Soliciting more Ask the Grumpies!

Ask the grumpies is a feature we run almost every Friday (sometimes we post less-popular but still fascinating google questions). You ask, we answer, or we punt and ask the grumpy nation to answer. In any case, you get the benefit of not only our wisdom but the collective wisdom of the far wiser grumpy nation.

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.

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36 Responses to “Soliciting more Ask the Grumpies!”

  1. Steph Says:

    I’ve managed to swing one month of actual wages this year (my salary is usually all a stipend/fellowship), which means I can put some money in an IRA! I have an existing IRA with Vanguard, but the 1 month job will also let me put money directly into an IRA at TIAA Cref. I won’t quite make enough to hit the yearly max, even pre-tax, and there’s no matching. I’m leaning Vanguard – do you have any suggestions?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Vanguard. We’ll have a lengthy post on the whys, but since you’re probably going to do this before that post, Vanguard. Do it for the flexibility and the lower fees. As a second order, do it because you’ll qualify for admiral shares that much sooner.

      • Debbie M Says:

        I also love Vanguard. And they changed a bunch of their admiral share minimums from 10K to 3K fairly recently. Yipee!

        Also, if you ever want to roll over funds from another company (like when you switch jobs), they will walk you through it if you want.

      • Steph Says:

        Thanks! (and sorry for not responding earlier). Vanguard seemed like the past of least resistance at least, but I’m glad to know it’s also a good pick :)

        A related but probably separate question: how do you feel about investing in general given the current political/financial climate? Like, there’s the advice to invest when prices are low because you make a lot of money when the market climbs back up, but also the US is going to hell in a handbasket right now, and sometimes it seems like the US (and its stock market) might not even exist in 50 years. Sometimes I wonder if I’m pouring my money down a drain, or if I’m just being paranoid.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        You’re not being paranoid, but there’s also really no way of knowing when to stop investing and when to start up again. You just can’t time the markets.

        The US and the stock market will both exist in 50 years. Though to be honest, I have been putting a bit more money in an overseas index as well.

      • Steph Says:

        Thanks – having an economists’ perspective is appreciated :) prior to my postdoc I was trying to do the “regular investments so you don’t worry about timing it” method, so I could just let the automatic transfers to and ignore it – now that I’m trying to start up again I’ve been worrying!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        There’s not really much you can do absent of a crystal ball. So take basic diversification steps and make sure you have an emergency fund etc. It’s not about optimization, but about managing risks while still getting a long-run return.

    • Steph Says:

      Oh, and I thought of two other fun Qs:
      – I found Marie Brennan’s “Natural History of Dragons” series through your recs, and I’m also 3 books into the Temeraire series – both of them are super fun! Do you have any other favorite or recommended books with dragons? Do either of you have a favorite fantasy creature?
      – Most of my postdoc-salary lifestyle inflation has gone to my local indie bookstore, and I waaaay overbought in 2018. My TBR pile has ~30 books, plus at least a dozen graphic novels/comics collections. I find I’m paralyzed with indecision when I confront the pile! How do you pick your new books to read? Any suggestions for wading through a massive TBR stack? (I’m already forbidding myself from most new book purchases for a while, except for a couple new releases like Rebecca Roanhorse’s Storm of Locusts)

  2. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    We need more questions or Fridays will be pretty dull around here!

  3. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    I have many life questions but none are economics! How to reach closed-minded usually far right wing students with science. How to be less contemptuous of, say, vaccine delayers, or do they deserve it. What on EARTH is up with my state’s politicians (oh, Virginia).

  4. Ali Says:

    I would love more posts about investing in general. We are good savers but I fear not great investors (i.e., I have a good bit just sitting in the bank now because I don’t know what to do). How do you approach diversification? When does it make sense to get a (fee only) planner? How much to save for college vs retirement vs other savings, etc. Basically, tell me what to do. (The sad part of this is I was an Econ major, took lots of finance classes, but this is not my day job and I reallly don’t have the time/energy to devote to getting smart about this.)

