Ask the grumpies: When you say to keep a windfall in cash, what exactly is “cash”?

bethh asks:

What do you mean when you talk about keeping a windfall in cash? Literally under the mattress? In a savings account? Would a CD count? How about a money market fund?

The short answer is any of those, except not under the mattress (Don’t give people are reason to break into your house!).

Essentially the idea is you put money in a safe place where it’s not going to lose value, or at least not lose the complete equivalent to inflation each year (many checking/savings accounts will pay less than inflation, but not *that* much less than inflation).  When we’re talking about a windfall, we mean parking it someplace where it won’t lose much value while you decide what to do with it.  Someplace pretty accessible and FDIC insured so it doesn’t lose value if an institution goes out of business.  “Cash” basically means a safe place for your money where you can get at it.  You won’t be making a huge amount, if anything, on this money, but it’ll be safe.

So, yes savings accounts, FDIC insured money market funds, and so on.

With a CD you have to be careful about when you can access the money, so if it is a lot, you might either only use a short-term CD for when you know you’ll have made a decision about where to put the money (say, 6 months out after a family death, for example).  Alternatively, you can build a CD ladder, which means having multiple CDs that come due at varying intervals so that if you need, say, 10K, there will be a CD of that amount maturing soon at any point in time.

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Are all iPhone 6s dying right now? Stupid planned obsolescence!

My iphone 6, purchased a mere 5 years ago, started having battery problems again.  This would be the second time it’s had battery problems, the first time being when they had that lawsuit.  It got down to 84% and I decided I might as well send it in before it got down to the recommended 80% while I was on Christmas break and not expecting to leave the house.  DH and DC1 both have phones, and I can text people using my iPad pro even if I can’t get calls.

So I sent it off (and immediately had a reporter want to call me, but we ended up zooming instead, which was nice because I was able to show him what I was talking about visually instead of using words).  Last time I got a battery replacement, I think we went to the city, but I’m not planning on going to a genius bar until after I’m vaccinated!

It made it to California and then I got an email saying it needed $299.99 worth of repairs, though it didn’t give any other information.  DH called the customer service link and they were like, yeah, the technician didn’t write down what the problem was so I can’t tell you.  But they’re not going to replace your battery unless you give them another $300.  You want us to send it back to you?  And DH was like yes please.  We’re certainly not going to get something repaired if we don’t know what it is being repaired for!

And three days later they still hadn’t sent it back, so I clicked the “please return to me” button when they emailed me to say we hadn’t told them what to do.  That didn’t seem to do anything either, but on the day they said they’d return it if they didn’t hear from us, I got an email saying they were returning it.  It came back and seems to be in the same working order as when I sent it, though I did have to switch off a bunch of personal data sharing that somehow magically got turned back on.

If this had happened before DH’s layoff, I would have gotten the iPhone 12 mini, probably a souped up version for like $900, given it to DH and then taken his iPhone 8 as my own.  Now I’m stuck trying to decide if I should do that (maybe with a less fancy version for $750) or get an SE which is only $450.  Right now I’m mostly at home with access to charging so the battery isn’t as bad a problem as it could be, so I might be able to put this decision off until the *next* iphone product comes out.  But once I’m spending more time outside of my house, especially if travel is involved, I will definitely need something that can hold a charge longer than my phone currently does.

I’m irritated because I do not really ask much of my phone, just websurfing (including youtube), google hangouts, email, and occasional map stuff.  I have only downloaded three apps (hotmail, hangouts, and google maps).  I spend most of my time on Safari.  I don’t need a fancy phone.  My iPhone 6 was fine.

My friend’s iPhone 6S’s battery is dying and she’s getting a new one.  I saw revanche complaining about her iPhone 6 on twitter.  I have to wonder if there’s some kind of planned obsolescence thing going on that doesn’t care how much or how little you use your phone or when you bought it.  It’s almost enough to make me want to try an Android.

Have you experienced planned obsolescence on your phone recently?  How do you decide when to get a new phone?  How do you decide which kind of phone to get? 

