Link love

Your local epidemiologist gives information and details on the FDA meeting about vaccines for 5-11 year olds.  This article was really well worth reading.

Claudette Colvin is STILL under probation for not giving up her bus seat to a White woman during Jim Crow.

Our Next Life talks about early retirement and her husband’s recent bike accident that could have been an even worse disaster if she’d listened to the crazy FIRE people who say to self-insure for everything.

Thinking of getting into REITS? Put them in a Roth retirement vehicle. I think I’ll do this in January.

Ask the grumpies: Fees vs returns

Julia asks:

How do you weigh the expense ratio for a fund vs their avg returns? I tend to go for lowest fee ETFs. My husband keeps suggesting that if a fund has overall higher returns that it is worth the slightly huger fee. I’m usually looking at funds with like 0.4% or less in fees. He probably wouldn’t go over 1% but still higher than me. Is the math as simple as if the returns are higher it’s worth the fees?

Disclaimer:  We are not financial professionals.  Please do your own research and/or consult with a certified professional planner before making any life changing money decisions.

Short answer:  You’re right, he’s wrong.

Longer answer:

High fees are usually caused by active management.  Less than 50% of actively managed funds match or beat the market.  That is worse than average!  (I don’t have the cite, but the study finding that came out/got highly publicized a little over 10 years ago.)  You are better off with a fund that matches the market it is indexed to.  Yes, sometimes you will get lucky with an actively managed fund, but on average you won’t.  And, for these actively managed funds, past performance doesn’t predict future performance.  It really is just that sometimes active managers get lucky and sometimes they don’t.

Fees can also just vary arbitrarily:  Brigette Madrian did an interesting study a couple of decades ago where she took a whole bunch of S&P 500 indexes from a bunch of different companies.  These all had the same underlying index, but they had different fees for whatever reason.  These funds also had different “returns since inception” which means that the indexes that were started earlier or the indexes that got lucky and were started when the S&P 500 was at a low point *looked* like they had better returns than did younger S&P 500 indexes or those started when the market was at a high.  But the actual investment option *was the same*.  The interesting thing was that University of Chicago MBAs looked at the advertising and chose based on “returns since inception” even though such a statistic was meaningless.  Even though the funds were identical except for their fees.

Fees will also vary for other reasons I don’t completely understand but are not necessarily linked to higher performances.  Bond funds seem to have higher fees than full market stock funds.  Foreign funds, emerging markets, REIT etc.  these all tend to have higher fees than a straight up S&P 500 or Total Stock Market Index.  But even though they’re higher fee and potentially lower return, they also mitigate risk in a large portfolio.  Bonds have lower returns but also don’t move the same direction stocks do.  Other markets may have more volatile returns but they don’t completely correlate with what’s going on in your standard S&P 500.

Bottom line:  Get a cheap index, and avoid actively managed funds.  When you’re starting out, get the lowest fee Total Stock Market Index or S&P 500 Index you can get (depending on your investment options– in some company plans, the S&P 500 is the *only* affordable index fund and you have to pay a premium to get a total market fund).  If you’re lucky enough to have a cheap Target Date Fund (from Vanguard, for example), you can just set that and forget.  If you don’t have good company options, contribute to the match and then save additional money in a Vanguard IRA (traditional or Roth).

Book recommendation for your husband:  Bogleheads Guide to Investing .


