• I am so sick of hearing white women talk about their journeys to wokeness.  Like… I just don’t care?  Like, get there, but I don’t need to hear about the journey and your feelings?  Especially not Ted talks and videos and Zoom “conversations about race” led by white women.  And I’ve only been having to deal with this for a few years… No wonder POC who have been having to hear these confessionals all their lives don’t want to hear them from strangers on twitter.
  • I suppose me listening is still a service to POC since it means the white woman gets to talk to someone… so I can probably handle listening to students and colleagues (So… Many… Colleagues… and so many white men who think they’re there but really aren’t anywhere near it yet)… but please not the Ted talks and required videos and definitely don’t give anyone a forum when you could be paying a POC with actual expertise to talk instead.
  • I do talk about race a lot.  But… it’s not about me.  I think it’s ridiculous to make it about me (ironically, because this bullet *is* about me).  I’m part of the systems of oppression so I have to help dismantle.  I have to check my biases.  I have to do things now and in the future because I still screw up a lot.  It’s hard not to, so I keep trying.  But I’m not the one being negatively affected.  I’m benefiting in many ways.  So most of what I talk about is the research base (Racism is REAL, and the older I get the more of a sociologist I become regarding its causes) and how it is our responsibility to fix things.  And here are some things we know don’t work…
  • What I really hate is that so many of our minority students have been treated so badly throughout their lives that just being a decent person can give a prof a reputation for being “one of the good ones.”  Like, we should all be good ones so it doesn’t seem worthy of extra gratitude.
  • Upon reflection (and watching two videos on white women’s journeys to wokeness directed at other white people), I think white women have been trained to talk about difficult things through the lens of ourselves… we use the “I” language and use ourselves to illustrate because that seems less threatening.  We’re able to say, of course, YMMV.  It’s like when we talk about childrearing stuff– it’s all, this worked for me.  (Though I also… don’t really talk about childrearing stuff unless someone asks*… and also I could have scooped Emily Oster with how much PubMed and books etc. on pregnancy and infant rearing I’d read with DC1, so much of my discussion is research-based rather than me-based.)  So basically, our stupid patriarchal society makes us do this, but we can stop doing it at minority people?
  • *I realize this statement is not actually true because I certainly have talked a lot about it on the blog and not just under the Ask the Grumpies Friday column.  But like, in person not so much.
  • If your department wants to do a racism training, I recommend Bedelia Richards.

It was nice being high income while it lasted

For a little while, DH and I were making joint more than what Obama/Biden’s campaigns considered “middle class” (we never did make it above what Biden/Harris consider their cutoff for tax increases, but that’s an insane number).  It was really nice.  Like… money just did not matter at all.

I was just about to start living like someone who makes a lot of money– sending DC1 to a fancy summer camp, going on a vacation that wasn’t family or wedding or work-related (what can I say, I dream small), and then the pandemic happened.  So we went back to spending like we were upper-middle-class meaning buying whatever we wanted at the grocery store and maybe a bit less comparison shopping.  And we’d hit that point a long long income ago.  Other than deferred maintenance and replacements we didn’t actually DO anything with the money, but boy did I dream.  Kids need more Spanish?  Maybe we should spend a month in a Spanish-speaking country one of these years.  Or the kids could go to Interlochen, which my cousin went to but my family could never come close to affording growing up.  (Are my dreams too small?) But.. pandemic.

So I don’t really know what it like to spend as if one is making more than 250K/year– we never got there with spending.  The money just kind of piled up and I put it in IRAs and donated some and finally got nice countertops for the kitchen, replaced our grad school and first-year-with-a-real-job cars, and did a bunch of home maintenance stuff that suddenly came up because we’ve been living in this house for well over a decade now.

And then the money ran out at DH’s company.  So they got furloughed.  And then it turns out there was less money than expected, so the layoff that was supposed to happen in December is happening in November and the grant that was supposed to happen in January got rejected on a paperwork issue and the other grant that could have happened in January wouldn’t actually happen until April if it gets accepted.  And the company owner is getting closer to 80 and really wanting to wind down and retire for real.  So… this might be the end of this job that DH really enjoyed.

