Updated on 01.12.11

Reader Mailbag: Thanks

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. Selling jewelry
2. Auto loan refinancing
3. Rolling over a 403(b)
4. Next generation’s big mistake
5. Gift for newborn
6. Handling personal injury settlement
7. Not caring about future
8. Off-topic topics
9. Emergency fund in a CD?
10. Retirement savings or debt payments

Earlier this week, I came across contact information for someone that, when I was younger, moved away before I had the opportunity to tell them thank you for being a friend and telling them goodbye. It was one of those little things in life that bugged me for many years, but I was never able to contact this person. I simply could not locate that person at all.

I was hesitant to say anything to that person because it had been so long, but another old friend of mine encouraged me to say something. I bit my lip and did it, and I’m extremely glad I did.

Thank you to both of my old friends: one, for encouraging me to say something, and another, for being so friendly and gracious when I decided to do it.

Q1: Selling jewelry
This coming year my husband and I are trying to slim down our spending and make a little extra money too. I have a bunch of jewelry that I no longer wear and doesn’t have meaning. While I don’t believe anything is tremendously valuable some of it is gold and silver with small stones. I received most of the jewelry as gifts from previous relationships, and at this point, I’d just like to de-clutter and make a little money. Do you have any information on reputable places to sell jewelry? I’ve heard of online places like http://www.goldstash.com/ (recommended by Dave Ramsey’s website), but I don’t know if that’s the best place to send my jewelry. Your thoughts would be most appreciated.

– Melissa

An online gold broker would be my option of last resort for selling my old jewelry.

My first line of attack would be to do what I could to clean up and “beautify” the jewelry. Depending on what you have, there are many different ways to do this. Use Google and look for ways to clean gold jewelry, gems, or whatever else you have.

I would next take the jewelry to a reputable jewelry store, preferably a local one. Overall, they’re the most likely place to get a good deal, as they have a vested interest in correctly appraising your jewelry and offering you a reasonable value for it. Virtually all other businesses have little vested interest in correctly appraising what you have or giving you a reasonable offer for it.

If the jewelry store does not want it, they should at least be able to describe it clearly for you. I would then attempt to sell the item online. Ask the jewelry store for any advice on that if they’re not interested in buying it. Most local jewelry stores with solid customer service will offer you some advice in that area.

I would only use a pawnshop or, even worse, an online gold broker as an avenue of last resort.

Q2: Auto loan refinancing
I purchased a used vehicle in April 2010 for $36,000 and have been aggressively paying down the 36 month auto loan at my credit union. The loan balance was originally for $32,000 in April and the balance at the end of December is $21,000 at an interest rate of 3.99% (which I refinanced a couple months ago down from 5.25%). At this rate, the loan should be paid off in less than 2 years (around 22 months). My payment is about $965 a month which I could very easily cover before, but due to a new job my finances are much tighter and I could use extra cash flow each month. I have the opportunity to refinance my loan again with my other bank for 3.5% for 36 months and can take cash out (I was thinking about $5,000-$9,000) and the vehicle is blue booked around $34,000. I would use all of the cash out to pay down my student loans, which are at 6.8%. Also I would plan to continue making the same payment (about $1,000) each month but I think it would be nice to have some “breathing room” in case my funds get tight, but I understand I am essentially adding another 12 months onto my loan and additional interest if I just make the minimum payments. I was wondering what your thought are on this plan?

– Erik

I think that’s a reasonable plan. My only concern is that you’re going to be able to make those car payments in the future, because your car loan is a loan with collateral, meaning they can repossess your car if you fail to pay.

On the flip side, this reduces your interest rate on the car loan and helps you pay off several higher interest loans. According to a few different models I just tried out in Excel, virtually every variant I could think of for this scenario saves you money in the long run.

Is it worth the risk? It depends on your own situation. Are you actually going to be able to make the car payments at the adjusted rate in the future? I can’t tell this for you, but if it looks as though you can easily pull it off, I’d make the move.

Q3: Rolling over a 403(b)?
I have a 403(b) which I put $100 a month into (I have state retirement as well). I don’t have the best relationship with the company and get frustrated with some of their marketing techniques. At any rate is there any benefit to rolling the 403(b) into a Roth? I am not sure how long I will stay a state employee. Is the Roth going to just sit there if I change careers and can I still contribute to it? There are many options out there. I’d like some clarity. Thanks. I am a teacher.

– Amity

Unless you are leaving your current position or are of retirement age, you can’t roll over your 403(b) without paying some very stiff tax penalties for doing so. Usually, your window of opportunity to do this comes when you switch jobs.

If you are switching jobs, then I would highly recommend a rollover for almost everyone. Not only is a Roth IRA post-tax (which means you won’t have to pay taxes on it in retirement), but you have much more control over the investments and who it’s invested with.

Of course, you do have to pay income taxes on the withdrawn money when you move it over. Typically, you convert a 403(b) into a Traditional IRA, then convert that IRA into a Roth IRA as two separate steps, but your investment house of choice can help you with all of this.

Q4: Next generation’s big mistake?
I’m wondering if you have any insights into what we should be warning our kids about doing wrong financially?

See, I think part of the reason for the current personal debt crisis (consumer debt, mortgage debt, and student debt) is that our parents (I’m 32) didn’t have access to massive streams of easy credit the way we did, so they didn’t warn us about it, and we didn’t grow up with the example of what not to do with debt. I’m not begging off of responsibility, and there’s a good chance I’d have ignored my parents’ warnings anyway, of course.

I guess what I’m getting at is this: my parents’ parents, some of whom lost everything in bank crashes during the Great Depression, would have warned against keeping your money in a bank- EVEN THOUGH the FDIC renders that particular risk moot at this point. We’re likely going to warn against taking on debt to fuel your short term gratification, EVEN THOUGH (pure speculation here) it will likely be tough (by the time my 15-month-old daughter is in a position to GET credit) to get as much easy credit as we got.

