Link Love

Stacking Pennies estimates how much they would need on hand to early retire where she lives.

How gender bias against women is operationalized in wikipedia.

Three out of four people in this family got vaccinated for covid and then all four got covid anyway.

From NIHCM email:  “A recently released study using the health insurance records of nearly two million COVID-19 patients explains that 23.2% of patients have a post-COVID health condition. The report illustrates that long COVID can affect every organ in the body and asymptomatic patients.”

Nikole Hannah Jones discusses why UNC-CH has lost their opportunity to have her on their faculty.

The comments on this post are well worth a read.  I was going to do a reaction post (in addition to a related Ask the Grumpies this coming week), but I think some of the commenters said what I wanted to say so much more beautifully than I would have.  If you’re in the top 10% and feeling down because you can’t have everything right now because you’re not in the top 2%, then definitely take some of the comments and advice to heart.  This is not to say that we shouldn’t push for those dangerous 1%ers to have higher taxes– we absolutely should!  Strengthen the inheritance tax too!  But also… very few people have everything on that list, nor do they need to.  If you have the choice between 10K/year on family vacations vs. 10K/year to the 529 plan, you’re already in pretty good shape.  If you’re upper middle class and are jealous of our 529 plan saving, then remember we’ve never had a real vacation.  No regrets.  Well, except that Covid killed our 20th anniversary trip to Portland.  We’re still just as married as before though.

Postcards to voters has a new Florida campaign up.

45 Responses to “Link Love”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    Regarding being a top 5%er in a 1% neighborhood, that’s me all day long. The really rich often have family money that allowed them to start businesses. So even though they are wealthy of their own accord, it wasn’t without help.

    I think the reason we are at peace with where we are is because we really understand the trade offs of doing that big high powered job (because we were both on that track) and they are just not worth the extra money. They’re not worth your health, your family, your marriage, your sanity.

    Also, neither of us have a high debt tolerance so we are not okay financing the better lifestyle which a lot of people are fine with.

    I fully agree with the statement, “you can have anything you want at that income just not everything you want.” We did forgo the fancy cars, lawn service, nannies, a move in ready house, contractors, designer clothes, a vacation house, a pool or other expensive toys, etc. We only do an expensive vacation every other year. If we really wanted a Tesla, we could certainly buy one tomorrow but that’s like 2 years of college savings for one kid and I have not met that financial goal yet.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      A lot of the big ticket items people we know get just seem like extra hassle. We’re not rich enough to hire someone to deal with all the extra stuff associated with a second house or boat etc. and why bother when you can just rent things? I guess at this point we’re rich enough to hire someone to deal with the hassle and expense of a pool, but even the dual MD couple we know has gotten stress from theirs breaking recently, so I’m good with our decision to let the HOA do the upkeep on theirs even though we haven’t gone since before the pandemic.

  2. anon19 Says:

    I’m going anonymous for this one–

    Based on what I can find and not counting the pandemic income shifts, my household is in the top 5-6% in terms of household income nationally. Neither one of us came from wealthy families and my husband was at poverty level. The only thing on the SHUbox list that we actually do is childcare and maybe the house. (The house itself is not modern and expensive-looking, but it’s on a large plot of land, and the land drove the price up.) We could do a 529, but I haven’t gotten it organized yet. We could spend for all of the things on her list and probably still be fine in the short term, but don’t choose to. I wouldn’t feel secure about the long term if we went into the lifestyle that goes with that kind of spending. Most of our lifestyle choices are the same as the ones we were making when our incomes were much smaller and we were still paying off educational debt.

    In a book I don’t recommend (author’s female characters were problems), a character said, “If you don’t like the game, don’t play.” Despite my objections to the author, I think those are words to live by. You don’t have to play the acquire/desire/experience game, or you can choose which parts of it you play.

