Europe in the summer is expensive!

DH and I have been booking hotels.  One of the problems is that we’re visiting when most of Europe is on vacation, so hotels that are 99 Euros/night now are $200+ Euros (often more) when we’ll be there in a month.  I wonder a bit if we might have saved money going over Spring Break or the very beginning of summer without any conferences to defray expenses, especially since flights are less expensive now too.

So we fly in, and take a train (tickets not yet purchased) and stay two nights in a “fairy-tale city” that my sister said we had to visit that is also near my second cousins.  $514.42.

Then we train over to a city where I’m giving a talk and spend two nights there (partly defrayed by university).  Our share: €250

Then we head to conference city for 4 nights (partly defrayed by conference).  Our share: €170*4 = €680

Then we head to Paris for 3 nights:  €1,053.56

Then a night at the airport hotel:  $150.51

So, all told, something under $3,000 for housing, depending on exchange rates.  Could we have done all of this cheaper?  YES.  There were sketchy looking places at a fraction of the price, particularly in Paris.  But all of the places we picked have lots of good reviews (for Europe– which is similar to good reviews for NYC– many of these are tiny and old!) and are walkable and close to rail transportation.

We haven’t figured out ground transportation yet, but that’s next on the list, along with phones and tickets to popular attractions.  Trains seem expensive compared to driving your own car and cheap compared to flying, but also extremely convenient.  It looks like it will be something like 50 euro each, give or take, every time we change cities, though I might be underestimating there.  We want to go to museums.  We want to eat out all the meals (except full continental breakfasts are included with about 2/3 of the above hotels, so maybe not breakfast).  (I love Continental breakfasts with their emphasis on things that aren’t sweet, especially when there’s local whole grain bread included.)  I’m not sure how much we will want to go places not in walking distance of the hotels, possibly not that much.

I also added DH to my Capital One account so he has a card with no foreign transaction fees.  So there’s a little savings there.

And DC2’s passport arrived with plenty of time to spare.  Yay!

Any tips for Europe in the summer? (No, I’m purposefully not saying any of the cities except Paris, though if you want more info on that, we’re staying near the Louvre.)

Link love

thread demonstrating exactly how the press is failing us

Our next life has some suggestions for how not to reward companies that prop up gun companies.

Chief mom officer talks about the actions she has been/will be making.

I feel guilty that I haven’t done anything about the shooting yet. I will. I promise. I will either call (link is to 5calls which makes it easy to call federal MOC) or write my MOC and local representatives. I will donate something somewhere. I will figure that out this weekend and get back to you next week (put your suggestions in the comments). These shootings are hard precisely because they hit so close to home– my oldest was the age of the Sandy Hook kids. My youngest is elementary school age now. I feel so sick. But I need to turn that into action so that things will change. We have to keep trying. Because the side that cares more about gun sales than children’s lives is not going to stop.

What did I do?
I voted.
I emailed students to remind them to vote.

Ask the grumpies: What do you think of the 4% rule

First Gen American asks:

Once you’ve hit your magic 4% rule retirement number, should you reallocate to a more conservative asset allocation. Why or why not. And what do you think of the 4% rule.

Standard disclaimer:  We are not financial professionals.  Do your own research and/or consult a fee-only certified financial planner before making important life changing decisions. 

I mean, do you have a bequest motive?  Do you plan to make a LOT more money before you retire?

4% rule

The 4% rule is ok in terms of preserving your capital until you die on average.  But it’s bad in terms of volatility and uncertainty.  You don’t know how your monetary needs are going to change over time, so it might be too risky.  It may also end up with you not actually being able to take out enough for your needs during a recession, and if you end up taking out more then you’ve broken the rule entirely.  I think the 4% rule is best if you have an additional emergency fund or have the ability to earn more money if necessary.  I don’t think there is any actual safe rule that will both preserve your capital as needed and ensure that you have enough money for your spending in uncertain times.  The 4% rule doesn’t get rid of the need for lots of money.  So, I probably wouldn’t retire just because the 4% rule says I can, especially not while still youngish and during uncertain times.