  5. Leah Says:

    1. How do you find hope in the world? In general, I suppose, and also specifically right now.
    2. What is your favorite travel destination?
    3. Do you like art? If yes, what is your favorite period of art? I really enjoy modern Dutch art from the Mondriaan era.
    4. Which is better: sectional couches with chaise portions or a traditional couch with a coffee table or a traditional couch with a comfy ottoman?
    5. Are rewards credit cards overrated? Should I be chasing rewards, or is it not really worth my effort?
    6. How do you feel about decluttering? Is it easy or challenging for you?
    7. How many kids’ books are too many?
    8. If you could pick one of the following pieces of furniture to be the only one you sit in for a year, which would you choose? Rocking chair, chaise lounge, office chair, glider, or wingback
    9. When is the movie better than the book?
    10. What is your favorite board game?
    11. What is your favorite card game?
    12. Do you have any sort of favorite apps you use for fun?
    13. Do you have any favorite apps for life/productivity?
    14. Which is more important, macro or micro economics?
    15. Why do so many companies make decisions based primarily on short term economics and not long-term health of the company? Is it just the stock market, or is there more going on than that?
    16. Is there any way to subvert the tragedy of the commons, or are we doomed to that fate? I seem to remember learning some examples way back when I took environmental economics but they all escape me . . .
    17. Do you like visiting museums? If yes, what is your preferred type? History, art, science, local, or another type?
    18. Mouse or trackpad? Laptop or desktop?
    19. Do you watch much Netflix? Any favorite Netflix originals? I really like One Day at a Time, and there’s several Netflix originals kids’ shows we love. Treehouse Detectives is the most popular right now in our house.
    20. How essential is a will, and how do I get over the inertia and actually get once since I suspect it’s likely really important?

  6. Leah Says:

    21. How do you feel about poetry?
    22. You post a lot about books you read for fun/stress relief. What are some non-fiction reads you enjoy? I really liked both Born a Crime by Trevor Noah and Becoming by Michelle Obama (and maybe we already talked about these on this blog so this is a redundant question . . . )
    23. Do you read the books your kids are reading? At what age seems good to stop doing so? It feels weird to me (since I have little kids) to imagine a day when they’re reading books that I haven’t read.

  7. Nikki Says:

    How do you sabbatical? Whole year (half pay) or half year (full pay)? What planning needs to happen? How do you choose a project? How do you choose someone to work with? Go it alone? Go somewhere or stay or a mix?

    • Lisa Says:

      +1 on this – I’m dying to sabbatical but haven’t been able to work it out yet. How do you convince the family that they can also sabbatical?

    • Susan Says:

      +1 on this too, I just came back to ask these related questions:
      — How do taxes work – did you change states and file in new state? For us, home state 3%, new state 9%, yikes.
      — Did you change drivers’ license? Car registration and insurance?
      — Did you need to switch health insurance? I’m on a local-base HMO plan, which won’t work in new state.
      — How did you find tenants? Did you rent out your house furnished? Full year lease? Utilities? Yard work? Our home area is small college town. I have landlorded a condo before, but this part is still giving me apprehension.
      — Did you fully move, or send a Pod of things, or …? Did you rent a furnished place, or spend a bunch at IKEA? How did you approach that choice?
      — What was your supervising plan for the year away?
      — Did you pay yourself from grants? I have opted for the half pay for a year away, and have a grant that I could use. However, we’re fortunate enough that I think we can swing this without taking extra grant money, and I … feel like the grant should go to my lab, not me. I’ll need to spend some on supplies anyway.
      — How did it go departmentally being away for a year, any resentment or sidelining or other professional issues?

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Got it– I have answers to these, though the state taxes thing varies based on the state. CA and NY *have different rules* from each other (NY’s are worse, so be really careful if you’re going on leave there). Generally though, you can avoid new state taxes if you reside for less than a year and are not taking salary from a state employer. (Irritatingly, I had to pay state taxes on an honorarium that I normally would not have had to pay taxes on because I was residing in that state, but I didn’t have to pay taxes on my regular salary in the new state.)

        I believe the Republicans got rid of the big tax benefit where you deduct all your expenses (including rent) up to some limit in the new tax bill. :(

        Will add these to the queue! I’ll also try to find related posts from the last time we did this.

      • Susan Says:

        State-wise it’s even more complicated for us (but I think one of you has experience here? so): Husband works for a CA company, but 100% remotely. He is paid in home state, and I think company established a presence in this state just to pay him here. Even when we go to CA, despite being in same city as company he’ll probably still work mostly remotely, as that’s where his team works. That said, can we still claim home-state residence, even paid by a CA company, if we are less than a (tax) year in CA?

