Reader Mailbag: Thanksgiving Week

What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to five word summaries. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question.
1. A scary future
2. Effects of Kindle giveaway
3. Hiding savings from spouse
4. College accounts for grandchildren
5. Too much retirement, too young?
6. Snowblower?
7. Helping a financially distressed friend
8. Improving my wife’s credit
9. Reducing family stress
10. Winter exercise

Just a quick note about the week of Thanksgiving (next week). I’ll be running a lighter schedule that week, with just one post per day on Wednesday through Sunday (with the Thursday one being particularly short), and I’ll be skipping next Thursday’s Reader Mailbag. The same will be true during Christmas week next month. These are two holidays during which I spend a lot of time with my family and my wife’s family and I know many of you do as well – quite a lot of you will be taking those five days off of work and traveling to be with family for at least some of it.

Enjoy the holidays!

Q1: A scary future
There have been a few articles on [various websites] regarding inflation, astronomical food prices, and projected food shortages. What do you think about these? I find them scary and reactionary, but I trust your take on the subject. Any information you would share might help ease my mind

– William

There has never been a point at any time in history where you couldn’t have made some extremely negative projections about the future. Projections about the future are just that – guesses based on only some of what we know now that attempts to state exactly what the future will be like. Remember, in the 1890s, they wanted to close down the US Patent Office because everything that can be invented had already been invented. Since then – the airplane, the computer, plastics, and a nearly infinite flood of other such things.

I don’t put stock into global projections like this. Nearly every day, something happens that will alter it. A catastrophe. Political upheaval. An invention. A discovery of new resources. An idea.

Projections don’t include such things because they cannot include such things. We simply don’t know what the future holds, good or bad.

There are very few things I’m certain of with regards to the future. One of them is human ingenuity. There are more people living now than ever before, which means more ideas are being generated now than ever before, and it’s easier to communicate and share them than ever before.

I think I’ll bet on that.

Q2: Effects of Kindle giveaway
I bought a hard copy of your book and enjoyed that as well. Thanks so much for releasing it for free on the Kindle which is my preferred method of reading. I would be interested to hear how that affected your book sales. It seems like a good idea to do what you did for the sake of promotion. Has the giveaway had a positive effect as a whole? Any thoughts?

– Matt

It certainly had a positive effect – one only needed to watch the Amazon sales rank for the print version of the book in the days during and after the Kindle giveaway to see that. Not only that, now the “free” Kindle version is floating around out there. More people are reading it than ever before and some of them are probably thinking, “Hey, this book would make a good Christmas gift for person X.”

I will say that as more and more book companies try doing this, it will get diminishing returns. If every book had a free week on the Kindle, then it would be very hard for a single book to get any sort of sales spike from it. The more books doing this, the less effective it will be.

For me, I’m just glad more people read it. That’s enough for me, since that’s the real reason I wrote a book and sold it to a major publisher in the first place.

Q3: Hiding savings from spouse
My husband and I have always had joint accounts for everything. After squeaking by with a child for the past 5 years, we’ve been aggressively paying off debt (specifically student loan debt) for the past 18 months and also aggressively setting aside for retirement (for us this means about 12% of income). Whenever we get a little push of money (a raise, etc), it seems to fall in the bill abyss. Our budget is very tight. We set aside $200/month for savings but this seems to evaporate every few months from some emergency. For this reason, when we stopped paying for preschool when my daughter started kindergarten, I decided to open a new savings account through work that is deductible from my paycheck ($50/biweekly paycheck)….the rest of that money has already fallen into the bill abyss. I plan to increase this to $150 per paycheck after my payraise and once my child care FSA is reduced in the new year. I’m hoping to use this for much needed house repairs once it accumulates and as emergency savings.

The catch is, I haven’t told my spouse about the account, as I feel as though it could become part of the bill abyss if he knew. While we don’t dine out and are fairly frugally, my husband insists on a fancy phone plan and fancy satellite (which I feel is acceptable given our other sacrifices—about $100 more than I would like to spend. How do you feel about keeping funds secret from your spouse (which I feel will be mutually benefical)?
– Heidi

First thing: hiding anything beyond a present from your spouse is a bad idea that will pay some sort of negative consequence in the long run. Hiding things erodes trust, which is what relationships are built on. You need to have this conversation with him now rather than later.

Having said that, if I were you, I would explain it just as you did above: you are taking the money from your raise and directly putting it aside for emergencies. I think that’s completely reasonable, and if you’re calm about it and explain it in that way, he likely will, too.

If he doesn’t, then you’ll need to sit down together and have a long talk about what your financial goals are together and how you’ll get there. It sounds like you’re already doing this, but if you’re not, it might be a good idea to do this anyway.

Q4: College accounts for grandchildren
My mother, who is not rich by any stretch of the imagination, wants to put away some money for each of her four grandchildren to help with their college expenses. (The grandchildren are 18, 16, 9 and 9 respectively.) My sisters are both financially irresponsible married to men who are even more so. What kind of account do you suggest that my mother open for the grandchildren? The 18-year-old is currently going to community college. My mother’s biggest fear is that the other children will want to go to college (the 16-year-old is very bright and does well in school) but will not be able to afford to because their parents will not have the money.

– Sharon

I would suggest she open a 529 for each child. They can immediately use the money in that count for educational purposes, as well as any financial gains made by the account. If they end up not ever having educational expenses in their life, they can withdraw the balance without penalty, but will have to pay an extra 10% tax on the gains.

There are lots of 529 plans available – most states offer one. Search “529” and your state in Google to see what you get. You’re going to want a 529 plan that allows you to choose any school – some 529s lock you into certain schools by prepaying tuition there, and that’s usually a bad idea.

If your state doesn’t offer such a plan, you can use the one here in Iowa – College Savings Iowa. I use it for my own children.

Q5: Too much retirement, too young?
I am a 23 year old recent graduate making $67k in my second year as a software designer in California. I have no debts at all (yay for scholarships/grants and a 15 year old car). I have funded both my Roth IRA and 401k (no match) fully for this year and am just shy of 10k in my emergency fund. I feel like I could be saving too much for retirement (possible?) and not putting enough priority on a down payment for a house, or car, or just a higher emergency cushion. Right now I pay ~$1200 for rent. I feel that a decent mortgage payment isn’t that far away from my current rent and could possibly be a better choice. My net worth goes up every month, due to retirement savings, but the numbers in my savings accounts doesn’t really increase. I don’t feel like I’m “penny pinching” too much, but of course it’d be nice to get a new car sometime soon or have a house sooner than later. What do you think some possible routes I can take? Lower retirement savings and redirect that money into a down payment? Not change my retirement savings plan and slowly build that down payment?

