Updated on 06.25.09

Reader Mailbag #73

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.

Why do you consider “a bit of interest on the checking” to be so important? If your average checking account balance is $1000, and you get 0.25% interest on it, that’s $2.50 a year. Even if your average balance is $5000, that’s $12.50 a year. Sure, that’s $12.50 that you didn’t have before, but it doesn’t seem like enough to make “interest on checking” an essential requrement for choosing a bank.
– Johanna

I view not having such interest as essentially being an invisible fee charged to you by your bank, for starters. Given that quite a few banks have at least a bit of interest on checking account balances, not having that feature is in essence a fee.

It’s not a make-or-break feature, but would you tolerate it well if your bank suddenly started issuing a $12.50 annual fee for “account services”? Probably not – you’d call and complain.

So why tolerate no interest when you could be getting a little?

Where do you draw the line between saving money in order to have a better life later versus spending money to have a better life now? My dilemma: I’m currently saving $500/month by living with a roommate. This money all goes toward paying off my student debt ($18,000 principal balance, with 6.5% interest). However, I’m at the age (mid-twenties) where I would really prefer to be on my own. I found a studio apartment that would be more than my current rent, meaning I would only save $300/month.
– Becky

You draw the line wherever you want, because it’s your life to live.

If you find that it’s worth $200 a month more to live on your own in a smaller apartment than having a roommate in a larger apartment, then by all means, do so. I cannot tell you what your values are – all I can do is suggest ways to think about money and save money.

You have to come to the value conclusions yourself.

I’m just curious about some aspects/areas of finance and frugality that you DON’T touch on your blog or don’t subscribe to in real life. Other than couponing and the fact that you are willing to pay premiums for good food, I can’t think of any specifics that you’ve mentioned.
– MT

Hmm… I really don’t like haggling. If I think a price is unfair, I just walk away from it and don’t bother. There are a few exceptions to this, like at the very end of a garage sale or a farmers market where the items are likely headed to the dustbin anyway.

I rarely shoot for the bottom dollar on any item I purchase. Instead, I’m more of a researcher – I’ll look carefully at the multitude of options available, figure out where the best bang for the buck resides, then try to get the best deal on that item.

I don’t tolerate dogma or zealotry very well at all. I don’t believe there are “rules” to frugality – instead, I believe in figuring out each situation and finding the best deal for you. If you hold to the absolute truth that you must always buy a used car or that you must always buy generic and feel the need to fling insults at people who don’t subscribe to those rules even though they did their own investigation and simply came to a different conclusion, I have little need for you.

I don’t think excessive reusing is a good frugal strategy. Many people seem to believe that saving everything, from ice cream buckets to newspapers, is a good idea because eventually you’ll find a use for it. Instead, it just seems to overload you with more stuff than you can manage. Having more stuff has a real cost – time spent finding things when you could be enjoying your life.

I’m 18 years old but looking about 7-10 years into the future at the purchase of my first house. Without getting into the whole renting vs. buying debate, I’m internally debating whether or not it would be a good idea to put my savings toward a down payment into my Roth IRA for the time being and, when the time comes, use the contributions earmarked for the down payment plus some earnings (since up to $10,000 would be non-taxable for a first time home buyer).

My thinking is this: with the way the market is now, I have a great chance to buy low. I’d like to think that, in 7-10 years when I’m looking to buy, the economy will have turned around, allowing me to sell high. This idea wouldn’t affect my normal contributions to my Roth IRA and I’m thinking that I’d determine how much of the earnings I’d pull by some simple ratio of (contributions earmarked for down payment/total contributions * earnings).

Thoughts? Ideas? Comments?
– Kevin

Saving for a home is a really good idea. The only problem with this is that you’d be stripping out your Roth IRA and essentially starting over in terms of retirement savings in ten years.

Think of it this way: if you put in $5,000 a year between now and 28 and the stock market returns 7% a year, then stopped putting in another dime, you’ll have more in the account at retirement than if you emptied it out and contributed $5,000 a year for the rest of your adult life.

