Reader Mailbag: Quicken

I started using Quicken 2010 recently. I like it. I don’t love it. It does enough frustrating things to sometimes make me not want to use it, but every once in a while, it just clicks and enables you to see some great financial overviews.

The best part? For the first three and a half months of the year, we spent less than we earned even if you include the check written for our new vehicle. That was perhaps the best thing that Quicken showed me.

A more detailed review might be forthcoming if I can find enough truly useful things to say about it.

A year ago, I decided to cut entertainment from my life because I wasted a lot of time on it.

A month ago, I felt I wanted a PS3, I thought that it’s normal and would go, but I was wrong.

That feeling developed into some kind of depression, I couldn’t follow my daily routine, I felt I don’t want to live anymore! I was angry for most of time …etc.

Three weeks and I’ve tried my best to ignore the problem, but I did it and bought a PS3 later. Even before I open the package I felt every thing returned to normal.

Recently I wanted a kind of desserts, badly enough that made me depressed again ( not like before, but similar ).

I want to stop this mess, may be I can finance a PS3 or desserts, but I’m afraid that later I want big things badly like an expensive car which I can’t finance by myself.

Any Suggestions ?
– Andy

You’re in a pretty tough spot for financial success because you’re inherently tying your own happiness to material things. That’s a pattern that can be very difficult to break – trust me. However, you will be much more happy and much more capable of achieving financial success.

I strongly encourage you to spend your spare time not playing with your PS3, but exploring other interests. Try things that have intrigued you in the past but you passed up on because of the influence of others or your own lack of self-confidence.

As long as your sense of happiness and normalcy comes from material things, you will always find it difficult to succeed financially.

I know you are a fan of Magna-Tiles and I am interested in getting some for my daughter for her fourth birthday. I have found several different sets. I am assuming you recommend the $100 set and if I was to choose today, I would go with the clear colored plastic. But since you recommend them I thought I’d ask for particulars. Any insight would be appreciated, as always.
– Ian

My children received the Magna-Tiles 48 piece set (the colored plastic, not the translucent kind) as a Christmas gift a couple years ago. They’re four and two now and the Magna-Tiles are unquestionably their favorite toy. They constantly drag out the set, build all sorts of structures, and then are happy to do it all again the next day.

There are plenty of tiles in the 48-count set to build lots of things and it alone will give you a good indication of whether your children “click” with Magna-Tiles or not. The 100 piece set is quite a bit more expensive.

As for us, a larger set of these tiles is something we’re considering for a future gift for our children.

I have read quite a few bolg but want to ask you the question about how many children one can have and whats the effect of the no. of children in overall finance in you perspective.

Because I personally think that the population can cause the more effect on overall finance of the individual as well as society as resources are limited. This I can surely tell you with my personal experience as I am leaving in India.As you are now moving to your thired child how can you see your personal resposibilty towards controling the popuation overall. Certainly the more no of people adding the stress to resources which ultimately increase the prices of commodities and affect the finance overall.
– Parag

The concern about how more children will affect the world is a macroeconomic question. The information to look at is global population growth rates, which peaked at 2.2% at about 1960 and has declined to around 1% today and is steadily declining. If current trends continue, we will be at zero population growth by 2030 and will possibly dip into negative growth at that point.

The individual decision whether or not to have kids is a microeconomic one, though it’s connected to the larger question. Undoubtedly, society (in a global sense) has changed since 1960 and the value placed on having children has declined. Many more people consciously forego having children. Usually, it’s because they have other interests and values to pursue in life, interests and values that were quite possibly not available to the average person fifty years ago.

My belief is that not having kids for the environment’s sake is simply an easy answer to the complex decision of becoming a parent. The problem with that decision is that many people who are capable enough to understand how complex and challenging it really is often choose not to have children at all, feeling that their life energy is better spent elsewhere. If you’re intelligent enough and insightful enough to seriously begin to question the ecological implications of having a child, you’re the type of person that should be a parent, because what children need more than anything are stable and intelligent guiding hands toward adulthood, and the children that receive that are the ones who inevitably end up moving the world forward.

Adoption might be the best overall answer here, but that has its own problems, mostly borne out of a draconian adoption system.

I have been living in my current city ever since I moved to the US. I however had been lucky to visit other friends in different cities throughout the country. Right now I’m working as a IT contractor for a bank as a help desk analyst. I’ve always wanted to try and move to a different city, for example a city like Chicago. The only thing is that I also have a side mobile dj business. I’ve started this business several years ago and the community now knows me. I feel that if I move, I would have to start from scratch all over to build my clientele. I’m in a niche market in my city so there aren’t too many mobile djs like there are in bigger cities so this gives me an advantage. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I have the fear of moving because I feel I would have to start all over again in a new city with my mobile dj business. This has been something I’ve always wanted to do as a child and hopefully one day will be able to do it full time. What should I do?
– Lee

It’s easy: stay where you are and try to build a reputation beyond your city’s borders. Be the absolute best DJ you can be. Use the internet to promote yourself. Hand out cards like crazy when you put on a good show to spread your name around. Do everything you can to maximize your word of mouth.

If you really want to do the mobile DJ thing full time, you have to focus on it. Make everything about the venture as high quality and impressive as possible. Eventually, word of mouth will build for you and you’ll find gigs outside of your local area.

It sounds like you have something of a healthy start where you’re at right now. That’s why you should stick there. Just kick it up a notch.

