A small rant about bad retirement options

It all started when we asked SIL if she could open a 529 account for her second child so we could contribute to it as we’d been contributing to that of her first child.

She told us that her financial advisor at work had told her not to open a second 529 plan.  I wondered at the quality of that advice as we’d recently done an ask-the-grumpies post on that very topic.

DH asked who her advisor was.  Turns out it’s some company named AXA.  If I say too much that’s terrible about AXA, their lawyers will likely contact us, just like they did the owner of the finance for teachers site.  AXA features (along with a similar company named Legend) in the  NYTimes article(s) below about 403(b) plans that are a terrible deal for teachers because of their high fees and lock-in periods.

It makes me so mad that we’re doing this to our teachers!  Especially since teachers from my parents’ generations have great defined benefit pensions, while those starting out now are, like the rest of us, largely dependent on putting money from our take-home pay into defined contribution plans.  It is terrible that for many of them, their only 403(b) options are eating away at their retirement savings with high fees and bad advising that pushes them into higher fee funds.  K-12 teachers (especially those who aren’t high school math teachers and maybe should know better) should be able to trust that their employer is going to pick out a good plan so all they have to do is save money for retirement.  Why can’t TIAA-Cref manage more K-12 403(b) plans?

I mean, it’s bad enough that my FIL’s company uses Edward Jones.  (This summer upon retirement, he informed me that he would be saving 10K/year rolling over his retirement assets to Vanguard on retirement.  My MIL noted that’s equivalent to 4-5 online classes she does not have to teach.  Made that generous $200 donation his EJ broker gave each year to his local hunting club fundraiser seem pretty negligible.)  I am so glad we got him that Bogleheads book on investing after his nth email asking us about some risky single stock his EJ broker was pushing on him.

Do you have decent 401(K)/403(b) retirement options at work?  How big are the fees on your plan?


Saving isn’t necessarily “easier” for people who save more: A deliberately controversial rant

One of those bloggers who makes a ton and spends a ton and is always complaining about debt/bragging about purchases/letting other people buy hir necessities often talks about how it’s just *easier* for other people to not spend money on luxuries and trips.  Other people just don’t enjoy such things as much as zie does.  Other people aren’t *really* sacrificing.  Other people don’t know what it’s like, having friends who like to go out and spend money, wanting to go on trips, wanting to buy nice things.

Every time I read something like this, I want to say @#$#@ you.  I mean seriously.  You are not a special snowflake.  @#$@# you.  Sacrifice is NOT fun.

It isn’t easier for me to not have things I want.  I don’t get my kicks from saving instead of spending.  I would *love* to take vacations and eat out all the time and live someplace amazing and buy all sorts of fancy stuff.  But I don’t.

Why don’t I?  Two main reasons:

First:  That feeling you’re always complaining about?  The one where your budget comes up short and you don’t know where the missing money is going to come from?  The one where you’re getting lots of sympathy from your blog followers?  That one.  I HATE that feeling.  I hate it so much that I have something called an emergency fund.  I hate it so much that I set my fixed expenses low enough that there’s some extra every month.  So much that we’ve never had consumer debt and we paid off our loans ages ago.

Second:  You know how your family bails you out when you don’t have money for a broken appliance or the kids’ tuition or a whatever the latest emergency is?  Yeah, I don’t want my parents, my parents who make less money than I do, to be bailing me out as an adult.  I don’t want them to @#$3ing sacrifice their wants because I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my own.  Emergencies happen on a pretty regular basis and you should plan for them.  If you can’t, then you can’t really afford those trips with friends.

So yeah, @#$@ you.  Sacrifice sucks for everybody.  That’s why it’s called sacrifice.

And maybe it’s easy to spend less for people like Mr. Money Moustache or Frugal Woods, but you don’t have to be an early retirement extreme junkie to be responsible with your finances.  And even with MMM and FW, it may just be that their values for the environment or for early retirement are stronger than their desire to spend.  That doesn’t mean they don’t have a desire to spend, just that there’s something more important to them than spending.

