Updated on 09.29.10

Reader Mailbag: Public Cell Phone Use

Trent Hamm

What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to five word summaries. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question.
1. Rebuilding a life post-divorce
2. Freelancing baby steps
3. Power of attorney question
4. Emergency fund or invest?
5. Does prayer work?
6. Getting your spouse to participate
7. Splitting bills with roommate
8. Student loan or emergency fund
9. Asking child to move out
10. The value of study abroad

A while ago, someone spent most of a movie on their cell phone, either texting or whispering into the phone. Normally, I don’t care, but this was in a movie theater, where everyone had paid several bucks to watch a film.

I finally asked the fellow if he wouldn’t mind not talking during the film and he utterly ignored my request after a quick glare in my direction.

Such situations really fill me with distaste and move me ever closer to simply not wanting to go to theaters when I could just watch a film at home with friends.

I’m 49, divorced and live on the west coast. I have two children, 5 and 8, who live with their mother in Europe. I have a GED, and am 70% through a degree in Criminal Justice with an online university, which charges $7500/yr for books and tuition. For a variety of reasons I have only worked 7 months out of the last 8 years, though I earned a six-figure salary before that as a mainframe administrator. Sadly, after living in Europe for several years I seem unemployable in the IT field, and am happy to seek a change anyway. I’d like a decent job and would be more than happy with something basic. At the moment I have the following assets left:

Cash – $7k
IRA – $83k
Roth IRA – $27k
Annuity – $19k
Credit Card Debt – $0
Sub. Student Loans – $7200

That’s not a lot of money for someone my age, but I have never been interested in owning property or even a car (I don’t have one). Me ex has a lot of money, so I don’t have mandatory child support payments.

Now we get to my question: I’ve come up with a plan to complete my C.J. degree by next October by taking 12 credits a semester, as I had a lot of transfer credit. In order to do this I will need to partially empty my Roth and take on some student loan debt as well. A full $6k of what I need to spend would just pay for health insurance. Since it would be used for education expenses, I wouldn’t be penalized for spending the Roth.

It’s unclear what state the economy will be in next year and by that point I will have worked only 7 months of the previous 9 years! The alternative to going to school seems to be a $9 or $10 per hour job in a warehouse or something, with no health insurance and a shared apartment. I don’t mind working (at whatever), but one needs some hope for the future. I am currently looking for a job to help defray my expenses.
– Philip

First of all, don’t worry about the things you cannot control. You can’t control what happens to the economy. What you can control is your own ability to maximize the value of your criminal justice degree.

What can you do to maximize that value? Hit a home run in your classes. Seek out internships. Ask questions of your professors and learn more about where their professional focus is. Build relationships with your professors and with your classmates.

Don’t worry too much about finding a job right now. Instead, build every possible bit of value you can into your 12 credits a semester. Work only if it fits around that, and don’t be ashamed to take a low-paying but easy job.

I don’t own a TV, a car, or a landline. My work pays for my cell phone and internet. I rent an apartment with a roommate. I rarely go out (maybe once a month, at most), and I don’t buy much “stuff.” (If I lived in the States I’d have a serious problem with bookstores, but I don’t, so all is good.) Ever since I started dieting my supermarket spending has been slashed in half. And in general I try to track my spending and am working on becoming more frugal. My two small dogs are my biggest non-essential expense. I need to pay for a dog walker to walk them at noon and for someone to come give them medication at specific hours while I’m at work. I’m 34 years old and single (unconnected, just for general background purposes).

Money-wise: I don’t have any debt (thank goodness). I earn the equivalent of $2150 (in Israeli shekels) a month. I recently started saving for retirement — I save 7% of my pre-tax salary, and I receive a company match. In addition, I’ve started saving about 12% of my post-tax salary — half in an emergency fund (currently have about a month and a half’s worth, but I’d like to have 6 months) and half in a closed 10-year savings account. I don’t know what I’ll do with the money in 10 years, but I’m sure it will be useful. Maybe I’ll need a car? Maybe a vacation? Who knows.

My point: It’s my dream to own an apartment. I hate dealing with landlords, I hate not feeling at home, I hate not being able to paint the walls and hang shelves and pictures without feeling guilty. All I need is a one-bedroom apartment for myself. I looked in the newspaper, and even the smallest apartment costs a ton. I calculated that I’d need to save about $750 a month for 10 years to have enough money for a down payment. (Am I calculating incorrectly? Let’s say a $300,000 apartment times a 30% down payment divided by 10 years divided by 12 months.)

I don’t have $750 a month extra. So I was thinking of taking on another job or working freelance (at what? I really don’t know). Until recently, I was waking up at 5:00 am and getting back from work at 10 pm, so it wasn’t possible. But now I get home from work usually by 8 pm. This week I got a random freelance editing job, and I’ve (re)discovered that I have no self-discipline to work from home. I waste hours before I’m able to sit down and work.

So I’m feeling pretty miserable. Any suggestions?
– Shawn

My suggestion is to find another place to work. Is there a library available to you, or a coffee shop where you can sit at a table and be productive?

It’s clear from your description that freelance work is a key part of the path you’re taking to your future. That means you have to focus on that work, and that also means you may have to give up some things to make it work (like your evenings). I gave up a lot of evenings in the early days of The Simple Dollar and I’m very glad I did.

Focus on doing the best freelance work you can. If you can’t get it done at home, look elsewhere for a place to work.

Background: My husband has been diagnosed, and is being treated for, Adult ADD. One major problem of ADD is a restricted ability to be disciplined, which particularly manifests in money management. Shortly after we married, he ran up a substantial debt, and I took over all money management for our family.This was prior to his diagnosis. This financial arrangement is not only okay with him, it helps him because it gives him strict spending guidelines and accountability. His counselor approves this as well.

I have a fairly serious health condition which is under control at the moment, but could become an issue at any time. My question is: Is there such a person as a “financial caretaker” or a profession that assists families to manage finances? Given my uncertain health situation, it makes sense (to me) to find someone who could step in should I become incapacitated. If I should become seriously ill, we would need that person more than ever because of medical bills.
– Megan

I think you’re looking for someone to give some degree of power of attorney to. In that case, the first place I’d look is within your family and closest inner circle. Who do you trust deeply enough to open this door to?

In either case, I’d suggest talking to your family lawyer about how to move forward in a way that protects your future. If you don’t have a regular lawyer, then I would ask among friends and family for a good recommended family lawyer to discuss the situation with.

This isn’t a situation to be taken lightly. Spend some time thinking about who you trust most, then contact a trustworthy lawyer and look at your power of attorney options.

I’m in pretty good (not great) financial condition. I’m $1700 away from paying off my debt (a student loan) and am planning to use the non-essential money from my paycheck as well as dipping into my savings (at about $2000) to pay it off at the end of this month. At the beginning of October, I should be debt free with about $1000 in savings plus my monthly budget (around $1700) in checking (and nothing else—no retirement or anything of that nature). It’s not a great position to be in, but I have a very steady job and it’s important to me mentally for the debt to be paid off. I’m two weeks away from my 27th birthday, single with no kids with a take-home pay around $2600 per month and live in a low-cost area of the country. The job I’m in right now does not carry benefits, so I’m responsible for health insurance and retirement contributions.

My question is probably one that a lot of people have: where, in your opinion, do I go next? I have three things that I realistically need to fund at this point: to build back my short-term savings (things that I want or need to purchase within the next year or so; I’ve dipped into this account to pay off the student loan, so I need to take extra money from my paycheck to repay the savings I’ve borrowed from), an emergency fund and retirement. After my monthly budget, I have anywhere from $800-$1000 leftover from my paycheck. Of that, $400 is earmarked for short-term savings (e.g. my brother is getting married next summer, so I’m saving $100 per month for the bachelor party), which leaves me between $400-$600 per month to repay short-term savings, start an emergency fund and invest in retirement.

My head tells me to pay back short-term savings and start an emergency fund, but now that I have no debt, I’m really itching to start investing. If you were in my situation, what would you do?
– Jordon

Built an emergency fund – your head is right. The reason for doing that is because if you do have an emergency, you’re either going to dive right back into debt or cash in that investment, quite likely at an inopportune moment (Murphy’s Law, anyone?).