Lee also asked me something of a follow-up question…

I really don’t know what to do with my life. I went to college and studied Mass Communication. I then moved up to New Jersey to work for a small television production company. I ended up getting burned out and then came back to my hometown. I then worked for the local NBC affiliate here. It was fun however I felt I didn’t have a life as television is a 24/7 business. Afterwards I took some time off and then decided I wanted to be in the travel and tourism business. I worked for AAA in customer service and really had a great time doing that and did that for several years, however the pay wasn’t that great. My brother who works for the same bank that I do recommended my name to a manager who was looking for someone in technical support. I went for the interview and got the job. Today I work on the help desk troubleshooting computer problems. I enjoy certain aspects of the job, but other times I feel its so boring and it feels like a dead-end job. I am very customer service driven and am a people person. I sometimes contemplate going back to AAA but then I think about the amount of money I’m getting paid now. I just don’t know what to do? I have looked into other fields of study but don’t know if I want to start back all over again. I’m soon going to be turning 30 and feel pressured that I haven’t done anything with my life and all my friends are getting married and know what they are doing with their lives. Any or all help would be most appreciated.
– Lee

I think the answer to the previous question is what you should be looking at. You dream of doing the DJ business full time, but you’re letting your energy and focus drain away in all of these other areas.

Stop.

Find a job that pays reasonably well that you can do while keeping as much energy and focus and time as possible for the business you dream about. Don’t let that job grind you down. Do what you need to do there and focus your thoughts and energy on building what you really want. Look at the other job as something you spend time each day doing simply to keep food on the table. You. Are. A. DJ. The other job? It just helps pay the bills.

I am hitting the time of year when recruitment season is on in my chosen profession, and every year I face a dilemma about what to do. I love my job, but it is a non-union job and I am making about 20k less than I could be. The problem is, the union jobs are very hard to get. Last year was the first year I even got on the eligibility list and then they did not have jobs. The other issue is that I have certain freedoms in my non-union job that I would not have if I took a union contract, such as more money to spend on supplies and equipment, and a boss who pretty much lets me do whatever I want to. I feel in some ways that the union job would constrain me in ways that would affect my quality of life. But 20k is a lot of extra money. I am doing okay on what I am making because I am careful, but there is no denying that 20k plus the union benefits is a big deal. I have a special qualification that is in greater demand than the general one and I have been told it is likely the union will offer me at least a half-time position for next year. Everyone is saying take it and thank your lucky stars. But my problem is that when I think about what my ideal job would be, it pretty much is the job I have right now, but with more money. And that is not really a possibility. I am torn, as I am every year at about this time, about what to do. I know I will get a 2% raise this year if I stay at my current job but that still will leave me very under-payed. On the other hand, except for the money issue, I really do love the job…
– Joanna

What do you need the money for? Do you have financial needs that are un-met?

If you’re happy with your job and the state of your life right now, don’t switch. You’re switching for money, which mostly just means more stuff and more taxes, and giving up big aspects of your job that you like.

Do you really need the money? From this, I don’t think you do, at least not in comparison with the personal value you get out of your current job. I’d stay there.

My brother-in-law and his wife are trying to buy a home, but have no down payment. They need $5,200 and have asked us for it. DH and I have been blessed recently with decent-paying (albeit time-consuming and sometimes stressful) jobs. They have very low-paying jobs that they love and live on government assistance. On the one hand, I feel like their lifestyle is a choice that they have made (to work fun jobs in exchange for living on less money). On the other hand, they are family and we want to help them. They are not entirely frivolous with money, but they do enjoy nice things that even we can’t afford (flat screen TV, $18k new car, etc.) We technically have the funds, but it would take every dime of savings and leave no emergency fund for us (not even a baby one.) We are still working on our own debt repayment from college, but with our new jobs we should be able to be debt-free by fall 2010. What would you say to someone with great cash-flow, but little savings in this case?
– Em

Don’t loan money to family members.

Think about it this way. Do you have lots of strong, warm, fuzzy feelings for your lenders? Probably not. You view them as a necessary evil and see them as just a source for cash.

Is that the type of feeling you want to add to your relationship with your brother-in-law and his wife?

If you want to give them the money, give them the money. Call it a one-time gift. Or give them part of the money. Just don’t become their lender.

The Tea Party movement is getting a lot of attention in the media right and while I don’t buy into the whole “real America” aspect of it, I am interested in smaller government and less taxes. I heard someone quoting numbers like “we pay over 70% of our income to taxes” which sounded a little high to me – he was even including sales tax. How would you compute how total tax you pay (income, FICA, social security, state, local, sales, etc)?
– Lisa

On a direct basis, most people don’t pay 70% of their income in taxes. Income, FICA, state, and local taxes rarely add up to 40% or more – on occasion they do, but not always. Property taxes can take another 5% or so, as can sales taxes.

The idea that taxes take up 70% of a person’s income comes from indirect taxes. If a corporation pays 10% of its revenue in income taxes, then 10% of the sticker price of an item you buy from that company goes to taxes. If your local grocery store has to pay some proportion of their employee’s income in payroll taxes, that’s reflected in higher prices on the shelves.

Does that add up to 70% of our income? I think you could argue about that until you’re blue in the face, but I at least see where they’re coming from. They’re simply moving all business taxes and other such taxes onto the customer’s tax burden.

