DH’s company is going on a break from April-July

So, uh, barring some unexpectedly quick grant turnover (they have a few extant grant proposals out, but it’s unlikely they’ll be funding before July even if they’re accepted), DH’s company is out of money come April.  They will have funding again in July.  So that’s three months of unpaid time off.

My first reaction (this announcement wasn’t completely out of the blue, so any potential shock value had worn off) was, “Yay!”  See, I have a bunch of projects that really need to get done/started, and DH is coauthoring on a couple of things and we could get a LOT of work done in that time.  Papers pushed out the door.  It would be lovely.  I am incredibly selfish.  (Not surprisingly, this has also been the reaction of all of my professional friends that I’ve told.  Apparently we all value our spouse’s time over money…)

The problem, is, of course, that while DH can afford to take a few months off unpaid (or, if he’s willing to look for work, laid off with unemployment), most of his coworkers cannot.  So they’re looking for new employment now and will no doubt find it before July.  The one exception is DH’s direct boss who is in a similar situation to ours– lots of savings, not a lot of expenses, and a high earning wife.  DH’s direct boss is pretty awesome and so DH thinks it will be worthwhile to stick with the company so long as his boss sticks with the company.

This break doesn’t quite overlap with our summer leave (kids get out of school later), but it is also possible that DH (and maybe the rest of us) could spend a couple/few months in a furnished apartment in Paradise (in a crappy school district) doing full-time contract work for one of the major companies in his industry.  DH would probably find that more professionally fulfilling and it would increase the chances he’d be able to work for that company remotely in the future.

So yeah, I am having a hard time seeing a downside to this so long as his boss sticks with the company.  But DH has a hard time with change and doesn’t really want to think about it right now.  He wants to focus on getting his projects done (all of which are due in March) until we know for sure those outstanding grant proposals aren’t getting funded.

If all we cared about was money, DH would be job searching right now, would get laid off, would take unemployment while job searching and I dunno, we might move.  It is nice to have the luxury of being able to take it slow.

It is true that our average monthly spending is greater than my take-home pay (once you adjust for my salary only being for 9 months).  Still, I’m not planning on fiddling with retirement savings– it won’t hurt to turn some of our taxable savings into tax-advantaged savings.  (Plus I’ll be getting a month of summer money which will make up for some of the loss.  I love summer money so much.)  Our emergency fund already takes into account paying for an unpaid summer and we’ve been banking extra cash since the election and will be banking more before DH’s paychecks stop.  I do wonder if we should cut back on the 529 saving, but I’m not sure that we need to at this point.  We will revisit the 529 saving if our plans change.

So… yeah… guess I won’t need to write those posts about what to do with extra money piling up.

Link love

I gave up on the challenge this week.  I’m going to try again in March.

I donated to this go-fund-me to buy books to educate TX state legislators on trans issues.  The money will go to  books which will go to lawmakers in conjunction with an ACLU/Trans lobbying day so that legislators are less likely to vote yes on the TX bathroom bill and other evil issues that could hurt Trans people.  (If you can’t donate, consider forwarding on your favorite social media account?)

Videos of Republicans being taken to task by constituents.  Which is still better than their pretending said constituents don’t exist and not doing any townhalls.

Trump team is already cooking the books.  More corruption.  More corruption.

Trump the gaslighter.

Trump the dictator.

Larry Wilmore.

Iowa Bill Mandates Political Affiliation at Universities

Scientists are pro-testing.

Oroville Dam workers fired for posting spillway photos to social media

Anderson dam waterfall.

F the police.

United beats Delta.

A strange year at uber.

Dinosaurs aren’t dying out.

The air we breathe.

#billerrands

When evidence says no, but doctors say yes.  (An EXCELLENT Atul-Gawande-style article not by Atul Gawande)

Is everything we eat associated with cancer?

Leigh’s long-awaited marital finances post.

Protect your fortune.

For all your cost-basis questions.

Cooking lessons.

A place for everything.  Also Happy Birthday!

Snek

Finland has a very good boy.

Poochini

Ask the grumpies: Where should a teenager put extra money?

Miser mom asks:

One of my sons is going to come into a temporary cache of a lot of (for him) money: he’ll be getting something like $700-$800 each month for about a year. Where should he put this money?

He is 18 and lives at home — and will continue to be living at home, in high school, until he’s 20 (by which point, the money will have stopped coming in. We’d like him to set the money aside so that he can use it when he starts out on his own, by which we mean post-secondary education (most likely, a school of technology, where he’ll learn something like welding — not a 4-year college).

