Reader Mailbag #10

Each Monday, The Simple Dollar opens up the reader mailbags and answers ten to twenty simple questions offered up by the readers on personal finance topics and many other things. Got a question? Ask it in the comments. You might also enjoy the archive of earlier reader mailbags.

As usual, we’ll start things off with a few links to older articles that directly answer questions I’ve heard recently.

Video games and frugality
Staple foods to have on hand to make home meal preparation easier
Is there a connection between saving money and losing weight?

And now for some great reader questions!

I absolutely HATE the Born to Buy reviews. Will they ever end?
– Peter

Yes, the last one is posted tomorrow. I learned a lot from this series, mostly that about 30% of the readers loved it – but 70% hated it. After this one, I’m going back to my old-style book reviews – one long post per book – and try to stir discussion there. Many readers have asked me to go back to that format instead – and that’s exactly what I’ll be doing, starting this Friday. I have a nice big pile of books to review, too, and a few are really intriguing (and one should stir up a nice big argument).

So what ever happened with your plan to buy a Mac?
– Will

Many of your posts indicate that you are a Mac user. I’m curious about your Mac usage as I’m a Mac user as well. How many Macs do you own, and what kinds? What made you switch to Macs (if you have)? What apps do you use in your Mac and what apps do you wish were available for Mac?
– Sowmya

A refresher: a while back, I mentioned that I was about to buy a workstation for writing and some limited video creation and I was debating over what to buy. I was pretty sure that I was going to buy a Mac, but unsure what exactly to get.

What I ended up getting, after some consultation with several readers who use Macs and one wonderful reader who helped me with an Apple Store discount, was a Mac Mini with the processor, RAM, and hard drive upgraded to the max. This ended up costing me a little under $1,000. I also got a 24 inch monitor from Dell – another $300. That, my friends, is my current writing workstation.

I then took some of the equipment from my old laptop and either got it to work on the Mac (in the case of an external hard drive, which now functions as a Time Machine automatic backup) or traded it for other stuff. After some work, I managed to get an older webcam functioning, which serves as my microphone. I also got a copy of VMWare Fusion so I could run some of my old Windows applications.

This workstation handles all of my needs perfectly. I am incredibly happy with this setup. I feel like my writing productivity is through the roof. There are so many nice little details to Mac OS X that simply don’t exist in Windows and once you get used to them, going back is frustrating.

So far, I’ve found software that solves every need I can come up with – iGTD has become my to-do list, for example, and TextEdit is where I do 99% of my writing. I’m very happy with things.

You often admit to wanted three or more children. Do you ever consider the social and environmental cost of adding to overpopulation?
– Amanda B.

The funny thing is that I see this issue in the opposite direction. I see it as my obligation to have a lot of children and to raise them to be strong, independent thinkers and stewards of the earth. The more children I have and raise to treat the earth with respect and think about their choices, the better I make the world.

Similarly, current thinking is that global population is going to fall in the future, according to this article from The Economist. This creates other social problems.

You explained before about how you make money from page visits, but how do you make money from RSS feeds which don’t actually require readers to go to any pages?
– Andrea

Frankly, I don’t. I provide email subscriptions and RSS feeds just to allow readers to keep tabs with the site, send it to their friends easily, and so forth. They don’t directly make me much money at all.

What they help with is that they keep readers involved that might not bother to click over to the site. Maybe they’ll see an interesting article and click through to read the comments. Maybe they’ll see something that a friend might like and send it on to them, and they’ll visit the site and get involved.

To me, that’s an exchange I’m happy to make. Without the email subscriptions and RSS subscriptions, those readers would never read the stuff I write. Letting people read The Simple Dollar in that way is fine with me.

I have seen a lot of advertisements lately on television and radio encouraging people to sell their spare gold and silver jewelry to make extra cash.

