Reader Mailbag: Balancing Act

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One of the interesting things in my own life as of late has been the tricky balancing act between my professional work and my personal life. Right now, I’m in a big crunch time with my professional work, as my second book is coming out in late June. There’s a lot of book finalizing, a lot of promotional work, a lot of legwork in other areas… just lots of details to cover. I also have the normal stuff to do for The Simple Dollar website and email newsletter.

At the same time, my wife is past due with our third child. I’m spending an awful lot of the rest of my time helping to prepare for the baby’s arrival. Again, this is on top of the time I set aside for my children each day.

Add these all up and what do you get? Someone who needs sleep and is really looking forward to how life will be about two or three months down the road.

My husband and I are both unemployed and job prospects don’t look too great for either of us any time soon. Part of that reason is we both have been around long enough to know what we like, and what we’re good at, and working at jobs that don’t suit us just isn’t worth it. We don’t have any debt.

It seems to me that we’re going to have to put ourselves in a position to either wait it out until one of us finds a job that is a good fit or learn how to live with part time or sporadic incomes which I’m not sure we could pull off in our current situation.

I’ve been wanting to downsize and live car free for a while now. We live in a 2200 sq ft home, I’d like something closer to 1,000 sq ft. We have a couple acres of land, I’d like 1/4-1/2 acre at the most. I don’t want to live in a big city or in suburbia, just on the edge of a small city w/ enough back roads for me to bike to wherever I need to get to (bike paths would be even better). If we sell our house, we could probably bank about $200k (I think we’ve got about 5 more yrs on our mortgage).

Should we relocate to a less expensive part of the country (I’m in New England now) and plan to rent for a while? We are both very laid back people and spend our time volunteering for causes important to us (animals rights, bike advocacy), hiking with our dogs, cooking from scratch, reading — nothing expensive.

I don’t see either of us ever going back to working long hours with long commutes — that chapter in life is closed for sure. What I’m saying is that time is more important to us than money, we don’t have a lot of expenses to start with, have a decent amount saved for retirement and just need to figure out where to go from here since staying in our present home doesn’t really meet my my objectives of being able to downsize more (getting rid of the high cost of winter would be nice too), have less to take care of, less need for money, and more time to spend on nurturing friendships and working for causes we care about.
- Maria

I think it somewhat depends on the kind of work you’re wanting to do. Is it possible to do that work in a smaller community? Most jobs are possible, of course, but some are simply too tied to location or other factors. There’s also the cultural change – a city of 50,000 is different than a city of 5 million.

If you could work there, I’d strongly consider moving. I don’t see any drawbacks to it, in your case.

I’m not entirely sure where your current income comes from – I’m guessing from savings or a benefactor. In either case, the money you save by downsizing and relocating will help you wait until you find the right position for you.

I really liked the idea of creating a CD ladder, which I learned about here on the Simple Dollar, and have put $1000 in a 6-month CD for each of the past 6 months. Now that the first one is about to mature, I was checking out rates, and realized that I would make more by just keeping my money in my savings account (currently, 1.10% APY) rather than reinvesting it in another 6 month CD (0.75%). Should I just hold off on creating a ladder until interest rates get better? Are shorter-term CDs always money losers, or is the current interest rate situation really unusual?

Or maybe I misunderstood the purpose of the CD ladder – is it not for safe money earning, but rather aimed at people who have difficulty saving money? I don’t have any trouble saving, I’m a teacher and manage to save about half of my salary each month. I was just so disappointed when I realized that I was *losing* money by investing in CDs.

I think that for the time being I’m going to put my ladder-creating on hold. Making a new savings account called “CD” will net me more money.
- Kristin

The entire purpose of a CD ladder is to take advantage of the higher rates offered by CDs while keeping at least some of your money liquid. If you’ve found a savings account that beats the prevailing CD rates, then you should keep your money in the savings account and not in the CDs.

Right now, with interest rates as low as they are across the board on savings, CD ladders don’t offer the nice benefits that they once did. In fact, it’s quite possible to find higher savings rates (say, with SmartyPig) than with CDs.

If that’s the case, keep your money in savings and wait for the CD rates to go up to a level that’s notably higher than what you can get in savings.

i am 50+, considering divorce and of course have no money. but i do have a regular job, no benefits, that doesnt really pay very well but i know will last at least a few more years. depending if the company can survive all the worlds financial probs. what ideas would you have for a female in my soon to be situation?
- Cindy

First, start stockpiling your own cash reserves independent of your current marital situation. You do not want to be in a cashless situation if you’re over fifty and working at a job with no benefits.

Second, work on improving your skills with an eye towards finding work that does offer benefits.

This will be a challenging leap. You need to build a destination for yourself on the other side that protects you in case of a medical crisis, job loss, and so forth. The best way to do that is to conserve every dime you can and build your skills with the goal of finding more stable work.

I’m 21 and my wife is 20. I work full time and she works some out of our home and filling in at jobs she’s worked at in the past. My wife has one class left to finish her associate’s degree where she plans on stopping since she wants to be a stay-at-home mom. I have about year’s worth of school done and had planned on quitting my job in the fall (which I can’t wait to do) and going back to school to be a teacher while working at another job part time. The only debt we have is about $20,000 combined school loans.

We also recently found out that we’re going to have our first baby in late fall/early winter. We’re really excited about this change but it presents some interesting challenges.

Our lease at our current apartments ends August 1st, and we’re looking for cheaper place to live. This will put our moving date right before quitting a job, going back to school, and having a baby. We’ve decided the best option would actually be to buy a house at a low price. In the price range we’re looking at our house payment would be less than half of our rent payment (obviously with taxes and insurance on top of that).

Another thing to consider is that if I quit my job this fall we won’t have any health insurance which is a problem considering we’re about to have a baby. I would probably be able to get insurance through school, but I’m concerned the change in insurance will be a headache especially since we’re currently using a high deductible plan with an HSA and planning on finally meeting our deductible by the end of the year if we keep this insurance.

I am considering not going back to school until the spring semester, but I really don’t know if I can stand this job that much longer. If it’s something I have to do, I am definitely willing, but it almost feels like I’m giving up after all this time looking forward to going back to school.

Any thoughts on what to do or at least how to stay sane and keep our heads above water?
- Adam

If you do not have health insurance, the cost of having the baby will be back-breakingly tremendous. I don’t think it’s realistic at this stage to walk away from health insurance because adequate prenatal care plus birthing care and infant care will be almost insurmountable for you if you pay out of pocket.

Your best bet is to stick with the job you have now and actively search for another one (since you’re dissatisfied with the current one). Going back to school right now, unless you can find other sources for medical care, isn’t a reasonable choice.

