Updated on 06.02.08

Reader Mailbag #13

Trent Hamm

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

As usual, we’ll start things off with a few links to older articles that directly answer questions I’ve heard recently.
Money merge accounts: my thoughts (this post has an astounding 1,267 comments)
How to find a decent credit card
A buyer’s guide to personal finance books (this is a bit older and I will be updating it in the future)

And now for some great reader questions!

Is ID theft insurance worth the money it costs to participate in it? I signed up for the program that Dave Ramsey recommends (Zander Insurance) about 2 years ago. It costs $6.95 a month. I really want to know if this expense is really worth it or not, the hype sounds good, but not sure if in reality it is. Any thoughts?
– Josh

Insurance is protection against a perceived threat. The questions that need to be asked here are really questions you need to ask yourself. Identity theft has a small likelihood, but when it does occur, it can be a significant headache to deal with. Is that $6.95 a month buying you peace of mind against that potential identity theft situation? Or do you feel that the likelihood is small enough and the ramifications for identity theft are small enough that the $6.95 is largely a waste?

This is really a personal judgment call. For me, it’s not worth it – I just carefully monitor my credit report at annualcreditreport.com and through a free service associated with my mortgage. If anything unusual were to pop up, I’d track it down and nip it in the bud. I’m also fairly careful with key pieces of identity information – I keep very few credit cards, shred personal information before throwing it away, and so on. There’s a lot more low hanging fruit out there than me, so I don’t judge identity theft insurance as being a significant need for me. You, however, may come to a different conclusion, and thus that $6.95 is a justifiable expense.

You must have heard in your history lessons about “Reasons for the decline of Roman empire” and so on. If you were to write a futuristic piece, say in a history book 1000 years from now, on “Reasons for the decline of the American civilization”, what would the top 5 reasons be?
– WhirlMind

Interesting question, but I think there’s really only two reasons.

Globalization Over the long haul, the standard of living all across the world will even out because of global trade. It’s just a matter of time before the standard of living in Calcutta equals the standard of living in New York City.

Energy over-reliance without energy independence The United States economy is tethered to a huge amount of energy use, but that energy use is largely tied to fossil fuels. Since those fossil fuels are basically nonrenewable, the grease in the economic engine of the United States will eventually run out without significant changes.

Every reason I can think of for the inevitable downfall of the United States comes back to those two reasons.

I have an odd question. My mom is an accountant and has always done my taxes. This year, unlike previous years, she sent me a copy of them afterwards. There’s a dividend amount that I’m paying $250+ of taxes on from a bank that I wasn’t aware I had an account with. When I asked my mom about it, she was very vague. When I was a teenager, I recall my parents saying that they had put money in my name because I was in a much lower tax bracket. The bank is one my parents use, so I think it’s that money. Is there a tactful way to ask my parents to take that money back? It’s technically in my name, but I have no idea what the account number is or how much money is in it (the documents get sent to my parents’ house 3000 miles away), and the money was never meant to be mine, so it’s a little irritating to pay taxes on it. On the other hand, should I bother? My mom did a lot for me growing up, and $250 isn’t that much money.
– !wanda

You need to have an open discussion with your parents about this, just so you know what’s on the table. It’s fine that you’re willing to keep paying that $250 tax bill if it’s an arrangement with your parents that you’re happy with, but to keep that arrangement shrouded in secrecy isn’t healthy for either one of you.

If you’re willing to continue to pay it, then lead with that. Tell your parents that you’re quite happy to continue the arrangement, but you just want to fully understand it so that you’re not liable for anything at any later point.

Any time there’s intentional clouding of the situation when one of the participants in a relationship wants openness, it’s bound to grow and fester into mistrust. Get everything on the table now – it’ll be better for all of you.

Golf is the my favorite and most hated sport at the same time. Is there anything else where you can practice hard, improve, and still be unhappy?
– Andy

Yes, and they’re among the best things you can do with your time, because not only are they firing your neurons, they’re teaching you patience as well.