I know metals prices are up, but do you consider this to be worthwhile? Can the average person really make a lot of money from this (i.e., even $100)? Or would it be better to wait to see if prices go higher?
– Kate

In general, selling jewelry in this way is a way to make money in a pinch, and it seems more lucrative than it used to due to the price of metals today.

If you have no emotional attachment to the jewelry, it’s essentially an investment, and the gold and silver markets are notoriously unpredictable. If I were in those shoes, I would probably try to sell it now, but I wouldn’t necessarily go to those people advertising to buy your stuff. Look for a metals dealer and see what you can get.

I’m finally getting smart and digging out of debt. It’s slow but thanks to you and other blogs, I have plenty of resources for encouragement. But now, I’m totally addicted to many personal finance blogs. I can’t get enough and I want to soak up as much information as I can to help me and possibly others. I’m not much of a writer but curious as to how I can use the knowledge/experience that I gain in help others in the future?
– Chad

There are two things you can do to help others.

The first is to teach your friends directly. Talk to them about their financial choices. It’s often not easy to talk about this, but quite often people do want to talk about these things. A great way to start is by offering up the things you’re doing to save money. One thing to avoid – don’t criticize. Money is often tied up in complex ways with people’s psyches, senses of self-worth, and senses of ethics, and it’s often unpredictable.

The second is to lead by example. Use good financial and frugal tactics and be willing to show them to others. Don’t be ashamed of being cheap – be proud.

“This site is for entertainment purposes only. Trent is not a financial advisor and no information found on this site should be construed as financial advice.”

This is posted on the bottom of your site. I think we all understand that it is there for legal purposes. How do you feel about it, as you clearly are trying to dispense advice of financial nature? Do you see any way that our society could be fixed so that its not necessary for people like you to be required to effectively state that everything you say is worthless just so that you can say it at all?
– Scott

I put that statement there because it’s true. This site is for entertainment purposes – it’s there to make you smile and think and talk about your finances.

I cannot possibly give perfectly accurate advice that applies to everyone’s financial situation. I can’t do that – Money Magazine can’t do that – no one on earth can do that. If you want accurate financial advice about your specific situation, you should go to a financial advisor, not to some random person writing a website. You need to be able to lay out your situation in detail face-to-face with someone – and that’s going to be a fee-based service.

My goal with this site is to make you think about your money, get you talking about your money, inspire you to make strong choices about your money, and improve yourself as a person. Nothing more.

If we all lived in a world where people were honest about their qualifications and accomplishments and were always upfront about the advice they give, we wouldn’t need such statements. I have no interest in ever intentionally misleading anyone – I think that’s pretty obvious from the year and a half this site has been around. The problem is that there are people out there who take advantage of such trust, and then the reaction from the people who have their trust violated is to not trust anyone, and the cycle of mistrust grows from there.

So here’s my question: is it ALWAYS the best idea to pay down consumer debt at the expense of funding a retirement account? What good does it do to free up a couple hundred dollars a month (or even $1000 a month) if you have nothing in the bank for a retirement that’s 15-25 years away and you’ve lost a lot of the opportunity to take advantage of that compounding interest?
– JLiz

Paying down consumer debt only really helps if you’re committed to keeping it off. If not, then it just comes back and you’ve effectively spent that money on stuff.

If you’re truly committed to eliminating debt, then your best route is to always put your money where it will earn the most for you. When there’s high-interest debt out there, the best earning move for your cash is to remove that debt.

If that commitment isn’t there – for example, if you have a long history of having debt and never really getting rid of it – then you should be saving for retirement above all else. Putting that money away into a 401(k) is the smartest move, because it locks that money away and doesn’t let you spend it on stuff.

The best solution for retirement, though, isn’t the 401(k) – it’s breaking an addiction to spending and debt.