    I’m quietly worried about the people in our family whose expenses are on display, particularly travel. I don’t know their incomes, but based on what I can guess, they’re either living with ongoing credit card debt or have never saved much for retirement or emergencies. Or both.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Our house is the opposite—expensive looking, built in the 1990s, but not actually that expensive! (Because the land isn’t particularly expensive.)

      Our spending on things has gone up over the course of this blog, but only as our net worth has grown enough to make me feel secure.

  3. SP Says:

    Thanks for the link! In case it wasn’t obvious, the post was at least partly inspired by your comment of what it would take for you to live in a HCOLA.

    The SHUbox link/comments is interesting – not done with the comments yet, but will definitely finish them. I have little patience for top 10%er “woe is me” nonsense – although I do try to have empathy for the VERY NORMAL human emotions that people of all incomes have when comparing with others. I’m pretty good at squashing those feelings myself and focusing on how lucky we are, and really, anything else is a waste of time. There are tons of ways to have a happy family, and it is all gravy if you are already in the top 10%. A lot of the comments (so far) are pointing to family money or debt (or simple lack of savings) possibly backing people’s lifestyle. And maybe, but it could be any number of things, and it really just isn’t important at all. While family money or family help is not uncommon, it seems that it is just as common for people to NOT have family money or not having local family help with childcare/etc.Sometimes i do imagine the life we could have if we stopped saving so much money and simply spent most of our income. I don’t think i’d be significantly happier, if happier at all.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah at a certain point anything better would be a huge expense to do ethically (foreshadowing for Friday’s post I guess).

      It is interesting how people who grew up in different income brackets do or don’t approach things and just take things for granted. Some things that I don’t see the point in other people feel deprived for not having or feel are necessities because that’s what they grew up knowing. I don’t really know what’s “better” but our kids are getting raised probably middle/upper middle class. They don’t want for anything and have every middle class advantage we can provide but we were going to send them to expensive fancy camps for the first time last year and that all got canceled. And we don’t have any house cleaner, much less one that tidies in addition to cleaning.

    • teresa Says:

      I am seriously amazed most people in CA don’t have earthquake insurance. I’ve lived here my entire life and can’t imagine not having it. Having a small idea what it cost my parents to fix our house after the northridge earthquake, it’s always felt cheap actually.

      • SP Says:

        I don’t know, ours runs about $3k annually, and the deductible is high. I forget, but something like 20% of costs? So some people figure, over a lifetime, the cost doesn’t make sense. Or they figure the money is better invested in retrofitting. Or they just figure it won’t happen to them, or the gov’t will help out or something.

        Our house is from the 1950s/1960s so presumably structurally survived a number of earthquakes – even before any retrofitting that we’ve completed. (But we still carry it, I can just see an argument for not.)

      • teresa Says:

        Interesting…ours is about $1500/year with 15% deductible for a house built in the 1920s. So also presumably has survived plenty (although now I’m reminded I don’t think it’s braced and I really ought to do that). I can see people thinking it’s a low probability event and I certainly hear tons of “I never thought THAT would happen to ME” about much higher probability events at work so I really shouldn’t be surprised. I also wonder if a lot of people really get that CA homeowner’s policies don’t cover earthquakes anymore.

  4. Cloud Says:

    So… the Tesla thing is weird. Some Teslas are really expensive, but the point of the Model 3 – which is definitely the Tesla I see most around here – was that it was in the same rough price range as other “nice” cars. if I remember correctly, our Tesla Model 3 cost about the same as the fully-tricked out plug-in hybrid Kia Niro we were considering before we decided to go all electric. Now, the Niro starts at a lower price but by the time we’d gotten the extra features we wanted it was not much cheaper. But that’s my memory and when I went and looked up the price of a Niro now maybe I’m remembering wrong. Anyway, the Model 3 is definitely the most expensive car I’ve ever bought but it wasn’t wildly more expensive than any of the other cars we were looking at. I just looked it up – base Model 3 price is about $40k. I picked a big SUV at random and searched the price of an Expedition – base price is almost $50k. Which is what we paid for our Model 3 (we wanted the long range, so we didn’t go with the base model).