I thoroughly enjoy card games (particularly trick-taking games) and board games, as they fall into this same group. You can continue to get better, but you’ll still often lose because of your inadequate skill. This drives you to constantly improve, and that drive teaches you patience and forces you to build skills of logical thought, reading of others, and patience, all of which pay dividends over the long run.

I am considering quitting my job. After working here for two+ years, I have become a stressed-out, zoned-out, and burned-out person. I honestly feel what I need right now is little to no responsibility. I have enogh money saved up to get through a few months without income. But I’m worried about the state of our economy – is our national financial problem going to make it harder for me to get another job down the road?
– Kristin

First of all, I’m an adamant believer that if you’re truly in despair over your job (and I think “stressed-out, zoned-out, and burned-out” qualifies), it’s time to move on. If I were you, I’d start the job hunt immediately, then quit when you have some opportunities ready to go. You can leave yourself a few weeks of “regeneration” time in the middle to recharge.

If you don’t have a new situation lined up … it would depend on your situation. If you have people relying on your income, like a spouse or children, it might not be a wise move without some careful consideration. But if it’s just you, you can always find some sort of work to pay the bills while looking for a better long-term solution.

if traffic [to The Simple Dollar] diminishes on weekends, I would assume that you choose topics that seem less popular to post on weekends. Is that the case? And how often have you been wrong (thinking that a post that would attract lots of comments only gets a few, and vice versa)?
– Lola

I don’t schedule articles on certain days because of quality. I basically schedule them in the order I write them, except that occasionally I’ll slip one ahead in the queue if I think it’s particularly good.

I’m also very bad at guessing which articles will be popular and which ones won’t be. Quite often, I’ll put a ton of work into an article and it’ll just get a few comments. On the other hand, sometimes readers will get deeply engaged by a minor detail in an article and stretch it out to hundreds of comments, which shocks me every time it happens. I think over time I’ve gravitated more in the direction of stuff that people consistently like, but I still try to experiment on a regular basis (like that Born to Buy series).

Given your financial concerns, why not use Linux?
– dj

I have an Ubuntu box (an older PC with a memory upgrade – all for free from a swap meet, actually!) under my desk right now, but there are many little things I don’t like about it: almost everything I use regularly has to be found and installed later, the solutions for common problems usually involve long searches through message boards for arcane solutions, and I’ve still not found a general text editor I really like (vim is the closest) for Linux.

In a nutshell, it’s very slick, but I simply don’t get as much done with it as I do with my Mac, so I rarely use Linux. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to a casual PC user – my mother would turn off her PC and never use it again if she had to deal with apt-get.

Can you recommend a favorite book on marriage or relationships (not necessarily one with a money focus)?
– Ama

The most useful book I’ve found is The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman. I read it in the first month or so of our marriage because I wanted to be sure that I was doing everything I could to be a good husband and support our marriage, and it provide me with a ton of insight and food for thought. Five years on, we have two kids and couldn’t be happier.

There are obviously specific situations that can’t be dealt with in a general book, but that book was very, very helpful for me when I was trying to really get a grip on successful married life.

Would you care to comment on the changes at eBay which have made it harder for sellers to find honest buyers? (question paraphrased)
– Ginger

Ginger wrote an extremely long question describing the ins and outs of selling on eBay today from the perspective of a person who sells a large volume of items. My opinion is that the changes do hurt those power sellers. Power sellers rely on the percentage of the auction that eBay takes, and even with a small change in that rate (on cheap auctions, eBay takes less; on expensive auctions, they take more than before), that can affect their bottom line. Also, the changes in feedback also make it somewhat more difficult to accumulate reputation and also clearly identify bad buyers.

For the person who just wants to list a few items and not worry about eBay again, I don’t think the changes make much of a difference at all. I occasionally sell on eBay and the changes make very little difference.

I’m sure commenters will have plenty to say on that take.