You’ll likely need to keep working until your wife is ready to return to the workplace in some capacity.

Yes, babies certainly cause some difficulty when it comes to life planning.

I have a auto loan with a 4.25 interest rate. My CD will be paying 1.25% when I renew it in May.

I am seriously considering taking about 40% of my saving and paying the truck off and then just keep making the payments to myself.

I have no other debt.

What is your opinion on this?
- Dale

I think that’s a pretty good move.

I’m assuming, of course, that you have money socked away besites your CD for emergency purposes. If you don’t have such an emergency fund, you’d be better off socking some of that money away in an ordinary savings account so that you have access to it in the case of an emergency – job loss, truck breakdown, and so on.

It sounds like your CD is large enough to enable you to do both, however.

I’m in my late 20s and having a “mid-20s crisis” a few years too late. When I was a teenager right out of high school money was tight and I was left by myself to care for a severely disabled mother (no other family). I sort of wanted to get into science, biology was always my favorite, but for reasons I will explain in a minute, lost out to computer science/ web programming. But I didn’t even get time to study that until 4 years ago, when I finally put my mother in a nursing home and concentrated on bettering myself. So for these last 4 years I’ve just blindly been studying computers and doing IT work. I’m finally going to get my associates degree (a 2 year takes a while 2 classes at a time..) and I’m scheduled to go start work on my bachelors in comp sci with a minor in biology. The school I’ve picked out is almost completely online but they only offer minors in biology, not majors.

Sometimes I feel like I should be majoring in biology at an “in person” college instead of minoring online. But:
1- I’ve got this computer degree. Should I just completely throw it away and have wasted these years?
2- I’m afraid to go to an in-person school because if I lose my current night job then I’ll have trouble finding another job I can do while going to school. And I want to get off night shift anyway.
3- I hear research positions pay low and aren’t good for people who want to start a family. (That’s another thing..I’m married, husband has a low paying job, and we want kids but I grew up poor and will not have them until I am sure I can afford them. And my biological clock is ticking louder now.) But I don’t really even know enough about biology careers to know where to go to figure all this out.

The short version of all this is is that I think I want to change to biology, but I don’t want to start over just to find out I picked a bad major again or will end up poor. The last thing I should mention is why I originally did not pick biology as my major (besides the money thing) : I could never kill an animal. I know that genetics researchers are doing wonderful things and that often the only way to do that is to sacrifice animals for research, but I just couldn’t do it. If it’s already dead, sure, I can dissect it. But anything that requires euthanasia (Vet school) or killing an animal for research is out. That’s kind of a big limiter…I realize now it’s much less of a limiter to a biology career than I originally thought, but how much of one I don’t know.

I’d just go to the biology dept. at my community college or ask an adviser at my comm. coll, but the advising dept is not very good at my comm college and I don’t know the biology faculty. Any links, advice, anything you could provide would be so appreciated.
- Kat

There are a lot of well-paying jobs in the life sciences. The problem is that many of those jobs require a Ph. D. for entry. The jobs that people often get with just a bachelor’s degree in life science often have low salaries at the start.

It is more important, though, to pick a major that you’re actually passionate about and want to be involved in deeply for a very long time than it is to choose a major that seems on the surface more likely to earn you money after graduating. If you just choose a major for the money, you’ll never be among the leaders in your field – the people with passion will be doing that. The big earnings come to those who are truly passionate about their field, whatever it is. They get the best jobs and the opportunity to grow an amazing career.

Sit down and figure out what you’re most passionate about and follow that path. Don’t worry about what you’ve already spent – that’s a sunk cost. Look instead at the path ahead and the benefits and drawbacks of each option.

I am trying to decide if I should use my money to pay off the house earlier or put more in my 403B account to augment my retirement. I get STRS and my husband gets federal retirement.

He will retire in 4 years but will continue to do some kind of work. I will work for full time for one more year, 83% for three more years and 67% for three more. Currently I am putting $1000 a month into my 403B. My husband is putting in 16% of his pay into another type of retirement account. He makes about $105,000 and I make $83,000. We owe $200,000 on our house which will be paid off in seven years if we keep paying the amount extra we are paying.

We own two rental properties which, between the two of them are breaking even at the moment.

So, given those facts, would it be wiser to take that $1000 a month I am currently putting into my 403B and pay the house off earlier or continue to put it into the 403B? I make a guaranteed interest rate of 5% and more if the market goes up. The interest rate on our mortgage is 4.875%.
- Angie

I’m going to assume you’re fairly close to 60 years old. If that’s true, I would continue to put the money into the 403(b).

In a few years, you’re going to be able to start taking withdrawals from that 403(b) if you so choose (or you may delay it further – it’ll be up to you), so the 403(b) gives you a bit more freedom at this point.

Also, since you own two rentals, you’re likely filing long form for your taxes, meaning the interest rate on your mortgage is likely saving you money on your income tax – it’s actually less than 4.875% if you figure in the taxes.

All around, I would put the money into the 403(b) and forget about it.

I have my roth IRA and non-retirement investments with Vanguard. Is it wised to have all my investments with one company? Would/could it be another Enron? (Note: I practice asset allocation, diversification, and rebalancing…so my portfolio is quite balanced with my risk tolerance.) I am just scared that Vanguard might go under, and I’d lose everything. Thanks for your response ahead of time.
- Trinh

The only reason to diversify among companies is if you’re exceeding the amount insured by the SIPC, which is currently $500,000.

Most brokerages (Vanguard included) have SIPC insurance on their accounts, which basically means that if the brokerage fails, up to $500,000 of your account balance is insured – anything over that is not.

So, unless you’re nearly a millionaire and worried about the long term health of your brokerage, it’s not really a major concern.

Any other secret tricks to paying your mortgage off early other than taking the amount of one extra payment per year divided by 12 and paying that monthly?
- Laurel

The best method I know of for paying off a mortgage early is what is known as “snowflaking.”

Basically, snowflaking means that you actively look for ways to save money in your life. You choose to make dinner at home instead of going out as you regularly do, saving $20. You buy soap in bulk, saving $6. And so on.

You keep track of these “flakes” and, at the end of the month, you total them up and add them to your mortgage payment. Since these “flakes” are savings above and beyond your normal monthly budget, the money is free to be used in this way.

This works very well for turning what seems like little choices into bigger benefits. That $5 saved here directly makes for a bigger mortgage payment, which then reduces the interest in all subequent months a bit and pays off your mortgage sooner.

