obnoxious ramblings on income, unearned income, taxes, and so on

  • We made 17K (!) in non-W2 income last year.  Some of that was honorarium and consulting (1099) and some of that was dividends and unwanted capital gains (I really need to do *something* about American Century Trust and its irritating habit of creating capital gains which it then reinvests in itself.  It didn’t used to do that.  But now it does.  Just selling it all will create an unpleasant tax situation come tax time, but maybe I should bite the bullet.)
  • I don’t know what the breakdown between stocks and 1099 income is because DH mentioned this to me while he was trying to figure out our estimated tax situation for next year.
  • He told me that our estimated taxes for next year would be 17K and I almost had a heart attack.
  • Then I was like, wait… that can’t be right.  What was our non-W2 income?  We can’t be paying 17K in taxes on 17K of estimated non-taxed income.
  • Then I said, on top of that, I switched all our Roth 401K/457 stuff to traditional (even though I know that’s not the optimal money thing to do, it’s part of my #resisting), so we should be paying lower taxes on top of the fact that we’re in a lower tax bracket despite higher income because congressional Republicans and their oligarch overlords are evil.
  • It turned out DH had not paid any attention to the fact that we put tax-free (for now) money into a required retirement fund (6% of my income), a 403(b), a 457, and as much of a 401K as DH’s non-discriminating test failing fund will allow.
  • Taking that into account brought down our estimated excess tax burden to something like $6K.
  • We decided to take $500 out of each of my 9 paychecks and also send the government a check for $1000.  (They also have a small credit from this year’s taxes because we’d missed a bunch of charitable giving the first time we went through taxes and paid the bill.  Correcting that mistake put us into itemizing range and we saved something like $100, which we applied to next year’s taxes.)
  • Our dividend income may be lower next year because PG&E which provides the bulk of my dividend income is having money problems (specifically, they’re waiting to see how much they owe for the CA wildfires) and has not been paying out quarterly dividends.  That’s about $700/quarter we will not be getting.  This has happened before– when I first got these stocks PG&E was bankrupt (but I still had to pay taxes on money I never got with money didn’t have… long story, but the dividends since have made up for that stress).

link love

Hundreds of immigrant children have been taken from parents at the US border.

Who will stand up for Chikesia Clemons?

One reason women make less money is because they’re afraid of being raped and/or killed

Women erased in real time.

Activism is super important, but also, this is kind of funny

Delagar’s new book is getting good reviews!  (Unfortunately, it is not yet available for pre-order.)

About a girl who was raised by feral librarians

Ask NYC librarians what you should read next

Vintage post with great comments:  Recommendations for soothing novels

Book dresses!

Free shipping isn’t hurting Amazon

Iced coffee around the world

We are in favor of this study.

We are in favor of this instagram

Flying squirrels!

Angry badger!

Zoo kittens!



Ask the grumpies: How do you make small-talk?

Leah asks:

Do you have any techniques for keeping conversation going without being overly personal or monopolizing the conversation? What do you do when chatting with really quiet people?

#1  A lot of this is going to vary by region of the country (or world, even!).  It’s polite to ask extremely intrusive questions in Los Angeles, for example, but you should MYOB about so many things in the Midwest.  Where you are will also determine if you volunteer information or ask direct questions.

We LOVE LOVE LOVE talking about the weather, like any true midwesterner!

#2:  We’re so introverted. I hate small talk. If people are really quiet, I leave them alone. I guess you could ask about books or movies, or comment on the weather? If you wanted?

#1:  My ability to keep conversation going has a lot to do with how much of my own introvert energy I’ve depleted.  One good thing to do is if someone asks you a question, to mirror it back to them after you’ve briefly answered it.  “So, what about you, [repeat question]?”  People seem to like that.  I will often leave really quiet people alone too, because when I’m really quiet it’s usually because I want to be alone or to just listen.  I may try a polite question/comment about the weather in case it’s just that they don’t know anybody, but if that ends up as a dead end, I’ll take the clue and move on.

