Ask the grumpies: How do I find a good bank?

Susan asks:

We’ll be leaving BofA. What recommendations do you have?

I’ve been googling and what is defined as “ethical” seems confusing (mostly synonymous with green?). I think we need: direct deposit, online/picture deposit, billpay, and ATMs, though we don’t use cash much. We’ll need to link to Vanguard. So, pretty simple, and online only is going to be fine I think, it’s been years since I’ve been to the B&M. We keep ~$10k in checking. We have a Capital One account already (from when it was ING).

I don’t know that I have good recommendations, and #2 and I have very different feelings about credit unions. (I think it’s a good idea to have both a local CU and a national bank, she is very against CU for reasons.) I will say I’m enjoying the interest on our capital one online-only account (that we opened because of a special extra cash offer), but I think people generally prefer Ally.

In terms of ethics, I have no idea, though obviously Bank of America and Wells Fargo have many strikes against them on that front.

There’s some online people who have looked at the question of ethics, as you note, but I’m not sure how trustworthy the sites are.  Here’s the ethical consumer for UK banks and here’s nerdwallet with US banks.

Mr. Millionaire says:

I love Ally (not sponsored). The only drawback is that if I want to deposit cash (side hustle), I have to buy a money order and mail it in.

gasstationwithout pumps says:

When my son and I were both looking for interest-bearing accounts, we ended up with Alliant Credit Union. For us, it is online only, except that we can use any credit-union ATM for deposits and withdrawals. The interest rate is a bit better than Ally or Capital One. It’s early days yet, but the only problem I’ve had was depositing the check for closing out the Wells Fargo account—it exceeded the maximum for ATM transactions, and I had to do a 2-step transfer (first in-person at my local credit union, then electronically from there). It is a good idea to retain one local brick-and-mortar institution in your portfolio.

Maybe the readers will have more suggestions?


Ask the grumpies: Have you seen the pursuit of happyiness?

Leah asks:

Have you seen the movie “Pursuit of Happyness”? I watched it with my students tonight. I was amazed to learn it was a true(ish?) story. Does it just break your heart?

Neither of us have… heard of it?  Oh hey, it’s that one with Will Smith and his son.  I guess one of us has heard of it.  I didn’t want to see it partly because I get a little squicked with monetized inspiration porn these days and partly because I don’t really watch movies because they’re too long and I just don’t have time or the attention span.

Ask the grumpies: Books on how cities can deal with growth (with some bonus climate change!)

Debbie M asks:

On the topic of how cities can deal with growth, do you recommend a book or other resource that discusses studies of various approaches and the benefits and bad side affects involved? Like I know that rent control in NYC inspired people to never move and landlords to never fix anything.

Sadly, my city keeps growing, but we still think of ourselves as a town and everyone wants their own yard. City Council is trying to develop a new city plan, but residents fear that increasing urban density will just make parking and traffic worse. Also when people are looking to build new high-density stuff, they want to start with the cheapest plots they can find–and there goes all our affordable housing. We definitely have a long history of segregating residences from stuff to do, and that leads to a reliance on cars. Anyway, I’m sure some ideas are better than others, right?

I have actually seen talks by TWO people who have written books on this very topic.  Though I haven’t read said books (*cough*).  Kent Portney and Matthew Kahn are leaders in this field.  My colleagues in political science say that each of these books was ground-breaking in the field of Poli Sci.  They definitely each give a great seminar, so I suspect their writing is also excellent.

#2 recently read The New Geography of Jobs by Enrico Moretti.  It’s slightly off to the side of this question, but it’s the only contribution I have.  It was a fast read and kind of interesting.  Obama read it!  (Oh hey, #1 saw a presentation on this one too!)


Ask the grumpies: emojis vs. emoticons

Leah asks:

what is your stance on emoticons, and are there ones you favor? What about emojis? I prefer emoticons, for the record, but maybe it’s because I like to kick it old school.

#1:  Gchat used to have these super cool emoticons that would move and turn around after you made them.  So the less than 3 would rotate and fill into a pink heart.  The winky face would wink at you.  And so on. (Especially the secret hidden ones like the monkey and rock on and stuff.)  Those were the best.

#2: Emojis are silly and sometimes fun. I use them sometimes for ridiculousness. I prefer emoticons like you, as I am what you might call ancient school.

Ask the grumpies: how do you feel about facial hair

Leah asks:

What is your stance on facial hair? Are you ever sad that you can’t experiment with that? It seems both itchy and fascinating to me.

#1: … I actually could experiment with it if I wanted to.  PCOS allows me that possibility, so long as I’m ok with variations on the Fu Manchu.  I don’t find it itchy, but societal expectations being what they are, I am quite happy that this $450 home laser treatment thing has worked so well for the coarse dark beard hairs on my face.  So much less plucking and only occasional touch-ups.  It will be sad when my chin whiskers turn white and no longer respond to the laser.

In terms of my significant other, he either needs to be clean shaven or have facial fur that is long enough that it’s gotten soft.  The tiny knife stage is the WORST.

#2:  My feelings on facial hair are “generally against, but you do you.”

Ask the grumpies: What tv shows do you like?

Leah asks:

Do you watch TV? What shows do you like?

#1:  I am a sucker for shows about veterinarians. I like basically every show ever that is about a veterinary practice, or a wildlife vet, or animal rescue. I like the art in shows about tattoos, but I fast-forward the talky parts. Ooh ooh, and shows about kittens. I’ll watch all sorts of kitten shows. I watch Dr Pol, Rocky Mountain Vet, 1 or 2 shows about a vet in Alaska, Dr K’s Animal ER, these do not all have overlapping seasons! Also The Zoo. Also the Supervet when it’s on. And Animal Cribs (every episode they do one paid job for homeowners plus one charity job for a shelter or other organization).

#2:  Currently I watch… Dino Dan.  Dino Dana.  Pocoyo en Español…and that’s about it.  Me gusta Pocoyo.  Dino Dan/Dana, not so much.  I miss the days of My Little Pony and Peg + Cat.    DC2 got the dino craze late, but with a vengeance.  [Update:  DC2 seems to have run out, thank goodness, and now all I ever see is Arthur… which I dunno, often that show has some pretty questionable messages.  But the (voice) acting is at least better than the Dino D shows.]  I mainly only have the attention span for youtube videos, preferably those under 10 min long.  (My most recent cranking through the archives was the comedy section of wong fu productions,  prior to that Matt Baume.)

Ask the grumpies: More questions about childrens’ allowances

Leah asks:

Do you give your kids an allowance? How do you determine? Do you make them do chores, or can they do supplemental chores for more money? Is there any economic weight/research behind any one approach?

My kids each get an allowance.  They get 20 cents per year of age, which means the eldest gets $2.20 and the youngest gets $1.20.  These amounts are much smaller than the average, but the thought is to allow a little over a candy bar/week for the young one.  They have to do chores as members of the family and we do not currently have supplemental chores for them to do for money, though last summer I paid the eldest minimum wage to do some research assistance for me.

To my knowledge this is not a topic that economists have tackled in the top journals.  Here’s a couple of economic psychology articles that look a bit flawed, but this is probably a difficult topic to study. and .  None of the articles that cite that first one look particularly relevant.