I would get an emergency fund of $1,000 first. Then, I would make sure that your debt is paid off. After that, I would shoot for an emergency fund that could cover 3 months of living expenses. If you’ve done all that, then focus on investing for the future.

If you don’t have that emergency buffer, you’ll find yourself in a situation where you’re either dipping back into debt or you’re cashing in some of your investments. Either case is a big loser, so just get a good emergency fund in place first.

Do you think prayer works for causing positive change in life?
– Kelly

Absolutely – and it has nothing to do with anything supernatural.

Prayer works because it provides an uninterrupted opportunity to reflect on what’s important to you and where you want to go in the future. You pray for the things you care about, helping you to define what you need to be focusing on. Praying for a good outcome puts a positive image in your mind, helping you to work towards that positive outcome. In short, regardless of whether a higher power is listening, prayer can be a positive thinking tool.

As to whether praying for someone else makes a difference, I’m not sure that it does. If you already believe in an omniscient God (as most religions do), God is already aware of what you desire for an outcome of a given situation.

The best purpose of prayer, I think, is reflection. It gives you a way to talk through the problems in your life, and that’s very rarely a bad thing.

I am a professional credit counselor, and I have couples ask me all the time how to get the other spouse to participate more in their family finances. The truth of the matter is, I don’t know. I’m in the same boat. My husband is not interested in the finances. I pay the bills, allocate money to savings, pay off debt, and handle our portfolio, and after all of that is covered, I tell him what we have left for miscellaneous spending. I’m not even sure if he could answer simple questions like, “What is your monthly household income?” or “What do you pay for cell phone service?” I know that part of the problem is that I’m a control freak about the money – I’m not saying I want him to take all the responsibility – I’m too OCD about our finances to completely hand them over. All I want is him to be interested in how much debt we have, to show an interest in the bills on payday, and to help me track his spending instead of expecting me to figure it out from our online checking. He is getting out of the Air Force in 3 years, and my goal is to have all of our debt except the house paid off in that time. I think to make this work, I’m going to need his complete support. Any suggestions on what I can do to get him on board?
– Melissa

The challenge of this situation is that you’ve already framed your marriage in such a way that you’re simply handling all of the finances. To your husband, this simply means that Melissa is taking care of it and what I have to worry about is maintaining my income and managing my spending allowance.

Marriage is always a division of responsibilities. Some couples divide responsibilities in different ways. Are there some areas where your husband really steps up to the plate so that you don’t have to?

If you want to get your husband involved, start by talking about goals. What do you want to be doing in five years? Ten years? Transition those conversations into what you need to do today to get there. If you start by framing personal finance around things that impact his life (and, on its own, knowing the amount you’re paying for cell service does not impact his life), you can make progress in that direction.

Right now, I have a room mate, and we split the bills and rent. My room mate pays me in cash and then from my account I pay bills with online bill pay, and rent with checks.

Is there any issue in doing this?
– Alvern

The only issue I see is that you’re completely relying on your roommate to always come up with that cash. What exactly happens if he/she doesn’t come up with that cash?

If I’m understanding it correctly, you’re the one with your name on the lease and the bills. If your roommate stops paying, there’s no real skin off of your roommate’s back in that situation.

My advice to you would be to either get your roommate’s name on the bills or maintain an emergency fund that will help you cover the bills if/when your roommate doesn’t come up with the cash.

I am 25 years old, and after some hard work, I have paid off all of my credit cards, etc., and I’m left with student loans that total about $50,000. $35k are government loans that have been consolidated, while the rest are private student loans of various amounts that I can’t seem to find a way to consolidate. (Either it’s not possible, or I’m too dumb to figure it out, so far! It’s also possible that my credit score is too lousy for anyone to even talk to me about it.)

My question is this… I am considering whether I should start building a more significant emergency fund (the bare minimum being about $4200, which would be 3 months of living expenses, including minimum payments on my student loans) or if I should just try to save up about $1000 or so and then throw everything at the students loans until I at least get rid of the private ones?

Right now, the minimum payments on the student loans are so high that I can only put about $150 a month extra toward savings, or toward paying off the loans. I get occasional bonuses and overtime that I would of course add to that, but I don’t want to plan for that at this stage. I have had many disasters happen in the past few years that wouldn’t have put me in the financial tailspin that they did if I had just had a healthy emergency fund to fall back on. However, I’m also worried about delaying payments on my student loans for so long while I save up the emergency fund. The minimum payments are so high right now that if something happened to dramatically reduce my income before I saved up the emergency fund, there’s no way I could make the payments, and at least one of them warned me that I wasn’t likely to have another forebearance approved, no matter what the circumstances.

Any advice would be appreciated. I’ve stared at this problem until I’m cross-eyed, and I think another (more experienced) perspective would be extremely helpful.
– Misty

If you have worries about making ends meet in the future, your best bet is to build up that emergency fund as your highest priority.

Think of it this way: in a year, you might have had twelve months of smooth sailing and a well-stocked emergency fund. At that point, you do have the freedom to choose to pay down that debt or to keep that emergency fund.

On the other hand, if you pay down the debt and have a bumpy road over the next year, you’ll be in far more debt trouble than before.

Don’t let impatience get in the way of a smart choice.

I am 63 and recently divorced. My son is 33 years old and he still lives in my home, an arrangement that started when my wife and I were still married. He refuses to leave the house on his own unless it’s for a very specific purpose and then he’s anxious to come back home. He spends most of his time in his room with his door shut. I am not sure how to handle this situation. I cannot afford to retire while he still lives here.
– Jeffrey

The first thing you need to do is lay down some basic rules in this situation. For one, I would simply state that if your son wants to continue to live at home, he has to begin regular meetings with a psychologist.

I say that because a continuing desire to live at home into one’s thirties, coupled with a fear of ever leaving the house, indicates some psychological troubles that are best dealt with via a professional.

If your child is unwilling to do this, you have to make up your mind as to whether you’re going to evict him. I think, for both of your sakes, that eviction would be the best choice if he refuses to take any steps towards improving his psychological situation. Something needs to change here, for both of you.

Do you think a student should study abroad if it means taking on additional debt? I’m a finance major at a public university and would really like to study abroad for a semester or academic year. But, I’ll be financing almost the entire cost with federal student loans (Stafford, Parent PLUS). I don’t want to increase my student loans more than I have to, but I also know I can’t redo the next 3 years. It feels very “now or never”. I view the time spent abroad as an investment in my future with business being so global in today’s world. But I don’t want to use that to easily justify an additional $10,000-$20,000 of debt.
– Ryan

If study abroad is treated as merely a semester or a year of partying in another country, it’s not worth it. If it’s treated as a time to actually grow, build new relationships, and gain experiences and references that were simply not available at home, it is.

Things like study abroad – or, for that matter, a college education itself – only show off their true value if they’re approached by a person who wants to maximize that value, not by a person who wants to skate by or is just looking to goof off.

If you’re approaching this with seriousness, then study abroad is a good choice. If you’re looking at it as an expensive way to see what it’s like to party in some other country, then you might as well just party at home and save yourself some cash.

Got any questions? Email them to me or leave them in the comments and I’ll attempt to answer them in a future mailbag. However, I do receive hundreds of questions per week, so I may not necessarily be able to answer yours.

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  1. LB says:

    Like Alvern, I used to be the main person on the lease of an apartment and in charge of the bills, and my roommate paid me cash for rent. I found that it worked best if I made my roommate pay me a month of rent as a deposit with a written agreement that they had to give a month’s notice if they were going to move out. If they gave notice, the money I held was their last month’s rent and if they didn’t give notice, I kept the money and used it for rent the month after they moved. Where I lived, it took around a month to find a new roommate, so this gave me just about the right amount of time to find someone new without using savings to pay the bills. If it will likely take you longer than a month to find a new roommate, it might be easier to just put the roommate on the lease.

  2. Katie says:

    Though one thing to keep in mind is that even if you put the roommate on the lease, you’ll likely be jointly and severally liable for the rent, which means the landlord has the right to collect the full amount of the rent from either one of you. So if your roommate skips town, whether or not they’re not on the lease probably won’t affect your own obligation to pay the full amount of the rent. In theory, you have the right to recover the roommate’s portion from him or her, but enforcement of this is difficult if said roommate skips town (and probably didn’t have any money to begin with).