    But no one sees someone driving an Expedition and thinks they must be super rich. Maybe because you can get a used Expedition easier than a used Model 3? Maybe because Elon Musk is such a public prat and we are mostly unaware of how much of a jerk executives at other car companies may or may not be? I don’t know.

    Which is not to say that I don’t consider myself rich. I do. My quick search says we’re in the top 5% of household income. That’s on 2 salaries. We do not have any inherited wealth. We own a nice house in a nice part of an expensive city. We have plenty of savings. I cannot think of a thing I want that I cannot afford, except maybe a nice house with an ocean view walking distance to the ocean… But honestly, maybe I could afford that if we sold our current house but our current house is walking distance to my younger daughter’s school so maybe I don’t really want that walking distance to the ocean thing right now.

    I think private school is the thing that most often pushes people in my income bracket to think they aren’t rich – both because private school tuition for multiple kids sucks up a lot of your income and because once you send your kids to private school you are now socializing with some much richer people. I am lucky to live in a place where I am perfectly happy to send my kids to public school, and that is something I would never have considered when choosing where to settle down. I picked San Diego because it has a lot of jobs in my field and it is a super nice place to live. I didn’t think about schools at all!

    It is true that Instagram feeds feelings of envy, though. I mostly follow cute animal accounts on Instagram. I am wildly jealous of an Australian lady with two pet wombats.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      In 2019 the model 3 base was 35k, which is well in line with suvs and minivans.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        (Also in the comments of the next post Shu makes it clear she doesn’t think you’re status seeking.)

      • Cloud Says:

        I’ll have to go check out her next post. I don’t feel attacked by the Tesla comments, just bemused. I think there is something interesting going on there but not sure what it is. I hear them in real life, too, sometimes from people driving cars that I think cost more than mine! It is weird.

        Also, we’re unusual in how we handle our money in that we don’t carry debt other than our mortgage and we drive our cars until they are basically worthless. The Tesla replaced a 2006 Prius and our other car right now is a 2009 Mazda 5. Not carrying debt is an easy decision now because like I said, there isn’t anything we want that’s tempting us to debt, but it was a harder decision earlier when we were less well-off and it has served us well.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yeah the millionaire next door book talks a lot about how the big way that people make it harder to save is by changing cars frequently. Houses and cars are really most people’s largest expenses. I’m hoping we get many more years out of our current hondas.

      • teresa Says:

        I was perplexed by all the anti-Tesla comments on that post, and honestly a little afraid to comment. We also bought a 3 in 2019 and even though we were set on the 3 and wanted the long range anyway I remember looking up how much a Bolt would be- and the Bolt MSRP was the same as the base 3 (with comparable range as the standard range 3). I just looked up the Bolt again and if you configure it to have features comparable to a standard range 3 it’s…$40k, so still the same. Maybe people still think they all cost as much as the X and S? Or maybe it is that Elon Musk is such a public ass.

        On her list I have a small but updated house in a ridiculously gentrified neighborhood, teslas, vacations, and the ability to retire semi-early if I want (I don’t want, but I don’t want to be stuck if I can’t really work for some reason either). Not on her list, I don’t work a full FTE and I have a subspecialty-specific job. I think I’m extremely privileged. I still would have to give up a lot of that if I had kids, so there’s the tradeoff. (I guess I also didn’t want to respond there because I didn’t want to come off as saying well, you chose to have kids, because that’s not my intention. People should be able to have the kids they want. It’s just, most of the audience of this blog and hers want things FOR their kids that are expensive. I would.)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        And it’s not just kids, it’s also the number of kids. Each filled 529 is a house in some areas. Daycare can be even more!

    • middle_class Says:

      I think the tesla is still so rare that people assume the owner/driver is very rich. I only know one person with a tesla amd she is just really into new techonology and cars. Yes shr has money bit is also one of the most low key person I know.

