Grandmother’s legacy

My grandmother recently passed away at age 101.

She has left all of her grandchildren stock.

From my uncle: “Mom set up a trust that took all of the DuPont stock Dad accumulated over the years and put it to work in the stock market. It grew, and threw off dividends that she used to buy other stocks and mutual funds. She always said that she hated laziness, and having money as cash, was just having lazy money. It should be invested to grow. So she invested it through the trust.

“This was Mom’s gift to her grandchildren, given in the hope and expectation that they will use the funds wisely, and not let the money be lazy.”

She had 16 grandchildren. “One provision in the trust was she left each of her grandchildren the equivalent of 100 shares of DuPont stock.”

They had to do a little detective work because DuPont doesn’t exist anymore so what happened to the stock. But they figured it out.

It’s not quite enough to open a Vanguard brokerage account and get low fees, but I have been thinking recently that I have too much savings in the bank.

For now, maybe I’ll just DRIP until I feel up to doing things.


On knowing what’s out there: loosely connected thoughts from vacation with the relatives

Over the holidays, DH’s newly retired parents kept talking about how truly blessed they are.  None of their kids are in jail.  All are gainfully employed.  They themselves have more money than they ever dreamed and will actually be able to increase their quality of life in retirement (or rather, FIL now has both time and money for all those hunting trips he’s been wanting to do), at least while the stock market is booming.  (A couple of weeks ago, FIL called up to ask DH to ask me whether or not it was ok to have 90% stocks/10% bonds…)

DH’s relative that we’ve talked about before is not doing so well.  He’s got arthritis, which makes being a construction worker difficult.  His oldest two both had children as teenagers (the oldest is living at home with her toddler, the second moved West with her two kids to live with the biological mother who abandoned her as a baby).  His wife is recovering from brain cancer.  His third attempted suicide via electricity socket recently and is depressed because he’s too blind to legally drive.  His fourth has gotten in with a bad crowd and started stealing from family and was recently on suicide watch at a hospital.  We didn’t hear much about the fifth this time around except that she was driving the oldest’s car when it got totaled by an uninsured driver (which means the relative is now chauffeuring everybody around).  Also one of his two much younger brothers (his brothers are the same age as his oldest daughters) has been jailed for possession of stolen materials.

Focusing a bit on that third kid– he graduated from high school last year and the plan was to take the year off working (he’s washing dishes at a restaurant) and then spend the next year at community college.  Community college is about an hour away, so he would have to be driven.  He’s really depressed that he will never be able to drive and it’s not clear that he’s actually going to do community college next year, or ever.  He’s smart and has the grades and GPA to go to the flagship school or one of the closer regionals.  The flagship’s admission deadline has come and gone and the closer regionals have passed their priority deadlines but still have rolling admissions.  Over break, he and DH talked about careers and DH tried to convince him to just fill out one of the two page regional applications for either of the closest schools (while DH was there to pay the $40 admission fee), but no luck.

And the thing is, this kid has never been anywhere with public transportation (or even taxis!).  He has no idea what it’s like to be someplace where you can take yourself where you need to go without having to depend on the kindness of someone else to drive you.  It would be best for him to skip community college and to just go straight to a 4 year college with an extensive bus system and counselors.   He should be eligible for plenty of need-based financial aid and what’s left we can pay.  But… he doesn’t know that’s best.  He doesn’t know what is best and his parents don’t have 4-year college degrees (his mom never finished high school) and his dad has been on his own since 16, so they’re letting him do what he wants since he’s officially an adult.

Growing up I knew I wanted to be upper-middle-class because I knew people whose parents were upper-middle-class and I had an aunt and uncle who were judges, and I thought, I want that.  I want to not have to worry about money and to have the temperature always set to something comfortable.  DH never had those thoughts, but his parents were doing pretty well compared to everyone else in his family, and at boarding school he learned a lot about what all was out there.  And his mother had a wide variety of experiences growing up and she told me this most recent trip that she always thought it important to make sure her kids saw places outside the small town, so they went to camps (or in DH’s case, boarding school) and visited relatives (from her side of the family) up north and so on.  She also took them to get professional career testing before college and told them not going was not an option (for DH she also controlled where he was allowed to apply), just as her father had told her that not going to college was not an option.

Going back to DH’s family’s place at Christmas does tend to make one feel #blessed because it reminds us how well we’re doing and how well DH’s immediate family is doing.  It also forces the comparison of how hard it is for so much of America to get ahead outside of our highly educated McMansion-owning bubble.  DH’s relative is plenty smart, but his life diverged dramatically from DH’s at 16 when he got married and left home and had two kids.  But there were also a lot of factors that led up to that point and after– his parents also had two kids by age 18.  Our kids’ lives will diverge even more dramatically.  His kids are not our kids, and we don’t know how to help, or if we even can help.   So, we will continue to feel #blessed and to keep things in perspective while doing what we can to make it easier for poor kids more generally to get ahead.  We have our oxygen masks on, but there are still a lot of people out there who need assistance with theirs, and even more who don’t have access to oxygen masks at all.