We have an aggressive plan to pay off our mortgage in the next seven years (we just bought a place last month). One option we have been debating is to re-cast the mortgage for a lower amount by paying down around 20% of the mortgage. The other option is to make extra mortgage payments but keep the loan amount the same. Is there one option you would recommend over the other?
– Sag

Most likely, the first option is better.

Your best bet is to pay as much extra as soon as you can if your goal is to pay off the mortgage as fast as possible. If you can afford to throw a significant amount at the mortgage right now, that’s a better move than doling it out slowly over time.

Why? The lower your principal on your loan is, the less interest you’re charged each month. If you knock off 20% of the balance of the mortgage right now, your monthly interest payments go down 20%. So, let’s say you hypothetically have a payment of $1,000, of which $800 is interest and $200 is principal, if you make that big payment now, your future payments immediately jump to $640 interest and $360 principal.

Do you drink? What’s your take on alcohol?
– Aaron

I drink small amounts, usually socially. I like to drink a glass of red wine with dinner and I’ll sometimes have a beer at a social occasion. I do enjoy making my own beer, but I mostly just share it with friends.

I don’t really feel the need to always drink at a social occasion – in fact, at most of the ones I attend, I don’t drink.

Moderate red wine consumption may help protect against certain cancers and heart disease, and can have a positive effect on cholesterol levels and blood pressure. And, again, I’m talking about moderate – a glass with supper.

I have no interest in getting “drunk” and losing control of my faculties. That’s just unpleasant to me.

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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  1. Kat says:

    Andy, going into a depression because you could not own a PS3 is not normal. Mild sadness or mild envy is, not anger and not wanting to go on with life. Perhaps you should check your health insurance for benefits for mental health and just have a consult, feeling like you don’t want to live because you can’t have dessert or a PS3 can develop into something more serious. Also, it is extreme to say you cut all entertainment from your life, which is also an indicator that perhaps you need to be checked out.

  2. Karen M. says:

    I’m not sure what you mean when you say “draconian adoption system.” My husband and I are currently involved with adoption and going through the adoption process, and do not find it at all “draconian.” Rigorous, yes, but not “unusually severe or cruel” (which is what draconian means). Perhaps you meant outdated or arbitrary, which is what adopting through programs like foster care can seem to be, especially when one sees children returned to not great situations. As a professional writer, you should be a bit more careful with your choice of words. They do matter.

  3. Doug says:

    I don’t think this statement about sales taxes is true: “Property taxes can take another 5% or so, as can sales taxes.” In most states, where the sales tax is 5 or 6 percent, one would need to spend one’s entire income on taxable merchandise for the sales tax to “take another 5%.”

  4. Kevin says:

    On the “children” topic, I highly recommend a little-known Mike Judge film called “Idiocracy.” The premise is that since smart people tend to have fewer children, while poor/stupid people are reproducing like bunnies, then society is actually getting dumber and dumber as time passes.

    In the film, Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph are put into hibernation for 1 year in a military experiment, but when the funding is cut, they’re forgotten about and accidentally sleep for 500 years. They wake up to find society has been so dumbed-down that they are now the 2 smartest people on the planet.

    It’s a really clever film, based on a frighteningly plausible premise. It’s true that smart people really ARE having fewer children, while those with lower IQs tend to have more (often with multiple partners).

  5. Julie says:

    I second Trent’s advice on lending to family–don’t do it. If you really want to help them, offer them a smaller amount, maybe $1000, as a gift. That way, you won’t deplete your savings and you’ll spare yourself and in-laws any major future resentment.

  6. Johanna says:

    @Em: Don’t loan *or* give the money to your brother-in-law right now. It would wipe out your emergency savings, which means you can’t afford it. A case could be made for giving all of your emergency savings to a family member *if* the family member were facing a real emergency that would leave them without food, shelter, or needed medical care. Wanting to buy a house without having to save up for a down payment is not a real emergency.

    As for what to say, how about just “I’m sorry, but we can’t help you right now”? If they know, for some reason, that you have $5000 sitting in the bank, you could say, “That money is for emergencies, and we worked hard to save it up.”

  7. Nicole says:

    Em– It sounds like you do not have the money to give. You need to take care of yourself first before giving money to relatives who already have nicer stuff than you do. Just because your priorities are different doesn’t mean you should subsidize people who put luxuries before necessities. You need a 3-6 emergency fund, a fully funded retirement fund, no debt, a funded 529 plan if you have children etc. Those are basic necessities before you can think about the luxury of giving money to people who don’t really need it.

    If they buy a home without having saved up a 20% downpayment, they are probably taking on more debt than they can afford. It may be in their best interest not to get into that situation. Otherwise they may find themselves stuck and foreclosing in the future.

    If you really want to be obnoxious, you can do what we do when DH’s relatives with the nicer stuff and no emergency fund come asking for money– give them a book or two on managing personal finances. I recommend The Total Money Makeover as a first one. It’ll stop them asking for money you can’t afford to give them, even if it doesn’t change their ways. It also doesn’t seem to have soured family relations in the way that giving a loan might have.

  8. Nicole says:

    p.s. I bet they can get $5,200 if they sell the car. Suggest that.

  9. Johanna says:

    @Kevin: So, poor people are poor because they’re stupid, and they’re stupid because they have bad genes (otherwise, their stupidity wouldn’t get passed on to their kids). And the fact that white people are on average richer than brown people (in the US and throughout the world) is proof that white people are genetically superior.