How does the Grumpy Nation keep up civilized discourse? 

Ask the readers: Skip school to go to an awards ceremony?

DC1 currently has perfect attendance.

DC1 scored high on the 7th grade talent search.  This is a national thing which basically means zie had a high SAT score for a 7th grader.

The recognition ceremony is in the afternoon on a school day.

If DC1 goes, zie will no longer have perfect attendance and will miss some class.

I hate ceremonies, but I can’t go to this one anyway, so it would be DH taking time off work to go.

DC1 has been consulted and has no preferences.  (DC1 isn’t into preferences unless they result in getting sushi.)

What do you guys think?

What should go where when you’re investing?

Disclaimer:  we are not professional financial planners.  See a certified planner with fiduciary responsibility or do your own research before making important money decisions.

Once/If we stop hemorrhaging money spending on things like new cars and water filtration systems, we may need to start filling up taxable accounts with what we don’t spend.  When you aren’t filling up all of your tax-advantaged accounts, it makes sense to put both stocks and bonds in there, adjusted for your risk preferences and how close you are to needing to withdraw money.  Once you start filling these up, however, and start putting excess money into taxable accounts, it makes sense to think about tax advantages when deciding what to put where.  In general, you’ll want to put things with high expected earnings in accounts (like Roth accounts) where the earnings come out tax free, while you’ll want things with less risk and lower earnings to be in accounts that aren’t tax-advantaged.  If you are not in this situation yet and don’t want to deal with the complications, it’s fine to just pick a target-date fund and set and forget.  Satisficing is better than doing nothing!

Tax advantaged Roth (including dual-advantage):

Roth accounts are taxed when the money goes in, but the earnings are not taxed.  Dual-advantage are things like HSAs in which the money that goes in is not taxed and the earnings are not taxed.  In both of these cases, you want to put your highest earning funds over the long term.  So this will be a good place to put your Nasdaq stock index funds/ETFs and then after that any other broad-based stock index fund that is going to go up over the long term.

Tax advantaged non-Roth (aka Traditional):

These have the earnings taxed when the money comes out, but provide a tax advantage when the money goes in.   If you are not close to retirement, these are long-term funds that you can’t take out without a penalty.  You probably don’t want to play any tax-loss harvesting games here because you don’t really get the benefits of the loss right away unless you’re converting the funds to Roth funds.  This is a good place for putting funds that are going to go up over the long term but aren’t going to go up as much as the stuff you put in your Roth accounts.

Taxable accounts:

Taxable accounts are good for shorter term investing (assuming you’re not close to age 55.whatever) because you don’t have to wait until you’re old enough to tap them without penalty.

If you own individual stocks that might take a loss, this is a good place for them because you can claim that loss against your taxes.

Municipal bonds are tax advantaged themselves, so there’s no point in putting them in a tax-protected fund.

Annuities?  I have no idea.

Bonds, while bonds will have taxable earnings, they’ll generally be lower than those of stocks, so if you’ve maxed out your tax-advantaged funds with stocks, putting some taxable money into bonds is not a terrible idea.  Plus, if you think you’re likely to lose your job during a recession and have to tap into your savings, bonds are better to tap during that time than are stocks.

Have we done any of this?  Nope.  In the past we first didn’t have much tax-preferred investing room, and then we weren’t able to fill up our tax-preferred investing so we didn’t add to any new taxable stocks.  Now that we have so much more invested and we’re maxing out our tax-preferred funds we should think more about what we put where.  It’s a mess.  Because of transaction costs and tax hassles (and the fact that I like that Target Date funds are set and forget so at least a portion of our savings has a reasonable stock/bond/etc. ratio even though they’re not optimal!), I’m probably not going to do much buying/selling of what we have already.  I don’t want to pay capital gains on our taxable stuff right now, especially if we’re just going to reinvest it in a different asset class.  But I will be a little bit more careful going forward.  I’ll continue to fill up our work fidelity accounts with Spartan stock indexes, my 457 with the Vanguard S&P 500 index (their lowest cost option).  If/when I decide we need more bond funds, those will go into taxable.