I know that you’re a big advocate of reusable diapers, but my wife (and, admittedly, I) will not go that far. At the same time, we do want to be frugal and we’re wondering what the cheapest place is to buy diapers – a Costco/BJs type place? a supermarket? Online? We’re expecting our first child in the summer, so we’re new to all this. Since we just moved into a house, we have plenty of storage space, so the idea of buying in bulk to save money doesn’t scare us. Any thoughts?
- Avi

I’m a big advocate of cloth diapering and I would have never believed I would have been when our children were born. We used disposables for the first year or two on our son before a friend of ours convinced us to get on board the cloth diapering train and we found out that it was much easier than we expected. We’re planning to fully cloth diaper our soon-to-arrive son, in fact.

When we were paper diapering, though, we found the best deals at the warehouse clubs. Per diaper, we couldn’t top the deals we found there. However, at least twice, we had discount codes for Amazon.com that actually enabled us to get a lot of diapers shipped to us very cheaply with Super Saver free shipping, so keep your eyes out for those.

Got any questions? Email them to me or leave them in the comments and I’ll attempt to answer them in a future mailbag. However, I do receive hundreds of questions per week, so I may not necessarily be able to answer yours.

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71 thoughts on “Reader Mailbag: Balancing Act

  1. Thank you! I am always wondering why anyone would do a CD ladder for anything less than 2.15%, which is the new interest rate that SmartyPig is giving on their accounts under $50K. This money is more liquid (can be pulled out at any time with no penalty). Every time I see a post on finance blogs about creating elaborate CD ladders at pithy 1 percent rates, I am wondering what on earth they are thinking about.

  2. @Adam – You’re going to have to suck it up for awhile. You’re wife is having a baby; it’s not about you anymore. Eventually, and probably in the not-too-near future, you can get back on track. But you have to make sure that baby is taken care of, and you need health insurance to do that. I had complication during birth and my baby stayed in the NICU for 2 1/2 weeks – total cost (before insurance) $275k. After insurance adjustments, $4k.

  3. Biology can be a difficult field to be in. With a bachelor’s degree, you can be a tech. I would guess a lot of positions would be animal research, however. A PhD plus postdoc is required to really do your own research. And, in my opinion, this is really tough to do with kids. My husband is currently doing a post doc and we have two kids and quite frankly, the 35k salary is very tough. And that’s 6.5 years AFTER my husband finished his bachelor’s degree. My husband LOVES science, but even then I’m not sure if it’s worth it. And unlike a doctor (who puts in a similar time commitment), we will never make big bucks.

    I think in any job, you need to be realistic, and your passion should only be part of the story. Some jobs just don’t mesh well with your personality (I don’t do well with non 9-5 jobs, for example) or with your life ambitions. And even if you’re passionate, that makes it very difficult.

  4. @Kat — look into computational biology (or Bioinformatics) programs. You could very easily leverage your IT/computer programming knowlege for the CS part of it, and then learn the biological part of it. Something to consider would be to “play to your strengths”, and job hunt for a position with a pharmaceutical company of some kind (for example, I work for a company that develops software used for Bioinformatics work) that has tuition reimbursement, then use their money to pay for your education.

    It’s likely in an area with these types of companies there will be local universities that offer programs. I live in the Boston area and there are many local colleges with strong programs, as well as companies that employ people with these skills. Other areas of the country likely have similar situations — I would be there are similar setups in DC, the Research Triangle area in the Carolinas, Chicago and, of course, San Fransisco or L.A.

    This, of course, assumes that you are OK with the computer work (at least enough to keep at it while you work on something else) and you are still interested in the biology aspect, as well. Also it may imply that you need to move or relocate, as well.

    Here in the Boston area, I know Brandeis University has a program for Bioinformatics, and it’s available online. It’s a graduate level program, but it might at least be a starting point for your planning.

    I’d include a link to the program, but it would likely mean my comment would get stuck in moderation.

  5. Good advice to the guy wanting to quit his job with a baby on the way. He may want to put off school for another year. You don’t want to be without insurance at this time. We did so with our first two when health care was A LOT less expensive, but there went our savings and with the second, a lengthy payment period! Especially with your first baby, you may be taking him/her to the doctor a lot. New parents sometimes over react to illnesses, but on the other hand babies can be sick a lot.

    I also second Trent’s advice on using cloth diapers. I used them for all 3 of my children and probably saved hundreds of dollars. The only time I would recommend using disposables is for the first couple weeks, when the baby is evacuating lots of yucky, tarry and impossible to remove poop! Otherwise washing the diapers is no big deal and folding diapers is relaxing while watching TV.

  6. I’ll also echo Amanda’s sentiments about being in academia/research. To begin getting paid for doing research, you need to (at the very least) be in a Master’s program, most likely a PhD program. The pay is low, and there is intense competition from considerably younger people who are unmarried, have no children and who can put in 80 hour weeks. They also likely are extremely gifted, talented and driven, as well. I went to college with people who chose this path in life, and I can honestly say they are some of the most brilliant people I’ve ever known. I don’t count myself as stupid, but these people operate on an entirely different plane of intellectual existence that’s partly genetics, part opportunity, part passion and a whole pile of hard work.

    The private sector can provide better pay, lower barrier to entry, more sane working hours, health insurance, vacation and also fund your education, as well.

  7. Adam, go to school part time if you have to, but don’t quit your job to do full time school now. You don’t even say how you will pay for this school, and you say your wife is going to be a stay at home parent. So, little to no income, school payments, buying a house, and a new baby? Seriously? Where’s the down payment coming from? Where is the money for home repairs coming from? Where is the money to take the baby to the doctor coming from? A part time job is not going to cut it, one of you need a full time job, so you both need to decide who that will be. You are putting a lot of stress on a new marriage to be making yourself go broke while also buying a house, having a baby, and trying to finish school.

    Avi, since you don’t even have the baby yet, every time you or your wife are out shopping somewhere that sells diapers, mark down the price and quantity. It may seem like a pain, but even if you don’t have paper, text it to yourself. Pick one or two brands that you are likely to buy, a couple sizes (to make sure the store doesn’t just give good deals on newborn size, but by 6 months, not so much). After a month or so, you will probably have hit every store you regularly go to, take all the amounts, find the cheapest per diaper cost. Closer to the due date, start looking for coupons to use at that store. It’s not going to be worth getting a membership at a warehouse club if that is the only thing you buy there, or driving out of your way (trust me, once the little one comes, simple is better, adding more places to go that you could have avoided is not a good idea).

  8. @Adam – If you are going to be quitting your job and your wife only has part time or irregular employment, there is no way that buying a house (however small it may be) is the best thing for you right now. I know what it feels like to itch for a house, but they are cash-intensive and it doesn’t sound like you have funds to spare. Rent a cheap place and let your life settle for a bit. I know that doesn’t sound like fun, and I know you’re anxious for change, but that baby is your first priority now. Keep the job, rent a cheap place, save money, take night classes or online classes.

