Ask the Grumpies: How to teach organization and time management to a middle schooler.

First Gen American asks:

How [does one] teach organization and time management to a middle schooler.

We have had some luck with putting a checklist on the fridge that DC1 has to go through every night, but it isn’t foolproof. If it were, DC1 would be getting an A in orchestra because zie wouldn’t have forgotten to log hir practice.  How do you remember to practice but not remember to log the practice?  It boggles the mind.

Does anyone else have more/better suggestions?

Ask the Grumpies: Opportunity costs to timing kids for physicians

OMDG asks:

Frequently in my line of work (medicine) people will make statements like, “It’s cheaper to have a kid during residency than as an attending because you are giving up much less in salary and because you don’t have to find coverage for yourself.”  I’m wondering what your thoughts are on this.

See, any extra time you take for maternity leave during residency beyond your vacation (which it typically 3-4 weeks a year) gets added on to the end of residency and delays your start of being an attending by that amount of time.  It would seem that the opportunity cost of taking time off for any reason as a physician should equal the amount you would earn at the point in your career where you are making the most money regardless of when you take the time.  There may be other costs/benefits of having kids early vs. waiting as well which are more intangible (finding coverage for your clinical work, paying for childcare when you’re making a lower salary, building your practice).  Is this just another situation where doctors don’t understand opportunity cost/are bad at economics, or am I missing something?

Ask the grumpies thanks you for answering your own question so well and so clearly.

You’re right, they’re not thinking through to the long term/general equilibrium/etc.  We don’t really have anything to add to your excellent explanation other than that this argument is similar to the one we often hear about when a woman (and it’s always a woman) should be a SAHM.  People seem to fixate at the point in time analysis and ignore long-term costs.

And, as you well know, there is no good time to have a baby for a professional woman, so have one when/if you want one regardless of professional considerations (as you did!).

Ask the Grumpies: How to save for retirement with no earned income?

Steph asks:

Assuming I get my dream post-doc next year, I will be making 2x my grad salary…and none of it will be eligible for retirement savings because it will be a stipend instead of wages. That will be my life for at least 3 years, though hopefully not much more than that. I want to start saving for retirement in earnest – how would you do that in my situation?

This won’t matter too much until 2018, because in 2017 I’ll have earned income as a grad student that will let me max out my Roth, at least.

Grad student finances, by evolvingpf is really the appropriate person for this question.  Here’s her answer from 2012 on her original website.  Her answers are what I first thought as well–

  1. Get married to someone with earned income
  2. Get some earned income (addendum to her recommendations:  if you do any consulting or freelance you can save that in a self-employed plan such as a SIMPLE IRA)
  3. Don’t save for retirement (do other saving money things instead).  Then start saving more than you would otherwise for retirement once you get earned income and a savings vehicle to use.

In graduate school I was married so if at least one of us had earned income for half the year we were ok for IRA/Roth IRA, especially since the contribution limit was much lower at the time ($3K).

In case evolvingpf’s post disappears, good recommendations for non-retirement savings include:

  1.  If you’re in the 15% income bracket (or lower) now is a good time to use taxable stocks, especially dividend heavy ones because of the preferential treatment of capital gains.  Put that money to work for you.  (Note though, it is unclear what will happen to taxes over the next few years.)
  2. Pay off all debt starting with high interest (I bet you’ve already done this)
  3. Bulk up your emergency fund
  4. Save for your next car or a house so you can pay in cash for the car and get beneficial interest rates (and no PMI) for a house

Grumpy Nation– what suggestions do you have for someone without earned income who wants to save?

Ask the grumpies: Should I raise my credit card limit?

Nanani asks:

Opinions on the merits of raising the credit limit on one’s credit cards?
I am at the point where both my credit cards (a VISA and an MC, in different currencies; I have lived in multiple countries) have a balance of essentially zero. I use them every month to pay subscriptions and occasional online purchases, but I pay the full balance every month now.

Since I’ve reached the point where I can regularly do that, the credit card companies have been sending me offers to increase my credit limit at a greater frequency.
Right now it’s ~10K (thumb conversion to USD) and I don’t feel the need for more, but I thought I’d ask and see what the prevailing wisdom is.

TL;DR: Raise credit card limit: YES/NO? Why/not?

The conventional wisdom is that if you are bad with credit and need hard limits to keep from over-spending, then do not raise your credit limit.

Otherwise, if you’re the kind of person who ignores credit limits because you’ve never hit one and you have complete control of your spending, raising your credit limit may increase your (US) credit score because it will increase your available credit ratio.  Since credit card companies generally hold liability for fraudulent purchases, this should come at no additional risk.  This will also make the occasional large purchase (that you plan to pay off immediately) a bit easier because you won’t have to break it up across cards and you’ll be able to get the benefit from rewards.  Note:  all of these answers are US based– we don’t know how credit card companies work in other countries.  (And, as always, do your own research and/or talk with actual professionals before making any major money decisions.  We are not actual professionals.)

