Updated on 09.15.08

Reader Mailbag #28

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.
Sharing a $3 candy bar with my wife and son
How to deal with those old baseball cards
The financial benefits of a good night’s sleep
And now for some great reader questions!

What are some of your favorite fictional “poor and making it” books?
– Jessica

In your email, you mentioned A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, which is an excellent choice. I’d also recommend Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (a young lady comes from a poor home with a drunken father and has to make her own way in the world) and The Color Purple by Alice Walker (the socially low and impoverished position of African-American women in rural Georgia in the 1930s), and pretty much anything by John Steinbeck (I loved Cannery Row and The Grapes of Wrath), although Steinbeck’s characters tend to have a lot of trouble “making it.” To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Good Earth by Pearl Buck are also good picks along those lines.

Those selections should give you plenty to read for a good long while. Since many are older, I’d suggest hitting a used book store or PaperBackSwap to find them on the cheap.

You have great pictures to go along with most posts. Where do you get them from?
– Justin

I use Flickr to find them, but I use only images that people allow to be used for commercial use. I’m a pretty big believer in sharing creative works, so I like using the work that others have produced and share with others.

I found the idea on Seth Godin’s blog, where he wrote about how to find free interesting images. I use his method, then use the “blog this” option in Flickr to get the code. Each of these “shared” pictures that I use is linked right back to more pictures by that artist.

When you see an interesting image I’m using in a post, put your mouse over it. You’ll see the title of the picture and who took it. Click on the picture to see more good stuff by that person.

My wife and I have recently been transferred overseas for a two year assignment. Prior to leaving the US, my company bought both our vehicles and my house – thereby leaving us with absolutely no debt…no credit cards, student loans, etc. The best thing about this assignment is that my company covers almost all my expenses (rent, car lease, insurance, etc). This leaves almost my entire paycheck free as disposable income.

I did a poor job saving up until this point in my life (I’m 34). With the current stock market conditions, where would you suggest I place my savings? I’ve been piling it up in a money market for 6 months now. I max out my 401k, so I’m not sure whether I should be placing the money in an IRA.

What would be your strategy for returning to the US where I’ll need to buy cars and find a place to live? It’s nice to be debt free, and I’m not sure I want to return to the old way!!
– Edward

If your goal is just to have a lot of cash when you return in two years, I’d put it someplace safe in the short term – not stocks. Put it in a high interest savings account or into bonds. Stocks are not a stable investment over a relatively short period like that.

Of course, if you’re overseas with no real connections to coming back to the United States, you may eventually choose to renew your option to stay over there. If you’re strongly considering a longer sojourn overseas, you can start thinking about stocks as a bigger piece of your “come home” money.

Got a video game question for your next Mailbag! What strategies do you use to keep yourself from getting sucked into a game for hours? I normally try to limit myself to an hour session, but I end up getting so caught up in the action/drama of the game I can’t stop. I tell myself, “as soon as I beat such and such level, I’ll quit”, but then something awesome happens and I keep playing.
– Matt R.

My video game sessions are naturally limited by tiredness or children waking up from naps, so this isn’t really a problem for me any more. However, when I was in college, staying up all night to beat Final Fantasy IX or GoldenEye was a pretty common thing.

My solution for that was to simply get all of the important stuff out of the way before I even started a session, so that if I did wind up getting sucked in, I didn’t fail at anything important. I’d get my homework done, my dorm room cleaned, and anything else that needed doing before I’d ever sit down for a gaming session. That way, there were no worries about playing more than I should.

Our family has come a long way toward financial simplicity and debt-free living. Now we have set a goal that is really stretching us: We are trying to save about $10000 extra by the end of 2008, so the whole family can visit our daughter in the Philippines. So my question is, do you have ideas for family fund-raisers? I don’t think a lemonade stand would quite be the thing in this case. We’re looking for ideas to raise extra money together, that the kids can be involved in.
– James

If there was a fun family activity that could raise $10,000 in four months, a lot of families would be doing that fun family activity.

One possible way to raise at least some money is to have a “neighborhood yard sale.” What you do is this: just go to all of your neighbors on the block and say you’re going to have a giant yard sale. Offer to do all the selling work for any items they might want to get rid of in exchange for an even split of the proceeds. Doing this makes it very convenient for those people to get rid of any stuff they might not want. Then, just mark the items from each house with a special colored sticker and keep track of those sales so you can deliver half the proceeds. At the yard sale, you can have the kids sell cookies and lemonade to help with the trip.

I’d also consider having lots of “free weekends,” where you stay at home, don’t spend anything at all, and just play in the yard and eat whatever you can find in the cupboards. Then, estimate how much you would have spent living it up that weekend and put that much into savings.

I know there are plugins for a blog that will allow a user to automatically follow a particular thread via notifications. Are there any drawbacks to using those? Would it be appropriate for you to put one on your blog?
– Jeff R.

I don’t like those because of the easy potential for spam. I’ve had people post comments on other blogs using my email address to notify me of comments – and I wasn’t amused, both at the blog in question and at the person who set up the fakery.

Besides, there are enough comments on popular threads here that it would resort in a flood of email.

If you’re interested in comments, you can simply bookmark the page, or go back to the home page and find it again.

What do you think of Dave Ramsey telling his listeners that they can take 8-10% from their retirement fund every year without any worry of running out of money?
– T.J.

I think Dave’s making a very big assumption about retirement. He’s looking at people retiring at age 65, living roughly until their life expectancy is over (age 75 or so), then dying. If that’s the case, then you can get away with spending that much.

But let’s say you retire at 65 and live until you’re 100. If you spend every year taking out 10% of your starting balance, you’re going to be broke by the time you’re 80 – 85 to 90 if you happen to retire at the start of a stock market boom.

Given that life expectancies are continually growing, I think it’s silly to assume such a thing.

Do you believe homosexuals should have the right to marry?
– Fred

I believe that individuals should have the right to privacy – the ability to live out their own lives according to the choices they make, as long as that freedom doesn’t infringe on my ability to do the same. You do what you want in your house, I’ll do what I want in mine, and nary the twain shall meet.

For me, marriage is a loaded word tied to religious choices, and I believe in the separation of church and state. Churches should not be required to marry homosexuals if they choose not to, but at the same time, churches should not be required to marry heterosexuals if they choose not to. A church should be a private organization capable of making their own rules and maintaining their own beliefs. The state should not be involved in marriage.

For the purposes of citizenship, taxation, and intestacy, the state should allow individuals to designate domestic partners of their own choosing with some restrictions on that so that it isn’t abused as a citizenship path. The state should not care about religious beliefs or personal practices as long as they don’t interfere with the rights of others.

I might not like or agree with the way someone else lives, but if they’re conducting their own private life distinct from mine and not obstructing mine, they should have the full right to do what they want. That’s being human. That’s freedom. Part of freedom is that others are going to do things you don’t agree with and you don’t consider morally right, but if you start restricting the freedoms of others to do things that don’t affect you simply because you don’t like them, who’s to say that one day the tables won’t turn and the people you don’t like will dictate their moral terms to you?

Is it ethical to panhandle for money? Is it right to give money to panhandlers?
– Connie

I tend not to give money to people just panhandling. There are resources available in every community to help people get back on their feet and I prefer to give my money there, where my money and effort will turn into food and water and a comfortable bed and job services instead of going to whatever whims the panhandlers choose to spend their money on. I’d rather address the basic needs of those who are actually trying to help themselves.

On the other hand, I often will drop some change in the guitar case of someone playing skillfully on the street corner. I saw a street corner trio playing for free once, blowing out the most upbeat rendition of “When The Saints Go Marching In” I’ve ever heard, and I was very happy to throw a few dollars in their case. That’s a value exchange – they enriched my life, so I’ll gladly enrich them, too.

Is it right to panhandle? People are free to do what they choose. The fact that they do it at all means that they achieve some level of success at it.

If you moved to a new area where you didn’t know anyone at all, how would you go about making new friends? I hate the idea of the “club scene” and “bar scene.”
– Jon

First, I’d get to know my neighbors. I built up a good friendship with a few people in my apartment building several years ago that I probably would not have met without making that initial effort.

I’d also scour the community for businesses and organizations that matched my personal interests and get involved in any social events that revolved around my interests. If you like to read, hit the book clubs. If you like to golf, hit the local parks and recreation center. If you like to garden, also hit the parks and recreation center. If you like politics, stop by city hall or the local party offices.