If you’re planning on continuing to work, it doesn’t matter that you’ve hit the 4% rule retirement number.  What matters is when you actually retire and stop bringing in new money.  While new money is flowing in, you don’t need as much in terms of conservative assets because your income moderates short-term risk, allowing you to reap the benefits of risky assets that aren’t actually that risky over the long-term.

100% safe vs. 100% stocks

Suze Orman famously keeps almost all her money in safe assets.  She recommends you play the stock market, but she doesn’t herself.  Some wealthy people only keep a little spending money in liquid assets and the rest are all in stocks and other risky assets. When you have a LOT of money, both of these are completely logical because you can live off money that’s eroded by inflation but you will also still be fine if the market drops 40% or more.

The standard calculus changes when you have waaaay more money than you will ever need.  You have to think about what it is you want to optimize.

If you don’t care what happens when you die, you’re probably fine no matter what you do.  If you want to keep things for your heirs, then you will need to think about tax optimization and definitely keep a lot in stocks– your horizon is even longer and your heirs benefit from step-up basis upon your death.



  • DC2 got a booster!  Maybe we should have waited because there was only a week of school left and hir first in-person daycamp isn’t for a while, but who knows with these decisions.
  • After the university students left for the summer, Covid cases per 100K actually increased to 25/100K on average.  Currently they’re back down to 15/100K.  Of course, these are just pcr tests that have been reported.  Who knows what the actual numbers are.  They’ve stopped reporting deaths as well.
  • The university announced it is no longer allowing students and faculty to report Covid cases.  They will no longer be tracking cases and they will no longer be reporting case loads across campus.
  • Last on campus test positivity rate reported by the university before they stopped keeping track (May 15th):  10%.
  • K-12 also hasn’t updated their dashboard since May 15th.
  • On my conference travels we had to wear masks during the talks, but there was indoor lunch with the same people.  Folks from California complained about how California went overboard with restrictions.  I mentioned that I had to buy two boxes of sympathy cards because so many people I knew had brothers and fathers and husbands die.  Like, yes, California did some stuff not supported by science, but if we’re going to do stuff not supported by science, I’d prefer the kind that results in fewer people dying.
  • Lots of maskless coughing on the plane back.
  • I don’t seem to have come back with anything awful from these trips so far.  But oddly, I did spend the next couple days after getting back each time fighting off something.  Or maybe I’m just bad at travel.  (This time I forgot a bunch of important stuff and brought other stuff I didn’t need.  It can be difficult to find a size 38B bra even with shops nearby.)
  • I had a little scare before my second trip.  DH had a virtual wine tasting (his company HR person is really into group activities) and learned that each nostril is primed to smell different things so you should sniff the wine separately with each nostril.  I tried this and one of my nostrils wasn’t working!!!  I could smell wine (and everything else) just fine with one but nothing at all with the other.  Before completely succumbing to freaking out, I did a quick google, saw that the most common cause is a clogged sinus, took a dayquil, and voila, 20 min later my sense of scent was completely restored.  Then I tried all my different hand sanitizers and by golly, one nostril is better at vanilla and the other is better at mint!


  • PG&E is spitting out dividends again, at least for its preferred stock.  It’s still a fraction of its high value (somewhere between a half and a third), before it was discovered to have set California on fire.
  • It has been so long since its last dividend (2017), that it decided to no longer keep up with direct deposit.
  • I got a check in the mail for $218.  But it also said that they’d paid us another $3K to date (in back dividends).
  • So I figured out how to logon online (it still remembered my password from tax time, I guess) and it said that it sent a check for $3K two days before it sent the check for $218.
  • I set up direct deposit again.  They didn’t know the name of our credit union, but they knew a name with fewer words and there doesn’t seem to be another credit union with those same words?
  • We decided to wait another week to see if the larger check came.
  • These dividends are only for our preferred stock, but most of our stock is regular.
  • I don’t think our preferred dividend amount will ever go up.  I think it’s going to be $218/quarter whenever it pays dividends.  No matter what happens to inflation.  But I could be wrong about this.
  • Our regular stock reached a high of $800/quarter, but those times are long gone.
  • We have twice as much regular stock as we have preferred stock, but the regular stock is only worth a tiny bit more than the preferred stock.
  • The check for $3K came about a week after the check for $218.  I have deposited it to our Wells Fargo account and it will eventually get used for music lessons and other smaller expenses that require checks.  (Expenses above $500 tend to come out of our main credit union account.)
  • Utilities are supposed to be bluechips– stable not risky ways of getting regular income.  But that’s obviously not true.  Index funds really are the best, not single stocks.