You often advise us to dream big. What is your big dream about?
– Night Ranger

My biggest dream (besides complete financial independence – I’ll write about that later today) is to publish a few novels and a short story collection. I love writing fiction, but so far I’ve not had much success at all with publication. I hope that in the future my recent success with getting nonfiction material published will help me get my toe in the door to get some fiction published.

What am I doing to get there? I try to write 1,000 words of fiction every day, but most days I don’t make that mark, as my nonfiction responsibilities eat up more time (The Simple Dollar, my book, and other projects). I can feel myself getting better with fiction, however, and I’m considering submitting some of my stories to a few competitions in the near future.

If I do see anything in print, I’ll let you all know about it!

Got any questions? Ask them in the comments and I’ll use them in future mailbags.

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  1. Matt N says:

    Trent, on the “decline of America” question in regards to your globalization answer, do you see this more as a result of falling quality of life in America or rising quality of life in the rest of the world?

  2. Mackenzie says:

    Another answer for !wanda:

    This arrangement sounds suspiciously like it could be tax fraud. It may not be, but it does have a certain odor about it. You might want to consult someone who knows about this sort of thing, like a tax attorney.

    There are consequences for your parents, as well. The money in that account might be subject to garnishment for any debt or judgment that you owe, as well.

    Even it’s nothing, it’s worth checking it out to protect yourself.

  3. Amanda B. says:

    I am pretty sure readership goes down on the weekends because people are busy/happy on the weekends and nut surfing the web to take their minds off work.

  4. Trent,
    I find your thoughts about global trade and the standard of living evening out over time.
    Do you ever see yourself moving to a location with a lower cost of living in order to reach financial independence faster? (ie: Costa Rica etc.)

  5. jm says:

    Is this post a dupe? I could have sworn you posted the story of the $250 before.

  6. jm says:

    Answering my own question: The question from Lola was definitely answered before in a previous mailbag, although you changed the wording slightly. I thought at least 2 others were before too (the burned out guy and the question from !wanda), but maybe its just deja vu. Am I going crazy?

  7. Dave says:

    Generally speaking, how old do you think is too old to rely on your parents for financial support? How do you plan on easing your children into the ‘real world’ as far as managing their finances go? Are you going to ‘force’ them to get a job (specifically when they’re in high school)?

  8. DBC says:

    Dear Wanda,
    Trent is right, there is no easy way to bring this up with your mom. You should definitely research the definition of financial abuse, though. While most of what is written on the subject is geared toward abuse of elders by their children or spousal financial abuse, you can easily diagnose your situation. If your parent is a financial professional it is more difficult to stand your ground, but they are also more clearly aware of what negative effects thier action have. Anytime someone uses your credit (or tax bracket) without your understanding and then is not forthcoming with it – it is abuse. The subject of parental financial abuse is under-discussed and more light needs to be shed on this growing problem.

  9. getagrip says:

    For the guy posting $250+ dollars in taxes on an account in his name, I don’t know his financial situation, but for most of us that isn’t chump change. Assuming a 28% tax bracket 250/0.28 = 893, then figure that’s the income on a savings account, being generous at 3%, 893/0.03 = 30K.

    My guess is that this is his parents way of giving him an inheritance or money for another major life event (wedding, house, etc.). They likely don’t want the money back and you’d need to be very careful how you approached this without insulting your parents. Essentially you may be opening up the “present” before your birthday. I would go along with Trent’s advice of offering to continue paying for it, but that you preferred that they take the money back since it’s theirs and they’re probably in a lower tax bracket than you are right now. Their reactions should determine your next steps.