RBOC

  • Courtney Milan and friends on twitter recently had a conversation about how at the core of a long-regency romance novel is that people want to be safe and that money is one way to be safe.  People want to marry a duke because that is the safest place to be in that time period.
  • I read a lot of long-regencies.  But I’ve also read a lot of mystery novels.  What has been interesting to me in my most recent juxtaposition, jumping from one to the other is how all these 1920s-1960s murder mysteries I’ve been binging on c/o Christie and Sayers make it very clear that it is *dangerous* to have money, especially if you are leaving it to other people and not charities.  If you have a lot of money you might as well put a target on your back.  People will marry you but then *kill* you.  They will come to your aid when you are sick, but only until you sign a new will in their favor.  Kind hearts and coronets.
  • I think it is not random that this transition between 19th century and 20th century measures of literary safety happens– the 1920s bring the strong rise of the middle class and forcing minor gentry to work for a living, though I guess the Mapp and Lucia series show that that element of society is still going strong into the 1930s.  And of course, Benson makes it clear (much like Jane Austen did before him) that idle hands truly are the devil’s playground and the idle wealthy are a ridiculous drain on society.
  • But I also want to have a lot of money because it helps me feel safe.  And I want to leave money to my children because I want them to be safe.  I like being able to escape.  But we won’t have enough money to make us worthwhile targets… and I would hope our children wouldn’t want us dead!  That’s a good reason for them to have their own income and careers.  We spend so much on investing in them so they can take care of themselves.  Which is another mistake that those 1920s victims make– they ask their children to live on their expectations rather than training them as solicitors or financiers or what have you.  No vocation, idle hands.
  • Though I guess finance is a bad choice, come to think of it, because a pretty common murder motive is needing funds to cover up embezzlement!  So maybe just stick to law.  Not medicine because they have too much access to poison.
  • Agatha Christie seems to be really pro-LGBT, particularly gay men.  It’s sometimes a plot point (won’t spoil it, one of her many plays).  Reading the mysterious Mr. Quinn it is quite lovely how in the first story she’s pretty clear, though using coded language, that the hero, Mr. Sattherwaite (who I think appears in the occasional Hercule Poirot when HP needs gossip, ah yes, wikipedia says he does) is gay, or possibly asexual (though in later short stories she gives him a failed marriage proposal).  In contrast, Sayers seems like a pretty awful homophobe, particularly when it comes to lesbians.  She straight up says pretty terrible things.  And yet, Sayers seems, on the whole, less anti-Semitic prior to WWII (as noted in an earlier post, Christie seems to realize she shouldn’t be anti-Semitic once the Nazis come into power).
  • When I was in elementary school, one of the children’s moms came in once a year to teach about Judiasm, usually around Hannukah.  I didn’t realize until I was much older that she did this to help combat antisemitism.  We also had a disabilities unit in 4th grade where we learned about different kinds of disabilities and how people worked around them and how to treat people we met who had disabilities. People would come in and talk to us about how to treat their seeing eye dogs and so on.  The learning specialist talked about how she taught people with dyscalculia to add (which… was how I did adding at the time).  It was a really wonderful program and definitely helped me not be a jerk or idiot when meeting new people.  I’m not sure we could do that these days because people would be too afraid of making mistakes.  And I’m sure there were stupid things we did, but on the whole all those old educational videos from the 1970s and the community volunteers themselves made us less likely to be harmful and more likely to support ADA legislation.
  • This blog really is a random mix of things.  I think that’s more unusual than it used to be?  But maybe not.
  • One of DH’s relative’s “friends” traveled to DC for the coup and stormed the capitol.  He was really excited about it and posted pictures and videos all over his social media.  Then he came home and found out that everyone he knew IRL was horrified and deleted all his social media and is pretending he didn’t go at all.  I hope the FBI finds him.
  • DH’s relative’s youngest (the only one in college) got an additional bill for $2K for last semester because financial aid was based on the number of people living in the household and so he included his oldest and her kid.  But, apparently the oldest got some kind of food assistance last semester (I don’t know if WIC or foodstamps or what) so the school decided she and her kid didn’t count as part of DH’s relative’s household, so they sent a retroactive bill for the difference(!)  That seems crazy to me.  (We paid it.  We don’t know how much this semester is going to cost even though classes start soon.)
  • Speaking of DH’s relative– he kicked a covid positive mask-denier “We’re all getting it anyway so who cares” off the work site where he was working twice.  The first time he threatened to kill the guy (“If you give me covid and my immunocompromised wife dies, I will hunt you down” “That’s not fair, you won’t know it was me”) , which in retrospect, he regrets.  The second time he called the guy’s boss and threatened to tell the city.  That actually worked.  It’s nice when doing the things we tell our kids to do (talk to a responsible adult when someone is being dangerous) actually works.
  • Speaking of anti-maskers, DH tried to get our car inspection sticker renewed and had to go to three places before he found one where the people were wearing masks (the dealership).  Except… after it was done the cashier had her mask around her neck instead of her face.  He also went to drop something off at a government office and didn’t realize until he’d left that none of the people working there even had masks.  7 people died yesterday and our ICU has been 130% full for almost a full week now.  The students aren’t back yet.  DH is shaken.  I wonder if I should start doing errands.  Maybe DH can do my work instead.  I’m not sure what I would have done in the moment, but I definitely would have reminded the cashier to put her mask up (I would have assumed it was an accident).  As for the government office, if I’d noticed, I think maybe I would have just left the item we were turning in on the inside of the door.
  • The library was still quite lovely for curbside, and Target curbside was great.  Hopefully he won’t have to do any more errands for a while.  I can pick up and drop off library books myself once my school starts since the library is on the way to work.  Also I’d completely forgotten that some people don’t wear masks because last week I went for my annual doctor’s visit and everyone at the hospital was masked without a single nose showing.  I switched hospital systems and it has made a HUGE difference.  Also everyone there was super nice and seemed genuinely happy to be working there, which is also really different.
  • The bad news though is that I am now obese(!) which I have NEVER been before (BMI exactly 30, but I’ve also gained a lot since my last checkup so it’s been a fast weight gain, which is the least healthy kind).  I had my glucose checked but it’s fine.  My bad cholesterol is up too– usually it’s nicely in the low to middle healthy range and only my good cholesterol is high.  The doctor’s notes say the cholesterol is fine, but the automatic thing says “borderline high”.  I’m having a bunch of other weird health problems too which I should probably just give their own post.  Pandemic is bad!  I’ve told DH he can still make bread but he needs to cut back on the sweets.  The children have noticed and have been complaining.