He has a savings account at our credit union, but that earns like zero-point-zero-zero-something interest, PLUS it’s accessible via his ATM card, which is a remote temptation for him. CDs? E-banking? Roth IRA?

I should mention that he has 529 plans and UGMA accounts that will *more* than pay for his education, so the money will eventually just be spending money. Or possibly the seeds of his retirement account.

Unfortunately, when you need money in the short term there aren’t a lot of good options.  So if the plan for this money is to put down a rental deposit for an apartment, then his best option is a CD or term share (the credit union version of a CD).  The rates on these won’t be great but it will lock up the money so it is difficult to get to until the date it is needed.  And generally the rates are a little bit better than most savings accounts.  You may want to shop around to see what’s out there.

He can only save for retirement in an IRA (Roth or otherwise) if he has earned income.  (Social Security and Disability do not count as earned income.)  Retirement is a great place for this money to go since jobs requiring physical labor often also require earlier retirement ages as they wear the body down, though who knows what life will be like in 30 or 40 years.  If he has earned income, whether to choose the short-term savings or the IRA (invested in a Vanguard Target Date fund or a low fee Total Stock Market Index) depends on whether or not you plan to help him with his housing when he starts post-secondary education because renting an apartment can require some combination of last month + deposit + realtor’s fee in addition to the first month’s rent, which can be pretty hefty for someone just starting out.

If you’re definitely planning on having him use it at age 20 even if it gets used for housing, then choose the CD/termshare option.  Short term savings needs to be in safe, non-risky savings vehicles.  You can take on more risk with long-term savings.

If he doesn’t currently have earned income and you do plan on helping him out with initial housing expenses, another possibility is to lock this money in a CD or savings account until he starts earning income of his own and then putting this money into a Roth IRA (again in a Vanguard Target Date Fund) while living off of his earnings.  His future self will really appreciate that he’s done so at age 62 or whenever in the future he is wondering if he can ease off of full-time work.

As always, we may be wrong, we’re not experts, consult with actual experts and/or do your own research before making any important monetary decisions.

What do you think, Grumpy Nation?

 

How much do you rely on recipes?

We really like cookbooks.  I like to read them for ideas.  DH likes to actually use them (I use them too, but generally with more modifications).  We both love to try new different things, which means that now we’re back from Paradise with more limited food options if we want new and different without first driving for two hours, we’re going to have to make it ourselves.

DH put a few more cookbooks on his wishlist and I noticed one of the books people buy when they buy that cookbook wasn’t really a cookbook at all, but a book about how to cook without a cookbook.  (I would link to it here, but I can’t remember what it was called!)

Cooking without a cookbook is how I was taught.  Most of our groceries were based on whatever was on sale, which means my parents were very good at cooking based on what we had rather than going out to buy things based on what they planned to cook.

We’ve sort of reversed that now that A. we have enough money that it doesn’t matter if an ingredient is expensive when not on sale (though I still use walnuts in place of pinenuts in pesto– I still have limits) and B. DH has taken over the bulk of the cooking.

We haven’t been for a full grocery run for a couple of weeks.  We had a couple of dinner parties for which we over-bought and then got overwhelmed with the CSA and then ended up not making things on our menu plan because we got busy.  I hate wasting food, so instead of our usual weekly menu planning I basically told DH just to get a few necessities and we would eat down our freezer and the fridge.

One of the things we needed to deal with was a head of broccoli.  We’d put a broccoli chicken casserole (from The Old Fashioned Cookbook) on the menu list, but it had been there for a couple of weeks and DH just wasn’t into it.  So I suggested maybe we could use up the pie crusts leftover from our last party (we’d made mini-quiches) to make a chicken broccoli potpie instead.  He was much more enthusiastic about the idea than he’d been about casserole and suggested we make it that night.

I found him in the kitchen with two pots and a pan on the stove, the grater and a measuring cup out along with the milk, and a big hunk of cheese.  There was chicken sauteeing in the pan and chopped broccoli on a cutting board.  After some questioning he pointed to a broccoli cheese pie recipe he’d found on the internet.  The big pot was slowly boiling water to blanch the broccoli.  The little pot was for making cheese sauce.  The grater was for the cheese.  We discussed the cheese which had not been part of my mental picture and decided we’d try it.  At that point DC2 demanded Daddy’s presence in another room and I took over.