What do YOU think the next big mistake will be? Have you considered this at all? Read anything about it?
– Mike

My biggest concern with the next generation is that many of them are going to have weak face-to-face communication skills. I can easily see this translating into them being taken in by the smaller subset of people who can communicate well, convincing them to invest in substandard insurance, investments, and so forth.

If you want a taste of what I’m talking about, watch the film The Social Network.

My suggestion: if you have children, do everything you can to encourage them to have face-to-face interactions with their peers. Don’t let them hole up in their room to sit on Facebook all day. Get them out into the community doing something that involves significant interaction with their peers and with adults.

Q5: Gift for newborn
I am a recent, first time Aunt and I am really excited about it. I have been trying to figure out a way to give a meaningful gift this year, but also for future years, to my nephew. I don’t intend for this to replace a small, appropriate gift to him on his birthday each year but as a supplement (one that he won’t appreciate until he is older).

My sister and her husband are hard working folks in the education field (he is an elementary school PE teacher and she runs the before/after school enrichment program for the school district) so I know that education is important to them. I was thinking I could put aside a little bit of money each year to help fund my nephew’s college/technical school education. I don’t have a lot of money to put aside for this, but I think education is important as well.

What’s the best way for me to do this? Can I start a 529 account for my nephew? I will probably need to talk to my sister and brother-in law about this but I am afraid if I say “so sister, have you thought about your son’s college education?” she might just freak out (she only had her son a week and a half ago).

Any suggestions or ideas you have are greatly appreciated.
– Ani

You can absolutely start a 529 account for your nephew. All you do is open one with him as the beneficiary and start socking away money according to whatever plan you have in mind.

If I were you, I would start it quietly, then bring it up to them when the routine of having a child is familiar in their life. I wouldn’t try to have this conversation with the parents of a newborn, as they’re going to be frazzled as they watch all semblance of a home life go topsy turvy.

If they reject the plan, you can just change the beneficiary to yourself and sit on that money to see if you eventually have children, then change the benficiary to them, or to see if you return to school for some purpose in the future.

Q6: Handling personal injury settlement
I’m about to come into some money from a personal injury lawsuit settlement. I’m 24, living at home rent free with my father to save money, own my car, and have almost no debt (other than about $7k in Stafford loans from college). I currently make about $35,000/year as a production assistant for film and television. I don’t have any work retirement plans or healthcare plans available to me in my current line of work. I have always been really good at saving my money but I have yet to really start investing for the future. I’m pretty new to the whole investing idea but I think I want to open up a Roth IRA. Is that a good place to start? Anything else you could recommend?

– Ashley

A Roth IRA is a great place to start.

My first move with that money would be to clear all debt from my name. This will simply give you more freedom for the future no matter what you choose to do.

After that, by all means, invest it. A Roth IRA is a good start as it is a wonderful vehicle for retirement savings that also allows you to pull out your contributions penalty-free if you choose to do so at a later time. I have a Roth IRA myself, through Vanguard.

Q7: Not caring about future
My 48 year old (single w/no children) daughter graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2000. She has yet to earn her first nickel as the fruit of her education (Creative Writing). She has managed to survive without our assistance in the meantime by working at various high school grad type jobs, sometimes seasonally at around $20.00/hr but more often at around $10 to $12. Without our knowledge because she decided to not include us as supportive or nosey parents in her life, she now has (she says) a little over $50,000 balance due on her student loans, including accumulated interest, which she borrowed while in college, now over 10 years ago.

She recently fell on especially hard times and could no longer endure them without asking for our assistance. So far, not to help pay off the student loans, but to give her an opportunity to recover by affording her totally free room, board, use of a car etc. We are doing this for her, and it is at marginal increased expense for us, but nevertheless, because of our age and her own future, think it should not and cannot be indefinite and long term.

We want her to find a way to earn an independent living, but that seems unlikely with her present skill sets and the current economy. She works on call as a substitute teacher in the local school district and has been able to save about $6,000 since she moved home. She is not a certified teacher and cannot be employed as such. Now, she is hoping to be readmitted to the University as a grad student to obtain a Master’s degree in English, thinking that credential will enable her to find employment as an instructor at a community college; confident she could thus earn a salary large enough to not only live on, but repay her student loan debt(s) . On that prospect, she is preparing to ask for more student loan money to finance another year at the University. Because doing this will require that she will have to move to another city, acquire her own living quarters and attendant expenses at a minimum in addition to the cost of the expected year of education, I estimate she will need about another $25 K of borrowed money.

She seems to have no idea of her own but and seems unconcerned that (1) the loan will not be available to her and (2) that it will be insufficient to finance all expenses. As of now, she has not yet repaid a single dime of the previous student loans – she says she has been given “forbearance” and/or another type of debt payment relief all these years. So, I calculate that if she does borrow another $25M, her total will be between $75 and $80 if and when she does get a master’s degree, but still without a secure job in hand that may pay enough to make all this worthwhile. Can you provide information and insight that might help us in this situation?
– Kenneth

You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make them drink.

For me, this is the whole trickiness of personal finance right in a nutshell. You can’t make others behave in the ways you want them to. You can only push them in that direction. Quite often, the nudges you give in that direction are painful ones that seem to go against our instincts for caring for others.

The first thing you should do at this point is sit down with your wife and figure out what your long term goal is, both for getting your daughter on track and making sure she doesn’t adversely affect your life at this point. What is the minimum state you expect from her in five years? Living independently? Having a job?

You need to then ask yourself if you are willing to let her sink or swim on her own. If she falters again, will you take her in again? Does she know that, and is she banking on that? If she knows that you’re a permanent fallback, why would she not take the “fun” route that has a high chance of failure rather than the mature route that establishes an independent life?

This is a hard discussion to have, but whenever I hear about parents letting older children move back in until they get their act straight, I can’t help but think that this action enables the children to make further poor moves in life. At some point, the children have to swim alone.

Q8: Off-topic topics
What topics do you avoid at The Simple Dollar and why?