I am in my early 50’s. We will be inheriting around 60,000.00. What would you recommend for doing with the money to help it grow? Are there any money markets or mutual funds out there that earn you good money anymore?
– Julia

I’ll defer to the experts on this one. Warren Buffett, Jim Cramer, William Sharpe, Burton Malkiel, William Berstein, Paul Farrell, and countless others recommend that almost all investors put their money into highly diverse index funds.

In a nutshell, an index fund is a mutual fund that’s not directly managed by anyone. Instead, the stocks are just purchased based on a certain set of rules – members of the S&P 500, all stocks with a market capitalization of over $10 billion, and so on. This cuts way down on the overhead cost and results in funds that are pretty diverse, too.

The end result is a pretty solid investment. I buy my index funds through Vanguard and right now I only own two – the Total Stock Market Index and the Total International Index. These two effectively give me a tiny slice of every stock in the world. Very diverse and cheap, too. I look at it as a bet on humanity – I believe that capitalism will always result in greater efficiency and greater value, and thus overall the stock markets will always trend upwards.

What do you think are the best reasons to leave a job you like/love but there is something/someone about it that is stealing your joy? Are there definite signs that “enough is enough”?
– Nancy Juniper Wands

I think there’s really only one. If you wake up every morning and loathe the idea of going to work, you should move on. If you like it some days and don’t like it other days – that’s life. Every job is like that.

If you hate it every day, though, it’s dragging your whole psyche down. You’re becoming a sadder person because of it, and that’s affecting other areas of your life.

Recently, I left a job that I mostly liked. It was a tough choice, but overall it was the right one – it gave me my life back. I was in a position where I was working two jobs and as a result I was beginning to loathe my whole life.

When your job is making you hate your life, move on. No amount of money is worth that.

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  1. margo says:

    I think there’s really only one. If you wake up every morning and loathe the idea of going to work, you should move on. If you like it some days and don’t like it other days – that’s life. Every job is like that.

    I am so struggling with this exact problem right now. I dread getting up and going to work every morning. The career I’d like to pursue will require going back to school and a temporary (maybe even permanent) paycut. Its so tough to put a value on exactly how much job satisfaction is worth, especially considering I can’t be positive that I will love the new career I’m considering.

  2. Frugal Dad says:

    I was in a toxic job environment with my last employer and it was an absolute struggle every morning to get up and go to work. I used to dread Sunday evenings worse than any other time because it meant work the next day and the end of a weekend.

    Trent, for next week: Now that you don’t have to report to a FT job at a certain time, what has changed about your daily working schedule?

  3. KC says:

    To Julia who is inheriting sone cash. At your age I would consider splitting it 40/60. I’d put 40% in a high interest CD and about 60% in a Total Market Domestic Indix fund or Total Market World Index fund (this includes the US markets as well as all world markets). You are old enough to have some conservative savings, but still young enough to need to have money in more aggressive equities. In fact – if you have deprived yourself of things over your life – spend a little – maybe 5% – go somewhere or buy something fun.

    Trent – I’m with you on the kids. I’m 35 and have none now so 3 is out of the question. And I don’t really want kids, but I know my husband and I would make great parents. We’ve both had exceptional parents as examples and I know we’d be great (you should see how we are with our dog – practicing parents). I feel it is my responsibility to bring at least one kid into this world to negate all the yahoots who bring kids into the world and neglect them.

  4. Amanda B. says:

    So I did read the linked article and found it interesting…However, what they are talking about in the article is a political problem. What I am talking about is an environmental. I know you have read the Omnivore’s Dilemma, so I know you know that the capacity of the earth to provide food to support life has been artificially inflated (fixing nitrogen). That inflation is dependant on fossil fuels and when we run out of those, two out of every five people will stave to death. Not because of governments, or taxes, or trades. But because there will literally not be enough amino acids to support life. Now I am sure we as humans will obliterate every other species we can before we have to shrink our families, but that road leads to death too (as man cannot exist in a vacuum). If we were to take this knowledge and behave responsibly, we could slowly change our population such that everyone could still live their natural life, instead of waiting to the last minute and then amputating a major appendage of the world’s population. The sad fact is, entire cultures would be lost in this impending food crisis, while other whole cultures would remain relatively unscathed. So lets see, only a few cultures survive, no animals other than bees and beef, only two languages on the planet and only the relatively wealthy left to run the earth’s affairs. It doesn’t seem that even the best of us could repair such disaster.