More than anything, though, just get out of the house and find stuff that interests you. Do it often enough and be willing to talk to others and you’ll find friends over time.

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

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  1. AnnJo says:

    Your book list has some great choices.

    For a lighter (actually, hysterically funny) touch, one I have always remembered is “The Egg and I,” by Betty McDonald.

    And then there are the classics like “Heidi,” “The Swiss Family Robinson,” “The Little House on the Prairie” series, which, although originally children’s books, hold up to adult reading quite well, although their sentimentality may be foreign to many modern readers.

  2. karafarrah says:

    With regard to Jon’s question about meeting people after relocating, try going to websites like meetup.com and browsing to see if there’s a group in your area interested in the same things you are interested in. And if all else fails, VOLUNTEER in your community! Not only are you doing something good, chances are that the people you’ll meet while you’re volunteering will be “good people” whom you’ll enjoy knowing. Try volunteermatch.org, which allows you to specify how large an area you wish to search for volunteer opportunities, as well as the type of opportunities.

  3. Johanna says:

    Are you saying, then, that you do not like or agree with the way people in same-sex relationships live their lives? If so, why not?

  4. Your Friendly Neighborhood Computer Guy says:

    I recently discovered using Flickr to add free pictures to my blog. It’s alot of fun to browse through all the pictures about my topic to try to find the best one to post, often finding some pretty interesting and inspiring images along the way.

  5. liv says:

    Jon-I feel ya, I moved to CA 4 years ago and my only friend was my brother. We happened upon a “sport and social club” where people in their early 20’s and up play various sports leagues and that is how we met a lot of our friends (besides at our jobs and stuff). They also set up vacations, happy hours, etc, but we preferred just the sports leagues so we could be active and have fun. After that, it’s a matter of networking :)

    You can meet anyone anywhere. No need to feel that you’re only limited to the bars.

  6. Valerie says:

    Re: Meeting people

    When I moved to North Carolina and didn’t know a soul, I did three things to start making new friends. 1) I started attending a local weekly program through my religious affiliation specifically for folks in my age group. I met my best friends and boyfriend through attending! 2) I volunteered at a local community theater. It allowed me to get my artsy side involved, and I have met some really neat people. 3) I scoured Meetup.com for activities that interested me and went to a few meetups.

    I would also recommend asking your friends in other areas if they know people where you live now. Sometimes these help make great connections!

  7. Matt R. says:

    Thanks for answering my quesiton about video games, that’s good advice and I’ll try to make sure I save gaming for the end of the day, or as a “reward” for finishing a big project or goal.

  8. K says:

    For family fundraising ideas, a yard sale is a good idea. Selling stuff on ebay can also generate some cash. Maybe put jars out on the kitchen table for each family member to save change in and the person with the most at the end of the year gets to pick a certain activity you do when you’re in the Philippines. Encourage kids who are old enough to get a paper route or babysit, mow lawns, etc.

    For the panhandling, I don’t think it’s “unethical” or “right” but it’s a personal choice on whether you want to support it. I personally only give money to charities but I purposely keep some canned juice and snacks in my car because I do believe in helping people who are hungry but you never know what they will do with your money.

    Attending a church is one of the best ways to make friends and get involved in a new town. I also agree with getting to know your neighbors and taking classes that interest you. If you have kids, get involved with the PTA, go to their soccer games, etc. to meet the other parents.

  9. Anne K says:

    How often do you weed your garden and yard?

  10. David says:

    “I might not like or agree with the way someone else lives, but if they’re conducting their own private life distinct from mine and not obstructing mine, they should have the full right to do what they want. That’s being human. That’s freedom. Part of freedom is that others are going to do things you don’t agree with and you don’t consider morally right”.

    I am troubled by what has happened here Trent. While you will perhaps counter that this is a hypothetical / theoretical response not serving to reflect your personal opinions, you DID make a conscious decision to choose this specific reader’s question to be part of your mailbag. This strongly suggests that you desired and, furthermore, felt it appropriate, to make such comments on a personal finance site. I find this grossly inappropriate. I am not taking a position as regards your views but simply stating that such debate has no place on The Simple Dollar. If this is a lapse in discipline which you regret i am willing to accept THAT as human and continue subscribing to your blog, which i greatly enjoy. However, if this is a conscious new direction for your The Simple Dollar I will, with regret, unsubscribe.

  11. Ken Deboy says:

    In response to the person wondering how to earn $10,000 by the end of this year – a suggestion I would make is to break it down into smaller chunks, say $100. It’s easier to think up 100 ways to earn $100 than it is to think of 1 way to earn $10,000. In fact, I have exactly this monetary goal for the year too and wrote about it on my blog last week.


  12. KellyB says:

    Thanks for your comments on same sex marriage. Marriage is sometimes a loaded word, people think it is a religious thing. It is NOT – many many heterosexual people get married outside of religions and they get the same rights from the government entities as folks who marry within religion. Same sex partners just want those same LEGAL/CIVIC rights, not the religious. Taxes, home ownership, social security, inheritence, children’s care – all these things are affected in law by the WORD marriage, which is why gays need to use that word to get the rights. Civil unions will not give the rights unless all the laws are changed to include those words “civil unions” – and there are over 1100 NATIONAL laws that exclude them currently. Plus who knows how many laws in EACH STATE, and EACH CITY, etc. Time has come for no more 2nd class citizens. To paraphrase what MLK said, we are none of us equal, until all of us are equal.

  13. KC says:

    Edward – Keep it in cash. 2 years is not a long time. Find the highest interest bearing account you can and stash your money there. When you move back to the states you’ll be glad to have a load of cash on hand. You’ll need it for down payments on a house and cars. As a person who is moving to a different state in the coming months I can’t get my hands on enough cash. I’ve always kept about $20k in the bank, but I wish I had more right now. I’m looking at selling some investments, which I don’t want to do. So just keep it in cash and be happy with the return you are getting. Good luck!

    One more thing…I suggest you travel a little while you are overseas – you may never get this opportunity again. That would be a great place to spend some of this money and you won’t regret it.

  14. ChrisB says:

    Interesting post as always, Trent. While I have great appreciation for much of Dave Ramsey’s work, his investment advice isn’t always as solid as his getting-out-of-debt advice.

    And regarding same-sex marriage, why do we attach benefits to marriage, anyway?

  15. cv says:

    Trent, I think you should skip answering questions about hot-button political issues that don’t really touch on personal finance – you’re just going to alienate readers who disagree with you. In this case, by taking a (relatively) moderate position you might alienate readers on both sides who feel very strongly.

    If you wanted to do a post about the personal finance issues facing gay couples – lack of spousal social security benefits, complicated tax situations (including health insurance costs taxed as income), etc., that would be interesting. However, I don’t see what benefit you might possibly get from telling your gay readers that you think they’re immoral (and that was the clear subtext of your answer).

    Time to go read Queercents…

  16. Rick says:


    If you are 34 you should NOT fear investing in stocks for your retirement funds. Given your situation you should be ecstatic that the stock market is currently down. Why? Since you didn’t have a lot already invested, you didn’t lose much when prices dropped. Now you can get a lot more shares for the same money! You’ve got 30 years until retirement so there is plenty of time for the market to recover. If you keep your retirement funds in money market/bonds you won’t lose any principle but you risk inflation eating up your purchasing power. If you want to put more away for retirement look at a Roth IRA you can contribute $5K for yourself and $5K for your wife if you are below the maximum income limits. A nice thing about an IRA account is that you can have full control to pick investments- 401K accounts are usually pretty limited.

    That being said- I agree with Trent for money that you need in a few years the stock market is NOT a good idea. The market may go down right when you need the money. In this case a CD or money market is a good idea- check out bankrate.com for a comparison of rates and read up on CD Laddering too.

    -Rick Francis

  17. Ethan says:

    Question for further mailbags: What are your opinions on the current presidential candidates, or the upcoming election in general?

  18. femmeknitzi says:

    ChrisB…I always figured that marriage, the creating of family units was inherently a positive aspect of society. To create a well-ordered society, we need family units who will work to better their position and thus, better society as a whole. So, it makes sense to me for the government to attach benefits to encourage the creation of families.

    However, to remain a free and equal society, the government cannot legislate the make-up of these family units.

  19. plonkee says:

    Hmm. I also think that if you have a nuanced or middle ground position on a hot button topic, you’re more likely to alienate both sides rather than have them both agree a little. But you’re right, churches shouldn’t have to marry straight people if they don’t want to.