Being breadwinner

can be stressful

Right now #2 and I are both breadwinners of our respective family units.  In case you were wondering about #2, after her FIL died, her DH got very depressed and is taking a break from paid employment.  There’s probably a bit more than that, but it’s not my story to tell.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been the sole income of the family– if you recall, DH quit his tenure-track job without anything lined up, so for a few months we weren’t sure what our income situation was going to be like until he got employed.

One of the first things I’ve noticed about being breadwinner is that I feel the need to increase my income.  Asking for raises, getting grants, taking consulting opportunities, all of these seem to be more important now than when DH is also bringing in cash.  Getting my research done and out so that I can be more attractive should we need to move takes on greater urgency.

Combined with this, I let DH take on greater responsibilities at home.  We already have a pretty egalitarian household, and when DH isn’t earning, he starts taking care of more of the daily and weekly chores, especially kitchen stuff and chauffeuring.  And I feel less guilty about him doing so.  I imagine this is how some women get shunted into home production even when things start out equivalent.  I do spend more time on our finances when I’m the only one earning, but it doesn’t make up for the time I’m no longer spending on regular chores.

I do like having DH take care of things at home, but I also like the stress of not being the only person earning money.  I think I like it best when we’re both enjoying our jobs and earning a lot of money.  I would like it least if I disliked my job but had to keep my job because mine was the only income.  My next least favorite would be being the homemaker if DH was the sole breadwinner and hated his job.  I’m not sure how I would rate hating my job vs. being a homemaker if DH was happy with his job.  I guess it might depend on how easily I could find a new job in that situation.  I suspect that I would rather have each of us make 150K than have DH make 300K with me required to make nothing.  I might prefer making 300K myself and having DH at home to either scenario though.  (Note:  I am happy to test any of these three propositions!)  Smaller dollar amounts would probably lead to different preferred combinations.

As we’ve noted before, this time we’re in a better position than last time DH stopped bringing in income.  As I look through that old post discussing what to do with finances, I am happy that we don’t have to move so much around.  There’s no mortgage to stop prepayment on.  No private school to save tuition for, no mother’s helpers to pay (though we do have summer camp and daycare throughout the summer).  No IRAs to fund (though if DH’s jobless situation continues, I will be eligible to contribute again).  And we have a nice cash cushion.  My plan is to convert this cash cushion into tax-deferred savings (by continuing to max out my 403(b) and 457, even as we dip into savings) with the thought that doing so will make us more likely to be eligible for financial aid when DC1 goes off to college.

I also don’t know how long I am going to be the breadwinner.  DH’s company is supposed to be getting back on track in July, but i’s have not yet been dotted nor t’s crossed on the contract that will put the company back to work for the next couple of years.  We can wait, as can DH’s direct boss, but much of the rest of the company cannot afford to take more than one month unpaid.  If waiting for the contract lasts too long, the company might just go under and the contract will fall through entirely.  My bread-winning this time around may end up being longer term than we had hoped.

Have you ever been the sole breadwinner of a multiple-person household?  How do things change?  Do you feel stressed?  Do you have a family income combination that you prefer (breadwinner/homemaker/dual-income, etc)?

DH and the kids are going on a real vacation

sort of…

We do a lot of traveling, mostly for work, which means we haven’t really been on any vacations that aren’t connected with a conference or someone getting married.  Almost all of our vacation time is spent in DH’s home town (population ~3K and falling) at the grandparents’ because DH needs to see his extended family at least once a year or he starts getting maudlin and depressed.  So essentially everywhere we’ve been, someone else is paying for our housing and often part of our meals or some of our travel.  Or there’s been a wedding.*  When we’re low on cash, we spend a day and another one back driving to get to DH’s home town (it is a very long day).  When we’re flush with cash or miles or rates are especially low, we will fly instead which cuts the time spent traveling by about 2/3.

This year DH’s parents are both retired so we’re going to try something different.  Not, you know, too different.  But still a little different.

Last year, DH’s brother’s company transferred him and he ended up moving near DH’s sister.  So last summer DH’s parents rented a couple of cabins in a state park near the town DH’s siblings live in and they spent a few days there as an extended family.  This year, DH wants to join them with the kids.  So after some discussion (and realizing that everybody in the world wants to visit peak tourist places like Yellowstone during peak tourist season which drives the prices way up), they decided to go to the same place as last year and DH and the kids will fly in to the nearest big city, rent a car, and drive down to the cabins.  After a few days there, they’ll spend a night in the city and fly home.  (Me, I will be staying home getting work done because I have to go to TWO conferences the next week.  :/ )

It’s like a real vacation!

