby KyleAAA » Sun Feb 10, 2013 7:12 pm

livesoft wrote:As I read this thread and then the linked NYTimes opininion piece, I was left wondering: Does Olen have any recommendations? And at about the same time I saw an Edward Jones commercial on television which clearly pushed for "face time" and personal face-to-face advice. Clearly, Vanguard eschews the importance, if there really is any, to face time.

So how does one avoid the traps? And how does one write about it without seeming "holier than thou"?

I'll list some traps:

1. Whole life insurance
2. Many car loans
3. Housing choices, buying a house too soon, in the wrong location, rent too high, ...
4. Ridiculously expensive day care
5. Forgoing a company match on 401(k), not using a 401(k) or Roth early
6. Credit card debt
7. Spending too much on kids
8. Student loans to get a McJob
9. Paying for financial advice and face-time
10. ....

Does Olen go through these point by point and give wise advice?


No, it's not a personal finance book. It's written as an expose on the industry.
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Re: Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

Postby DaleMaley » Sun Mar 10, 2013 10:08 am

I agree with Knight Kiplinger's review of Olen's book........

http://www.kiplinger.com/article/saving ... vable.html
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Re: Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

Postby Toons » Sun Mar 10, 2013 10:42 am

hq38sq43 wrote:For most of my 30 yrs+ career I brown bagged. Whether it helped a lot or not, it surely didn't hurt.

Best regards,


Estimate
5.00 per day=25.00 per week
25x50 weeks(exclude 2 for vacation :wink: )=1,250
1250x30 years=37,500

I would say that is a meaningful amount of money,good job :sharebeer
"One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity" –Bruce Lee
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Re: Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

Postby trudy » Sun Mar 10, 2013 10:50 am

Novine wrote:I wouldn't be so quick to discount her arguments. The median household income in the US is around $50,000. If you have kids and a mortgage and are working in a job where your income hasn't gone up in the past few years, how much are you really going to be able to put away for retirement? For your kids education?


How many people have 3 or 4 kids (or even more) instead of 2? How many think about how very expensive it is to raise a kid through college, or longer if they can't find a job?
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Re: Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

Postby sschullo » Sun Mar 10, 2013 11:56 am

I am disappointed so far with the book, read about a third, but I will finish it. The entire financial system is not to blame, there is a way to save, invest and retire comfortably, even in the corrupt 403b system that I used in my career.
The author's interviews are different than the book. She focused on the misrepresentations of many of the guru's, but in the book she goes further and blames the system as everybody has pointed out here. For example she lashes out at the authors of the Millionaire next door saying that the authors focused on those folks who were successful in their businesses and thus giving the wrong impression that all you have to do is start a business. She points out that starting and running a business is difficult and risky. Of course, but those authors said much more than that and they did NOT give the impression that all you have to do is start a business. I was floored!

Still, by listening to the podcast, I have a hunch that the author wanted to write some positive aspects of how to use the system for our benefit, but the publisher had a different agenda.

Creating a buzz such as framing the debate from a populist view by blaming the entire system helps accomplish the publishers' goal of making money.
2 cents,
Steve
“It’s what you learn, after you know it all, that counts.” - John Wooden
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Re: Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

Postby JMacDonald » Sun Mar 10, 2013 12:48 pm

KyleAAA wrote: Sometimes the odds are just stacked against you. That doesn't apply to most Bogleheads, but it certainly DOES apply to a large percentage of the population.

I think what makes Bogleheads unique is that we have taken the steps to take control of our financial lives. Certainly, most of us have not been born with a silver spoon in our mouths. Many people continue to make financial decisions that work against them.

With much of the conversation about lattes, I wonder if Olsen has stock in Starbucks. :D
Best Wishes, | Joe
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Re: Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

Postby Bill Bernstein » Sun Mar 10, 2013 1:15 pm

Nice thread. A few points:

1) My quote about fractions being a stretch for 90% of the population comes from Scott Burns, who told it to me 17 years ago as advice to an aspiring financial writer.

2) Just to be clear on the math, if you want to acquire a nest egg of an inflation-adjusted $1 million after 40 years of investing at a real rate of 4%, which should be doable, then you'll need to put away an inflation-adjusted $10,524 at the end of every single year. That's about 10 lattes per day. So, reading the above, we've already got a latte and killing cable as specific recommendations. Can Bogleheads come up with the other approximately $8,000 per year? I'm betting they can.

3) About inviting this lady to a Bogleheads conference: I wouldn't do it. She'd find only fat cats and kulaks.