Now, with just my income, after two hard-fought raises to get me closer to market value, we are still upper-middle-class.  We can still buy whatever we want at the grocery store.  With the money I’ve kept in cash once it became clear that DH’s company was having problems we probably don’t need to make any major changes to our lifestyle or purchases.  If DC1 goes to a fancy college with a big endowment, we may be eligible for some financial aid, whereas with DH working we would not be.  (And we might have to take out loans depending on where zie goes instead of cash flowing what the 529 doesn’t cover.)

DH probably doesn’t ever have to work again so long as I keep employed.  He can be FIRE, but without the money-making blog, just living as a house-husband.

He’ll probably want to work again eventually, and I admit, I do like it when he brings in money.  That paycheck was awfully nice while it lasted.  Being high income is really really nice and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  But it’s also nice having someone completely trustworthy and intelligent around to just take care of things with the house and family, so long as he doesn’t spend all his time pulling weeds.  (We’re keeping the lawn service this time so he will not have an excuse to mow.)

So, I don’t know what will happen.  This job is probably done– most of the other members of his company can’t wait until April for uncertain income.  They’re likely to find work elsewhere.  And then there will be nobody in the company.  The company owner has paid salaries out of pocket before and taken out loans etc. but seems disinclined to do so this time around.  And DH really doesn’t want to do another systems architecture project to tide things over like last time.  We don’t really live where DH can do things based on his PhD (other than being an adjunct or post-doc which are low-paid and he doesn’t want to do if we don’t need the money).  His best option is probably to do contract work from people in his network.  We’ll see if that is forthcoming, though he wants to take a longish break before sending out feelers.  Most of his friends at the big companies on the coasts have left said companies and gone to work for less money at start-ups.

I don’t have a moral– this is just an update.  I’m about to get a house-husband which is very nice in many ways.  And our family will now just be bringing in lots of money rather than unfathomable amounts, and we’ll no longer be saving up insane amounts.  This won’t become a travel blog since we tried to go to Portland for our 20th anniversary and ended up with a Pandemic instead.  Obviously we were not meant to go anywhere.  The possibilities are no longer endless.  I won’t have obnoxious posts about what to do with all this extra money.

Money goes to:

My 403(b)
My 457b
My backdoor roth IRA
DH’s spousal IRA (starting in 2021)
DC2’s 529 plan
General expenses (which will be going up since I’ll have to add DH to all my insurances).

I don’t yet know if we will be taking out of savings or if we’ll just be living off my salary (I haven’t gotten paid yet for the year, but preliminary estimates suggest I take-home a little more than we spend in most years so long as we don’t buy two new cars and remodel the kitchen again).  I don’t get paid in the summer unless I have a grant, and I don’t have plans for submissions any time soon, so I will have to draw down from savings in the summer.  But we’ve got enough in there that we’ll be fine and will probably still have next summer’s emergency fund left by the time I get paid in October.

So… a bittersweet update.  But far better to have been temporarily insanely high income and to have saved it than to have never gotten those savings at all.

Again don’t let anyone tell you that money doesn’t buy happiness.  Boy is it nice to have more income than you could ever need.  It is lovely even if you put that money away to buy future security and future happiness.  I bet it’s even lovelier to be confident enough in that income stream to bump up spending.  (And we still can’t afford to buy a house in Paradise…)  I wonder if it’s good that we didn’t get used to that high income since we won’t really have to be cutting, or if I regret not having had those experiences we could have had (could still have if we spend down savings…)  And I feel a little sad that we weren’t able to give our kids the benefits of expensive summer camps and fancy travel and so on.  But they’ve still gotten a lot of benefits from growing up upper-middle-class (and occasionally traveling with me to conferences), and they have a lot of life left to live.  We have a lot of life left to live.

Link love

Naked ballots in Pennsylvania won’t be accepted.

Our 2019 Tax Return Revealed: Total Income $522,662, Taxable Income $253,906

A transgender fairy tale.

A reminder that sometimes having 4 coffee cups is not too many coffee cups.


Ask the grumpies: What do you want to do when you retire?

CG asks:

What do you want to do when you retire? My motivation for asking is I’m always interested in these people who retire at 40 or 50–they have a lot of time left if things go well and what kinds of things do they want to do or accomplish with their second act? This applies to people who plan to retire at a more traditional age as well.