Christmas present lottery updates

This year was the first year of the Christmas drawing.

SIL noted that MIL breached the lottery and decided that MIL and FIL are not allowed in the drawing next year.  She also said that next year there has to be a money limit.  Since we got 4/6 of the people in her family, I’m guessing DH went overboard compared to what the remaining kid got.  (Maybe he shouldn’t have gotten her an entire flatware set and just done the spoons like she asked for.)  We spent ~$50/each for the three of her kids that we got (but it may have seemed like more because Amazon always has Thanksgiving day sales) and I don’t know how much for her, but it was more (I think over $100?  She has not thanked us, so it’s possible she was not happy about it, as midwesterners express disapproval silently. But equally possible she is busy with twins and work.).  BIL’s family spent something like $30 on one of our kids (I only know this because they bought a specific boardgame expansion off hir wishlist) so that’s probably also what they spent on SIL’s remaining kid.  My MIL drew me and I don’t know how much she spent because she’s a great bargain hunter, but she got me a *lot* of Lenox stuff (she has noted I am a fan of Butterfly Meadow).  So now I have pretty cloth napkins (all amazon links are affiliate) and one of those things you put a spoon on when you’re cooking so your counter doesn’t get yucky, and some serving bowls.

So DH suggested that we just draw the kids next year and leave the adults out entirely.  We both worry that if there’s a money limit AND we draw SIL’s husband (who does not have a wishlist and we really know nothing about and have nothing in common with) we’re going to be giving him a $25 (or whatever the limit is) gift card to Amazon, which seems … dumb.  (Whereas if there’s no money limit it seems less dumb?  Even if the same amount is spent?  Logic!)  Also I think DH would like to be allowed to get his brother a game at Christmas.  MIL and SIL agreed to a drawing just for the kids.

Then I realized that if we do a drawing and just have kids, then SIL’s family will have all four of the other kids EVERY SINGLE YEAR and we will each get some random two of her kids every year.

Since BIL and my family are better off, maybe we could just each buy for the other 6 kids without having to stress out about dollar limits or siblings being treated differently or what have you.  We can keep buying books (which are probably less popular and more expensive than other presents for kids that aren’t my kids) and BIL’s family can keep buying whatever BIL’s family buys (which is board games and comic books for our family, but probably tailored differently for SIL’s family).  SIL will still only be buying for the same four kids that she would be under the drawing system.   We have made this suggestion and we will see what happens.  DH made the argument that since SIL had her kids last, there were many Christmasses in which she was buying presents for our kids but we weren’t reciprocating.  BIL agrees with this logic.  DH and BIL usually just do whatever MIL (who does whatever SIL) wants, but this time they might put up a (quiet, polite, midwestern) united front.  I’m staying out of it other than waking up one morning having thought out the mathematics of a drawing when one person has exactly half of the kids while I was asleep.