  • DC1 is currently in the top 4% of hir class.  Not quite ranked #2 like my friend’s son in the class above but not so bad for a 14 year old junior who keeps getting Bs in English.
  • By not being in my office much and not traveling at all (other than that one seminar) and not being in *charge* of any service responsibilities for a change, I have a lot more time to do work.  The problem is that it is hard to fill all that space with the brain-power and motivation to do actual work.  I think I am getting more done than I usually do but it just doesn’t *feel* like I am.  Of course, there’s also homeschooling DC2, which while not as disruptive as students or colleagues does take mental power.
  • I really need a new chair for my home office– after I added a purple pillow to help my nether regions, my old Aeron started doing a number on my back and we couldn’t figure out how to not do that, so I traded with DC1 and have a 2-position dorm-style chair (meaning you can easily lean back, no wheels), but sadly it has started to get uncomfortable.  I would get a copy of the fancy chair I have at work (a hand-me-down from an administrator when my ancient office chair literally fell into pieces), except it’s $1000+ and I still need to ball up a cardigan to get enough lumbar support.
  • New reported Covid cases are back down to the single digits and there have only been a handful at K-12.  We had a choice to either start DC2 back in regular school the second week of November (presumably after zie has had a single shot) or in January.  After some discussion we decided to go with January as being less disruptive and we wouldn’t have to worry about people bringing things home from Thanksgiving.
  • I sure hope the university requires that we all do testing before break again, either Thanksgiving or Winter break.  I have to wonder how much of the low numbers we’re currently having are real and how much are just people not getting tests.  My classes sound like a preschool with all the upper-respiratory stuff going on.  (Have they been tested?  I’m not allowed to ask!)
  • With the lower number of cases I wonder if I should try to go chair shopping.  I should probably still wait until DC2 has been fully vaccinated.
  • Update: false alarm:  we were back to high double digits of cases immediately after the lull
  • Now they’re varying between single digits and high double digits.  I wonder if people are no longer getting tested.
  • pretty much nobody is wearing masks anywhere anymore.  Is that rational?
  • my students are getting sick from all sorts of things.  Lots of strep throat this year which is bizarre.
  • None of my family (even DH) had read the phantom tollbooth which is unbelievable to me.  But it turns out DC1’s bookcase doesn’t have my old copy and nobody but me read it in school (Surely you’ve seen the movie, I exclaimed, it was on tv all the time!). I discovered this because DH was remarking on how much both kids love reading and rereading A barrel of laughs, a vale of tears and he wondered if he would like it.  And I said it was very like a James Thurber book (but less sexist) and did he like those.  He didn’t know, so I said, sort of in the style of Phantom Tollbooth, but not as close to that as to Thurber and DH had no idea what I was talking about.  So first I put one of the many library copies on our list but then realized no I needed us to have our own copy.  I caught DC1 reading it on the couch.
  • I literally just now realized that the author of a barrel of laughs was the illustrator of tollbooth.  (!)
  • DC1 couldn’t handle Goosebumps but DC2 is devouring the incredibly gruesome Grimm trilogy by Adam Gidwitz.  I am more like DC1!
  • DC2 has really been doing a lot of stuff independently during hir free-time.  Hir Spanish has improved a lot via overcome the barrier + watching shows in Spanish (currently Hilda and Netflix movies, previously Garfield and Captain Underpants) and reading books in Spanish.  Zie has also been doing science experiments and random crafts (the other day zie sewed together a medium-sized pillow out of nowhere, zie also picked and pressed a number of wildflowers) as well as art via youtube tutorial. There really is a lot of time wasted in K-12 regular school.  But we knew that.
  • we go to the library 3x/week to replenish DC2’s stash (we’re only allowed to have 25 books out at a time).  This week they recognized me and noted I always get there at the same time as their shipment from the other library.
Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 23 Comments »

Why not just do more of what you already do?

One of retireby40’s commenters asked why I don’t just do more of what I do in my free time now if I retire.  Just add 8-9 hours of that instead of working.

What do I do in my free time?  I read romance novels and surf the internet.

As delightful as both are, I do not *want* to spend another 8-9 hours/day doing that.  I would have to start reading crappy romance novels because I’d be out of the good ones and I would probably get tired of the tropes.  As for surfing the internet– the amount I do now doesn’t exactly make me *happy* as it is.

Re: romance novels, there’s something called diminishing marginal utility, which basically means that as you do more of something, the additional happiness boost you get from doing it gets smaller and smaller.  So there’s a big happiness boost from hour one of reading a romance novel, but by hour 10 you kind of want to do something else.

Re: internet surfing, I’m afraid that’s an unhealthy addiction and not really subject to rational economic theory.

So, no, I’m afraid I would actually have to come up with other stuff to do in my waking hours.  And one can only sleep so much.

What do you do in your free time now?  Would you want to add 8-9hrs/day of that if you were retired?  What else would you add?

Link love

Interesting discussion of how a labor shortage makes some jobs less attractive.

A Black family got their beach back — and inspired others to fight against land theft

Delagar with some graphs

Why everything is getting more expensive

Minnesota parents eagerly await Covid 19 vaccine for kids

Baby with a twist on entropy

Ask the grumpies: favorite phone games/fun apps

Steph asks:

What are your favorite phone games/fun apps?

We really suck on answering this question.

#1:  No games because I am easily addicted.  The only apps I have are…

Google maps, yelp, uber/lyft, pdf expert, United, Family Tree (this is what happens when you hang out with economic historians), and then the stuff that comes with the iphone, like find friends and the podcast app.  Probably I use safari, google maps, and the podcast app the most.

#2:  Still does not have a cell phone.

Surely Grumpy Nation has more interesting cell phone usage than we do and has suggestions for Steph!