Depending on where you live, there may be a better option. Montana, for example, has a first time home buyers savings program that stops taxes on any earnings. Other states have similar programs, and there is talk of a federal move to do the same thing.

If I were you, I’d start contributing to a Roth, like you suggest, but if a federal plan for home savings comes through, switch to that immediately. Leave the money in the Roth and don’t touch it unless there’s a real need.

Trent sees college as just a way to make money. The primary purpose of college should be to gain a liberal arts education.
– Michael

I don’t see college as a way to make money – for some people it is, but for many people (who don’t finish, or who earn a low-paying degree) it’s not at all. I do see college as a waste of money for many people straight out of high school who aren’t really equipped to actually appreciate a liberal arts education.

So, if I had a child who had a successful business going out of high school that wanted to put off college for a few years, I’d thoroughly approve it. The years spent learning how life really works while getting that business going will either teach him what it takes to make that business roar or show him the real value one can get out of college.

I didn’t really understand what was useful about college until I was mostly finished with it. I basically looked at it as extended high school – which is completely the wrong approach. Many of my friends and others in my class did the exact same thing – if you got a good grade, that was all that mattered.

Now, I see the value in actually learning things – and learning how to learn. College is jam-packed with opportunities, but many people straight out of high school simply don’t see them – or they don’t value them much at all.

My husband and I recently withdrew equity from our house in order to pay off considerable credit card debt. I felt that this was a reasonable risk because 1) we owe less than one quarter of our home’s value in a mortgage, 2) Our bank offered us a HELOC loan with a fixed rate of 4% for the next ten years, 3) we would be able to pay off the loan within 10 years with a lower payment than we were currently making on the credit card, and 4) the interest rate on the credit cards were much higher than 4%. I was so relieved when we sent in the last credit card payment and paid the full statement balance. What I didn’t expect was that this month the credit card company sent us another bill for a full months interest even though the balance had been paid off in the last statement. The company said that this was for the difference in days between when the statement was issued and the balance was paid. What I don’t understand is that the last payment was made before the due date and no further charges were made, so how can they charge me more interest?
– sleigh

It sounds to me like your credit card company uses two-cycle billing, which pretty much acts exactly how you describe. There’s a great description of it over at All Financial Matters, but what it essentially means is that the credit card company uses an average of your balances over the last two months to calculate the interest you owe this month. Thus, if you pay off your whole balance, you’ll still get another bill.

Discover is known for using this tactic, for one. My wife had a Discover card for a while which she’d pay off every two or three months, yet she’d keep getting another small bill after she thought she had paid it all off.

I don’t understand what you mean when you say you’re leaving lots of moneymaking opportunities for The Simple Dollar behind. What could you do to make money on the site that you’re not doing?
– Angie

I could run more ads. I could sell links during my weekly roundup (I’ve had some surprisingly large offers). I could sell reader mailbag questions (again, I’ve had offers). I could sell whole posts. I could sell individual links in posts. I could do paid reviews for specific products. I could run ads for products I don’t approve of – I’ve had some huge offers here. I could sell my name to various financial products.

I don’t do any of these things. Instead, I just run a small handful of ads, enough to pay the bills and keep food on the table.

Why not cash in? The real issue is that lots of people trust what I write. They recognize I’m not perfect and I do make errors, but they also know I’m not out there lying to them, shilling for things I don’t believe in. Those people will stick around for the long haul. They’ll tell their friends about the good stuff they read here. They’re likely to buy books that I write in the future. If I came to their town, they’re likely to attend a talk I would give. They even support charities I talk about, like Jump for Joel.

That trust is a long-term trust, and it’s not one I will ever sell out. Doing the things I describe above tells those people that trust me that they should no longer do so.

Another big problem: if I started writing stuff like that, I would stop really caring about The Simple Dollar at all. The passion I have for doing this is what fuels the site, and if it were merely a way to scratch out some cash, my attention would pretty quickly go elsewhere.