    I’m always coming up against bad investing suggestions from Dave Ramsey. Perhaps he should stick to his strengths.

  20. ChrisB says:


    Good point. The problem as I see it is that if there are going to be benefits attached, it is impossible for the government to remain neutral in this debate… both sides think that their respective position is better for society as a whole, and who is to judge which is right? Either way, one side will “lose”.

    Parenthetically, I agree with cv and plonkee that hot-button political & cultural issues are best addressed in a different venue.

  21. Lee says:


    Where do you work? It sounds like a great opportunity. I think right now a money market or online savings is the place to store money. The rates are competitive to CDs. I also recommend traveling where ever you are going. You may not have another opportunity like this.

    Good Luck.

  22. Shaun says:

    I am glad Trent talked about such a loaded issue. It takes guts to put your position out there when you are sure that some people are not going to like it. I imagine there are plenty of readers that come back to this blog because Trent doesn’t sugarcoat things.

    I didn’t get the same “gay people are immoral” subtext from that paragraph, but I can see where others do. But, let me ask you this? Isn’t it Trent’s right to think something is immoral as much as it is a gay person’s right to equal marriage treatment? If I got offended every time someone I knew thought something I did was immoral, I wouldn’t have any friends left. Many of my friends probably think my eternal soul is doomed or some such, but as long as they don’t try to “save” it, what problem do I have? If I thought being gay was wrong, but never did anything to treat homosexuals differently or show prejudice against them, have I yet done anything wrong?

    Even if someone thinks the opposite way that you do, you have to respect their right to believe it, as long as it doesn’t infringe on your rights. The KKK has done some horrible things, and those that do those things should be punished. But, what of those who just believe in white supremacy, but do nothing to act on it? Can we really tell them to stop thinking that? Wouldn’t we then be taking their rights from them?

  23. Joe says:

    Agree with Shaun in all respects – this is Trent’s blog and he is free to disseminate information on his views of controversial subjects such as gay rights.

    Also agree with Shaun – people should be allowed to believe in whatever they want as long as they do not act on any beliefs in an illegal (not immoral) manner. I love how gay advocates label those not believing in gay marriage as intolerant – the fact that the gay advocates are labeling and castigating the non-believers isn’t very tolerant either!

    Live and let live.

  24. Johanna says:

    Shaun: I, for one, am not trying to tell Trent how to think – I’m merely asking if he can elaborate on why he thinks the way he does. (This is a forum for reader questions, after all.)

    As for your argument that someone can be a bigot inside his own head and never act on his bigotry, and that would be fine and dandy, I’m not sure I buy it. A lot of prejudice is very subtle – so subtle that even people who don’t think they’re prejudiced can end up making biased decisions. If someone who believes in white supremacy is called upon to make a decision between a black job applicant and a white job applicant, do you really think he’s going to give the black applicant a fair evaluation?

    You’re absolutely right that it’s possible to disagree with someone’s values or beliefs and still be friends with them. And there’s not actually any way to police people’s thoughts even if we wanted to. But when somebody voices a thought that we find distasteful, it’s absolutely appropriate for us to voice our own thoughts in reply.

  25. Lorne says:

    I’d say bonds (especially longer terms) are very risky in today’s environment mainly due to inflation risks. Cash is still probably the best bet, even though the American peso probably has further to fall.

  26. silver says:

    I understand not wanting to add email notification of replies, but what about giving readers an option to subscribe to a RSS feed of replies? 80% of the reason your blog is good is because of the replies to your posts. I’d love to be able to keep up on replies, especially since some get posted out of order, making it hard to figure out where I left off.

    And when is that cooking blog coming out?

  27. Meika says:

    @Edward – We returned from a very similar assignment last year. I can’t give you any specific investment advice, but based on our experiences I think the most important thing you can do is to consider carefully what your goals and priorities – financial and general life – are and go from there. Think carefully and specifically about what you will want and need when you return to your home country; consider what you want to experience while you are overseas; and begin thinking about whether you’d accept an extension or another assignment (among our friends, one or both were offered well over 50% of the time) after this one as that will probably affect your answers.

    We made our main priority paying off debt and eliminated over $40,000 of it in two years. We also saved enough to buy a late-model used car outright, set aside some money for my husband’s to replace his motorcycle, beefed up our emergency fund some (though not enough), and planned for a really nice vacation on the way home. (In contrast, most of our friends did a lot of traveling. We would’ve enjoyed that, but we thought getting our financial house in order was more important considering where we were at.) Those were things we did right.

    There were a couple places where we missed the boat, though. We seriously underestimated the price of my husband’s new-used motorcycle (this is our second vehicle), which led to us using our emergency fund to buy that, which leaves us with little in the bank now with layoffs impending (ahhh, the automotive industry…). Part of the reason that happened is because we kind of forgot how auto-centric most of the U.S. is – one car was more than enough for us in urban Japan, but much trickier in suburban America. We also didn’t talk enough about how long we were going to stay in our home in the U.S. and what remodeling we would need to do to sell it, which is strapping us now, too. So we basically didn’t think enough about re-entry; the poster above is right, two years goes by incredibly quickly.

    One other thing – kids. No idea what your situation is, but we had our first overseas – an amazing experience I can’t say enough good about – but your insurance will likely work differently there. We had to pay for everything up front and were reimbursed for the portion the insurance company was willing to pay later. Medical costs tend to be much lower overseas, but it was still a good chunk of change.

    I hope this isn’t too much about us; my intent in sharing these details is that they might serve as fodder for conversation in making your decisions. Have a great time – it really does go quickly!

  28. leslie says:

    As far as meeting new people in a new place, I do recommend http://www.meetup.com so you can find people in your area with your same interests.

  29. MattPatt says:

    @Shaun: Are we reading the same comment thread? I don’t really see anyone telling Trent what to think or that it’s illegitimate for him to hold any kind of opinion on any kind of subject; I merely see disagreement with the opinion he presented.

    @Joe: Same comment to you, I’d say. It’s one thing for proponents of LGBT legal rights to say, “no, it’s wrong to treat us this way.” It’s another for the other side to say, “Actually, no, we’re going to enact laws that do you harm.” The difference, of course, is that one side actually has the power to affect the other, whereas the reverse is not true. The “labeling and castigating” that you claim supporters of LGBT rights engage in is hardly on the same legal or moral plane as the denial of civil rights to LGBT people. To claim otherwise is a pernicious and insulting false equivalence.

    And, Trent, I would agree with those who have recommended that you stick to finance topics here; there are several interesting things you talked about in your post that are getting ignored by everyone, me included, because of the gay marriage issue. (Which is kind of interesting to me as a phenomenon in and of itself; surely the “do you give money to panhandlers” question is at least as big of a moral question, as well as one that affects many more people in a direct and personal way than whether I can marry my boyfriend.)

  30. Shaun says:

    Johanna: I certainly agree with you, there are many people that act upon that bigotry, and that occurs all the time. But, there are people who realize their own prejudice, and try hard to make sure they are impartial. I am sure these people are a small minority, but they are the key to (very long term) having no prejudice at all.

    Its these people that know they don’t like something/someone, but still try to be fair, that will be able to teach the bigots how NOT to act on their unfair beliefs. But, as long as we still deride people for thinking-but-not-acting (and I am not saying you did personally, but socially as a whole), we will never find these people. As soon as enough white suburbanites say “I am uncomfortable with African-Americans, but I am trying to do better”, it will be easier for others to come out and admit the same thing. Think of it as a hatred support group. If I went to, lets say, downtown St. Louis right now, and yelled “I am uncomfortable with African-Americans, but I am trying to do better”, I do not think the results would be pretty.

    The same thing happens when someone says “I think homosexuality is wrong, but I am trying to give them equal treatment”. The pro-homosexual side (again, not you personally, but a sizable majority) gets angry at the “I think homosexuality is wrong” part, and really should be latching on to the “I am trying to give them equal treatment”. It’s the understanding from the side being persecuted that will ultimately found this hatred support group.

  31. Christine says:


    That’s pretty spot-on advice. Over eight years ago, I moved to a brand-new city, and knew no one. My first apartment was a share with a horrible older woman, and it was pretty miserable so I tried to be out of that place as much as possible.

