Better than a Romance Hero

We did have a meet cute, though it wasn’t love at first sight, more a longer friends fall in love sequence.  Sometimes I play the montage in my mind.

But there are so many ways in which you are so much better than any romance hero.

You’re not a Brooding Duke with a Tragic Backstory with Breaks that only the Heroine can Heal.  You don’t need to be fixed because you’re not broken!

You don’t provide punishing kisses.  You’re all about Enthusiastic Consent, and you are very good at getting it!

You’re not a Reformed Rake.  But you are also not a misogynist!

I’m glad you’re not the villain in an earlier novel who has been put on the path to redemption by the Failed Abduction of that book’s heroine.   It’s also good that I’ve never felt the need to injure you to protect my honor.

I’m glad our story isn’t the kind that would have ended on the third page if we’d just talked to each other.  I’m glad our story is built on shared goals.  But also glad that it has been almost entirely free of human corpses.  Or espionage.

We’re more the couple from a previous novel who makes cameos in the current novel with kids in tow.  Who speak to each other with shared glances.  And sometimes disappear for a bit, returning a bit disheveled.  Perhaps we’re there to lend support to the stories of others.  Because we seem like we have things figured out.

And if we do have things figured out, it’s because of you.  You will always be my hero.  My strong, handsome (tall and dark, now with distinguished grey at the temples), respectful, responsible hero.  Who cooks and cleans and cares for the children and sees to my needs and puts up (even seems to appreciate) my quirks.  You couldn’t have been written better if you were in a Talia Hibbert book (especially since you’re free of tattoos and motorcycles and tragic backstory).

If any heroes are attractive to me, it is only because they remind me of you.

There’s not a single person real or fictional that I would change you for.

I love you with all my heart.  Every day I thank the powers that be that we’re together.

Here’s to showing up together in decades worth of future series.  (Preferably without murders to solve or spies to uncover.)

Happy anniversary!


Link love

Where to find an Impeachment protest on Saturday

Very important thread (includes actions) on why we need to keep protesting the ice concentration camps that are already killing children.

ICE and CBP abuse tracker

Kroger recalls frozen berries over Hep A contamination

Google News does not have an anti-conservative bias… but reality still does

Hackers stole traveler’s data from US Customs

There are eight Republican senators still running unopposed in the next election

Women have fought to legalize reproductive rights for at least two centuries.
What Naomi Wolf and Cokie Roberts teach us about the need for historians

Age discrimination in hiring

Phillis Wheatley

My little pony lesbian couple makes it on screen!

Tesla Report

What is and isn’t shiplap

…. this story…

Ask the grumpies: How do you approach diversification?

Ali asks:

We are good savers but I fear not great investors (i.e., I have a good bit just sitting in the bank now because I don’t know what to do). How do you approach diversification?

Disclaimer:  We are not professional anything except academics.  Consult with a fee-only financial planner with fiduciary responsibility and/or do your own research prior to making major decisions about your money.

If you don’t know what to do and your money is just sitting in savings, the easiest thing to do is to pick out a retirement date (or house purchase date or whatever) and buy some of Vanguard’s target date fund for that year.  It will take care of diversification for you both right now and over time and you’re done.  (You can also mimic it on your own by purchasing the major indices in it.  Mimicking it will save you some money early on (far from the target date) when there’s not much movement because you’re not actually doing much rebalancing early on– you’re mostly in stocks.  It is still better just to buy the target date than to leave it in the bank trying to figure out how to mimic.)

Here’s #1’s original post about how she decided on percents in her retirement account.  They’re probably a bit conservative (too bond-heavy) for when she was younger, but are more appropriate now.  But #1 wasn’t trying to optimize– diversification isn’t about optimization, it’s about getting decent returns while still staying safe.  In fact,  diversification will always return lower than some subset of undiversified portfolios (it will do better than another subset though!).

Let’s step back a little bit an think about why we diversify.

Diversification is all about moderating risks.  We put some money in stocks, which are high risk/high return and some money in bonds which are lower risk/lower return because bonds keep their value in downturns while stocks are likely to lose value (but stocks shoot up high in up-turns while bonds… keep their value).  We keep some money in cash in the bank because it keeps its value and can be drawn on quickly in an emergency.  In general, we want money that we will draw on decades from now to be in stocks and money we will draw on within the next 5 years in something more accessible like cash or bonds.  The closer you get to your target date, be it retirement or buying a house or starting college payments, the more safe and accessible you want your money to be (with some disclaimers for college savings as where those are put can affect financial aid).