  5. Johanna says:

    @KC: Why don’t you adopt one of the kids who has already been brought into the world and neglected?

  6. Jo says:

    Re: feeling an obligation to bring children into the world.

    Isn’t that logic a little mad when there are already millions of unwanted children in the world? Adopt, or spend your time volunteering with children who need role models.. such kids are found in every town and city on our planet. There’s no need to bring more kids into the world when Nobel Laureate scientists are telling us that there won’t be clean drinking water or air by the time they reach old age.

  7. margo says:

    Haha, I also hate the Born to Buy reviews. Maybe there is some in-between area you might investigate. Maybe introduce a book and once a week for three weeks delve into detail on a major discussion point. I think 17 or 18 or whatever number you got up to was just a little overkill.

  8. Katrina says:

    Trent- I agree with you about having scads of children. The people who ought to be reproducing (healthy, fairly educated, productive people) often have the fewest, while the opposite often have the most. This trend is backwards, and has substantial societal implications.

    Now for my question: my significant other just started his first job out of college. It pays well, almost as much as his father’s income. His parents have multiple mortgages out on their houses, and it appears to me (although I could be wrong) that they are living outside of their means, mostly to benefit their adult children. None of the children are moochers- the parents give freely, without being asked. They buy clothing for Kevin constantly, regularly fill up his gas tank, and don’t want him to repay them for the money they “lent” to help him buy a car/get on his feet in the transition from college to career.

    I worry that this is a bad habit for them. We can support ourselves easily- we live cheaply, we have no children or debt other than some student debt. Should he tell them to stop? I’m afraid they will be insulted, because they seem to enjoy it. But we will both feel guilty if they do this at the expense of their future financial security, particularly in terms of retirement. I worry that our only option is to mail cash to them anonymously. I think it’s the only way they’ll accept repayment.

    What to do, what to do! Any advice?

  9. jake says:

    Regarding the book club thingy. To be honest i found myself going to the site less frequently. I love your weekly book reviews. The majority of the reason is that I have not found another blog that does book reviews as well as you have. I am glad you are bringing it back.

    Can’t wait for another book review!

  10. Kim Siever says:

    Overpopulation isn’t the problem. Corruption and unequal distribution of wealth is.

  11. Johanna says:

    @Katrina: Take the money that you want to give to Kevin’s parents and set it aside in an investment account. If Kevin’s parents find themselves in need of financial help later on, use that money to help them. If not, consider it an inheritance.

  12. Carrie says:

    Let’s not turn this into a kids vs. no kids debate. Do what works for you. I personally don’t want kids, but that’s just me. I don’t feel the need to justify why because it’s no one’s business but mine.

  13. Rick says:

    My 2 cents worth: I really enjoyed the Born to Buy format of the book reviews — the “book club.” I didn’t participate much, but I read them all, including the comments, and I really enjoyed it.

  14. Angela says:

    I guess I’m in the minority, but I’ve really enjoyed the Born to Buy book discussions! I haven’t read the book and don’t have children yet, but have found your comments interesting and thought provoking.

    I’d love to see you do a post on your thoughts on ethical/socially responsible investing, or along those lines, current issues about the relationship between commodity futures trading and rising food prices and global hunger.

  15. Andrew says:

    Just wanted to follow up on that RSS question and say I really appreciate having full post content available through RSS. In fact I wouldn’t be reading your site if I couldn’t quickly scan through my hundred plus feeds in Google Reader and quickly read what interests me. If I discover a new site and find they only offer excerpts in their feed then I delete them.