    Is that what you’re saying?

  10. George says:

    @Em – I bet, when you tell them no, you’re going to hear as a response, “Well it doesn’t hurt to ask.” It’s a common tactic of the relative who doesn’t do what they’re supposed to do in the first place.

    You can’t afford to give or lend them all your savings! How many years did it take you save that much?

    I think a case can be made for $1,000-$2,000 as a gift provided those savings can be replaced in under a year.

  11. Molly says:

    @Kevin –
    I’ve seen “Idiocracy” and agree with you. While it’s highly amusing on the surface, I can see how it’s a bit disturbing in that it might actually come true… and makes me wish the opposite trend were true with respect to having children.

  12. Gretchen says:

    #1 doesn’t need financial advice. He needs therapy.

  13. Nicole says:

    Em– You can’t afford to give them $1-2K either.

    My rapid 3rd post adding insurance to the list of your needs before you give money to people who don’t really need it got eaten by the spam filter. But it’s part of taking care of yourself and your family first.

  14. J says:

    There are multiple things going on with Andy’s question. One is that I’m guessing something was lost in translation along the way. The second is the fallacy of denial and the truth of moderation. If you like playing video games and having desserts, there’s nothing wrong with that — the problems come when video games become a second (and sometimes third) occupation, and when you eat too much dessert. If you like video games and desserts, then you need to find a way to include them in a responsible way. Otherwise you go around depressed because there is something missing in your life that you enjoy. The third, I will concur with others, is tying the material to your happiness. Perhaps you need to examine what aspects of video games and dessert you really like, and work on those things. Maybe you like that video games and dessert are things you enjoy with your friends, and the lack of video games and dessert have led to you spending less time with your friends — which would be indeed a depressing thing.

    The most worrying thing in the letter, though, is the phrase “I felt I don’t want to live anymore”. There is likely something deeper going on than not playing video games or having dessert — and you should seek out qualified help — a counselor, support group, pastor, etc. I’m betting there are other issues at work here.

  15. Kevin says:

    @Johanna:

    I don’t want to derail Trent’s thread and get into that. My point was simply that it’s a funny and poignant movie.

  16. J says:

    @Em — Your situation sounds like a disaster in the making — both financial and personal. The only thing you should loan them is a copy of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. Owning a house is considerably more than making a down payment, it’s nothing like paying rent — when (expensive) things break, you are on the hook for fixing things out of your own pocket.

    If you loan them the money for the down payment (which, BTW, the bank asks about — “is any part of this down payment a loan”?), then they are going to come calling when the furnace breaks or when the roof leaks and ask you to fix it. Since you now have a vested interest in the house, you’ll feel some need pay for that too.

    So you’ll end up with a house that’s yours, but not in your name.

    Don’t do it.

  17. Johanna says:

    @Lee: You are only 29. Your life is not over. You have plenty of time ahead of you to make something of your life, develop your career (as a DJ or not, in New Jersey or in Chicago), and get married if that’s what you want to do.

    I’m not familiar with the DJing business, so I don’t know how “easy” it really is to build up a following in Chicago while living and working in New Jersey, but it seems to me like it would be a whole lot easier to build a business in Chicago while living in Chicago. If you know you want to live in Chicago (and having lived there myself once, I don’t blame you), then move to Chicago. If you built up your business once, you can do it again.

  18. asithi says:

    @Em – if your in-laws cannot afford a small down payment, then they cannot afford a house. Not everyone should have a house nor are they entitled to own one.

    A friend of mine is in the same situation. $5000-$6000 is a lot of money, but if a house is truly a goal, they can buckle down and save the down payment within a year or two. If they cannot or will not save money for a down payment, then they are not ready for the responsibility of being a homeowner.

  19. Johanna says:

    @Kevin: I haven’t seen the movie, but it seems to me that it can only be poignant if you accept the premise that poor people are stupid and their children will necessarily also be stupid.

    You can either say, “It’s just a funny movie, so don’t think about it too much,” or you can say, “Think about it – and then have lots of children to outbreed the stupid people.” You can’t have it both ways. If it’s important enough that it’s relevant to a discussion of whether to have children, it’s important enough to be discussed seriously.

  20. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    I actually think the current adoption system is quite cruel – and the word draconian was intentional. It’s cruel to the children who are left to flounder and wonder if they’ll ever have permanent parents. It’s cruel to parents who wait in seemingly endless delays and queues and pay outrageous costs to for-profit baby mills.

    Parents want kids. Kids need parents. Delaying that match is cruel.

  21. Kevin says:

    @Johanna:

    Children inherit more than just genes from their parents. They inherit knowledge and habits. If that knowledge is lacking those habits are bad, that sets the kid up for a life of failure, following in the footsteps of their parents. “Idiocracy” vividly illustrates one potential eventual outcome of the repeated application of that pattern.

    That’s all I’m saying.

  22. Nicole says:

    Although I totally agree that brain power is more determined by environment than genetics these days (inequity, laziness, etc.)… and we could all be a little smarter if we worked harder and had more opportunities…

    I am totally going to have Flagpole Sitta stuck in my head ALL DAY thanks to this post. “Been around the world and only stupid people are breeding…”

  23. almost there says:

    Johanna, I agree with Kevin. Work in a jail for a couple years and you will see that stupid/not smart people spawn stupid/not smart children. Our prisons are full of people that made poor choices in life, mostly due to poor parenting due to poverty. The parents may be smart on an IQ test but by their poor choices and or acting on emotion vs logic condem their children to the same downward spiral. Poor people have unplanned children, while the more affluent plan when they have their children.