    I did exactly what Trent suggested: I’m a writer, and so I started going to local slam poetry venues, and getting up to perform on the mic once in a while. Almost a decade later, nearly every friend I have in this whole city can be traced, friend-of-a-friend style, to one kid who approached me to compliment a poem, and to the group of friends I made in those first few months.

    The last time I left this comfort zone of friends was to attend a life-drawing event called “Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School” (there are about 60 chapters all over the world). I felt that I’d been focusing too much on my writing, and ignoring my love of art, so I went all by myself and ended up meeting my now-boyfriend. That was two years ago, and we just moved in together.

    Another useful idea is to take evening classes at a local university or adult-ed center, if there are any near you.

  32. SwingCheese says:

    I don’t think that churches are required to marry heterosexual couples that don’t comply with church teachings. For example, neither my hasband nor I are Catholic, ergo, we couldn’t get married in a Catholic church. I don’t think that is prejudice, necessarily, though it is not quite the same situation as a homosexual marriage, since I suppose we could always convert if we really wanted to, and homosexual unions dont’ have that option.

  33. michael says:

    I think your original question was a loaded one, although you may not have meant it that way.

    You give only 2 choices: approve of a given lifestyle, or disapprove. Trent has already posted a 3rd choice: “It’s none of my business.” I can think of a 4th as well: “I simply don’t care.”

  34. graybee says:

    Here’s a question:

    I’ve worked at a place that has a state pension plan for 29 years now. We have something called “30 and out”. Means that when I finish my 30 years there, I can “retire” and begin drawing on my pension, with no penalty for my being only 50-something at the time. I’ll be eligible to get ~80% of my current salary; not an enormous sum, but I could live modestly on it alone.

    It seems like a no-brainer to leave next year, begin drawing the pension til I die, and get another job. Or *is* that the way to go?

    I see so many choices;
    “Retire” and stop working for a year or two and get a Masters degree in something maybe marketable, like Sustainable something, or Green something or other, that would fit into my own value system.
    Retire, get a low-paying but satisfying job.
    Retire, work part-time, do volunteer work and stuff on the side.
    Stay there another 5 and get a Masters while still working there.

    The big challenge is that while I’ll be in my early-50’s, I am terrified that ageism will lock me out of the job market altogether. I think I’m pretty spunky for a woman my age, and I don’t think I come across as an “old lady”, but what if I do all this planning for a New and More Satisfying Career, and no one wants to hire me?

    (yeah, I know it seems like worrying about nothing, but I’ve worked all my life, no kids, no husband, small family, so work really is a BIG part of my life and my identity. I can’t imagine not being hirable…)

    It’s kinda like I’ve won a little lotto, and I’m trying to plan how to manage it.
    Thanks, love your site.

  35. hbemis says:

    The Color Purple is an excellent choice. Not only did she face the extremes of racism and sexism in the early 1900s, she created business opportunities for her self and helped employed those around her. Excellent literary book and excellent showing of how a person goes from emotional and physical poverty and abuse to strength. Plus, it’s just a wonderfully written book.

  36. gr8whyte says:

    Re. panhandlers, I’ve mostly stopped giving after surviving 2 hostile confrontations and wising up to their colorful stories of woe. At a gas station, a PH said he needed bus fare to go home to see his sick dad. I refused. After getting money from someone else, the PH went into the convenience store and came out with a 6-pack of bubbly amber. Cheers!

    This still haunts me : A pretty young girl selling small bunches of plastic flowers at the entrance of a small discount store. Said it was to feed a baby. I figured her for a runaway and gave her $5. I kept seeing her there the next few times I visited that store over the next few months and gave her $5 every time. She looked incresingly gaunt and fearful and at some point, had begun dressing down and covering herself up all over (long sleeves, layers of clothing, hooded jacket with hood up in the summertime, etc.), and had also brought a small boy along, I assumed for some degree of protection. One day, I asked her if she was on public assistance. She didn’t answer. I then told her she couldn’t survive out here, that she had to get off the streets and to apply for public assistance from the city (liberal city with good teen services, no questions asked). No response. I never saw her again after that and wonder to this day if she made it to adulthood OK.

    Seems like the ones who don’t deserve the help, get it. The ones who do, don’t or won’t.

  37. cv says:

    Shaun, I totally respect Trent’s right to think as he does on the issue, and to post his views for the world to see. I also think his style of not sugarcoating tough issues is great when it comes to personal finance – he gives a lot of people the kick in the pants they need to get into financial shape. I just feel, as a reader, that it’s inadvisable and doesn’t make good business sense for him to get into political hot-button issues and alienate readers when the issue is so irrelevant from the main subject of the blog.

    Also, there’s a subtle distinction between African-Americans and gay and lesbian people in your examples, and that is that people don’t think being African-American is *immoral* – that’s a nonsensical position, really, because you don’t choose your own race. The fact that some people are uncomfortable with homosexuality but are trying to get over it doesn’t really bother me – good for them for trying. It’s the discussion of the morality of being gay that raises my hackles, because that implies that being gay is a choice, a position condemned by most medical and psychological authorities. It’s also a very harmful position – gay teenagers have very high rates of suicide and depression, and we need to do more to support them, not tell them that everything would be fine if they could just decide to stop being gay.

  38. David says:

    I find it disappointing that you felt it inappropriate to publish my comment. I was not offensive in any way, shape or form. I simply asked that we discuss only personal finance issues on a personal finance blog. Perhaps if you are seeking to create such debate you can create a separate site? I may well subscribe to such a site if it is written with the same honesty and integrity as The Simple Dollar. However, I am not interested in spending what little free time I have perusing comments on socio/political issues where i expected to find personal finance. It is clearly your site and your prerogative however I feel your readers deserve to know what exactly they have subscribed to. Life is complicated enough.

  39. Shevy says:

    I read both A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Tomorrow Will Be Better by Betty Smith as a young teen or tween and was impressed by both. Tomorrow Will Be Better does have some strong subtexts (abuse and homosexuality) which affected its success although I didn’t notice them at the time I initially read the book. It is very much about the working class life of the 30’s or 40’s and resembles the life that Smith lived.

    While I remain a big fan of the Little House books I don’t really see how they could help someone with trying to live a frugal life in the 21st century (leaving aside the fact that they are not fiction). Images of Laura scouring the ground around their cabin for stray or bent nails that could be straightened and used, or of Pa shooting the crows destroying his corn crop and the family eating them to make up for the loss of the food seem far removed from even the most simplistic, frugal or minimalist lives today.

    But perhaps I’m unclear about why Jessica was asking for recommendations of fiction books that reflect “being poor and making it”.

  40. justin says:

    Trent You Will Delete This message, but you need to read it.

    There once was a time when you did not exist. But now that you do exist, there will never be a time when you cease to exist. You will spend eternity in either Heaven or Hell. The Bible clearly says that Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven. If you do not believe in him, you will go to Hell. I know that you aren’t a Christian, because you don’t get your morals from the Bible. The Bible is very clear on gays:

    “But before they went to bed, the men of the city beset the house both young and old, all the people together. And they called Lot, and said to him: Where are the men that came in to thee at night? bring them out hither that we may know them: Lot went out to them, and shut the door after him, and said: no not so, I beseech you, my brethren, do not commit this evil. I have two daughters who as yet have not known man : I will bring them out to you, and abuse you them as it shall please you, so that you do no evil to these men, because they are come in under the shadow of my roof. But they said: Get thee back thither. And again: Thou camest in, said they, as a, stranger, was it to be a judge? therefore we will afflict thee more than them. And they pressed very violently upon Lot: and they were even at the point of breaking open the doors. And behold the men put out their hand, and drew in Lot unto them, and shut the door: And them that were without, they struck with blindness from the least to the greatest, so that they could not find the door. And they said to Lot: Hast thou here ally of thine? son in law, or sons, or daughters, all that are thine bring them out of this city: For we will destroy this place, because their cry is grown loud before the Lord, who hath sent us to destroy them.” (Gen. 19:4 -13)

    “We know that the law is good, provided that one uses it as law, with the understanding that law is meant not for a righteous person but for the lawless and the unruly, the godless and the sinful, the unholy and profane, those who kill their fathers or mothers, murders, the unchaste, homosexuals, kidnapers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is opposed to sound teaching,” (1 Tim 1:8-10)

    “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination”(Lev. 18:22)

    “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives.” (Lev 20:13)

    “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”(1 Cor. 6:9-10)

    “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.” (Rom. 1:26-28)

    “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 7)

    “And reducing the cities of the Sodomites, and of the Gomorrhites, into ashes, condemned them to be overthrown, making them an example to those that should after act wickedly.”(2 Peter 2:6)

  41. I know that if I up and moved to another state far away, I could quickly go make new friends at the local camarilla roleplaying game club. I like to roleplay, and this is an international club (with lots of US locations). I could stop in, and after say three visits, I would have friends right away. If you like acting, playing strategy games, or something similar, roleplaying clubs like the camarilla or warcraft 40K are the way to go.