As a side note:  We have NO IDEA who drew DH’s name.  He did get a gift from his parents, but it was smaller than per usual and from both parents, similar to what they got the kids whose names they didn’t draw and less than what they got me, whose name MIL did draw (which was signed just by her).  Nothing else has been forthcoming.  SIL sent DC2’s stuff early.  BIL sent DC1’s game a bit later, but still within plenty of time for Christmas.   DH should probably have asked after he got the present from his parents, but it was before Thanksgiving, so…  We’re not fussed about it, but are mildly curious.

Our dishwasher wasn’t working so we cleaned it out but I’m not showing any pictures because it was one of the grossest things I’d ever seen and I would like to be able to forget someday

Last time our dishwasher wasn’t working, it made crunching noises and needed the motor to be completely replaced.  The time before it was an ancient dishwasher that the previous owners had left with the house and it flooded our guest bathroom on the other side of the kitchen and the repair person said it wasn’t worth repairing, just get a new one.  So we did.

This time, the top shelf just wasn’t getting clean.  I started scouting new dishwashers and was quickly overwhelmed with the options– Do we spend $600?  $1200?  $2500? Are these smart features going to break in a way we can’t fix ourselves?  DH, decided to take it apart and see if anything was clogging it.  OMG dishwashers are DISGUSTING.  Imagine grease with foodbits in it that is dyed red by that soap loving bacteria.  Imagine a LOT of it.  Everywhere.  I took one look and left the kitchen (after telling DH he didn’t have to do it).  But DH said he’d taken it apart and was committed.  He’s a saint.  A true hero.

And he didn’t find any specific clogs, though he did find the cap to a black skinny crayola marker (how?  clothes washer I would understand, but dishwasher?).  But after cleaning apart all the pieces and putting it back together, it started cleaning the dishes on both racks.

So… we can put off buying a new dishwasher for a while yet.

When do you decide to repair vs. buy a new dishwasher?  Do you go with the newest fancy Miele or Thermador model or a workhorse?  (Ours is Kenmore, but I think the next might be a low-end Bosch like our in-laws have.)

A snapshot of DH’s unemployment chores list

  1. Get and install curtains for the office.  [Ed:  this is my requested Christmas present this year so my face isn’t half blindingly white while zooming]
      1. Rod hanging style
        1. We do not want a curtain rod that attaches inside the door frame, because that will interfere with the screen door.
        2. We could use inside mount brackets and mount the curtain to both side walls, but then there would be a long rod sticking out over the filing cabinets for no reason.
        3. We could use an inside mount bracket on the side wall by the desk, and a normal bracket (to the window’s wall) on the other side, but that’s going to look asymmetrical.
        4. I think we use a normal rod attached to the same wall as the window, and it equally extends on either side of the door frame, which will put the end next to the desk almost up against the side wall, and put about 12” of space between the edge of the window and the end of the rod on each side.  To get the bracket close to the side wall next to the desk, let’s use the blackout rods that curve back into the wall.
          1. It would also be nice to minimize the depth, so the curtain is close to the wall.
      2. “Door” width 70.5” including the molding.
        1. Add 24” -> 94.5” wide curtain.
          1. Divide by 2 panels -> 48” panel width.
        2. Add ~10” -> 80.5” rod.
      3. 4.5” from the outside edge of the molding to the nearest wall.
      4. Do we need two panels or just one?
        1. I think 2 panels would look better.  We could get a single panel 100” wide, but I think when the curtains are open they will look better framing the door.
      5. Door height: 83.25” from floor to molding.
        1. So an 84” long panel? Then we set it above the top of the door and it won’t puddle on the ground.
      6. For curtain color, I think anything light or black is too extreme. Probably best to just go with brown.
  2. Fix the broken fence board.
  3. Clean the guest bedroom. [Ed:  this used to be DH’s office]
  4. Use the copper test kit.  [Ed:  Our water was strikingly blue for a little while.  We turned the whole house filter back on.]
  5. Clean the junk on the floor in front of the printer. [I suspect he means his 3d printer which is on the floor of the guest bedroom]
  6. Get the car inspected and registered.
  7. Clean out my work desk drawer.
  8. Keep the wooden boxes currently in the garage, break them down, or get rid of them. [Ed: More work stuff]
  9. Cash bonds.  [Ed: Both of our families bought us small savings bonds that have stopped accruing interest back in the early 1980s when there was a sale]
  10. Glue “Baking with Julia”.  [Ed: Wonderful cookbook, terrible binding]
  11. Ant hill by corner.  [Ed: Red ants are evil]
  12. Fix gate.  [Ed: I’m not sure what gate he means since the one to our dogrun just sort of fell over and we removed it and it’s no longer a dog run… we now have a more open concept backyard.  Come to think of it, there’s a gate on the other side that we never use that is under a bunch of wisteria, so maybe that’s what he means.]
  13. Replace the lightbulb in the refrigerator.  [Ed: One of MANY lightbulbs that heard DH was going to have a bunch of free time and decided to die]
    1. Ordered replacement.

