Ask the grumpies: Resources for asset allocation?

Susan asks:

Since I got on top of my finances (I wrote to you before about this), we got married, and now I’m the finance person. My husband has similar values as me (spend < earn, save) which is good. He also believes in ‘put it in index funds’ – also good, but that’s where his thoughts stop. So he had all his 401k money in vanguard s&p500; no bonds. I need to have a conversation with him about asset allocation, ie, a choice of some percent of bonds. I plan to show him a morningstar chart of total market and total bond plotted over 20 years, and point him towards the bogleheads wiki. What other resources or reasoning can you suggest for him, and others who need to learn a bit more here? Preferably more concise than not, as I know the longer the page, the less likely he’ll actually read it.

(I know about target date funds, but we’re past that already for several reasons, including a sizeable taxable acct, and a sucky choice of funds in his 401k where the only reasonable choice is the 500 fund; my 403b is great, so that’s where most of bonds are)

This is a fun question.

Ok, so first, that morningstar chart is the place to go for what you’re asking, as is the Bogleheads Wiki.  So thank you for answering your question.  :)  Walter Updegrave has some good articles on asset allocation as well, but they tend to be based on specific situations so you’re probably best off with the Bogleheads Wiki.  (Note:  Updegrave recommends this questionnaire from Vanguard to figure out what % mix is right for you– according to it I should be 100% invested in stocks(!).)

Second, for the question you didn’t ask, asset allocation is both more and less complicated than it initially seems.  Which really means the experts understand the basic idea, and there’s heuristics (ex. 120 – your age in stocks, but there are many others) to use that generally won’t get you into trouble, but we really don’t know what the ideal portfolio mix is.  Even target-date funds will have different glide paths because they have different underlying beliefs about what the appropriate asset allocation is.

Your DH’s choice of 100% stocks may actually be a valid choice.

Including bonds in your portfolio is mainly important because the stock market is volatile over the short term, even though it generally goes up over the long term.  If your time horizon is long before you’re planning on taking assets out and you’re not very risk averse, then you may not need that many bonds because  you can trust that the market will eventually get better after a crash.  Bonds are safer than stocks and don’t track stocks, so they help to smooth out volatility in your portfolio.  However, bonds also give lower returns on average.

It is recommended for most people that you have some safe assets in your portfolio, because most of us don’t have infinite investing time horizons and there’s all sorts of unexpected emergencies that can happen.  Those safe assets don’t have to be bonds, though bonds are nice because although not as safe as an FDIC insured CD, they generally have higher returns than said CDs.  But if you have a lot invested in cash or CD ladders for whatever reason and you don’t yet have a huge 401(k) portfolio, you might not need bonds yet.  On the opposite side, if you have huge amounts of wealth and are planning on passing your inheritance on rather than drawing it down, you may also tilt towards stocks away from bonds because your horizon is infinite (though at huge amounts of wealth you should probably be looking at more complicated ways to dodge taxes).

IIRC, you’re (plural) in your early 40s but doing catch-up retirement savings.  That means your time horizon may be longer than that of many people in their 40s, meaning you might be willing to take on additional risk.  However, just because you may see yourself working longer doesn’t mean that the labor market will agree.  So having a more traditional bond allocation may make sense.

Now, does the bond allocation have to be in your DH’s portfolio?  You’re married and will most likely have to reallocate investments should you get a divorce.  So no, not at all.  My DH’s current portfolio has no bonds because he probably has the same stupid retirement company that your DH does– the only affordable thing is the S&P 500 fund.  So we also tilt more towards bonds in my Fidelity account.

So, bottom-line– it sounds like you already know what to do.  But your husband may be right about his asset allocation based on his levels of risk aversion.  This is something that you two may have to compromise on, but you’ll (plural) still be ok wherever you end up within that compromise.  It’s not like he’s 100% invested in company stock, which would truly be dangerous.


when are we sympathetic to complaining

Disclaimer:  This post is NOT talking about complaining about tragedies or things like chronic illness, death, etc.  If you are in pain, or you’ve lost a loved one, or have experienced trauma or been harassed, etc. we will always be sympathetic.  This is more about trivial complaints or complaints that are less trivial but are still more in the annoyance spectrum– things you could probably change but have chosen not to for whatever reason.  You know, like me complaining that democrats don’t even show up on the ballot and we have to drive a couple hours to get to Whole Foods when we could, in theory, quit our jobs and move across country to Paradise.