– Andrea

A long time ago, my wife and I set down some basic guidelines of what lines not to cross in our life to discuss in front of a wide audience. There are simply some aspects of our life that aren’t appropriate for and don’t need to be discussed on this site. More than once, this has caused some controversy on the site because some of the elements that have led us to certain decisions are on the other side of that line. I’d rather anger a thousand readers than to cross such a personal line.

I am as diligent as I can be about protecting the identity and privacy of readers, even to the point of retroactively editing posts to protect them. More than once, this has caused controversy because I’ve deleted elements of the story of a reader but left my response to that reader unchanged, leading to all sorts of crazy conclusions. I’d rather have 1,000 readers calling me wrong and unethical than to destroy the privacy of one reader.

I don’t like talking about the specifics of my religious or spiritual beliefs other than to say that I’m a Christian, that I greatly value science (which tends to be the big controversy these days (a great summation of my thoughts on science and Christianity is in the words of St. Augustine)), and that I believe strongly in separation of church and state, which is another hot button issue these days.

I try not to write much at all about my family and friends beyond my immediate family unless they give me specific permission to do so.

I try to avoid specific political statements, other than to say I consider an awful lot of the political discourse today to be poisonous and detrimental to all of our futures (this goes for the far left and the far right). I used to cross this line on occasion, but it’s just not worth it.

That mostly covers it in terms of topics I avoid.

Q9: Emergency fund in a CD?
I am very fortunate to be in a place where I don’t need to worry about money. I’m 21 years old, enrolled in an undergraduate program in engineering. My parents are well-off, and have been paying my tuition and rent, so that I do not have debt after I graduate. On top of this, I work 10-15 hours a week as an administrative assistant to pay for my food, sorority dues, and any other spending I want. However, I generally spend as much as I earn at work so I have almost no savings. I have $500 in a Sharebuilder account that I’m using to get to know the market, and so far I’ve done nothing but lose money in it so I am hesitant to put any more money in. I have not been paid in the last couple weeks from my job because of some HR issues, and this, combined with Christmas, has put me in about $400 in credit card debt that the first payment on it will be due in the beginning of February.

My dad passed away in May, which was devastating, but he left me a trust fund that I start getting money from this January. My dad had expressed that he didn’t want me to spend any of the money, and instead use it to one day use it for a down payment for a house. Because of this, I had wanted to leave it in the account until I was ready to do this, so I wasn’t tempted by having the money to spend, but I found out recently that this wasn’t an option and I would be receiving payouts from it annually instead.

I am planning on using my first payout to pay off all my debt and pay for the rest of my sorority dues for this year, but this still leaves me with about $2000. My question is: should I put this in a savings account as an emergency fund or put it in another account such as a CD so that it can gain more interest? I read your blog all the time, and if I didn’t have the luxury of having my rent and tuition paid for, I would put it in a savings account as an emergency fund immediately. However, I’m graduating in two years, and maybe putting it in a 2 year CD would allow it to grow so that I would have a more substantial emergency fund when I graduated and therefore no longer would receive money from my mother.
– Katie

A CD right now is not a high-growth option. You might earn 2% on the money if you find a great offer.

If you want to keep this money in a form that doesn’t lose principal, I would probably encourage you just to keep it in savings, because savings offer liquidity that CDs don’t offer. The difference between a good savings rate and a good CD rate are so low right now that the liquidity that savings offers trumps the interest rate difference, in my opinion.

If you have almost no savings, I think having a cash emergency fund would be a solid idea anyway, just for unexpected events like a travel emergency and so on.

Q10: Retirement savings or debt payments?
I am 29 years old and have been out of grad school for 18 months. I am very fortunate to be well-employed because I have about $27K left in student loans ($23,600 at 6.5% interest and $3,400 at 7.5% interest). I have saved three months’ expenses in a high interest savings account and $40K in my 401K (mostly from employment prior to going back to school at age 25). I have a 1996 Honda with 180K miles on it, which I hope to drive to 200K before replacing. I rent my apartment and don’t have any credit card debt.

Currently, I am contributing $625/month to my 401K with no employer match, and I am paying $1380/month toward my student loans, which means that I am paying an extra $920/month toward the higher interest loan. I also save $150/month in personal savings towards a new car.

My goals are to get rid of the student loan debt and start saving for a car and other big expenses. I put about 1,000 miles on my car per month, so at this rate, I’ll pay off the loan shortly before the car hits 200K, and there won’t be a lot of time to save up for a car. If the car dies in the meantime, I’ll have to use the emergency fund.

This situation leaves me with a couple of questions. Should I could quit contributing to my 401K to increase my debt payments and savings for the car? What about a loan from my 401K basically to “refinance” my student loan at a lower interest rate (my employer’s rate would be 4.25%)? And what do I do with the fact that I actually don’t like my job and would like to seek new employment within a year?
– Annie

At the rate at which you’re paying down your student loans, a “loan” from your 401(k) to accelerate the paydown isn’t worth it in my opinion, especially if you’re considering switching jobs as such debts will be counted as taxable income upon moving to a new employer.

As for whether you should cut your 401(k) contributions to save more for the car, it depends really on how much you’re making and expect to make in your career. If you multiply your contributions by 12, you get $7,500 per year. Are you making more than $75,000 per year? What about employer contributions?

If I were you, I’d cut your retirement contributions to 10% of your annual income. So, if you’re making $40,000 a year, that means you’d contribute $4,000 a year and you’d thus contribute $333 a month. This would leave you with an extra $300 per month with which to save and pay down debts.

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. Matt says:

    What are the benefits to opening a 529 for your nephew/niece/etc, compared to savings bonds or things like that? Because from what I understand, you can use savings bonds under the recipients name, and when they get to college-bound age, they can cash the savings bonds in tax free.
    Can you lend some insight on this?

  2. Mary says:

    Q7 – My younger brother (21) is doing that exact thing – living with my parents because he has no place to go. Luckily he is doing something called Job Corps currently, but what you said hit home for me. I truly believe he is banking on the fact that my mom enables that behavior. Exactly right – at some point you got to let them swim alone.

