All the Money in the World: A Book Review

We got a free copy of All the Money in the World by Laura Vandekam for review purposes.

Here is the review!


All the Money in the World makes the case that many of us could be optimizing our happiness better by changing how we deal with our money and our time.  We can make more money.  We can spend money on different things.  We can keep perspective on what we have, what we want and so on.

Like Warren’s All Your Worth, Vanderkam advocates getting spending right on the big things, not Bach’s latte factor.  Lattes, she argues, bring more happiness than extra square feet in housing (or, in most cases, expensive jewelry).  She’s also a proponent of making more money and using that money to buy time… she mentions the frugality alternative, but mainly gives it lip service.  (Personally, I like the idea of maximizing the gap between earning and spending!)  Another main tenet of the book is the suggestion to figure out what makes you happy and spend money and time on that *now* rather than “tomorrow” (but with balance).

There’s a great section on retirement that focuses on the new face of retirement age and looks on work in older age as an opportunity for personal growth doing something different.  However, I don’t think it emphasizes enough the subset of retiree age folks who will be unable to work or even volunteer for health and other reasons (discrimination, skills obsolescence, etc.)– that’s a real worry that many of us will be unable to anticipate but should plan for, just in case.

The investment sections focus mainly on giving and peer-to-peer kinds of investing.  Basically they’re what I would consider hobby investing, making this investing into a consumption good like when people say they play the lottery for the entertainment value and not because they think they’re actually making a wise money decision.  This kind of investing would be on top of what you’re doing for your retirement funds and would fit into your charitable/social work mental account rather than your money making strategies.

Her weekly book-club has also been fun to read through.

Awesome parts

The book is a very easy read.

She understands economics conceptually and explains it well.  I like that.  Hopefully people reading the book come out with a deep understanding of what opportunity costs are.  In addition, I like the research base.  It was also fun seeing people I know quoted.

Life changing?

Probably not.  A personal finance guru manual for how to live your life– no, she clearly does not have that intention.  Entertaining, definitely.

Will it be useful to you?  Well, I think if you’re a bright type-A kind of person who just hasn’t thought about these issues, it could really open your eyes to the possibilities out there.

Was it useful for me?

Well, no.  I already feel like I’m optimizing my time and money given the constraints I have.  Sure I could work harder on bringing side income, but… then I would have less time, and time is really what I would want to buy.  At the other end, I could spend more on things that give me time, but we’ve done that in the past and right now it isn’t worth it– especially the extra time and hassle it takes to find someone competent who isn’t going to charge you something different from you agreed on and won’t mow over the new blueberry plants.  (Besides, I love the muscles my partner gets from the push mower in the summer.  Mmmmm.  Who needs to spend time at the gym?)

Random side notes

She pokes a bit of fun at the minimalist and homesteading movements.  Not really sure what she has against home-grown tomatoes.  As a symbol of a time-waster you can spend money to get they seem pretty weak– tomatoes are pretty easy to grow (even I can’t kill them) and they’re SO much better than what you can get in stores.  Not everybody has access to local organic heirloom tomatoes at a farmer’s market or Whole Foods!  I would have picked something more difficult to grow or easier to get a good quality version of at the supermarket (maybe cucumbers?).

Her story about ziploc baggies resonates with me.  I’m guessing we had similar upbringings followed by a similar path into upper-middle-class-hood.  (And, based on what I remember on her blog, we mostly did, including our high school experiences.)

She *almost* has a great soundbite explaining why there isn’t a fixed number of jobs in the economy.  That’s my biggest stumbling block with reporters, trying to explain why, without drawing graphs, someone taking a job doesn’t mean someone else loses a job.  I’m still not there yet.  I think she understands it conceptually and man, I wish she could boil it down to a soundbite I could steal.

Bottom Line

If you don’t feel like you’re already perfect, if you feel like you’re drowning in money problems or in time issues, then she’s probably got something to say to you.  And the message goes down pretty easy.  Get more money, buy more time.  Worth a read.

Link Love

Not of General Interest discusses academic bloggers cutting down or cutting out and why.  It inspires an interesting question that we may discuss in the future of why do people blog in the first place? is being very nice telling me what I can make with ingredients I have

Mike and Molly review their getting out of debt story.