Link Love

More traveling this week.

You can order more test kits from USPS

Scalzi discusses his straight white male lowest difficulty setting 10 years later.

I just want to add to this Captain Awkward post that one of the big things I learned about the difference between LA and the midwest is that the LA people who are waffly on time and don’t always show up also don’t get upset if you start without them.  You don’t have to wait– they would not wait for you either.  After I learned that, it took a ton of stress off me.  (My lesson was when I’d promised to go to a movie with an LA friend and she went earlier without me and I got upset because I’d had a chance to go earlier with someone else and didn’t take it because I’d promised to go with LA friend.  And she was like, you should have just gone.  Then something clicked about the different cultures and what “let’s do lunch” really means.)


Talked to another reporter
Sent an email about voting to students

Ask the grumpies: Will we see hyperinflation?

First Gen American asks:

As an economist. How likely is it that The current rate of spending by both President Biden and former President Trump will lead to significant inflation and devaluing the dollar. Why or why not.

Well, we’ve got inflation right now, though that’s mostly because of supply-side problems (factories in China, shipping all around the world) driving up prices globally.  We don’t think it’s been caused by increases in US government spending.

In terms of hyperinflation, it is unlikely that the current rate of spending is going to cause anything of the sort.

I’m sure if Trump got reelected he could cause hyperinflation somehow.  A lot of what causes hyperinflation is loss of trust in systems.  People still trust the federal reserve.  They can still raise interest rates to slow down inflation.  There’s plenty of room for that.  People around the world still trust the US government and our currency.  We will pay back our debts.

I’m not a macroeconomist, but this is just not something anybody (other than some reporters who don’t have economics training) is worried about.  We’re not just printing money.  We still have economic growth.  Here’s investopedia on the topic.

RBOC (cw: aging verbally abusive parent etc.)

