Updated on 03.27.16

Reader Mailbag #3

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.

First of all, after the recent discussion about finding your own passion, a reader named Syble sent in the following idea, which I loved:

Another suggestion for finding your passion: keep a note card and every time you see, hear or experience something that makes you feel really good, write it down. Love seeing sci-fi movies? Spending time with your elderly aunt or joining in a pick-up soccer game at the nearby park? Making a table? Organizing dinner parties? Write it down on your card! On the other side of the card, write down everytime you see, hear or experience something that makes your blood boil. A child being molested? The poor state of the streets where you live? The way women are treated in Afghanistan? Immigrants who can’t speak English? Write it down. After a few weeks, look at your list and see what patterns emerge and if a particular like or dislike jumps out. That’s where your passion lies! It’s where you have strong emotional feelings and want to be involved. Look in that direction for a job, hobby or volunteer opportunity. You could help create change by teaching adults English as a career or volunteer. Concerned about children? Look into an agency involved in parent support, foster care, programs for kids from troubled backgrounds, shelters for abused women and children, etc. Look at the political route or become active in a committee to improve the infrastructure of your town. Review sci-fi movies for a local paper or write for a magazine. Collect and sell sci-fi movies. Think really broadly about what moves you emotionally to focus your efforts on a job, career or personal time search for having a passion for what you’re doing.

That’s a truly great idea, well worth trying.

Also, here are a few links that directly answer a few questions I’ve heard lately.
My thoughts (both good and bad) on Rich Dad, Poor Dad
Preparation-for-life advice and money advice for college students
Frugal golfing

And now for some good ol’ fashioned reader questions!

Where do you think is the line between self-reliance and outsourcing, making and buying ? Washing your own clothes and pressing them vs. giving it out to laundry? LoL. Why didn’t you grow your own wheat/maize to make your bread ? It would have been simple, sweet, self-reliant and of course, I am sure, you would have found an argument to show how it can be cost-effective (like owning a small wheat farm and co-operatively distributing the wheat to all like-minded breadmakers in the community).
– WhirlMind

In most of those cases, you’re paying others for a particular service you could do yourself. That’s a value exchange, and that’s completely an individual judgement call – there are some things that are done more effectively by paying someone else to do them. The problem comes in when you no longer have the faintest idea how to provide that service. What would you do if suddenly a plague wiped out 99% of Earth’s population? Would you know how to survive? Could you make your own food? Gather water? Keep yourself clean?

The advantage of doing things yourself is that you learn at least some of these skills, and they function as something of an insurance policy for you. When I grew up, there was an old mountain man who lived completely off the land near where I lived. People looked down on him because he didn’t keep himself up, but do you want to guess where I would have headed if society’s fabric had begun to collapse?

Given a year or so, I know how to make corn flour, and I’m fairly confident I could make wheat flour. I also know how to make a wood fire and I know the process for collecting your own yeast. Thus, given almost nothing except for adequate time, I could produce a passable loaf of bread. There aren’t many people I know that could do this, but I know that there is at least some potential for that to be very useful.

Self-reliance is a way to improve yourself and make yourself more ready to tackle the challenges that life may deal to you.

You seem kinda arrogant. Are you really happy with your life? Like, really? What area of your life are you disappointed with? Come clean.
– fungi

I write with natural self-confidence. Words without confidence don’t inspire others to any sort of passion, and it takes passion to step up to the plate and take ahold of your finances. I think my natural tendency to write with self-confidence sometimes convinces people that I’m arrogant.

The only thing I’m unhappy with in my life is that there are only twenty four hours in a day and as a result I have to choose among a big pile of things that I’d like to do. This always leaves threads I’d love to follow up on, and I often feel a tremendous amount of guilt because I don’t get around to some of those things. I sometimes wind up putting a lot of pressure on myself to “make good.”

Have you ever considered investing in real estate? If not, how come?
– Jared the Super

Real estate investing is not something I’ve looked at with any degree of seriousness. Successful real estate transactions seem to generally require more personal involvement than I’m interested in. Certainly, there are options that minimize this personal involvement, like REITs, but those are asset classes that I don’t see a big need to include in my life right now.

In a nutshell, it just doesn’t get my fire going, and I don’t see a strong financial reason to get involved, so I’m content to just let it be.