  16. luvleftovers says:

    Trent, I wanted 3 kids, but unfortunately didn’t have any. So I figure you get at one or two credits from me! (one is going to a friend)

  17. Louise says:

    Did you stop receiving Consumer Reports? I noticed it’s been a few months since you posted a recap of an issue.

  18. Carrie says:

    I love the book reviews as well and it is one of my favorite things about the site – maybe something in between a summary of each chapter and a single post would be ideal?

  19. dulcinea47 says:

    If you read that Economist article, it actually says the population will be topping off mid-century. That is, in fifty years or so. After we’ve added another four billion people to the poulation! I don’t believe for a second that people need to start having more children when there are so many people living with hunger and poverty already.

  20. I see it as my obligation to have a lot of children and to raise them to be strong, independent thinkers and stewards of the earth. The more children I have and raise to treat the earth with respect and think about their choices, the better I make the world.

    That’s an interesting perspective… and one that makes some sense. The more good people we have in the world, the better, no matter that total numbers.

  21. Without the email subscriptions and RSS subscriptions, those readers would never read the stuff I write. Letting people read The Simple Dollar in that way is fine with me.

    good perspective. At the end of the day, blogging isn’t about visitors or ad dollars. It’s about distributing information, and building a community.

  22. Jill says:

    Have you ever considered adoption as a means to further the expansion of your family? It still fulfills your desire to have children while also providing a loving home for someone who wouldn’t otherwise have it. Furthermore, it is more environmentally resposible by not furthering the overpopulation of the world.

  23. “If you hate it every day, though, it’s dragging your whole psyche down. You’re becoming a sadder person because of it, and that’s affecting other areas of your life.”

    agreed. A little bit of suffer in a job is normal… all suffer and no fun doesn’t work. It’s not worth any chunk of money.

  24. Rebecca says:

    Trent, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen some text ads between posts on RSS feeds from one or two sites. Maybe you should check further into this, just in case you are missing out on something.

  25. Mark B. says:

    I agree with Louise. Am I just missing the CR reviews, or did you stop doing them?

  26. Rick says:

    An article in “The Economist” actually shows that the world population may begin decreasing by 2025.

    http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=9545933

  27. Jenzer says:

    Re: selling your gold jewelry … you might want to call your local, independent jewelry store to find out if they will pay cash for the items you no longer want. I did this a few years ago with a jeweler in the next town over. They took the time to educate me about the process (i.e. what markings they look for on the pieces to determine their metal content), and they also photocopied my driver’s license and required me to sign a form stating that I was the legitimate owner of the items. I felt the process was safe and fair for both of us, and it meant that money stayed in our local community.

    In the end, I netted about $50 in cash for stuff that was just collecting dust.

  28. Green Grant says:

    I have to second what Amanda B. wrote above. Very few people are aware of the Peak Oil situation we are currently facing. The world’s output of oil either already has or will peak in this decade, while worldwide demand for energy continues to increase (China’s economy is growing 10% a year, for example).

    The Economist article really oversimplifies things: “Certainly, the impact that people have on the climate is a problem; but the solution lies in consuming less fossil fuel, not in manipulating population levels.” It’s not just fossil fuels that are a concern–it’s all natural resources that are threatened. And “consuming less fossil fuel” is easier said than done. The transition to alternative energy sources is proceeding much too slowly. Transportation and farming are almost 100% reliant on fossil fuels. If you think gas and food are expensive now, just wait a few years.

  29. Carrie says:

    The book reviews are so boring. Especially being one that involves parenting. And after that book review it seems like the best way to keep kids safe is never have one..

    About the “My job is bad!” I was in a similar situation once, and eventually I started dreading work so much I called up, quit and was so happy with myself I managed to land a much better job within a week. I didn’t plan… but I figured the crappy job was causing a “sickness of the soul” and needed eliminated fast.