    Another alternative, more subtle and not as up front, is that you could simply go to the bank when visiting your parents, state you forgot the account number or lost your last statement and that you wanted a print out of your balances and recent transactions on the account. After all, it is your account, they won’t deny you access. This way you would get the information on the account type, and see if there was ongoing activity. If you were to do this, I’d suggest doing it at a branch the parents were unlikely to have a lot of face time with the tellers. This way if you want to keep it to yourself, you can without worrying that some teller is going to tell your mother “oh, I saw ______ the other day and …”

    Personnally, I’d go with the discussion unless you really had reason to suspect there was something awkward going on.

  10. getagrip says:

    (Sigh), apoloagies to !wanda for saying “guy” and using “his”. Now I’m sure it’s Monday :-(

  11. Rick says:

    I don’t completely agree wiht the answer to the decline of the US. You say the standard of living will be the same in New York City and Calcutta. But even now, is the standard of living the same in NYC and Denver? In NYC and LA? How about even different people in NYC?

    There will always be rich people, and there will always be poor people. I strongly believe it is a fault to believe otherwise. Not everyone is created equal; not everyone is raised in the same circumstances; and not everyone will end up with the same amount of wealth or with the same standard of living.

    I do agree that the residents of Calcutta will become richer, at the expense of the middle class in the US. Even today I’m sure there are people in Calcutta that outlive most people in NYC. But the world’s standard of living will never become homogenized.

    As a side note, I would also add these two things to your list of reasons for the decline of America:

    – fiscal irresponsibility (both people and the government)
    – rejection of Christian and “moral” principles. God will only bless us for so long.

    Perhaps they are traceable back to your own list, but I believe these are distinct enough to merit their own points.

  12. DBC says:

    wanda and getagrip,

    It is possible that the money is there for an inheritance or otherwise there for wanda’s use (and i’m sure that’s what you rmom will tell you when you discuss it with her), but why wouldn”t she put the money in something that yields better than 3%? And what kind of inheritance has the heir footing the tax payments along the way? I’m no financial genius, but to paraphrase Ace Rothstein, your mom is either stealing or incompetent. Sorry to be so harsh, but you really need to protect yourself here.

  13. margo says:

    My now-husband and I read The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work last year before our wedding. It was excellent, and I selected it because it is based on actual research, not simply anecdotal evidence, like many other books in that genre. Its also common-sensical, and unlike advice-giving books, we found ourselves nodding along very frequently. I recommend it, also.

  14. Lauren says:

    I’d like to hear your thoughts on the Lost finale. I figured someone would have already asked about that, but I guess not. Reactions, predictions, etc?

  15. LeAnn says:

    I am contemplating going back to school to get a degree. I’m almost 30 and have two step kids and right now we couldn’t survive on just my husbands’ salary. I really would like to finish my degree but I am really worried about taking on a loan to cover it. Right now the only debt we have is rolled into our house. It sort of feels like I am just being selfish wanting to get a degree, I really don’t know that it would help our financial situation after I got out of school. My husband says to do what I feel is right, but I’m torn. I often wish I had finished college but I’m really worried about taking on more debt. Do you have any thoughts about taking on debt just so you can accomplish a goal?

  16. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    “Is this post a dupe? I could have sworn you posted the story of the $250 before.”

    Many of these questions come from the comments of previous mailbags – you probably read it there before.

  17. Breaunna says:

    Re: dreaming big & fiction writing jumpstart. Check out http://www.nanowrimo.org/. I completed it last November and still have ideas working from it.

  18. Joe says:

    “rejection of Christian and “moral” principles. God will only bless us for so long.”

    Rick, rejection of “Christian” principles will have NOTHING to with America’s demise (if it were to happen). In case you didn’t know this, America is NOT a Christian country – we are all free to follow whatever religion (or none if that’s what we choose) we choose and you suggestion that a lack of Christian principles is harming our country is highly offensive. If you are happy with your religion good for you but keep it to yourself – you are no one to talk about whether other people need to follow your religion and that not doing so could cause our country’s downfall.

  19. Mackenzie says:

    If the account !wanda mentions is in both her and her parents’ names, it is still likely to be a problem. Contrary to popular belief, this practice is not a good estate planning strategy. If that’s the case, then the conversation between !wanda and her parents could have the side benefit of leading to better estate planning tactics, perhaps some kind of trust.