I would love to see a post about commercials and money. What is your reaction to commercials like the debit card one. Wife is watching TV when it goes out. She says “yes, we need a new TV.” Man rejoices and “wisely” plans how much to spend on TV by looking at his bank balance on his handy-dandy debit card. I could see a whole post what is right/wrong with this commercial alone.
– Sharon

It would be pretty easy for me to go on yet another anti-television rant, but suffice it to say that I think most commercial television is so loaded with marketing messages that you might as well invite a corporate pitch man into your living room to shill for you for thirty minutes. Not just commercials, but within programs – there are “clever” product placements everywhere. My favorite one is Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, a seemingly heartwarming show that is buried in so many product placements that I often lose track of where the commercial ends and the program begins.

Enough of that. I agree – the commercial is obnoxious.

What is your absolute favorite frugal recipe?
– Sandy Fleming

Easy – sixteen bean soup! Just get a bag of dried beans at your local grocery store, a pound of ham or so, half an onion, and make sure you have some salt and pepper in hand. It’s good to cook this on a weekend the first time. The night before, put all of the beans in a pot of cold water and put that pot in the fridge to soak overnight. When you’re about three hours before you’re ready to eat, drain the beans of the water (which will be pretty cloudy), pour enough water into the beans to cover them with about an inch of water on top, and put them on to simmer for three hours. You can add in the ham and (chopped) onions at whatever point you wish during this three hours – earlier means the soup will be more consistent in flavor and the onion and ham will be more tender, later gives each bite a bit more variety.

Here’s the best part: that recipe makes enough for three meals for my family. We take the leftover soup, split it in half, put each half in two freezer Ziploc bags, and drop these bags in the freezer. Whenever we want it for a meal, we just take out the bag a day or two early to thaw and then just warm it up, either by stove top or by microwave. This makes the meal cost substantially less than a dollar per person per meal at our house.

What are the best parenting/baby books? I plan to be a new parent within the next few years, and I’m looking for a list of books that will help me w/ the whole experience. And I know you read like a madman. ;) Thanks.
– Dave

A lot of people will immediately recommend What to Expect When You’re Expecting (and other What to Expect books). These are fine for reference, but they often read like a “Worst Case Scenario” handbook and can easily make a reader feel quite (unnecessarily) nervous about the experience. Get it, keep it as a reference, but don’t read it as gospel.

Instead, I got a lot of good use out of The Expectant Father, The New Father: A Dad’s Guide to the First Year, and The New Father: A Dad’s Guide to the Toddler Years. All three were really useful for preparing myself to be a father, as I found that the things I expected to be challenging were actually easy and the real challenges were unexpected. The books basically have nailed things quite well along the way.

Have you ever in hindsight regretted blogging something, maybe because it was too controversial, too personal, or something of that nature?
– Eric

Not entire posts, but I’ve often regretted my chosen wording and occasionally my choice of examples. A few times, I’ve gotten carried away with criticism towards something I deeply feel is wrong. My biggest frustration/regret as a blogger is when I’m talking about one point, make a single reference to something related in one sentence, and the entire resulting conversation is derailed by this sidebar discussion. That usually makes me feel as though I’ve somehow failed as a writer, that this little side point is more compelling than my article as a whole, and it makes me regret the article that I wrote.

What are your thoughts on outsourcing your life? Do you do any outsourcing yourself? How do you feel it helps or could help highly busy and productive people? I do this about halfway and am incredibly productive… I was just wondering your thoughts.
– Shanti

I think this could be potentially worthwhile depending on your situation. “Outsourcing your life” is just a continuation of the old idea of hiring people to do stuff for you that you yourself don’t want to do. Most people think it’s normal to hire someone to mow your yard – the idea here is basically to hire someone to check your email or do other mundane tasks so you can focus in on the pieces you enjoy. I see no problem with that whatsoever if it’s a time-for-money exchange where you feel your time is more valuable.

Personally, I would be rather hesitant to hire someone to answer correspondence on my behalf, but as my correspondence grows, I can actually see reaching a point where I would consider it.

What is your opinion on affirmative action? Also, what is your opinion on reparations for native americans?
– Outlook

I’m not an expert on affirmative action or other such initiatives – there are great arguments for and against it. I do believe, though, that as long as people are judged even slightly by the color of their skin versus the content of their character, then something does have to be adjusted. Many people feel that the adjustments are too much, but recent current events in America have convinced me that perhaps as a nation we’re not as advanced on racial equality issues as we’d like to be. I guess, then, as a white male, I’m okay with affirmative action, though I think every single one of us should be working towards an America where affirmative action is an unnecessary antiquated notion.