  9. @Maria – consider moving to North Carolina. It is cheaper than the northeast, the winters are better and the job prospects are good. If you like hiking and mountain biking, Asheville is probably the place for you. My wife and I moved to Raleigh from DC and have loved it since we moved here. Check out the local message boards about moving to the south. There are a bunch of people who move form New Engaland to the south every year.

  10. @Kat – I’ve been working in biology and chemistry for over 20 years and can tell you that the financial rewards are very low for the amount of education and experience required. Even with a PhD. the pay is quite low when compared to other careers. However, the work is always changing and exciting. There are also a variety of related jobs that you can go into that are more business related and pay significantly better. Many scientists end up in these careers for financial reasons.

    As for worrying about having to kill animals, its not as common as you might think. Granted its necessary in drug testing but that is a small amount of all the research that is going on. I’ve never had to kill anything larger than a fruit fly in 20 years of research. Its certainly not a requirement to become a scientist.

    In short, unless science is your only true interest, stick with computers and get the minor in biology. There are a lot of options that are on the periphery of science such as bioinformatics, software development for equipment, database management for clinical studies. All of which pay better than most scientist positions.

  11. @ Adam- “we’re currently using a high deductible plan with an HSA and planning on finally meeting our deductible by the end of the year if we keep this insurance.”

    Not sure how all HSA’s work, but for mine, I have a yearly max, and it resets each year.. so if I met my deductible in October, any health costs in Nov and Dec would be covered, but starting Jan I would have to pay out of pocket again till I hit the deductible..

  12. It seems to me that snowflaking is really hard to track, especially using the examples you gave. I buy bulk soap and save $6… over the course of 6 months. In the month that I bought the bulk soap, I spent $10 on soap, which more than my monthly soap budget, so I don’t save the snowflaked amount then. Am I supposed to portion out my future soap budget each month into the “amount I spent last month for bulk soap” and “amount I will save in the future by buying bulk soap last month” categories?

  13. IRT Smartypig, they just stated as of 16 May that people with savings over 50K will earn a .5% interest rate while people with savings under that amount will earn 2.15%apy. This is to encourage small savers with goals. They (smaretypig) earn their income via people trading their investments into gift cards vs of the investment of the savings. I had to close my savings goal and redeem the funds in order to not get dinged on the interest.

  14. @Brittany- the soap example is maybe not the best way to describe snowflaking. Here’s how I do it: we have a set budget for various things. I am not detail-oriented enough to have a soap budget, but I do have a grocery budget. So for example, at the end of the month, I check to see how much I spent on groceries. If I came in under $240 for that month, the extra can go to prepay the mortgage. I do this with most of our budget categories. It’s fairly easy to figure out, fun to “find” money at the end of the month, and gives me an incentive to save money. If I buy bulk soap in January, my January grocery bills may be a little higher (but still within budget) but in subsequent months grocery bills will be correspondingly lower.

  15. One note on trying to buy diapers in bulk – think about the size you’re buying! I can’t tell you how many disposible diapers were donated to friends/daycare when my babies outgrew them. Don’t stock up on the smallest size – unless you have a premie or very small baby, they could outgrow them within the first or second week. I was determined to use cloth until my first was born when I decided it wasn’t worth it. My sanity had some pull, and the time it took to clean and sanitize didn’t make it as viable as the idea sounded.

  16. I also have SmartyPig, but I’m nowhere close to having $50,000. The 2.15%apy is really, really tough to beat, even at ING. So I’m really happy with them.

    You could always keep your first, oh, $48,000k in Smartypig and keep the rest in another bank. Then transfer out your interest income every time you go over $50k. (Make a new goal, transfer the interest into the goal, then close it out.)

  17. Kat–

    I would link to it, but will get eaten by the spam filter.

    Google: BLS OCC. This is a webpage from the US government that gives information on employment, employment outlook and wages for different occupations. The numbers do hide a bit how miserable the earlier parts of a bio career can be and they don’t separate among degrees very well.

    And I know many Bio Phds and people who dropped out of bio phd programs who are miserably making small amounts of money, especially given how much people in other fields with the same degrees (but less time spent on education make). I don’t know many folks in industry, but I imagine the pay is better once you have an advanced degree.

    Another field to consider is bio engineering. I know bio engineers with BAs who are making a lot more money in their 20s than the bio PhDs I know in their 30s. But you have to learn to think like an engineer.

    Also agree with the poster on bioinformatics. Computer science ability is useful in a lot of fields. You’re never throwing it away.

  18. @Cindy who’s contemplating divorce –
    Trent’s advice to stockpile funds has one downside. Chances are that any funds stockpiled ahead of your separation from your husband will have to be shared with him. I would suggest instead:

    Stockpile enough money to pay your attorney a decent retainer, so you can be sure of getting good representation, and then any extra funds should probably be invested in “stuff” you will need after separation but which won’t interest your husband or the divorce court – useful new skills such as home repairs, computer skills; appropriate clothing for whatever work you plan to do; taking care of any health issues such as dental work, preventive check-ups, minor surgery; getting a good set of household tools; if you’re likely to keep the house, building a good pantry of food and household supplies and taking care of needed home repairs; a reliable, gas-efficient car in good repair. If you sew your own clothes, buy fabric or upgrade your machine if needed. If your car needs new tires, get them now.

    I’m not suggesting going on a spending spree, exactly, and definitely not buying just for the sake of spending the money, but carefully stockpiling what you will need in your future life alone, but which you won’t be likely to have to share with your husband when you separate.

    And don’t forget to “stockpile” a good support system. Strengthen your friendships, family ties, church and social networks.

    Finally, “contemplating” divorce suggests you may not have decided. Divorce is usually a horrible financial move, so for that as well as all the other reasons I’m sure you’ve considered, if there is any prospect of saving your marriage, that would obviously be the first place to put your creative energies and efforts.

  19. I am constantly amazed by people who are less than 30 years old and feel like they’re “out of time” to do anything.

    The 21 year old who is already married, underemployed, with an even younger wife, neither a college graduate, and oh yes with a baby on the way and feels he’s given up “all this time” for school??

    I’m sorry, it’s none of my business but honestly: if you are going to jump into marriage and children before you have your life figured out, you need to accept that life figured itself out while you weren’t paying attention. You’re about to be a father. You don’t get to think about what YOU want till all your responsibilities are handled.

    Same goes for the wife. Having a SAHP is great if you can afford it. Sounds like these two can’t. And they certainly can’t afford to buy a house.