I put the pots and grater and measuring cup away.  I finished cooking the chicken.  I added the broccoli, stirred, and put a lid on.  Every few minutes I opened up the lid to stir again.  After the broccoli was just a little undercooked, I poured in a handful of flour and stirred it all around.  Then I decided that wasn’t enough flour because not every floret or chicken piece had been coated, so I added some more.  And stirred and toasted a bit.  Then I poured in some milk and stirred until it became a gravy.  Not all of the flour had dissolved yet, so I added some more milk and stirred some more.  Then I diced a few pieces of cheddar (first I tried slicing and breaking them into chunks, but the chunks were too big, so I diced the next few) and threw them in one slice at a time and stirred until they melted.  When the gravy looked cheesy enough I stopped adding cheese.  I turned off the stove, stirred a bit more, and stuck on a lid (note:  we have an electric stove– if we’d had gas, then I would have turned it down to a simmer).

Pot pie is one of my standard recipes that I make without a recipe.  It always starts with a meat or mushrooms (if there’s raw carrots or onions I throw them in before the meat, otherwise raw veggies go after… frozen or cooked veggies go in after the roux), then I put in flour (and maybe spices) with the meat and toast to make a roux.  I then add water or milk or soup stock depending on the kind of roux I’m making.  Then cooked/frozen veggies.  Then it’s ready to be thrown into a prepared pie crust and baked.  The only thing I need a recipe for is remembering how long to bake the thing.

I’ve got lots of other standard basic recipes.  Quiche, stirfry, spaghetti, chili, “soup” (I really hate “soup”, since that’s where my father always put all of the leftover odds and ends whether they went together or not– so these days we always make soups from a recipe), grilled cheese sandwiches with stuff, empanadas, tacos, baked chicken, fried porkchops, all sorts of fish things, fruit crumble, fruit pie, even granola (thanks miser mom!).

I don’t measure things, I just have a sense of about how much to add and I can tell when it’s not enough.  I don’t know how long things take (except the oven part), but I have a sense of when they’re about ready.

Lately we’ve been mostly using recipes.  I’ll still substitute based on what we have or what we need to use up.  But it’s still kind of fun to just make something based on what we have available.

Before the internet made it easy to find exotic recipes, I used to play around to replicate what I’d eaten at restaurants.  Or to fit some craving I was having.  We don’t really do that anymore.  Instead we’ll find the highest rated recipe on the food network and use that instead.  There’s less randomness.  On the whole, it’s probably better, in the same way that the Garmin and Yelp have improved our eating out experiences, but we have lost a bit of the serendipity that comes from getting lost and finding something off the beaten path.

Another thing I noticed was that I cook in order to minimize the number of dishes used and the time spent in the kitchen.  DH will sometimes do a mise en place.  Generally I’ll do my chopping in a way that minimizes the number of cutting boards used (keeping in mind that after a board has touched raw meat it must be washed before using again) and takes advantage of waiting time to chop the next ingredient.  This is partly because I get bored waiting in the kitchen, but mostly because growing up I was the one who was going to have to wash all those dishes by hand.  Most of my meals take one or at most two pots.

How do you do most of your cooking?  Do you use recipes for most things?  Do you use a recipe as a base idea and then modify it?  Do you have a repertoire of memorized baseline meals that can be modified?  Do you like trying out new recipes?  Do you buy based on what you want to make or do you make based on what you have on hand?  And… do you think your answers to the previous questions are related to when you learned to cook?

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 59 Comments »

My stock stopped dripping correctly when it changed providers

My sole dividend stock changed providers from Amstock to Wells Fargo.  This happened while we were in the middle of a move so I put off logging into my new account until I got a letter from them (forwarded from our Paradise address) saying that they’d sent me a letter to my actual address and it had been sent back to them.  Which was odd because I technically have 2 (now three… which is part of the problem) accounts with them (common stock and preferred stock) and I got the other communication just fine and the two accounts are linked.

When I got my quarterly dividend posted to my savings account and it was the same as last quarter’s.  This sent off an alarm bell since my preferred stock is supposed to purchase common stock and the common stock is supposed to deposit quarterly into my savings account.  Thus my dividends increase slightly every quarter.  Except not this quarter.