– Joseph

Given your great start financially, I think your best move would be to simply shoot for 10% of your annual income in retirement savings for the next few years and channel the rest into saving for a down payment.

Since you’ve hit the limit on the Roth and the 401(k), that means you’ve contributed $21,500 to retirement this year – about 30% of your income. That’s plenty. Slow down a bit.

If you contribute just $6,700 next year – $5,000 to your Roth and $1,700 to your 401(k) – you’ll have $14,800 to save for your down payment. That’s an excellent start.

Q6: Snowblower?
This is our first winter in a home of our own. We live in an area with significant snow many times during the winter. Do you suggest buying a snowblower? If so, which one do you recommend?

– Kevin

It depends on how much area you have to clear. Does your home have a double-width driveway or a single-width driveway? Is it very long? Are you responsible for clearing any sidewalk? What exactly does “significant snow” mean?

If you don’t have much to clear and you get 6″ of snow over the course of a winter, then use the shovel. If you have a long double-wide driveway with some sidewalks and you have storms that get 15″ of snow, like we do… get a snowblower.

We purchased a Troy-Bilt that was on an end-of-season sale a while ago. It has been very much worth it, as we’ve been able to turn four hours of shoveling into fifteen minutes of snowblowing several times a winter. Last winter, we had a very rough winter with lots of snow and the snowblower saved us approximately 40 hours of hard labor last winter. If it lasts for ten winters, that’s 400 hours of hard labor saved, making it worth it for us.

Q7: Helping a financially distressed friend
My close friend is currently in (since May 2010) chapter 13 bankruptcy in order to keep her home from being foreclosed. She has unpaid medical bills dating back several years from a stroke at age 40. She has a neck injury that has kept her from working since June 2010. It looks like she will have to convert to a chapter 7 in January 2011 and lose her home. How would you help someone in this situation? What do you say to them?

Some things we’ve done so far: gone over her budget with an eye to cutting expenses – got rid of cable, etc; sold some collectibles at garage sale and online – brought in about $400; gifted money solely to pay insurance premium and medical copays (about $100 for 6 months)…
– Vicki

That person needs you to be positive and helpful, and that person needs strongly to focus on getting themselves into a position to recover financially from this. That means healing up, building whatever skills she can during her recovery, and being as ready as she can to return to the workforce when this all finishes up.

It sounds also like your friend has a powerful story to tell. She should spend some of her energy getting her story out there, as it may make a strong case for why we need a better healthcare system. Contact politicians in her area that are involved with healthcare legislation. Doing this may be incredibly empowering to her.

Most of all, she needs you to be a constant and loyal friend right now. She might be moody and upset and depressed – but can you blame her? Cut her some slack and be there for her. People always remember who stood by them when the chips were down.

Q8: Improving my wife’s credit
Im 26 years old, I just got married, (my wife is 25). Im wondering how to build her credit so in the future if we want to buy a house we will get a better rate. She just finished paying off her car, so her credit score is good, however not better because she does not have that much history. She has a checking account she opened 3 years ago and a car loan which she opened in 2009 and we just paid it off. Other than that no credit cards or anything. I opened up an american express blue cash credit card and added her on and got her a card, however the account is still in my name. Will her having a card (even under my account) increase her credit? Should she apply for her own credit card? Also we have a joint checking account now, so i guess i was wondering now that we are married, if something increases my credit, will it also increase hers since we are married?

– Tip

Even though you’re married, your credit histories are still distinct and your credit score is calculated individually. Marriage means that you’re more likely to have co-ownership of debt, but it doesn’t combine your credit histories.

As for whether the card in her name will help her credit, it depends on how that specific contract is set up. Your first step is to get a copy of her credit report using the federal government’s website and see what’s on there.

If she needs to build a credit history, the easiest way is to get a credit card, pay off the balance each and every month, and just sit on it. Use it for only ordinary charges, like gas, and pay the balance in full each month. This will slowly build up her credit.

Q9: Reducing family stress
I read one of your articles (Low cost methods for Stress Relief) about choosing who you spend your time with and got me thinking. You said the following:

Spending time with people who care about me The ongoing process of eliminating negative people from my life and keeping positive people in place has been a major positive influence in reducing stress. I simply ask myself regularly if there are people in my life that are causing me to stress out because of their behavior (not because of my own worries reflected on them). If they are, then I strive to reduce the role that they have in my life, plain and simple.”

What if the people who cause stress due to their unhappiness is your Mother in Law ? It brings constant stress into our lives to the point where I don’t want to be around her but have to because of my husband. Also, it is very likely that once she gets her permanent residency she might stay with us during her old age and I do not want to put my children through an unhealthy environment at home. Though she is healthy she refuses to do anything at home or even watch my daughter when she is sick if we cannot take time off from work. I am almost sure that if I choose to keep away from the husband’s family and do not do what’s expected of me that we could end up in divorce. How do you reduce this kind of stress ? Currently I feel suffocated, confused and angry with a lot of situations that I have faced in the couple years of marriage.
– Sunny

Your first step is to sit down and express these feelings clearly to your husband. If you won’t or can’t do that, then you don’t have any recourse here. Your husband has to know exactly how you feel.

You also do need to understand that your husband will feel torn by this. He’s being put between two women he likely cares very deeply about – his wife and his mother. Making him “choose” is deeply unfair to him and is likely to cause resentment.

You mention “permanent residency.” This sounds as though there’s a cultural barrier here – your mother-in-law is from some distinctly different culture than you’re from. Try to understand that culture as much as you can. Is your mother-in-law’s behavior normal for that culture? Or is there something else at work here?

In the end, all three of you are going to have to recognize that your mutual presence is irritating each other (you’re likely irritating her as much as she’s irritating you). Your husband will have to be an integral part in this solution, so the discussions start with him. The next step is up to you.

Q10: Winter exercise
I know you walk a lot for exercise. What do you do during the winter months when it’s too cold out there to walk? I started walking daily this summer, but I live in Minnesota and it’s getting awful cold out there!

– Eli

I do a lot of different things to keep up my walking during the winter. I often volunteer to do the grocery shopping and make an effort to maximize my walking doing it. I’ll focus on home exercise and do things like pushups and situps and light weight training. I’ve even mallwalked.

These aren’t perfect solutions for everyone, though. Quite often, keeping in great all-around shape in a cold winter environment requires use of a gym, simply because the ability to exercise outdoors is so limited.

It all depends on what your needs are. If you’re an intense trainer and live in a very cold winter environment, a gym may be your best option.

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. Rebecca says:

    Trent! You suggest buying a snowblower and then suggest mall walking for staying fit in the winter. Shovel snow. I did even when I was pregnant. It is good exercise and can be done properly without back strain.