  30. Katie says:

    I didn’t hate the Born to Buy series, but I also did not read much of it. Also, thanks for reminding us RSS readers to click through when we like what we see :-)

  31. Phil A says:

    Question for future reader mailbag:

    Of the following personal finance experts (David Bach, Suze Orman, Dave Ramsey, Ric Edelman, and Larry Widget), who do you agree with the most, the least, and why?

  32. jtimberman says:

    I didn’t hate the Born to Buy series, but I’ll just read the book.

  33. Phil A says:

    It might be Larry Winget not Widget.

  34. Harm says:

    I wasn’t terribly keen on the reviews of
    “Born to Buy”, but it’s a very important
    subject, and I might well not have seen it in
    the bookstore. Thanks for turning the spotlight
    on it for us. On another subject, it’s
    important for there to be kids brought into
    this world who will be raised by loving, caring,
    INSTRUCTIVE parents, LoL.
    Keep up the good work.

  35. Mike Nash says:

    Thank you for going back to the old style book reviews – I have missed them. The Born to Buy style was not something I liked.

    While slightly off topic, would love to see book reviews expanded to cover business topics.

  36. Brian says:

    Count me in the “hated Born to Buy” list–and I have kids!

  37. Valerie says:

    I enjoyed the Born to Buy talks (though I didn’t post on any of them, I read them all!) If you get the urge to do it again, maybe in a sidebar? I’d still read it :)

  38. Joe says:

    Hated the Born to Buy “book club” as well.

  39. guinness416 says:

    I liked the born to buy articles. I’m all for unique content on moneyblogs, there isn’t a lot of it and if you read enough of them they all start blending together.

  40. nikki says:

    I guess I didn’t care too much for the born to buy series…

    However I like you photos-posts a lot like the oatmeal and the homemade soaps…

  41. SAB says:

    What I thought was bad about the “Born to Buy” book club was the level of detail, like a super long book report. I liked your shorter book reviews because you just expanded on the ideas you really liked and ignored a lot of the rest. So your overall tone was more enthusiastic, not like you were slogging through the bad parts and dragging us with you.

    I love the posts where you crunch the numbers for us. Could you expand on your ideas about saving for college vs. spending on kids while they’re young, or maybe about the value of living in an expensive school district? Is it worth it?

  42. Andy says:

    Trent, people who feel negatively about something are more motivated to write in than those who feel positively. It should not be suprising that 80% of comments ran negative to Born to Buy, and that should not mean that 80% of your readers didn’t like the reviews.

  43. Stephen says:

    I too was surprised that other people hated the born to buy series as much as I did. I wonder if chapter by chapter doesn’t just defeat the purpose of reading the book on your own?

    Anyway for those of use without kids, but interested in this site for personal finance, I hope you keep it more audience appropriate.

  44. Michelle says:

    I pretty much just glanced over the Born to Buy series, if I wanted to read 18 posts about the same book, I would have just read the book. I do like 1-3 posts on a book though, it does get me interested enough to decide if this is something I want to pick up and read, but 18 is just way too many.

  45. imelda says:

    I liked the book reviews! Andy makes a good point–people are WAY more inclined to write in when they disagree/dislike something than when they like it. Which is why I’m putting in my voice now.

    To Stephen–of course it defeats the purpose of reading the book yourself. That’s why they’re so great! Like Cliff’s Notes. I don’t have kids so I wouldn’t bother to read the whole book, but this way I got lots of interesting info out of it anyway.

  46. Bella says:

    Great! I didn’t like the Born to buy reviews as I haven’t read it. I actually came less often since the beginning of this review.

    How could anybody consider the social and environmental cost of adding to overpopulation in the consideration of having or not children? We, in Canada, have approximately one third of square mile each. I can’t imagine it being overpopulated! To me, life’s principal point is to have kids and share with them the beauties of life through experience and balance. For anybody with that kind of concern, I would recommend adoption, as if this option is out of the question, the problem is not the society or environment! A friend of mine didn’t want any kids when I met him. He couldn’t take of himself, forget about kids. Now, he’s happy and fulfilled with his life and is strongly considering giving back to life through parenthood.