  3. Amy says:

    Just a little (perhaps unwanted) advice for Kenneth’s daughter. Full-time community college instructor jobs are extremely difficult to come by — people work as part-time adjuncts (no benefits) at two or more institutions, resulting in a killer workload, hoping a full-time spot will open up with benefits.

    That said, one usually only needs 18 graduate hours in a subject area such as English to teach it at the community college level — roughly half a master’s degree. Personally, if she wants to pursue this, I think she should find an inexpensive option for doing it WHILE she works elsewhere — especially if she’s lucky enough to find an employer that might contribute towards those extra graduate credits.

    I am currently a librarian at a community college and am happy with that, but I decided to get 18 graduate hours in English because 1) I love taking classes, and 2) it gives me another option. However, I didn’t want to spend a fortune. I was lucky that someone put me on to Western New Mexico, which has an online M.A.I.S. (Master’s in Interdisciplinary Studies). You choose two or three concentrations: I chose English and Writing, both of which work for that needed 18 hours. This institution is dedicated to GOOD online classes, with professors who really participate and teach and guide.

    Best part? A 3-credit graduate class is costing me $596 because they charge in-state tuition even for their out-of-state online students.

    Anyhow, I don’t want this to seem like a commercial, but I’m trying to find a way to say 1) the daughter is extremely unrealistic if she thinks she’s going to land a lucrative job teaching at a community college, and 2) however, if she really wants to pursue it, there are more realistic and frugal ways of doing it.

  4. Laundry Lady says:


    I appreciated the even handedness of your response to Q10. We are in a similar situation, except that we owe much more in student loans and make much less. My husband recently discontinued his education due to severe clinical depression. Prior to that he had taken out student loans for two undergraduate degrees and three semesters of graduate school. Even though the loans were still in deferment we tried to pay down as much as we could during the grace period. Now that the grace period has expired we still owe $50,000. Our monthly payments would be $550 a month (about $30,000 of the debt is at 6.8%, the other $20,000 is at 4.8%). We can’t afford these payments as my husband only makes $40,000 a year ($6,000 of which we spend in medical premiums every year). We were able to apply for Income Based Repayment, which lowers our payments to $200 a month, but that basically means we barely keep up with the interest and are paying down virtually no principle. My husband has been contributing 5% of his income to his 401K with a company match. No matter how tight money has been we have not decreased his 401K contributions, but now we must or we won’t be able to make even the adjusted repayment so he has lowered his contributions to 2%. We’ve debated stopping contributions altogether, but it seems like a waste in light of the company match.
    I am a stay at home mom and we have a 18-month old daughter. (Unfortunately, my degree doesn’t afford me a very large salary even if I could find a job in the current economy, so with the cost of child care factored in, my returning to work isn’t an option.)
    We realize that we are way behind in our retirement savings given that my husband is 31 and I am 27. We’ve only been contributing for the last 5 years or so and at very low levels due to very low income. My husband has not had a raise for the past two years due to the economy so we have no idea when we can expect another increase in income. So do we make minimum payments and drag this debt out over the next 25 years or cut 401K contributions altogether in favor of faster debt repayment?

  5. Evan says:

    Q7: Your support, even if it’s not costing you much, needs to start coming with some conditions. Your daughter seems clearly lost and unfocused and has no idea what to do with her life. This might be ok in your 20’s, but she’s 48!
    To get your help she needs to prove she’s changing something, and that doesn’t include going further into debt.
    She took creative writing – what does she like writing about? Fiction? Travelling? She can start a blog for $20 and begin networking with like-minded people for free.
    She likes teaching – maybe she can teach something online, or offer to work as a tutor.
    School is not going to fix this and debt will cripple her.

  6. Johanna says:

    @Laundry Lady, #4: Stick with the IBR, and don’t cut the 401(k) contributions, no question. From the numbers you give, your IBR payments ($2400/year) are not even covering the interest on the loans ($2040/year on the larger loan, $960/year on the smaller loan). Even if you stop the 401(k) contributions entirely (2% of $40K is $800/year pretax, something less than that post-tax, depending on what state you’re in), you’ll still be barely covering the interest and paying down almost no principal. In all likelihood, unless you and your husband get a very large increase in income, most or all of the $50K you owe will still be there (and will be forgiven) at the end of the 25 years. Paying more on the loans now will just mean you’ll have a smaller balance forgiven rather than a larger one – basically, it would just be throwing money away.

  7. Kevin says:


    Someone needs to say it, so I’ll be that guy:


    $34k? Are you insane? That’s outrageous. The fact that you “refinanced” it like it was a house is silly. The fact that you’re thinking of doing it again – AND TAKING CASH OUT! – is further lunacy.

    Dump that albatross and get yourself a reasonable car for less than half the money. Quit trying to impress people you don’t know. Cars only go one direction in value: DOWN. You’re wasting enormous amounts of money on this cash pit. Ditch it and you’ll find the rest of your financial problems suddenly become much, much more manageable.

  8. Kevin says:

    (Re: Mike’s question about what to warn the next generation about)

    Trent’s answer was pretty good. I’d add that the current younger generation is also much looser with their privacy than previous generations. Sharing personal info like phone numbers, age, photos and more is extremely commonplace among today’s teens. Their parents (Gen X’ers) are more conservative with it, but it would shock the grandparents.

    I think it’s only a matter of time before the next generation of criminals really capitalizes on this casual approach to privacy. Heck, it’s already happening. I think we’re going to see social engineering, identity theft, and scam artists enter a golden age in the very near future.

  9. Kevin says:

    I agree that Ashley should, first and foremost, pay off her student loan debt.

    However, her next step after that, and BEFORE investing, should be to move out on her own.

    Parents who allow their adult children to live with them rent-free are doing them an enormous disservice. Gail vaz Oxlade has highlighted this several times on her popular shows, “Till Debt Do Us Part” and “Princess.”