      I treat instagram more like pinterest so I don’t follow friends or acquaintences. I follow some animal rescue groups and have been influenced to be more generous.

  5. revanche @ a gai shan life Says:

    I notice people’s Teslas because I can’t stand Elon Musk and so I scowl whenever I see anything that reminds me of him.

    I’ve made a lot of the same observational comparisons and my conclusions tend to land in the vein of: wait what the hell am I DOING with our money? We make a really good income but we have very different lifestyles to our coworkers in our peer group. I often joke we’re in the wrong professions because we both chose job types that simply don’t pay seven figures ever ever and we know plenty of people in his company or my past companies that do earn like that. But I don’t want to have the things they have. I just want to know that if I did, I’ve been wise enough with our money so we could have it.
    I like having the money more. I like having the financial security MUCH more. A friend on Twitter said something about wondering what kind of money their peers were making because they had really nice toys and I both flippantly but honestly replied that whenever I see a lot of shiny toys I assume there’s family money or there’s debt. Or there are going to be fewer opportunities.

    We caught up with some friends recently and the subject of retirement came up. I mentioned having a hard day at work where I just wanted to quit and retire. They laughed and said they were feeling that crunch too but when they revisited their numbers, nothing had changed. They won’t be retiring before 65. They have an objectively MUCH nicer house, are about to do a second big remodel, and have the really nice brand new car. I like their stuff but I don’t like it enough to add years to our retirement timeline. I think those are some of the details that gets glossed over when you see snapshots of people’s lives. And if there IS debt or family money involved rather than simply different priorities, well, the end result is the same!

    So I focus on staring at my money management to see what I can do better and pay little mind to the stuff other people have. The pandemic actually made that even easier since we didn’t have to see any of JB’s daycare friends whose parents are definitely spending like they’re in a higher tax bracket.

  6. accm Says:

    I was lucky enough to have a Wikipedia page written about me during a hackathon organized by a collaborator at another university. Because I had to do some edits (as my own website is woefully out of date, and they started by grabbing text from that) and a photo, I ended up looking at the history of my page. It was nominated for deletion within seconds of the skeleton page being created. It did not end up being deleted, but that was probably only because the contributors managed to get some material up in short order and convince an editor I was “notable” (haha, says my imposter syndrome). Anyway, at the time I cynically figured, “Yeah, that’s probably what happens to most women’s pages.” Interesting to see that somewhat confirmed.

  7. Matthew D Healy Says:

    As a faculty kid growing up in a fairly large city, I was VERY familiar with the contradictions inherent in being (1) better off financially than most people but (2) having less money than most of my friends because socially my parents were a couple notches above their income bracket.

    It was a huge source of comfort for me that by the time I was aware that recessions and layoffs existed my father had tenure! And when I went off to college that world was hardly terra incognita for me.

  8. undine Says:

    Never a vacation for us, either, unless once in a blue moon the family came along for a conference. All time & money was spent visiting family, which both is and is not a vacation.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Exactly. So like we do go places with the kids but generally it is rural Midwest and we don’t have to pay for housing. The family Wisconsin dells trip last summer also got canceled by covid.

  9. Traveling parent Says:

    I found the discussion really fascinating, based in the UK on much more modest incomes (postdoc and civil servant, we make above the median). But I feel super comfortable, we have a 3 bed semidetached house with a beautiful garden, can buy everything we need and lots of what we want (brunch, books, the occasional fancy linen dress, the good tea and coffee). I think part of that is our social circle, where income disparities aren’t as noticeable or as extreme. And partly a lack of economic anxiety around emergencies, we aren’t ever going to get a healthcare bill, if something happened where we couldn’t work for a period, we would continue to receive our full salaries for a good duration (and we have insurance which would provide in terms of longer term issues). I am obviously a precarious academic but I am pretty sure could find a non academic job with roughly comparable salary. Tuition is free where we are, and while I suspect it won’t stay that way, our mortgage will be paid off by the time kiddo heads to uni, so we could divert mortgage funds to tuition. Are we going to be able to retire early? Nope, but I am not sure I want to.