  24. Johanna says:

    @Joanna: You’re right that an extra $20K a year is a big deal, even if you don’t need it. If you can save most or all of it, you can have the option of retiring very early – or if you don’t want to do that, you can make some big donations to causes that are important to you.

    Trent says that a higher salary “mostly just means more stuff and more taxes.” But it makes no sense to turn down a higher salary just because you’ll be paying more taxes, and nobody says you have to spend the extra money on more stuff – as opposed to spending it on *better* stuff, or experiences, or saving it.

    My take is this: If you think you’d be downright miserable in the union job, then stay where you are – $20K isn’t enough to sell your soul. But if you think you could enjoy the union job – just not quite as much as the non-union job – then go for it. The job conditions would affect your quality of life, but the feeling you have now that you’re not being paid what you’re worth is part of your quality of life too.

  25. Ellen says:

    sag – if you originally paid less than 20% down on the house, then it’s definitely to your benefit to pay it down sooner than later, so you can drop the mortgage insurance that’s required if you have less than 20% equity.

  26. Jackie says:

    I am a firm believer that the Earth is far far over populated. We NEED negative growth rates if we’re ever going to get our ecosystems out of the spiraling decline we’re in. This is not a trivial thing. The more people sharing limited resources the more environmental destruction and war we’re going to have. There is no question about that.

    These things are huge priorities for a lot of people, and that makes their decision to not have kids an easy one. Just because their decision is easy, doesn’t make it simplistic and certainly doesn’t make it wrong!

    I don’t believe that anyone should be pressured to be parent just because they MIGHT be good at it (bad parents come in all income and education levels!!!!!). Especially if they don’t WANT kids in the first place.

  27. chacha1 says:

    “Em” should not give or lend any money to the low-paid relatives who accept government assistance while buying luxury items. Those are folks who should not be buying a home.

  28. DivaJean says:

    Trent- I work for a foster/adoption agency.

    Draconian is not the word. There are good reasons that adoption takes the time and purposefulness it does. Permanancy is not easy for these kids- they have been traumatized by their experiences to where behaviours are not easily managed by just anyone with good intention.

  29. J says:

    I’m with Jackie. The only people who should have kids are the ones who actually want to be parents … from any socioeconomic level.

  30. Kat says:

    Trent, there are a lot of “parents” who want to adopt so they can use the kids for twisted abuse reasons, for child labor, and for other bad purposes. There are a lot of children floudering because they are special needs and typical families wouldn’t deal well with them. It’s easier to adopt outside of the USA, but then we get those countries mad when we send the kids back. Those supposedly “draconian” rules are there for a reason.

    Johanna, chill out. No one said anything about race, just stupid people and poor people both have more children. That goes for stupid white people and poor white people. And stupid is not just IQ as per a test, it is common sense and a means of looking at the world logically, which are taught and not necessarily genes-based.

  31. Ryan says:

    Em,

    The only thing you should give your brother in law is a good personal finance book.

    There’s no reason for someone on government assistance to drive an $18,000 car or a plasma TV. Especially if those things were purchased once they started receiving assistance.

    These people are in no position to buy a home.

  32. Karen M. says:

    Trent,

    Which adoption system are you talking about? It seems like you are conflating the many ways to adopt in this country, all of which have rules and regulations that must be satisfied.

    When you are saying “children are left to flounder and wonder if they’ll ever have permanent parents” it sounds like you are referring to the fost-adopt programs. And yes, these programs often have long delays associated with them, but that is because parental rights need to be terminated before another adult can adopt a child. Terminating parental rights is not done lightly. Also, adopting through foster care is on the lower cost of the adoption scale. With the adoption tax credit, it can be essentially ‘free.’ I believe, if memory serves, you have some experience with foster care, as you and your wife were in discussion to adopt two girls from foster care. If this is where your experience with adoption comes from, it should be stated as such, because other methods of adoption have different procedures.

    Endless queues and delays often happen with international adoption, with some countries putting adoptions on hold or suspending them altogether. This is frustrating for all involved. And international adoption can be extremely expensive, partly due to the cost of airfare and partly due to the costs of the different agencies involved. The orphanages and foster care agencies must be subsidized if they are going to stay open for other children who need them. And there is seemingly endless red tape associated with international adoptions, and the sending of documents to different state agencies to get the apostille is time consuming. I have friends right now who are waiting for their travel date, and I know that they feel every day is a long one because they have been ‘matched’ with their child already. But all of these procedures are there for a reason, and the birth country of their child is not making them wait just to be cruel.

    But what do you mean when you talk about a “for profit baby mill”? Domestic infant adoption is mostly private and the birthmothers contact the agency themselves. Although there is advertising associated with these agencies, it is more to make birthparents aware of the options available to them. I do not know of anywhere, domestic or international, where girls/women are churning out babies only to supply American families with children. People in the adoption community are not in it to get rich. They are working at a job they love, helping to put together families.