More advanced asset allocation will have you thinking about blue chips vs. tech stocks or emerging markets and international markets.  But the thing is, if you’re at the point where you’re not sure what to do with your money, you can just ignore these.  International stock indices tend to have higher fees.  If you get a broad-based index fund it will already include blue chips and tech stocks.  If you get a target-date fund, it will most likely include emerging markets and international markets in addition to bonds.

Diversification can also hide money from creditors like colleges or debt collectors.  Your primary residence has certain safety threshholds depending on where you live, but it can also be taken away if you use it to secure debt (as with a mortgage).  Your retirement savings is often protected.  Trusts and companies are other ways of protecting assets.

So… I recommend some thought exercises.

1.  Do you have an emergency fund that can cover reasonable emergencies (ex. water heater explosions, a delayed reimbursement, etc.) until your next paycheck?  That should be your first priority.

2.  Are you investing up to the match in your employment retirement account?  If you have low-fee options, put it in a target-date fund.  If you don’t, then compare the fees for the different index funds and pick a broad-based fund (if all things are equal, try to get one that matches the total market or the Russell 5000, but if the cheapest fund is the S&P 500 get that, and it’ll be ok).  For additional retirement savings it’s all about your employer fees and whether you qualify for an IRA and if you want to do a backdoor IRA.

3.  What are you doing about housing?  How much of your house is your net worth?  Do you want to buy a house in the future?  If you already own a house, how accessible is the money in case of an emergency (ex. having to move and the house not selling right away)?  For many people, the house is their main form of retirement saving besides Social Security, but in terms of diversification, this is not a great idea.  On average real estate goes up at the rate of the markets, but that’s the average– owning a single home doesn’t give you the average (it is the opposite of diversification).  If your housing market drops, you could lose a lot of savings (of course, it can go the other direction as well– we have friends in California who bought in 2008 and have gained a million dollars on paper since then).  So try not to invest so much in a house that having the market crash could devastate you.  Note though that whether or not you think it is ok to foreclose should also guide how much you’re willing to have in housing mortgage debt vs. equity (vs. renting).  In general, we do not recommend home-ownership unless you can put 20% down– yes lots of people manage ok putting less down, but lots of people were also put in bad situations having to short-sell or foreclose during the last housing crisis.  Basically, think about the worse case scenario and what would happen.

4.  When do you need the money that’s sitting in your bank account wanting to be invested?  If it’s less than 5 years, you can leave it there, or put it in cd ladders.  If it’s more than that, think about your time horizon–   are you investing for college?  Use a 529 (put it in one of their target-date funds).  Are you investing for retirement?  Use a target-date fund (or read some bogleheads forum about people in your situation).  Are you planning on buying a house in 8 years? Put it in a taxable mixture of stocks and bonds (what mix?  depends on how flexible your plans are given the vagaries of the market– to be honest, we just put it in the S&P 500 and cds as we got closer.)

Always do a mental run about what you expect on average to happen and what will happen in a reasonable worst case scenario (ex. 2008 stock market drop plus job loss, keeping in mind that the stock market increased before the drop, so it’s not like it’s 40% off what you put in, but 40% off what you put in plus your gains– the longer you’ve had it in the market, the more money you still have even after the drop).

Because a lot of diversification is about avoiding the low lows even if you miss out on the high highs.

And about acknowledging that long-run risk is different than short-run risk.  In the long-run, stocks will go up more than bonds or savings.  In the short-run, stocks are risky.

Satisficing will get you pretty close to optimizing risk vs. return.  A Vanguard target date fund is probably good enough, and it’s definitely better for long-term investing than just leaving money in a low interest savings account.

Here’s some next stage financial advice. Resources for asset allocation.

Grumpy Nation, how do you approach diversification?