We are sympathetic to (or at least not irritated by) complaining

1. that isn’t chronic (because chronic complaining gets boring) and

2. that doesn’t seem entitled (I guess because entitled complaining makes me feel like I deserve more too but I’m not going to get it so that makes me irritated and I’d rather feel like I have agency)

3.  that is entertaining or funny (but not repetitive I hate Mondays that is trying to be funny but isn’t)

4.  that is about the weather (because we’re from the midwest and find it soothing)

What kind of (non-tragic) complaining are you sympathetic to?  What kind irritates you?

weird thing: Or how not to get people to volunteer more

I went to a conference for a volunteer thing.

While I was there, an organizer took the podium and yelled at people for not being there all day and had even harsher words for those who weren’t there.

Then for those of us who were there, zie yelled at us for not doing more.  And for not engaging with the speakers more.

It wasn’t cajoling, it was scolding.

Once again, xkcd really says it best:



Where can you find things to read for free (or cheap)?

Linda’s been looking for places to get electronic books.  And she got lots of great ideas in the comments.  This post sparked a question– where can you get things to read if you don’t have a whole lot of money.

By Foot

First, of course, is your local library, obviously.  Similarly, if you live near a university, you may be able to use their library as well (university libraries also have fiction!), though rules may vary.  And there may be libraries outside your community that allow outsiders library access (apparently the SF library does this!).  If your library belongs to a consortium, it may be free for them to get books from other libraries in the consortium delivered to you, sort of like a small interlibrary loan.  Interlibrary loan itself is, of course, an option as well.

You can also look for find little free libraries in your area– these usually look like little birdhouses on sticks, but they’re filled with books.  They’re super-cute and usually full of a combination of best-sellers and genre stuff from like the 70s (at least that’s what it seems like in my experience, YMMV). (here’s a map!)

Similarly, you could like, make friends and borrow stuff from them.

On the Internets

    Free (if you have internet access, which you can generally get at your local library because libraries are AWESOME)

Project Gutenberg has all sorts of electronic stuff whose copyright has expired.  If you have a kindle, you can download these titles via amazon by searching for free stuff via kindle.  Also amazon has free stuff of varying quality that isn’t from Project Gutenberg.  Bookbub can also hook you up with free books.

If you have a kindle, your friends with kindles can (for free) loan you many of titles that they have purchased.

You can read unpublished YA romance novels for free on

here’s some fiction from Tor  ooh, look at this one

the internet is full of fanfic to read for free, some of it better than others is a podcast with good recommendations

Here’s more sites where you can read stuff for free online

     Not quite free

Amazon Prime lets you borrow a book for free each month, if you have amazon prime

kindle unlimited is a for pay subscription service, as is scribd.

Audible has a free trial for audio books, but you can also pay for their service on a regular basis.

Grumpy Nation, what did we miss?  Where do you get reading material for free or almost free?

Little light little late link love

#1 was traveling this week and meant to do link love last night but went to sleep instead.

Oh, and you probably wanted the challenge update (goal this week 3000).  Where did my phone end up?
Feb 7: 4,411 (<3 library!)
Feb 8: 3,069 (I paced to tip me over)
Feb 9: 3,239 (ditto)
Feb 10: 3,012 (there was a lot of pacing this week)
Feb 11: 3,154 (sense a pattern?)
Feb 12: 6,898 (I connected in a different airport on the way back and it wasn’t clear where the terminal shuttle was so I walked to terminal C.  Then I took the train home.)

Let’s see, what all did we have…

11 comics to read if you loved Beyonce’s formation

The case for Hillary Clinton.  A must read even if you have no intention of voting for her because it is really clear about a lot of the sexism in the cases against her.

Progressive.  Also a must read.

The presidency should go to the most qualified candidate

down and out in statistical computing

A problem with those Zika warnings

This is kinda fun

In the world of, wait, what?

to solve the skills gap


A new nope gif

Ask the grumpies: When did perfectionism start?

Chelsea asked:

I was wondering when you began to notice DC #1 struggling with perfectionism – like how old ze was and how it manifested. I have a bright 3 year old who gets so incredibly upset if any little thing is not “right” – food, toys, clothes, the order things are done in, etc. But maybe that’s totally normal 3-year-old “threenager” behavior…

Honestly?  DC1 has ALWAYS been a bit of a perfectionist.  Like at 3 months zie crawled a little bit but hated it so much and it was so hard that zie refused tummy time angrily unless it was on daddy’s tummy after (crawling did not happen until much later, and then it happened perfectly and almost instantaneously).  I mean everything has been like that with DC1, something phenomenal happens but happens poorly and then months pass without it happening again and then suddenly DC1 is doing it perfectly without any apparent struggle.