 

I have no questions.  But it is nice having a highly qualified personal assistant!

Holiday Donations!

So, a lot of people need your dollars this year.  The federal government isn’t doing its job.  One thing that you can do even if you don’t have money to donate is call your senators and tell them to stop letting Mitch McConnell take Covid relief hostage to allowing firms to put their workers in danger without fear of lawsuit.  Because that’s what is happening– Mitch McConnell won’t even allow a relief bill to go to the floor unless companies are legally allowed to be negligent.  And if that gets passed, there will be a race to the bottom because only negligent companies will be able to compete.  People need relief and they need workplace safety.   We cannot have a bill that forces negligence on companies.

So, with that in mind, if you have dollars, people need them.  I think the best place for those dollars this year is anything that provides children with basic necessities.  So– donate to a foodbank, either your local bank or a state spinoff of Feeding America, or Feeding America itself.  Kids need food most of all.  Money is the best gift because they can use it to buy in bulk, but your unexpired cans, dry goods, diapers, toiletries, etc. are also useful.

A lot of people are having more troubles with anxiety, family problems from too much proximity, and so on.  There are a number of different crisis hotlines you can donate to.  The suicide prevention hotline, the crisis text line, and for LGBTQ folks, the Trevor project.  For victims of abuse, there’s the domestic abuse hotline, but you may want to look up a women’s shelter near you to donate to, either cash or in-kind.

If there is a non-profit for refugees near you, check out their webpage.  I bought some things off an amazon list for the one in our nearest city.

As state and local budgets get cut, you may want to donate to libraries.  I donated to the state library that’s letting me get free e-books, though I do that every year.  They have a lot of programs for kids in the city in which they are located, which has been having spotty schooling, and I want them to be able to keep that up.

If you’re on twitter, a lot of folks have been spreading the word about smaller projects– when they look legit and the donation is in-kind (like, on their list are things that probably don’t have a ton of resale value but are things that people need), I will often buy something off the amazon list of one of these projects.  It’s not that I don’t believe people with gofundmes are deserving, it’s that I don’t know if the person running the gofundme is actually legitimate or a scammer.  So I bought some reasonably priced kitchenware off one of these lists.

Here are some charitable donations pages from previous years.

Grumpy Nation, what charities would you like to highlight? Post in the comments below!

Unemployment insurance or not?

Last time DH was unemployed, he couldn’t get unemployment insurance because he’d left his (professor) job, and the only way he could have lost the job would be to quit or be fired.

This time, DH is in a textbook layoff situation– first furloughed (but didn’t bother getting unemployment supplementation even though he could have) and now the company has gone entirely out of business.

Sadly, our state does not currently have the covid provision that you can get unemployment even if not looking for work.  If he wants unemployment insurance money, he needs to look for work.

If he gets unemployment insurance, he would qualify for somewhere around $500/week or $2000/month, which is not nothing.  Back when we had a mortgage, that would have been our mortgage.

The hang-up is about looking for work.  DH wants a break before going to the next job.  Last time he had a 3 month break (basically summer) and enjoyed it immensely.  But he was also younger then.  More attractive to companies, maybe?  (We don’t actually know that much about age discrimination in high level tech positions even though we very much WANT to know.  It seems like some of the problem is that when you’re older you are expected to have connections.  And DH does have connections– everyone who has ever worked with him LOVES him and he’s done pro-bono stuff for companies when I’ve had technical issues with their technology.)  And will there be a problem with an extended length of unemployment (again, we don’t really know much about higher level workers and the effects of unemployment duration– really big literature, but nothing specific for our case… the closest is the Farber et al. work which suggests it maybe won’t be a concern for DH).

He’s also not sure what he wants to do next.  Ideally he’d do some kind of consulting where he swoops in and fixes difficult technical problems for people and they feel grateful and he’s done something that matters.  But… that’s not how large consulting companies work (particularly not the consulting company that his labmate wants him to work at)– they tend to be called in for CYA reasons or management doesn’t understand technology reasons and do something superficial that isn’t actually helpful and doesn’t get used.  That’s totally demoralizing.  He does not at all want to be an adjunct or lecturer at the university even though he could get a job doing that easily (and be paid very little to do so!).