    Which isn’t to say they shouldn’t be on the lease – it might have some positive mental force if nothing else – just that it might not ultimately protect you.

  3. valleycat1 says:

    Trent – that’s what ushers & theatre management is for. Especially if you’ve already tried talking to the offender. Cell phones are supposed to be off during the movie. On the other hand, if you’re at home with friends, keep in mind there’s probably some conversation among the audience going on during the movie – which is one reason people are more inclined these days to talk in theatres.

    Misty – re student loans. I’m with Trent that it sounds like you’re concerned about the emergency fund, so I agree you probably want to pay the minimum on the loans until your savings are at your comfort level. When you’re ready to tackle the student loan debt beyond the minimum, pay off the higher-interest private ones first, even if they’re smaller than the others.

  4. Sandy L says:

    I worked abroad in college (couldn’t afford to study abroad). My school was big into international enrichment programs and every single person who did it said it was life changing and it was for me as well.

    I vote for yes, even if it means a little more debt. The only warning is that it will most likely start a lifelong addiction to travel.

  5. DougR says:

    Boy, Trent, your cell phone in the movie theatre story lit me RIGHT up. I’m lucky to live in a city where you can sort of plan to go when droolin’ goobers are less likely to be attending. Failing that, I’d be all over the theatre management like white on rice–using my best customer-service-winning attitude of course. You pay for a movie, you deserve to see it without annoying distractions from cell phones, yakking goobers, rattling potato chip bags, “Wha’d he say, Myrtle?” and the like. (Kiddie matinees and/or teen-favored flicks are different–there you take your chances.)

    I’m lucky to get to go to professional screenings sometimes, and there the ethic is, if you turn to your neighbor and say anything other than “I’m having a heart attack,” you’ve got sixteen people shushing you up before you can finish your sentence. THAT’s respect for the film, respect for the people who made it, and respect for fellow audience members, and I love it. I wish it for everyone, it’s a great way to see a movie!

  6. Kevin says:


    I think you’re coddling your husband.

    Yes, he has ADD. That means focusing on things like finances is hard for him.

    So what?

    Just because something is hard is not a license to not do it. It’s not trivial for you either – it still takes effort. Just maybe not as much as it would take him. If he truly loves you and supports you, he’ll make the extra effort to self-discipline himself to become a contributing participant in the household finances.

    Don’t let him use his ADD as a crutch, as an excuse to get out of doing things because “it’s too hard.” Cry me a river. Suck it up, be a man, and do it. Even though it’s hard.

  7. Katie says:

    Just because something is hard is not a license to not do it. It’s not trivial for you either – it still takes effort. Just maybe not as much as it would take him. If he truly loves you and supports you, he’ll make the extra effort to self-discipline himself to become a contributing participant in the household finances.

    Oftentimes the difference between a character trait and a mental disorder is precisely the fact that self-discipline is not enough.

  8. Kristen says:

    Philip, I’d recommend a PT job along with the 12 credits. It will make it much easier to get hired upon graduation if you have some recent work history. Only seven months of work within nine years is likely to raise red flags. It would be great it you could find something related to your field like a 911 phone operator or admin at the local police station, but any job would be helpful for eventually getting hired FT after you finish your degree. Good luck!

  9. valleycat1 says:

    Ryan – I say go for the study abroad too. My daughter did (Semester at Sea) and it was a transformative experience. As Trent said, as long as you’re treating it as a learning experience & not another excuse to party, it’s money well spent.

  10. Vicky says:

    Since you list Parent Plus loans as a way to fund your studies abroad, I believe it’s selfish and indulgent to study overseas. The economy is really tough right now, and I am sure your parents have a better use for their money. If you’d like do this, find a way to pay for it yourself. Too many young adults are still living off their parents. Let them use their money to fund their retirement. You fund your education.

  11. Laura in Seattle says:

    Trent: I am right there with DougR about the movie theater situation. I know that you’re a shy person, but bear in mind this person is a) rude, and more importantly b) someone you will probably never see again. You said you asked him to stop and he glared at you. The next step is to go out to the ticket counter or refreshment stand (whichever is closer, most theaters have headsets or walkie-talkies that let employees talk to each other all over the theater). Smile at the person there (and if you see a manager, go straight to them)and say, “I’m in theater X and there’s a man in there on a cellphone who’s disturbing everyone around him. I asked him to stop and he just glared at me. He’s been doing it for Y number of minutes (or since the movie started, or whenever) and if you could get him to stop, I and the people in the three rows closest to him would all really appreciate it.”
    I GUARANTEE you this will get results. And you’ll be able to enjoy the rest of your movie in peace.

  12. Wren says:

    @ Megan – Yes, there is such a service, but you have to be very careful who you allow that kind of ocntrol/access to your finances.

    We set up a bill-paying and budgeting service for a relative via her CPA, who did need a limited and specific POA to do this most efficiently. We went with a CPA because her finances could get complicated due to investments, and because her comfort level with their fudiciary responsibilities was higher.

    In her case, it was worth the $75-100 a month to have them do it. Only you can judge if it’s worth it in your case.

    That said, we were dealing with diminished capacity due to brain injury, not ADD.

  13. Kevin says:


    I guess what it comes down to is, I’m sick of hearing fat people say “It’s not my fault, I have a food addiction.” I’m sick of hearing smokers say, “It’s not my fault, they put addictive substances in cigarettes.” I’m sick of shy people saying “It’s not my fault, I have social anxiety disorder.” I’m sick of lazy people saying “It’s not my fault, I wasn’t born with your level of motivation.”

    All these “mental disorders” are supplying license to people to escape responsibility for their own actions or inactions. It’s removing the consequences from harmful behaviours. Criminals are getting away with it and blaming any one of a number of brand new “mental disorders” that are magically discovered every year.

    Before long, EVERYONE will have some sort of “mental disorder.” And then what? What will society do when EVERYONE has “special needs?”

    The excuses make me sick, and I have no patience for them. I certainly sympathize with people who have unusual barriers in life, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t even TRY to overcome them. It doesn’t mean it’s OK for them to just give up and blame all their shortcomings on their “disorder.”

    Terry Fox ran halfway across the country on one leg, while battling cancer. Beethoven was deaf. No one would have blamed Lance Armstrong for quitting when he got cancer. Instead, he went on to win the Tour de France again and again. These people had perfectly valid excuses for failing, or not even trying, but instead they SUCCEEDED.

    Megan’s husband has ADD, and rather than make the extra effort it would require to help his wife, he’d rather put her through the expense and ordeal of arranging a complicated legal framework to make sure he has a babysitter if his wife dies. That’s pathetic, in my opinion. He is failing his wife miserably.

  14. saveasibuy says:


    I’ve seen Trent’s suggestion work. I had a family member approach me with the same issue. He was concerned about his wife being too complacent about their finances since he handled all of it. I suggested basically the same thing Trent did to you. A couple months later, things are a bit better. She became interested once she realized she needed to be a part of the process in order for her to avail the enjoyment of her ‘luxuries in life’ later on. As far as being informed of her expenses, he set up a basket where it’s convenient for her to throw her receipts in…to his delight, it worked. Good luck..I realize this is not an easy task.

  15. Katie says:

    Megan said her husband was receiving treatment. SHE wrote in to ask about alternate legal arrangements. You have no idea about what he wants, what he’s capable of, or what he’s trying to do besides those two facts.

    Anyway, you have a predetermined set of things you think someone should be able to do and you seem to be sticking with them come hell or high water. You might sit back a bit and think why. Why does it hurt YOU if this couple you don’t know decides to structure their finances in such a way that a third person ultimately takes power over organizing them? Why does it hurt society? Are you and society similarly affected when a wealthy person decides to hire an accountant to handle their finances because they simply don’t want to put the time into it? Are you angry when someone with a physical disability hires a housekeeper instead of doing it themselves? If not, why is a mental disability different? If so, are you similarly angry when a rich, able-bodied person hires a housekeeper? I think you need to start questioning some of your assumptions about what people are capable of and why they “should” be doing any given thing.