  20. Adam: I’d stay at work for now. I’d also not go running out and buying a house right now.

    Having a baby, potentially dropping insurance, going back to school and buying a home all at the same time is way too much financial change/risk to take on at one time. I’d put off going back to school for now. You’ve got a baby coming and thats your priority right now, not pursuing your ideal career. Buying a home may seem like a great idea but if you can get a mortgage for less than your current rent then can you not also find other rentals that are cheaper? I’d look at moving to a cheaper rental. If you’re a first time home buyer then you are probably underestimating the costs of a new home. You have to repair anything that breaks. You have to pay garbage & water bills. You will likely need some new stuff if you get a new home. Maybe a fridge or a lawnmower. Plus with a baby coming you’ll have to buy stuff for the child too and have unknown expenses to pay for the kid. Going into a new home, new baby with no job is not a good idea.

  21. Adam: Buying a house is a baaad idea. A good idea is to find the best state school you can get into and transfer there after the baby is born. We paid 7,000 to have our second child *with* health insurance and no problems, but you need the health insurance regardless. My DH and I had our children young and loved it- we went to a good state school and lived in family housing where we met other like minded families. Oh and FH was cheap. Your wife will be able to watch other children to help supplement the income. Seriously, look into it. Good luck and congrats!

  22. In response to the lady who likes biology. Have you ever considered a career in nursing. the job market is great and there are so many different areas you could find something that you enjoy.

  23. An explanation to Trinh would have been good explaining how Enron ruined people’s retirement when it went under because it heavily encouraged employees to have all their retirement funds in Enron stocks. Enron was an energy company, not an investment firm. Vanguard (and Fidelity and other such companies) and not the same thing. You cannot even buy a Vanguard stock like you used to be able to buy an Enron stock, as Vanguard is set up so it is owned by the mutual funds, not by stockholders. Fidelity is privately owned, you also cannot buy a Fidelity stock. The insurance point is excellent, never mutual funds from a company that isn’t insured, just like you wouldn’t buy a CD from a bank that wasn’t insured, there is also the point that any individual stocks you bought through Vanguard are yours, no matter what happens to Vanguard.

  24. To the guy having the baby, don’t you DARE quit your job right now without something lined up. I guarantee you will regret it. You are young yet and you will learn most jobs aren’t that fun and sometimes you just need to support your family. You need to save up some money first before you can pursue your dreams, also you need to have that baby and make sure he/she is healthy.

  25. @Cindy – to piggyback on AnnJo’s comment, another good idea would be couples counseling first. Not cheap, but definitely cheaper than a divorce.

  26. Kat — you know, the biology field is enormous. Why don’t you figure out WHAT you want to do in biology first. Do you want to count fish in Alaska or birds in North Dakota? Do you want to work in a lab? Do you want to work at the airport checking passenger luggage for forbidden fruits? Those are all biology. Perhaps you’d prefer to be a science writer — that comes under the journalism school while teaching science comes under the pervue of education. Decide upon your perfect job — then research it. I can empathize with your ‘mid-20′s’ crisis. I’m 51, prepping for retirement in 3 years and STILL haven’t figured out what I want to do with my life! :-0

    Go to USAJOBS.OPM.gov and enter biologist in the search to find out some kinds of biologists and an idea of their work circumstances.

  27. Also, your wife should probably work. I am amazed at how many people I know who have a SAHM but cannot afford it at all. It’s one thing if you are just living frugally, but most people I know are totally in debt or are living off their parents so the mom can stay home. That’s just irresponsible. Sorry, life is hard, but not everyone can stay home. Perhaps one of you can get a weekend job or something.

  28. Kat-
    There is a book titled, “What Can You Do with a Major in Biology.” It was very useful for me when I was considering changing my major to biology in college.

  29. Trent — I’m betting your wife is somewhere between 40 and 42w. Though 40w is considered “due” it’s just a made-up date, believe it or not! Many women deliver at 41w.

    You’re truly considered overdue once you reach 42 weeks, and many women don’t make it to that point naturally.

    You’ll meet your son soon!

  30. For Avi on diapers–another thought to consider is a diaper service–many benefits of cloth (sweet smelling, soft to the skin, helps baby learn awareness of body functions) and in our area was comparable to buying disposables on sale. Each week they delivered a clean bag to the door, and took away the bag of dirties. (We kept this in a hamper with a small deoderizer stick they provided.) The smell was fine, the cost was fine, and dirties disappeared like magic.

  31. @Jen
    I see your point about SAHMs, but you also have to consider how much earning power the mom has. It might be that in some of these situations the mom’s salary couldn’t cover the cost of daycare, especially if there is more than one child involved. In that case, would you prefer for them to use the parents as babysitters? Neither situation seems ideal. I guess ultimately you would say they shouldn’t have the children at all if they can’t afford them. Perhaps a better suggestion would be for the SAHM to earn money on the side somehow in a way that wouldn’t require daycare.

  32. My parents split shifts all through my childhood: Dad worked days, Mom worked nights. They didn’t want someone else raising their kids, but couldn’t afford a stay at home parent. They made it work, the responsible way. Was it ideal? No, ideally Dad (or Mom) would have made enough for that whole family. But they did what they had to. If you can’t afford a SAHP, but can’t afford daycare there are options.

  33. Cindy should see a lawyer ASAP. Even if she chooses not to divorce, or to wait to do it, at least she will have information about how the laws in her state would apply to her situation, and she can find out what she’s likely to be able to keep, what she might lose, and her chances of getting alimony/spousal support. A lot of my clients get really bad legal advice from friends, therapists, and even their spouse. Never take legal advice from someone who didn’t go to law school.

  34. KAT: I am suprised by comments about low paying jobs in life science w/o a advanced degree. I do not have one and I make a nice living – not a $100,000 a yr but more tha $50,000. ANd the work is pretty easy honestly.

    there are lots of support, training, system testing, quality, computer programming jobs in the instrumentation industry. And depaending on what type of programming you do, you could work right in the thick of science w/o getting a another degree at all. My sw programs interact w cutting edge applications and labs all the time.

    Look at molecular biology, chemistry, medical technology, biomendical engineering… the key is the word “biology”, not get a staright “biology” degree.

    And honestly once you have a degree in science, you can move between areas pretty easily.

  35. For Adam: If you really want to go back to school, consider looking into Medicaid for your wife. Although college students are generally exempt from Medicaid coverage, their children do qualify, and because your wife is carrying your child, her pregnancy is also covered if your income allows you to qualify. I became pregnant with our first child when my husband was in grad school, and my spotty freelance writing income allowed us to qualify. Our daughter continued on Medicaid, and we got a super cheap, individual, major medical policy. We lived in a coop condo community, lived carefully, and were able to get by just fine.