When this was initially discussed, we talked about splitting the costs for the cabins, since DH would be adding an additional family and we want to subsidize his less-flush siblings.  Plus we’d just found out that DH would indeed be working in April and May so we were going to have more money than we’d anticipated.  AND DH’s dad is retiring and his parents are going to have to start budgeting again for the first time, so there’s no need for them to shoulder the entire expense.  But DH’s mom is being difficult about it (we finally got a “we’ll talk about it later” from her) so we’re going to have to figure some way to pay/subsidize.  Maybe we’ll pay for the hotel the night in the city and DH can pay for food purchases if she won’t let us write a check to her for half the cabins.

With some research, it looks like they’ll be paying $450/night (plus tax) for 3 nights = $1350 for the cabins.  We’re going to try to pay half of that:  $675

Airfare for DH and two kids came out to= $937 (We don’t have enough miles on the right airlines to make it worth while to use miles for this trip.)

Then there will be one night in a big city (estimated) = $250/room (if we go for near the touristy stuff rather than near the airport– airport hotels are closer to $150/room)

Car rental + gas for us (estimated) = $350 (though we may find a better deal closer to the time)

Food (estimated– a total guess because who knows) = $200

So total cost (not including incidentals):  $2,182

Which seems like a lot of money for 5 days for 3 people, but also not a lot of money for a vacation compared to what we see when people go fancier places than a Midwestern state park.  (Going on a weekend would have cost double the cabin fee!)


*We honeymooned in beautiful London… Ontario (the one in Canada).  Which is kind of like honeymooning in Ann Arbor if you could daytrip to Niagra Falls from there.  We did not have a lot of money.

What do you do for vacations?  How often do you go on them?

Thoughts on the children’s Xmas haul this year

  • Our brothers and sisters in law spent less on our kids this year than in previous years.  This is a good thing.  Maybe next year we’ll also spend less on them (we spent about $50/kid, mostly on books), but probably not because I love picking out and buying books.
  • We spent Christmas at the in-laws’ this year, which means we opened presents there.  MIL is going to end up spending a ton to send the presents home.  I don’t really know of any way to suggest just letting amazon send the bigger stuff directly to us so she doesn’t have to do that.  But also she probably likes watching everybody open gifts.  And presumably she doesn’t want cousins to feel like they’re being treated differently.  But there are so many gifts that I’m not sure anybody notices.
  • DC1 got a Nintendo DS.  And since DH had mentioned earlier that it was probably too expensive for hir to take to school given the number of times DC1 has lost hir cheap flip-phone (that thankfully nobody wants to steal, so it has been recovered each time thus far), DC1 also got a Kindle Fire.
  • The problem of DC2 getting the same gifts as hir slightly older same-gendered cousin is getting worse.  And we couldn’t just confiscate those gifts either (for the most part) because DC2 saw them at Christmas and MIL is planning on taking them out of the packaging before sending.  Putting on the wish list what DC2 was into in general terms didn’t help much.  Zie got some stuff related to that, but still got lots of stuff zie isn’t interested in that hir cousin likes.  Nor did it help to say explicitly on the amazon list that DC2 wants what DC1 gets (though my mom paid attention to that and got both of them rubix cubes!)  One of the items was so bad that I actually did take it to MIL and tell her we couldn’t accept it– it had crossed a line (I didn’t say it like that though, it was more like could you give this to hir cousin, we don’t really approve of this show).  I know it’s easier to keep things even across grandkids if she’s getting the same stuff for them, but maybe she could match hir up with the opposite-gendered kid who is about the same age instead of the older same-gendered kid?
  • So we’re still struggling with what to do about our in-laws bounty, particularly for DC2.  They still get DC1 really cool stuff even if they’re over-generous (mostly things that hir somewhat younger cousin already owns and loves).  They did get some of the things off the amazon list for the children, but in the end my mom ended up buying most of it just before Christmas.  And that stuff, along with the stuff we got hir, has gotten a lot more playtime out of it.  DC2 just really isn’t into the same things hir same-gender older cousin is into.
  • One thing that did happen that I’m embarrassed about… I was talking to BIL about presents, I can’t remember what about exactly, as we were going up the stairs, but I mentioned that DC2 seemed to get the same stuff as his kid, and he said, “that’s good because they like the same stuff” and I was all, “well, not really, DC2 is really into what DC1 is into.”  At which point we turned the corner and saw my MIL.  So, uh, maybe this will resolve itself?
  • Why can’t the cousin be as into Bubble Guppies (and other gender-neutral stuff) as DC2 is?
  • Sometimes getting the same gendered stuff for both cousins works… DH’s sister got them both a gendered-craft kit that they both loved and spent many hours working on.
  • DC1 may have gotten all the cousins addicted to Batman.