    We don’t have a snow blower, actually most of us on our street don’t. We live in WI, so when we do get those massive storms, our neighbor with his blows the whole street, and we all chip in to help him pay for maintenance.

  2. kristine says:

    Q4- Why would the child not be able to go to college if the parents cannot pay? Work for a year or two, save up, take a loan and go. A child is not entitled to have their parents pay for college. It is a gift. And depending on the college, not too many people I know can give each child a 20K-200K gift. My husband is a professor. The kids who have to pay their own way arrive to class on time, do the work on time, and succeed most of the time- because they do not take being there for granted, and they want their money’s worth.

  3. Johanna says:

    @kristine, Q4: Why do people (not just you, and not just here) so often assume that it’s a choice between the parents paying 100% of the college bill versus the parents paying 0%? If the parents (or in this case, the grandparents) pay 50% or 75% or 25%, and the student is responsible for the rest, wouldn’t the student also be interested in getting his or her money’s worth? And as someone who was fortunate enough to have almost all of my college costs covered by scholarships, I have to say I’m somewhat offended by the implication that I couldn’t possibly have appreciated my education just because I didn’t pay for it.

    Anyway, in this case, someone who “is not rich by any stretch of the imagination” – and who is saving for two or three other grandchildren at the same time – is probably not going to make much of a dent in the cost of the 16-year-old’s degree. Another way for the grandmother to help might be to encourage and help the 16-year-old to track down scholarship money. Assuming that the 16-year-old is now a junior in high school, it is not too early to start preparing and getting organized.

  4. par717 says:

    Q5 – I don’t disagree with the answer but I want to offer an alternative view. At 23, with no debt and a great paying job (relatively speaking), I say keep saving as much as possible for retirement!

    Sit down and think about your near future, make a 5 year plan. Where do you see yourself in 5 years and what do you want to be doing in that time. If a family is further out than 5 years and you’re OK with renting right now, why change?

    Now, this is my personal take but compare it to your own values. If I was in this situation at 23 I would continue to max out my retirement for another 2 years. (Perhaps saving $400 – $500 a month in a regular savings account to put towards a new car if the old car gave out)

    After 3 years of maxing out retirement that would be over $60k? Think of the compound interest and dividend reinvestment possibilities! $60k now is worth so much more than $60 when you are 40 years old.

    After each year I would sit down and re-evaluate my plans and if I was still pretty content I would continue doing things this way, maybe moving a little more into a down payment fund for a house as I went.

    Sacrifice a (very) little bit now for the biggest return later and if you decide that you want to go a different route later you still can.

    But a lot happens in life and if you put all you have towards a house and car now you know that in the future things will come up that will keep you from maxing out retirement.

    I say do it while you can until you have a reason not to.

  5. Leah says:

    To the walker, there is still lots of exercise to do in Minnesota in the winter! I live here, and I turn to snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, and walking in the woods during the winter. It’s really not that cold if you bundle up properly. When I’m outside in the winter, I wear Sorel snow boots (not huge ones — just a basic $50 pair from Cabela’s), long underwear, jeans, and a pair of windpants on the bottom. On top, I’ve got on a long underwear-type undershirt, a tshirt, a sweater, and a ski jacket. This often has me *too* warm when I’m skiing and I sometimes leave the jacket in the car if it’s a sunny day.

    If you live in the cities or near a nature center, check out their offerings. There’s lots of great places that rent skiis or snowshoes, and you can often ski for free or very cheap if you own your own pair of skis (a Great Minnesota Ski Pass is $15, and it allows you to ski tons of different places).

    Plus, you really can walk outside. Be sure to walk in the daylight, and definitely be careful of cars on the narrower streets. There are ways to get in your exercise as long as you’re determined!

  6. Leah says:

    To #3, Johanna, I totally agree! It really bothers me when people assume that you won’t take classes seriously if you don’t pay for them yourself. I was incredibly fortunate to have no college debt whatsoever thanks to a combination of my mom and scholarships. My mom is a nurse, and she took extra call to pay for my education (she hadn’t saved up much beforehand). When I was applying to colleges, we sat down and talked through the finances of what she could pay and what I’d have to cover, and I picked an institution that did that without me taking out loans.

    And you better believe I both appreciated my education and took it seriously! And I had plenty of friends who did the same. If anything, I felt like those who attended purely on loans (even loans they took out themselves) weren’t as serious because the day of reckoning had not yet come, whereas I was regularly working with my mom and applying for more scholarships. I also know a lot of students who had to work many hours to put themselves through school, and their work seriously detracted from studying. I worked 5-10 hours per week in jobs that helped advance my career goals and gave me a little pin money, and I had plenty of time to hit the books and volunteer on clubs and committees.

    The bottom line is this: find out what works for your family, and don’t judge others because they’ve made a different decision.

  7. valleycat1 says:

    Q6 – snowblower. Since this is your first year there, live through one winter without buying one. See whether you can manage ok with shoveling the snow; if it’s problematic, or your area normally gets more snow, then you can get one at the end of the season when they’re on sale. You might be able to work with your neighbors to buy one together & share. Alternatively, there are services that will clear your driveway/sidewalks for you – the one my 85-y.o. mom uses is very reasonably priced.

    And, to the other commenter, yes, shoveling snow is good exercise, but if you’re out of shape you’re asking for an injured back or shoulder, or a heart attack. And if I were facing a 4-hour shoveling job, I’d get a snow blower myself even though I find the noise obnoxious.

  8. deb says:

    Shoveling snow is some of the best exercise you can get – weight lifting/pushing. It’s also free after you buy a shovel. Just don’t be an idiot and lift wrong. Someone else also mentioned snowshoeing, that’s another favorite of mine and an excellent aerobic workout. Between shoveling and snowshoeing I can’t wait for the snow to fall. I’m in my best shape during the winter months. Please don’t think only young people can shovel, I’m nowhere near young.

  9. Suzanne says:

    Q3: Hiding money from a spouse is never a good idea–as in most cases it always comes out in the wash. I would recommend honesty with your spouse as your intentions to save are good and the money is already coming out before your family misses it. Hopefully they will understand your good intentions and appreciate your attempt to help your family save.
    Best of Luck,
    Suzanne

  10. PF says:

    We went in on a snow blower with two of our neighbors. So far, the arrangement has been awesome. We have a 500 ft driveway and get big snow (3-4 feet) a few times a year, so shoveling isn’t really an option at those times. Perhaps sharing one would be an option for this person and a way to get to know the new neighbors.

  11. Michelle says:

    I have to imagine the writer of Q7 was looking for some more practical solutions for her friend than “chin up and become a public symbol of a broken system.”