When we start withdrawing money 15-35 years from now, I will also try to do better when thinking about what we should sell and when.

Do you pay attention to which savings/investment vehicles you put in which type of account?


Late Link love for a lazy day

Corporate anti-bias training doesn’t work.  :(

Is this the real life?

Erosion of buffers

Students are not stopping. Not forgetting.  Let’s help them out this November.

How Russian Facebook Ads divided and targeted US voters before the 2016 election.

The growing college graduation gap

Did she just say that out loud?

I donated Hank Green’s new book. Is there anything on this list you’d like to give to a Detroit school?  (I also hit up a donors choose for the town next to mine that was requesting diverse books.  That’s one of my yes I will give money buttons.  I wish I could pay taxes instead though.)

I was looking for Spanish books for DC2 and was irritated that most of the lists I was coming across had only male protagonists.  Here’s a list to balance that out a little.

Watch astronauts read from space

Should kids always come first from the archives

Wondering about the chemistry of current nail art trends?

We obviously have no problems with cheesy romance novels (though there’s definitely subsets we do not want to read) or Harry Potter, but this is a great list


eeeee! more zoo kittens


Ask the grumpies: How to covertly practice for a job interview as a tenured faculty member

Susan asks:

it looks like I may interview for [a new job] soon, so here’s a somewhat urgent question: do you have suggestions for how to sharpen up my interview skills (like the chalk talk) as an already-tenured faculty? The last time I interviewed was as a postdoc, so there were plenty of coaching opportunities, but now I need to be covert. I think I’ll be ok with the talk itself, but it’s all the other soft skills

Disclaimer:  neither of us has applied for a tenured job after being tenured.  #2 has applied for non-tenure-track jobs after, but #1 has really only done one year faculty development leave stints.  However, #1 has been through the hiring process for the other side about a bazillion times both for her department and for related interdisciplinary departments that sometimes need to call in more (female or maybe just well-behaved?) economists for their searches.

Really the job talk is probably the most important thing, so if you’re ok with that, you’re ok!  Depending where you are in your career and what they have asked you to do, you’ll either want to be presenting a new piece of research or giving them an overview of a big chunk of your research agenda (as well as how it fits into your teaching and service).  If they just want a piece of research, you should easily be able to get people to listen to your practice talk just by telling them you need to practice for your upcoming talk.  If you’re doing one that has an overview of your entire agenda, you may want to stick with folks outside your department and/or close friends if you’re keeping things on the down low.

In terms of other soft skills… honestly, I don’t think you will need to practice them.  You’re an already-tenured faculty.  You don’t *need* this other new job.  You’ve most likely been on the other side of interviews and know more about what matters and what doesn’t matter for applicants.  (I am embarrassed now by what I thought mattered but nobody actually cares about!)  Just be a polite slightly more extroverted version of yourself (if you’re an introvert) and you should be fine.  Talk about research and teaching and service.  If it’s for an administrator position, talk to people at the department in advance so you have ideas for what the issues and concerns for the unit are going forward.  It’s ok not to have ideas and to just talk about how you make decisions based on faculty input, but you should be aware of any landmines as well as being able to do some discussion of the pros and cons of major issues.  If it’s for a faculty position, just pretend you’re there to give a seminar but add some more questions about things that you care about, whatever they may be.  Senior hires give so much more power to the candidate and are so much more relaxed than junior hires.