DC2 isn’t like that.  We see DC2 learning and growing. The process isn’t hidden from us.

But, DC2 is also 3 and is totally being a “threenager” as you say.  With the everything needing to be the way it’s ‘sposed to be or zie lectures us about things being ‘propriate like one of hir preschool teachers must do.  3 year olds are just OCD by nature.  I would not worry about that kind of perfectionism at all.  Most likely you’ll be telling hir to clean up thoughtless messes and reminding about putting underwear on before the pants again in no time.

Note also that you can use this (temporary) rigid adherence to structure to your advantage by say, instituting bedtime routines and asking, “What comes next?”  DC1 also responded well to the tyranny of the clock at this age, “It is 3pm, time to go!” we would say.

And we’re also seeing DC2 getting the other kind of perfectionism where zie doesn’t like us to see hir struggle with learning (for example, zie will refuse to sound words out when zie hits a hard word and sometimes says zie hates books rather than read with us).  We suspect zie is picking it up at daycare.  DC1’s perfectionism has waxed and waned– a lot seems to have to do with specific teachers at preschool and school, but we’re not sure what they’re doing wrong or right.

Perfectionism does seem to increase when the work they’re doing at school is too easy.  When they don’t get challenges.  When they’re praised for being smart and not encouraged to make mistakes during the learning process.

But if it’s just fussiness about things being in the “right” order… DC1 grew out of that too soon and really I think DC2 has just recently grown out of that, like in the past week (in fact, DH and DC2 are currently having a conversation about DC2 not ‘preciating DH stepping on hir stuff that was lying in the hallway and DH not appreciating hir leaving things on the floor in the hallway to be stepped on).  (Update:  I take it back, DC2 is still a rules-monger.)

Age 4-6 are LOVELY, and then age 7 is kind of obnoxious (or so has been our experience and so I have been told by others).  We’re enjoying 8 and 9!

Good luck and don’t worry too much about threes.  Here’s some more tips (do read the comments in that linked post as they’ve got a lot of great suggestions as well).

Final batch of kitten fosters

babies in the bathtub 001

Scared kitten babies

babies in the bathtub 002

Aren’t they precious?


This was the last batch of kittens.  They’ve become less terrified and gone on to good homes.

After this batch, I decided I was ready for a new-to-me forever kitty, another big lover-boy.  More on that later.

We talked about fostering kittens before, but it bears repeating.

Kittens are tiring but it’s worth it.  They need love.  Please lend some kittens your bathroom and your love for a few weeks. Kitten season is coming, and shelters need you. Adopt, don’t shop.

Is kitten fostering right for you?

Fostering IS compatible with a full-time job, although I found it easier without one.  If they are well-socialized, they don’t need much time at all. If they need to get used to humans, they need as much time as you can spare.  Fostering is certainly compatible with working from home.

People ask, but don’t you find it too hard to let them go?  I don’t, personally.  Some people do, and end up keeping a couple of babies.  That’s ok!  It’s known as a “foster fail” and is a great outcome because those babies now have a permanent home.  Kittens are tiring, though, like a toddler.  You have to watch them to make sure they don’t eat wires, get caught somewhere, etc.  [Hence getting locked in a safe space like a bathroom when I’m at work.]  A grownup cat is less work and they often already know manners.

If you have a dog, can you foster kittens?  Probably, if the dog is chill AND you supervise them when they’re together.  It can help the kittens get used to homes with dogs, which makes them more adoptable.

If you have other cats, can you foster kittens?  Probably, but you should keep them separated for everyone’s health.  Babies are susceptible to upper respiratory infections and parasites that adult cats just shrug off.  They are also in danger when they are too young for their vaccines.  If your cat is healthy, you can try introducing them.  Your cat might make a great surrogate parent/auntie/mentor to the babies.  But supervise them and check with the shelter, first.

If you get at least 2 kittens at once, they will keep each other warm and entertained.  If somehow you end up with a single baby, it will need your help staying warm.  Kittens are crap at regulating their body temperature alone, and they like to be toasty.  Keeping them warm is also better for their eating and digestion.

Please do what you can to help.  Purrrrrrr.