  20. Lola says:

    Trent, thank you for answering my question. For the record, Jim, that question is not the same Trent had answered before. It was more of a follow-up question to his answer.
    Rick, I have to comment on your “God will only bless us for so long”. What kind of god do you believe in that would create people unequally and benefit one country over others? Why would Americans deserve to be blessed more than other nationalities? I’m from Brazil, and in my country we have a saying, “Deus é brasileiro”, (“God is Brazilian”), to explain why Brazil is so beautiful, has been benefited by natural resources, and has very few natural disasters (no earthquakes, tornados, volcanos etc – though all this is starting to change because of global warming). But you know what the difference is? We’re just kidding when we say it.

  21. Lola says:

    I personally think it’s a serious problem when the biggest empire in the world believes that God is on their side. If the separation between State and religion in the U.S. is not maintained, I think I have more to fear about the U.S. having the nuclear bomb (and having been the only one to use it so far) than I’d fear Iran.

  22. WhirlMind says:

    Many Thanks for the answer to my question on “Reasons for the decline…”.

    Energy dependence was expected but I never expected you would point to globalisation. Even in short phrases, I would indeed love to know the next three on your list, even if they are going to loop back to the two reasons you have given. Everyone loves a peep into The Simple Dollar Mind, you see.

    And hey, the answer also proves, you still look and pick up unanswered questions from mailbag archives. Thats heartening, I was beginning to think may be you would answer “current” questions and dump off older ones. Nice to know it’s not the case.

    Love the blog for most of the posts, though a few segments are not my cup of tea. Keep it up!

  23. Amanda B. says:

    I meat an Aussie who told me it was a good thing Americans love Aussie accents, because that is how everyone will talk in Heaven. I thought is was funny. I am pretty sure God is on everyone’s side and no one’s. I would like to think the Rick was not proselytizing, but simply noting that people seem to be letting go of their own moral standards and slipping into the abyss. Maybe if we would treat people as we would like to be treated (a concept found in every religion from Baptist to Wicca) we could stave off the destruction of both the country and the world. Just a thought…

  24. trev says:


    How do you read so many books? It sounds like your schedule is packed, and for you to not only read at least two or three books a week AND process the information so thoroughly, is almost beyond belief. Beyond the “How to Read a Book” post you did a few months back, do you speedread? If so, can you recommend a good speedreading course?


  25. equality says:

    Trent, I also recommend “Monday Marriages”. It is a mennonite book and can be found on their website or bookstore. A very sober look at marriage that is also reassuring.

  26. DBC says:


    what’s going to happen if you try to get some sort of financial aid for school or look for some sort of scholarship? the underwriters will see your 30000 asset and deny you aid. there’s a ton of danger in not having control of your own finances and this is just one example. in my case my parents put real estate in my name which denied me 1st time homebuyer status. remember, when an asset is in your name you need to have control over it. your mom knows you won’t just spend the money because you are a good person and she is taking advantage of your generosity

  27. Michael says:

    Intolerant Rick and his intolerant detractors are being illogical. First, everyone who believes God exists in any meaningful way must believe God had something to do with the rise and fall of every superpower. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be much of a God. Second, if God has something to do with every superpower, what do the Christians in America have to do with America’s getting a turn? Third, everyone believes the world would be better, and the country stronger, if everyone thought as they did. Joe thinks Rick is the problem, Rick thinks Joe’s the problem. The truth is that both of them are the problem, and I’m right.

    P.S. It’s no use claiming to value a diversity of beliefs — in that case you believe the world would be better if everyone valued a diversity of beliefs. And if you deny that, publicly come out for the Nation of Islam and the John Birch Society.