If I were writing The Simple Dollar to turn a quick buck and didn’t really care about that relationship, you better believe I would cash in. Flashing ads for bogus loans and articles talking about how great a $4,000 debt consolidation program is would be all over the place.

I noticed that you’re reading Infinite Jest along with the Infinite Summer “book club.” How is that going?
– Will

Pretty well. Infinite Jest is a novel that I read in college and started rereading twice since, never finishing it either time. I’ve always thought it’d be enjoyable to read it in something of a “book club” format, so I decided to jump on board the opportunity.

Infinite Jest is a really, really good, but really, really complicated novel. It’s over 1,000 pages and you need to read it with two bookmarks (seriously) because the “footnotes” at the back actually make up a fair amount of the story. The amount of stuff going on at times often seems overwhelming.

Having said that, it’s probably the best picture of modern life and addiction that I’ve ever read. It’s funny, it’s entertaining, it’s thought provoking – what more can you really want?

My mother loaned me $5,000 a few years ago to help me buy a car, put a deposit in on an apartment, and get a few basic furnishings. At Christmas, I wrote her a $1,000 check in an effort to begin paying her back. She got upset, refused it, tore up the check, and told me to keep the money. I now feel guilty, because I think my mother needs the money. Any thoughts?
– Ruben

My suggestion would be to repay your mother by helping her in other ways. Take her out to lunch regularly. If she says things are tight, offer to cover a bill for her. Help out around the house once in a while so she doesn’t have to spend money on a housecleaner or a gardener.

There are lots of ways you can repay that $5,000 – and more – without writing big checks. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what she wants – and even if she doesn’t, she’ll surely appreciate the time together and the little efforts you make.

Your mother helped you out when you really needed it. Now it’s your turn to repay the favor, but it’s not as simple as just writing a check.

I was pretty much a [screw]up for most of the last decade, but in the last year I’ve really started turning things around. I have a job, my own apartment, and a good girlfriend that I don’t deserve. The problem is that no one in my family trusts me with any sort of responsibility. What can I do to show them that I’ve changed?
– Dan

Actions speak far, far louder than words.

The next time a family event happens, show up early to help. When there’s a crisis, step up and be there for people who need it. Volunteer to help with things that need done, like driving a parent to a doctor’s appointment. Give thoughtful gifts for gift-giving occasions, not just what you found at the gas station on the way.

Over time, if you keep doing these things, they’ll begin to see that you’re actually changing your ways. Telling them you’ve changed doesn’t really matter – they’ve probably been burnt before by trusting words.

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

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  1. Michael says:

    Maybe I should’ve explained what a liberal arts education is supposed to be. The liberal (free) arts are the leisurely things appropriate for a free man. The purpose of learning the liberal arts is to become more virtuous, not to learn how to learn or keep one’s mind sharp. (It is valuable to learn the skills of an autodidact because acquiring wisdom takes one’s whole life, but that’s not the same as saying one’s whole life is about learning.)

    The servile arts, on the other hand, are what one learns to support oneself. So, neither computer programming, education, biology or sociology are liberal arts. Classics, philosophy, theology, mathematics and history are some examples of liberal arts if they are pursued with leisure in mind. (Again, distinguish between learning music to become a music teacher or performance artist, and learning music to cultivate and enjoy it while using it as necessary to support oneself.)

    That said, typical highschoolers don’t appreciate these things and typical colleges (such as your alma mater and my alma mater) hardly teach them. Also, those who don’t have the mind for the liberal arts do best to learn a trade. As you said, a few years into that they might learn enough wisdom to appreciate an education in virtue — or they will never return to their educations, which is a tragedy if they had minds for it. So be careful.

  2. Michael says:

    To head off Johanna et al, “free man” includes women, of course.