#1 doesn’t really plan on retiring.  I don’t know what I would do.  I’m honestly not very good at being unproductive 100% of the time (I am very good at being unproductive on weekends) and I’m sure I would feel huge amounts of guilt if I weren’t doing something to make the world a better place.  Depending on the trajectory that the US ends up in, I would probably end up miserable trying to herd volunteer cats to fight the power.  The life of a professor in which I gently nudge students to think critically about their goals and how to achieve them while also removing their math phobia seems a lot better than that.  If the world was in a good place, I don’t know, probably go places to try eating new things, read more challenging novels than I do now, and watch youtube videos.  I’d probably also exercise more.  I would hopefully not waste too much time arguing with people who are wrong on the internet, but who knows.

#2 loves the idea of retirement and would read books, foster kittens, and travel to Italy to eat.  Also all the naps.

Call your senators

Yes, I know it’s all stressful.  I have actually gone on a twitter/reddit freeze because I just cannot after hearing of RBG’s passing.

But I am on a lot of email lists and they are pushing as hard as they can to delay the Supreme Court nomination for as long as possible.  And we all (in the US) need to help.  We need to call our Republican AND our Democrat senators and ask them to delay the nomination until January.  This may not actually delay the nomination, but it could, and more importantly, delaying it means we’re more likely to end up with a Roberts (still too conservative, but not batshit crazy evil) than with a Kavanaugh (drunken misogynist).  It will also change the media narrative from “who is he going to pick” to “will he be allowed to pick?” Republicans need to know that they’re on notice and Democrats need to be able to point to all the calls they’re getting.  Every call is important, every call matters.  You can call during the day and talk to someone or you can wait until after hours and leave a message.  You can send in a fax.  These are all good options.

Now I’m going to quote from an email from Celeste_P with more information.

Call your Senators, and let them know that we cannot confirm a Supreme Court justice until the next Congress is in office. 

(this is to avoid a lame duck session appointment)

Right now, the balance of power in the Senate is 47 (45 Dems + 2 independents) to 53 Republicans.

So, we need FOUR GOP Senators to essentially agree they won’t move forward with any nomination. Here’s our current math:

1. Murkowksi has already said she won’t vote.

So we now need three. This can be three sitting Republicans (e.g. Romney or Collins, the latter of who has given a loophole-filled statement) OR if Mark Kelly is elected and takes his seat before the end of November – we would then need two more. Does that make sense?

But because this is all up-in-the-air math, we should: 
1. Continue calling all Senators. Full stop.
2. And please, please – stick with calling your own Senators.

I know this is so much easier said than done right now. I know we also all really want to also go yell at GOP Senators. But GOP Senators need to hear from their constituents on this, and random non-constituents calling will not help – e.g. see Susan Collins using non-constituent calls to justify her eventual Kavanaugh vote.

Because we’re also deep into the election, GOP senators will also use non-constituent calls for ads and fundraise – so let’s not inadvertently give tools to GOP candidates right now.



You: Hi, my name is [name], I’m calling from [zip code].

You: I’m calling to demand [SENATOR] commit to NO Senate confirmation vote until after the November election. We are 45 days out from our next general election.

Using previous SCOTUS nomination precedents including the blocked nomination of Merrick Garland, I want [Senator] to confirm they will let the next Senate take this step.

You: [Optional comments]


Celeste P doesn’t send out emails very often, but when she does they are extremely helpful.  Here’s a link to get on her mailing list:  https://tinyletter.com/Celeste_pewter Her twitter feed also has regular actions.

Indivisible emails more frequently, maybe once or twice a week (probably half action/half fundraising).  Sign up here:  https://indivisible.org/signup

If you’re a US citizen, let us know in the comments how you contacted your senators today!

What should you do when your employer stops its retirement match?

Disclaimer:  We are not financial professionals.  Please do your own research and/or consult a professional before making important financial decisions.

Universities all over the country are temporarily suspending generous retirement fund matches.  Recently, the Fortune 500 company my sister works for decided to follow suit, which is ridiculous given that they’re not in dire straits and have been through worse.  (It makes sense when DH’s tiny company temporarily cuts the match, but a Fortune 500 company that’s built on keeping top talent with firm specific human capital AND wants to be able to gently let older workers go in a world without mandatory retirement… it’s ridiculous and very short-sighted.  I mean, maybe it’s helping them delay lay-offs… I would be more confident in their decision making if they hadn’t tried to make everybody come back into work in person after the initial quarantine was lifted even if they were productive at home or were in Covid danger categories.  But I digress.)