One of his former coworkers is now working for a company that they worked with in the past that sounds to me like it would be a good fit.  They’re larger than the previous company and actually get products out to market instead of being an SBIR-mill.  And they allow working from home.  And he likes the people.  But DH is holding back on asking about it.  There’s something about it he can’t articulate that makes him not currently interested.  It may just be that he wants a sabbatical and this could lock him in for work for another decade.  I don’t know [update:  DH says the project they worked on together didn’t go well for reasons involving a third company not holding up their end].  I keep saying that once his former coworker gets settled DH should find out if he likes working there and hit up that network.

He could also switch from medical the-thing-he-does to just the-thing-he-does which is used in many industries, not just medicine.  There are several older members from his grad program actively looking for new employees at their companies.  Or he could just do computer programming– he’s one of those types who can pick up any new language in a few days.  And he’s known at a company I’ve bought specialized equipment from since he worked with them to fix some of their bugs that were causing me problems.  His plan for the month was to work on gimp via github, which is an open source project that would allow him to do labor for free that he could put on his resume to get his computer science cred up.  Or he could lean back on his imaging and instrumentation experience, which he has kept his hand in.

Anything that isn’t work from home, we’d have to move for.  And I cannot move.  There are like 20 jobs for people at my level in econ this year, and I did not apply to any of them.  (Though I think I would have had a shot at a couple of the jobs in Boston, but I can’t move poor DC1 in the middle of hir high school career from high school in the south to high school in Massachusetts for so many reasons.  Even if it would be so much better for DC2.)  Moving makes more sense in a couple of years when DC1 is out of high school and DC2 hasn’t yet started.

Then there’s all the jobs listed on the state unemployment website.  DH is over-qualified for many of them, but they’re not really good fits at all.  It looks like he wouldn’t have to accept jobs from them if offered because they likely don’t pay enough, but I’m not sure that he wouldn’t still have to apply to some number in order to get unemployment benefits.  If getting a job is most likely through networking, how much active cold applying will he have to do?  He’s going to look into that more.

Is it better to be able to say, “I took time off from applying to jobs to work on these fun projects and to help deal with the covid schooling situation” or to put the minimum amount of intensity into finding a job in order to get unemployment benefits, risking getting one that isn’t a good fit?  Or should he tap those networks hard to see if he can get a job, even though covid means a lot of places won’t be hiring?  (And we just found out that his friend who got him this job 7 years ago and left a few years back took 8 months to find a new position, though he didn’t quit his old job first and was definitely looking for something remote and stable that pays well.  Sadly for DH, he landed at a start up that can’t afford another engineer!)

I know hiring cycles start in January, so maybe we should just wait until the new year to worry about it after DH has had a break.  It looks like he can put off applying for unemployment insurance about that long without triggering any red flags.  I’m not sure how long he can put off applying before it gets difficult to apply though.  The website only says, things like “we encourage you to apply the first week you’re unemployed.”

Have you ever applied for unemployment insurance?  Have you taken breaks between jobs?

Ask the Grumpies: What to do with a windfall/how much to keep in cash/etc.

anonymous in the midwest asks:

My husband and I are also sitting on too much cash, and I’m trying to get over my fear of putting it in the market now. We had $30K in a 3% CD at our local credit union, but that matured and now we’ve got $50K earning nothing in our savings account. We (especially my husband) want to get some kind of return, but we also want to spend a good chunk of it on a new minivan and/or a bigger house in the next 5 years or so. I’m also wary of complicating our tax situation – we’ve never had non-tax-sheltered investments before. We’re considering bonds, but I don’t know if that’s a good idea.

A minivan has a well-defined price, but a bigger house doesn’t, so I don’t really know how much we’ll want to spend on these big things (and we might decide not to do either one). I guess the questions I’d like to see answered are more along the lines of:
-how do you decide how much $$ to keep in cash?
-how do you (and readers) think about which investments to put in tax-sheltered versus taxable accounts? Do tax implications play a role in those decisions?

Jenny F. Scientist says:

My mother decided to give each of us (3 daughters) $100,000 so I, too, need to figure out what to do with too much cash!

First disclaimer:  We are not professional financial planners.  See an actual fee-only financial planner with fiduciary responsibility or do your own research before making any important financial decisions.

Second disclaimer:  I keep WAY too much money in cash.  Especially now that Trump is not going to be president soon and it becomes less and less likely we will need to flee the country or worry about having some of our assets being seized illegally.

Here’s some earlier posts:

What to do with a windfall (we put it in the mortgage)

Do I see a financial planner about a 300K inheritance?  This one has some commentary on college savings.

What we did with an extra 40K.

What does a 20 year old do with 600k?

How much should we have in cash?