    On a related note, you might actually look into the criminal justice system a bit and how few people are actually “let off” because of an insanity defense. It’s vanishingly few. Those few cases are often hugely publicized and get a lot of public outrage, but that doesn’t make it common.

  16. prufock says:

    @Kevin: I’m sick of ignorance to psychological issues.

  17. Marle says:

    I have ADD and I used to be terrible with money. I had late bills all the time, sometimes I’d just forget about bills for months. Now I manage the finances for myself and my husband. How? Automatic bill pay. And I have a google cal set up with each day the bills come out and how much they are (or the usual maximum, in the case of certain utilities). So every now and then I check the balance and then subtract everything that’s coming up before next pay day and make sure it works. You could probably set up something more automated, with mint.com or low balance texts from your bank or something. Setting up something like that makes a lot more sense then figuring out a power of attorney. Also, that makes less work for the wife, and the automation would be convenient if she does suddenly go in the hospital so everything can keep running while they’re dealing with that.

  18. Kevin says:


    Of course, how this couple chooses to privately manage their finances does not affect me. But they took it public by posting it on a widely-read blog. As such, the resulting discussion DOES affect me, because it influences society’s expectations and perceptions. If I were to remain quiet, and concede the discussion to those who would portray Megan’s husband as a helpless victim, I would be complicit in the proliferation of the notion that anyone with a mental condition that has a name is therefore unaccountable for their own actions.

    My problem with this is that the “professionals” authoring those textbooks of “mental conditions” have been very, very busy, and continually add more and more new “disorders” that (in my opinion) aren’t really disorders at all. They’re simply motivated by money. Specifically, by coming up with new “disorders,” they can secure funding that will allow them to continue fooling around in their labs, studying those new “disorders,” and not have to actually do any real work that contributes to society or science. Additionally, getting published (and associated with a named “disorder”) lends credibility to their work, which of course, translates into more funding. Thus, they are incentivized to “discover” more and more new disorders, as rapidly as possible, to compete with their peers for the pages of their professional journals, regardless of how much substance there may actually be to their research and conclusions.

    The thing that concerns me about all of this is that eventually, there will be so many named “disorders” that just about everyone will be able to say they have this or that mental disability. They’ll use that as an excuse to take time off from work, apply for government handouts, escape responsibility for their actions (“My son got distracted playing Call of Duty and was late for work. He told his boss that it was because of his Dutchfield-Wescott syndrome, but his boss fired him anyway. Needless to say, we’re suing.”).

    It’s ridiculous.

    But worst of all is that it takes away from those who have REAL mental disorders. By lumping every overweight (“food addict”), Debbie-Downer (“Seasonal Affective Disorder – SAD) smoker (“addictive personality”) in with your paranoid schitzos, it makes people less sympathetic to those with REAL obstacles.

  19. Katie says:

    Kevin, by assuming someone you’ve never met doesn’t have real obstacles, you’re the one working to make people unsympathetic. What, pray tell, do you think is a legitimate mental disorder if it’s not someone who (a) is binging on food to great cost to their health and can’t stop, or (b) someone who feels a crushing, life altering depression at certain times of year? Those are real issues, and I say that as a fat person who most definitely ISN’T a compulsive eater. If you know someone and know their situation you can accurately assess the obstacles they’re facing. If all you have to go on is your assumption that nobody with ADD could ever have real executive functioning problems, you’re being ludicrous.

  20. Kevin says:

    And don’t even get me STARTED on how Big Pharma wants to convince us all that we’ve got this or that obscure mental disorder …

    Money money money.

  21. Kevin says:


    “By assuming someone you’ve never met doesn’t have real obstacles, you’re the one working to make people unsympathetic.”

    This is just my opinion, but I believe that in general, NOBODY has nearly as many obstacles as they think they do. It’s just a convenient excuse for continuing the status quo. If someone tries and fails, I can respect that. But I’ve seen too many people who won’t even bother trying anything. They’re just lazy, but they blame their obscure “disorder.”

    5000 years ago, humans were physiologically virtually identical to our current forms. Yet you didn’t have 50% of the caveman population staying back in the caves, being supported by the 50% who went out and brought back the Sabretooth steaks. Somehow, everyone managed to do their part, regardless of whatever “disorders” they had and didn’t even know about.

    But now that we’ve given names to all these things, people think that gives them license to mooch off other people. Which brings me back to my question: What will happen when we ALL have some sort of “mental disorder?”

    “Someone needs to go get the food.”

    “I can’t do it, I have agorophobia.”

    “Well I certainly can’t do it, I have anxiety.”

    “Don’t look at me, I have ADD. Send Timmy. Whoops, Timmy just found out he has a compulsive personality. Guess we’ll all just starve to death.”

    Thank goodness our ancestors had bigger backbones than we do, but what fate is in store for our unanimously critically-flawed children?

  22. Interested Reader says:

    Katie you can’t argue with someone like Kevin. I’ve tried arguing with people like that, he’s got his mind made up and nothing is going to open it so save your energy.

  23. Kevin says:


    “What, pray tell, do you think is a legitimate mental disorder if it’s not someone who is binging on food to great cost to their health and can’t stop”

    Schitzophrenia. Multiple personality disorder. A thousand other real disorders that are more than just a penchant for the taste of salty, greasy french fries.

    Katie, what you just said in the quote above could just as easily apply to a smoker. “Binging” on cigarettes at great cost to their health, unable to stop. Yet I certainly don’t think smoking is a mental disorder.

    Let’s try to keep it realistic.

    We do all sorts of things that are harmful to us over the long term. That’s not a sign of mental illness, it’s simply a reflection of our brains’ ability to perceive short term danger far more readily than long term danger. It’s a product of our own evolution, innate in every one of us.

  24. Katie says:

    5000 years ago, humans were physiologically virtually identical to our current forms. Yet you didn’t have 50% of the caveman population staying back in the caves, being supported by the 50% who went out and brought back the Sabretooth steaks. Somehow, everyone managed to do their part, regardless of whatever “disorders” they had and didn’t even know about.

    Okay, first of all, I’m not really sure how you know what the mental state of humanity 5,000 years ago. Certainly in the milennia for which we have written records we see all sorts of evidence for the same sorts of mental problems people have today, though manifesting differently based on the society that exists at a given time (see, e.g., girls in past eras in Chinese history starving themselves to death in ways similar to anorectics today, except it manifested as “love sickness” rather than an obsessive fear of fat). All of this goes to support a biological basis for these illnesses rather than oppose it.

    Second, you assume that everyone who thinks they have a mental disorder is a mooch. In fact, the opposite is often true – people seek treatment and see their lives return to normal, which enables them to get back into the workplace or interacting with their family. It’s the people who never recognize they have a problem that then engage in criminal behavior or who abuse their families or who withdraw damn the consequences. Yes, some people receive treatment and never are able to hold down a job; that hasn’t changed – what’s changed is that we, as a society, no longer think those people should be boarded up in asylums or their relatives’ attics or left on the street to starve. Don’t confuse increased visibility for increased prevalence. People who were forced to lead desperate, hidden lives in past eras often can get real help today. Adding stigma to that is not solving any kind of problem.

    No, I don’t love big pharma either. I think people should be aware of the financial stake companies have in their taking medication, and I think they should have access to and should investigate other options. That doesn’t then mean that medication is always useless or never helpful, or even more harmful than it is helpful.

    You seem to have constructed a worst case scenario in your head (Everyone will refuse to work because of mental illness!) and taken everything as evidence of that trend. That’s not the way the world works and there’s no evidence that such a doomsday scenario is any closer to happening now than it was 5,000 years ago when people died young, had little outlet, and probably spent all sorts of time suffering in silence.

  25. Courtney20 says:

    @ Kevin – Seasonal Affective Disorder is not a made-up “Debbie Downer” syndrome as you posit. It is a real illness having to do with real changes in brain chemistry due to the decreased exposure to light in the winter months (responsible for regulating serotonin, melatonin, Vitamin D, etc).

    I don’t use it as an excuse to skip work so I can stay in bed for months watching reality TV. But it is something very real that I treat daily with light therapy and supplements, so that I CAN continue to function normally through the winter, and I don’t appreciate your comments that say it isn’t a real obstacle. You wouldn’t say that about someone with diabetes or hypothyroidism.