  28. Tony says:


    I was thinking about opening an account with Sharebuilder.com (ING) to get started in some simple investing. I already invest heavily in my TSP (401K) and Roth, and wanted to dump some extra cash into some stocks now that my vehicle is paid off. I plan on holding onto any stocks I buy long term. Any thoughts on Sharebuilder? Do you recommend any alternatives? Anybody else have any thoughts on Sharebuilder?

    Thanks in advance!


  29. Heather says:

    Misuse of debt should be on your list. The federal deficit and debt are not sustainable.

  30. Q says:

    @ Tony:

    I started Sharebuilder after reading an article about a year go on MSN (which I saved for that long until opening my Sharebuilder and still follow it).

    I don’t have a lot of excess cash, so I have been following the article to nearly a tee ($100/mo, diversified in EFTs).

    You can also dump a huge cash amount in on the 1st deposit, then divvy it up with an auto plan the next month – something I didn’t learn till later.

    Here is the link:

  31. Mike says:

    “rejection of Christian and “moral” principles. God will only bless us for so long.”

    In which case the good folks in Calcutta have no chance. So what are we worried about?

  32. Tony says:

    Thanks Q!


  33. Chris says:

    Trent, did your self-discipline (e.g. your schedule) come about after your financial meltdown, or have you always lived — at least partially — with that degree of self-discipline? Obviously you didn’t always financially, but I’m curious how much of your discipline was already in place and ready to be “deployed” for the purposes of financial et al. growth.

  34. Russ says:

    1988 found out I was HIV+. 20 years later, I’ve spent lots on things I wanted to do before I died. I’m 46 and still here with only about 150K in my 401K. I am healthy, and make 50K, but have AIDS now (CD4=175).

    Do I max out IRAs, and 401K, or don’t bother at all because I don’t think I’ll make it 20 years to retirement?

    Through work I have 400K in life insurance for viatical for the final year, and a LTDisability of $1200/month which I signed up for in 1987.

  35. Tom says:

    Hey Trent, I had a math-related question for you about how you figure your net worth and your debt changes. Do you figure those out starting with a the statements from the previous month, or did you pick an arbitrary starting point and are using those for your percent gains and loses?

  36. danielle says:


    I’ve had a sharebuilder account for almost 8 years now and absolutely 100% recommend it!

    Best for ppl who buy and hold. active traders should look elsewhere…. b/c selling fees are high.


  37. Lenore says:

    As usual online, some fundamentalist had to pipe up with illogical tripe about America declining from “rejection of Christian and “moral” principles” and how “God will only bless us for so long.” He also contradicted himself: “I do agree that the residents of Calcutta will become richer, at the expense of the middle class in the US.” Sorry to break it to you, Rick, but most of Calcutta is Hindu or Islamic, not Christian. If their standard of living improves, they’ll most likely credit Vishnu or any of a pantheon of gods (perhaps including Jehovah, Christ, the Holy Ghost, Mother Mary or some other “monotheistic” Judeo-Christian deity). Successful civilizations throughout history have had vastly different and often conflicting spiritual beliefs. To me the greatest strength of the United States is freedom, particularly from religious persecution. This attracts people of diverse backgrounds to strive for citizenship, and the country grows stronger from absorbing their knowledge.

  38. !wanda says:

    @Russ: Wow, congrats on living through those early years of HIV. I’m not sure that anyone on this blog can give you an easy answer. You need to first sit down with an honest doctor who understands your medical situation and get a good estimate of the range of how long you’re likely to live. My gut feeling would be to take the upper end of that range and add 5 years, just to be on the safe side, but that depends on how optimistic you are. Then, you need to figure out what the likely rates of return will be from investing in an IRA or 401K versus a non-retirement investment vehicle, factoring in the tax benefits and any company match, and then find out what the penalties are if you need to withdraw funds early. After that, you need to think about what you still want to do in your life, including what you’d like your last years to be like, and figure out how much that costs. After doing these three things, you’ll know about how much money and roughly when you’ll need it, and you’ll know about plans that might give you that money when you want it.