It’s not easier for other people to not spend.  It’s easier for you to let people bail you out or to have those regular feelings of panic than it is for the rest of us.

Reject the double-bind of female success

As should be abundantly obvious from this election season if nothing else, women are condemned if they are anything less than perfect, anything less than 120% or more of their male counterparts.

On the other hand, they’re also generally hated if they seem to be perfect, seem to be better than average, or seem to have their excrement together.

You see this on the political stage.  You see this on mommy blogs.  It, as part of the patriarchy, is the water we drink and the air we breath.

Woman are constantly calling “perfect” women out saying no, they’re not actually perfect.  They secretly suck but just don’t show the parts where they suck.

In order to not be hated, women talk about how no no, they’re imperfect too.  Their house isn’t always tidy.  Or whateverthef patriarchal standard they’re not meeting, no matter how successful they are in other spheres.

And other women are soooo grateful.  You are so brave to talk about your imperfections.  This makes me feel so much better.

It’s a common narrative and it sucks donkey gonads.

When you see someone is successful, here’s what you should try to do.

  1. Think about whether or not this is something you care about for yourself.  If you don’t care, then don’t compare yourself along that dimension.  Don’t hate the woman because she can bake or craft if you don’t care about baking or crafting.
  2. If you do care, first decide if this is something you really care about or if it’s just something that patriarchy makes you think you should care about (see: having a clean house).  If the latter, then refer to #1.
  3. If the former, then instead of hating on the other woman, instead of trying to cut her down to size, see if you can get tips on how to do it better yourself. If that’s something you want to spend time doing. Share your joy of doing whatever it is.  It’s not a zero-sum game.

Don’t get your self-value from comparisons to other people.  Work on yourself.  Value your progress.  Compare yourself to your ideal and work on getting there.  Don’t negatively compare yourself to other people.  Especially not along lines that have nothing to do with your own values and priorities.  Or even if they do match your values and priorities.  Move yourself forward, don’t push other people back.

We want the world to be a better place.  There’s enough pie for everyone if we keep making the pie bigger.  No need to force someone to take a smaller slice if it means a smaller pie.

Smash the patriarchy.

When economists prefer tossing economic theory to being woke

I seriously do not understand how so many economists (white male etc.) think that “cultural differences” explain things that are easier explained by “different constraints.”

As if we’re not all rational actors, only the white guys are.  Everyone else is doing worse because they are worse.  They’re either low quality or have bad culture.  If everyone acted like a white guy, then everybody would be doing as well as white guys.  As if.

It’s like, do you not listen to your own theory? How is it that when someone who isn’t a rich white guy is involved, all of a sudden you become a poor quality sociologist (who doesn’t really understand sociology)?

Are posts that are “raw” and dramatic more honest than posts that are happy or emotionally even?: A deliberately controversial post

Not necessarily.

Just like the accusations that (some? all?) people are making up their happy perfect lives, there’s also no doubt bloggers who are either dramatizing or possibly even making up their own drama so that they have something to write about.  Some people who seem as if their lives are trainwrecks seem that way not because they necessarily have horrible things happening to them, but because, like the (possibly fictional) “perfect” bloggers, they want attention.  They love being thanked for their “honest” and “raw” posts.

So they talk about fighting with their horrible lazy awful partners.  They talk about their horrible children.  They talk about their problems with money that they have created by taking on too much debt.  Some (that you will occasionally read news stories about) go so far as to make up diseases and put up crowd-funding.

It is true that there are people stuck in horrible relationships, or whose children have real psychological problems.  There are people who, through no fault of their own have money problems.  There are people who have life-threatening and chronic diseases.  And some folks with real problems do blog about them.

However, the Venn diagram of having a real problem and blogging about drama is not an “honest” and “raw” single circle.  There’s overlap, but it is far from complete.

Drama posts can be just as fictional as “perfect” posts.  And just as likely, some “perfect” bloggers are not lying about things going well for them.  Honest writing and happy writing may be completely uncorrelated.

Your turn, Grumpeteers.