  12. Jessica says:

    We also live in the snowy Midwest and ended up getting a snow thrower/blower because my husband and I needed the time savings it provides during the work week. My husband has a long commute and I have a job with an inflexible start time, so we were getting up extra early to shovel for an hour. We’d then go to work tired and cranky, because inevitably the plow would come by and plow snow into the end of the driveway. So we caved and bought a snow thrower, and it’s been very helpful. (We still shovel on light snow fall days.) That’s how it worked for us!

  13. Raghu Bilhana says:

    Here is my suggestion to Q5.

    There is nothing like a too much contribution to retirment accounts. The more you contribute the better, no matter what age grop you are. You will be always better off contributing the maximum to your retirement accounts.

    The time before marriage is the most important period where you can be saving towards your retirement. So make the most out of this period, and contribute max towards your Roth and 401k’s for the next few years.

    But a house can wait, but again it depends on what you value more, if you value the ownership of the house greater, then by all means go for it, but you will never be sorry for maxing out your retirement contributions year after year.

  14. Amanda B. says:

    I am not a huge fan of absolutes. I don’t think hiding money from a spouse is ALWAYS a bad thing. For example, my hubby and I do your, mine and ours accounts. I manage the mine and ours. As long as our bills get paid and I don’t ask him for money out of the his account, he doesn’t care if there is extra money or where it goes. Now, if I were to mention to him that we had 5k in our e-fund, he would find a way to spend it. So I don’t tell him and he doesn’t ask. I know it is not hiding it from him in the purest sense, more like collaborative obfuscation.

    Second, I am one of those who doesn’t think kids are entitled to have all (or even most) of their college paid for by their parents. However, in my opinion, getting scholarships IS paying for your own school. Getting a job trades money for your skills, getting scholarships does the same thing. Furthermore, I don’t think my problem is kids getting their school paid for, it is the assumption that it is a given. The entitlement bothers me. It seems like “we” have created these strange creatures between the ages of 15 and 25 that want all the benefits of adulthood and none of the responsibility. They want to go to school for free, but think they should get “B”s just for showing up. They want to brag about the high paying job they got, but they ask their mom to go on the interview with them. They want all their “constitutionally protected rights” to act like complete jerks (swear at teachers, skip school, wear offensive or inappropriate clothing, etc.) but they don’t vote, pay taxes or earn any money of their own.

    I am also, personally, bothered by the concept that college prepares you for life better than actually living it. But that is just me.

  15. Margaret says:

    Sunny — tough situation. In my opinion, living with a mother in law who stresses you out that badly is just as likely to lead to divorce as setting the boundaries now and NOT having her live with you. I don’t know how, but definitely try to set some boundaries. If you husband goes to visit her, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO. If she is hurtful or cruel, either learn to ignore her or shut her down in a polite but firm way (easier said than done, I know). If she doesn’t help with your child, well, just don’t count on her.

    Good luck.

  16. valleycat1 says:

    Q7/Vicki – You can help your friend by researching agencies & organizations in your local area who provide assistance to low income people. Some have more complicated application procedures or specific qualifications, so get an early start lining up assistance if they allow it. Low-income housing often has waiting lists, so she could be checking on that now as well.

    Has she had discussions with the financial officer at the hospital/doctor about getting some of those medical bills forgiven, to at least take some of the stress of the situation off her back? You need to go higher up than the billing office.

    Be sure she’s applied for disability income (if she’s now on permanent disability) and/or welfare.

    Most of all, assure her that this situation is not her fault. She is lucky to have a good friend like you to stand beside her.

    Short-term boosts would be small favors or treats that won’t make her feel obligated or a charity case. A few started ideas: a night at your house watching DVDs; inviting her to dinner at your house (one of your regular meals); getting a group of friends lined up to help with the move; a note or card showing your support & how much her friendship means to you.

  17. Johanna says:

    Q7: Vicki, you could show your friend the section on bankruptcy in “All Your Worth.” It has some information that she may find helpful, and (in my opinion) it’s presented very compassionately. Some of the main points, in a nutshell:

    The large majority of people who try to go through chapter 13 bankruptcy end up converting to chapter 7. The fact that she’ll have to do so too does not mean she’s a failure – it just means that chapter 13 is not especially helpful for most people.

    If she does end up converting to chapter 7, that may be only the beginning of her troubles, not the end. Since you can only declare chapter 7 bankruptcy once every seven years, it is especially important that she not find herself back in a financial hole immediately afterwards. You can help her with that.

    Best of luck to both of you. You sound like a great friend.

  18. Johanna says:

    @Amanda B.: As the late Senator Moynihan supposedly said, you’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.

    Neither a job not a scholarship is “trading money for your skills.” At a job, you get money in exchange for your labor – doing or making something that’s of immediate value to someone. With a scholarship, you (generally) get money in exchange for demonstrating promise that someday you’ll do something of value, as evaluated by someone, sometimes accurately, sometimes arbitrarily.

    My fellow scholarship recipients in college used to joke that interviewing for the scholarship paid an hourly wage of more than a hundred thousand dollars ($20K/year for four years, for a 45-minute interview). I call it a “joke” because I’m pretty confident that during my interview, I didn’t actually create anything worth $80K.

    That’s not to say that I didn’t earn my scholarship or didn’t deserve it. I just don’t consider what I did to be even remotely the same thing as paying for college $10 at a time by waiting tables or taking out loans or what have you.

  19. Michele says:

    We bought an electric snow thrower on sale at the end of the season when we first moved to an area that gets a lot of snow…best investment we ever made!All our neighbors are renters or snowbirds so there wasn’t anyone willing to chip-in on a snow thrower, so we just bought it ourselves.
    To the person who said just get out and shovel- even when pregnant- that might work for you and Trent who has an at-home job, but many people wake up to snow and still have to get ready and get to work on time!
    My husband has a bad back, and I simply don’t have time to spend even an hour in the morning before I have to get ready for work shoveling snow to get out of the driveway! The city plows our street because it’s on a bus route, but all the snow ends up pushed in our driveway. We also have a an ordinance in our area that all sidewalks must be cleared of snow by 8AM. The county will bill you for a snow removal service if you don’t do it consistently.
    The electric model is nice and quiet and we bought an outdoor electric cord that is 150 feet long, so it works very well for us. 15 minutes and the driveway and sidewalks are cleared! We also have an electric Neutron lawn mower :)

  20. kristine says:

    Johanna,

    I got my BFA on a full scholarship.
    My MA was paid for by my employer
    My MSED was virtually free as hubby is a university professor.
    I worked my rear end off, 4.0 the whole way, the second degree as a single mom with 2 small kids and full time job, starting out with not a dime to my name. I took nothing for granted.