  3. Dan says:

    oh boy, the good old “college for money vs college for education” debate….

    my take-

    Bachelor’s Degree is simply used to get ones foot in the door at a better employement opportunity than if the degree were not had.

    Master’s begins the divide between continued business opportunity and academia.

    PhD…Academic (unless you are a medical doctor)

    so if someone were a star athelete and they can get paid to play professional sports, they should skip college, and get paid.

    if someone were on a business venture, they should skip college and pursue the venture.

    if someone DOESN’T really have a clue, but has academic ability…they SHOULD go to college…find themself…and open a few extra doors when done.

    I say that one can ALWAYS go back to college for the liberal education, but sometimes one has to save some money to AFFORD that privilege first.

  4. CorithMalin says:

    Ruben: Another easy way to repay your mother could be to offer to put her cell phone on your plan and get a family plan. It’ll be cheaper than two individual plans but still help out your mother a good bit (only if she has a cell phone obviously).

    Dan: I think you’re just going to have to accept that while your family has hopefully forgiven you, the road to redemption is neither short nor easy. The good news is it sounds like your family is worth the effort of proving yourself. Just keep your chin up and accept the fact that things are going to change but they’ll change in your family’s time and not necessarily yours.

  5. SockSaver says:

    You might have missed it on the large re-payment check at Xmas. The mothers reaction was very like my own mothers,if she didn’t get a GIFT. I’m not saying it made any sense, just that was “how it is”. Your other advise to the young man…Spot on.

  6. jake says:

    The cost of education is increasing at an alarming rate. At some point it will come down to a cost benefit thing. Is it worth it to pay $150K for a 4 year degree say in creative writing where you struggle to find a job?

    At what cost will college be worthless if tuition is increasing at its current rate? Yes you can say that education shouldnt have a price, but what if it cost you $250K just to get a 4 year degree? That’s a 30 year mortgage for a lot of people.

  7. mari says:

    I think Socksaver may be right, Trent- you might have missed why the mother was upset. A loan repayment check is not a gift, and shouldn’t be given in lieu of one. Ruben should ask his why she was upset, and if it’s for that reason, then he should apologize and write her another check. And don’t give it to her on Mothers Day!

  8. Damester says:

    Ideally, a good education should be about learning and exposure to new ways of thinking, understanding, etc and for many people, the opportunity to learn about a lot of things they’ve never had a chance to learn about before.

    Unfortunately, the quality of an education varies tremendously by college, by major and professors within a major,etc. It’s not that it’s just how much it costs. (More money doesn’t always “buy” a better education. Really depends on the schools in question.)

    It’s true as some families have learned that college is wasted on some who attend.

    But today, you can’t even compete for minimum wage jobs without a degree (the irony of course is that with even college-educated people fighting over minimum wage jobs now, they are often bypassed because they might quit and take a better job.)

    There needs to be more education in high school as to opportunities, choices, tradeoffs, etc. and not so much on the whole admissions process and testing. Because people make, for the most part, wildly UN-educated choices about where they go and often spend years and years paying off the costs for an education that really didn’t work based on who they are, the world as it is and their own understanding of what they want versus what is available.

    Once upon a time an education was about learning. Not so much anymore. Now it’s about the socializing you need for your later life (I’ve been working for years and year. The first thing most people ask is where did you go to school…as if this is still the key measure of “connection” etc. As it still is, sadly, for so many. Move on people.)

    And about credentials.

    The irony is, there are many, many people who have more skills and actual experience and knowledge than a lot of folks from the “best” schools.

    It’s all perception and smoke and mirrors. College is, in many ways, the ultimate scam perpetuated.

    FYI: I totally believe that every kid should have the option of getting whatever advanced education they want. Provided they work for it! I don’t believe parents Owe their kids school.

    And I do believe in lifelong learning, formal education (meeting certain standards, which tenure often obviates) and endless curiosity and reading to find out what is going on elsewhere in the world. Life IS learning.