Instead, it looks like under Wells Fargo that the preferred stock is dripping into an entirely new common-stock account just created by Wells Fargo, and that common stock account is dripping back into itself instead of depositing.  It dripped a whopping $1.80 into itself this past quarter.  Their webpage interface is terrible so there was no indication that this was going to happen from their webpage until after it happened.  A priori it looked like all of the settings had been retained from the previous provider.

I’m not really sure that I ought to be dripping any of this stock or if I should be dripping all of it.  The main reason I have it set up the way it is is so that the dividend doesn’t become worth less over time.  Having the preferred stock (which cannot drip into itself) drip into common stock keeps it above the rate of inflation, in theory.  The main reason I don’t drip all of it is because it is a lot of money to add into a single stock (a utility) that went bankrupt back when I was in graduate school.  The idea is that I take the dividends and then funnel that money into say, retirement.  Which, since money is fungible, sort of happens.

So I emailed them and explained and they emailed back and said they would fix it and consolidate the extra account in the next dividend cycle.  Hopefully that will happen!

So what’s the moral?

I guess, keep an eye on things, especially when providers change.

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 8 Comments »

Late Link Loves R Us

February challenge continues to go poorly.  It’s not that I don’t want to write, it’s that I just don’t have enough willpower to get everything done before 8am the next day and then I start getting heavily interrupted throughout the day.  There were a couple of days this week I only wrote 15 min.  There were a couple of days I wrote in the morning.  Last Saturday I did no writing.  Basically, I haven’t gained much with this challenge so far and I still have over 300 emails that I need to get through.  I’ll be working all Saturday starting with grading as soon as I finish this link love.  (Writing will come later because I need to discuss some things with a coauthor on a book chapter that finally came back this week.)  Sometime in March I’ll wrap up with why I’ve been getting a C on this challenge (B- if you’re grading generously) even though I’ve done all the previous challenges even ones that were dumb or that I really really hated.

My #2 fear is getting closer to reality.

Republicans in congress are afraid to see their constituents and are refusing to see anybody but big donors during the week that they’re supposed to visit with constituents.  Both of my senators and my congressman are terrified and are refusing to come out.  The closest office to my senator LIED to me about not having the senator’s calendar and then asked for my detailed contact information “to send to DC to get you on the list” because “he doesn’t announce in his newsletter”.  I called the DC office and they told me that they didn’t know why the regional office would say such things since they have no such list and the regional offices all have the senator’s schedule.  Here’s Indivisible on what to do if your MOC has gone missing.  DH is going to one this weekend (it’s in the evening so I’ll be staying home with the kids).

Chaffetz, who should be fired and hopefully will not be re-elected because the people of Utah are basically good people, goes after Sid the Science kid.  He’s also launching yet another investigation of hillary clinton’s emails because I guess he’s hoping that will deflect the fact that he’s not only not @#4ing doing his job but that he’s going to be largely responsible for the @#$23ing mess that Trump is being allowed to do.  There are links to those statements, but I’m too depressed to dig them up.  @#$22 Chaffetz.

Trump’s conflicts of interest ARE SCARY.

Republicans gonna repub.

More white supremacist neo-nazis on campus (aka the f-ing neonazi alt-right)

Why gamergaters become “alt-right” neonazis.

Idaho tried and failed at creating a better plan than the ACA.  That’s because the ACA is the best right-wing plan that there is.  (A better plan would be single-payer, but that would eliminate an entire industry which would do bad things to the economy in the short-run.)

This is frightening and funny at the same time.

MEETUP has joined the #resist movement.  Seriously, MEETUP.  Check them out for things near you!

We are awake and we are angry.

What just happened?  H/T Bogart.

Universities didn’t turn left, the right turned imbecile.  OMG, I have heard so many stories about my congressman in the past week.  No wonder he isn’t coming out to the college town that is a big part of his gerrymandered district.

Sexist course evals.

This is a toolkit from the Immigration Law Center.  More info on protecting immigrants.

US Weekly sick burn.  (Also, excellent inveting advice)

Melinda Gates’ Birth Control pledge.

This is a smart comment and also why I’m pushing my kids so hard in K-12.

At some point in the future I will blog about adventures in trying to find a new flatware set.  But today is not that day.  Here’s a link to another review, though.

Today’s out-of-context internet quote that inspires productivity: “i prefer eating Belgian chocolate to get me in a growth mindset ”  Related:  coffee shop for non-morning people.

This would have been a cool tv series, and I want to read the book!

There are worse hills.

Stay safe out there in the rain.

