I constantly knock on wood.  I even carry some around with me just in case.  I hope the wood spirits bring me luck.

I throw salt over my shoulder whenever I use some in cooking, or spill some elsewhere.  I want to appease some sort of spirit with that.

There’s a song that whenever I hear it I get bad interpersonal luck.  I hate that song.

I like to think when something bad happens to me, it’s saving up karma for something good in the future.

I cross myself when the airplane takes off.

I believe it is tempting fate to say something like, “I’m all caught up on all my work!”  (Related:  “I have no more referee reports to do.”)

What are your superstitions?  Or are you too rational to have any?


holy excrement, I win!

So BOTH convention hotels were full in DC.  I dreaded the thought of finding another hotel and going over my proposed budget.

I feel like I hit the total jackpot ‘cuz I found an awesome Bed and Breakfast through

And it was the same price or less than the convention hotel, as well as being only half a mile away (which hopefully is a lovely walk in the early summer morning right past the national zoo and not too hot yet, I hope!).

I WIN!!!!!!!!!!! is my new BFF, sorry #2.
What do you all use to help plan trips?

Link Love

So, um, yeah, this week has been crazy busy.  One of us is grading.  The other of us is crushed under the weight of administrative SNAFUs interfering with research.

Bonners billions neatly explains how amortization works differently than revolving debt, and that means prepaying your mortgage might be better than paying off a higher interest debt depending on the numbers.

New information on the Medicaid experiment from Oregon.  We’ll be talking about this in a post more at some point in the future if we ever get some time to write it.

“The big news is that Medicaid virtually wiped out crippling medical expenses among the poor: The percentage of people who faced catastrophic out-of-pocket medical expenditures (that is, greater than 30 percent of annual income) declined from 5.5 percent to about 1 percent. In addition, the people on Medicaid were about half as likely to experience other forms of financial strain—like borrowing money or delaying payments on other bills because of medical expenses.”

“The other big finding was that people on Medicaid ended up with significantly better mental health: The rate of depression among Medicaid beneficiaries was 30 percent lower than the rate of depression among people who remained uninsured.”

Miser mom has been updating.

Justin Wolfers makes me laugh sometimes.  Cupcake deflation.

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

Ask the grumpies: worth fighting insurance company?

L asks:

My employer switched health insurance companies/networks recently and a service that used to cost $75 with the old network’s discounts now costs $175 with the new network, apparently there is no discounted price. It’s the exact same service and a month apart, so it’s not like prices went up in the meantime. I told the benefits department at my company this and they gave me a bunch of bullcrap about how the new network is supposed to save us money and unfortunately my case is one where it costs more than twice as much. There’s a distribution list and I asked and there are other people seeing similar increases in service costs.

While I can absorb this, it is rather annoying and I now have the high deductible plan, so it is 100% my cost. I did finally get the bill in the mail from the provider and sure enough, it is $175 like the insurance company’s website said it would be. Do you think that I can call the provider and try to negotiate my own discount since there was such a large discrepancy between back to back visits? I really wish my employer would do something like this since we as individuals have no pull with the insurance company, but they have enough employees that they probably would…



Well, the only time we’ve ever had luck negotiating with an insurance company is when we’ve been in the right. And even then it has sometimes taken multiple phone calls. Still, it’s always worth a shot, if you think your time is worth it– you can report back to us.

What do our readers think? Have you ever had any success negotiating with an insurance company? Any thoughts for L?

Man’s search for meaning Part 2: Plant your garden

The Penny-Arcade guys are awesome.  They started out as a couple of dudes with a web-comic.  They’ve taken that web-comic and their fame and channeled it for something much bigger.  Yes, they run conventions, but more impressively, they started an awesome charity called Childs Play.

This charity, aimed at showing that video games are not evil incarnate, and that gamers can do good, connects children’s hospitals with games, books, toys, and other resources to help sick children keep their minds off their illnesses.  Donations started small– one hospital and the PA guys’ garages as storage facilities, and they made deliveries themselves.  Now they’ve ratcheted up into a large non-profit that connects with and ships directly to hospitals.

You can donate here.

And now for some negative griping.

Compare the PA guys to the onanistic navel-gazing you see from other movements.  The minimalists.  The travel the world folks.  The motivationalists.  [Note:  we are not saying that all minimalists, world-travelers, self-helpers etc. are onanistic con-artists, but you know they exist.]

The Penny Arcade dudes are real.  They have authenticity.

So much of that motivational crap seems so hollow and insincere, aimed just at making money off other people.

For the most part, they’re not actually doing anything.

The P-A guys, OTOH, are teh awesome.

And that, perhaps, is why I don’t expect them to get mid-life crises.  When you’re busy doing things that are real, you don’t have time to feel like life is meaningless.

also:  I like the word onanistic

Our next blog

One of these days, when we decide to leave academia or decide it’s time to sell our souls for more income…

We’re going to create a new blog.  We’re going to call the guy who owns the blog, Steve.  That way we won’t have to put up with patriarchal BS.  (Shhh “Steve” doesn’t really exist.  He’s just a front man.)

Steve will run a personal finance blog.  He will recycle our old and extremely awesome money posts.  We’ll disappear them from this blog so if anybody notices that there might be plagiarism, only google cache will be able to help.  We may even say that we sold the posts to Steve, so he’s not actually stealing our work.  In theory the controversy would drive up hits, and we could even write a guest post for Steve explaining that we love his blog and sold him a few posts.  Something like that.

We’re thinking of some version of for the blog host.  We’ve got some back-up plans in case that turns out to be too expensive.

He’s going to start with the plan of making moneys.  He’s going to have advertising.  He’ll do the Yakezie challenge.  He’ll accept sponsored guest posts.  He’ll do all the things that Nicole and Maggie don’t have time to or don’t want to sell their souls to do.  Heck, depending on how much time we have, he might even write paid posts for other blogs!  We’ll see.

Readers will be able to cheer him on as he works to make money so he can quit his soul-sucking dayjob.  We haven’t decided what his current job is, but we know he doesn’t like it.

We’re not sure if he’s single or married or if he has kids yet.  Probably if he has kids, there’s only one.  Hm… maybe he could be a divorced single dad with custody, but the kid has insurance through the ex-wife.  I dunno.  Or maybe he’ll just be a single guy.  So many decisions!

It’ll be awesome.  One of these days when one of us quits her dayjob.

Until then…

Stock investing: Focus on what you can control

With the market recovering, assorted PF bloggers are getting into the details of stock investing.  They all have some system that they think is going to beat the market.  Most of these systems take a lot of time, but they say the time expense is worth it if they can make higher returns than the market.

On average, once fees and transaction costs are considered, people who try to actively manage their portfolios make LESS than people who just stick money in diversified target-date funds and sit.

That means that the majority of people who sink time in with whatever system they’re following are making less money in the market than the people who just set and forget.  On top of that, they’re making less money than they would be if they were spending that time doing something that actually earns money.  (Cynically, some of these folks are getting advertising $ from their blogs for misleading people into becoming active investors.)

What can you control:

1.  The amount of money you put in
2.  The diversification mix of your portfolio
3.  The fees you pay

What can’t you control:

1.  Market returns
2.  The random walk down WallStreet

And what you might have difficulty controlling:

1.  Man’s (and to a much lesser extent, according to Greg O’Dean, Woman’s) tendency to trade too much and at exactly the wrong times

If you want to invest like Buffett, then buy some Berkshire Hathaway funds.

Even better, pick a target date and buy a Vanguard Target-date fund.  (If you’re not sure about when you’re going to retire, pick a late date.)