Grumpy Nation:  What do you do when the credit card company wants to raise your limits?

Ask the grumpies: Help! Need unsweetened non-dairy creamer recommendations!

Chelsea asks:

Soliciting advice for a good unsweetened non-dairy creamer. Right now I just use whole milk in my coffee, but would like to experiment with going dairy free for awhile. I looked at my local grocery store, and almost all the options were sweetened somehow, and I really don’t like sweet coffee. I’d probably prefer coconut or almond-based rather than soy, but would try soy if that tasted the best. I don’t like alt-milks, but I’m hopeful I could come up with a creamer solution.

We at grumpy rumblings have got nothing.  I guess if I were going dairy-free I’d try just coconut milk.  I find other kinds of non-dairy milk to be a bit sweet and I hate the taste of soy milk.  So I guess I’d go coconut, then almond, then rice.  Other people have different preferences.

This website has suggestions for fancy dairy-free creamers.  Nutpods looks like an option.  There are a bunch more of varying sweetness levels and bases on that link.

Here’s a link to making your own from almonds and dates.

Good luck with your quest and report back to us!

Grumpy Nation, do you have favorite unsweetened dairy-free creamers?

Ask the Grumpies: Favorite books for pre-readers?

Leah asks:

Fave books for kids not quite ready to read?  We’re rocking a lot of Curious George, Corduroy, and Pout Pout Fish. Just looking for new library reads for my 2.5 year old who LOVES books.

Rented Life adds:

My kid, same age, loves books too. I second that question.

Allyson adds:

I also have a two-year-old and we could use good library reads, lots of books in the house already. Her fave is Where is Spot? and we have it in English and Spanish. Lift-the-flap books are big in my house. Can I add a request for recommendations of classic children’s books in Spanish that may be easy to find? Some translations seem to work with the rhythm of the originals and some are more literal and not as much fun to read.

First up, check out the comments in this recent post.

Leah– one series I would add to that list is the Froggy books.  Those along with the Clifford books hit our DC’s interest at the same time as Curious George.

Allyson– Our favorite lift the flap books are the ones by Karen Katz, of Where is Baby’s Belly Button fame.  She has a bunch of these.  We also loved Dear Zoo.  A related much loved cut-out book is Where’s that cat?  There are a ton of Where’s Spot books as well, though I am not a fan of the Easter one (the kids like it, but it bugs me that [spoiler] Spot finds an egg on the table after mean old female hippo tells him to get off the table; Spot also gets more eggs).

Spanish translations: Our favorite Spanish translations are Buenas Noches Luna and Insectos asombrosos (which you probably won’t find).  We also like the bilingual books by Eric Carle, such as Animals Animales — these are fun because they have moving pieces.  Our DCs also really loved My First Spanish Word Book.  We do have a bunch of other Spanish translations but they’re not popular.  Wandering Scientist is probably good for asking for other suggestions.

Our general recommendations for these age groups are:  Anything by Sandra Boynton, anything by Mo Willems.  These will age well as your child ages.  Your children are probably also on the cusp of being able to sit still for Red Fish Blue Fish or Dr. Seuss’s ABCs or Go Dog Go! or Put Me in the Zoo, but you could also wait another year.  They will definitely like the board book versions which are shorter.


Books for 3 year olds

Favorite children’s books (this has a number of classics like The Little Engine that Could and Ferdinand and The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes)

What say you, Grumpy Readers?

Ask the grumpies: Recommendations for audiobooks?

Chelsea asks:

Also, I’d love to hear people’s favorite audiobooks. Right now I’m 1/2 way through the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, which is fantastic, but in a mere 200-ish more hours, I’ll be done. What should I listen to next?

To Say Nothing of the Dog has a fantastic audible and is a fantastic story.  First top choice.

Redshirts was absolutely fantabulous.  Wil Wheaton is the perfect voice narrator for the book, and it’s funny until the codas and then you cry a lot.  But a good kind of crying.

We recently did Agent to the Stars on a roadtrip and it was a lot of fun.

Most Scalzi books have good audible, including his latest short piece, The Dispatcher.  We did end up not finishing Little Fuzzy though because it was kind of boring.

My DH likes both the Iron Druid and the Harry Dresden series on audible.  I’ve listened to the first two Iron Druids and the voice acting is pretty good, but I couldn’t handle any more of the series after [spoiler redacted].

Grumpy listeners, what do you recommend?