This time late link love isn’t really my fault

My internet went out last night when I tried to do them.  Sure, I could have done them earlier, but it has been an insanely busy week.  (Let’s also ignore the fact that I finished DragonBox big numbers this week.)

Under Trump, Obamacare Shopping is Even More Confusing.  Here’s Huffington Post with an explanation.    The video is also worth watching.

Indivisible has a new website out with a new tool working to get principled people running and winning elections in every congressional district in the country.

More info on the GOP tax cut Also, here’s how it could (partly) destroy higher education in America.  Here’s how it might affect Californians.

At a conference recently, a colleague living in a college town in a blue state who has never so much as seen a Trump sticker in her life yelled at me that we need to be doing more to communicate with Trump supporters and that Trump isn’t racist(?) and when I call him racist I’m alienating people and she’s sure that he has some policies that aren’t racist or enriching himself.  I remember people arguing that *before* the election.  But now.  No.  “we gotta focus on enfranchising and energizing our side“.  In fact, here’s a good response from a logical person.  As David Perry argues in this excellent thread, they are only a problem for Dems if we court them.  Let’s stay the anti-Nazi party!

A discussion of the military and civilians and guns.   A discussion of the military, domestic violence records, and gun background checks.  Back in February, Trump signed a bill revoking Obama-Era gun checks for people with mental illnesses.

This thread is SICKENING.  Here’s where you can give money to Moore’s opponent Doug JonesDoug Jones is a good man who prosecuted the KKK members who killed four little girls in a church bombing in 1963.  A Jones victory would send a signal that it is NOT RIGHT for adults to “date” 14 year old girls, even with “their mother’s permission“.

Who can defend the sexualization of work environments now?

Russian trolls didn’t need to infiltrate the American media because WE LET THEM IN

If the election anniversary is hitting you hard, here’s why.

The election anniversary didn’t hit me too hard, here’s why.

If white characters were described like people of color in literature

Reviews of diverse books

More gems from marking

Why do banana candies taste like not bananas

Why it is TK not TC

Ask the grumpies: How best to save for kids’ college

First Gen American asks:

I would love a post on savings bonds as a vehicle for college savings…pros and cons vs 529. Also is one better for high earners. There seems to be some language about earning limits on the tax deductability of the earnings but no penalty if not used for educational expenses.

Disclaimer:  We are not professional financial planners.  Before making important financial decisions, talk to a fee-only financial planner with fiduciary responsibility and/or do your own research.

According to this page from the treasury:

For single taxpayers, the [education] tax exclusion income limit [for savings bonds] is an adjusted gross income of $92,550 and above. For married taxpayers filing jointly, the tax exclusion income limit is an adjusted gross income of $146,300 and above.

So to me that says that savings bonds are not a good vehicle for college savings for high earners.  Maybe if they’re the kid’s and the kid is not filing as a dependent, but that seems risky too given how FAFSA and CSS heavily weight the kids’ savings (exceptions here).

Savings bonds are also a less risky, lower earning asset.  Given the lack of tax advantages for higher earnings and current interest rates, they’re not much better than CDs or high interest savings accounts for low-risk low-earnings savings and will also show up in financial aid decisions.

So… for both high and low earners in the “may get some financial aid” range, the best thing to do with your money is to put your savings in places that won’t count against your financial aid– so fill up retirement accounts (especially IRA Roths if you can since you can take out the principal on those in case of emergency), pay off credit cards, put money in home equity below what CSS forms pick up, fill up your HSA, and so on.  (Forbes magazine is probably the best place to look for these kinds of limits/suggestions.)  That may seem counter-intuitive that the best way to save for college is to hide money in ways that it is more difficult to tap for college, but financial aid is powerful and you can take out (short-term) loans for college but you can’t take out loans for your retirement (and taking out loans for your mortgage can be expensive and problematic).

AFTER you’ve hidden as much as you can, I still think the 529 in a state that either gives you a state tax break or, failing that, a state that has good Vanguard options with low fees is your best bet.  You could also do a Coverdell if your income is low enough (<220K in 2017 and 2018), but they’re not really any better than 529s unless you have private K-12 tuition that it could go towards, and the limit is pretty small.

If you are too high income to qualify for financial aid (and note that that income may be higher than you think) then you don’t need to play games hiding your income and savings because there’s not anything you could do to get things low enough for colleges to pitch in.  It may also be worthwhile in this case to push some savings onto the child so as to take advantage of the child’s lower income.  If you’re in this situation, don’t just read free advice from the internet– pay for a fantastic fee only financial planner with fiduciary responsibility and get all of your financials in order.

High earners and grandparents cutting down their estates may want to look into frontloading 529s with 5 years worth of 14K gift exclusions or, if they don’t want to force the money to be used for college, they can look into a gift trust.

How are you saving for kids’ college (if applicable)? 

We’re having bad weeks

this was supposed to be a kitten post with adorable kitten pictures of #2’s adorable kittens… but…

work is hard and we’ve both been getting bad (work-related) news… so we’re gonna punt today

Friday we’ll post an ask the grumpies about college savings.

We’re trying the “bunch your property taxes” thing


Ditto all the racist xenophobic mailers that have been going out.  We cannot let hate win just because we weren’t paying attention to state and local elections!