  10. middle_class Says:

    I am generally not sympathetic toward high earners/ top 10% households venting about keeping up with the Joneses. However, on most finance blogs I read, like this one, the readers are fairly high income but also aware of their privilege. Therefore I have made an effort to understand that even the top 5% have real financial struggles, especially those in HCOLA. It is also human nature to compare yourself to others in your immediate surroundings.

    At the same time…

    A richer friend once told me she could not afford kids due to private school and colllege expenses. If I shared her criteria, and that of most of that blog’s commenters, I definitely should NOT have had kids.

    Sometimes I wonder if higher earners pity us ( and others in the lower or middle class) because their bare MINIMUM is a modest house in a good/great neighborhood with excellent public schools or enough income to send their kids to private schools. Having to send their kids to mediocre schools would be a major parental fail. I won’t even touch upon the subject of college funds and costly extracurricular activities.

    I would say that we are lower middle to middle-class with some periods of higher income but never breaking into six figures. We live in a theee bedroom home in a safe and quiet midde class neighborhood. Trader Joes would never consider our area good enough for a location. The public schools are mediocre in terms of test scores and amenities. Side note: I wish people would put time and energy to improve public schools for all instead of creating their private school bubbles.

    Our kids could go to good state school even if we can’t afford all the extracurricular opportunities. It may just be a harder path.

    I don’t really have a conclusion for this comment. I just wanted to share my thoughts.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I would argue that the top 5%’s financial struggles are not actually real. If you’re making over 300k/year (now that we have health insurance), there may be trade offs but not actual struggle. Even in Manhattan.

      • Cloud Says:

        Yeah, I don’t feel like I have financial struggles, but I do have financial concerns – decisions we should make that don’t feel obvious to me, particularly since I am now in a much higher income bracket than what I grew up in and so don’t necessarily have good instincts on these decisions. It would be nice to have a place to discuss those but I’m hesitant to do so on my blog because it feels like bragging to me. I should probably just pay a financial advisor but my husband doesn’t want to do that so we just go around and around on the questions. It is a bit silly, really.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        You can discuss them here! Though I do miss Leightpf. The problem with financial advisors is that so many are so bad.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Now… you might want to talk with a tax accountant—they don’t have the same incentive structure as most financial planners.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Probably what you should do is take your questions to the bogleheads forum.

      • SP Says:

        Yes, I like here and bogleheads! I don’t have any interest in a personal finance planner, because I just don’t feel they would spend anywhere near the amount of time and thought on my money as I do.

        On the other hand, I did learn certain things about my/my spouses benefits options that they would have known and told me right away, but I didn’t figure out until later… Namely that my spouses govt 457b could be withdrawn before retirement age (if you leave the employer) without a 10%, and thus should be prioritized over the 403b for anyone considering early retirement. Maybe early retirement is an uncommon goal, but I find it really weird/infuriating how the easy-to-read summaries of the various plan options do not state this MAJOR difference, at all. It’s like they don’t trust people to make good decision with this information, and want to nudge people to the “locked up until age 60” version?

      • Cloud Says:

        I will see if I can formulate our questions into something I could submit for Ask the Grumpies! And I’ll check out the bogleheads forum. Thanks!

    • SP Says:

      ah, yup, that would have answered my questions! Or really, anything would have mentioned this if I had done any research beyond relying on the employer provided plan docs, which inexplicably focus on the hardship loan availability as the main difference.

  11. Debbie M Says:

    I wonder if wikipedia does anything about people who nominate multiple articles for deletion that are subsequently not deleted. You don’t even have to call them racist or sexist to label them as people who do not have valuable insights on whether articles should be deleted.