Pluto’s heart.

“Did you ever wish you could make scatter plots with cat shaped points?  Now you can!”

 

Ask the grumpies: How do you decide on donations?

Another activist economist asks:

What is your donation strategy right now? Are you giving to more places, or more to places you were already supporting? I was torn at the end of last year and just did the latter. Trying to decide what to do for 2017.

#2 says:  Both!

#1 also says both.  I think I must have the warm glow version of donating because I am totally just giving to places as they come on my radar.  I have no strategy at all for this stuff (my only planned giving is to my alma mater and DC1’s former private school).  Something horrible happens, I donate to the relevant agency or agencies, it makes me feel a little better.

I know that’s not optimal for the organizations in question (based on graduate public finance*), but it’s optimal for me!  Plus it’s a strategy shared by a ton of people since whenever I give, the news says that organization has just received record amounts.

Another activist economist replies:

If lots of donors share that behavior, it might become optimal for the organizations (getting small amounts from huge numbers of people)? Also, maybe your strategy (or non-strategy) means you donate more over the course of a year than you would if you explicitly made a budget for donating and only gave to a few places. Which is better for the places getting your money.

I have been holding back so far this year since I’m torn. For instance, a friend of mine started supporting this local organization that gives financial assistance to women who can’t afford abortions. But is it better to give to them or Planned Parenthood or split between the two? I’m leaning toward only PP.

I’ve given to both! Because I cried super hard when my sister told me that she was working with an organization in [City] that provides rides and housing for women seeking abortions and had someone staying in her spare bedroom for 3 days because the woman had taken an 8 hour bus in from [a neighboring state] to get an abortion. So I gave $100 to that organization to make the crying stop. Planned parenthood is where we regularly give whenever one of these things comes up in the news, plus it’s where many of our blog proceeds end up going.

While DH remains employed and with the mortgage gone and our retirement accounts maxed out and DC1 no longer in private school and no firm plans going forward for major expenditures, we can afford to just give money whenever so we don’t really need a strategy (still, this has always been how we’ve donated, it’s just that before it was much smaller amounts in grad school and I’d have to cut back on our grocery expenditures to make up the difference). We should be giving more, but I keep thinking, what if we have to move to Paradise permanently? We don’t have enough money in non-retirement non-529 accounts to buy a house in a decent school district, and renting would still be difficult on just DH’s salary. So mainly it’s the emotions that get me to part with my pocketbook even though we should be giving much more than we do.

Another activist economist replies:

I look forward to reading the responses [from the grumpy nation]!*** I should probably stop thinking about what would be optimal and just give when I feel like it. The reality is that my total giving across the year would likely be higher if I did that. But it is hard to turn off the little voice in my head that asks “if you give that $50 here are you taking it from somewhere else where it would have a bigger marginal impact?”

Yeah, I don’t listen to that little voice. It gets shouted down by the, “Look, do you want to stop crying right now or not?” voice, because I have very little impulse control. And since I don’t have a set budget constraint on charitable giving, there’s more likely to be crowding in** than crowding out of giving.

Plus it probably helps that I wasn’t all that convinced by grad PF’s discussion of optimal charitable giving given that most non-profit’s revealed preferences are to go all out and accept lots of little donations from people like me (and then sell my contact info to related organizations that could crowd out my donations to them…).

Agree about the crowding in (probably true for me too) – I don’t have a fixed budget either, exactly. (Though because I am a procrastinator, during normal times I tend to do all my donations at the end of the year, so then I am thinking about the total amount I want to give for that year.) But there’s a budget in the sense that I have an upper bound even if I don’t know exactly what it is. And that is what that little voice reminds me of. Hmmm….

*Graduate PF, if I’m remembering the lecture correctly, suggests that rational individuals interested in making an actual difference rather than just feeling warm and fuzzy should donate large sums to a small number of charities so other places don’t waste money trying to get more money out of you and you’ll have a bigger impact on that organization and more say in what is done with your money. I am obviously just motivated by warm fuzzies. Plus I’m not sold that that’s a bad thing, as you will see in our discussion.

**”Crowding in” in this context means that giving some money makes it more likely that you’re going to give more later.

*** emphasis added

Grumpy nation, do you have a donation strategy?  Do you have a set amount you give each year, or do you give on a case-by-case basis?  Have you had to make any sacrifices for giving?  What makes  you decide to give?  How do you pick who to give to and how much?