Soliciting more Ask the grumpies questions!

Yes folks, it’s that time again.  We even answered the hard economicsy ones and we’re out of Ask the Grumpies questions.

We do have a few that Debbie M. offered up the other week when she was feeling sorry for us for only having tough questions left, but we’re counting that as part of this round’s solicitation.

So, what questions do you have for us?  What can we bring clarity or further confusion to?  What can the grumpy nation ponder and discuss on your behalf?  Ask in the comments below or email us at grumpyrumblings at gmail dot com.

32 Responses to “Soliciting more Ask the grumpies questions!”

  1. Miser Mom Says:

    Ah, here’s a real-time question for you. How does a young (20-something) person invest a large, sudden inheritance? Let’s say she just got $300K in life insurance, and is expecting a similar amount in the form of the pension/retirement account that comes with the estate.

    She is currently unemployed (or at least, employed only in cleaning out her dad’s home and getting it ready to be sold). She’s guessing she might want to semi-retire on this money.

    I had some advice for her. I reminded her that when she was young she used to beg me for a pony, and I told her she could get one herself when she grew up. I don’t think the pony is in her financial plans at this point, though.

    • Leah Says:

      Ahh, so sorry to hear about your loss. I suppose this was expected but still sad. My best to you and your daughter.

      Can’t wait until your next break so we can get some updates from you. I’m especially excited to hear about X-son.

      • Miser Mom Says:

        Thanks, Leah. For many more reasons than this, this has been a hard semester for us (updates will come, but not soon). My daughter would certainly rather have her father than have all his money; she’s really, really sad. But at least she thought my pony advice was funny.

  2. Leah Says:

    I comfortably live on my salary with no issues. I easily put away 50% each paycheck (between savings and retirement). But my salary isn’t huge. Should I be digging deeper to find some less-easy money to amp up my retirement or savings account? I’m contributing to my 403(b) but not really my Roth IRA because I don’t know how to use my bank’s interface. Yes, lamest excuse ever.

  3. Leah Says:

    I have more retirement questions but think you may have answered them at some point:
    1. How does my spouse saving for retirement impact my savings? As in, is it okay to not save quite as much? I’m saving, but I’m not saving 15% of my income for retirement.
    2. I started saving at 30 for retirement. How much do I have to save?

  4. bogart Says:

    Oh, I once said I’d email and never got around to it. But here’s what I want to know: what is the actual evidence on kids and screen time? Preferably broken down by age and screen-time type. Most of what I can find that seems of any quality is about childhood obesity and/or physical activity, neither of which is high on my list of concerns about my own kid.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      “Most of what I can find that seems of any quality is about childhood obesity and/or physical activity, neither of which is high on my list of concerns about my own kid.” This. Also related stuff on child neglect. (It isn’t the tv, it’s the lack of interaction.)

      The economics evidence doesn’t break down by age and screen-time type, but uses things like the introduction of television to find that there’s no effects on average. I can’t remember if that’s Jesse Shapiro or Dan Benjamin who wrote the article.

    • Leah Says:

      I don’t have the link handy, but I know there was a study about attention span and screen time in kids under the age of 2. I hit up google scholar, and most links are for physical activity, but more detailed searches might help.

    • bogart Says:

      Thanks, both of you. Not that I’m motivated entirely by self-interest (oh, wait, yes I am, well, at least, parental interest), but my kid’s 6, so the earlier age stuff isn’t *that* interesting to me. I’ve been searching PubMed, I’ll look at the authors you mention.

  5. SP Says:

    Where do you park your cash when saving up for a larger downpayment? So far Ally Bank CDs are my leading candidate. Leigh recommended getting the 5 year and breaking after 2 due to low penalty. I’m wondering if rates might be going up soon. We currently have something like $50k in a “high yield” savings account at .75% or something like that, and expect to add something like $4k/month.

  6. Cloud Says:

    This one may be hard… I don’t know: Are we or are we not living in an age of unusual political polarization? I am regretting not taking more history in college. Perhaps I could rectify that now with some directed reading, but my reading list is already soooo lonnnngggggg…..

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      My colleagues say yes and they point to gerrymandering and that easy filibuster rule.

