Once again, we’re out of Ask the Grumpies questions! We even answered the hard ones about the Amalia Miller paper and about lumpy employer benefits!
We need more questions– What grey areas can we illuminate with our infinite wisdom? What anxieties can we sooth with our forthright pragmatism? What itchy unknowns can we scratch for you all?
We answer your deepest and most frivolous questions and everything in between every other Friday. But, as perfect as we are, we’re not mind-readers and we need you to let us know how best to share our wisdom!
Leave us questions in the comments. Or if you want to be super anonymous, shoot us an email at grumpyrumblings at gmail.
September 21, 2012 at 2:11 am
I believe that the difference between being frugal and a tightwad miser is knowing when to throw money at a problem. What is that tipping point for you? Define, elaborate, ponder.
I also realize that some people have more disposable income than others. Today I have a lot more money to throw than I did 10 years ago so the tipping point has changed a little for me.
September 21, 2012 at 2:16 am
When contemplating a career change or big move, what factors play a role in your decision, and more importantly what makes you pull the trigger? For most, we are complacent beings and don’t move unless we are very unhappy or have experienced job loss. Are there other reasons one should embark on such change like for money reasons?
September 22, 2012 at 10:25 am
I second this question!
September 22, 2012 at 6:56 pm
I third this question.
September 21, 2012 at 2:28 am
What advice do you give people who are singlularly focused beings and do you think there is anything wrong with that? For example, I was recruiting this week and there are some students who have never worked or done sports. All their focus was always on academia. I have known some folks like this and although they are fiorced to change focus over time, it’s always singular. The transitions are often difficult but they become workaholics or super moms lying on the sword for the sake of their singular focus. (transitioning to retirement is often very difficult for these people). I am the total opposite so my opinion on this is skewed so I would like a more rounded view on the topic.
The third part of this question is, do you think its just how a person is wired and there’s no sense in fighting it? If we didn’t have folks like that then there would be no Olympians because I can’t imagine swimming 5 hours a day like Phelps for like 1/2 your life.
September 21, 2012 at 4:47 am
I saw this story about rising obesity rates and thought there must be an angle her for an economist. http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/chi-report-obesity-rising-dramatically-in-illinois-nation-20120918,0,3401712.story Maybe I am biased, but I’m thinking that one reason the obesity rate is rising is because people are incentivized (is that the right word?) to buy processed food with a lot of fillers, sugar, hydrogenated oils, and many other bad substances because they are so cheap. Of course they are cheap because the products that are used to make them (mostly corn and soy) are highly subsidized. So, if the subsidies were diminished or removed and the costs of cheap food fillers, the product cost would go up, too, right? Then there would be a more level playing field for true costs of foods, whether they be the highly processed junk or the whole foods like vegetables, fruit, etc. If food prices rise, that would impact people’s budgets, too, but is this logical? Factual? Inquiring minds want to know! ;-)
September 21, 2012 at 4:48 am
Sorry, typing too fast…if the subsidies were diminished or removed and the cost of cheap fillers went up, the product costs would go up, too, right?
September 21, 2012 at 9:01 am
Hi Grumpies –
I have access to both a 403b and a 457 retirement account at my new employment university (along with a mandatory retirement plant that I cannot increase or decrease my contributions to). I think that you contribute to both these types of accounts because you are super-awesome savers, but if I’m just going to do one, which should I do? A little background: the mandatory plan will take 5.5% of my yearly salary, and the uni will contribute 10% of my yearly salary to that plan as well. I can contribute whatever I want to the 403b or 457, but will not get a match. I’m 33 years old, and only started contributing to a retirement account about two years ago (~15%/year), because I have been financially idiotic for most of my life.
September 23, 2012 at 11:50 am
You may be at one of our universities– that sounds like the same set-up one of us has. We’ll answer this in full in a future post, but here’s what one of us ended up doing: https://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/retirement-saving-part-1/ and https://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2010/07/27/retirement-saving-part-3/ .
September 21, 2012 at 9:24 am
How do you know if your kid’s school is “good enough”? Should good enough even be the goal, or should you be shooting for awesome? Assume cost is not really an object.
September 21, 2012 at 6:55 pm
Along the same lines, does how good a kid’s school is relevant after a certain point? Where does parent involvement take over in the equation.
September 21, 2012 at 6:57 pm
Oh, my gosh. Embarrassing. Grammar errors while asking about childrens’ education. “Along the same lines, does how good a kid’s school is PLAY A RELEVANT ROLE after a certain point?”
I’m not entirely happy with that sentence either, but it’s a hell of a lot better.