An interview with eemusings by cordelia quits.

Karifur’s mom is pretty badass.

A Gai Shan Life is inspirational.

Recently there was a story in the news about financial and other misdeeds by Iberian Royalty.  Since then I’ve had this stuck in my head:

Google Q&A

Q:  what will show up on the final exam

A:  Material that we have covered throughout the semester.

Q:  is it okay to ask coworkers to buy stuff from school fundraiser

A:  Only if you hate them.  (Note:  this does not apply to girlscout cookie fundraisers.)

Q:  what do you do when you move to midwest and realize you hate it.

A:  Make plans to move out.  Also:  buy down.  As in comforters, coats etc.

Q:  can a second job that pays minimum wage really make a difference

A:  If it keeps you from accumulating more debt because you’re too tired to shop, it sure can.

Q:  why do people make smilies like “)

A:  I believe that is what we call, “unclear on the concept”

Q:  should children come first

A:  If you’re a traditionalist, the order is:  1.  Love, 2.  Marriage, 3. baby in carriage.  (Step 0:  Tree sitting and kissing.)  However, plenty of single parents are doing great so love and child could come concurrently (in this case, love for said child).

Q:  do you make young children do things they dont want to do

A:  Ayup.

Q:  should people be told how to spend their money

A:  The people who should be told probably won’t listen, so there’s not much point.

Q:  if my house is paid off do i still have to have homeowners insurance

A:  No (or at least not usually– check your state and local ordinances), but you probably should anyway unless you wouldn’t have a problem if you lost everything.

Q:  is it bad to eat a little bit of nacho chips and cheese sauce during pregnancy ?

A:  Only if you’re seriously allergic!  Also:  if you lean towards gestational diabetes or insulin resistance you would want to lay off the chips during the first trimester and only have a little third trimester.  A little bit second trimester should be fine.  Go heavy on the cheese sauce to, you know, balance things.

Cutting down on the blog

There comes a time in many blog’s life when real life gets too busy for a full-time hobby.  We’re not making any money from this, so there’s no incentive to let the hobby become unpleasant.  Sorry to have disappointed you, CPP, but the blog just isn’t a priority compared to our academic work, families, new hobbies, etc.

So we will be moving from six days a week to erratic updating.  Just like most academic bloggers.  (Or maybe we’ll just drop Thursdays… it’ll be like one of those Skinner boxes where you either have to sign up for an RSS feed or come back at random intervals/press the lever to find out.)

The one of us who is a mother will be cutting off mothering blogs.  She’s really tired of being told that she’s not allowed to be happy (or that she’s a deluded liar) and no longer has enough energy to fight the patriarchy on this subject.  Especially when people are being told it’s their feminist right to be miserable and to bring all other women down with them.  Whatever.  It’s my feminist right to let them bring each other down and ignore it.  Putting on my own mask and making sure I’m on a different plane than the anti-mask people.

We will try to keep up the Monday Money posts, and we got a lot of good questions for Ask the Grumpies Fridays.  So not a complete disappearance!

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A warning for those who decide to accelerate: And why is weird so bad?

If you decide to accelerate your kid and if this information gets out through cross-examination from strangers, say, at the airport, then the conversation invariably goes like this: “I redshirted my kid, best decision I ever made, she’s so popular and she gets straight As. There’s a kid in her class who is younger and he’s just WEIRD. Just as a warning, maybe it doesn’t matter so much now, but when ze gets to the high school level kids who skip just end up weird.”

You will also get this argument many times should you post about it on your blog (“I know a kid who skipped and he was socially ostracized”).

People really don’t get counterfactuals– that correlation is not causation.

I think we got some anecdotal examples here about some kid being skipped and he was a sociopath and mean to his brother… as if that had anything to do with acceleration.  What I said to the woman in the airport was that the kid probably would have been weird even if he hadn’t been skipped (‘cuz I teach statistics).

But what I should have said (and I did not think about this until later that night), was that maybe there isn’t anything wrong with being weird (maybe even, “Bill Gates was weird”).