    • bogart Says:

      If you are talking about Congress, here are two blog posts by scholars who are widely published on this issue: , . The short answer is yes, and that most of the recent ideological motion has been a rightward move by Republicans. If you’re talking about the electorate, I’ll need to pull up different information and my sense is the story is somewhat murkier. Gerrymandering is clearly an issue (but nothing new), and it seems we (individuals) are self-sorting in ways that involve ideological clustering more than we used to, but I’d have to dig out sources.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        My sense is that every time the census districts are redrawn, gerrymandering is bad. But the essence of gerrymandering is such that it only takes a little bit to tip districts over on average (the way that gerrymandering works is you’re trying to get the biggest partisan bang for the buck, so there’s a lot of fragile districts), so as time goes on the effects of gerrymandering diminish until the next redistricting.

        There’s also a lot of talk lately about how republicans are doing a good job of taking over state legislatures and state governments, which can have national effects through things like redistricting or setting educational curricula.

      • bogart Says:

        I’d have to look this up to confirm/quantify, but my sense is that a noticeable Republican takeover of state legislatures and governorships coincided with the recent round of redistricting, leading to gerrymandering more obvious to many of us because it benefits those “other” guys. The development of majority minority districts has arguably also exacerbated this, as drawing district lines to concentrate African-American voters obviously concentrates a large and probably the most predictably Democratic constituency in one place and, by extension, makes it unavailable to others.

        On the other hand, prior to the 1960s many Southern states (at least) simply didn’t redistrict (much), giving a pronouncedly amplified voice to rural (white) voters at the expense of urban (black) voters. So how bad things are is partly a function of what you’re comparing them to, as ever.

  7. Sunflower Says:

    I am in my first year in a t-t position (although I had a two year limited term contract in the same position before convincing them to move me into a tenure-stream position). My husband (who is also t-t faculty in the same dept as me) and I are pregnant with our first child and are now at the “we can tell people” stage (13 weeks). We are not sure who to tell (or how) at work about our exciting (for us!) news. We will tell our Dean as soon as we can (we are non-departmentalized, so he’s our “immediate” report) – but are not sure how to go about telling our chair, colleagues, students, etc. We are collegial with most of our colleagues but not friends with them outside of work.

    We talked about announcing it at our group meeting (not the whole faculty, but the subset that we work closest with), telling individuals and just letting word spread, not telling anyone and waiting until they figure it out… but haven’t decided which is best. Then there is the issue of telling our grad students (and the rest of the students in our area but not in our lab groups). We are both generally well-liked by the students, so we anticipate that they will all be happy for us… but it is gossip that will spread very quickly, so we have to be careful that the right people know first (e.g., the Dean) so that they don’t find out through the rumor mill.

    We are both relatively private people – we keep work and private lives separate and don’t socialize with our colleagues outside of work functions (we are younger than most of them so we don’t really have much in common other than work-related things). We may be underestimating their reactions, but we are also cautious about how this will impact both of us (particularly me) – my chair is quite sexist and I’ve had to fight him on a number of things (although our Dean is a strong gay man and doesn’t put up with sexist nonsense from anyone, which is great!).

    Suggestions? This may seem like a bit of an odd question, but I imagine that you and your readers have likely addressed something like this before – and given that you are looking for questions to answer and I am not sure what to do with this situation, I thought I’d ask! :) Thanks for your thoughts!

  8. SP Says:

    Any advice for my husband, who is starting his first TT job in January? He’s in a science field, if that matters. He’s read this article: http://i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-the-tenure-track-faculty-life/ if you have any opinion on it.

    One area his struggles is with time management and deadlines. He meets his deadlines, but often will work on new research until he absolutely has to start preparing a paper, then is working until the very last minute. “If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute!” He’s done fine in grad school and post-doc, but he is worried that his style won’t translate well to balancing teaching and advising with research.

    • Leah Says:

      yes, time management and organization info would be great!

      Also, are there primers out there on curriculum development? That’s always a challenge for me. I have a hard time seeing the year as a whole when I try to plan individual days.