  42. Lauren says:

    Hello! I love reading your blog and I find myself with a question for the first time! I’ve always respected you and your thoughts so I’d love to hear what you have to say.

    I graduated from college with a bachelor’s in May of 2006 and I will be graduating this fall with a Masters’ degree. I find myself in the hunt for a job and as I’ve been searching, it occurred to me that I never took any time off. I’ve been in school continuously since kindergarten without any breaks.

    I’m considering taking some time (maybe a month?) to travel. I live at home so I have no rent payments. My only debt is a monthly car payment and a relatively small credit card balance. I have some money saved up (a few thousand), but it’s not a huge amount and it makes me feel comfortable to have it in the bank.

    I’m trying to decide if taking the time off before throwing myself into a career is worth it. I fear I may not have this opportunity again for a long time! What do you think?

  43. K says:

    justin, You have no right to claim to know for sure whether someone is or isn’t a Christian. God judges a person’s heart. I do know however, that Christ treated all sinners with compassion and love, and as Christians we are supposed to be like Him, which was not demonstrated by your post above. I also know that we are all sinners, and it is foolish to say that one is worse than another and especially to judge people based on that. Whether or not you agree with a certain behavior does not give you the power to control their lives, and unless they are breaking a law, does not give the government the right to either. Trent simply stated that fact without mentioning his own views on the subject.

  44. Paul says:

    I totally agree with comment #12 above.
    Why is this even a topic for a financial blog? Gay/Straight/Whatever, live and let live.

  45. LJam says:

    I don’t really care about the gay topic, but I dislike the biblical sense of judgment in the discourse. So here’s my take on that…

    Matt 7:2-5 “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged [if we judge with an evil heart or dark intent, His judgment of us will reflect it; if we judge nobly and honestly, His judgment of us will reflect that, too], and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you [if we use extremes or exaggerations or other unfair means, our judgment will reflect it]. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye [point out his sins, “minor” in Jesus’ example here] and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye [our own sins, even and especially those we will not admit, magnified by our selective blindness]? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ [tell him of his “minor” sins] when all the time there is a plank in your own eye [that there are greater or the same sins in our own lives which we do nothing about or think we are above]? You hypocrite* [pointing out the sins of others while by pretense we think of ourselves as above sin], first take the plank out of your own eye [sincerely ask the Lord for forgiveness and learn and live the Truth and Light by His Word], and then you will see clearly [be in a righteous position] to remove the speck from your brother’s eye [to judge and to help him out of his bondage to sin].” At Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan, Jesus was talking to the multitudes gathered there after hearing of His message and of His healings to beseech them to not become like the pharisees and hypocrites who think they are above sin.

  46. justin says:


    God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and flooded the entire world because of homosexuals and evil men.

    Trent said: That’s freedom. Part of freedom is that others are going to do things you don’t agree with and you don’t consider morally right, but if you start restricting the freedoms of others to do things that don’t affect you simply because you don’t like them, who’s to say that one day the tables won’t turn and the people you don’t like will dictate their moral terms to you?

    According to whay Trent said, If its ok to be gay in your home, then its ok to rape little kids. People will be like, O my gosh, thats different. NO IT IS NOT. IF YOU DON’T GET YOUR MORALS FROM THE BIBLE, THEN WHERE DO YOU GET THEM????



  47. justin says:

    Trent talks so much about ethics, But where does he get them??? Not the Bible. Like most of the world, he does whatever seems right to him.

  48. justin says:

    Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

  49. Debora says:


    If you don’t understand the difference between two adults consenting in their behaviour and an adult grosly abusing a child, you’re a seriously sad excuse for a human being.

  50. George says:

    Christian? Jewish? Muslim? Zorastran? Bhuddist? Hindu? Wiccan? Native American? “To whom it may concern”? Atheist?

    Just a reminder that there are many religions under the sun and they have many differing viewpoints when it comes to marriage.

  51. liv says:

    Can we PLEASE stop giving bible quotes and going back and forth on the homosexual issue? Someone asked a question, he answered it. the answer is based on that one question alone and not other hypothetical situations that were not related to the original question.

    if you wanna think it’s wrong, think it’s wrong. let us all think whatever we want!


  52. Kevin says:

    justin – I find it odd that as a Christian you choose to judge others so harshly. Aren’t Christians supposed to love all equally like Jesus did?

  53. justin says:


    “And reducing the cities of the Sodomites, and of the Gomorrhites, into ashes, condemned them to be overthrown, making them an example to those that should after act wickedly.”(2 Peter 2:6)

    Debora, two adults consenting
    God calls them Wicked.

  54. justin says:


    if you wanna think it’s wrong, think it’s wrong. let us all think whatever we want!

    Thats my point right there. If we don’t get our morals from the Bible we do whatever we want.

  55. justin says:


    2Ti 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

  56. Debora says:


    Your God is not mine. But even if I were to believe your idea of how God views gays, it’s an extremely different thing as child abuse is. To relate the two is sickening me.

  57. justin says:

    God is love, but he also has wrath.

    Gen 13:13 But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.

    Deu 9:8 Also in Horeb ye provoked the LORD to wrath, so that the LORD was angry with you to have destroyed you.

    Psa 7:11 God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.

    Eph 4:26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

  58. justin says:


    Child abuse is very wrong. I was making a point that we can’t pick and choose what is right and wrong. God does. And there is only one God.

  59. Mister E says:

    I would have to agree that it would be best to avoid hot button topics such as gay marriage in the future.

    The comments will only fill up with arguments from extremists on both sides (Homosexuality is a sin! If you condone it in any way you’re going to a Very Bad Place! vs What do you MEAN you have mixed feelings on the issue? Don’t tell me you’re intolerant, ARE YOU? Hey everybody this guy’s INTOLERANT!).

    Any other discussion about oh, I dunno, personal finance will become quite impossible.

  60. liv says:

    If your point is made now, can you seriously stop posting about this issue? We are totally not on the topic of personal finance anymore.

  61. Debora says:


    Maybe you can’t. But I do.

  62. justin says:

    I find it funny that everyone is affended by the Holy Bible. I will defend it. The Bible clearly says that homosexuals are sinners and are evil. Trent however says its ok.

  63. Laura says:

    Justin, I would bet all the money in my pockets that you don’t treat people who have pre-marital sex the way you treat gays. What is the difference there? I’m pretty sure the Bible is clear about pre-marital sex and most people don’t even give it a second thought!! Homosexual people are only 10 percent of the population, how about focusing on the other 90 percent that sin too?

  64. justin says:

    Pro 16:25 There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

    Trent brought up a topic, not related to finance. And I am simply disagreeing with him. People need to understand that without a place to get our morals from, we will be like Debora and pick and choose what is right.

  65. Patrick says:

    About meeting people in a new city…there are a spate of online clubs sprouting up that offer a chance to go out and meet others in a group setting without the pressure of being a “dating” club. I know about Adventure Club San Antonio (adventureclubsa.com)and the American Outdoor Network (http://www.adventureclubsa.com/clubportal/ClubStatic.cfm?clubID=204&pubmenuoptID=2162)to which ACSA belongs. Membership in any one of these clubs gets you access to all of these clubs. Most clubs charge about $25 a month but the price goes down the longer the membership you choose. You can earn free membership as well by becoming an event leader or helping out the clubs’ owners. If you look at the calendars you’ll see there is a wide variety of events to attend from active to purely social. Hey, it worked for me!

  66. justin says:

    Laura since you brought it up. Fornication is also sin. The Bible says:

    1Th 4:3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:

    Eph 5:3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;

    2Co 12:21 And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.

    1Co 10:8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.

    1Co 7:2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

    1Co 6:18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

  67. justin says:


    I don’t treat gays or fornicators bad either. I simply want people to know that the Bible calls it sin. Unless you make up your own morals……

  68. justin says:

    O Laura,

    I’ll take all that money in your pocket too.