    Regarding the question of JLiz, compound interest in a retirement account is nothing compared to any interest charged on consumer debt. You can always pay down your consumer debt at the same time, dividing up the amount you want to put on one and the other, or simply clearing debt first, by snowballing and then contributing to your retirement account with similar amounts.

  47. Linda says:

    I enjoyed the Born to Buy series but I agree with those who thought it was a bit long. I like your tighter, shorter reviews that get right to the point. It was neat to get a taste for your longer analysis, though.

    I’m saddened by your comments about feeling an obligation to bear and raise many children to carry on traditions of thinking and respect for the environment. What happens if they decide not to? There are many parents in the world whose children did not wind up as they intended – children who were raised religious but converted, raised liberal and then turned conservative, raised to take over the family business and then didn’t, raised to take care of their parents when they grew old but instead moved away, raised to be exactly like their parents and just wound up different. What will happen if your kids rebel against their upbringing with frivolous spending or ecologically awful habits?

    You can perpetuate your great ideas among many others (like you do through this blog) without having to make brand new people. If you’d like to have a big family, it’s your choice and I support it; I just find it a bit weird to justify it by framing it like an ideological effort.

  48. Chris says:

    Re: Overpopulation… what Kim (#10) said: the problem is the distribution of resources — which is hampered by corrupt governments — not that we’re approaching the carrying capacity of the planet. People (e.g. Paul Ehrlich) have been crying wolf on this for decades, promising no resources, mass starvation & plagues in the 70’s… then 80’s… then 90’s… etc. While there is obviously *some* carrying capacity to our planet, another look might reveal that we’re not even close to it. And as Trent noted, there are problems aplenty in population rates below the replacement level.

  49. gr8whyte says:

    Re. JLiz’s pay debt or invest : You can only win in this situation if you can earn more on the investment after taxes than the debt will consume. If you think you can, invest the money; if not, pay the debt. I lean towards paying the debt because investing has risks (may earn less than projected) while interest on the debt is relentless.

  50. Margaret says:

    HA HA — the thing about the kids reminds me of the beginning of the movie Idiocracy — the movie was pretty bad, but worth it for the opening sequence with the family trees.

  51. JE says:

    I agree with everyone who’s voicing an “our population is already too big” opinion. You may think you’re doing the world a favour by generating more offspring than is necessary for replacement, but adding a few more meat-eating people who want a big house on tons of land is going to do this already over-stretched planet no favours, regardless of whether or not their financially responsible. Quite frankly, what difference do the social/economic implications of less-than-replacement population make if you don’t even have a planet to live on? You’ve mentioned before that you think the cost of adoption is prohibitive. It’s not; I’ve done it. And I’m about to do it again. Feel free to ask if you want to hear about it.

  52. Michael says:

    How did you calculate that 30% like and 70% dislike the Born to Buy reviews? Perhaps the dislikes are simply more vocal than the likes, rather than more numerous.

  53. Sarah says:

    I’m glad you’re changing the book reviews around, I agree with most of the other posts that they were just too long. Your book reviews are some of the best that I’ve come across in the PF blogs I read. Keep up the good work.

  54. Ricky says:

    For what it’s worth, I really enjoyed the ‘Born to Buy’ review and read every post. I was already interested in the book, but had not read it. So the detailed summary was perfect for me, and I don’t even have any kids

  55. Shoji says:

    Concerning the RSS and email subscribers. I’m one of those that get it by email. I enjoy a lot of the articles, but rarely visit the site. If it were not for the emails, I would not be a regular reader.

    I think you are spot on about this segment of your audience. I do send links to articles to people that I think will enjoy them (so I am helping to increase your readership). I would not be opposed to you including an ad or two in your emails. I think a banner ad before each article in the email would not be inappropriate since it would help you. I benefit from what you are doing and what you to benefit from it too.