  9. Meg says:

    Interesting. My parents believed that the only reason to go to college was to earn skills so you could make money. They saw no value in a liberal arts education and believed that the only degrees worth pursuing are medicine, engineering, finance, and law, in that order. After all, if you aren’t able to earn money, what good is knowledge gained for leisure? I don’t necessarily agree with this viewpoint, but I wonder whether there’s a cultural difference going on (my parents immigrated from China).

  10. Jackie says:

    I appreciate that you don’t sell out! You’re absolutely right when you say that people trust you for this reason. Keep up the good work.

  11. Michael C says:

    @Michael- While I would love to say that college was about leisurely learning, in truth, it is not. It is about learning how to think, which in our modern economy is almost the same as learning a trade. Now, whether or not that will save you money, I believe it does over the long run.

  12. Tatiana says:

    I agree with Jackie. I really like your blog and I recently tried to find a similarly-themed swedish blog to cover some of the local points for me, such as investing in Sweden, buying groceries and such. I found a blog where the author was doing just what you described – putting links all over the place that didn’t fit the context, having loads of ads for strange products, etc. It was very unpleasant to read and I got out of there very fast. Thanks for keeping it real:)

  13. Michael says:

    Michael C, you seem to misunderstand the word “leisure” in context of the liberal arts. Leisure is free time, lit. time permitted. It is the time not used to provide for oneself, and the leisurely, or liberal arts are those good arts which are teach wisdom and virtue instead of providing money.

    If you did understand, then I agree with your point – colleges have let the liberal arts decay into something merely useful. That doesn’t mean we should accept those lowered standards. We should work to improve education by reading better books, teaching our children better and sending our children (and our money) to better colleges.

  14. Leah says:

    Trent, what’s the problem with shilling for things you DO believe in? You’re in a fantastic position to provide for your family by blogging — blogging, of all things! I wouldn’t trust you any less for getting paid for peddling products and services you actually do find useful. I think the trust has already been established; we know you can’t be bought. Other readers, you with me?

  15. Misty says:

    I live in a one bedroom apartment in Utah and will be moving to Ohio to live with my sister and her family at the end of September. Due to having been unemployed since March, I can really only afford to take whatever will fit into my 2003 Oldsmobile Alero.

    My question is this: what is “worth it” to take with me, and which items would best to sell and buy again once I get a new job and a new place?

    My sister’s home can store whatever I can bring with me.

    An example of items on the list:

    Old computer monitor
    13 inch tv
    DVD Player

    Thanks, Trent!

  16. Beth says:

    This comment is for Becky — I was in the same boat a few years ago and got my own apartment. Living alone has brought me a lot of peace of mind and less stress.

    But I’d advise you to be VERY careful about the numbers you’re crunching. Rent is one thing, but all of the other little expenses can really add up. For instance, I now pay full for phone, internet etc. where I used to pay half or a third. I don’t have anyone to split the cost of cleaning supplies with, or a load of laundry. I’ve had to alter my eating habits too because I can no longer split items I don’t use often.

    In addition, rent fees go up but your salary might not. My apartment is currently costing me $25 more per month than when I moved in three years ago. Energy costs, laundry, etc, all go up, and those costs are easier to bear when there’s two of you.

  17. Nicole H. says:


    If I were in your shoes I would put things in these piles:

    1) Things I love. This includes things that are not worth a lot of money (my quirky coffee mug collection) and more expensive things (like a nice set of flatware I own). Family pictures, the quilt from my bedroom, certain gifts people have given me over the years. My iPod would go in this pile too.

    2) Things with quality/rarity that would be expensive to replace, i.e., my KitchenAid mixer, my food processor, my stainless steel pans. I also have a few books that fall into this category.

    3) Things that have some value that you can sell online. As much as I enjoy my books and DVDs, I would liquidate my collection online to get some money. I would also sell my DVD player and 13″ TV, since I can watch movies on my computer and I don’t watch TV. You can also use the library to rent DVDs and books until you’re able to build your collection again.