    The problem is, the child gets used to having 100% of their income available for “Wants.” Then, when they eventually DO move out on their own, they suddenly suffer a huge decrease in lifestyle. Very often, they’re unable to cope, and turn to credit to fill the gap, having never learned that housing, utilities, and groceries are required expenses in every grown-up’s budget.

    Also, Ashley should consider what it says about her opinion of her father, when she’s willing to receive free housing, while investing. She’s basically taking that money out of her own father’s pocket. She’s saying SHE deserves the money more than her father.

    She should pay off her loans, move out, develop a realistic INDEPENDENT budget, then figure out how much she can afford to invest.

  10. Katie says:

    Q1 – Hey Melissa! My in-laws own a jewelry store in southeast Wisconsin, and my father-in-law has been buying gold for about 30 years. I definitely agree with Trent that going to a local (preferably family-owned) jewelry store is your best bet. My father-in-law pays based on the weight of the gold and what the gold value is that day. He’ll also pay more if he thinks he can resell the item or if you want to trade the gold for in-store credit rather than cash. Good luck!

  11. Johanna says:

    Annie, Q10: Is there a reason why financing your next car isn’t something you’re considering? I know we’re a bit of an “OMG, debt is bad!” crowd here, but in your case, it may be an option that makes sense. The best auto loan interest rates right now (although they may change in two years) are less than you’re paying on your student loans, so you’re better off paying down the student loans and then taking an auto loan rather than paying less on the student loans so that you can pay cash for the car. And if you stick with your plan as you describe it, you’ll have plenty of cash for a down payment ($3K plus whatever you have saved already) and plenty of money to make the monthly payments.

    I would not advise cutting your 401(k) contributions. First of all, you’re probably making much more than the $40K that Trent pulled out of thin air, since just the savings and debt payments you mention add up to almost $26K/year. Second, even if you cut your monthly contribution by $300, that’s $300 pre-tax; post-tax it will be much less. And finally, the 10% guideline that gets batted around is based on several assumptions: (1) that you’ll contribute 10% of your income each and every year of your working life (and you’ve already missed a couple of years while you were in grad school), (2) that the stock market will perform pretty well over the next 30-40 years, (3) that your retirement plans are pretty basic (not many expensive vacations or hobbies), and (4) that you don’t want to retire early, and don’t have to worry about involuntary early retirement (ask any unemployed fifty-something how that’s working out for them).

    I do agree with Trent about the 401(k) loan: Don’t do it if there’s any chance you’ll be changing jobs voluntarily.

  12. Kevin says:

    Laundry Lady highlights an issue that I don’t think gets enough coverage these days.

    Why do people go $50,000 in student loan debt, just to wind up as a stay at home parent? It doesn’t make any sense, and it’s hard to feel sorry for someone who’s done it to themselves.

    Folks, if you plan on being a stay-at-home parent, skip the expensive degree! Or at least don’t go eyeball-deep into debt training for a career you have no intention of working in!

  13. Courtney20 says:

    Kevin – I completely agree with your assessment of Q2. By Erik’s numbers (an estimated KBB value of $34K and a loan balance of $21K) he has $13K of equity in the car – that’s practically enough to buy a (non-luxury) new car!

    My recommendation – sell the car and buy something with the $13K cash. You can get plenty of decent new or gently used cars for that amount. Take the $1000 you were spending on the car loan, plus whatever you are now saving on insurance, and attack the student loans!

  14. Johanna says:

    @Kevin re Laundry Lady: Laundry Lady says that the loans are from her husband’s education, not hers. If you’re going to ride around on your high horse like that, at least read people’s comments closely before judging them.

    Also, Laundry Lady doesn’t say that she intends to be a stay-at-home parent forever. Maybe she plans to seek employment again once her daughter starts school. Lots of people do this, including my own mom. You can’t tell from a snapshot at one point in time what somebody’s intentions are for the entire rest of their career.

  15. JJ says:

    Spot-on advice, Kevin, re: Q2.

    That car has got to go.


  16. Kevin says:


    You’re quite right, I apologize. I meant my comment to be on the general situation of people taking out huge loans for expensive educations when they intend to be a stay-at-home parent as quickly as possible. I didn’t mean to comment specifically on Laundry Lady’s individual situation.

    I should have made the distinction more clearly. Thanks for giving me the chance to clarify.

  17. Amy P says:

    Q7. Keith’s daughter’s plan is not a good one, particularly not at her age. The job market for PhDs is tough, so a lot of PhDs who can’t get jobs at 4-year colleges are going to be looking to pick up jobs at community colleges, which makes things even more difficult for people who want to teach at the community college level with only an MA. I have two relatives who teach community college courses (including one in English) and it’s fine if that’s just one of the things you do, but it’s really hard to get a full-time position. One of my relatives has managed to get a full-time administrative position with a CC (plus teaching a course or two) with only an MA, but it took nearly two decades and a very high level of performance to get there. Keith’s daughter just doesn’t sound like the sort of go-getter who can make this work. Even if by some miracle she did get a full-time position, it would still be very hard to pay off $80k in debt on that salary.

    If you poke around the internet, there are some really good discussions on whether graduate school is worth it, the problem of student loans, and so-called “adjunct abuse” by colleges. I would also suggest finding an adjunct in English for the daughter to talk to. It’s my understanding that adjuncts are pretty hot stuff if they can collect enough courses here and there to get $20k a year (no benefits).

  18. Honey says:

    The idea that someone can get a full-time job at a community college with a Master’s degree is ludicrous. My BA and MA were both in creative writing, and my PhD is in rhetoric, and I am here to say that there are over 150 applicants for any full-time position (at a university OR a CC, especially since CC’s almost always pay more for full-time instructional positions), and almost all of them have PhD’s.

    I myself have about $100K in student loan debt. Though I don’t regret it and am able to make repayments without a problem on my $40K a year job, it is worth noting that job is NOT teaching (though I do work at a university).