So what should you do if you are in this situation?

Part of the answer depends on how secure your job is.  If you’ve got tenure and you don’t think your uni is going to go completely out of business, or if you’re not in danger of being laid off from a large firm, then you need to make up the difference and contribute more to your retirement account.  If you’re worried about losing your job and being unemployed for a while and don’t already have a good emergency fund, then you might want to contribute the same or less to your retirement account (though if you are in this situation, you should see where you can cut spending and do a financial fire drill before you sign anything that decreases your retirement contributions– you need to take care of yourself in the future too).

How do you contribute more?  The first way is easy:  if you haven’t been maxing out your 401K/403B ($19500 in 2020), then up that to the amount that you used to be matched.  So if your uni gave you 5K if you put in 3K, then up your contribution to 8K (or as close as you can get).  If you had a 100% contribution, then double what you’re currently putting in.  If you put in 10K and your company put in 5K, then contribute another 5K.  (And if the match comes back, you can still contribute the full 15K– your company is allowed to contribute something like $37,500 on top of your own contributions.)

If you’re already putting in $19,500 each year and have lost the match the first place to look to put in more money is into an IRA, up to $6,000 additional.  If you’re able to put in $19,500 to a 401K/403b plan, chances are you are only able to contribute to a backdoor converted Roth IRA because you’re making a lot of money.  But if you do make less than the income limits , you can contribute to a regular IRA Roth or Traditional IRA without having do a backdoor conversion.

If you have already maxed out your IRA space, check to see if your company allows Backdoor Roths with their 401K (these are less likely with 403b, since they are a way for high income people to hide said income from taxes, but who knows, maybe the fed has them).  If so, you can contribute up to $37,500 tax advantaged in one.

If you don’t have any of these options but you want to protect your future self, think about other places that you can put the money you are losing out from losing the match.  Do you have debt (including mortgage) you could pay down?  Do you have a high deductible health insurance plan with a health savings account?– That money is tax advantaged twice!   If you are planning on paying for your kids’ college– maybe the 529 could use a boost?

The truth is, if you are getting your retirement match cut, you are getting a pay-cut and you need to adjust your spending/savings if you can.  If you are in a precarious situation, then you need more money in short term savings even if it means a spending cut.  If your situation is more stable, then you need to make up for the future loss from lost retirement savings, preferably in a way that is tax-advantaged.

Have your benefits been cut this year?  If so, what are you planning on doing as a response?

Link Love

I have a paper draft deadline on Tuesday for a paper that hasn’t been written, so really light links again this week.  This is going to be the story of a lot of this semester until January as I have promised too many unwritten papers to conferences.  Usually they don’t all get accepted(!)  I am still struggling with having time to do Activism, but I’ve been getting baby steps in, mostly getting people to register and check their registration.  DH promises to use his free Fridays until the election to do activism and he’s going to start by going through all the action emails I’ve been letting pile up in our junkmail account.  It is just so hard to do everything, but this election is SO important.

Poignant Frog and Toad pandemic stories by McSweenys.

Lots of blogs are having lots of different schooling experiences.  Here’s another.  At Casa Grumpy, DC2 just got introduced to a lot of educational games (Prodigy and Kaboom are the two recent favs), so zie is happy.  I’m not sure all this computer time plus Minecraft is great for hir eyes, but it’s good for my sanity!  Spanish weeks are still a lot harder on me.

This second short story here (The Princess Who Could Not Cry) was one of my favorites as a girl.  I thought it was in my book of princess stories illustrated by Lois Lenski, but it isn’t!  I don’t think I had the Rainbow Cat where it was originally published, but I do wonder what anthology it was originally in.

Ask the Grumpies: Where should I donate for Activism if I only have a little money?

K asks:

If I only have say, $5,$10 or $25 right now where is the best place to donate, in this present life or death election?

I do not know the answer, but maybe someone from Grumpy Nation will.

If you are someplace in which the local elections matter and aren’t obvious (so you’re not trying to decide between two amazing options), your local elections are probably going to give the most bang for your buck.  A little money will go a long way.  And that money won’t be wasted sending you thick envelopes asking for more money (ugh).  You could also probably pick up a yard sign for someone local for $5 or $10 from your local dems office or from their campaign hq.