  26. Katie says:

    Katie, what you just said in the quote above could just as easily apply to a smoker. “Binging” on cigarettes at great cost to their health, unable to stop. Yet I certainly don’t think smoking is a mental disorder.

    Wait, why not? This is actually a great thing to explore, so let’s talk about it. It seems like you’re assuming that someone who isn’t utterly disabled and unable to do anything else doesn’t have a real mental disorder. Smoking is not a crippling mental disorder that leaves you unable to do anything else. Neither are many other things. In fact, many people with multiple personality disorder lead happy, productive lives. That fact that someone is affected by a mental disorder no more has to define their life than does a non-mentally based chronic illness. We don’t think people with, say, acid reflux are faking it or unable to work or attention whores, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a real problem. Mental health problems can exist along that exact same spectrum as physical problems. They can be chronic, they can be fleeting. They can occur once or be reoccuring throughout life. They can take over a person’s life entirely or they can be a minor inconvenience. It’s not a black and white or either/or thing.

    If you’re thinking of mental health problems in this way (and it sounds like you might be since you seem to be assuming everyone with mental health problems is using it as a reason not to have a job), you should stop. That’s simply not accurate.

    So smoking isn’t a bad example. Nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs in the world, by which I mean approximately one third of the people who use it become physically addicted to it. At that point, their brain chemistry literally changes – their brains react differently to the drug than the brains of people who aren’t addicted. What is that if not a mental condition? Of course, that doesn’t mean that smokers aren’t responsible for their actions or anything like that – it’s not an all-consuming thing; it’s simply a condition that alters one’s reactions to nicotine and has the resultant effects.

    But it does mean several things when we talk about health policy:

    1) Since physical addiction is irreversible and since it’s a physical process, we’re better off getting people not to start in the first place (hence policies aimed at not allowing tobacco companies to target children in their advertising).

    2) Since addiction is a real thing, it’s worth looking into how we can counteract addiction in an effective way (hence studies into how people can best quit smoking and what’s effective to help them do that).

    Sure, you can just berate smokers and tell them they’re lazy and have no will power. Will that actually help people quit? Not necessarily – we have hard evidence as to what works (that I’m not that well versed on so I won’t pontificate about) and it makes a lot more sense to look at that evidence and offer people the kind of help that actually works.

    THAT’S why it makes sense to recognize medical issues and actual disorders when we see evidence for them. Not because it’s a “get out of jail free” card. Saying addiction is a physical, reality-based thing helps us prevent it and helps us treat it. It doesn’t say “Oh, smokers shouldn’t have to work because they have a disease.” You’re looking at this the wrong way.

  27. chacha1 says:

    Bored with the psychology discussion.

    Regarding Ryan – am I missing something? He didn’t say, dude I really want to go to Amsterdam and party but I need a loan to go. It sounded as though he’s very aware of the future career enhancement he could garner through international study.

    Just wondering where all the “don’t go if you’re just going to party” stuff came from.

    @ Misty, you’re doing fine. Many people have trouble figuring out those darned loans … apparently the applications and documents are written in an intentionally obfuscatory way. I would agree that backing away from them for a minute and saving up an emergency fund will give you a sense of stability and you will then feel better equipped to put together a strategy on the loans.

  28. jim says:

    Jeffrey: I would definitely get the help of a mental professional. Sounds like your son has some problems. If he is resistant to getting help then I don’t really think evicting him is necessarily a good thing. Lots of people with mental health issues aren’t really thrilled about admitting they have problems or getting help. Evicting him may worsen his problems. I’m not sure what the right solution is, but I’d certainly seek help of a professional.

  29. MB says:

    I would urge Philip to get solid numbers concerning employment for graduates with the online C. J. degree he’s getting. Is that at a for-profit institution? Sadly, many of those degrees are worth almost nothing in terms of employment credentials. They’re generally worth more for people who are already employed and need a further credential for a promotion. But the track record for people entering a new field with an online degree is very poor. I am in the education field and I’ve seen a number of students go heavily into debt for these degrees, which then do not lead to employment. I would caution strongly against using any assets to finish the degree. Instead, get a job — even one that pays $9 or $10 an hour — and earn credits as you can pay for them. If you decide that finishing the degree is worth the money. The advantage of that is that you’ll have some further work experience on the resume. But I would be surprised if there’s not SOME IT job out there you could take for a while, even if it’s a step down from previous jobs. In any case, dissolving your assets for a dubious degree with no guarantee of employment sounds extremely risky to me.

  30. Debbie M says:

    @Misty, it sounds like always making the minimum payment on your loans may already be quite an improvement over what has happened sometimes in the past. I agree that focusing on the emergency fund first, while also making those minimum payments on time every time, would be a fabulous set of goals. And once you do switch to throwing extra money at the loans, then every time you have to dip into the emergency fund, switch back to minimum payments until your emergency fund is good.

    Another idea is to build your emergency fund to the 3-month living-expense minimum you mentioned, and then keep adding a small amount (like $10 per paycheck) to that while paying all the extra to your student loans. Note that once you get started, throwing all your extra money into the smallest loan will give some extra breathing room the quickest.

  31. Ashley says:

    Misty, I am in a very similar situation. My loans are about $20,000 higher (although just finishing off my only ParentPlus loan) and my living expenses are a bit higher as well. I have an okay income that will increase steadily for the next two or three years. I am in the process of consolidating all my Federal Stafford loans into one Direct loan as I just completed my Masters. I will be on the income based repayment plan, which allows remaining loans to be forgiven in ten years if you’re employed in public service the entire time or 25 years if in the private sector. Payments are capped at 15% of adjusted gross income minus 150% of poverty. For the first three years of the consolidation, the Feds continue to subsidize some of the interest if your monthly payments are not enough to cover it. My payments are going to be VERY low the first year, so my plan is to make payments to myself in a Smarty Pig account so that when my income rises in the next few years, I will have some savings to help me get going with them or if I leave public service and want to make a big dent in them (or in your case, act as a pseudo-emergency fund). When your income becomes higher, your payments are equal to what they would be on the traditional 10-year payment schedule. This program doesn’t work if you consolidate private loans, including ParentPlus, with the Fed loans. It’s definitely worth looking into.

  32. Aerin says:

    I work for an accounting firm, and we do provide the type of service Melissa is looking for – we call it “elder-care” service in our firm. One of our staff bookkeepers goes to the client’s house every 2 weeks or so and goes through all the mail, prepares the bank deposit for any cheques received, writes cheques to pay any bills, and balances the chequebook. The client signs all the cheques and deposit slips, and reviews the bank balance with the bookkeeper.

    Our clients feel secure using a bookkeeper employed by their accountant – they know we are answerable to a reputable firm, and they don’t have to worry about doing the screening or background check that hiring a freelance bookkeeper requires.

    You may want to check with accounting firms in your area to see if they offer something similar.

  33. I have a problem with Study Abroad trips. I’ve been on one, I had a lot of fun and I wouldn’t take back the experience for the world…then again, it was my first time outside of the United States and I had not the first clue about traveling.

    Now I know better.

    The cost of Study Abroad trips is atrocious! Planning a trip is much more cost effective if you arrange everything yourself. Of course, maybe it depends on the trip and all of what is involved…not to mention it might be more of a challenge to arrange to take classes at a foreign university.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I think the $10,000 to $20,000 for a 4 to 8 month ($2,500/month) stint is a bit pricey by my estimates and it could maybe be done a little cheaper if arrangements are done by the person traveling and not the university.

  34. valleycat1 says:

    Shawn – you’re already saving toward a long-term goal (the closed-end savings account) – all or a good chunk of that money would be available toward your apartment purchase, if that’s the one thing you want most. So if you consider that $ available toward the apartment, your monthly amount toward the downpayment is decreased accordingly. Also, I assume you’ve done the math to be sure you would then be able to afford the monthly mortgage payments, insurance, & other costs of owning (repairs, building maintenance fees, or whatever).

    If you aren’t self-directed enough to work from home, I’m not sure Trent’s advice to find another place to do the work from is going to work for you – sounds to me like you need to get another regular job to report to.