  33. Kathy F says:

    Em: I would not give or loan your brother-in-law and wife any money for a down payment. Tell them you don’t want to deplete your emergency fund and you have your own debts to pay. Suggest they save up for a down payment, and then they can starting looking at homes. If they are not able to save some every month, then how are they going to come up with extra money to pay you back?

    This happened with my relatives. I lent my brother and sister-in-law $4000 to pay off old credit card debt; creditors were threatening to garnish pay and take them to court. My brother made agreed-upon payments to me for a few months and then I had to let them charge $500 on my credit card for live-saving treatment for their dog at the vet (dog ate a box of chocolates) because they had no money. They stopped making payments to me probably because they could not afford it and were squeezed for cash. So, duh, if they were not able to make the payments to the creditors why did I think they could pay me back? Rather than nag them for the rest of repayment which I hated to do, I forgave the loan and chocked it up to lesson learned for myself.

    Then they got into building a house for themselves and spent all their money on that and furniture and stuff. And they are still spending money on it five years later. So then I am resentful that they could not pay money back to me but had a bigger priority to expand their lifestyle. They still live paycheck to paycheck and have no savings or retirement. I try not to feel resentful and judgmental because I hate feeling like that. It sounds like you already have some resentment so don’t compound it by lending/giving them money. How would you feel if you gave them the money and then later they lose the house due financial mismanagement? Plus if you give them money now, that just sets you up for future requests.

  34. SZCZEBRZESZYN says:

    Taxes: I think it is reasonable accounting to include the taxes paid by the company you buy from. Clearly their prices could be lower without the tax burden.

    Alternatively, suppose there were no taxes at the personal level. Just shift everything up to the entities you buy from or work for. Would you still say you paid no taxes?

  35. SZCZEBRZESZYN says:

    Adoption: I might consider adopting a child from Haiti. But I have read that the Haitian government imposes a three-year waiting period.

  36. Faculties says:

    Did something go wrong in the answer to the questioner who had worked for the TV company, then for AAA, and now for IT? Trent, you said “You are a DJ,” etc., but that was the *previous* questioner, not this person. This person had never worked as a DJ, and does not know what they want to do with their life — so focusing on the “real” aim (DJ or whatever) is hard. The point was that the questioner is having trouble figuring out what the real aim is.

  37. Emily says:

    As someone who has adopted two children from the Foster Care System – it is not cruel. If more people would look to their own country for children instead of other places or quit looking for a “perfect” child (which we all know doesn’t exist)…then there would be no children waiting for someone to choose them.

    There are thousands upon thousands of children in the social service system WAITING for someone to take them…it’s not a hard process, it is not an expensive process (its free here in Iowa) and it’s definetly worth it.

    It’s not the systems fault (although it’s not without flaws)…but societies and people for not stepping up to the plate to reach a need.

  38. Jennifer says:

    About children.

    Intelligence reverts to the mean, which means that smart people don’t necessarily have smart children nor do not-smart people necessarily have not-smart children, especially across generations. Environmental factors, including parenting, of course play a role in how intelligence is expressed (or not).

    My cognitively-impaired daughter is certainly a finer person than the more intelligent and far wealthier young man recently convicted of brutally beating his former girlfriend in the college town near where I live.

    Whether I respect or admire a person has little to do with that person’s intelligence or wealth and a great deal to do with how they conduct themselves in their daily lives.

  39. partgypsy says:

    #26 Jackie ditto.

  40. Ellen says:

    @36 faculties – I was confused too, until I re-read Trent’s intro to the 2nd question & saw that it was a followup question to the previous one.

  41. jim says:

    Andy said : “I decided to cut entertainment from my life … A month ago, I felt I wanted a PS3, …That feeling developed into some kind of depression”

    Sounds like binge dieting. Would you starve yourself of food then get surprised when you get really hungry? If you deny yourself all entertainment then you may end up getting starved for it. Don’t deprive yourself of entertainment entirely. WE all need some form of entertainment.

    Em : Don’t give money to your relatives. They’re living beyond their means and your frugality shouldn’t subsidize them.

    Lisa: No, people “we” don’t pay “over 70%” of our income in taxes. Thats someone pulling numbers out of thin air based on fiction.

  42. anna says:

    Em: I know in Missouri you CANNOT loan someone their downpayment. When closing on the house your bank will make you sign a paper saying you are “gifting” them the amount for the downpayment, no bank wants to get “loaned” money to give you a loan. Look into your states laws and if nothing else you can tell them, you legally aren’t allowed to loan them the money. It might be easier to tell them its against the law than you don’t want to mess with loaning family members money.

  43. Todd says:

    Em: Please don’t loan money to your relatives. Everyone thinks “My situation/family is different” (I thought that when I did it) but it almost always ends the same way. I haven’t spoken to a brother since 1998, not because I’m so resentful about the thousands he borrowed and didn’t repay. (I told him long ago I’d just forget about the rest of the money, but he still avoids me.) I think my presence reminds him of the money even though I don’t bring it up.

    Please just say “We never mix family and friends with business” and then live by that rule. When you become a lender or a borrower, your relationship with someone becomes all about money. Even if it ends well and they pay you back, they’ll always remember that YOU were the reason they could buy a house, and they’ll resent you for being in the “superior” position. (And somewhere inside, you’ll always remember that you were in that position and you’ll resent them for not being grateful enough about it.)

  44. Larabara says:

    Sorry, almost there, but I have to chime in with disagreement. Plenty of stupid people have smart children, and vice versa. Sometimes the smart children get an opportunity to get out of their environment, but many times they don’t and are doomed to the same fate as their parents.