Cognitive Restructuring

This is a post from 2011!  Or rather, there was an outline in 2011 and I turned it into sentences last weekend, 10 years later.  I was militantly happy back in 2011, and without a pandemic or incipient fascism and with Obama etc. things were looking up for the better, yet I was on a mommy forum local to a paradise where some highly privileged people seemed determined to be unhappy.


I like being happy.

Sometimes there’s no choice about how to take things because some things are genuinely bad.  For us, that kind of thing leads to grumpy rumbling.

And sometimes you know you *could* fight being unhappy but you also know that the occasional sulk is good for the soul so you indulge.

But for the many things, there’s a choice on how to view what’s going on, especially if your basic needs and then some are being met.

Happy people aren’t necessarily the luckiest, but they’re good at taking things as they are.

For example:  Rejection sucks and often it is unfair.  But, as they say in LA, when a door closes, open a window.  Take what you can from the rejection to learn, using your growth Mindset (all amazon links are affiliate), make your paper better, and submit it someplace else.

How to cognitively restructure:

  1. Fold a piece of paper in half length-wise.
  2. On the left, write down the negative thing that you keep telling yourself.  On the right, write down the thing that is actually true.  (Not Stuart Smalley, but what is actually true.)  So when I was in graduate school, on the left I had, “I’m going to flunk out of graduate school” and on the right I had “Nobody flunks out of this program, they just graduate you and make sure you don’t get an academic job so you make more money as a consultant.”  This is a technique from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  Two good books on CBT are Mind over Mood and The Thoughts and Feelings Workbook.
  3. If you don’t know what is actually true, you can tell yourself the best possible story.  For example, I have massive social anxiety and it is important to remind myself that no, actually, most people are too caught up in themselves to be concerned about or even notice my own awkwardness.  Often what can be attributed to malice can also be attributed to incompetence.  Sometimes you can convince the other person of your story by coming up with a face-saving (for them) story if you repeat it often enough.  There’s a lot more about these techniques in the book Crucial Conversations.

Do you ever cognitively restructure?


  • I hadn’t updated our net worth calculations in I don’t know how long.  (I literally do not know how long– if I did this would probably be a full post instead of a bullet).  But, since the time I updated it, it has increased 50%, meaning that it was X before but now it is 1.5 X.  The stock market alone seems to have been responsible for much of the increase.
  • The reason I updated things was because I was curious to see what our stock portfolio looks like in terms of stocks/bonds/etc.  It’s mostly stocks.  There’s some bonds.  My accounts that are just Target Date funds and my university Fidelity account are both currently ~85% stocks and 15% bonds.  The rest… pretty heavily stock.  Mostly US stock (though both Target Date and university Fidelity accounts have emerging markets and foreign markets).  Some accounts are entirely S&P 500 because that’s the lowest fee in an otherwise high fee work account.  So I think I need to focus on adding more foreign markets and emerging markets, and maybe more munis.
  • My father has been sending increasingly deranged emails.  (Most recently he sent DH a very fragmented email that seemed to be telling DH that DH had to contact my father NOW in order to protect my children from their narcissistic mother, aka me.  We think that’s what it was saying, anyway. Previous emails have attacked my mother and sister as gaslighting or narcissists etc.  Once he cc’d the author of a book on narcissism.) But he’s refused to get an evaluation and my mother won’t force him to.  She’s also somewhat in denial or attributes it all to a potential stroke he may have had a few years ago.  They are adults, and my mother still seems to be in full control of her faculties, so not really anything my sister or I can do at this point.
  • One of my colleagues says his age 80+ mother is engaged to a much younger man (like 50+ years younger) that she met online who seems to be interested in her money.  I will probably end up not getting an inheritance but at least the money my parents have saved is likely to either go to my sister or to actually worthy charities and not someone who preys on older women.
  • My MIL has started Christmas shopping already.  I just got a copy of Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny’s new book from her!  (Also, fairly clear she’s ignoring the “kids only” rule, but as long as we don’t tell SIL nobody need know. We’re either getting her a sewing machine or we’re taking her newish memories book to the local printer to get copies for the kids, depending on if she’s finished filling out the memories book yet or not.)
  • We have zero idea what to get for DC1 for Christmas + Birthday.  At first we were like, how about a ukelele, but then realized zie probably doesn’t want one given zie hardly has enough time for piano, violin, and theramin as it is!  I have fidget stuff on hir wishlist for relatives and a few fiction books, but we’re mostly drawing blanks.  We may have to resort to SAT prep and AP prep guides.  There’s always money, but it would be like, “Here’s $100” then a few days later “Here’s another $100!” and zie doesn’t actually use it.
  • Speaking of AP exams, DC1 is taking 4 AP classes this year.  Zie is probably not going to take the Physics 1 AP because zie will be taking Mechanics and E&M next year.  Zie will have to decide about Spanish soon.  Zie will definitely be taking the BC calc exam.  Then there’s psychology… It’s hard to know what is optimal for a junior whose scores might affect college admissions positively or negatively.  It seems ridiculous to decide these things Fall semester when the exams are pretty late Spring semester.
  • I’m not really sure how DC1 ended up so not consumerist.  DH likes shopping more than actually owning/using.  DC2 is delighted with new things. I’m a bit of a pack rat. But DC1 is just a natural minimalist.  Zie also listens to hir hunger and will stop eating say, an ice cream, if full.  Zie has been this way since a baby.
  • I bought more pens I didn’t need from jetpens and I’m really enjoying them.  These vintage color Sarasa pens from Jetpens (not an affiliate, I’m just addicted) are perfect for writing postcards to voters this fall.  VIP Voters in Ohio got in the Blue-black this past week.