    4) Things with little to no value that can easily be purchased at garage sales. Plates, utensils, silverware, etc.

    I would pack up pile #1, see what my space looked like and then pack up pile #2. Hopefully both piles will fit just fine in your car. You have a couple of months to sell pile #3. Pile #4 can just go to Goodwill right before you leave.

    I would also recommend mailing lighter stuff to your sister’s so there’s more room in your car. If you sell some things under #3, you should have some funds to do this. You can mail bedding, clothes, towels, etc. really reasonably. These things also tend to take up a lot of space, so it’s win-win if you mail them.


    Kudos to you for turning your life around. If you’ve truly changed your behavior (and from the remorse in your writing it sounds like you have), you do deserve the nice, new girlfriend. Your family will need some time to realize this change is permanent. Just be solid and they’ll come around.

  18. anne says:

    for becky-

    is it possible you spend money living w/ a roommate that you wouldn’t be spending if you had your own place?

    like, do you feel the need to get away to find some space, and then end up spending money going out that you might not spend at home?

    or do you get a lot of take out together, instead of cooking at home?

    or would you keep the thermostat down more in the winter, or up higher in the summer, but you honor your roommate’s preferences?

    or do you split a cable bill that’s higher than what you’d have on your own?

    when i was younger, my roommates used to help themselves to my cigarettes, beer, food, clothes, shoes, hair products, etc.

    does a roommate leave everything on and waste electricity? and you’re good at turning things off, but you don’t see a benefit from your good habits?

    what i mean is that you might end up saving more than $300. a lot of little things here and there add up.

    i don’t know if you’ve been sharing other expenses besides rent, but if you have been, and you can be more frugal in a studio because you’re the decision maker, it might work out better than you think.

  19. Gwen says:

    I do trust you because of your commitment to not sell out. But I also would not be uncomfortable with you increasing the number of ads on the site a bit. This is your full-time job after all, and as I appreciate the information on the web site quite a bit. I think you should be compensated well for what you do.

  20. kitty says:

    Michael (1) — what you are describing as a goal for college is really what people should learn in school and what kids in many countries in Europe do learn in school and not in college.
    How to write? Did you have English in school? What about literature or music? I’d imagine there are some kids that learn all of these things while still in school. Kids in Europe certainly do.

    What you don’t learn in school, can be a great hobby. How about reading a book instead of hitting the malls in your spare time? Maybe reading a history book too? Art history? Music? How about watching some of the Great Performances on PBS, listening to CDs or going to the philarmonic? Taking private piano or voice lesson as a kid or, if you don’t have money, after you earned some money as a hobby? There is no need to spend 150K to learn “leisurely arts”. All you really need is the desire to learn in your spare time. You can even take extra classes in college or make something you like your minor or even earn a double major.

    But when you spend a lot of money not to mention 4 years of your life while your memory and your ability to learn is at its best, you should at least have some idea of what you want to do with your degree. A six-digit debt for leisurly activities? Sounds a bit expensive to me.

    BTW – I am not saying everyone should go into CS or other engineering. For one, these degrees require a certain aptitude for math and logical thinking that not everyone has. But you have to at least have an idea to what you plan to do – e.g. are you majoring in English to be an English teacher, a writer or a journalist; go to law school, are you going to happy if it doesn’t work out as you think: i.e. if you cannot make it as a writer, will you be happy teaching or doing technical writing? If you are majoring in music – are you dreaming about stardom? If so, do you have what it takes i.e. not just talent but this special something that distinguishes you from thousands others with the same talent? If not, do you plan to teach music? Perform in an orchestra?
    What is your goal?

    I am not saying that you shouldn’t study liberal arts. But I do believe that you have to have an idea of what you want to do and how to achieve it.