  9. rented life Says:

    Why is it every time I make a comment about how you shouldn’t comment/touch/etc pregnant women, some asshat needs to tell me that “like it or not” pregnant women are seen as public property? (I’d frankly argue ALL women are seen this way but I won’t fill up this comment with why). That these things are primal urges and I should just accept them? Hello slippery slope.
    I know the short answer is patriarchy, but seriously, I am tired of having to work so hard against this. I’m pregnant and super sick and I fully expected at least SOME support during this time. Instead I have zero from the people who matter (except husband). (Some proof–my “baby shower” involved me running the show, being on my feet and blowing out my ankle.) Maybe I just need a good rant, but really this is why I withhold information about my pregnancy to the same group of people.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’m so, so sorry you experienced this. We’re tired of fighting patriarchy too, and we’re not even pregnant. We overcome primal urges all the time; it’s called society. Some people just think rules don’t apply to them. Grrrr.

      • rented life Says:

        I hadn’t had the primal thing thrown at me until recently. I was sharing that with my mom because neither of us find it terribly primal to touch other people like that. (She touches my belly, but she’s grandma and really why would I tell my mom no? she’s been so helpful). Usually all I do is look to see if the belly button has popped on other women…Is that primal? I don’t think it helps that I’m just been miserable and need a good vent. (We were in hospital this weekend, kiddo wants to come WAY too early, we have 9 weeks left still. On rest this week and being watched, but at least that’s at home.)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Oh no! Stay in there baby! Keep gestating!

  10. kaycookie Says:

    My husband is new TT science faculty and I am also working part time teaching in a different department. Okay, very part time because we have 3 little kids. Anyways, any suggestions on dealing with a 9 month salary over 12 months, but then also getting summer support (he is guaranteed this for at least 4 years)? We budget just fine during the year, but not much left to save (about $300/month on top of mandatory retirement at about 13% salary with their match). Is it a bad time to just plan on saving mostly in the summer since we get almost half or our income then?

  11. jlp Says:

    We’re on the cusp of being able to send our older child to public school (free! school!) and are debating what to do. We believe that our kids are HG/PG, and we are fortunate, as we have some potential school choice. In our area there are multiple private and magnet public schools (both of which require testing to attend) geared specifically for gifted kids .

    As we comb through schools, public and private, I’ve been looking for a variety of characteristics, but the two most important ones seem to be: a) will our child(ren) have like-minded peers of a similar age?* and b) will the school be able to provide sufficient challenge for our child(ren)?

    My question is: is there another characteristic that we should prize more highly? If so, what?

    Oh, also, because the public schools are magnets, and require testing to attend, this, ostensibly, means we can live anywhere in the city and reap the benefits of a great school. It seems like a no-brainer to go public (assuming DC1 gets in!), since we don’t have to pay for a great school district, nor do we have to pay for private school. However, the student:teacher ratio is 28:1 in K, going up to…I forget, 30:1 or 31:1 in 3rd or 4th. There are no teacher’s aides. Are these class sizes as ridiculously huge as they sound to me?

    *Based both on Miraca Gross’ work and also my kid’s passing comments about the kids at his current preschool who “just scribble.”

  12. becky Says:

    I wanted to ask – what is the “minimum” I am supposed to do to prepare my four year-old for kindergarten? He is not gifted like your offspring, but has all the basics, I think (can count to 20, does some simple addition in his head, knows the alphabet, recognizes letters, their sounds, and associated words). I have taught him somw French words, and he knows a lot of Spanish from daycare. He just started printing practice, but he is not that fond of it! I have the starfall apps and we’ve started looking at them, but I often feel like a slacker Mom in this department. Thoughts? He is currently in the uni childcare, no preschool, so the teaching falls to us.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Here’s a preview of a longer answer: potty training (some accidents ok) and self-feeding (hands ok). Unless you’re going to a fancy highly competitive coastal k, your kid is already ahead and would be ready for 1st grade in much of the country, skills-wise. If it is half day k, you might be able to get away with no self feeding, but that would be a little odd.

      • becky Says:

        Thank you – have been following you for a few years now and very much respect your opinions and approaches. Where I live in Canada we have full day kindergarten at age 5 in the public system, where he will be starting French immersion. My friends who teach tell me something similar along with: use scissors and glue stick, write own name, dress self for outdoor play. Gracias!

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