  35. prodgod says:

    Perhaps I’m missing something, but I think if my son had some psychological problem that compelled him to still live at home at 30, I don’t think I’d feel too inclined to just evict him because he’s cramping my style. It seems, based on the letter and response, that it’s not merely a case of laziness/mooching and there doesn’t seem to be any indication of criminal behavior or risk of physical danger.

    At the risk of being labeled an “enabler,” it seems to me we’ve lost our sense of family in our quest to better ourselves. What if the roles were reversed? Would the advise be the same? Kick old dad out because he holes-up in his room all the time and doesn’t contribute?

  36. David says:

    I clicked on comments fully expecting the tension to be over the prayer question. I was wrong.

  37. Sara says:

    Melissa: It actually looks like you and your husband have a pretty good arrangement, assuming he cooperates with the budgeting (it looks like you sort of give him and yourself an allowance after paying all the bills). I’m not sure you can MAKE him be interested in the financial stuff any more than you could make him be interested in opera or rock climbing or anything else. Personal finance is just boring to some people, and since you’re obviously the more interested and knowledgeable one, it’s natural for you to be the one to take charge.

    It is, however, reasonable for you to ask him to help your efforts to manage the finances. Maybe you could ask him to put his receipts in a specific place so you can track his spending, or even ask him to record his purchases in whatever budgeting software you use. He doesn’t have to like it :)

  38. Todd says:

    @David (#36)–Okay, I’ll bite….5,000 years ago people didn’t need to rely on prayer; they were too busy taking care of their own survival. These days, it seems like people want to pray about every little thing, and before you know it people will be praying all the time and not actually getting anything done. I much prefer the old days when people just took care of themselves.

    Sorry. Just kidding. I couldn’t resist. ;-)

  39. Christine says:


    Try to file for food stamps for your son since he has no income. Also, encourage him to file for social security disability. He will need to have a treatment history with a mental health professional in order to document his problems.
    SS takes 2-3 tries most of the time. File for medicaid on your son if he receives SS later.

    Continuing your living situation will probably be possible with some additional financial support from one of these sources.

  40. Laura says:

    Ryan: I tend to agree with Steven about the Study Abroad trips. For the record, I did both a summer study abroad and a semester abroad, and I’ve done other traveling on my own aside from that.

    Here’s my take: It depends heavily on what the Study Abroad program is going to offer you. Find out what classes will be offered and what the school and professors are like. Find out what local programs/activities there are. If that is worthwhile and something you cannot get at home, then pursue it if you have the money.

    Aside from Study Abroad, there may also be options to get an internship or summer job in another country. When I was finishing undergrad, I was offered an internship in Europe through a program at a school in my state. I ultimately decided not to take it for various reasons, but I’m sure it would have been a wonderful opportunity to travel and grow professionally that wouldn’t have required me taking out student loans. You could also try contacting US businesses that have branches in other countries to see if they offer internships or summer jobs. As a last resort, you could work or intern with a company state-side that does a lot of business in foreign countries. That could be a great foot-in-the-door.

    Also, consider doing a summer or winter break trip on your own. You can control costs better that way – you’re not paying for the privilege of getting college credit for traveling. If you want to travel for reasons other than getting a particular class or finance experience, this could be the way to go. You don’t necessarily need course credit to “legitimize” your trip. It’s also more independent and you don’t have to work around your daily class schedule.

    Lastly, consider Study Abroad programs outside the ones your school offers. I did a semester program that my school coordinated, but honestly I felt that it was disappointing in that regard because everyone else in my program was from my home institution. I felt it was hard to get out of that “bubble.” The summer program I did was not with my school, and although there was more administrative hassle, at least in the program itself there was more diversity and I enjoyed it better.

  41. K says:

    #36 David, I did too.

    I agree that the act of prayer affects your attitude, but for Trent to totally discredit the God to whom he presumably prays was a surprise, since he claims to believe the values of the ECLA.

    Research continually shows that patients who pray or are prayed for recover faster than those who don’t, even when those people are “positive thinkers.”

  42. Wes says:

    Hey Todd, you don’t think people prayed 5,000 years ago? That’s about how long Hinduism has been around, and I have a hunch that they prayed. As a matter of fact, religion has certainly been around as long as civilization, and probably longer. A quick google search reveals that Animism can be dated back about 60,000 years. Maybe those folks prayed too.

    As to the question itself, I suggest that anyone interested in whether or not it works give it a shot. Too often people claim that it doesn’t work without ever giving it a sincere effort. A more rational approach would be expiramental: try severl different methods of prayer over the course of a few weeks, take it seriosly, and see what happens. If you don’t know how to pray, or if you would like a starting point, grab a Bible (or find the passage online) and read Matthew 6:9-13. I believe it works, both for personal prayers and prayers for others.

  43. Wes says:

    I mean “seriously” and “several,” among other mistakes I’m sure.

    I obviously didn’t pray for the ability to spell well.

  44. michael bash says:

    @Trent. re study abroad – “a year of partying in another country” Why even say that? It’s just negative.

  45. deRuiter says:

    I’m voting with MB 29. The destruction of our economy and the resulting difficulties in finding real work for a full work week have spawned a huge business in selling useless “education” to well meaning people who don’t realize that the point of a lot of “education” is to enrich the people selling you the “education.” Most online courses, and many in mainstream academia, don’t teach you anything which will help. Either the degree is useless because it is not recognized by the work situation (employers) or it does not give you a salable skill. Before you hemoraghe thousands and mire yourself in debt, make sure that the “education” you will buy will result in work which will enable you to pay off the student loans. Nursing strikes me as more employable than sociology. A degree in mathematics or chemistry is more salable, I would think, than “baket weaving”, “the sexual nuances of the Harry otter Series”, “women’s studies”, “ethnic studies” or other degrees which only ingrain resentment and where the only job opportunities are at universities teaching others how they have been oppressed. Get a degree in math or science and succeed, or get a degree in one of the “feel good” areas and starve. Don’t get conned by one of the online schools which take your money, raise your hopes, and leave you with debt and no job. WAKE UP FOLKS, INVESTIGATE FIRST, AND FOLLOW THE MONEY! One reason our economy is bad (only one of them!) is that our schools are not turning out students competent in math, science, chemistry, the hard sciences. Too many “feel good” graduates are not equipped to offer a skill which society needs to buy. Teaching self esteem, running athletic events for students where there are no scores kept, bashing America, bashing business, a person with this background isn’t really qualified to be anything but a community organizer. Except in extraordinary circumstances, there aren’t many jobs for community organizers if you haven’t got some large political organization behind you.

  46. Tina says:

    In response to Melissa’s comment about getting her husband involved. . . I have all of our finances on Mint.com. Then I set up the options on Mint to send my partner a weekly report summary of all of our finances, checking, savings, credit cards, mortgage, and investments. The report also tells her if we are over budget in any spending categories. She loves it, and reads this email every week.

    I also keep a spreadsheet that lists every account that we have, with the login and password, so that if anything happens to me, she would know how to access our accounts.

    This has really helped keep us both on target, even thought I’m the one who is paying the bills.

  47. Jamie says:

    @David #36: Me too! Wow. Nothing to do with anything supernatural? The reader asked specifically about prayer, not meditation. While I don’t discount the benefits of meditation, I don’t understand how the answer to this question from a proclaimed member of the Christian faith can be “nothing to do wtih anything supernatural.” Prayer works because you are petitioning the sovereign creator of the universe. It doesn’t get any more powerful than that.

  48. Jean says:


    If you kick your son out he will most likely become homeless. Take yourself to a Nami (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Support Group and sign up for their Family-to-Family education class, too. Get some solid information and guidance from family members who have dealt with situations like yours. All of Nami’s services are free and as free of barriers to assistance as possible. Support Groups are held on a walk-in basis. No appointment is required. You don’t need a referral. You don’t need to be a member. All you need is the time and location. Your local Nami affiliate can be located through http://www.nami.org. Good luck!

  49. Kevin says:

    @K (#41):

    “Research continually shows that patients who […] are prayed for recover faster.”

    Really? What research? Name one.

  50. Kevin says:


    “Prayer works because you are petitioning the sovereign creator of the universe.”