As for Native American reparations, I am legally qualified to receive them, as I am legally eligible to be a member of a tribe. Considering my experience with Native American life mostly comes from memories of my grandmother using homeopathic remedies, I think the fact that I am eligible is rather silly. As for whether they’re necessary in general, I think the best way for reparations to be given is in the form of opportunities – scholarships and other tools to allow people in bad situations to improve themselves. I generally feel this way about any government assistance – it should be assistance for people who are genuinely trying to help themselves, not subsistence.

Is Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian almost all new material or has he just cut out the meat part of How to Cook Everything?
– John

As some of you know, I’m pretty intrigued by food and I’ve found that Mark Bittman is my favorite food writer – in fact, How to Cook Everything is my default recommendation for a beginner cookbook.

There is significant overlap between How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I’d say as much as 50% of the content is the same in each one, but that other 50% really makes a big difference. Having said that, I’d probably stick with the original until the new one comes out in paperback unless you happen to be a vegetarian or you’re really interested in diving into vegetarian cooking. If that’s the case, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is a very good book.

What is your opinion of the “Can I afford it?” segment on the Suze Orman show? All of the callers seem to have $60,000 to $140,000 in savings and yet are not smart enough to know if they should take a $4,000 vacation. Do you think the callers are real?
– st

There are a lot of people out there that need encouragement in their decision-making process. They already know the answer, but they feel much better about things if an “authority” of some sort reaffirms their gut instinct. That’s really what the segment is about – reaffirming common sense when it comes to purchasing decisions. It’s helpful for some people and redundant for others.

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

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  1. Frugal Dad says:

    The “outsourcing your life” concept is interesting. I do wonder at what point you would consider adding someone to help you manage the deluge of emails, comments, mail, etc. that you receive as a popular writer. I guess anything that took you away from writing or interacting with readers would be something worth outsourcing, but it seems those two things are required to be a successful writer.

  2. Saving Freak says:

    We get a lot of people in financial counseling asking the can I afford it question. Usually the answer is yes if they plan properly. The problem is so few people plan properly that they really cannot afford things.

  3. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    Frugal Dad: that’s an interesting question. If I were to hire someone to do this for me, I’d basically hire them to be a human filter. I’d have them assemble daily reports into a single email for me, handle the very mundane things and the repeated requests, then forward onto me the ones that actually require my own personal touch. This would save me some significant time.

  4. Johanna says:

    I’d love to see a review of “How to Live Well Without Owning a Car” by Chris Balish.

  5. JBS says:

    I am curious about the crib you bought for your children for their children to use. Could you post pictures? What you looked for? We are starting to work on a nursery for the baby we will be adopting and love an $1100 crib…

  6. guinness416 says:

    That’s exactly how Tim Ferriss described using outsourcing to handle his email, Trent. Certainly seems to have worked for him!

  7. Bonnie says:

    Amen to your comment about the frustration on blogging posts–when you have a post devoted to a point and then the conversation goes around a side issue based on one sentence.

    Ah well–people get what they need!

  8. KC says:

    I hate the Visa commercials that show people using credit speeding up the line. Then the dorky guy comes up with cash and it slows everything down. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Cash is ALWAYS faster – if it isn’t then there aren’t enough safeguards in the credit/debit process. If you just scan and go that is dangerous – no signature, no picture id verification – too scary.

    I also watch the Suze Orman “Can I afford it?” Segment. I agree – there are some stupid people with money out there. But I am more amazed at what people want to buy. Like a $5,000 watch. Or a $150,000 car. Now I like toys as much as anyone, but c’mon – who would want that sort of stuff? I’m all for spending money on a great experience, but that kind of money on “stuff” is just ridiculous if you have a net worth below a few million.

  9. Jo says:


    Good to know that your Readers mailbag is really picking up! I am avid follower of your Blog!