    However, as Trent says, you can’t make people choose the way you would choose, and if you let this woman dig her own financial grave as it were, it sounds like she would have to move out of the house, and then you could simply refuse to let her move back in later. So it may be worth it, for the parents.

  19. Des says:

    RE: Kevin – I can think of a lot of good reasons for someone to get a degree when they would really like to become a stay-at-home parent.

    1) For the same reason one might get a degree when they really want to be a rock-star or a professional golfer – realistic expectations. Staying at home is a dream that many families simply can’t afford, and getting a degree is a way to hedge your bets.

    2) Many may not like this, but going to college is a way to meet a higher earning spouse. Not that most people think of that consciously, but where else is a HS grad going to meet a significant other that will be able to support a family on a single income?

    3) Back up plan. What if one doesn’t meet a spouse till later in life? What do you do for those 10 or 15 years before you settle down? College is a logical, socially acceptable time killer for your early 20s.

  20. Johanna says:

    On college-educated stay-at-home spouses: This may be included in Des’s (1) or (3), but:

    4) In case the higher-earning spouse dies, or becomes unable to work, or leaves. Or in case the stay-at-home spouse decides that *she* (or he) wants to leave the relationship for whatever reason.

  21. Johanna says:

    @Kevin re Ashley: There’s another holier-than-thou judgement based on nothing in particular. Based on what Ashley wrote, we have no information about the specifics of her arrangement with her father, how her father feels about it, or what kind of financial shape he’s in. We also have no idea how much her money Ashley’s spending on “wants.”

    (I’m assuming Ashley’s a woman. If I’m wrong, I apologize.)

    Maybe, for example, Ashley’s father offered to let her live with him for a set amount of time so she could pay down her student loans. And regardless of their arrangement, I don’t see how Ashley is costing her father money by living with him rent free. If she were to live on her own instead, how would he be better off? Unless he was planning to rent Ashley’s room to a paying lodger, or to move into a smaller, cheaper home by himself, he wouldn’t. (This is assuming that Ashley’s contributing some money for groceries, utilities, and other bills. If she’s not, then that is an extra cost to her father, but it’s a small one. And maybe it’s a cost that he’s happy to pay – we don’t know.)

    Without knowing the specifics, I think it’s way out of line to declare that somebody else’s living arrangement is wrong.

  22. Kevin says:


    “Without knowing the specifics, I think it’s way out of line to declare that somebody else’s living arrangement is wrong.”

    But isn’t that exactly what Trent did in his answer to Q7? I’m honestly confused as to why he advised Kenneth to kick his daughter out, but seemed to have no problem with Ashley continuing to mooch off her own father.

    And my objection isn’t with people getting an education and not using it – it’s people going deeply into DEBT to get that education, and then not using it and crying “woe is me.”

  23. MB says:

    To reiterate to Q7: a master’s degree will not get any current applicant a job at a community college. It used to be the case that a master’s degree was sufficient, but the field is now crowded with PhDs, and statistically the majority of them do not get academic jobs. For every community college job there will be more than a hundred applicants with PhDs, a degree that trumps the MA in hiring. I sympathize with the daughter’s desire to find some credential that will lead to a good job, but an MA won’t do it. The way to a good job these days is to start at an entry-level job and work your way up. Then at least they’re paying you as you wait.

  24. valleycat1 says:

    Q1 – selling jewelry
    On the most recent Antiques Roadshow, at the very end they had one of their jewelry experts address this very issue. They gave the same advice that Trent did. My addition would be to go to a few places, rather than taking the first offer you get; in our area there is a huge variation, depending on whether the jeweler wants to deal with this kind of stuff or not. Independent local jewelers who design original items are often on the lookout for metal they can melt down, but might not be willing to pay quite as much.

    And check on ebay & even the goodwill online store to see what prices similar items are bringing.

  25. Johanna says:

    @Kevin: First of all, if you think that I never think Trent is way out of line, or that I never think he’s inconsistent, you haven’t been paying much attention. I haven’t weighed in on Q7, but in general, I do think he’s way too quick to resort to the “just kick the lazy bum out” line of advice.

    Second, Ashley and Kenneth’s daughter aren’t in the same situation at all. Ashley is much younger, finished school much more recently, has less debt, has no plans (that she mentions) of taking on more debt, and seems to have a reasonable plan for her future (I’m guessing – I don’t know anything about the film/TV industry, but it sounds like she has a job with some potential for advancement). She describes herself as “really good at saving,” is living with her father “to save money,” and is interested in saving and investing for her future.

    Kenneth’s daughter, on the other hand, is (according to Kenneth) living with her parents because she *can’t* support herself and has no other options, and her only plan is to dig herself deeper into debt in pursuit of a career that might as well not exist.

    So, without getting into who is or isn’t a mooch or a lazy bum, I’m a lot more worried about Kenneth’s daughter than I am about Ashley.

    And again, all I’m saying about Ashley is that we can’t judge her living situation because there’s so much that we don’t know. If it turns out that her father really does want Ashley to start paying rent (or to move out so that he can have his house back), then yes, I think Ashley is in the wrong. I tend to think that it’s the parent’s responsibility to communicate his expectations to the adult child in situations like this, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea for Ashley to take the initiative to check with her father to make sure he’s as happy with the living arrangement as she seems to be.

  26. kristine says:

    Amy- you hit the nail on the head regarding college jobs. Adjunct abuse is rampant.

    At my husband’s university, he was making 17K a year adjunct, with his masters. Got his PHD, published 2 books, so they gave him a raise to 25K. Went on staff as full time, and for THE SAME EXACT WORK, now makes 67 plus benefits. When contracts are up, adjuncts are the sacrificial lamb. Always. And this is a prestigious university, with a law and medical school.

    I myself lost an adjunct grad teaching gig last minute as enrollment is down, so the classes went to a full time prof to keep his course load intact.