    So God plays favorites?

    Or is it simply that do-gooders only do good in order to build up their cosmic karma account so they can “cash in” later when they need a favour from the diety upstairs?

    I thought being good was supposed to be its own reward? Are you saying Christians are only doing good out of an expectation that their mystical overlord will reward them when it counts?

    Sounds pretty shallow and self-serving to me.

  51. reulte says:

    Ryan — Why don’t you look at an internship with the Department of State at an American embassy overseas? I believe that you pay for travel costs, but once you are in the other country I think the living arrangements are paid for by the embassy. I don’t know if you get paid for working or not. Of course, you’d have to check the details (state dot gov, a bar on the right that says “Youth & Education”. Personally, I wouldn’t go into $10-20K of debt unless the credit hours are included AND that’s about the normal costs of credit hours.

    Prayer – There’s as much evidence against prayer helping people in hospitals as there is for it so it remains controversial in its effectiveness. The best part of prayer is what it does for the person praying. I think someone once described (and I tend to believe it) prayer as talking to god (however defined) while meditation is listening to god (again, however defined).

    Jamie – People from the Christian faith can acknowledge that other religions exist and have as much validity as any given sect/ branch/ division of Christianity. Trent has an international and interdenominational audience and has given an example even an atheist can not dispute (for the record, I’m neither atheist nor Christian).

  52. Interested Reader says:

    There are studies that show prayer is helpful but there are also studies that show prayer has no effect on a medical outcome.

    So you have to determine which ones are accurate and usually the studies that are more rigirous and science based are more accurate.

    But prayer is a personal thing and someone that believes in prayer is generally not going to believe a science based study that shows it is not.

    As for Trent’s answer, I thought it was a decent answer that didn’t put one religious belief over the other and with the wide range of readers that’s probably a good thing.

  53. Kevin says:

    reulte: “There’s as much evidence against prayer helping people in hospitals as there is for it”

    Interested Reader: “There are studies that show prayer is helpful”

    Again, more general references to these “studies.”

    I’m just asking you to NAME ONE. One, specific study that concluded that people recover faster when others pray for them. Just one study. We can argue over whether or not it’s credible, or scientific, but first, you have to at least FIND ME ONE.

    I’m claiming no such studies exist, anywhere. I do not believe that there is any evidence whatsoever that anyone anywhere ever recovered faster due to other people praying for them.

    Please don’t respond back saying, “trust me, there are studies out there.” Name the study. Authors, title, date, that sort of stuff. Just one.

  54. Kevin says:

    Just to clarify, I’m asking specifically for research regarding people who were prayed for by OTHER PEOPLE. I’m certainly willing to concede that people who do the praying THEMSELVES could likely recover faster (the power of positive thinking and all that).

    I’m saying that the notion that having people pray for you has a real, measureable medical benefit is bunk.

  55. christine a says:

    @28 Jim + 39 Christine

    I think you’re both giving very sound advice. Jeffrey’s son doesn’t seem to be up to independent living at the moment. Jeffrey’s job is giving him clear time away from this hugely difficult situation so right now it is providing more than money. I think maybe hold off a bit from giving up work if he possibly can and while his son won’t consider help get some for himself.

  56. socalgal says:

    The following large study showed prayer does not help:

  57. prufock says:

    Quoting Kevin:

    “continually add more and more new “disorders” that (in my opinion) aren’t really disorders at all”

    “This is just my opinion, but I believe that in general, NOBODY has nearly as many obstacles as they think they do.”

    Lucky, then, that diagnostics are not based on opinion, but instead extensive research.

    Studies regarding efficacy and inefficacy of prayer in healing, with links:

  58. littlepitcher says:

    @Alvern–Look for a backup roommate, and have a backup fund of at least a month’s total expenses. If you are following any financial plan, you already should have the emergency fund covered. Do check your circle of acquaintances, and see if any of them know someone who might want to share space eventually. Since your current roomie is stable, that is a reference in itself, but you may want to write references for the other, in the event of jobs transfer or other life changes.

  59. Interested Reader says:

    Kevin, I never said that prayer makes people heal faster, but I also realize my comments weren’t clear.

    I meant to say “So you have to determine which ones are accurate and usually the studies that are more rigirous and science based are more accurate. And those are the ones that show prayer is not effective.”

    Which is why I added that people who believe in prayer are not necessarily going to believe the studies that disprove prayer works.

    I don’t agree that prayer works to heal people.

  60. Interested Reader says:

    Kevin I can’t give you a direct link because it will get caught up in moderation but search for The Skeptic’s Dictionary and search under Alternative Healting for Prayer.

    There is a study cited following 1802 that proves intecessory prayer does not work.

  61. socalgal says:

    I got the link caught in moderation, but if you google The Sunday Times of London there is a study reporting the fact that prayers from strangers does not help healing. This was a large study.

  62. Janelle says:

    I studied abroad in college and that is basically what landed my job I currently have now. They took my study abroad experience as me taking risks, wanting to learn and stepping out of the “norm.” My sister studied abroad in Spain, my brother in Thailand, where he eventually decided to go teach English in Korea for a year after finishing school. It’s one of the BEST things you can do. Also, if your parents are willing to fund it, that’s great. If not, still do it! It’s a great experience and will not let you down. Have a great time and take advantage of every learning opportunity available!

  63. Sarah says:

    My study abroad trip was set up such that I paid regular tuition and room and board at home, and got to go somewhere else instead and stay on their campus. The rest was up to me to coordinate, budget, and arrange (flights, fun, visas, etc.) therefore it was actually quite affordable.

    Top it off with a study abroad scholarship, and it was actually cheaper, had I not traveled so much while there. (This may or may not still be true, but at the time, if you were willing to go to asia or africa or india or non-western europe places, scholarships are more plentiful.)

    And to be honest, it was BOTH an incredibly learning experience AND a chance to party in another country. Not mutually exclusive, at all! :)

  64. Katie says:

    The rest was up to me to coordinate, budget, and arrange (flights, fun, visas, etc.) therefore it was actually quite affordable.

    Mine was like that too and since I was studying in a country where the cost of living was MUCH lower than in the U.S. (I paid $80/month in rent, for instance), I actually saved money over the year.

  65. tentaculistic says:

    With all due respect, Kevin, if you are not a troll you are certainly doing a good job of imitating one. I don’t think I’m going to respond to your inflammatory comments, and I encourage others to refrain from feeding the troll as well.

    My comment has to do with Trent’s advice to the dad with the shut-in adult son – it seemed to jump to eviction awfully quickly. Like Trent, I was reading all kinds of red flags toward significant psych issues for the adult son, but unlike Trent I don’t think that eviction would have the positive effect on that son that it could have on a normal adult son mooching off of the parental figure. I would think that son would be as likely to become homeless as to suddenly get his act together…and I’m thinking the bad kind of homeless (before you start screaming: I had a friend who was part of Rainbow, and his version of 2 years of homelessness involved a lot of making new hippy friends and crashing on couches – not, I think, an option for someone with psych issues). I think if I were the dad, I would worry an awful lot about this dysfunctional son if I evicted him, and would feel crushingly guilty if something were to happen to him following eviction.

  66. Carrie says:

    Jeffrey, tentaculistic offers very good advice about your son. Please do not jump to evicting him. He sounds like my brother who is 42 years old and incapable of working or going out in public. It’s called Social Anxiety Disorder, which in his case is also a form of paranoid schizophrenia. There are professionals who can help your son with counseling and medication. He also needs a good support system of family and close friends.

  67. LeahGG says:

    @Shawn: 1st, is the 10-year savings a 10-year plan or a “keren hishtalmut” through your work with a work match? Second, freelancing after a whole day’s work is really hard. You need to consider where you’re living. Rents are high everywhere right now, but I’m guessing you’re probably in or around Tel Aviv and that you’re not sharing an apartment. If your work is near one of the train stations, you could consider moving to someplace like Rehovot or Beer Yaakov. Roommates end up saving you more money than just on rent. Electricity for an apartment for 2 is usually about 1.6 times as much as electricity for an apartment for one. Share an apartment with a dog-lover, and you might be able to get your flatmate to cover some of the dog care.

    I’m not sure you can get a mortgage with a 20% down payment, btw.