    Good luck. These are hard questions.

  39. Johanna says:

    Fundamentalist Christian tripe aside, it’s simply not true that when the standard of living in India increases, it’s at the expense of the US (or at the expense of anybody at all). That’s a myth. Read “The End of Poverty” by Jeffrey Sachs to see why.

    If American society does indeed decline, I think it will be due in large part to the arrogant attitude that so many of us have that we’re somehow *entitled* to a high standard of living, and that we don’t have to do much of anything at all to earn it.

  40. Sarah says:

    Why do the names on your blog roll always rotate? I usually start my daily blog reviews with your site and use your links to go to my other favorites. I get annoyed when sometimes they are there, and sometimes they are not.
    Thank you for your book reviews. I have picked up 3 of Pollan’s books because of you and enjoyed them all. Keep up the good work.

  41. John Singletary says:

    Re your reply on the “Decline of American Civilization” consider that the one reason for the decline and also for the decline of every other group on the planet is OVERPOPULATION. So long as the human race emulates all other animal species and refuses to limit its numbers, there is no hope for us.

  42. Urko says:

    A different topic: Ubuntu:

    I can’t believe you have (and pass on) such a bad description of Ubuntu (and Linux for that matter). Having to use apt-get in the command line is pretty much ancient history, and if you want to keep “your mom” happy and with a stable computer that actually works, it is definitely the way to go. Mac is a good option, don’t take me wrong, but the Linux/Ubuntu option is worth trying first, and in 99% of the cases, more than enough.

    I am puzzled by your comment that all the applications you need have to be “downloaded later”…
    In the latest Ubuntu (and the previous, what, 3, 4 versions?) you can very easily go to the menu option “Add/Remove…” and simply click on what you want. A few minutes of downloading, and it’s there, ready to be used. I haven’t had to “download later” in a very long time, I don’t see the problem you describe.

    Finally: comparing a new Mac to running Ubuntu on an old upgraded machine is hardly a fair comparison, but to each his own. I would say you don’t really have the subconscious openness to give Ubuntu a fair chance, but that’s just the impression you give (to me).

    I still really like your blog, though! :)

  43. !wanda says:

    @Urko: Our lab Linux machines don’t crash that often, but when they do, boy do they take a long time to fix themselves and reboot. When they fail, they also have a tendency to do so catastrophically by losing data. (One time a crash managed to delete the journal!) To fix things, you need knowledge of the command line and how the filesystem works. I’ve used my friend’s Linux laptop too, and I also get the sense that when everything is going well, it’s good, but when something fails, it’s hard for someone without Linux-specific knowledge to fix it. My Windows machines, on the other hand, crash much more frequently, but it’s easy to get them back up, and a simple, quick reboot usually fixes everything.

  44. Sharon says:

    And how, pray tell, is “global warming” causing earthquakes and volcanos? Maybe tornados, but the global temperature has not risen in the past decade.

  45. Holly says:

    I was in a similar situation a few years ago. My parents had set up a family trust in my name which allowed them to reduce their tax bill. Apparently it was all legal, but it allowed them to put a certain amount in this account each year (I think it was about 20K), not pay taxes on it, and then move it straight out of this account and be invested.
    I was never told about this until one year my father demanded that I turn over all my receipts to him so that he could have his accountant do my taxes. A month or two later I found my account had several thousands dollars of unexplained money. My father demanded I transfer it to him and refused to answer any questions. I never received financial support from my parents and applied for youth allowance but was rejected because of this money.
    It took a couple of years before I argued my way into getting my father to dissolve the trust.
    Later I found they had done this to my sister also. This had causes a few problems for her: she had to pay the medicare levy because her trust + her income put her over the threshold, and she had to beging paying back her university fees because she was over the threshold.

    I have no problem with parents trying to maximise their income, but my sister and I had several years of tax returns where we had no idea this was going on and so we didn’t declare this income. I am waiting anxiously for seven years to pass so that I don’t have to worry about being audited.