    Getting any on-staff position at a community college is swimming upstream, as she will indeed compete with PHDs who have been published, and who would prefer full time community college (with benefits) to being a university adjunct.

    And be very wary of online degrees- make sure the company is accredited by the same accreditation bureau as the major universities n your region, or it is not considered a “vaild” degree by most colleges and universities.

    Do not help your daughter take on more debt. And let her know in no uncertain terms that when she leaves for school, she leaves for good. My teen son would probably want to stay home forever. But after my kids graduate, for many reasons, we will be moving to a 1 bedroom house in the woods, 3 hours away. It would not be a comfortable situation for him to crash long term, and so we avoid any problems. If they were homeless, they could buy a tiny prefab hose and stick it on the opposite corner of our acreage, and help with my crops! Not bloody likely.

  27. George says:

    Q7 – my sister is going through the same thing, but is a decade older (and not wiser!).

    Giving money to a person who lets themselves get into such a poor financial situation is akin to giving the keys to your liquour cabinet to an alcoholic.

    IMHO, the best you can do is provide them a safety net (place to live when their life falls apart and they need to get back on their feet) and some guidance. They have to work out their life on their own, particularly after you’ve passed on or no longer have the resources.

  28. Kevin says:


    Oh I agree, I’m also much more worried about the 48-year old with no job prospects than I am about Ashley.

    “She describes herself as ‘really good at saving'”

    Right. I’d be “really good at saving” too, if I didn’t have to worry about any of my basic living expenses.

    I’m just echoing what finance experts like Gail vaz Oxlade advocate. Regardless of Ashley’s father’s intentions, he is hurting his daughter by letting her stay for free. He is cultivating in her an unrealistic perception of adult finances. I’m not saying he should kick her out, but he should at least be charging her rent, so she doesn’t get used to living on an unrealistically-proportioned budget.

    “50% Needs, 30% Wants, 20% Savings”, as the Balanced Money Formula teaches. Ashley is fresh out of school, getting her grown-up feet under her, but she’s getting used to a grossly-distorted budget where that “50% Needs” is being artificially held at 0% by a well-intentioned father.

  29. jim says:

    I again have to disagree with Trents blanket declaration in Q3 that Roths are best for everyone. Roth conversions can be a very big mistake in some situations.

    Q6 Ashley: You say you don’t have healthcare available via work so I’m guessing you have no health insurance. If so then you should get a high deductible plan at minimum. There are basic plans for under $100/month for people in their 20’s. You may be young and in great health but you could always break a leg skiing or something like that.

    Q10 Annie: “I am contributing $625/month to my 401K with no employer match”
    With no employer match theres very little reason to use a 401k for retirement. They usually have relatively high fees (that aren’t always disclosed) and few investment choices. I’d look into getting an IRA instead. Vanguard or something like that is a low fee option with tons of investment choices. If you’re in a lower tax bracket a Roth might be a good way to go.

  30. Johanna says:

    @Kevin: I’ve never heard of Gail vaz Oxlade before, so I don’t know whether to accept her as an authority or not. What are her credentials, other than that she says what you already believe?

    @jim: Ashley may be covered under her father’s health insurance. And Annie is contributing more to her 401(k) ($7500) than she’s allowed to contribute to an IRA ($5000) – so although shifting some of her contributions to the IRA may be a good idea, she shouldn’t ditch the 401(k) entirely.

  31. jim says:

    Kristine #26 said: “be very wary of online degrees- make sure the company is accredited by the same accreditation bureau as the major universities n your region, or it is not considered a “vaild” degree by most colleges and universities.”

    I would recommend against any online degree from a for-profit university.

    Thats true even if the school has accreditation The big for profit university companies have discovered they can buy an existing accredited school and then use the name and accreditation to pump out online degrees. The accreditation is based on what the original school used to be and the online school isn’t of that standard any more and is actually poor quality and over priced.

  32. KC says:

    Q7 – Community College instructor positions are very hard to find full-time. That was my intention when coming out of grad school. I had a Master’s in Education with 18 hours in History and Geography. I moved in with my parents and taught 2 classes at one comm. college in my hometown and 1 class in a neighboring county. I was paid $15/credit hour or $135/ week (this was late 1990s). I was busting my a– trying to make a living and it just wasn’t happening. There were several other adjuncts in both fields waiting for a full-time opening. Nothing materialized. Finally I gave up and used my education degree in another field. Eventually I went back to grad school gain and got a Masters in Information Science (Library School). I still look for teaching positions on occasion, but nothing is there unless you want part-time. I would strongly encourage your daughter towards another field. If she still wants to pursue this I suggest she take 18 hours in at least one other field besides English.

  33. jim says:

    Johanna, you’re right on both points regarding Ashley & Annie.

    Gail vaz Oxlade is from Canada. She has a couple TV shows and wrote a few books. As qualified as any of the TV people if you ask me. Her advice mostly focuses on the personal ‘get out of debt’ category which is more like therapy. Her show ’til debt do we part’ is OK. She has a show ‘Princess’ which I havent’ seen which seems to focus on the topic of 20 something girls.

  34. moom says:

    Getting a masters to teach English at a community college is a bad idea even without taking loans. English is a discipline with one of the greatest surpluses of people with PhDs looking for jobs so that a masters likely won’t get you a job especially at age 50.

  35. Laundry Lady says:

    @ #12 Kevin

    Just to clarify. I have no student loan debt from my degree, I mostly got by on scholarships. My husband had to completely finance his education since there were no scholarships available to adult students. He also worked full time while getting his degrees so that he never had to use student loan money to live on. But since we have joint finances I don’t consider it “his debt” I consider it “our debt.”

  36. Jen says:

    Q7 – I don’t understand why parents let their grown kids live with them and expect so little in return. I’d let my kid live with me if they needed to, but they’d have to listen to my advice and show me their finances and if they were making anything pay me some kind of rent, do chores, cook and if they are not working, they need to be up at a decent hour and looking for jobs too. If you make it too easy on them they will never leave! Heck, I wouldn’t either, it sounds nice not to have to be responsible!