Maybe being different isn’t so bad, especially when the same as everyone else is pretty mediocre.  Maybe middle school popularity shouldn’t be our end-goal in life.  When kids who are different grow up, sometimes they do quite well for themselves, better than the folks who spent their entire K-12 career blending in.  What’s the t-shirt say, Well-behaved women seldom make history?

I think Sheldon says it very well in this comic.  (Weird kids out there… It gets better!)

Do you think that being weird in K-12 is the worst thing that can befall a kid?  Do you really believe that the only way a an out-of-synch kid can keep from being socially ostracized is by being kept with hir same aged peers, even when they have nothing in common?  (That last question there is rhetorical– not only is there a nice literature on the social benefits of acceleration for out-of-synch kids, we can assure you it is far worse to hang back from personal experience.)

Freelancing: Thoughts on Scalzi’s “You’re not fooling anyone

when you take your laptop into the coffeeshop.”

Now available for Kindle!  Or, you know, by clicking the “writing” tag on his blog.  Something like that.  Basically it’s a collection of his posts on writing up to 2006.  An entertaining read of short essays that are also blog posts.

What I got out of reading this book is that I could totally become a free-lance writer.  I have the skill-set.  I could go through the build-up process.  I can handle frequent rejection (after all, I am an academic).  I have no problem with thinking my writing is precious and uneditable.  I even have a few contacts I could tap.

But… I really don’t want to.  I just don’t think the amount of effort is worthwhile for me right now.  I just like my current job more.

I do do some free-lance writing, but only when it falls into my lap and is related to my research area.  Right now my time is too precious to seek out additional opportunities or to build up my portfolio for less than what I make now with my infrequent policy briefs and news articles and etc.  (Though, I did have to chuckle when Scalzi said that the NYTimes gets away with having people like me write for them for free in exchange for the prestige… because the NYTimes has done exactly that with me!  On an incredibly short deadline too.  Laura Vanderkam would not be impressed.  But hey, my department liked me having the byline.)

And I could be more like Betsy Stevenson (who is one of my personal heroes) and be a public academic for my area of research expertise, but I fear that would require having twitter and there’s other stuff I’d rather do with my time.

So I dunno, maybe if I go through a career crisis and we move to the SF bay area… but not any time soon.

p.s.  We were an editor’s pick in this week’s carnival of personal finance!

Have you ever thought about doing a second job but decided it wasn’t worth the time and effort?

Link love

A fantastic introspective post by MutantSuperModel.  Cheer her on!

Another chores post, this by Cherish the Scientist.

Clio Bluestocking Tales notes that we are all pregnant now, but only in the state of Arizona.

So do happy working women exist?  This info graphic from making sense of cents suggests that yes, in fact, 70% of women are happy with their work life balance (and, of course, men are happier on almost all dimensions than women, but that doesn’t mean that happy women don’t exist.)

In attach baby mode discusses differences in childbirth between her home country and the US.  And yes, epidurals do increase c-section rate, empirically.


Have you ever wanted to punch a nun in the face?  After reading this post from Fie upon this quiet life we suspect you might.

At this hectic time of the semester, what class are you struggling with, and why?

Jacq just left this awesome article on trickle down consumption in the comments– very much worth a read.

Oopsie– forgot to link to Oil and garlic’s hilarious blog reading flow chart.  Here it is!

We were in this week’s carnival of personal finance.

Ask the grumpies: We need your questions!

On Fridays we tend to alternate between answering questions that have led Google to point to our blog and answering questions from You, the Readers.  We aim to have the Google questions answered somewhere around the 15th and the 30th of each month, give or take.

We only have one Ask the Grumpies question left, and it is one that will require me to reread a scholarly article in my field and give insightful commentary on it, and since I haven’t had a weekend off from work since December, that’s just not going to happen this week.  (If I had that brain power I would already be done with this referee report hanging over my head!)

And so, dear readers, we must again ask you to give us your questions.

What do you want to know?  What insights can we illuminate for you?  What brilliance can we rain down from the heavens surrounding Mount Grumpy?  What inspired or silly questions can we address for you in our vaguely humorous way?

Let us know in the comments!  Or, if you prefer to be extra anonymous, shoot us an email at grumpyrumblings at gmail.