    Another thing to consider in all of this is that the main reason it’s horrible to live in rentals in Israel is that they’re almost all privately owned (which means that they frequently get sold out from under you, or you get moved out because the owner’s daughter is getting married, etc). If you can find a kibbutz that’s privatizing and is renting out apartments, then you can have the “luxury” of having a place where you can stay long-term without a nagging landlord. Moving out to the boonies will probably mean needing to buy a car, though.

    One more thing – At least in Modiin, where I am, the prices just jumped sky-high about two years ago. They are expected to mellow out a bit. I don’t think that the places that are going for $350K now are going to drop back to $250, but they might drop down to $330.

    Sorry that this advice is so Israel-specific, but the situation really is different here.

  68. LeahGG says:

    standard minimum for a down payment is 40% in Israel

  69. @ryan – Go talk to the study abroad office at your home college again. You could find better options than what it appears you got quoted, assuming you don’t have your heart set on a particular destination.

    It looks like you are assuming this will add another semester or year to your education. That’s not always the case. If you take classes that transfer back to your home college, it could still be possible for you to graduate on time.

    Semester abroad will then be not much different than a semester at home except for air fare and other out-of-pocket expenses.

  70. Vicky says:

    There is a great book out called “Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children.” It tries to help us identify for our children what is actually helpful (something they cannot do for themselves) and what is enabling (doing things for them they should be doing themselves.)

    That said, I’m curious as to why you can’t retire with your son in the house. He may cost $$ in food, but as others have stated he may be able to public assistance since he has no income. I don’t mind my tax dollars helping another American get counseling from the County healthcare and some basic food and services. Many of our nation’s homeless have a mental disability, so I also hope that you don’t choose the quick evict option.

    Other than that, if he requests and money from you, simply tell him truthfully that you don’t have it. Period. Suggest that he find a job where he can work from home.

  71. Johanna says:

    @Ryan: If you’re viewing the study abroad purely as an investment in your career, then you want to do some digging to find out what it can actually offer you in terms of your career. Talk to career advisors or people working in your field to try to get an impression of whether people who study abroad are at an advantage when it comes to job opportunities or salary negotiations. If you think that studying abroad will increase your monthly salary by more than the monthly payments on the additional debt, then it makes sense as a financial investment.

    But if you’re thinking about it more as an experience that will be personally enriching in intangible ways, there’s no reason to think of it as “now or never.” The world is not going anywhere. It will still be there in a few years, if you want to hold off on travel until you have the money to do it without going into debt.

  72. Katie says:

    But if you’re thinking about it more as an experience that will be personally enriching in intangible ways, there’s no reason to think of it as “now or never.” The world is not going anywhere. It will still be there in a few years, if you want to hold off on travel until you have the money to do it without going into debt.

    Hmm, this is true, but many people find themselves in circumstances that greatly limit their ability to travel or spend significant time overseas. Marriage, children, a desire to make progress in a career where you can’t easily take time off, payment on student loans incurred through non-study abroad are all things that come up after you graduate. If he goes abroad and loves it he might choose to structure his future life to have more opportunities to do so. If he doesn’t, there is a large likelihood (not a certainty, of course) that other things will come up to prevent it from ever happening.

  73. Johanna says:

    @Katie: None of the things you mention just “come up” – they’re all related to the choices that you make. If travel is a priority, you can make it happen at any age. If Ryan can structure his life to include travel because he went abroad and loved it and wants to travel more, then he can also structure his life to include travel because he *didn’t* go abroad but wants to travel later.

    None of this is to say that he should not study abroad – just that the opportunity to travel does not vanish forever when you turn 22. If it’s really true that studying abroad will require taking on an additional $10K or more in student loans, waiting until later might be an option worth considering.

  74. Katie says:

    Yes, but it’s easier to make it a priority when you’re 21 and don’t have to give up other things. It’s also a point in life when you can learn whether you WANT to give up other things and make it a priority later on. (It also smooths over visa situations in a way that can be hard later.)

    I mean, $10k might not be worth it for an individual. It depends. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s reasonable to say don’t incur debt because the option will be there later. Other options may be there later and you may be able to travel without taking on debt later. Waiting might be the right thing to do (for you), but the fact that it will very likely be harder and require personal sacrifices to spend a significant chunk of time overseas later should be something you consider when you’re making the calculus.

  75. Shawn says:

    First, can I say how ridiculously thrilled I am to appear in the reader mailbag? It absolutely made my day. Thank you, Trent, for your suggestions, which were incredibly motivating.

    valleycat1 — the idea to get a better-paying job is a good one. Thank you.

    LeahGG — yay, a fellow Simple Dollar reader from Israel! Thank you for your thought-out response. In answer to your questions: the 10-year savings account is just a savings account. The bank teller recommended it when I said I wanted long-term savings (before I had a retirement fund). I do live in the Tel Aviv area now, with a flatmate. Living in Rehovot is not a bad idea, but it looks like the savings in rent will be mostly cancelled out by the increase in train/bus ticket costs. And living on a kibbutz sounds awesome — I’ll keep it in mind for the future.

  76. Johanna says:

    “But at the same time, I don’t think it’s reasonable to say don’t incur debt because the option will be there later.”

    I agree. Which is why I didn’t say that. :)

    “the fact that it will very likely be harder and require personal sacrifices to spend a significant chunk of time overseas later should be something you consider when you’re making the calculus.”

    Fair enough. At least we agree that there’s a calculus to be made, so it’s not “you must go now, whatever the cost.”

    I’m especially resistant to the “now or never” thinking because of a discussion on a previous reader mailbag post, in which a young woman in college asked about borrowing some $2000 to go to England for just a couple of weeks. Plenty of people were saying “it’s now or never” to her as well, when in fact most adults can arrange the time (if not the money, but she didn’t have the money anyway) to go on vacation for a couple of weeks if they really want to.

    I agree that if it’s important to you to travel for an extended period of time (and especially if it’s important to you to stay in the same country for more than 90 days or whatever the standard tourist limit is, in which case you’re right that visas become an issue), there may be advantages to going while you’re an undergraduate. But still, there are other options. There are Fulbright scholarships and other paid-for postgraduate opportunities. Other commenters have mentioned summer jobs and internships. In academia, where it’s normal not to settle down in a permanent position until you’re almost 30 or even older, there are postdoctoral fellowships. (That’s how I got to move to England for two years at the ripe old age of 27.) There are jobs that let you take sabbatical leave. And of course, plenty of people of all ages do make the personal sacrifices you’re talking about to take extended trips overseas.

    I’m just saying that Ryan shouldn’t think that there’s some door that will shut for him forever on the day he graduates from college.

  77. reulte says:

    Katie – It’s not that it’s easier to make traveling a priority when you’re younger; it’s easier to make your own wants a priority when you don’t have that many other things to give up or people to be concerned about. It’s easier to actually travel when you’re single and can pack everything in one bag — whether you are young or old. I’ve traveled single (the proverbial backpack to Europe for the week) as well as with a baby (fairly easy), a toddler (not recommended!), and a grade schooler (ok, make sure he has his own backpack of keep him busy toys) for times ranging from two weeks to two years (oh, g*d, the luggage! Carry lots of small bills for the porters and tip generously!) I’m actually looking forward to future travel with my boy as he grows older and more self-sufficient. We’re planning a 3-month historical road trip in the US as well as volunteering on an archaeological dig – probably in Bulgaria – within the next five years. I definately recommend travel as long as you don’t go into debt to do so.

    Kevin – #51 – Here’s two:
    “Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer in cardiac bypass patients: a multicenter randomized trial of uncertainty and certainty of receiving intercessory prayer” by Benson H, et al in American Heart Journal. 2006 Apr;151(4):934-42.
    “Music, imagery, touch, and prayer as adjuncts to interventional cardiac care: the Monitoring and Actualisation of Noetic Trainings” by Krucoff MW, et al. in Lancet. 2005 Jul 16-22;366(9481):211-7.

    And Slate has a great little article called ‘Diety in the Data’. Google it.

  78. Interested Reader says:

    @72- are you citing those studies as proof that prayer works? becuase both of those concluded that intercessory prayer doesn’t make a difference.

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