Dear “broke” person on the internet,

[Ed note:  This somewhat mean-spirited post is from an embarrassing number of years back and has been hanging out in drafts waiting for it to no longer be connectable to any specific person and for us to be out of money Monday posts.  Did the person in question ever turn things around?  We have no idea!]

You make a lot of money.  I know this because you keep telling people how much you and your spouse make.  I was shocked the first time I saw it because you are always complaining about your debt (and how the world has been out to get you).  Until very recently, your family made more money than either of ours and lives in a lower cost living area.

But you also have spent a lot of money and you keep spending money.  For example, you bought a house that you should not have bought when you had major debt that you should have attacked first.  You got upset when your readers told you not to buy the house, and you bought it anyway.  Same thing with replacing your car with a fancy new model because cars get old after 6 years.

You need to pay down that debt so you stop wasting money on the interest so that you can actually life the lifestyle for your income-level.  You can’t live that 100K+/year income life until you get rid of that debt.  You have to live on less than that.  I’m not saying to give up the private school, but you don’t have to live in as nice a house or as nice a neighborhood or drive as nice cars or replace them so frequently. I imagine there are a lot of other luxuries that you think are necessities and entitlements.  They’re not.

You are probably not going to be able to stop spending so much without help, but I doubt you’re actually going to seek help.  I doubt that because your readers have suggested plenty of places to get help, from books to Dave Ramsey classes to certified financial planners, and you’ve done nothing.  You’re probably just going to keep complaining about your debt, bragging about your high income, and complaining about how the world is out to get you.

There’s probably something psychological going on.  And I should feel sorry for you, but seriously, you make @$@#$@ing lot of money.  A lot of people would pay down their @#$#ing debt and not feel so entitled to the house they couldn’t afford and whatever else it is that you’re wasting your high income on.  Then they’d have paid down their debt by now and would be able to live the life you’re living while saving for retirement!  But you’re going to have to make sacrifices at some point, and the longer you keep this high interest debt the more it’s going to keep dragging down your finances.

Which is why, of course, we’ve stopped reading you.

A mother’s day rant

1.  If you’re a full-time daycare, don’t have “Muffins with Mom”.

2.  If you decide to have “Muffins with Mom” anyway, don’t put a sign-up sheet in the lobby where everyone can see which moms obviously don’t love their children enough to leave work to spent 30 min eating store-bought muffins with them at daycare.

3.  Also, the next day don’t ask the moms who weren’t there why they weren’t there and then tell them that they were the only mom who wasn’t there and little DC was so upset.  (Especially if the reason according to DC that ze was upset was because ze had to have grapes instead of muffins like all the other kids because ze’s allergic to wheat.  Or maybe especially if that’s not the reason.)

I wonder how many moms are going to show up in Dad’s place for Donuts with Dad, which I assume they’re also having.  Of course, little DC2 won’t have dad there either because he’s traveling for work that week.

I’m actually only slightly irritated, and mainly at the patriarchy.  And to be honest, I would have checked the no box even if I hadn’t had a P&T meeting scheduled a month and a half in advance at exactly that time.  I am willing to sacrifice DC a little bit so that other mothers can also feel free to check the “no” box if they need to or want to.  (And at the time I checked “No” there were two other “No”s, one with a written “I’m out of town” excuse.)  I suppose that makes me a terrible mother, but I don’t want hir to feel like this is a big deal, and based on conversations with hir the evening of the event, ze was indeed upset by the lack of muffin and not at all by the lack of mommy.  (And yes, a “better” set of parents would have brought gluten-free muffins, but DC2 has gf cookies provided specifically for these kinds of events, and I didn’t really realize that it was Thursday until I got to daycare and saw the ladies setting up for the party, because the end of the semester is busy.)

I have the solace that deep down I believe that these little upsets truly are character building and learning to weather having to eat grapes when the other kids have muffins so as to avoid getting a rash is just one of those things that makes a person stronger.  Obviously we shouldn’t try to create character building incidents because that’s sadistic, but it’s not such a big deal when they happen.  Especially when grapes are actually better than grocery store muffins.

or with music