    Your inference is a conclusion I did not draw on the reverse end.
    I am stating a positive of paying for it your self. I am not saying that all students who are there on someone else’s dime take it for granted, or do not work hard. But it has been my experience, as a student, and as the wife of a professor who shares his day with me, that hard-won gains are often held as more precious.

    Time after time he gets calls from parents who pay the bill and want to know how junior is doing, and he is legally not allowed to tell them the student’s grades, or that their child shows up hung over and sleeps or texts through class all the time, and their money is being flushed down the toilet. (FERPA) It is extremely common. The poor attitude students appear to be a small subset of the mom-and-dad paid group, but by no means the entire group. That said, my husband has never, not once, in all his years of teaching, encountered this kind of classroom behavior with a student who paid his/her own way- be via a job, or scholarship. Scholarship kids tend to work very hard- which is how the got scholarships in the first place.

    I was stating in the affirmative that the I-paid-for-it-myself-via-long-hours-at-a-job-or-schoolwork group seem to be lacking the goof-off subset, and it reflects positively on that group. And that there is no parental disgrace in a child having to pay their own way.

    The problem I had with the question was the implication that the parents had somehow failed by not being able to pay for their child’s college. They may be irresponsible, but there are plenty of responsible parents who also are not able to pay for their child’s college-myself among them. I have made no secret of this with my kids, and both strive for scholarships.

    The questioner implies that had the parents been responsible, they would be footing at least part of the bill. If the question was just about how grandma can best help save for their education, then why even bring the parents’ character into play, unless in judgment?

  21. jim says:

    Leah #6: “I felt like those who attended purely on loans (even loans they took out themselves) weren’t as serious”

    It really bothers me when people assume that you won’t take classes seriously if you pay for school with loans. Don’t judge others because they’ve made a different decision.

  22. Jeanette says:

    To #16 valleycat1

    Thanks, you provided the kind of information that should have been included in this article.

    Often the best way we help someone “get back on their feet” (which is really what people want; most people are mortified to take financial aid, no matter who gives it), is to help them find resources to deal with their immediate financial problems. (There should be some way that this woman’s medical debts could have been reduced or eliminated given her situation.)

    Then, there is the issue of help for longer-term issues (how she can become more employable given her situation; help with networking, etc.) around employment.

    Again, most people want to be independent, able to work and pay for their own bills and healthcare.

    It’s a blessing that this woman has such a friend as the one who wrote in. Many people find out, in tough times, that they really don’t have many “friends” after all.

    The irony of friendship is that while you share both good and bad times, it’s how you get thru the tough stuff that really bonds people and cements relationships. Anyone can be a “friend” when it’s a sunny day.

    RE: college slackers. I hear and understand the various opinions expressed. To me, it’s not about the funding, it’s about the motivation.

    From my experience, having worked two part-time jobs, one job for a grant and having two scholarships to get thru college, you can be sure I did the best I could (top 20 in my class!).

    But I would have gotten more out of it and enjoyed it more if I did not have to work so hard. I think kids today need a combo of them working during the year, the summer to save, plus loan, plus scholarship, plus some (emphasis on some) aid from parents, IF and only IF, it does not put the parents in jeopardy.

    I grew up with some very wealthy kids. Only one had his education financed by his parents. The rest worked hard and/or got scholarships of some kind. ALL of them did well and worked hard to maintain high grades.

    A lot of people who go to college really don’t want to be there, but go because they know they have to in order to even interview for low-paying jobs. People seem to forget that. Many people would be better off either not going or going to a school for specialized training. Or maybe waiting till they realize how important it is and genuinely have a desire to learn.

    If you don’t want to be there, if you don’t really care about learning (you are just there to get a degree), you’re not gonna work hard no matter how your education is paid for.

    The only good thing about today’s often too rigorous entrance process is that it does weed out some kids. (ALthough given how many parents actually do the work for kids…that’s not keeping out the very ones who should stay away!)

  23. AK says:

    @Johanna @Leah – I completely agree. I went to a private university completely on academic scholarships, and my parents paid the extra $1 or 2K every year. I had to work my butt off to keep my grades up to keep my academic scholarships. I worked part-time for spending money. I graduated w/ a 3.8 GPA in 3 years w/ a double B.A. Believe me, I cared about my education even though I didn’t pay for it.
    I do see the other side of the argument, though, now that I’m a college prof. SOME students, not all, who do not pay for college themselves (or who aren’t paying on their loans yet) don’t take their education seriously. That doesn’t necessarily mean that these students would be serious if they were paying for it themselves.

  24. Tracy says:

    As long as scholarships and federal loan amounts are based, at least in part, on parental income, there’s going to be the implication that parents are responsible for their child’s college education.

  25. Johanna says:

    @kristine: “I was stating in the affirmative that the I-paid-for-it-myself-via-long-hours-at-a-job-or-schoolwork group seem to be lacking the goof-off subset”

    Isn’t it obvious, though, that that would be the case? If the only way you can go to college is by working long hours at a part-time job, then unless you really, really, really want to be there, you’re just not going to go to college. The “I paid for it myself” crowd only seems to be lacking the goof-off subset, not because they don’t exist, but because your husband doesn’t see them.

    I don’t see how forcing an unmotivated kid to pay her own way is going to make her any more motivated, just like I don’t see how paying for a motivated student’s education is going to make her any less motivated.

    And as I said before, even with the grandmother’s contribution, it’s likely that the 16-year-old in question is still going to have to work some long hours, because there’s no way that the grandmother is going to be able to save up for the entire cost of a four-year degree in two years.

    And as Tracy rightly points out, there is a big difference between parents who really can’t afford to contribute toward their children’s college expenses and parents who can afford it but choose not to. When there’s genuine financial need, you can cover at least some of the cost with need-based financial aid, whereas the children of well-off parents who selfishly choose not to contribute are just out of luck.

  26. JOA says:

    Q9- For Sunny, the unfortunate reality is that it may come down to her husband having to choose between having his mother live in their house or winding up in divorce court. I can tell you from personal experience that sometimes this ultimatum is the only thing that can keep you from losing your sanity. If her MIL is that much of a problem for her, and her husband refuses to recognize it, that’s a different situation entirely. Sunny shouldn’t have to live in an environment that she can’t control (nor should her children) to make someone else happy. It’s her house, too.

  27. Amanda B. says:

    As long as scholarships and federal loan amounts are based, at least in part, on parental income, there’s going to be the implication that parents are responsible for their child’s college education.