What are we getting people for Christmas?

It’s that time of year again…

For my sister I got a lipstick-sized USB battery and universal USB cable.  I’ve gotten these (but different brands) at two conferences and they are just so incredibly useful.  I don’t know why they don’t come as a combined set on amazon, but after some poking around I was able to pick out a cable that looks decent, although it has a couple more connectors than she probably actually needs.  The smaller sets of connectors got worse quality reviews with the iphone connector stopping working.  Also per her request, I got her the Hamilton cd.  DC1 made a glass sushi plate at camp this summer for her as well, and I assume DC2 will give her some art.  DC2 has been doing a lot of art lately.

We got my mom a kindle last year so this year I sent her the brothers sinister  box set, a steal at $10.  Even though there’s very little murder mystery in it, I think everybody enjoys the series.  Except the first novella (A governess affair) which, sadly, isn’t as good as the rest of the series.  And a $75 gift certificate to the regional bookstore chain in her area.

My father we are getting a fancy black cherry balsamic vinegar.

FIL:  $75 gift certificate to Cabela’s as per usual.  I suspect DH gets his joy of the shopping process from his dad.

MIL:  A picture frame engraved with the names of all six(!) grandchildren.  The last time she had professional group pictures done, there were only 4, though the fifth was on the way.  We will be getting a full family photo done when we visit this year.

BIL1:  DH picked out a video game to play, Titanfall 2, and picked it up at a holiday sale for $35.

SIL1:  SIL1 thankfully populates her amazon wishlist on a regular basis.  She seems to want to become a fiction writer, so I’m torn with getting her books about writing from her list vs. novels from her list.  Usually she’s got a bunch of novels on the list that I’ve already read and enjoyed so it’s easy to get her more, but this time around she seems to have gone heavy on Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs, so it’s not as tempting.  I’m tempted by this adorable electric tea kettle.  But I’m going to wait to see what other people buy and if she adds anything I find more interesting as the season progresses (update:  She added the first Incryptid novel!  So I got that and also Rat Queens Volume 1).

Since Tegu blocks were so popular with our kids last year, we’re getting a set for the cousins.  We’ll also be getting some A-Z mysteries for the older child and the princess cookbook for the younger (it has surprisingly good recipes).

SIL2 and BIL2:  They make the least amount of money of DH’s siblings and they just bought a house.  We’re guessing that the lack of amazon wishlist updating is a hint that they’d be happy with money.  (Even if they just spend the amount of the check on obligatory gift giving to us.)  We did send them a house-warming check after they bought the house just as we did when BIL1 and SIL1 bought their first house, because there’s always unanticipated expenses right after purchasing and got a nice thank you card back.

The IL2’s kids are a little more difficult.  I like getting them books, but there isn’t anything right now that my own DC2 is really into which is how we usually decide what to send their oldest (who is just a little younger).  Maybe some easy readers like Hot Dog and Cat Traps and Too many dogs.  These Tug the Pup books are pretty good for early readers too.  For the younger child it’s a bit more difficult because we already gave them a lot of board books with the first child and we can’t quite remember what.  So I think we already gave a bunch of Sandra Boyntons and Dear Zoo and Where is baby’s belly button.  I’ll have to think harder on this.  I wonder if we gave them chicka chicka boom boom

Despite DH’s relative getting a new job right away, we will probably send him a check, but for $50 instead of, say, $500 [update:  DH says $100].

Target gift-cards for all the daycare ladies at daycare, probably $20/each.  And I think a gift card for $50 to half-price books for the school.  Even if we’re retrenching otherwise, it’s still important to be generous to others.

What are you getting for people this year?

Long-distance book and bonding club

My mother-in-law texted me that she loves me and misses me.  We both love to read, so she suggested that the two of us have a book club!  We could each read the same book and discuss it once a month.  I said that it would have to incorporate drinking wine, as that is a key feature of book club.  We agreed that we will both drink (possibly the same) wine while discussing.

We’re in different time zones, but we both have MLK day and Presidents’ Day off, so those will be our first two meetings.  Yay day-drinking for the two of us lightweights!  Well, it’s five o’clock somewhere, including possibly in one of our time zones.  Time is TBA.  The first book will be The Library at Mount Char.  She recently loved it and I’ve been wanting to read it, so we’ll discuss that in mid-January.  I’ve heard only great things about it.

I’ll update and let you know how it went!  She really is the sweetest.