  69. Ryan says:

    Since we appear to be moderator free around here, Ill throw this out – a vote for Mccain/Palin is a vote for Justin (above).

  70. femmeknitzi says:

    Liv, I totally agree that this particular discussion is pretty off base and sympathize with your frustration.

    But I think everyone who has expressed concern that this issue doesn’t have a place in a finance blog should consider that there is relevance to personal finance issues, for homosexual couples and for anyone who lives with a partner but are not married.

    For example, I had two friends in a long-term committed relationship who shared their finances but often ran into trouble with companies refusing to give out information to one spouse because the other spouse was also a woman. Then there’s the issue of inheritance, beneficiaries, contractual obligations outside of marriage, the list goes on and on. And most of these issues affect any legally unmarried couple.

    It matters to me as a reader of this blog to know that for or against, Trent is willing to deal with the issue and the personal finance challenges it raises for readers of diverse circumstances.

  71. justin says:


    Obama is a joke.

  72. Ryan says:

    who said i was voting for obama? my friend’s dad used to tell him that he was “showing his a**” whenever he acted like an idiot. Justin, you are “showing your a**”. Wait – is that fornicating? Or is that ok?

  73. Joe says:

    Since Justin says “Obama is a joke” well, surely he is one. Thanks for helping me decide.

  74. justin says:

    Pro 14:9 Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour.

  75. liv says:


    That’s totally fine. I don’t think issues like that will require bible quotes. Just sound financial advice.

  76. justin says:

    go to you tube and type in (dear mr obama)

  77. Lola says:

    Justin, please watch the beautiful documentary “For the Bible Tells me So”.
    About your answer, Trent, I agree with you on the separation of state and church. As for the rest, I think you tried too hard not to offend anybody, and ended up avoiding the question altogether.
    There are big differences between being legally married and having a civil union. I spent my whole life hearing that living together with a person and being married to him is the same under the law. So my husband and I simply lived together for 17 years. We’re not religious and have no interest in having children, so it didn’t make any difference for us – or so we thought. Until, for us to travel together and spend one year in the US (we live in Brazil), we met all kinds of barriers for not being legally married. The only thing we could do, quite frankly, was getting married quickly. Fortunately, we are a heterosexual couple and had that choice. But, if we were a gay couple, we’d be denied basic rights. We’d have to live separately for one whole year, for instance. This sounds totally unfair to me. In my book – which is not the bible – the state should treat everybody equally, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.
    And for people who think like Justin (and I see no difference at all between Muslim and Christian fundamentalists), I’m a sinner because I don’t want to have children. I’m straight, and yet I don’t want to constitute a family. Thankfully, what people like Justin think don’t affect me. But they do affect gay people’s lives, and that’s just plain wrong.

  78. Laura says:

    Glad you see both sides, that’s all I ask. And sadly I didn’t have any money in my pocket, that’s why I was reading Trent’s blogs… LOL

  79. Ryan says:

    and also, while we are moderator free, I’d like to point out that the term “homosexual(s)” is a term that is outdated like the word “negro(s)”. You will probably hear someone who is gay or lesbian using the term “homosexual.” Its clinical-sounding, and wrongly reinforces the idea that relationships are all about sex while diminishing the emotional sides of same-sex relationships. Here is an exercise for you – the next time you are watching a political show or reading an article, notice how right-wing/religious pundits always (uncomfortably) use the term “homosexual”. This is intentional, because its a word that has “sex” right in the middle of it. They dont say “heterosexual marriage”, they say “marriage between a man and woman”. There is no “sex” in the middle of that phrase, so it is easier for straight people to hear (and if TV sit-coms teach us anything, relate to). So trent, if you are reading this, please ditch the word “homosexual” in your writing in favor of “gay/lesbian” or “same-sex” marriage.

  80. Ryan says:

    crap – the above comment should read “you will probably NEVER hear someone who is gay or lesbian using the term homosexual”

    must proofread before engaging in flame war next time!

  81. Jim says:

    I don’t follow him much so haven’t heard Ramsey say you can pull 8-10% out of retirement funds annually. If that is what he says then I don’t know how he thinks your money would last.

    If you reach age 65 then on average your life expectancy will be another 18 years.

    If you retire at 65 and pull 8% out a year and you make 6% on your money then you’d still have about a 25% chance of running out of money before you pass away. If your money made 4% then you’d have about 50/50 chance of running out of money.


  82. femmeknitzi says:

    Liv–agreed completely!

    Ryan, I’d have to disagree on that one. I’m thinking maybe that’s a colloquial thing. I’m an active member of the gay community here in the Midwest and when speaking to a mixed audience, homosexual is perfectly appropriate in my opinion.

    Sure, people who don’t understand are going to use it in a way that makes me cringe. I cringe when people use the term “gays.” Not gay, just the plural, gays. There’s something about it that makes people sound like aliens. It crawls all over me. But its not the term, its the way its used and the way I interpret it.

    Homosexual is indeed a bit clinical but its accurate and it has an equal opposite in the term heterosexual, so it’s cool with me.

  83. MKL says:

    Re: Dave Ramsey… I’m not entirely sure where the pulling 8-10% figure out each year comes from (I haven’t heard it, and I don’t recall reading it), but he has often said that he wants to encourage people to invest in good quality growth oriented mutual funds that average better than 8% total return (his often quotes 12% as the gross return, so that after taxes and inflation, you will want to make sure that you are getting at least an 8% return. If you have to take out *more* than that you *will* ultimately whittle down the nest egg.

    If he has been recommending taking 8% per year, that’s certainly high, but again, I have not personally heard it (or I missed it in the stuff that I’ve read in his books and on his site).

  84. Ray says:

    The flickr idea is awesome. Thanks Trent! Now my blog can have more interesting images at last :-)

  85. Ryan says:

    @ femiknitzi

    very interesting. in the circle I run in, the term “homosexual” is thought of as sounding like a diagnosis (again, outdated) as opposed to a wanted tag, and one to be avoided.

    Also, its interesting that you said “when speaking to a mixed audience, homosexual is appopropriate” – You should read George Lakoff’s “Dont Think of an Elephant”. It talks about how framing arguments is important, and how including using terms like “homosexual” (among other terms for a wide variety of issues) in any crowd plays into (and ultimately supports) the framework of the right wing.

  86. Jade says:

    Well… going back to the panhandling issue…

    I typically don’t give much of anything to panhandlers, except a smile, apologize that I don’t have any change on me and wish them luck. I’d say 90% of panhandlers are nice about it when I do that. Then you have that other 10% which is why I don’t go out alone at night and I’m careful about where I go by day… Who knows what my spare change is going to be spent on. I’d rather save my change for the Salvation Army bell ringers at Christmas, at least I know where that goes.

    But I did make an exception for one homeless guy that used to hang around in the parking garages near the ice rink when I used to skate. He was a nice guy, and always offered to wash your windows and all for you. I told him not to worry about washing my windows (that’s what I have a boyfriend for, lol), but just to make sure no one stole my car while I was skating and gave him a few bucks occasionally. And if I didn’t have any spare change on me but maybe an extra bottle of unopened Gatorade or a sealed bag of chips I’d give him that instead, which he appreciated just as much as cash.

    I haven’t skated in years, and my friends who still skate at that rink say that he hasn’t been around lately. Probably all the new construction in the area, they must have torn down the parking garages he used to sleep in.

    But I wasn’t the only one who would give him some spare change or the like. My skating buddies and I all agreed that it was a really crappy part of town and if we were nice to the guy then there was a better chance of him looking out for us if we ran into trouble. Or at the very least he wouldn’t be a source of trouble for us. And since the rink was too cheap to hire security guards we needed all the people looking out for us that we could get!

  87. guinness416 says:

    Well one thing’s for sure: given justin spamming us with that garbage up above, I think we can all agree with Trent that emailed thread updates aren’t appropriate for this blog.

    Edward, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I left Ireland “for a couple of years in New York.” Almost ten years ago.

  88. JReed says:

    I don’t give to panhandlers but I give to the salvation army because they help the homeless. I also do not give to kids standing outside of supermarkets asking for money for soccer or cheeleading. There is so much to be learned from having a bakesale, doing chores, a carwash etc. Advertising, money management, sales, team cooperation, leadership, organizational skills. what do these kids learn from begging outside the market and why do their pparents allow it?

  89. Glenda Simpson says:

    In answer to the question of making new friends upon moving to a new area, I’m surprised that you didn’t mention attending church and making friends there. Most churches welcome newcomers and it is easy to become a member of a church family.