    “…whereas the children of well-off parents who selfishly choose not to contribute are just out of luck.”
    Why are those parents selfish? What did the kids do to earn free school? What if instead of sending their kids to college for free, even though they could apply for federal grants and earn scholarships themselves, those “selfish” parents are buying solar oven for families in Africa? Or, God forbid, those disgusting parents think that at 18 you are a legal adult and you should figure out some things for yourself. Or perhaps there is some tiny subset of children graduating HS who have no idea what they want to do and would just be wasting money hoping from major to major until they pick something they can stand, only to graduate and realize that the real world is different than a career fair and their chosen profession is an awful fit. In fact, I don’t think I know anyone who is actually doing the job they thought they would be doing when they were 18. So to criticize a parent for not being willing to drop tens of thousands of dollars on the whims of a young adult is absurd. That’s bad investing and I bet these well of parents didn’t get to well off throwing their money after something as fleeting as the fancy of a teenager.

  28. jim says:

    Johanna,

    Good point. Unmotivated kids won’t put in the effort to pay their own way. So only motivated kids are paying their own way. Its not that paying your own way motivates you, it just keeps unmotivated kids from going at all. The group self selects with for motivated people.

    It seems obvious. I don’t know why that didn’t occur to me before… Live an learn.

  29. Mary says:

    Q10 – I live in Wisconsin and though I’m not fond of the idea of getting exercise either, I have a dog. I make him and my health a priority by making sure he gets walks in every day. I know it will be awfully cold, but that’s what layers are for I suppose. Longjohns, extra layers, gloves, hat, scarf, boots – that’s all ya need really. Granted I’m sure there will be days of -30 windchills – THEN I won’t go outside!

  30. jim says:

    Amanda,

    “What if instead of sending their kids to college for free, even though they could apply for federal grants and earn scholarships themselves,”

    Kids of well off parents will not get any federal grants. Federal grants are for kids who have financial needs.

  31. Johanna says:

    @Amanda B.: By your logic, nobody should ever go to college. If throwing money after the fleeting fancy of a teenager is a waste of money for the parents, then it’s a waste of money for the student herself, or for the scholarship-granting organization, or for the federal or state government, or for whoever else is paying for it.

    So hey, let’s shut down all the universities, and then we can all go out and pick green beans all day. No more wasting money on those silly teenagers and their frivolous educations. That’ll build us the foundation of a great nation for sure.

  32. Gretchen says:

    People die when they shovel snow, you know.

    I am pro exercise video all year round.

  33. valleycat1 says:

    Q7 – one more thought – you might check to see whether the moratorium on foreclosures will buy your friend some time to stay in her house. I don’t know enough about the moratorium to know if it applies to all, or just to some. She doesn’t have to actually leave the house until the bank or sheriff or whoever gives her a deadline in the notice to vacate.

  34. Johanna says:

    @Amanda B. again: “Why are those parents selfish? What did the kids do to earn free school?”

    First of all, who said anything about free school?I was talking about parents contributing to their children’s education, not (necessarily) paying the entire cost.

    Second, parents who shortchange their kids’ college funds and spend the money on themselves are selfish because that’s what “selfish” means. Parents who shortchange their kids’ college funds and spend the money on solar ovens in Africa may or may not be selfish – you show me an example of such a family, and I’ll decide whether they’re selfish.

    Third, nice contradiction later in your comment. In one sentence, you refer to an 18-year-old as an adult who should be expected to be completely self-supporting, and in the very next sentence that same 18-year-old is a child who can’t possibly have any idea what she wants to do with her life.

  35. Amanda says:

    Q10: About winter exercise–I live in the Midwest as well (N. Ohio). I happen to be near a university rec center that allows you to buy a semester pass valid from right around Christmas to early May. It’s much cheaper than an annual pass, and it lets me get my winter workouts in no matter the weather (I’m a runner).

  36. SwingCheese says:

    Johanna: I didn’t receive any of my scholarships (and I had several) based on something I might do in the future, I received all of them based on past performance (in high school and after my first year of college). They were purely academic in nature.

    And Amanda B.: Jim is correct. If the child is still considered a dependent (as all 18 year olds are, unless they’re married, supporting a dependent themselves, or in the military), then the school looks at the parents’ income to determine the financial aid eligibility. I worked in the Financial Aid office of my college for four years and I saw children whose parents refused to pay anything at all for tuition, but who made enough money that the students didn’t qualify for anything. In one particularly sad case, the student’s father would pay for college in one location, but not another, and his income was so large that this student didn’t qualify for anything.

    And Gretchen: People die not shoveling snow, too :)

  37. Lindsey says:

    Q8: Being married does help credit scores. When my husband and I graduated from college, I had a score of 780 and he had no score, good or bad. When we bought our house last summer, I opened a Discover card & had him as an authorized user. In one year his score went from non-existent to 705 with only the credit card, as we have a private mortgage that is not reported. Granted, you have to have her name on the accounts for it to be recorded as her score, but thats as easy as authorizing her on your accounts & vice versa. Check the fine print, but not all cards need to be carried in your wallets. We have a card that is in the safe purely because we don’t want to close the 5k of credit it could provide us if things get bad & we would need more money. This is the reason my credit was so high out of college – my parents authorized me on a few cards back in 7th grade (11 years ago) for emergency purposes, but I was not allowed to carry them on a regular basis (basically just when I traveled without them, at least until I could drive & buy gas).

  38. liz says:

    Our local high school has a track in the field house. It gets a bit boring and noisy but except for meets anyone can use it anytime and its free.

  39. deRuiter says:

    #32 Gretchen, people die when they sleep, dance, eat, hike, read a book, window shop, have sex.
    William, Q1: A scary future: Yes, William, we ARE in for a period of rapid food inflation costs. The Russian wheat harvest was a disaster due to the drought (Russia is a grain exporting nation and the gvt has banned the export of wheat, so Russia’s former customers like India are now shopping other countries for wheat, raising the price). In America, the clowns who run Congress have just upped the amount of ethanol mandated in gas to 20% which puts a strain on our availability of corn for food (ethanol is a bad fuel for engines, it is dirty, and takes a gallon of fossil fuel to make a gallon of ethanol, this only benefits the corn growers, not the environment, and makes the price of corn ever higher.) There world population is greater than last year so more demand for food drives up prices. India and China are becoming more prosperous and their growing middles classes are demanding more meat to eat which puts stress on the grain supply, driving prices into an upward spiral. WalMart has just done a survey of the basic basket of groceries, purchased at WalMart, and it has gone up shockingly in just two months. Articles on the coming food cost inflation (have you shopped lately and looked at prices?) are NOT fear mongering, they are explaining WHY there is about to be rampant food cost inflation, and why it is already happening. As to your solution, first thing is start a garden. Here in the northeast, it’s an ideal time to turn over a bit of that expensive lawn (non productive) and prepare the area for a vegetable garden for the spring. Start cooking more from scratch, waste less food, compost kitchen waste over the winter, get some chickens to eat your food scraps, don’t eat out so much. Restaurants and stores have already seen the creeping increase of the price of raw ingredients, they have been holding the line so as not to scare away business during this bad economy. Food prices have reached the point where the stores and restaurants can no longer absorb the increases, so they are beginning to pass on the first food price increases. Food cost inflation is very real, it is coming, and it will be bad.
    Trent, “….boiled down to five word summaries” No Trent, they are 3,4,4,4,5,1,5,4,3,2 word summaries, so perhaps “five word or less” summaries might be a better choice. Accuracy is important, it makes for credibility.