Cleanliness is next to cleanser in the dictionary: a deliberately controversial post

Why do we have to train our kids to want to be tidy?

Yes, we need our kids to be polite and respectful of others’ spaces.  They need to know the basics of how to clean a floor or a dish or make a bed or whatever, because some day they may be a guest in someone else’s house and when you’re in someone else’s house you need to be a good guest.   But why do they need to get uneasy, unhappy, upset, etc. when a room isn’t clean?  Isn’t the ability to deal with a little bit of mess a much more important skill than the need to make sure a room is clean?

Many (but not all) women I talk to can’t even comprehend this idea.  They look at me like I’m nuts.  Eyes narrow.  Conversation gets really awkward.  Cleanliness really is next to Godliness and is something we should all be striving for and God hates those who don’t clean up after themselves.  Usually it’s women who are SAHM or who are WOHM but always stressed out and complaining about not having any time and having husbands who don’t help out enough that are most unable to comprehend the idea.   Really, just let things go.  It may even help your relationship!

(For some reason, I’ve never met a man, other than the rare case who has been formally diagnosed with OCD, who seems to have this hang-up.   A pathology in men is the social norm for women.  IBTP.  Also:  think about the implications this situation has for gender division of chores in a game theoretic framework.  The person who cares is the one who does the work.  The one who does the housework gets to relax less at home.  And bam, you’ve just supported a Gary Becker hypothesis about wage-gender differentials.)

But I think they *can’t* let things go because having things cluttered really bothers them.  It gets down deep into the craw.  And yet they want their children to have the same disability.  The same visceral need to have the place be spotless.  As if it’s a virtue.

I don’t mind a house being clean, but I don’t mind it being messy either.  Messy houses are more comfortable.  Clean houses are more like places one goes to visit.  Both have their virtues, but neither one bothers me.  Obviously there’s a problem with broken glass, rusty nails, excrement etc… but that kind of thing is not going to be an issue with the average family (even if news reports make that kind of thing seem more common).

We don’t have a house-cleaner.  We don’t need our house to be spotless.  We don’t need it to be tidy.  If company comes, we clean.  If stuff is in the way on the floor, it gets moved out of the way.   It doesn’t take that much cleaning to make sure that the kitchen and bathrooms aren’t going to be giving anyone salmonella.  Things that need to be found in a hurry are organized (like spices or paperwork).  But that level of cleanliness sure as heck doesn’t require the fly-lady.  Or spending $80/week on a cleaner.

Disclaimer:  We are NOT saying there’s something wrong with you if your house is clean.  If you have the time or the money and it’s something you value, go for it.  But if you don’t have either and it’s stressing you out, we feel bad for you.  Sure, one solution might be to somehow find time, money or family support to get things shiny, but another is to work on being more comfortable with something less than perfection.  And the ability to live with imperfection is a gift we should give all our daughters (and sons).

Does your house have to be clean?  Do you need to train your kids to become neat and tidy?  Does a made bed (Gretchin Rubin’s hang-up) or kitchen sink you can see your face in (flylady’s thing) make that stress you didn’t know you had go away?  Are you unable to function in a cluttered environment?  Do you worry about “what others must think”?  Does a messy house make you feel like less of a person… less of a woman?

Pregnancy Exercises

The BEST thing about the Bradley Course we took when I was enciente with DC was the exercises.

I’ve been recently reminded that I need to start doing those again because they feel so good.  (And not doing them… is kind of achy.)

1.  Pelvic Tilt/Pelvic Rocking:  This is the most amazing thing ever.  You get on your hands and knees and put your back flat, then you tilt your pelvis forward and back.  It should feel amazing.

2.  Butterfly.  Sit with the flats of your feet together and try to get your knees to touch the ground.  There’s also a variant where your partner pressures your knees in the other direction.

3.  Tailor sitting.  This is sitting with your legs crossed, but they don’t overlap.

4.  Squatting.  Something one should be doing a lot whenever one needs to pick something up off the ground.

5.  Kegels.  Also helpful when you sneeze…

6.  Relaxation while cuddling.  We haven’t done this one so much, but we made it an important part every day when DC was on hir way.

Any pregnancy tips you found helpful?