    Here is my problem.. I am 27 and hope to do my Masters in Business next year(Apping this year(08) and hopefully get in Next year)
    Like all potential students I worry about how I will be able to afford the tuition fees.. (Around 100-120k for a top 20 college)
    Here is the fun part.. Unlike most potential students I hope to earn this money before my classes start next year. :))

    I earn about 85k per year/ My per month expenditure is about 1200(including rent/food et al) . Yes I have a roommate. :) I tell everyone its because of the impending recession.. :)
    right now all I am doing is saving as much as I can and putting money in CDs whenever I can find decent rates.. I have about 40K in savings.
    With my current Salary and burn rate I should be able to save another 66k before school starts
    My problem is.. I don’t have a 401k/Roth (gasp?).. Do you think I should start putting money into a 401k? I know taking a loan against your 401k is bad..
    But the thought of passing out of a college with about 50k in loans is scary. What would you advice? Can you think of a better saving strategy?


  10. jake says:

    Trent, just wait till your kids are older then put them to work :)

    Hey what are kids for?

  11. Katrina says:

    I watched the Suze Orman segment a few weeks ago, and had to turn it off because someone wanted to know if they could afford a fancy “golden sundae” from an expensive restaurant. It had actual gold in it, a substantial amount, and cost around $1000, I believe. The caller clearly couldn’t afford it, most people can’t. It seemed like he was hoping for an authority to tell him he could have it, and I’m going to guess that if he wanted it that much, he’s probably going to convince himself he needs it.

    However, the kicker was this: Suze had one delivered to the show and sat there eating it, saying “YOU might not be able to afford it, but I can! YUM!” It was a little hard to swallow, frankly.

  12. Liz says:

    I love your blog, especially the book reviews. Keep up the great work!

    My husband and I have an ING savings account that we opened awhile ago and we are just getting back to using it regularly (a baby and loss of one income threw us off a bit). I was looking at it this weekend and I can’t seem to figure out how to subdivide my savings account into categories. I haven’t contacted them yet, just wondered if others were interested as well? Thanks!

  13. Jesse says:

    In response to a few of those emails, I agree with Trent. If you are paying someone money for something you could do yourself, it is a waste. People say time is money, but most of the time, the time you save is not equal to the amount of money spent…especially when you consider that after taxes etc.

  14. Jane says:

    I’m going to pick a tiny nit here with one point, just like you hate. :) You used the term “homeopathic” to refer to your grandmother’s remedies, and I think you mean natural remedies. Homeopathy refers to a very specific idea that you can cure illness using remedies that would induce symptoms like the illness in a healthy person, and using serial dilution to mix a remedy. While many natural remedies have significant value, Homeopathy has no basis in fact and I hate to see the term misused.

  15. Emily says:

    “What to expect when you’re expecting” is a horrible book for pregnant women, especially first time pregnancies. It seems to assume that all pregnancies are identical. I’ve know people get really scared after reading it. One of the worst bits of advice it gives is that you should feel your baby move throughout the day. Then it proceeds to say that if you don’t feel the baby move, it might be dead. I had a co-worker who was pregnant and scared because her baby never moved. She freaked and went to the doctor. Her doctor said that the reason the baby never moved was because she was on her feet all day and her constant movement was keeping the baby asleep.

  16. !wanda says:

    @Katrina: The joke’s on Orman. If it is the sundae referenced in this article: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/11/16/if-you-give-a-mouse-a-25000-frrozen-haute-chocolate/
    the restaurant was later closed by health inspectors because of mouse, fly, and roach infestations.

    @Trent: If you didn’t have ethics, you could have milked your Native American tribal status for a lot of college scholarship money. Colleges love students who are both academically qualified and “disadvantaged minorities,” even if only on paper.

  17. Andrea says:

    I e-mailed specifically about this before, but I would like to try again:
    Basically, I’m wondering about advice for saving for a parent’s future. My mom has no RRSP, no savings, lives paycheck to paycheck, and jokes about how she’ll be working till death, but doesn’t actually do anything about it. My sister and I are concerned that we will end up having to pay for her in the future, and are wondering if there’s anything we can start doing NOW (keeping in mind that we’re both just finished school, still paying student loans, credit card debts, and starting our own savings and RSPs). We;ve tried to talk to her about it before, but she just gets really defensive and plays the victim, plus we don’t want to be condescending towards our own mother. Any suggestions?