  • My father has always been a jerk, but several years back he had a mild stroke and has become even more of a jerk.
  • Pre-stroke, every family visit would include him being a jerk and then blowing up in a huge tantrum for some imagined reason and then going on a long walk and behaving somewhat like a grown adult after.  “Being on his best behavior” we would call it, as if he was a toddler.  Prior to that would be tiptoeing around to try to prevent the inevitable blow-up.
  • After we had a second kid, and there was a spectacular Christmas blow-up that ended in us leaving my sister’s place to go to an airport hotel before our next day’s planned flight to the in-laws, we decided we didn’t have to put up with it anymore and just stopped.  Christmas has been a million times better ever since.
  • He has been getting worse since my mom retired.
  • About twice a month, he sends DH an email (since my email has long-since blocked him) telling DH that I’m a narcissist and my children are in danger because of me.  Once every few months he includes my mom as also a narcissist and a gas-lighter.  If my sister ever responds, then he includes her in the narcissist/gas-lighting list in his next email.  She’s stopped responding.
  • I had to cut off contact with my mother because he started using her email accounts and chat programs to pretend to be her (but not in any believable way).  She no longer has a work email, so I can’t use that.  I can’t even send thank you cards or Christmas presents anymore because I get a response saying that he must be included too.  I know she is also a victim, but she is an adult, and, according to my sister and aunts, still lucid, so I cannot make decisions for her.
  • Before I had to cut off contact with her, my mother was still very much in denial (and still is, according to my sister who has also given up).  She was doing therapy with him, but kept putting all the onus on the therapist.  Or on me to “help him feel included” etc.  She would blame all his bad behavior on his childhood, 70+ years ago.
  • He stopped doing therapy.
  • My mom asked if we could do family therapy with just her.  And we were like, just fly out to visit.  We have no problem with you.  But she refuses to come without him.
  • Back before the stroke, well over a decade ago, he once alienated all of her sisters by fighting a will and being a jerk about it, so she was cut off from her family for many years, basically until the city where the money was left went bankrupt and my grandma died so the subject of the lawsuit was completely moot.
  • My sister says my mom claims to be ok.  “But then, she always says she’s ok.”
  • Most recently he made my mother send my MIL a letter asking if my children are in danger and if she had any suggestions for how to reconcile with me.
  • My MIL then called DH and sympathized with him about aging problems.  She took care of her mom through Alzheimer’s (in conjunction with a nursing home) which was unpleasant.  She responded (also via mail) that DC1 and DC2 are doing great and she does not have any suggestions for reconciling because she is not involved.
  • Most recent update from my sister is that my mom can no longer hang laundry out to dry (outside on clotheslines in the summer, inside on clotheslines in the basement in the winter) so my sister is getting her a small drying rack because my father has always said dryers are bad for the environment.  When we lived in an apartment in Santa Barbara without my father for two years (for work reasons) and when she visited here or at my sister’s she used the dryer.  If he had to hang the laundry a dryer would suddenly be ok, I’m sure.  Though he might just stop doing laundry entirely.
  • Growing up I was always taught to be silent about family.  To keep problems hidden.  Never to make negative things public about my home life.  But I’m an adult now.  And heck, now my MIL knows my family secret.  (Though she did not ask DH any questions about it and accepted the aging-related reasoning.)
  • DH’s family is so even-keeled and normal.  It’s nice having a set of grandparents who are what one expects of grandparents, with no tiptoeing around or apologizing to waitstaff. I want that environment for my kids too.  And I think we’ve succeeded.
  • I often wonder how my sister and I both turned out so ok.  And then I sometimes wonder if we did turn out ok.  But… when I reflect on it more, I think we did.

Grumpy Nation, please do not include the words, “raw,” “brave,” or “honest” in your replies.  

Doing something vs. doing more

Here’s another post from 2011, noting an internet phenomenon.  We were going to do a big post on it, but then XKCD summed it up beautifully in just a few panels.  Here’s what we had:

People who do something small sometimes get yelled at for not trying to reform an entire system.  This sucks.

In reality, we CAN make small changes, but grappling with a large change may not help people in this lifetime.  Some people focus on only the big needs, but we only have a limited amount of resources and doing something is generally better than doing nothing, so long as your cause isn’t something based on hate.

Cueball is going to spend $10 on a game and $10 on charity, Megan(?) says he should spend $20 on charity instead. Cueball decides to buy two games instead.

As a 2022 update:  One of the things that bugs me is that white men and Republicans often get passes for not doing anything at all, or for being actively harmful, while people who are trying but aren’t at the top positions of power get condemned for not doing enough.  I’d be happier with the “you’re not doing enough” if those same people would spend as much energy shaming the bad guys who are actually doing bad things, or who are doing nothing at all.  Let’s have more protests of individual evil Republicans, even though there are a lot of them.

Link Love

I’ve been traveling most of the week and am very much not good at it!  I even lost my glasses.  Plus it was a coastal destination where there’s currently a covid surge going on and about 8 people said they would have attended but either they had covid or were quarantining with a family member who had it or their kid’s daycare was shut down.  All of the people who actually attended said they had gotten covid sometime in the past month and were now clear on an antigen test.  I’m going back next week!

An example of how the evil right-wing manufactures outrage through intentional misquoting.

How the TX law is negatively affecting women who are miscarrying.

Someone asked about book recommendations for personal finance for people just starting out and I said I’d throw it up as an ask the grumpies and then lost the question.  In any case, here’s where we answered the question back in 2019.  I don’t know that much has changed other than the actual numbers.  We’re now in a high inflation environment, and there’s all sorts of dangerous new things you shouldn’t be investing in, but the basics, as always, are still the same.


I talked to two reporters.  Referred a third who wants to talk while I’m on a plane to a colleague.

DH is at a protest and I’m home with the kids.