  36. Kat: If you want to do high-level research, you need a PhD in Biology, plus (probably) post-doc experience. This was something I didn’t know when I started majoring in Biology as an undergrad. However, there are jobs that only require you to have a Bachelor’s degree (technician at a company or university, lab manager, research associate at a company, etc.). You should think long and hard about *what* is it about biology that you like before making a decision.

    Regardless of why you’re going into biology, in this particular field, you will probably not make good use of your time or money unless you go to a physical university, not an online program. Not because you can’t learn interesting things at an online school, but because when you finish and look for jobs, you will be competing with people who have gone to physical universities, and many employers will value those experiences far more. Plus, a lot of biology is hands-on, even if you avoid the killing aspect (which is totally possible, I’m a vegetarian and work in a yeast lab). You need to take physical lab courses, which can’t be substituted in an online environment. I believe online universities are taking advantage of people if they claim an online Biology degree is equivalent to one earned at a physical university.

  37. Kat. It is pretty easy to work in biology without killing animals. I worked as a biochemist/cell biologist and I only ever worked with tissue culture. The cells are from stable cell lines so one animal was killed once to provide a more or less infinite source of cells. In fact many of the cells I worked with are human so then you can be sure the cells were collected humanely (i.e. from a small blood or skin sample, or most famously, a woman’s cervical cancer).
    However, there is a LOT to do with computing in biology. An example of a great idea (that I assume would take about a minute to do from a computer point of view) involved simply taking a list of all genes for a given species and comparing and subtracting every gene in the list. Thus you could say what is at the intersection of plants and animals but which is NOT in yeast cells (for example). This method gave a short list of genes, two of which were in the region of interest. Then it was trivial to figure out which one was the relevant one. This was a difficult problem without computers, and the comparison method produced powerful results but designing the program was easy (I assume) once you had the idea.

  38. Kat, I’ll echo several people, especially J (#2). I have a chemistry degree, but right now I work in an informatics setting, writing the scripts that analysts use to run chemistry methods on laptops. I also am a “translator,” since I take the technical jargon that the IT world uses and describe the situation to the chemists, who then can use me to translate the needs of a chemistry lab to the IT people. There’s no degree for that!

    I will warn you about biology – There are almost no decent paying jobs if you only have a 4 year degree. A 4-year biology degree basically allows you to feed dolphins at Sea World for minimum wage. I say this only because I love marine biology, but opted for a career in chemistry because I didn’t particularly want to earn minimum wage for a good portion of my career. One acquaintance of mine does pretty neat research with tortoises in a California desert, but that only lasts for about 3 months a year. The rest of the time he’s working at a landscape company.

    There are lots of areas of biology, including microbiology (bacteria, germs, fungi), virology (viruses), zoology (animals), botany. Very little in the scientific world relies on animal testing.

  39. “If you do not have health insurance, the cost of having the baby will be back-breakingly tremendous….adequate care…will be almost insurmountable for you if you pay out of pocket.”

    Trent may have only said this because of the young man’s financial situation, but this is the reality for many people after the new health care reform. My last baby cost us $300 out of pocket (prenatal, hospital bill, and 1 full year of well child visits). My next child will cost me over $10,000 (at the same employer) because that is my deductible and coinsurance. People love this “health reform” in theory but don’t realize what it means.

    As far as diapers, cloth really aren’t as bad as you think, and actually easier than disposable many times. But WalMart with coupons is usually the best price, unless you are already a member of a warehouse club.

  40. Kat: I am a doctor in México making minimun wage in the USA. The field of biology also includes the peripherals of medicine, the best paying carrers down here are laboratory asistant (you do have to draw blood) and pathologist´s assistant, high learning/low responsability proffessions. I have worked in mantining databases and that is also a very good job. GOOD LUCK!

  41. @Kristin – comparison shop for CD rates at different banks.

    When the CDs in my “ladder” started maturing I checked the rates at all the banks in my small town and other banks that I could get to easily (or get CDs online). Much to my surprise, one bank in town had the best rates on all but 4 durations and it will match the other institution’s rates on those 4.

  42. There are a lot of options for a biology degree (just a few that were not mentioned): teaching (there is a shortage of science teachers), laboratory techician for college science courses, healthcare related professions.

  43. @Adam
    Speaking from experience, murphy’s law strikes when you are most vulnerable. I quit my job to finish my final semester of student teaching and decided to risk not getting insurance. Only car accident so far in my life 2 months later. I was, thankfully, not severely injured in.

  44. I would have to agree with the above commenters urging letter-writer Kat to look into a Bioinformatics career. I am in genetics research, both molecular and quantitative, and we outsource a large amount of our data to bioinformatics people to be analyzed. It’s a field that has absolutely exploded in the past 10 years and will probably keep growing at a healthy pace. (Plus no animal-killing required)

  45. last year i started a Roth IRA with 1000.00 and to my surprize i made almost 400.00 on that, so again this year i put in 1500.00, with hopes of the same return or better, and i plan on putting the max in this yr. of 5000.00. i am 50 yrs. old, so this is a good plan for me, i also bought a CD 2 yrs. ago, which has made only 6.00, so look into the roth, it really is wrth it.

  46. @Adam
    My husband was on the wait list for nursing school, and a space opened up a semester early. We were expecting our first child that January, and the plan had been for him to work that semester, but we decided that getting out of school earlier would be of benefit. After all, we reasoned, we know that babies cry a lot, but I was taking 12 weeks of maternity leave, and we assumed everything would be fine. We did not assume that he would one day have to take an exam on 2 hours of sleep, because we’d had to rush a sick infant to the ER at 1 am, and not get home until 4. I’d planned to breast feed. For various reasons, it didn’t work, and as our child suffered from both milk and soy allergies AND acid reflux, we had to buy him the very expensive formula, which even in bulk worked out to about $300 a month. My husband couldn’t work at all because of the time commitments required by school, and the remainder of my salary took a hit because I had to pay for 6 weeks of the maternity leave, and the fiscal year for me ends in August, so it was divided from March-August. We, too, live in an apartment, and we, too, really wanted to buy a house, but there was simply no way we could afford it. Fast forward by about a year – my husband graduates in May, and we’ve split the working schedule so that he works nights/weekends, I work days, and we don’t have day care costs. It’s great that your wife wants to be a SAHM, but sometimes, that really isn’t an option. And I would be very reluctant to give up health insurance for the first year or two of a child’s life, as you never know what sort of problems may pop up (like acid reflux, which I never would have expected). Depending on where you live, there may be some good state options for your little one (I know that Iowa has one), but what if your wife ends up needing medication or therapy for postpartum depression? How would she be covered?