This is our first tax year without Wells Fargo paying our mortgage taxes out of escrow.

Our property taxes are 8K/year.  We have a choice of paying half before November and half in June, or paying in full in November.  That means it is possible for us to pay half in one year and 1.5 times the next, followed by half the next year and so on.  Alternatively we could pay 1x each year.

Given our regular charitable giving and other taxes, we’re right up against the standard deduction if we pay 1x each year.  So it makes more sense for us to try to bunch it into every other year.

So, this year I wrote out a check for half the property taxes and we’ll be taking the standard deduction.  We’ll put off our holiday charitable giving to January rather than December.  Next year we’ll itemize.

We’ll see how this ends up working out this year, and next year too.  Hopefully we didn’t make a mistake (especially given upcoming changes to the tax code)!  If a tax plan that limits the property tax deduction to 10K really does pass, then I will send out the second property tax check before December 31st and our annual charitable giving then too.  I put a note in our google calendar to double check on things sometime in December.

Do you itemize your taxes?  Do you play any fun games with timing for tax purposes?

Link love: the links concierge

I’m here with a hand-selected variety of tweets, along with any other links we could dredge up for fun or interest.  Please enjoy!

Racism is shitty.

Pumpkin being gross.

For trash people who argue the civil war wasn’t about slavery:

Why is California great?

Get Rich Slowly is going through some changes.

Science is awesome!

Here’s a twitter thread that should have been a blog post, about adoption.

Republican politicians are trash. But you can enroll in Obamacare during open enrollment now!

Don’t forget DST ends this weekend, for those to whom it applies.  Woo.

Ask the grumpies: Apps for 3-5 year olds

The frugal ecologist asks:

You did a toddler app post I think, but any other apps that your little one is into? Thinking for the 3-5 set….

Ooh, we need to know the answer to this question too.

We did like endless words, but boy was it an ipad memory hog.  I had to delete it eventually.  Starfall was another favorite, though we’ve just let it lapse since DC2 has really outgrown it.  ABCMouse seems pretty similar to Starfall– I don’t know if it is worth the cost, but we just got it free for the year with DC2’s kindergarten.  It’s fun, but too easy for DC2 right now– but it would have been good when DC2 was 3!

DC2 now spends a lot of time on the PBS Kids website on DC1’s computer on weekends after zie has done hir chores.  Zie wants to play games just like DC1 does.

Dragon Box has been pretty fun, both the algebra version and the geometry (elements) version, though DC2 hasn’t been able to complete them yet because the difficulty seems to hit frustration level after a while (but zie had fun during the first parts!).  We haven’t tried the numbers apps because they came out after DC2 had seemingly mastered numbers, but maybe it’s worth trying them anyway.  Update:  After typing this up we got Big Numbers and DC2 is hooked (some knowledge of addition and subtraction makes this game more fun).  (Right now, I admit I wish I were picking apples and gathering stones and turning fish into gold coins.)

A free one if you do it on the computer instead of an app is Teach your monster to read.   DC2 is also doing this one in school (even though zie knows how to read) and is enjoying it, but I must say after listening to hir play it this weekend, some poor princess keeps getting kidnapped over and over again and one would think would have better security by now.  Or maybe a weapon of her own or something.  They should mix it up and have the crown prince get kidnapped or something.  The narrator has a pleasant Britishy accent.  Update:  Level 2 does much better on gender–DC2 repeatedly feeds a female monster cookies and helps another find her lost words instead of rescuing a newly captured princess.  (Again, this is too easy for where DC2 is right now, but gee it would have been nice to have had a year or two ago!)

But yes, we really would like to have more suggestions on this one as DC2 has really outgrown most of what is on the ipad.  Extra points for stuff in Spanish!

Suggestions for making classes more interactive

One of my introverted junior colleagues asked for suggestions on how to keep students engaged for a 3 hour block class without completely exhausting him and also to make sure they don’t skip the readings before class.  Here’s some of my suggestions.

I really like Boice’s suggestion with teaching, “get them to do the work,” and keep that in mind when I’m coming up with new class preps.

Here’s some more targeted suggestions:

– Provide them with discussion questions to go along with their readings, then hit those discussion questions in class discussion. Since everybody will have something written down, you can cold-call and/or round robin around the table to get everyone’s answers.
– Have them come up with discussion questions.  Have them post the discussion questions online prior to class for everyone to read.
– Ask them to present on specific topics. (I find presenting about the details of different public programs to be kind of boring, so I’ll let them pick off a list for one of my classes. It’s something they can present on without a huge amount of econ knowledge.)
– Have them find literature or news stories that directly relate to the topic for the week.
– Have them follow people of interest on Twitter and pick a tweet or two that deal with the topics of interest in you class. You can start class going around the table and asking them about what’s going on in current events based on their twitter feeds.
– Cancel regular class prior to a major written assignment but require them to stop by your office individually to get feedback on their papers prior to submission.
– Have them workshop each other’s papers in class. (Your campus writing center may have resources to help you do this.)
– Debate
– In-class exercises
– Guest lecture
– Ask the library for help on research
– Show videos, discuss the videos

What suggestions do you have for breaking up long classes and keeping students engaged?