  56. Kim says:

    Re: children

    Trent, your response was exactly what mine would have been so I couldn’t agree more! As a mother of eight children (all mine, ages range between 18 years and almost 5 months), I too feel like I am helping the world by raising such strong individuals who I truly feel will have such positive impacts on the world in which we live. They will add to, not overburden.

    …and my sister and a few other relatives only had one or none so I figure I’m helping to stimulate population growth here in Canada :o)

    Love your blog Trent (and I’m happy you are returning to the old book review format)

  57. M3 says:

    I enjoyed the first few Born to Buy reviews enough to buy the book (used!). After that, I confess I stopped reading them.

  58. CG says:

    Delurking to say I liked the Born to Buy series, for what that’s worth. I also feel no need to read the book, so the author might not care for the reviews!

    Just a side note on the kids/population/just adopt issue, anyone else ever run into the anti-adoption community online? Never heard of such a thing? I hadn’t either. Not saying I agree with what they say (or that my opinion as an uninvolved web-surfer matters anyway), but WOW was that a lesson in smacking around some common (privileged?) middle-class assumptions – starting with “everyone is in total agreement that adoption is good.” I think of those people and what they would say whenever the adoption-as-environmental- act meme comes up.

  59. Lisa says:

    Re: Children
    Anyone seen the movie Idiocracy? It opens with a humorous comentary “that explains the concept of unintelligent people enthusiastically outbreeding competent people” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idiocracy#Synopsis)

    Thought it was somewhat relavant.

  60. grey says:

    Glad to hear that the Born to Buy reviews are almost over. I was *this* close to removing your feed from my reader because of the annoyance.

  61. jm says:

    I don’t believe the world is truly over-populated. I think that notion comes from people who live in crowded cities and look around at the people shoulder-to-shoulder with them and think “If its crowded here, it must be like this everywhere”.

    When I drive from the nearest large city to my home about 200 miles away, there is wilderness as far as the eye can see for hundreds of miles, and this is in the NE US. I have also heard that the census methods in the most seemingly overpopulated countries are wildly inaccurate, and in some countries like Japan, the birth rate is actually negative, and under population is a problem.

    Overpopulation is indeed a problem in some cities, and certainly some 3rd world countries, but the solution is to disperse (in the case of cities) and better birth control and resource distribution (in the case of countries with horrid conditions).

    Also, more population means more mouths to feed but it also mean more work gets done, more technology gets invented, more art gets created, more retirements are supplemented by SS, and plenty of other positive things.

    At any rate, the Malthusian solution is what will likely happen anyway: at some point, if the overpopulation people are right, people in the third world will simply start starving to death. While this will be unfortunate for them, the solution does not lie in us having less children, as we in the 1st world will always have all the space and food we need regardless of what happens in the third world. Not having kids because you worry about overpopulation is simply illogical. The real solution is in fixing the distribution methods and political situations in those countries.

    If the overpopulation people are wrong, then there is no problem. Either way, I see nothing wrong with having kids if you can afford to.

  62. Mandi says:

    For a future reader mailbag:

    I notice you talk a lot about a well funded emergency fund (up to 6 months.) I am wondering if you think that you would need that much if you had a really stable job (ie teacher with tenure and a lot of experience) and good life insurance? We have several months of income saved but I kind of feel like any more would be better diverted to our ROTH IRAS or something like that. What do you think?

  63. silver says:

    The comment count is broken again. It had been fixed for a little bit, but now everything is stuck at 20 again.

  64. star says:

    You have mentioned financial advice for families and for singles several times, but what about a child free or childless couple?

    How much would a childfree or childless couple need to provide to the other in life insurance if one of us was to die?

  65. star says:

    Are there affordable life insurance options for folks who don’t pass the health questionnaires?

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