    This is just a long post to say that Trent’s advice to you seems sound to me: wait a couple of years on school (you are, after all, only 21), and if you truly cannot stand your job, look for a new one. You’ve plenty of time left in this life for school.

  47. Cindy, I am assuming that as a reader of the Simple Dollar you at least have a passing interest in improving your finances. Divorce will probably not do that in any way. Run the numbers. I am guessing you can’t afford a divorce. First of all you don’t have health insurance through your job which means you have to pay for it yourself. Price that out. Can you pay your bills out of what you make? You are unlikely to get much spousal support and if you do it will be for a limited period. Do you even have enough money to pay for attorney and court costs? Believe me you only get as much service as you can pay for.

    I know many women who thought the grass was greener and quickly found out that their single income did not support a decent lifestyle. Many ended up losing their homes, their savings, and retirement has become a financial impossibility at any age short of death.

    Take a long hard look at the worst scenario you can come up with. If you would be ok with that have at it.

  48. @Avi
    I usually compare diaper prices to diapers.com and take advantage of sales + coupons at CVS to “stock up” – recently I could get a jumbo pack of diapers for under $6 using coupons plus a sale price.
    As mentioned, always buy up in size so you don’t waste diapers. Also, make sure you buy a tried-and-true brand if buying from a wholesale club. I believe Costco allows you to order sample diapers from their web site.

  49. Adam

    If there were the smallest of hiccups with this birth- it could bankrupt you indefinitely. The prices hospitals charge to the uninsured are not the same as the insured. Should be, but aren’t.

    The bills you see as being paid by ins now may only be half of what you would be charged if uninsured.

    Stay until the child is about 3m old. Also- do you really want to put your wife through the stress of moving in late pregnancy? That is a whole lot of cleaning chemicals, and work, to expose your unborn to. And new carpet is highly toxic. And do you really want the distraction of unknown paperwork and legal matters in the middle of a suprememly emotional time period? Bad mix.

    Even a flawless pregancy can be difficult near the end- expect the unexpected, and do not plan on best case scenario. You are repsonsible for 3, so be protective and sure.

  50. Adam, maybe it is because you are 21 and haven’t been in the “real world” for long, but a part time job may be fine in high school and when you are single and in college, but you are an adult with a wife and child to support. Why would you quit a job with benefits now? If it is that important to you to finish school, do it part time, while working full time, plenty of other people have managed that. Or, have your wife work full time, and you be the SAHP, the few hours you are in class can be covered by babysitters, or schedule the classes arund your wife’s work schedule. A new house, new baby, paying for school, and no full time income or benefits, when this mess could be avoided? You don’t seem to be thinking realistically here. Keep your job or have your wife get a job.

  51. Cindy noted: “i am 50+, considering divorce”

    Best advice I can give you is to consider arbitration rather than battling lawyers. Not only does this give you both a chance to behave like adults and leave without any more bitterness than is absolutely necessary, but it can also save you tens of thousands of dollars.

  52. There are TONS of applications of IT expertise IN biology. Call your local college placement service and ask them for a recommendation to talk to a research doc for advice. Take him/her out to lunch, explain your backgroud, interests and ask for advice.

  53. @Kristin

    Don’t forget to check CD rates at Credit Unions. My local CU has rates higher than anything availble at bankrate.com, and they are fully insured.

  54. TY Elizabeth for mentioning Medicaid. My first husband and I paid into the system for 14 years without taking any benefits. In my second marriage now i finally have children, and we are on WIC and Medicaid. There is nothing wrong with taking state help when you truly qualify and are living as best you can on honest work yet still need help. Check out your Medicaid and WIC benefits in your state. Nothing is more important than raising your child in the best way possible especially under the age of 3. It’s worth whatever sacrifice Adam and wife have to make to raise him/her themselves, provided they are educated (that doesn’t mean school, necessarily) and willing to make the efforts and sacrafices to be the best parents they can be. (If they are just plopping the kid in front of the TV, though, the child may be better off in child care.)
    You may be able to get more money later, but you can never replace the formative years of your child/ren.

  55. Modern cloth diapers are very very different from the old fashioned diaper pins and rubber pants most people think of. We have been using cloth since my son was born 18 months ago, and can’t wait to use these same diapers again on our next baby due in August. We use “all in one” type diapers — the waterproof outer and the absorbant inner are all one piece, and we have them in both snap on and velcro types. They are no more work than using disposables, only instead of throwing them away we throw them in the wash every three days. Super simple!

  56. Cloth diapers really aren’t that bad and I would not stockpile on disposables until your know your child isn’t allergic to them. Several friends children had horrible eczema-like rashes and sores that did not clear up until they switched to cloth on their pediatrician’s advice. It turns out that they are sensitive to the gelling agent in the diaper.
    I have been using cloth since my daughter was two weeks old and the black goo stopped. The only time she has ever had a rash is when she has been ill or put in a disposable while traveling. I have found that with two dozen cloth diapers I am doing three extra loads of laundry a week, which is nothing compared to how much laundry I do anyway.

  57. Adam, I understand you are miserable, but the baby trumps everything. I am sorry, my friend, but you need to have a full time job and health insurance. Take a year then explore options like night school. I worry that you are putting unreasonable demands on such a young family.I wish you and your family the best!

  58. We have done cloth in the past, it is definitely worth it cost wise, and there are many other options out there besides the white pre-folds most of us remember from the past, many types of cloth diapers now are just as easy to put on and wash, it really isn’t any harder than putting on a disposable. Cloth wipes, made using wash clothes dampened with water/aloe solution are easy, cheap, and actually work way better than store bought ones.

    As for disposable, I have done tons of price comparisons and the flat bottom prices are usually from generic in store brands, and most kids use these fine, they hold everything good too. Aldi and walmart have generic brands, so does Shopko and Target.

  59. I’m the polar opposite of Kat. I graduated last year with a BS in Biology, only to find that I detest lab work! I don’t have an issue with euthanasia, but those 40 hours a week filtering water and transferring water fleas from one beaker to another broke any ideals I had of lab teching. Unless Kat wants to go for a masters or a PhD, she’ll be doing quality control for a very, very long time. I’m switching to information science, and I think she’d be smart to stick with computers.

  60. @Kat
    I agree with J on finding a Bio/Comp Sci combined major or find a school that will allow a dual major in both Computer Science and Biology. I was a Computer Science major with a Physics minor and half-way through I also seriously considered switching to Physics. I stuck with Computer Science because of job prospects and my dad saying “are you crazy?!”