  40. Amanda B. says:

    Finally, in comment #34 we get to the point. Johanna is the one who decides if we are selfish based on her own interpretation of the facts. Doesn’t it seem a bit odd, by the way, that you think you could find selfishness in a (granted, pretend) family that gives tens of thousands of dollars to charity?

    I digress, I don’t think we should shut down schools, I just don’t think your first ever adult decision should cost you $60k. A few weeks ago you had a fit about someone getting married young because half of marriages end in divorce. How many people “divorce” their first major? I know it is not the same, but the principle is. Choices you make when you are young and inexperienced don’t always stick.
    My point wasn’t a contradiction. At 18 they are an adult and they should make their own decisions and pay for them. I am not going to send my money for them to experiment with their possible futures. They should do the research, volunteer in their prospective field, do entry level work (oh my! They would even earn their own money!) in that field.
    Don’t get me wrong, if my son decides in HS he wants to be a doctor and then works hard, takes extra A&P classes, works at a hospital in his spare time, researches schools and presents me with a clear, well researched plan on what school he chooses and the path he wants to take (including contingencies for unforeseen circumstances and rational for his choices), then we will consider paying for his school. But if he says his junior of HS that he wants to go to FSU because “Florida girls are hot” and “major in business or something”, he is SOL. He can pay for that little social experiment himself. And if you think that is harsh, then I want to start borrowing money from you, because it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me to ask the hard questions and demand a good plan if I am going to shell out five to six figures.
    “Second, parents who shortchange their kids’ college funds and spend the money on themselves are selfish because that’s what “selfish” means.”
    It is selfish you spend your money that you earn on things you think are worth while? We can’t even retain the right to spend our money that we worked for as we see fit. I suppose the only acceptable answer is to send it to you, and you can decide how to unselfishly spend it.

    #36 – I think using the system to manipulate your children to bend to your whims is awful. I do think there is a bigger problem because we, as a society, can’t decide when our children are actually adults. I think it is a little broken that at 18 you can sign up to be on the front lines in Afghanistan to possible never see your family again, but you can’t get a credit card on your own. If we really thought kids were grown at 18, the money their parents had wouldn’t matter.

  41. Katie says:

    Amanda, some of us think it is worthwhile for our kids to have the chance to explore majors and subjects and to not have to have everything planned out to a tee at the age of 18. I’m not sure why my child’s intellectual exploration isn’t worth funding (if I’m able to).

  42. Katie says:

    Anyway, since your child will know your attitude, I imagine they will come to you with a plan that will meet your approval to get their college education funded (if they want to go to college). It would be stupid not to. Hopefully that plan will also be something that will make them happy and they won’t be like the pre-med and pre-law students I knew in college who knew neither field would ever make them happy but who were sticking with it so they wouldn’t disappoint their parents.

  43. Amanda B. says:

    Those kids you knew in school are why I feel the way I do. I don’t think college is the place to explore possible career fields. Just like an easy bake oven is no way to discover food. It is, in my opinion, better to experience what life will actually be like in the field my children are considering. Now don’t get me wrong; I think reading is a great way to explore new subjects. But for the love of Christmas and puppies, get a library card. I don’t think most colleges prepare you a job in your field of study. The fact that you can get a mechanical engineering degree without ever turning a wrench (or valve) is bothersome. Once can graduate with a masters in early childhood education without ever having to change a diaper or get gum out of someone’s hair. I just don’t think it makes sense to commit 4 years and tons of money to something you have never seen in real life. Every day (figuratively) marine biology degrees are flushed down the toilet because someone didn’t realize they get seasick. Teachers go to work miserable because no one told them that the kids would be out of control and the parents think it’s not their job to parent between 7:30 and 3:00. Lawyers aren’t like “the Practice”, doctors aren’t like “House” and no one is hiring music and art majors no matter how much you love to sing and paint. Be these kids don’t realize that. So they go into collage, waste a year getting drunk and meeting new people they will forget in a year. Then they pick something they like in theory, learn one textbook worth of some professor’s opinion and graduate. Unfortunately, they hate their job. They hate the whole field they went into, now they are going back to school, armed with actual life experience, to try to get a degree in something they’ll actually like and be good out, Too bad the are now the oldest one in their class, one of only three who give a crap and drowning in debt from there first art history degree. Go out, get a job, maybe live in another country, get some experience and perspective and then talk to me about what you want to do and I’ll consider funding it.

  44. Katie says:

    I don’t think knowledge and education are wasted just because you’re not directly applying them. Do I “use” my anthropology degree? Not really. But it informs my thinking and actions in much more subtle ways; I don’t have to actually be working as an “anthropologist” for it to have been useful.

    College isn’t the only way to develop intellectually. But there is a huge difference between interacting with other people who can challenge your intellectual preconceptions and just reading a book on something.

    Anyway, your advice seems contradictory. If the problem is people are getting pigeonholed into jobs they don’t like, the answer is to major in less specific things, not more. You’re not going to be pigeonholed with a liberal arts degree. If the problem is “they are now the oldest one in their class” when they go back to school, that’s not going to be solved by going out and getting a job before college.

  45. Katie says:

    Oh, and to add to the contradictoriness, since what we’re talking about is whether parents should fund their kids education if they’re able, why are we raising the spceter of someone who’s “drowning in debt from there first art history degree”? The whole point is, if the parents funded that art history degree, they wouldn’t be.

  46. Amanda B. says:

    Yeah, I got a little rant-y on that last one, so I wasn’t clear. The drowning in debt wasn’t meant to imply that someone else’s money should have been wasted on the first degree. I agree that a college degree has some benefit. In some cases it can teach you how to learn and it give you a check in the box that you can complete something. It seems to me, though, that spending $2000 per class to have someone to talk to about a book your reading (which is essentially what MOST classes are) is a bit steep. And that is assuming that you are even really allowed to talk in your class, many first year classes at big schools have so many students it would take the whole semester for everyone to introduce themselves.
    I guess the crux of the issue (for me) is that I don’t think college right out of high school is always, or even normally, the best idea; and I don’t want to be deemed a selfish parent for not being willing to fund something I think is a bad idea.