  90. Anne says:

    @MKL – that is exactly his thought process. He makes it sound really simple, too. “Well, you invest in good growth-stock mutual funds that return 12%, so you can take out 8% and never run out of money!” Ta-da!

    Not to mention he rails against fixed income (no bonds, no treasuries, no “certificates of depression”), so if you put these two things together, he is actually suggesting that people of retirement age have ALL OF THEIR MONEY in GROWTH STOCKS and then take out 8% each and every year! God help anyone on Dave Ramsey’s plan who retired last year!

  91. Lurker Carl says:

    On the Mail Bag topics:

    Many metropolitian areas have serious problems with aggressive panhandlers attacking tourists and residents alike and have laws restricting such behavior. The ordnances are usually against panhandling AND giving to panhandlers, one can not exist without the other. Just as prostitutes and johns are equally guilty of crimes, beware of these double-edged legal swords.

    For those seeking marriage rights, be careful of what you wish for. Everyone proposing marriage must also be willing to propose divorce. It’s a legal and emotional nightmare where only lawyers win, check the statistics concerning financial health of divorced folks. Ed McMahon should ring some warning bells! Divorce seems to be purposely ignored even though half of all marriages are destine to dissolve in court. Marriages that don’t end in divorce will terminate at the cemetary, one partner tends to die before the other and most survivors are woefully unprepared to go it alone. Consider legal avenues already in place, they may offer better protection against adversity than marriage.

    On the flaming topics:

    I was amused by previous posts claiming pious tolerance of this or that. The glinting halos were absolutely blinding. Y’all need to stop kidding yourselves. There are behaviors that I refuse to tolerate, everyone has their own tolerance boundries as well unless they are emotional jellyfish.

    Whoever believes they can effectively change a stranger’s opinion via an internet blog is sadly mistaken. Why have a shouting match about religion, politics and sex – there is a reason these three subjects should never be discussed among strangers or polite company. It’s one thing to state an opinion and exchange ideas, fully another to insult and degrade each other for believing differently.

  92. MattPatt says:

    @Lurker Carl: Actually, divorce rights are also a major component of marriage equality, even if a lot of people don’t think in these terms. Like it or not, relationships sometimes end, and a codified system of divorce and family law can ensure an equitable distribution of property and assets (to say nothing of child custody) upon such an end. In the absence of a marriage, there’s no framework to fall back on, and often no legal recourse at all.

  93. Sharon says:


    Before you claim to be the front for all Bible-believing Christians, please get your facts straight. The sin of Sodom was … a large portion of it anyway…FINANCIAL. (Ha, bet no one thought I was going to get the F word in here…)
    Ezekiel 16:49-52 clearly says:

    ” ‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. Samaria did not commit half the sins you did. You have done more detestable things than they, and have made your sisters seem righteous by all these things you have done. Bear your disgrace, for you have furnished some justification for your sisters. Because your sins were more vile than theirs, they appear more righteous than you. So then, be ashamed and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous. ”

    Clearly there are bigger issues in God’s eyes than homosexuality. The poor, the needy. I also remember that God gives everyone the freedom to be wrong. That is why He had to have a tree in the garden. Adam and Eve had to have a choice. If I believe someone is acting in a sinful manner (regardless of what it is,) I can speak kindly to them about it, but frainkly that whole section about “your sins are more vile” gives me pause about my own perfection..or lack thereof.
    And I think what Trent says is supported by 1 Corinthians 5:12
    “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.”

  94. cv says:

    Lurker Carl, there are a number of cases working their way through court systems across the country where gay couples who married in Massachusetts (or, now, California) want to get divorced in the states they now live in, which don’t recognize the marriage and so won’t grant a divorce. It’s a huge mess, and it won’t be resolved nationwide any time soon.

    Legally married couples can inherit property from each other with no tax implications, they receive social security survivor’s benefits, and they can transfer unlimited amounts of money between them without paying gift taxes. Legal marriage is necessary for immigration purposes when one partner is from a foreign country, and the Family Medical Leave Act grants people the right to take leave to care for a sick spouse, but not an unmarried partner. I’m sure there are plenty of other examples, too. I’ll take the full rights and responsibilities of marriage any day over the “legal avenues already in place”, which won’t get you anywhere in the above examples.

  95. NYC reader says:

    Back to financial topics…

    I was listening to an interview on NPR Marketplace with folks who were encountering financial problems during the evacuation for Hurricane Ike.

    One woman said “Everyone around here lives from paycheck to paycheck” and the people around her agreed loudly. They were talking about how they couldn’t afford to evacuate because of the cost of hotels, gas, etc. All complained of having to spend money they didn’t have on gas cans, candles, batteries, and supplies.

    I couldn’t believe they never kept any of these items at home for emergency or everyday use. No candles? No batteries? No flashlights? They live in a hurricane zone, I couldn’t imagine why they waited until a major storm was bearing down on them to go to the store and pick up supplies that had been jacked up double or triple in price.

    I’m wondering if Trent and/or the Simpledollar community has given any thought to how to combine commonsense frugality with commonsense preparedness?

    I think Trent addressed some of this when there were floods in Iowa, but this might be a good time to look at it again with an eye toward storm/power outage preparedness.

    Of course, if these folks each had an emergency fund, they could have taken care of themselves without worrying about how they were going to afford some extra batteries and plywood.

    Some people interviewed said they had stocked up on ramen noodles. I couldn’t believe what a dumb, overpriced, and useless item that is for hurricane preparedness, and I wondered how they didn’t understand this. Just because they are 99 cents doesn’t make them cheap or appropriate.

    First off, ramen noodles require WATER and a HEAT SOURCE, two things in short supply when severe weather has disrupted drinking water, electricity, and gas supplies.

    Second, ramen noodles are full of sodium and not very nutritious, nothing you’d want to be eating for days on end.

    Third, if you’re in a car or an enclosed shelter where you can’t light a sterno or campstove, they are useless.

    Some ideas from Trent and the SD community might be a good resource for folks in this situation.

    My ideas…

    My preparedness foodstock includes shelf-stable items that require no refrigeration, cooking, or special preparation. For the most part, they don’t require additional water for preparation, and I get most of them at Costco or Sam’s Club, so the prices are reasonable.

    Peanut butter, crackers, tuna pouches (no can opener required!), granola bars, ready-to-eat soups in juicebox packages (again, no can opener required), canned veggies (corn and peas), etc.

    I have a ziplock bag with a bunch of individual jams and preserves, saved from all those restaurant breakfasts.

    I favor the granola bars, but you might prefer Pop-Tarts or energy bars. Dry cereal is good, make sure it’s well-sealed in ziplock bags. Milk or soymilk in individual juiceboxes is good if that’s your prefererence.

    Kids like canned ravioli and Spaghetti-Os. Adults and kids might like canned beef stew.

    All of these require no water to prepare, and heating is optional.

    I have tea bags and instant coffee (can’t stand the stuff, but I figure I might be really desperate for coffee). Also water in both gallon jugs and individual bottles.

    Red Cross says you should have a minimum gallon/day per person for a minimum three-day event, I keep about 1.5 gal/day (because I drink a lot of water), and I plan on a week.

    Also disposable paper plates, bowls, cups, utensils (plan on no potable water or water at all to wash dishes).

    Heatsources are sterno (gelled alcohol fuel), candles in glass, bare candles, and a small backpacking stove with fuel.

    Of course, batteries, flashlights, radios, first aid kit, medications, instant hand sanitizer, toilet paper, hygiene supplies, etc. I have a small 4-cell AA/AAA battery charger that runs from both a car cigarette lighter and a wall AC outlet, along with some rechargable AA and AAA batteries.

    And CASH. Plastic is useless when there’s no power or communication. Cash requirements vary depending on one’s circumstances, but I think at least $100/person is the minimum to get through an emergency, maybe a minimum of $200-300 dollars for a single person or couple.

    Back to the ramen noodle thing… If you really want some kind of instant soup in a cup and have access to hot water, get a mug or disposable hot cup, put half a bouillon cube, a tablespoon or two of instant rice (I use instant brown rice), and some herbs/spices of your choice in the cup along with hot water. Let it sit for a few minutes, and you have a REALLY cheap substitute for the ramen noodles that costs mere pennies instead of 99 cents. If you’ve opened a can of veggies, put some veggies in the cup. You can substitute couscous or pastina for the instant rice, it also works.