  18. Katana says:

    I am part Cree, and not legally entitled to receive anything in regards to my Native American status (or lack of). And I have been raised in middle class white society, so my personal experience is limited to eating Bannock. But the very fact that you and I have no connection to our Native American heritage means that the assimilation process (the reason ‘repatriation’ is done) has been completed, and our culture, once diluted far enough, will be nonexistent. Instead of saying, “Oh, I’m too far removed,” you should say, “I’ll take that, and maybe put it towards the community.” Because there are people that don’t get their status and could certainly use the help. And there is never enough help for the social problems on reserves.

    I think if you are legally entitled to receive repatriations, you ought to! And if you don’t feel like you deserve it, find some cousins or family who do.

    I hope I’ve made myself clear without condemning anything except the government practices. I’m 21 part Cree, and wish I could speak Cree, or knew more, or didn’t have relatives with shitty life situations.

  19. Allie says:

    To Liz about creating ING subdivisions:

    After you log in to your account, go over to ‘Open New Account’ on the left side and it will ask you if you’re a new customer then ask for your account # and that’s it! Very easy!

    I have several subaccounts-one for each utility, the mortgage, and several savings accounts for various things. I love seeing how much is in each account and knowing that I’ll always have enough for the mortgage and my other bills!

  20. KoryO says:

    st, yes, the callers are real on the Suze Orman show. My call never made it to the air because there were phone reception problems on their end, but Suze did take the time to answer my question and was gracious about the whole thing.

    (Oh, my question? How to know how to split up your savings between retirement and your kid’s college. Long story short….she recommended saving a lot more for your retirement than for your kids.)

  21. Rachel says:

    Can you post more of your frugal recipes? :)

  22. Andrew says:


    I asked this question one time earlier. I don’t know if you saw it so I won’t ask it again after this time just so I don’t get annoying. But here it is:

    What are your financial and moral opinions about cohabitating before a couple is married? Do you think it is a good idea finacially and do you think it will help or hurt the eventual marriage?

    Thanks. I love Mailbag. It is my favorite post of yours.

  23. DeDe says:

    I sent this in by email, before I read this post asking for questions to be submitted in the comments. Oops! Sorry. :-(

    This is probably one of those annoying ones you hear on the Suze Orman show, but I’m gonna risk throwing it out there anyway. Be kind.

    I recently lost about 80ish pounds & have a ton of excess skin on my tummy. “The girls” seriously need some perking up as well. :-) To “fix” it all is a cool $17,000. I’ve been debt free for several years now but remember clearly when I wasn’t & what it took to get out of it. “Your Money or Your Life” was a huge catalyst for making that recovery process possible and helping me get my head right about money’s role in my life. I haven’t owned a credit card for over 10 years, bought my first home 3 years ago, paid off my car, and only have about $8.7K left on my student loans. I have a wee little emergency cushion, but no retirement savings.

    I know most people consider this a vanity issue, but it seriously effects my self image and my relationships… which is the only reason I am even considering hurling myself right back into debt. It’s really THAT important to me. But then, so is being able to pay all my bills.

    Yes, I could save for the surgery first, but time is the real consideration here. Each day I try to stay fit and healthy, my apron of saggy skin says, “Why bother? I’m never going away no matter how hard you try!”

    What do you think? Do I just need to get this right in my head, or is this one of those times the “me” in this equation warrants the debt?

  24. Jamie says:

    I have two issues I would love to hear your opinion on, Trent:

    1. Is Nutrisystem a cost-effective way to loose weight?

    2. Is there financial gain (particularly in terms of time) in permanent hair removal as opposed to shaving, waxing, etc.?


  25. Dave M says:

    “…half an onion, and make sure you have some *salt and pepper*…” Man, you midwesterners and your crazy spices. I don’t know if I can keep up with all the culinary wizardry! :-)

  26. Thank you for answering my question on self-reliance.

  27. Frank Kelly says:

    “I guess, then, as a white male, I’m okay with affirmative action”

    Wow I’m surprised. Affirmative action is just racism in reverse. As Chief Justice Roberts said “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race, is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

    Or as my mother might say “Two wrongs don’t make a right”.


  28. imelda says:

    Oh boy…I’ll be good and refrain from responding to Frank.

    I am just posting to say that I’m in almost exactly the same situation as Andrea, except my fear is that I won’t be ABLE to support my parents as I get older, rather than that I will have to. Trent, if you wanted to take up that question, you’d help more than one person!

  29. Chris says:


    Here’s an easy one for you: What’s your handicap? And if you don’t have one, what do you usually score?