  21. Michael says:

    Kitty, we can’t expect our children and teenagers to acquire a general education until we expect it from our college students. However, I agree that meanwhile, we can give our younger children a general education. For example, my wife teaches Latin and the trivium to children, some of whose parents think the purpose of classical education is to make their children more money in the future. It’s a deplorable mindset that she (politely) tries to improve. Meanwhile, she continues to teach their children about scholia and virtue and the arts befitting a free citizen through building these practical foundations for future education.

  22. Michael says:

    Clarification: we can’t expect everyone’s children to learn basics for children that adults won’t learn as a matter of course. However, we can simultaneously push back against low standards for education from the top by improving colleges and convincing college students to think of college differently. Wimultaneously we can teach our children, and hopefully those two efforts meet somewhere in the middle as better-educated children rise through grades to suddenly meet a level of education which actually challenges them. That’s my dream, anyway. :)

  23. JonFrance says:

    As an avid reader of Latin and Greek, I’m happy to see some enthusiasm for the classical ideal of education. However, lest we put it on too high a pedestal, let’s not forget that the classical trivium *assumed* that the student’s family was already quite wealthy. Tradesmen and peasants received no such education–only those who had enough income, from land they rented to other tenants, to be able to consecrate themselves to a liberal education.

    Taking that into modern terms, a liberal education *would* be the only purpose of the university *if* the only students at university came from families who had enough revenue from investments not to need to work. If we accepted that, then the education given at universities probably would be a lot more ‘pure’–but 99% of the people who attend university now would not be there at all. If higher education is going to be provided to a broader class of people, it’s natural that it take on a broader scope as well.

  24. Mol says:

    What kind of correlations have you made between finance and your previous research job? I’m sure there have been some.

  25. Anna says:

    Checking account with interest:

    Not yet mentioned: the interest will partially offset the effect of inflation, even if only a little.

  26. angela says:

    Thank you so much for not “selling out”. I read you because you are an everyday Joe. I don’t expect perfection, I am looking for experiances and honesty. Good Job Trent!

  27. Michael says:

    JonFrance, that’s a good point. I wouldn’t mind if the modern university had trade colleges as well as liberal arts colleges. That would be a good first step.

  28. Steve says:

    Checking interest: there are just so many more important factors when choosing a bank and an account. For instance, at my current bank the interest-bearing checking account has a minimum balance. If you drop below that balance, you get charged a fee. Do that just once and you’ve lost your interest for the year. However with a non-interest-bearing account, there is no minimum other than $0, and if I accidentally drop below that they transfer money out of my savings account for free. I just don’t think that the risk and hassle are worth a measly $12.50 or whatever per year.

  29. David C says:

    Technically checking accounts that earn interest reserve the right to request 7 days’ notice before withdrawals just like savings accounts (yes, I just pulled out my ol’ deposit agreement). Of course, if you’re that concerned you probably have money in your mattress :-|.

    @Steve: Absolutely right, two years ago when I opened my checking account my bank had two choices and the only difference was earning interest (0.10% whoo!) vs. not earning interest. I guess they wised up though because they stopped offering either account and now offer only one that doesn’t pay interest.

  30. Tiffany says:

    Hello Trent.

    Have you ever ran into an identity theft issue or wanted more privacy?

    I’m having a problem about sites removing my posts and accounts. As a child back then, I used the same username on every website and now it’s came back to haunt me. I’ve asked one site to remove (for a very valid reason) my postings and they rudely told me it was not their problem. One of their mods then insulted me and called me names. I did reviews for another website and everyone left me nasty comments and it’s extremely humiliating because it can be found with a simple Google search and everyone can see me get humiliated! It’s so embarrassing!

    What would you do? Would you leave it alone?

  31. WhirlMind says:

    Question for a future mailbag :

    I wonder how much frugality you would advocate or practise when you get a lot rich, i mean, stinking rich. Like many times over of your current income. Many people who keep it frugal during their buildup years, unwind and go full throttle on lifestyle expenditure once they begin to more-than-afford it ? What are your thoughts ? Do the same personal finance rules apply when we’ve grown up financially ?

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