How your cash emergency fund can change as your net worth grows.

How to account for large purchases in your budget/cash flow.

How we approach diversification

A post on what to put in taxable vs. not taxable accounts

You already know the heuristic to not put any money into the stock market that you will need in the next five years.  I’m not Suze Orman (and don’t have all your financial details) so I can’t tell you how much to spend on a mini-van or house vs. not.

In terms of how much to keep in cash:  Every year when the new academic year starts for me, I take a spreadsheet that has an estimate of how much we spent the previous year, then tinker with known changed costs (ex. childcare going away, health insurance prices going up, etc.), to get an idea of about how much we spend each month.  Then, since my summers are unpaid, I make sure I have 3 months of summer spending (this will probably not be the case for you), then add a month in case of emergency, and call that the minimum amount we’re allowed to have in savings by May.  Now, I can’t be fired without several years of warning, so I don’t need more than 3 months in savings.  If I could be fired, I would probably want at least 6 months of money in cash, just because people tend to lose jobs about the same time the stock market is tanking and I’d want to not feel terrible selling stocks when I was already stressed out about money and work.  Back when we had less income, we necessarily only had about 1 month in cash, and we just knew we’d have to get loans if there was an emergency that couldn’t cover things.

So, to sum:  Have 3-6 months of spending in your account in case of job-loss (less if you are just starting on saving and need to start saving for retirement– the principal in an IRA Roth can be used as an emergency fund).  Have up to a year if a year of spending is only a small part of your net worth or you work in an especially volatile industry.  Add more if you have any expected large expenses coming up like replacing your heating/a/c unit or buying a new car and so on.  Or if you’re saving for a downpayment for a new house.  Remember that money is fungible, so if you have 3-6 months of spending and your hvac goes out unexpectedly, you can replace the hvac and then rebuild the emergency fund.

Disclaimer redux:  I have a little over a year of $ in cash right now, spread out over 3 different banks.  This is ridiculous and I was going to move some to taxable stocks, but then DH found out about his job going away and isn’t sure he wants to even get unemployment (since he’s not sure he wants to job search), so I just kept it in cash, figuring maybe we’ll want to spend it.  I do plan to put some of it in IRAs in January, and it will get chipped away into DC2’s 529 plan every month unless our financial picture changes.

In terms of what investments to put where:  We only recently hit the point where we ran out of tax sheltered places to put new money (we had some money in taxable stocks back when we didn’t have work retirement accounts and the IRA limits were much smaller).  So… max out your work retirement accounts.  Do Backdoor Roths every year that you can if your income is too high for a regular IRA.  If you work at a company with a mega backdoor Roth 401k, look into putting money there.  If you have kids, consider 529 plans.  We talk in much more detail about what kinds of money to put in what kinds of accounts given tax implications in this post.  Remember, perfect is the enemy of the good– it is better to have a money allocation that is non-optimal than it is to do nothing (unless, of course, you decide you want to keep the 30K in cash!).

Re:  what to do with a huge windfall?

    1. Pay off high interest rate debt (if any)
    2. Create an emergency fund
    3. Max out all retirement savings
    4. Pay off lower interest rate debt (though you may want to wait a couple years on any student loans– there is a non-zero chance some portion of them will be forgiven in the next year, but who knows)
    5. Put money in 529 plans (if applicable)
    6. Max out an emergency fund
    7. Taxable savings and/or fun!

Grumpy readers, what did I miss?  How would you answer these questions?

Christmas Gifts this year

So…. this year DH’s family departed deeply from tradition and decided to draw lots for Christmas.  We pulled DH’s sister, hir oldest girl, and both preemie twins.  All Amazon links are affiliate links.

DH’s sister‘s Amazon wishlist usually, in the past, pre-preemies, has had things for hir work as a teacher which I love buying because it feels like we’re donating to the school, and random trinkets for herself (like jewelry or cosmetics).  DH, from what I can tell, randomly picks stuff off her list until he gets to $50.  This year is very different.  Hir list has more necessities and fewer luxuries.  Clothing, bathroom supplies, kitchen supplies, and so on, with notes about how they need to replace things that have been lost or are worn out.  So… with the twins and maternity leave (such as it is) we suspect they’re short on cash whereas they’d been doing well before. [Update:  The actual drain on their budget is that they’ve put both older kids in face-to-face schooling at a private school since the public schools are all remote except for special education.]  I have made an executive decision to pick the silverware option and we will be getting her silverware from liberty flatware, probably the Annapolis pattern (Update:  NOT this one– in person it looks like somewhat higher quality versions of cafeteria spoons), unless they end up being too big (we’ve ordered a sample).  (Looking through I really really want the American Garden pattern for ourselves, but we already have a full set of the Martha Washington which is also nicer quality.  There’s just something about flowers on kitchen stuff that is very nostalgic for me.  But the Martha Washington pattern is also nostalgic!  And we don’t need a second set of flatware.  Nor do we need their adorable Christmas flatware.)  Update:  DH ended up getting a full set in the flame pattern.  They are a bit bigger than what we have, but DH’s sister’s family is also much bigger (not just in numbers!) than I am so they can handle European-sized silverware.