  • The price of cheetos in the vending machine went up.  My colleague counted over 60 individual cheetos in her bag (the claim on the bag was 42) and has decided she thinks they are worth three cents per cheeto.
  • Home Depot wanted us to get our water turned off on Friday so as to get the countertop installed the NEXT Friday, 7 days later.  Because they only do plumbing stuff on Fridays.  So we asked if we could get a refund on the plumbing install and pay our own plumber instead because I do not want to live without a dishwasher for seven days if that can be avoided.  Especially on less than a day’s notice when there’s a salmon dish in the refrigerator I have no interest in cleaning by hand in either the laundry room or the bathroom.
  • Turns out that the Home Depot person who said plumbing was only done on Fridays was incorrect.  We’re getting the water shut off on Thursday and turned back on on Saturday [update:  turned out to be very late on Saturday but they didn’t tell us they weren’t going to make the 9am to 2pm window so we were stuck at home all day, but by 8:30pm the plumber had finished].  Whew.
  • I don’t understand why it takes the car dealership so long to actually cash the check we give them.  You’d think they’d want to lock that $20K+ down ASAP.
  • I have to share this with somebody.  I was at the gas station making sure that my Accent’s tank could fill after the replacement EV and I was next to a young guy in a business suit with a new Insight, so I asked him how he liked it, and he told me that the dealership had given him a deal in which he pays his financing bills for 9 months on the LX model (that’s the low trim) Insight and in 9 months if all his payments were on time, etc., they would trade him for a new Touring model (that’s the leather trim with all the little things my car is missing like a built-in garage door opener and a place to put your glasses) for no additional cost.  He was super excited about this and I did not want to dampen his enthusiasm, but I had to wonder how much they’re charging him both for the cost of the car and financing that such a deal makes it worthwhile for them to give a new car in exchange for a used car (though I suspect it will be a 2019 Touring model, not a 2020, so maybe that will be part of it).  They did not suggest any such shenanigans to us.  I think they are very good at this dealership in reading the customer.  We want a quick sale at low price (usually a price that we provide them after bargaining with other dealerships) and that’s what they give us.  This gentleman wanted to feel like he was getting a steal, so they offered him something unusual.  I bet in the end they make more off of him.  But we don’t take much time and we get one of their cars off the lot and driving around town for more people to see it.  (I have to say, the Insight is a really nice looking car– similar to some of the higher trim Accords in terms of exterior features.)
  • … another problem with buying a fancy car is that repairs are a LOT more expensive than for a generic low-level car that isn’t a new model.  I am too embarrassed about how I know this to say more.  Especially not about right-side mirrors with cameras on them and garages that are just a little too narrow.  (DH says that at least my stupidity costs less than unnecessary rabies shots and is a lot less stressful.  I say that I don’t have the excuse that I was being heroic.  Also he didn’t use the word stupidity because he’s a nice person.)
  • Turns out water pressure is a bit high on our new drinking water spigot.  One can create a shower for someone in the breakfast nook by attempting to fill up a water glass.
  • Also the gas hookup is taking up a little bit too much space so we can no longer close one of our drawers– we will have to get that drawer shortened or a new one made.
  • I am starting to get hooked on SiriusXM — the ability to listen to classical music during my commute is pretty amazing (our local station does NPR in the morning and doesn’t switch over to classical until 10am and is back to news by 4).  But… probably not $15/month amazing, especially when I could pay a kid to rip all of our classical cds onto a flash drive or load up some podcasts now that I have a USB drive instead of a cassette player…  So I will let it lapse when the free trial runs out.

In which #1 is completely irrational about her old car

So…. A 2005 4 door automatic in fair condition with 51,000 miles and no power locks or windows has a trade-in value of $903 according to Kelly Blue Book.  It is likely that the dealership would have given us $0 for it since they really low-balled our 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid.  We could also put it on Craigslist where there’s a private party value of $1,809, again according to  Given the effort and hassle involved, it is likely that just giving it to the dealership would have been the best option.

Especially since my car needed $450 in repairs to repair a gas tank problem.

Rationally, I believe that inanimate objects do not have souls.  That they can’t feel.  That they don’t feel betrayed.  Or sad.  Or disappointed.  But deep down, I don’t really believe that.

Deep down I love this car like I would a cherished pet.  It still has life in it and isn’t ready to be put down, but unlike the case with a pet whose main purpose is to be loved, I need reliable transportation to work and we don’t have room for a third vehicle.

And it isn’t a bad car… it just occasionally falls apart and needs repairs.

One of my colleagues (a middle-aged full-time lecturer/admin with a 3 year contract who makes something like $90K/year, so not low income, but probably did not make that much before getting this position) overheard me discussing my car buying woes with another colleague and stopped me in the hall before school ended for the year to ask if I was planning on selling my low-mileage car.  After I told him about all the flaws, he explained that his truck is getting up in years and miles and he wanted a second vehicle for when his is in the shop, or to rotate with on his daily commute.  Rather than buying a brand new car, he had been looking at getting a second beater to minimize the risk.