  47. Johanna says:

    @Amanda B.: I agree with you that college is not the right path for everyone, and parents who treat it as the only acceptable path may be doing their children a disservice. But for those children for whom it *is* the right path, you still have to decide whether you’re going to contribute to the cost or not.

    It may not be clear whether a given child is “college material” until the child is well into his or her teens. If you wait until then to start putting together a college fund, it may be too late to save up enough money to contribute what the financial aid office expects you to contribute.

    You may be right that in some cases (by no means all), you can learn just as much by reading books at the library as you can by taking a college course. But most employers and postsecondary degree programs are not going to take “I didn’t go to college, but I read all the textbooks” as seriously as “Here is my degree from the University of XYZ.” Maybe some do, and maybe in the ideal world they all would, but that’s not the world we live in.

  48. SwingCheese says:

    Amanda B. – I agree, that it is sad for a parent to manipulate their child in that way. That having been said…

    I can’t speak for other professions, but in regards to teachers getting into the field without realizing the reality of their situation, I can speak to that. Where I went to school, in order to apply to the college of education, you had to show evidence of at least 20 hours of classroom work/observation. Once you were admitted, at least in my concentration (foreign language), you spent two semesters in the classroom as “practicum” experience (30 hours per semester, outside the college classroom, for a total of 60 hours). You were also required to reflect on the practicum to determine if you wanted to teach. Then, you spent an entire semester student teaching. The program was very heavy on real world experience, in order to ensure that the student was truly set on becoming a teacher.

    FWIW, I think that most teachers who leave the profession do not leave because of the students. Administrators who are bullies, and/or who are long on theory but short on practical experience can go a long way towards influencing a teacher to leave. Also, it is very disheartening to compare one’s salary (with a graduate degree) to the salaries of the people with equivalent degrees. Teachers burn out for all kinds of reasons, but for all the teachers I’ve talked to, it wasn’t because of the day-to-day classroom activity. Most teachers felt very well prepared for that.

  49. Kevin says:

    @Amanda B.:

    I seem to recall you and I butted heads in the comments on some other recent blog post, but I don’t remember the topic.

    In this case, I just wanted to add that you’re making perfect sense, and I agree with you 100%. If more high school guidance counselors had your common sense (and willingness to say it), it would spare an awful lot of students and parents tens of thousands of dollars and several years in wasted time and money.

  50. Katie says:

    I think part of my issue with the college-is-only-for-very-specific-people stance is that for right or wrong, a college degree has become a prerequisite for a huge number of jobs that might have nothing to do with the specific degree per se. I mean, I think I agree completely that as a society we should try and structure things so that people without degrees aren’t shut out of jobs. But as individuals, I also think we should probably recognize the extent to which we’re limiting our kids options if we don’t help them get degrees, even if the degree is in a “useless” field or they’re not 100% ready to take full advantage of it.

    Which is still not to say college is for everyone; tons of people will do just fine without it and lots of people are better off taking time to do something else after high school and then coming back to it. Just that statistically speaking, the art history major who never looks at another painting in her life will still make more money than the kid who doesn’t go because she’s not sure what to major in and, while she likes art history, she doesn’t want to be an art historian and an art history degree won’t be “useful.” The fact is, that degree will open doors even if it’s not directly relevant and even if the kid in question didn’t pay full attention and spent a lot of time drinking instead.

  51. Trent: Your answer to the first question sounds more like someone who has his head in the sand and ignores the reality around him. “Oh, I’m not worried…someone else will fix it.” Look around! We are facing some very serious environmental problems, within our lifetime!

    Instead of spending all your time reading about money you might pick up a book about the environment, peak oil, biodiversity, environmental degradation, ect. Don’t just ignore the world around you and expect that someone else will have a good idea that will save humanity. My predictions, if we don’t change our lifestyles drastically (Americans), we’re in for some tough times ahead…very tough times.

  52. Karen says:

    Q#10 – walk indoors – I found on the internet a walk inside program – you basically walk in place then side step then walk then front kicks then walk then march. It is easy to do. I usually catch up on my tv watching while doing it. And I work up a sweat. I live in Texas so it is the heat and humidity that gets to me.

  53. Wes says:

    I think Steven (#51) makes a good point about reading up on a variety of subjects and issues that the world faces. However, I don’t think Trent needs to defend his answer to Q1. Trent makes a good point that there are bajillions of people to come up with great ideas to address these problems. And environmental sustainability isn’t the only problem we face, either. There’s poverty, globalization, sex trade, economic recessions, genocide, climate change, illiteracy, etc. If Trent (or anyone) were to read books and formulate detailed analyses for all of these subjects, he wouldn’t have the time to remain an expert on any one particular subject (here, personal finance).

    Sure, it’s good to have an opinion about certain issues. But deferring solutions for some of them to others does not mean you have your “head in the sand.”

  54. Sharon says:

    #48 SwingCheese
    I totally agree with you. The problems I had with teaching had nothing to do with kids from the poorest, gang-ridden town in the state but with the administration and teachers who flet both trapped and arrogant because of the tenure system.

  55. Wes: I don’t disagree with your statement at all but at the same time his answer is basically, “Eh, my life’s okay…and if there ARE problems? Well, someone else will take care of ‘em.” I’m not saying a person needs to become an expert but to have a basic understanding of the issues.

  56. Wes says:

    I can certainly see how Trent’s response may seem dismissive, but I also think he makes a good point about the value (or lack thereof) of placing faith in forecasting future circumstances on a macro-level. I think his response was based on the murkiness of predictions rather than a “not my problem” mentality.

    That said, a good argument can be made for preparing for the worst. Anyone interested in reading a great perspective on the topic should check out “The Black Swan” by Taleb. (I think Trent may have mentioned it before. Not sure though.)

  57. SLCCOM says:

    Not everyone can do any exercise in the cold. Many people with asthma and other diseases that affect their lungs are unable to tolerate the cold air.

    And yes, snow shoveling is indeed lethal far more often than sex, hiking, etc. Try googling “snow shovel death” and you’d be surprised. Also, many people with heart disease have no idea that they have a problem, right up until they drop dead.

  58. Systemizer says:

    I thought The Black Swan was debunked by Douglas W. Hubbard in “The Failure of Risk Management: Why It’s Broken and How to Fix It.”

  59. Wes says:

    I just read some of the relevent pages from Hubbard, and it seems that it might be more proper to say that “The Black Swan” is criticized rather than “Debunked.” I’m sure both books are worth a read.

  60. Systemizer says:

    They didn’t call it “A Critique of Risk Management.”

  61. Wes says:

    They can call it whatever they want, it doesn’t mean they debunked anything.

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