There are about a bazillion baby sitter skipper and other baby related items on the list for niece (at $20/each too!), and a bunch of make-up kits (she’s in kindergarten)… we got *one* of the barbie sets (we chose veterinarian) and then got most of the books, which are from the If you give a Mouse a Cookie series and the Llama Llama series, both of which are great sets of kids books.  I’m disappointed we don’t have the oldest kid, because he’s the same age as our youngest and there’s a lot of really good fun science/engineering/etc. stuff on his wishlist.  DH’s family is still unconsciously into gender roles.  I did sneak in The Most Magnificent Thing.

We asked about the twins and were told that they “don’t need anything” which we think is code for “we have enough clothes/toys etc, please give us gift cards.”  At least that’s how we’re going to take it.  So we got a couple of cute Target giftcards with little Christmas puppies on them.

Then we had to decide whether or not to give gifts to DH’s parents despite the names drawing that they breached.  Cabela’s was having an interesting gift card sale where you got the card at a discount so long as it only got used after Christmas.  So we got FIL one of those.  For MIL, DH and the kids are making a Christmas themed shadow box kit that incorporates all 8 grandkids.  DH is hoping for packages with names or tiny tree ornaments, but I think two rows of 4 named stockings would be cute.  We’re going to let the kids choose based on their paperworking skills.  We’re also sending a copy of an instapot cookbook that MIL had on her amazon wishlist but then went out of stock before she could get a copy– we happened to buy a copy after we finished the wonderful Indian food instapot book we had and when we got it were like, we will never use this because we already make these new American things without the instapot, so… it’s kind of like regifting?  (We got ourselves a different Urvashi Pitre instapot book instead— she is THE BEST.)

DH got his relative a bunch of different kinds of pens for people with arthritis because he’s been complaining about how hard it is to write when things get bad.  We didn’t send them earlier because he switched doctors and got on a medication that was helping, but this seemed like a good time.

My mom is getting a Barnes and Noble books gift card.

My sister has asked for a big cast iron skillet.  So she will get that, and some flaxseed oil because it is miraculous at seasoning a pan.  If you have an iron skillet and have to keep re-seasoning it, get some organic flaxseed oil and use this method.

For our own kids… their amazon wishlists are full of books they’ve read from the library that they want their own copies of.  It’s hard to know what to get for DC1 who will be turning 14 right after Christmas.  Last year the theramin kit (and arduino) and lockpick sets went over really well and got a lot of use during the Spring and summer along with a subscription to an adobe video editing software.  But school has started for real again and zie has no time for hobbies that aren’t directly related to school work.  We’d been kicking around the idea of a unicycle for a while and finally got one.  Maybe zie needs a fancy computer chair?  But we asked and zie said no.  We’ll have to come up with something for hir birthday, even if it’s just a giftcard to one of the magic websites [update:  we have settled on cold hard cash].  DC1 has a number of smaller things on hir amazon wishlist, like villainous expansions, and US classic historical novels, but we already get enough complaints from people about there not being enough on there that I figure we’ll have to wait until people have finished their shopping (though it’s hard because my family often puts off shopping past the last minute).

In addition to books, DC2 wants various balls.  We’ve already got a basketball and a four square ball (which when I was growing up we just called a “school ball”… or a “kick ball”– you know, one of those big rubber balls that don’t hurt too much when used inappropriately at recess).  But DC2 wants a volleyball and a soccer ball and so on.  Zie will also be getting more sketch pads.  For hir “big” present, zie has asked for a scooter.

For stocking stuffers, DC2 wants a fidget spinner that spins, and DC1 needs something with a hinge that zie can break without upsetting other people in the family (see, for example, the ipad holder that used to have a little protective thing over the plug area until DC1 worried it off).  I went with a smaller number (1 each) of expensive items that aren’t full of “this came broken/leaves sparkly bits on my fingers/etc.” reviews rather than a larger number of cheaper fidget toys with such reviews.  Hopefully we will get the right items…

Have you been getting interesting things for friends and family?