  30. Chris says:

    @ Frank:

    Awesome post. Affirmative action is garbage.

    If you want equality, let’s have it.

    And, no, I’m not white. I bet that most of the pro-affirmative action folks thought so though.
    But, in the land of equality, I shouldn’t have to qualify myself, should I?

    Reverse racism is 100% accurate.

  31. !wanda says:

    @DeDe: It will be cheaper to get it “all right” in your head. It’s probably true that you think the situation is way worse than how other people will see you. We’ll all get old and saggy in the end anyhow. But maybe there are cheaper options- will insurance cover it?

  32. kell@confessionsofachocolatelife.blogspot.com says:

    I saw the question ‘What is your favourite frugal recipe’. I would like to ask, what is your favourite vegetarian frugal recipe, for us vege people?

  33. Shevy says:

    $17,000 is a lot of debt to jump back into. How long did it take you to lose the weight? The faster you lose, the harder it is for your skin to “catch up”. Could you give it 6 months or a year, while you work on maintaining the loss (and on accumulating some money to put towards the procedures) and see how much improvement there may be in both your skin and your attitude towards your appearance?

    After all, maintenance is the most important part of the equation. If you have these expensive procedures and then have trouble maintaining a lower weight you will have spent the money but won’t have the results to show for it and your skin will be the worse for the experience.

    You’ve already achieved something fantastic. Be proud of that for the moment and see what happens a little further down the road. Don’t give in to that voice that tells you, “Why bother? I’m never going away no matter how hard you try!” I think that voice is not necessarily telling the whole truth and I think you need to have success with maintenance in order to be properly prepared for whatever choice you make in the end.

  34. Cheryl says:

    What is the best way to pay down my mortgage? My bank offers many options, and I’m not sure which is the best…make a payment every two weeks all year or divide my mortgage pmt by 12 and pay 1/12 against the principle or just make an extra payment each year? Is one way more effective than the others?


  35. Barbara says:

    Okay, I agree on your point of not taking any assistance from BIA. My husband is also qualified to receive BIA assistance, yet did not grow up on a reservation immersed in Indian culture. He hasn’t used “other” as an identifier and has done very well in his career and education, attaining scholarships in other areas to get his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He believes that the assistance is for those who truly have no other means of improving their lives. It is a sense of entitlement that people have that will keep them from attaining their true potential. He never expected the assistance, and found other more appropriate ways to fund his education. He is happy and prosperous, and I believe it says a lot about a person’s character and honor when they do the right thing.

  36. Katrina says:

    Actually, I second the notion about the question of cohabitation before marriage. Moral/financial opinions? Any financial advice if you’re going to do it?

    Thanks! (Love the blog, keep up the good work. You have really helped center my goals and financial opinions, something I am thankful for this early in my life.)

  37. T says:

    @Andria & Imelda: count me as another vote for this topic! Although I’ve been a little nervous on this front for a while, recent medical events in my family have made it clear I had no idea what kind of money parents can require as they get older. I think I’d imagined that worst case scenario, they move in with us, we need one more bedroom and lose a little privacy and spend more on food, and we all make it through. Diagnoses whose only real treatment options can cost 10’s to 100’s of thousands of dollars a year were not anywhere in my expectations – but now seem to be a real risk. I suspect this is an area where a little planning might go a long way, but it’s hard to know where to start!

    @Jane (#14) – This is one of my pet peaves, too! Thanks for the clarification!

  38. deRuiter says:

    comment on post #23 Dear Dede, First, CONGRATS ON LOSING 80 POUNDS!!!! Atta girl! Now think about this, and anyone a bit squeemish doesn’t need to read further. You’ve got two problems, the girls and the apron of skin. ONE IS AN EASY FIX, GO TO A GOOD BRA STORE AND BE PROPERLY FITTED. For under $50. one half the problem will be solved nicely for now, and in the future you can consider a more expensive, and extensive, solution. The apron of skin is a health issue, 1. medical (chaffing,) 2. practicality in that you can not buy comfortable and flattering clothing with this lump in your front, and 3. emotional (distress and self consciousness.) Get a plastic surgeon to give you a quote on just the tummy tuck. You’ll have already solved the girls’ problem. A good tummy tuck will cost you less than eight grand, most likely more in the $6,000. range. My OPINION is that this procedure is WORTH going into debt. You will have more energy afterwards to earn money because you’ll have a great shape so you will feel happy and energetic. Also you will not be hauling around an extra 10 or so pounds of blubber laden skin, so you will not be so tired. ALSO IT WOULD BE TOO MUCH SURGERY FOR ONE SESSION TO HAVE A BOOB JOB AND A TUMMY TUCK, ESPEICALLY SINCE YOU HAVE SO MUCH SKIN TO REMOVE. In my opinion, this is one of the few, minutely few times it would be OK to go into debt. Why wait a day longer? The sooner you get this work done, THE LONGER THE AMORTIZATION PERIOD FOR THE RESULTS, AND THE LONGER YOU WILL ENJOY THE RESULTS, BE PLEASED WITH YOUR SELF IMAGE. Don’t wait, do the tuck and buy the good bra! deRuiter

  39. LC says:

    My opinion on cohabitation:
    I am opposed to it morally and it has been shown to have negative effects on the marriage down the road. I think it lessens the effect of the commitment you make on your wedding day. But since this is a financial blog, here’s what I think about that: Maintaining one household rather than 2 obviously saves money. However, I don’t think it is wise for couples to completely merge their finances before they are married. Just think of all the people who have problems with that AFTER they are married and what happens in the even of a divorce or not going through with the wedding. A lot of headaches if you ask me. I do agree that it would make a good blog post.

    About the surgery. I agree with deRuiter and think that you should just go with one of them. If you are sure that that is the main thing hurting your self image, then $6-8000 is a small price to pay (although I would try to save up for it if you can). You may want to talk to a therapist first to make sure there aren’t any other issues that will remain even after the surgery.

  40. Dan says:

    Hi Trent. Excellent thoughts, comments, and advice on so many things within your website blog. Thanks for some great critical thinking – keep up the thought-provoking good work.

    Regarding your Affirmative Action post and the quote, “…as long as people are judged even slightly by the color of their skin versus the content of their character, then something does have to be adjusted [,]” I just wanted to make a few book recommendations on the subject. Check out these eye openers:

    Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin, ISBN 0451208641

    White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son by Tim Wise, ISBN 1932360689

    Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James Loewen, ISBN 0684818868


  41. Jeremy says:

    Thanks for being open to discuss just about anything Trent. As for questions, I have a few…
    How do you deal with family that has no interest in taking fiscal responsibility for themselves? My case involves me who is trying to plan for the future, be frugal, and save as much as I can. My Dad and brother both spend like there is no tomorrow. I can see my father need significant health care in the future and both of them looking at me to foot the bill. I am having a difficult time wrestling with having to take care of my family later when they won’t try to plan to take care of themselves.
    After you have maxed out your 401k and Roth IRA, what investment vehicles do you like? I have looked at both tax managed mutual funds and (gasp!) annuities. Speaking of which…
    Got any insights on annuities? It sounds like they are at least getting a little better (lower fees, etc.)
    If you didn’t have a wife and children, who would you leave your assets to? I am hesitant to leave my assets, life insurance, etc. to my family because of their lack of fiscal responsibility. That has created a quandry about where I will leave the money. Right now I am considering college funds for the children of close friends.
    I have many more, but I think that is enough for now. Thanks for all of your insight!


  42. d gasawa says:

    You might add to your list of parenting books later… The Father’s Almanac and The Mother’s Almanac, just for fun. It’s been so long I don’t have the authors at hand, sorry.

  43. kentuckyliz says:

    For those with parents who save nothing for retirement and are spendthrifts: they are behaving as though they want to be poor and dependent on the government in their old age. So be it.

    You have a duty to honor your parents by making sure they have the basic needs of life–if that’s Section 8 housing and food stamps, then it’s taken care of. You can’t afford to run your own family and foot the bill for their lifestyle too.

    They really want to steal from their grandchildren? Because that’s what it boils down to…you could pay the bills for the dependent parents, or you could save/invest for your retirement and pay for your kids’ college–that’s what they’re stealing.

    Prioritize your own family’s needs first. If the parent comes asking for money, tell them what you can afford to share each month in your budget. It’s their problem to solve to go begging from everyone and arranging their own lives.

    I thought Canada had generous social welfare and free health care? Why would you pay medical bills for your relatives if health care is free? Why wouldn’t the government take care of them?

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