But maybe you’re wondering what kinds of questions you should be asking?  I get a lot of questions about the public and private schools (and I volunteer that information for everyone even if they don’t ask), housing, food, restaurants, distance to the nearest city.  More senior candidates feel more comfortable asking about quality of life information than do junior candidates.  I don’t know if they realize it is important or if it actually is more important or if they feel more comfortable signaling personal information.  Additionally more senior candidates are more likely to have make-or-break things– if X isn’t met, then they don’t really want the offer, and they’re happy to let us know that.  I also get more questions about how people in the department get along and how everyone gets along with the chair and the dean and so on, though sometimes that signals that the person is coming from a more dysfunctional place which can be a bit of a red flag– it’s usually best to signal that you’re happy where you are but you’re excited about this new opportunity for some other reason (like less snow or family or it’s ranked higher or you have friends on the faculty etc.), but not always.  Other than that, talking about interesting research, yours, theirs, other people’s, is always good (unless, of course, it’s a department where nobody does research).  And it’s easier to do as a senior person when you realize you don’t have to know the minutia of every person you meet’s cv than it is when you’re junior and don’t realize it’s ok to ask about things you don’t know or understand (or maybe that was just me).

#2 notes that for the two jobs she’s gotten post-tenure, the interviews were more like conversations.  She wasn’t even really aware the one for the second job was an interview.

So, we don’t really know, but we’ll throw this up to grumpy nation, and maybe send a signal over to historiann to ask for a boost.

Grumpeteers, any advice for Susan?

observations from my new job

Whatever one may say about the red tape around here (and it is indeed very silly), this place is doing really well on the dry-erase markers. This is an honest delight. They are everywhere, in multiple colors, and they all work! Now I want a dry-erase board by my desk. Also I have a bunch of sharpies now, yay.

…Goodness! My boss said I could have some of her tea (and I brought some to share in return), but I had no idea all the stuff that was in that cabinet until just now. It’s in between our desks. In addition to lots of kinds of tea, mostly black but some green (both loose and bagged), there are also some weird old powdered drink mixes, crystal light, plastic cups, terrible plain popcorn, fiber supplements, antacids, gummy vitamins, and a lone can of beef noodle soup. I feel like my drawer is better: granola bars (somewhat crumbly), mints (from HR; a gift from our 401k company), and dark chocolate-covered espresso beans. And I keep string cheese in the office refrigerator.

This has been today’s edition of Afternoon Snax.

The children’s allowance as an antidote to the gimmies

Over Christmas break, the entire extended family went to Cracker Barrel for lunch.  Since there were 14 of us, we ended up waiting in their store for quite some time.  All the other cousins asked for (and occasionally whined for) random trinkets and junk food, but our kids didn’t.  I wracked my brain as to why my kids weren’t and really never do, and when I asked DH he said, obviously it’s because our response is always, “Did you bring your allowance?  Do you have enough money saved up from your allowance?”  And that makes total sense.  Our friends in Paradise all gave their kids allowances and their kids never had the gimmies when we were out and about either.

DC1 saves up hir allowance to purchase big things like video games and board games (and holiday/birthday gifts for other people).  DC2 buys stuffed animals or candy every time zie goes to the grocery store.  In the end, I think they probably end up with as much random stuff as their cousins (or maybe a little bit less, I dunno), but all in all it is much more pleasant for us because we’re not put in the position of having to say yes or no.   We just give them a predictable amount each month (currently 20 cents per year of age, which is not that much money!) and they make their own purchasing decisions.  (DC1 also makes some money from doing RA work for me, and they both occasionally get $10 or $20 bills in cards from grandparents.)  They may also end up with stuff that they prefer because they’re the one making those yes/no decisions so they’re in the position to optimize rather than just getting what our more random choices give them.

DC1 did complain recently that hir friends who get allowances all get $5 or more per week but zie only gets $2.20.  Sorry, kid!

How do you deal with the gimmies?  Did you have an allowance growing up, and did it help?  If you didn’t have an allowance, how did you get little luxuries (if any)?

Link Love

ICE raids hurt American kids.

Miami Northeastern students walk out to protest recent gun killings

To my old master

Legacy of childhood trauma.  Lots and lots of triggers (#2 couldn’t get through it).

Update on maternal mortality in TX

The payoff is in the last paragraph

Age and high-growth entrepreneurship

What we know about the federal raid of trump lawyer

Press play

An alarming week

Sometimes I just feel like a little dialasong