    A lot of smart parents, once they realize that their kid’s intelligence does not match or exceed their own, usually have the means to maximize whatever potential their kid has, with extra tutoring, special classes, private instruction, etc.

    And if the affluent kid commits crimes, the parents can get better lawyers who keep the kids out of jail–they’ll get counseling, guidance, stints at a rehab center, and whatever else is available to them. But poor people don’t have much access to the same things, and usually are committed to at least some jail time (and a black mark on their permanent record).

    And while poor people may have unplanned children, more affluent people have better access to family planning and discreet abortions.

  45. alilz says:

    I don’t know if this post will go through — but what Trent is advocating — that only smart people, only the “right” people should have kids –is eugenics.

    I’m going to step up on my soap box because there are comments here and parts of Trent’s answers that make me very angry. Eugenics isn’t just about race, and it’s not some dead idea that only the Nazis did.

    The United States forcibly sterilized I don’t know know even how many individuals and the last forced sterilization happened in 1981. In my life time, in Trent’s life time.

    IT was validated by the Supreme Court Often this was done not only without consent, but without the people knowing it was happening to them. They were told they had to have surgery for one reason, and then they were sterilized.

    Between 1917 and 1981 2600 people in the state of Oregon were forcibly sterilized.

    Why? Again because they were “unfit”. They were poor or “feeble minded” or had epilepsy or were alcoholics. Or their parents were criminals

    In 1941 100 teenage girls, who were in state home, were sterilized without their consent, and most likely without their knowledge.

    In Virginia 7450 people were sterilized. Again for being poor, or “ne’er do wells” or having mental illness or not being smart enough (probably some had learning disabilities), or they were deaf or blind or partially deaf or blind. Or had a physical deformity.

    One of those teenage boys who was sterilized became a decorated WWII veteran.

    The US Supreme court case that legitimized sterilization happened because a woman fought back, she was institutionalized and classified as “feeble minded” because she was unmarried and had a child after being raped. Her child at age 6 months was deemed feeble minded. Carrie fought but ultimately lost and was forcibly sterilized.

  46. Kevin says:

    @alilz:

    Whoa, hold on! Who said anything about “forced sterilization?”

  47. alilz says:

    Nobody here said anything about it.

    But what Trent has said multiple times about the “intelligent” people needing to have children and what you said:

    It’s true that smart people really ARE having fewer children, while those with lower IQs tend to have more (often with multiple partners).

    Just struck me as too damn close to Justice Oliver Wendel Holmes reasoning for the Supreme Court ruling (8-1) that forcible sterilizing people to keep the gene pool clean was in the state’s best interest:

    “We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.”

    I posted this because I wanted Trent to think, and I wanted other people to think — that within his life time, within in my lifetime — that attitude of only certain people should have children was taken to the extreme.

    I’ve seen a documentary about the Virginia case, they interviewed a woman, who as a teenager had been put in an institution because her family was poor and she was considered “feeble” (she had dyslexia she found out later), and her parents couldn’t afford to take care of her.

    But she grew up, got a job, married and tried and tried and tried to have children. Finally she went to the doctor and he examined her and told her — of course you can’t have kids your tubes are tied.

    This woman had no idea about what happened, she was told she some lie about the operation. She had her choice to have children taken away because a bunch of people saw her as poor and stupid.

    So no, no one here is advocating forced sterilization but those policies grew out of the same ideas both you and Trent have expressed.

  48. Nicole says:

    Maybe only what was it, Norwegians? Swedes? (I forget which it was that populated the great state of Ohio) should be allowed to reproduce…

  49. Brittany says:

    Wow. Chill out. Trent has never said that poor (or stupid) people should stop having children. And while I disagree his premise, his beliefs don’t even began to touch on the madness you’re spouting about, not matter how slippery you try to make the slope.

    All he said today is that people who can contemplate the ecological impact of having children would probably make good parents if they brought that level of contemplation to raising a child. In the past, he’s said he believes that he thinks people who believe strongly in something should have children and raise them to believe that instead of throwing themselves into a life-work of spreading the cause to others (which is problematic for so many reasons, but that’s another debate). He’s never said that people he disagrees with should have fewer children or be forbidden from having children. Stop grinding your irrelevant ax on us, please.

  50. Steve in W MA says:

    Johanna is spot on. the fact that could “swing” lending them %5000 is very different from actually being able to afford it. You worked to save that money for your own family’s wellbeing and you need to preserve it. By telling the no you are actually going to be serving them well (if they are willing to recognize it) byrole-modeling a kind of financial responsibility that they haven’t developed yet.

    Incidenteally, if they can’t come up with $5000 for a downpayment then very likely they can’t afford to really buy in the first place. It’s really going to be reality check for them.

  51. deRuiter says:

    Dear Joanna, 20 K AFTER taxes is NOT going to be 20K in your pocket, and you may be very unhappy in your new job for a lot less of a raise than you are anticipating.
    Dear Em, Run from these profligate relatives and their attempt to suck out your financial life blood! They waste money “flat screen TV, $18k new car”, will not pay you back, will bad mouth you. You are already subsidizing them with YOUR taxes so they can take government subsidies. Our government is busy confiscating the earnings of the productive class, and subsidising the non productive class, you are already supporting these leaches through your taxes. Add in the fact that they will not be able to make the payments because of their lifestyle and poor saving habits, and that they will go bankrupt, shafting the lending institution, and you. Go take that 5 K and pay off YOUR OWN student loan debts or prepay on your mortgage.