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Ugh, that’s hard. I’m thinking he will probably have to pay CA taxes on his salary (but not on yours)– but it warrants a call to the CA state tax board after tax season is over to find out for sure (or hire a tax CPA who knows this stuff). I did have to pay New State taxes on an honorarium I got from giving a talk in the New State even though we weren’t living there for a full year. And we both had to pay New State and New City taxes on our incomes the year I was getting half my salary paid from the place I was doing my leave and DH was doing a start-up (incorporated in CT). We also had to get New State DL and license plates that year which is different than the most recent leave where we didn’t have to do that.

  8. rose Says:

    I have read that hate crimes have been rising ~ quite a bit since 2015-6. Is the same happening for sexual crimes against women, does that vary by race of attackee, what about age of attackee? Any changes in conviction rates and prison times for those convicted of rape and/or pedophilia?
    How much is being spent by police departments to militarize police forces? What are the current trends with unarmed people shot by police.
    What are the current trends with gender and race on corporate boards and what is having impact? What are current trends of who is attending and graduating from college and salaries by gender and race? What about graduate school. Please include % of foreign students involved. Same question about med schools today versus 25 and 50 years ago. Are more/any med schools opening today? Same about Vet Schools.
    What is true about the rumors I have seen that Mitch the Senator has been given billions/millions in campaign funds filtered from Russian plutocrats?
    How many College/University athletic programs are not fully supported by attendees at games. How many of them are paying the highest salaries on campus to sports coaches? How many are funding stadiums and special gyms for athletes by increased student funds over the past 20 years? What are the debt rates for such athletic programs?

    Thank you!!!!!!! I trust you and your information. WOW, what a powerful thing to actually be able to say!

  9. Link Love | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] still time to get your ask the grumpies in for the next set of ask the grumpies!  (Of course, you can always ask the grumpies via email at […]

  10. Anoninmass Says:

    Ok, I’ll bite.
    How does a Gay woman in her mid forties date….when only a small part of her wants to date in the first place?

    Applying for a Master’s program and it feels so difficult and annoying yet I cannot seem to get ahead without it….why???

    Also, teen daughter wants birth control but refuses to learn how to drive, is this weird?

  11. CG Says:

    How to find a smart fee-for-service financial planner? We (especially DH) think we are pretty smart about investing (index funds!), but we have enough money saved now that we really would like another set of eyes on our choices. The people we’ve gone to so far are hearty retired-athlete types who are probably good at relationship building in general, but not with us. Basically we have to feel like the person is truly an expert and as smart as or smarter than we are or else we won’t be getting anything out of it. Do such people exist?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Here’s Walter Updegrave’s suggestion: https://money.cnn.com/2016/04/13/retirement/honest-financial-adviser/

      But… you might bet best off posting on the Bogleheads forum. (If you have a lot of money and are thinking about asset transfer/tax avoidance, then maybe a tax attorney or CPA.)

      • CG Says:

        Thanks! We do already have a CPA (required by DH’s company). I guess I was thinking less about tax avoidance than balance of different types of assets, but that’s probably good to think about, too. Not that I want to pay less than our share of taxes! Just not more than our share…

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        If it’s just about balance of assets, then you’re probably best off asking the bogleheads forum or doing it yourself with the help of online calculators. There’s a wide range of acceptable even given your personal risk tolerances. There really isn’t one optimal mix given uncertainty and our uncertainty about how certain we are…

  12. Alice Says:

    How do you decide at what income level to begin funding a 529? I know the mantra of ‘max out tax-advantaged retirement accounts first’, but that is a lot of money to put away (~30% of income) before starting any college savings…I assume we’ll be in the ‘squeezed’ middle on college, with too much income for aid but not enough to pay full freight outright. It seems that at least some dedicated college savings are worthwhile after 15-20% retirement savings, even if not optimal as far as taxes go…We’re assuming private or out-of-state public are in the cards, and want to avoid student debt. I’ve heard the ‘Roth contributions can be used’ chorus, but that won’t go far with current tuition rates.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Got it.

      TBH, if I had to do it all over again, I would max out retirement first instead of regularly contributing to 529s. Because of financial aid. There’s some really great Forbes articles I will link to when we answer this post that converted me, even though it’s too late now.


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