September 21, 2012 at 9:37 am
My question is: How does one develop confidence after-the-fact? Specifically, I’m coming from a perspective of having grown up being called “perfect” all the time, yet having a mother who nit-picks and tells me what I like/don’t like and is passive-aggressive… I’ve found it’s hard to develop confidence coming from these two positions (afraid to not be perfect, afraid to do anything because it will be wrong). Any advice would be great.
September 22, 2012 at 7:04 pm
Riffing off that, how do you develop confidence when you’re good at things other people expect you to do but your true goals lie somewhere else. (ex: if I’d rather write fiction and/or be a stay at home mom, but have parents that I love but put “Jobs that make a difference” ahead of everything and haven’t expressed much confidence in my ability to parent –no kids yet, but somehow how I treat my cats reflects how I will parent???. I know it’s easy to say just do it, but that advice falls a little flat.
September 21, 2012 at 10:39 am
Wow! These are all really great questions. We are super eager to get started on them.
September 22, 2012 at 4:14 am
One more..this one is political. I was brainstorming with my friend on how to make our government more effective at driving change. One idea we had was to put a character limit on bills that go before congress. (Say a 3 page limit). So instead of having a huge proposal with 8000.sections and all kinds of ear marks, you attack a problem like health care or the economy in bite sized chunks. I am not an economist but we have implemented a similar strategy with contracts st Work. Keep them simple and add one page amendments as needed if the situation arises. We dont try to cover every scenerio ahead of time, unless its a joint venture type thing.. Nefotiating ala carte is faster than trying to do everything at once. Would love the economic’s view of this concept.
September 22, 2012 at 7:06 pm
When do you know it’s the right time to buy a house instead of renting? Is it better to rent until you have a sizable downpayment? (Let’s assume the plan is to stay in area so buying to have to sell right away isn’t likely.)
September 23, 2012 at 7:24 am
If I don’t get a match with my employer 403(b) yet, is it better to just max out my Roth IRA? I haven’t been able to do that yet, but now I have enough of a paycheck to do so.
Is it advantageous to contribute to a 403(b) if I don’t think I’ll be at a job for more than a few years? Are those easy or hard to roll over?
Also, is it better to max out my Roth this year or pay off my student loans ASAP? I have enough in the bank to do one or the other. My student loans come due soon at the shocking 6.8%! (Shocking because, uh, aren’t interest rates super low? I’m amazed that my student loan rate is higher than advertised mortgage rates right now.) I’ll be draining my efund to pay off the student loans in full; they’re subsidized, so this would mean I won’t pay any interest at all on them and essentially just floated that money for two years. I figure it’s worth draining the efund because my spouse also has an efund that is sufficient for us, and I am also in a job with earnings that will pay the efund back this year. And it is both penny and pound foolish to save money at 0.8% APR to create 6.8% interest on my loan.
(okay, that last one is more looking for validation than a question. But do you think I’m on the right path, thinking wise?)
September 23, 2012 at 7:58 am
since you’re looking for immediate validation on that last bit, yes, it sounds like you’ll be fine, pay that sucker off
September 25, 2012 at 6:45 pm
Thanks for the validation! I hate debt, and this is the only little bit I have. I am a bit sick to my stomach at the thought of draining the efund I worked so hard to build, but I keep reminding myself that I make 3x more this year than I have for a good number of years. (Not that it’s a lot, but it’s a lot in relative terms.)
And I look forward to hearing more about retirement. Even though I’ve read some about it, the whole thing is still entirely baffling. I’m good at the saving money part of the equation and horrible at the investing part.
September 26, 2012 at 8:31 am
You’ll work hard on filling that efund right back up, and then that sick feeling will go away and the more prepared you are, the more likely it is you will never have that sick feeling again, which leads to a really good feeling of knowing that sick feeling is at bay.
September 23, 2012 at 10:17 am
What about all the extra-curricular stuff with kids? As in, how much is too much for a kid? Some people go the route of doing ALL the ballet, baseball, piano, etc. with their kids. I think I’ll lean more towards the “less is more”, but where we live, your child truly can’t be on the high school soccer team unless he/she takes private lessons, and you shell out for the private indoor winter league. So I am I shutting my kids out from potential talents/dreams if I don’t do this? Also, at what age do you start and how much do you spend? What should the limits be?
September 23, 2012 at 10:25 am
https://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/enrichment-activities-a-deliberately-controversial-post/ addresses some, but not all, of that question. Also the Hush article linked in this week’s link love talks a bit about focus vs. number of enrichment activities. I guess the bottom line we’d have about the rest of your question is: It’s probably not a big deal whatever you decide. And the one of us with kids keeps meaning to start DC1 (age 5.5) on piano lessons but hasn’t gotten around to it.