This seems like a really great situation for my beloved Accent’s aging years.  It can even occasionally still hang out with its buddies in the parking lot (though sadly it lost its best friend, a tiny red Miata, when another colleague’s family member traded a truck for it).  (Yes, I have created elaborate fantasies about my Accent’s secret life.  It has been with me longer than my children have!)

I’d decided on a $300 price before I realized something in the gas tank was going to need to be replaced.

So, rationally, we should have traded the car in with the broken gas tank and gotten $0 for the dealership to take it off our hands.  (This is, in fact, what we did with our first car when we bought the Accent– we hadn’t had the predecessor that long and the body work that needed to be done to get it to pass the state inspection was worth more than the value of the car.)

Instead… we paid $450 for the EV replacement.

And sold the car for $300.

It’s the end of an era.

But I feel good about this sale.  Irrational as it may be.*

Do you get attached to inanimate objects?  Do you always make rational decisions when money is involved?

*My economist friend notes that from an economic standpoint, this isn’t irrational at all because economics is about happiness, not about money and I can put a price on that additional happiness.  From a colloquial standpoint, it is completely irrational.  Unless cars really do have souls…

Link love

Migrant children describe trauma at Florida detention center.  Here’s an action you can take.


Women’s fertility app secretly bankrolled by anti-abortion, anti-birth control activists .

NPR spreads misinformation on the history of anti-abortion laws and historical research.

Illinois citizens are protected if Roe v Wade gets overturned because of sweeping abortion rights legislation.  Go Illinois!  (Here’s a paired action for your state)

Mary Robinette Kowal contrasts finding a lump in Iceland without health insurance vs. in the US with health insurance.  (Paired action)


Remember those secretary of state voter purges that purged actual voters in Texas?  Turns out they were ordered by the governor himself.  (If you’re from Texas, I guess you can call the governor’s office to complain, but only Texans.)  Here’s an op-ed with more suggestions.

Should we re-institute the fairness doctrine?

No patience for a brewing trend in personal finance mansplaining

Dame Eleanor with sources of inspiration

Leave a fun video in the comments?

Ask the grumpies: Where to find hope

Leah asks:

How do you find hope in the world? In general, I suppose, and also specifically right now.

I am finding hope in the state of Texas, of all places.  Beto didn’t win, but his coattails caused enough of a change in the state legislature that the bathroom bill didn’t get discussed much less voted on (last legislature it almost passed), they didn’t vote on a draconian heartbeat bill punishing women unlike the rest of the south and much of the Midwest, and although an anti-voter bill (SB9) passed the senate it died in calendars in the house.  Activism– all those people campaigning for Beto– caused change.  That gives me hope that the more we do, the more we fight evil, the more terrible policies we will keep from happening.  In places that are already limiting the right to vote, those of us with privilege need to fight with and for those without.

I also find hope in how (relatively) quickly the perception of LGBTQ people is changing for the better, and how there are more and more LGBT rights are being legislated, and are being discussed as obvious.  Matt Baume is a source of joy and inspiration.  What he reports on is not always happy (see:  military bans), but he does a great job of providing historical context and hope for the future… along with a nice dose of humor.  (I am enjoying his book on the road to LGBTQ marriage, Defining Marriage.)

I find hope that the majority of people still believe that women should have the right do control their own bodies and that we should not treat minorities poorly because of the color of their skin of their ancestry.  (In fact, being “pro-life” aka forced birth right now is not something people want to admit in polite company.  They frown at us as we protest, but they don’t say anything.)  We still want to be good people.  We still want to do the right thing.  Even in the face of Bond villains.  And yes, in the short term it’s not been enough, but without the resistance things would have been far worse– they’ve tried to make things much worse and had to back-off.

I find hope and inspiration in Wandering Scientist’s weekly actions.  And in swingleft and indivisible and racies texas and the ACLU.  And the spirit of the resistance.  The ability to slog through even when things seem to be getting worse.

Doctors without borders recently sent me a totebag and a note that I should be finding hope in how much better the developing world is getting in terms of disease, which is true and is something that John Green finds hope in.  I still did not send them money because any nonprofit that wastes money sending me a totebag unasked for is not one I want to encourage. (John Green also finds hope in third tier English soccer, which… me not so much.)

So, although it is trite, I find hope in actions and in the actions of others.  Viva la resistance.  (*French —> Spanish intentional.)

Where do you find hope?