  52. cherie says:

    Joanna I wouldn’t leave a job you love unless you have some pressing needs to meet. Not for that change in salary. However why not use the offer, when it comes, and a view of competing union salaries, to ask YOUR boss for a raise? That would be ideal no?
    It’s not easy to do, but if you have a competing offer in your pocket your boss might be willing to pony up a percentage of the change in pay just to keep you since it sounds like you a) are in high demand b) are a great employee since he gives you so much leeway and c) he’d likely have to pay a union [therefore much more expensive] person to replace you, at least temporarily while he hired someone else.

  53. Steffie says:

    FYI, It’s not OHIO that is always mentioned, it’s another Midwest state……

  54. Nancy says:

    Weighing in on the “dumb people have more children” topic– access to birth control and opportunities for girls and women (both here and abroad) are the 2 main factors in lowering birth rates. Nothing to do with “smarts.”

    That being said, from an environmental perspective, Americans & Europeans use many times more resources than those in poorer countries, so an American who chooses to not have children is making a big impact on the environment.

    On the topic of 70% of your income paying taxes, Trent is right, you can argue until you’re blue in the face about whether this is true or not. What’s important is what would happen if we paid 0 taxes, and coming up with a more progressive tax system would help. The teabaggers forget the benefits that they and the rest of us enjoy because we pay taxes.

  55. Nicole says:

    #53– that’s right Iowa… sorry, I get Akron and Ames mixed up! Good thing I’m not a stalker.

  56. I have not seen “Idiocracy” though it’s definitely on my list. (Netflix for the win!)
    I admit, there have been times that life situations have frustrated me to the point I could have easily been Holmes, and have come to the same conclusions that the only way to curb some of societies ills would be to keep undesirable people from breeding. However, as I see things today (mid-30’s) the problem is so much larger than just ‘stupid vs. smart’ people. Because I have to tell you, there are quite a number of ‘smart’ people that I vehemently disagree with. Mostly they consist of Conservatives. :-) Seriously, though – the conversation started-out as a question regarding having kids or not to conserve planetary resources. So – if smart, upper-class folks had the most kids and they populate the world with their message of ultra-consumption, how does that help?! Large lawns need more water, multiple-acre homesites need large amounts of maintenance – not to mention the potential electrical needs and the transformation of native land that goes on when these types of structures are built. I would personally be more inclined to build a world of “smart” folks who could balance the need for technology with the act of living in harmony with their surroundings. No need to get all primitive and tribal, but let’s face it – the society we’ve built is the reason for needing a TV, a phone, etc. If we had everything close to us still, we could simply walk into town and visit our neighbors rather than needing to call or drive a car. And this existing society can be said to have been built by ‘smart’ people. So what does ‘smart vs. dumb’ really have to do with this argument?

  57. Erin says:

    @Em – I just want to reinforce what other posters have said. Not only is it a bad idea to lend money to family in general, but if these people can’t even save $5200 for a down payment they clearly cannot afford a house. They will come knocking on your door again when they get behind on the mortgage or have a major repair – and what will you do if, say, your furnace breaks down unexpectedly and your emergency fund is empty because you gave the money to relatives who are clearly bad with money? Please do not give them anything.

  58. Johanna says:

    Getting back to the actual subject of Parag’s question: I wonder how many people there really are who don’t have children for environmental reasons – as opposed, for example, to not having children because they don’t want children, and using the environment as a convenient backup explanation to use when other people don’t accept “not wanting children” as a legitimate preference. Which happens surprisingly often.

    If there is one group of people who should not be having children, it is people who don’t want children. And I still think it’s weird that Trent keeps trying to convince people who don’t want children to have them anyway, and I still wonder what he’s trying to accomplish.

  59. marta says:

    @Johanna (#58): Dunno, must be some sort of master plan to outbreed the poor/stupid/non-white people. Today, this PF blog’s readers… tomorrow, the world!

    Seriously though, no idea. Maybe it’s a way to justify or validate his own reproductive choices?

  60. alilz says:

    @ Andy — maybe one reason you’re not happy is you decided to cut out all entertainment from your life.

    I know Trent doesn’t advocate that, he does things regularly for entertainment.

    Doing things that you enjoy and that make you happy are important. Instead of an all or nothing approach perhaps you should try a more moderated approach.

    Instead of cutting out all entertainment, figure out what it is that gives you the most pleasure and focus on that.

    Instead of NO DESSERTS! try dessert only once a week and make it a really nice dessert that you enjoy. I’ve found I’d much rather spend a little bit more on something really nice than have a bunch of not so great things.

    So instead of buying something quick or cheap the grocery go to a bakery or a nice restaurant and order a great dessert and indulge.

  61. anne says:

    for em-

    i agree w/ everyone about not loaning the $5200 to your in laws.

    maybe they could get help w/ down payment assistance somewhere else?? have they gone to hud dot gov to look??

    if the government assistance they’re now getting is in the form of housing, there is a program to help people in public housing buy their own home, for example.

    there is also the “good neighbor” program, which helps you buy a hud house for 1/2 price if you are a firefighter, teacher, etc.

    there are other programs, too.

    xoxo

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