    I suggest you find out what’s going on, and keep asking questions until you get to the bottom of it. Good luck!

  46. Michelle says:

    Christian and moral principles are not synonymous, you do not need to follow chirstianity to be making morally correct choices.

  47. Jeremy W. says:

    Trent, quick question about Roth IRAs.

    I have a Roth with Scottrade, and am debating between scottrade and vanguard for the wife. I would want to buy mostly vanguard index funds with either, but if it was with Scottrade, I would probably start out with similar funds with a lower minimum.

    From what I understand with scottrade it costs $17 everytime i buy/sell/add to a vanguard fund, so if i added money quarterly that would be $68 in fees a year. If I have the Roth with Vanguard, from what i understand, it costs $10 a year per fund plus another $10 a year if you have less than $5K in the fund.

    Do those numbers seem right? Am I missing something? From this it seems that I should go with vanguard unless there’s something i’m leaving out. thanks for the advice.

  48. Urko says:

    Which version of Linux are you running? I run Ubuntu on 5 different machines. 3 laptops and 2 desktops. And yes, they sometimes crash, but very rarely, and usually a reboot just fixes everything.
    The biggest “problem” with Linux is the huge amount of choice. Among them, the filesystem. I use ext3 everywhere, and so far, even with crashes, no data loss.

    I always get a bit tired about the complaint that you need Linux knowledge to fix things. Well, of course! The same way you need Windows knowledge to fix things in a Windows machine. I have been a full time Linux user for 3 years now, but I was a full time Windows user for… 15 years? before that. And of course I had huge knowledge in Windows and very little in Linux when I decided to switch. But if you keep holding on to that reason, you will never switch, and it will keep costing you money and headaches. It’s a bit like investing ;) The sooner you start, the better. And it pays back very nicely, guaranteed. Once you have enough knowledge, you just know that, from now on, you will NEVER have to pay for your operating system again, unless you choose to. Freedom feels great.

  49. Melissa says:

    I am so glad your wrote concerning the leveling of the economies of the world. I have tried to explain this to friends and their eyes glaze over. For the poster who asked if Calcutta would be living like we do or us like them, my opinion is we will be living well below our current situation.

    Many of our higher paying jobs are overseas and 60% of our engineering PhD graduates are taking their beautiful minds back to their home countries. We are not only giving away our jobs to foreign workers both inside and outside our borders but we are training them to be taken and not given back.

    The NAFTA

  50. Melissa says:

    My hand hit submit on the laptop before finishing my sentence.

    The NAFTA highway will be built by a Mexican entity/Corporation. Our shipping ports are and have been privatized into the hands of foreign entities. This NAFTA highway has treaties from 1995 and is being denied by our leaders. But if you read about it in Mexico or the UK they know more about it than we do.

    I would add to the reasons for America’s fall.

    1) The people were lulled to sleep like frogs in warm water and when the heat was slowly turned up the frogs just went to sleep. The Americans thought their Government was caring for them and found out too late that the people were, in fact, caring for their Government’s plan to level their riches with the rest of the world’s.

    2) Americans tolerated their own ignorance and didn’t realize that their home mortgages and other finances were strictly controlled and were owned by their own Government’s entities…and that all that interest was going to fund the machine of separating the American from his/her voice in freedom and widening the gap between upper and lower classes. They tolerated Europe having higher gas mileage cars while our government keeps them out of our own country forcing us to pay more and more at the pump.

    Our Government has us busy ‘consuming’ and distracted by day to day concerns and we are not seeing the forest for the trees.

    So, yes, we will live a good deal more like Calcutta and they will be thrilled to have any improvement at all. It will be like water seeking its own level. The highs will drop and the lows will fill in until it is all level.

    Now to the religious portion. This was predicted in the Bible centuries ago. We are told not to let it take our Peace because it must happen before the true Peace can return.

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