  12. xykademiqz Says:

    Great links here! I just read SHU’s post and comments. It’s funny, I never envy people on money or cars or whatever. We have enough, can afford anything we care about, and lavish vacations and expensive whatevers have never been something I craved, so it doesn’t even register. I do envy people’s achievements, though. A lawyer I know from literary Twitter who published a novel (with a traditional publisher), that I envy. People who write and publish more or better fiction, that I envy. (I mean, I am happy for them, but also envy them. It’s possible and human to feel both.) I used to envy colleagues at better schools who published in better journals, but somehow I no longer do. What I envy is people having time to focus on what they deem important. It generally turns out that none of these people whose achievements I envy have as many kids as I do, and they tend to be, let’s say, the significantly less involved parent if they do have kids at all. 2020/21 fucking killed me ability to do any deep work for any purpose, as I have been interrupted at a rate I never imagined possible without murdering someone.

    I also envy hot women, but that’s neither here nor there. I am descending into dowdiness without much fanfare. I’m far too lazy for the upkeep that’s required to be hot at my age. Or any age, really. F*&* that noise.

    • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

      “I do envy people’s achievements, though.”

      Me too! Especially the publishing a book thing, for various reasons.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I don’t envy people’s achievements so much as I envy luck and unfair advantages. I want luck and unfair advantages! (Really I want an actual level playing field, but in the absence of that I want my way to be easier too– if it’s going to be unfair gimme.)

    • xykademiqz Says:

      Btw, specialist doctor salaries are insane; I always kinda knew that, but never looked at the actual numbers much. Now I ended up searching typical salaries for the location and specializations of SHU and her husband, and, OH BOY! My husband and I together make about what SHU does alone (yet I think I am well paid and I make 2+ times what my husband does). SHU’s husband makes 2x what she does.

      TBH, the comment section of that post is a bit surreal. It really is a different world and different priorities.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I think shu works reduced hours? But also she’s in an upper level administrative position? I’m not as good a stalker as I could be.

        They used to have a full time nanny/housekeeper who would grocery shop and make meals. That’s luxury!

      • xykademiqz Says:

        LOL I don’t know the details, as I don’t really follow her blog regularly. I just looked up endocrinologist and vascular surgeon in Florida and went by the statistical averages listed on salary dot com.

        Yeah, I’d have loved loved LOVED a nanny who also cooks. Cooking is the bane of my existence. I know a couple here, they’re both profs, who have a full-time nanny who cooks, cleans, etc. That must be really nice.

        We’re almost done with paying for one kid’s college (he’s a rising senior). Mortgage will be paid off by the time the second one is due to go. We’ve already paid off one whole house post-tax by paying for daycare for three kids, 5 years each. It’s a shitton of money.

        In more uplifting news, it’s your money posts that have prompted me to looks into investing beyond our employer-provided and employer-matched 401(k)/403(b). Hubs teases me that I am a real capitalist now as I own stocks [started with an index fund, Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI) while I am getting comfy]. The plan is to also open a Vanguard IRA with a target-date fund, set it and forget it. and that will probably be it for my individual investment escapades. But thank you for your clear and interesting money posts! I definitely found them enticing enough to want to learn more.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        She does pediatric endocrinology, so that might pay differently than endo? I did not know he was a vascular surgeon! A very impressive couple.

        Daycare is expensive, and each kid is like 5 years at a state university but without any financial aid.

        Yay more retirement savings! As your income goes up, your predicted spending in retirement also increases (on average, people spend about 80% of what they were spending pre-retirement AND income and spending are highly correlated with most people), which means that you might run out of room in your 401K/403(b) to save what you need for a healthy retirement. Like you’re saying, doing backdoor Roth IRAs with Vanguard (Target date fund, set and forget!) is a great and not that difficult way to get a little bit more room each year.

        I do recommend the Bogleheads Guide to Investing just to get a baseline understanding of what and why everything is if you want to learn more. It’s economist approved! (But also, you’ll come out feeling like VTI and a Vanguard target date fund are great choices, so it will be a deserved pat on the back for you.)


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