    With all these items, the key is to periodically use and replenish them so they are always fresh. Pick shelf-stable items you actually use on a regular basis, or would be willing to use (I never had canned veggies in the house, I eventually learned to use them in omelettes and soups).

    Pile on with your suggestions!

  96. Jade says:

    Hmmm… I had been looking into the “legal avenues already in place” since I live in a community property state and really don’t want anyone owning half my income, or having to worry about them taking title to anything I inherit because I have to spend my income earned during the marriage to maintain a rental property I may inherit.

    But cv makes a good point with the tax free inheritance and social security with married couples. Although that’s not going to be an issue until we’re older anyway and actually have assets for the other person to inherit… And social security is probably a moot point anyway. I firmly believe that social security won’t be there when I’m old enough for it, which is why I’m taking advantage of living with my parents and my side job while I’m in school and putting 75% of my income into my Roth IRA.

    I suppose if there are legal avenues in place so I can visit my boyfriend in the hospital and vice versa without being married, then I dunno if we need any of the other benefits of marriage until we’re a lot older. After all, I have a few family members who I’d want to leave my estate to if they were to outlive me before I’d leave it to my boyfriend, simply because they need it more than he does. But by the time they’re gone, I think my boyfriend and I will have been together long enough that I won’t be worried about him owning half my income and possibly comingling any inheritances I might get by then.

  97. john.doe says:

    Hi Trent,
    “For long term investment stock/stock funds are best” is something that’s heard over and over again. I’m wondering if this is a valid stmt as historic values can hardly be taken as reference. The stock markets changed rapidly over the last years, hedge funds, online-trading + realtime quotes for everyone, cfd’s, the speed and amount of money that’s transfered globally…… Do you really believe it’s still worth the risk (not only in the light of current development (lehman & co)?
    br john (obviosly an alias)

  98. Adam says:

    I have a question for an upcoming reader mailbag. I found the following two statements in different areas on your blog, and I’d like you to dissect them and explain how they are related:

    1. “What I wouldn’t give to have a man like Goldwater in mainstream American politics today.”

    2. “I am voting for Barrack Obama.”

    Also in your explanation, perhaps you could throw John McCain in the mix and compare him to Goldwater.

    In my personal opinion, if Goldwater politics are what you are looking for, the closest man is Ron Paul. Thanks!

  99. Sophia says:

    As an aside- I love when people use the story of Lot to defend the immorality of homosexuality, given it contains this little gem
    “I have two daughters who as yet have not known man : I will bring them out to you, and abuse you them as it shall please you, so that you do no evil to these men”

    The story implies Lot was moral because he offered his virgin daughters to be raped by strangers, to keep the strangers from committing a sin. So, are we to infer that raping women is not a sin, and therefore we can do that with God’s blessing?

    Neat. Where do I sign up?! Oh, wait, I’m a woman- probably doesn’t benefit me much.

    sorry to contribute to the flamer, but this particular story infuriates me in it’s hypocrisy

  100. A-Town says:

    You ever heard of a Green Dot Card? Is getting one a smart way to handle your spending habits? I’m looking into getting one but not sure if there are any monthly or yearly fees. What do you think?

  101. Christine says:

    I found the topic of books most interesting….and old fashioned ones like Little House, Swiss Family Robinson, Five Little Peppers, Little Women, etc, are inspiring not because picking up nails is what we should do today, but because the Story stays with you so strongly. The idea of overcoming hardship, staying positive and looking for opportunities wherever they arise is a very strong motivator. Most of these are for young people, I know, but their stories have stayed in my mind for many years.

  102. angel says:


    They were not men, they were angels!

  103. acaminante says:


    Try the Firefox add-on PicLens to browse through those Flikr images…you’ll find them 10 times faster.

  104. K says:

    graybee – I would not retire just because you can. It sounds like you wouldn’t be as fufilled without work of some kind, and I can’t tell from your post whether you are ready for a change or are just thinking of changing because your 30 years are up. I would stay at your current job until you start hating it or until you know specifically what you want to do next. You wouldn’t want to retire just to find out you wanted to stay! I think agism is only a factor in certain fields and I wouldn’t let that stop you from pursuing a MS in something that you would enjoy if you can afford it. Although if your current company will pay for school, by all means take advantage of it by working there longer.

  105. Ritter says:

    As for books showing “poor but making it” I love Tess, but I’d not recommend it based on that question. Considering the ending and what happens to Tess, it doesn’t really fit with the question. I do think the Little House books are a good choice though, despite not being modern because they remind us of hard times, people making due, and how grateful the girls are for the little luxuries (Christmas is good with a tin cup, a penny, an orange and some candy, if I rememeber right). Same would go for Little Women–reminders of an earlier generations attempts to live well in tough times.

    As for the flame war above, I’d rather see this blog stay away from non-PF hot button issues or be heavily moderated when it must go there–rather than have some nuts like Justin come in and ruin the usually good comments and community of this blog.

  106. Sophia says:

    I’m afraid to ask- but what do you mean by your comment? Are you being sarcastic, and agreeing with my offense to the story, or are you saying that the story is not offensive because getting raped by angels, and having a father that would toss you and your sister out to be raped, is ok?

    This is an honest question- I don’t understand the intent of your comment.

  107. Bobbi says:

    I will be getting a bonus of about $2500 (maybe more) for Christmas/End of year. I could use this to pay off debt or contibute to my IRA. I haven’t contributed to my IRA all year and feel like maybe I should do that, but would love to use it for my debt too. What to do, what to do? What would YOU do?

  108. SwingCheese says:

    Angel, Sophia – I think this is just a miscommunication. The two men who came to visit Lot were angels. Lot offered his daughters to the mortal men of the town of Sodom as an exchange for not handing over his visitors (the angels). I’d always heard that this was a story that illustrated the importance of maintaining ancient hospitality laws.

  109. Nikki says:

    Agree completely with

    Shaun @ 11:30 am September 15th, 2008 (comment #22)

    GOO TRENT! don’t be scare to answer loaded questions because it spawn interesting comments.

  110. Keelin says:

    Hi Trent,

    I’m a 27 year old single woman trying to make some big life decisions. I grew up in Seattle, went to college in New York city and have lived in Washington DC for the past 4 years. When I was younger, I was thrilled to have the chance to live in the big eastern cities. Now, however, I’m feeling a bit burned out on those cities (particularly the unbearable summer weather!). Lately I’ve been intrigued by the possibility of living in Anchorage, AK. I’d even be willing to explore different kinds of jobs, since my editing job probably won’t exist up north. Here’s the catch: I know no one in Anchorage and I’m a bit afraid that if it doesn’t work out, it will end up being a big set back at a pivotal moment in my life. (For instance, I’d like to get married in the next 4-5 years, get my career on track, etc.) I’ve visited Anchorage, but have never lived in a city smaller than 500,000 (Anchorage is 270,000) — not to mention one so remote. Do you think I should pursue a move to Anchorage, even with so many unknowns in the equation?

    Thanks so much,


  111. SteveJ says:

    Just want to reaffirm that I love the reader mailbags though I had to stop reading the comments after justin jumped in. Trent, I hope you continue to take on all questions and comers, the diverse subjects you handle make these posts great.

  112. michael bash says:

    You said somewhere that if I want $60,000 a year when I retire, I should accumulate 1.5 million by the time I retire. My salary and benefits were about that when I retired. I put into Social Security for all those years and into TIAA-CREF (I assume you know what that is) for 31 years. My employer contributed 10% of my salary (relatively high %) amd I matched it for a few years and then changed to 15%. TIAA-CREF requires 5% from the participant. Yhus total contributiom was 25% of salary, quite a lot. Total accumalation upon retirement was just over 600K. I retired at age 62. I now receive $4600 per month, $55,200 a year. Did I go wromg somewhere? No colleague does 25% of income and thus work tell 66 and something. Any thoughts appreciated.

  113. Ruby Leigh says:

    Hi Trent!

    I think you answered the “Do you believe homosexuals should have the right to marry?” question extrodinarily well considering the heated nature of the topic. I feel you “wisely” avoided sharing your personal moral beliefs as they do not apply to this blogs intent.

    Anyway.. I am truly amazed and continually find myself shocked how people get offended so easily from time to time. It reminds me of this post on slactivist: http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2009/06/just-say-no.html

    Anyway – I know this post is old – but thought I would comment anyhow.


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