    My junior and senior year I found that the math, algorithms and programming techniques learned in Comp Sci gave me the toolset to out-perform the other Physics majors. I spent way more time in the Physics department because the project work was so rewarding and it provided more of a purpose than what the Comp Sci department was asking for. I think you will have a similar experience.

    When you look for Biology jobs show how you can use your computer science skills to solve problems, burn through large amounts of data and how to set up and use computers in your lab environment with ease.

  61. QUESTION FOR READER MAILBAG: I tried to reduce my APR on my one remaining credit card and this ws the response I got:
    Re: Annual Percentage Rate Questions [#2753103]
    From Discover Card Customer ServiceDate Received: 03/27/2010 12:06 PM
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    This decision was based on the impact of the new federal regulations that were recently passed, which affect all credit card companies. The new regulations will restrict our ability to increase rates for individual customers who pose higher risk, which has resulted in the need for us to re-examine our rates for everyone.

    We sincerely appreciate your business. Although your rate changed, we hope you will find that this is still a very competitive rate in the current economic environment. In addition, you will continue to receive the many benefits associated with your Discover Card, such as our very competitive Rewards program, our $0 Fraud Liability Guarantee, and convenient online servicing.

    Have you ever heard of this?

    THANK YOU.

  62. This comment is for Kat. I am a PhD in Biology and was in research till recently..I have now switched to Patent writing.
    As Trent says, there is no money in Biology and it takes a looong time if you are interested in advancing up the ladder! However, it seems that you do have a passion for it. Since you have an aversion to ‘sacrificing’ animals for research, you could work in a Molecular Biology lab. However, a better idea would be to combine your current skill (computers) and go in for Bioinformatics training. This is something which most biologists are not good at and therefore is an in-demand job!
    best of luck!

  63. The person who is studying IT and loves biology should investigate bioinformatics. Great combination of both disciplines and tremendous demand.

  64. Kat, you might consider becoming a medical technologist. There is challenge, research, room for advanced work, and jobs with developing new tests and machines. Since every single machine is computer-based, your IT background might be a great combination with the Med Tech degree.

  65. I agree with SLCCOM that the reader thinking about switching to biology should consider something in the medical field. A BS in Biology doesn’t really qualify for anything specialized. I enjoyed biology when I started community college years ago and realized I didn’t have the funds to get a 4 year degree so I chose to enter my school’s associate degree program in Medical Laboratory Technology. You can certainly also get a bachelor’s degree and be a Medical Technologist (you do the same testing, etc. but have better chances for advancement with the bachelor’s.) Even after taking 10 years off to be a stay at home mom and reentering the workforce about 12 years ago I still have done well. I currently make around $47,000/year in a career that is interesting, can be different every day and is chock full of biology. Even after considering a career change to teaching a couple of years ago, I realized this was a perfect fit for me. It is something to consider as not a lot of people are going into this field right now so the demand will only continue to increase. Best of luck.

  66. Re: diapers

    In my area, WalMart’s store brand Parent’s choice are the same price as Target (and cheaper by far than Costco or Sam’s Club diapers) but much more effective.

    One caveat–some people will leave a kid in a Kirkland or a Huggies diaper for 7 hours if he doesn’t make a mess. This is not nice to the kid, and is impossible with store brand diapers as they will leak after 4 or 5 hours during the day.

  67. We had horrible problems with Parent’s choice and great luck with Target.

    It’s probably the same as the difference between Huggies and Pampers… Huggies is for skinny babies, Pampers is for chunky babies. (Though the new Pampers for older kids seems to be in a new design– lots of complaints from regular users who are now getting leaks.)

    I really would not stock up until you know what works for your kid and how long they’re going to be in each size. Stock up on Target gift certificates instead if you have to stock up on something.

    And cloth really isn’t as bad as we thought it would be. Next baby we will start with cloth part-time much earlier.

  68. At this moment, there are 44 replies and nothing for Maria, so if you’ll allow me…
    Here’s what I would do if I was in your shoes, Maria. Sell the house. Buy a good used Class-B Van conversion (stealthier) or small motorhome (roomier). Spend 25-50K to get a reliable vehicle. Bank the rest. You can easily live this lifestyle for several years on 50K and still have 100K as seed money to get started in a new place. Sell things you don’t need and store the stuff that you cannot part with. Buy an HD insurance plan or switch to Cobra if that makes sense. Hit the road!
    You will have more fun and it’s a great way to explore the world. You may come across a place that you absolutely must call home. You may find that home is where ever you are at the moment, or even right back where you started.
    Don’t worry about jobs right now. While you’re out making friends with the world, the economy will improve and there will be more opportunities in the future. The kind of employer you want to work for will appreciate that you took the initiative to create a wonderful opportunity to expand your horizons instead of sitting on your duffs complaining about your bad luck.
    There aren’t enough details in your letter, but I’m assuming decent health and no kids at home. If haven’t touched your retirement savings, leave them alone to grow while you are out experiencing the world. There are many blogs and websites by people doing exactly this. Go to “Early Retirement Extreme” and follow some of Jacob’s favorites. That’s how I found Glenn at “To simplify” and, in turn, Mike & Heidi at “Vantramps”. They are regular folks who are happily coloring outside the lines. I daresay you’ll be inspired. Let us know what you decide!

  69. Kat-
    Maybe I’m just optimistic, but I don’t see there being “no money in biology”. There are certainly people that make A LOT of money in biology although I know that isn’t the norm. My husband finished his PhD several months ago and is now in his “post-doc”. He doesn’t make a ton of money in this position (under $40k) but the hope is that he’ll get a job as a professor afterward and make 3-4x that. BUT all the labs he’s worked in have all had a few BA level people in them working as “techs”. These don’t start out as high paying jobs but they aren’t terrible jobs (~$35k). Biotech companies are another option but are sometimes hard to get into and are limited to certain parts of the country. Generally there is more money in the biology fields with a health or practical slant over just the basic science/general knowledge field. So I guess a lot would depend on the field you’re interested in.

    Avi-
    Google “Baby Cheapskate” that blog provides a list of the best deals on diapers each week as well as other places to find current deals on baby items. I’ve found if you want to do no work, Costco is the cheapest option but they only have their in house brand & Huggies. I know many people prefer Pampers Swaddlers for little babies. If a “greener” option is what you’re looking for, Amazon has the best price on Seventh Generation diapers (which were superior than all the other green diapers I tried).

  70. For my money, time, and value, the best disposable diaper option is Subscribe and Save from Amazon. Shipping is free,there’s a discount for using the subscription service, I’m not locked into any commitment, and they ship the diapers to my door in as little as 19 hours. Various brands and sizes are available, though not always a complete array of options i.e. there’s no size 2 option from my preferred brand right now.

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