If you’re *not* in that situation, I’m not sure.  I’ve been doing a lot of $25 donations to close races in my state that aren’t ones I’m allowed to vote in.  There’s also a lot of small campaigns where you can donate post-card stamps and post-cards.  Or you can combine your small $ with time and write letters to voters (you provide paper, printing, envelopes, stamps) with votefwd.org or write post-cards to voters with a number of organizations (of which postcardstovoters.org is one)

There are also things you can do for free.  Call up your local dems office and/or local (or less local) indivisible office and get on their email mailing list. I find out about lots of important opportunities for giving or doing from mailing lists from a couple of Indivisible groups in nearby cities.

My sister says doing phone-calls this year is way nicer than in previous years– people are happy to talk.  Similarly, there are texting campaigns (I’m not crazy about a lot of texting campaigns, but I do like the “get out the vote” ones).  For many of these you can either use your phone or you can use your wireless internet to actually do the contacting, so if you’re on a limited data plan for your phone you can use the internet instead.

A very simple thing you can do for free is to get your friends and acquaintances to check their voter registration to make sure they’re registered.  Ask folks about their plans to vote– if voting absentee, have they ordered a ballot yet?  Then let people know if/when early voting starts and other deadlines.  You can also call up your local electeds and tell them you are not interested in fascism.  Tell them to impeach Attorney General Barr and to make Postmaster DeJoy resign.  Ask for bipartisan legislation to protect the USPS.  Ask your governor to allow and expand ballot drop boxes.  Ask Congress to support nation-wide mail-in voting.  Demand an extension for the US Census.  And on and on (scripts for these are all available from https://5calls.org/ ).  You can also follow celeste_p on twitter for up-to-date actions.

Grumpy Nation:  Where do you think small donations are best used?  What suggestions do you have for low cost or no-cost actions?

What is your plan to vote?

#1: Will vote during the early voting period in person, likely early morning on a Wednesday during the first week and I will also drag DH with me.

#2: Lives in a state with voting by mail, and always chooses that option. It is important to get the ballot in earlier than the deadline in case of USPS delays.

#1: I will also remind students to register to vote here or request their absentee ballots NOW. I gave the student workers voter registration cards to put in the mailboxes of our majors and I will write emails on how to register and how to vote for our department chair to send out to students.

What is your plan to vote? Have you requested an absentee ballot yet? Do you know where you can turn one in? Have you checked your voter registration to make sure you’re still registered and everything is up to date?  Do you have any suggestions for getting the vote out?

Getting a gift-card for DC2’s teacher was even harder this year

DC2’s virtual dual language teacher continues to be amazing.  So we thought, why wait for teacher conferences (and will we even have parent teacher conferences this year?), let’s donate to her classroom now.  And since there’s only one teacher instead of two, we’ll just give her the full amount.

I figured we’d just go to giftcardmall (not sponsored) and order two $500 cards as per usual, but alas, they only allow up to $250 now.  There is one company that does still allow $500 cards, but Walmart doesn’t accept purchases over $50 from them and the internet is full of complaints about numbers being stolen and the cards being made useless.

We emailed the principal at the home school for the teacher and confirmed that gift cards are still the best way to donate and that we could donate anonymously through her.  Yes and yes.

After a lot of going back and forth, I decided that the risk wasn’t worth it and paid the extra money to get 4 cards for $250 each instead of 2 cards for $500.  That also meant I had to pay extra for shipping, but shipping was safer.  The cards came a few days later.  I stuck all 4 giftcards into one of the greeting cards they sent, added a note explaining, taped up the greeting card envelope, stuck it in one of those pronged envelopes which I also closed and wrote the teacher’s name c/o the principal’s name on the outside.  Then DH dropped it off at her home base elementary school.

Shipping + fees = $34.75.

I feel really silly for having to do this– four cards seems silly.  Spending $35 to convert money into (riskier) plastic money seems silly.  But… doing it this way does allow the teacher to circumvent having to use approved suppliers or get bids.  And I’m so short on time this semester that I was willing to pay it just to stop having to think about the best solution.

This will probably be the last time we do this since 5th grade is in middle school and there are multiple teachers.  Donations will go back to being in the form of kleenex/paper towels/wipes, assuming there’s a vaccine by then.