Link Love

Ask the grumpies: recommendations for steamy romance novels for a newby?

xykademiqz asks:

I have a confession to make. I read some romance when I was a teen, and then pretty much nothing for like 30+ years. having moved toward horror and sci-fi genres, as well as miscellaneous literary fiction. Until a few weeks ago, when I picked up a couple of romance novels and haven’t looked back. I am pleased to report that my mood and will to live have been greatly improved by the re-introduction of this genre into my life. Who knew? (Clearly, you knew, as did romance readers everywhere.)

I am a relative n00b to the genre, but I read r fast, so I’ve managed to read a fair amount so far and some trends have emerged. It turns out I like my romance super steamy and explicit, mostly (not necessarily) contemporary, and mostly (not necessarily) funny. I would be delighted to get some recommendations.

The books I’ve liked so far, in my thus-far short excursion into the land of HEA and aided by the Amazon algorithms and Romance Rehab recommendations, were books by Melanie Harlow (After We Fall series and Cloverleigh Farms series), Avery Flynn (The Hartigans series), and a few books here and there by Nicole Snow (some stuff), Carian Cole (Rush), and a few others. The funniest book I’ve read in a long time is Hard Code by Misha Bell. I laughed out loud throughout.

How do you feel about genre mixing? (We asked)

Oh yes. Genre mixing FTW! Btw I also read mystery/suspense, thrillers, horror, sci-fi, so I am a sucker for a good plot (interesting, with tension, brain tickles, etc), and would absolutely love to see them mixed with humor and romance. Thanks!

#2 is more into erotica than #1 is, but she gets most of it from fan fiction (she’s especially into Holmes and Watson fanfic? Also star wars. )

I have not read any of the authors listed above, but now I’m curious.  They all definitely have similar covers, so there’s something going on!

The funniest Rom Com I’ve read recently was Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall.  Hall is supposed to have some highly rated extremely explicit stuff (Spires series, maybe?), but I haven’t actually read any of it yet.  The non-explicit stuff other than Boyfriend Material I’ve read has been pretty disappointing.  His Billionaire books have the same kind of cover vibe that the other books you’ve been reading have, so maybe those will fit?

The Harmony series by Jayne Castle isn’t erotic, but there are sex scenes.  I really like the spec fic set-up and world building in these.

KJ Charles is historical, but if you like plotting she is hard to beat.  If you’re into heists, Any Old Diamonds is a great place to start.  She’s also got paranormal.

Jordan Hawke has a large number of spec fic (mostly paranormal) series, some of which are extreme bargains as ebooks.

Courtney Milan is mostly historical, but she’s great with plotting.  The Brothers Sinister boxset is a good deal.

Jackie Lau gets towards erotica, but she’s more slow-burn than plot.

Rebekah Weatherspoon is not particularly erotic or plotty (there are sex scenes), but she’s definitely funny and cozy.  Rafe: A Buff Male Nanny is a good place to start.

A lot of Alexis Hall, KJ Charles, and Jordan Hawke are m/m (or occasionally m/nb).  There’s so little m/m stuff out there (more than there used to be, but still not a ton) that it’s really interesting to see how standard tropes get turned on their heads when both heroes are male.

I am positive that the readers of Grumpy Nation will have lots of excellent suggestions for you.  Grumpy Nation!  What should xyk read next?  What do you recommend?