4) Oh, and one more thing: I won't be able to read the book until it gets to the top of my library's hold list :wink:

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Re: Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

Postby AndroAsc » Sun Mar 10, 2013 2:30 pm

Her article is half correct, but more on the political side (not going to that). Here's my observations of what people spend money on that is unnecessary:

Starbucks - $5 x 365 = $1825. Alternative, don't drink coffee or make your own. I'm the former. Instant $1800 savings.

Cable/Internet - $100+ x 12 = $1200. Go for Internet only and always call and threaten to cancel for a good deal. I'm spending $30/mth now for a 18mbps line, so total cost is $30 x 12 = $360. Works out to $800 savings.

Phone/Data Plan - $80+ x 12 = $960. I used prepaid, it comes with data, and I can even use my own smartphone. I pay no more than $100/yr for the service. Works out to another $900 savings.

Electronics - Too many people don't know how to shop for deals, or buy items to reflect "social status", e.g. MacBook at $2000. My electronics budget is $1200/yr and that includes a high-end laptop, high-end desktop, decent phone and high-end tablet operating on a 3-yr cycle. I bet most people would spend 2X that much. So an estimated $1000 savings here.

That works out to $4.5k of savings per year,almost hitting the Roth IRA limits. This is just for starters, where the "quality of life" is not significantly reduced, i.e. just shop for cheaper alternatives. Moving on to the advanced level:

Kids - I don't have kids and even I know that they are expensive. Do people even do a cost-value benefit before having a kid? No!!! I remember reading that day care now is costing more than college tuition. So that's like another $10-20k/yr of savings. Enough to max out your 401k!!!

Bringing Lunch - Eating out probably costs at least $10/day, $20 x 365 = $7300, making your own food costs $2/day = $2 x 365 = $730. Savings can be $6600ish/yr. Range can increase or decrease depending on the price of eating out at your place, and how often you do it. Conservatively, $5k savings can be made with not eating out for most of the time.

So why are half of Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck as the author claims? Even eliminating the kid factor, I'm seeing almost $10k/yr of savings here....
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Re: Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

Postby KyleAAA » Sun Mar 10, 2013 5:19 pm

AndroAsc wrote:Her article is half correct, but more on the political side (not going to that). Here's my observations of what people spend money on that is unnecessary:

Starbucks - $5 x 365 = $1825. Alternative, don't drink coffee or make your own. I'm the former. Instant $1800 savings.

Cable/Internet - $100+ x 12 = $1200. Go for Internet only and always call and threaten to cancel for a good deal. I'm spending $30/mth now for a 18mbps line, so total cost is $30 x 12 = $360. Works out to $800 savings.

Phone/Data Plan - $80+ x 12 = $960. I used prepaid, it comes with data, and I can even use my own smartphone. I pay no more than $100/yr for the service. Works out to another $900 savings.

Electronics - Too many people don't know how to shop for deals, or buy items to reflect "social status", e.g. MacBook at $2000. My electronics budget is $1200/yr and that includes a high-end laptop, high-end desktop, decent phone and high-end tablet operating on a 3-yr cycle. I bet most people would spend 2X that much. So an estimated $1000 savings here.

That works out to $4.5k of savings per year,almost hitting the Roth IRA limits. This is just for starters, where the "quality of life" is not significantly reduced, i.e. just shop for cheaper alternatives. Moving on to the advanced level:

Kids - I don't have kids and even I know that they are expensive. Do people even do a cost-value benefit before having a kid? No!!! I remember reading that day care now is costing more than college tuition. So that's like another $10-20k/yr of savings. Enough to max out your 401k!!!

Bringing Lunch - Eating out probably costs at least $10/day, $20 x 365 = $7300, making your own food costs $2/day = $2 x 365 = $730. Savings can be $6600ish/yr. Range can increase or decrease depending on the price of eating out at your place, and how often you do it. Conservatively, $5k savings can be made with not eating out for most of the time.

So why are half of Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck as the author claims? Even eliminating the kid factor, I'm seeing almost $10k/yr of savings here....


I think her point is that the half of Americans who are living paycheck-to-paycheck ALREADY aren't doing most of those things. People earning minimum wage trying to support a family don't go to Starbucks and they don't eat out every day (or ever) for lunch. This advice is only going to potentially help people who are already earning enough money to get by. It's useless for those who don't.
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Re: Helaine Olen: Pound Foolish

Postby tj » Sun Mar 10, 2013 5:29 pm

Bringing Lunch - Eating out probably costs at least $10/day, $20 x 365 = $7300, making your own food costs $2/day = $2 x 365 = $730. Savings can be $6600ish/yr. Range can increase or decrease depending on the price of eating out at your place, and how often you do it. Conservatively, $5k savings can be made with not eating out for most of the time.


What can you make for $2/a day as a single person? I generally go out for lunch and dinner and spend $2 -$3/meal. It's not hard. i don't usually do fast food either.
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