    Also, that degree the daughter wants will not help her get a job and she is delusional that she will be hired even at a community college. They might as well flush the money down the toilet. At least have her do something practical like medical assisting or get certified in education. Don’t loan her that money unless you don’t mind it being wasted.

  37. Steve in W MA says:


    I sense the underlying problem here is not the current living arrangements (although there are things to work out there, and I comment on that a little later) but your concern that she has no grasp on reality of even a seemingly plausible way of supporting herself.

    I don’t think you can help with those things. Perhaps others have some suggestions .

    In terms of daily living arrangements, if you enjoy having her live with you, or are just willing to put up with it for a while, I would in either case simply suggest having her contribute equally to the overall household expenses by taking each bill and muliplying it times 33% and handing her a bill each month.

    @“so far, not to help pay off the student loans, but to give her an opportunity to recover by affording her totally free room, board, use of a car etc. We are doing this for her, and it is at marginal increased expense for us, but nevertheless, because of our age and her own future, think it should not and cannot be indefinite and long term. ”

    Firstly, if your daughter she weren’t there, I’m guessing you wouldn’t be renting the room out at your age. So there’s no “lost rent” involved here. Instead, what you have is a case of just needing to establish an arrangement of economic equality between you three for contributing to the household upkeep.

    The marginal cost you refer to is the cost of gas and the intangible of the lack of use of the car while she is using it.

    There is no reason whatsoever to be feeding her for free, unless she literally doesn’t have $50 a week for groceries. I suspect that this arrangement goes back more to a pattern of parental support (feeding the kids) than it does to her desire for a free ride. It makes more sense to share the grocery expenses, so I’d suggest having a family meeting about bills and splitting up those costs each month. Same thing with the house bills–have her cover one third of the utilities.
    If she’s financially able, I would suggest having her pay for one third of the monthly property tax in lieu of “rent”. That seems fair enough and puts her on an equal plane of responsibility with you two for the house upkeep. rather thatn in oesn’t put her in, rather than the one-down position she is currently in by not being asked to contribute equally to those expenses.

  38. Steve in W MA says:


    Besides the other options for contributing to the child’s education, you can establish a trust in the child’s benefit, appoint yourself the trustee and a bank trust department as the successor trustee, and contribute to it annually, and make it available to him or her under whichever conditions you like, such as making it available for education at the age of 18 and for any purpose at the age of 25.
    Keep in mind that a trust needs to file a tax return every year.

  39. Steve in W MA says:

    @q9, I would establish that $2000 as an emergency fund, then invest future proceeds of the trust in a wide market index fund at Vanguard or buy s&p 500 SPDRs with it. Schwab also offers transaction fee free tradable ETFs that track the overall market, so there is no danger of you “speculating” on individual stocks.

    On another topic, see if you can start saving a small amount of your earnings as well, it’s a good habit. I’m guessing you are taking home around $140 a week. YOu can easily get by on $100 a week if you don’t eat out (pack your own lunches) and economize in other areas. So if you can save $40 a week, that’s $160 per month to pad your emergency fund with.

    Good luck and persevere.

  40. Evangeline says:

    Trent, in regard to saying thanks to a mentor, it is always a good idea to say thanks, or something meaningful anytime you get the chance. You never know if it will be your last opportunity. After more than a decade and through and odd turn of employment events I recently encountered a supervisor from long ago. I took the oppportunity to tell her how I valued her as a mentor and that all my core employement values came from her. I was surprised when she told me some very kind things as well. Within weeks, she passed away suddenly. I hate to think of how I would have felt if I’d never told her how much of a mentor she had been to me. Take the time to say thank you. You will never regret it.

  41. Steve in W MA says:

    @q9,m, just because the trust is paying you in January doesn’t mean you should start spending the money.

    From my perspective (I’m 42) you should pay your credit card debt off with your earnings, not with your trust fund monies.

    Paying off the credit card debt with your earnings will force a financial discipline on you that will be very beneficial in the long run. In general, with your housing all taken care of, all your expenses should be for food (here i’m talking groceries, not restaurants–establish a budget for restaurants and entertainment that is separate from your grocery expense, and keep it tot he $50-100 per month level).

    You spent the $400 over December, now suck it up and pay it off through your effort, not through the easy trust fund cash. (cash that cost your father a lot of effort to accumulate, I imagine).

    As to your Sharebuilder account, as an individual investor you have no business trying to guess what individual stocks are going to be good. On the individual stock level, that kind of “investing” is more like gambling.
    Unless you are buying a stock of a major company and holding it for 5 years, you have no reason to be buting them at all. Rather, stick with index funds (broadly diversified investments) and index fund ETFs (individually tradeable index funds) and leave the money in them for at least a year to two years.

    This kind of discipline is hard when you are young but it is beneficial.

    Rather than attempting to learn about the market from experimenting with the Sharebuilder account, I would suggest reading Andrew Tobias’s The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need, perhaps followed by A RAndom Walk down Wall St. by Malkiel. If you read one of them, read the Tobias because he actually talks about all aspects of personal finance, including budgeting. Tobias’s book is the one I wish I had read when I was your a

  42. Elizabeth says:

    @ Melissa (Q1) Don’t sell the jewellery based on weight! If you sell it for raw materials, you won’t get good money for it unless it is broken and beyond repair.

    I wrote an article a year back on what to do with old jewellery. Some of my suggestions included selling it through a jewellery store that offers estate jewellery, selling it through a reputable consignment store (who does appraisals, etc), selling it through an auction house (especially if it’s valuable, rare or vintage) or selling it yourself online (but beware of scammers — this isn’t a good option for everyone.)

    Good luck! :)

  43. Laura says:

    Q7: I have a BA in professional writing and an MA in rhetoric. I put myself through my master’s degree with a teaching assistantship (the ONLY way to go if your daughter wants to teach at a community college), so I incurred no debt. Even so, I worked as an adjunct at 3 different colleges for 6 years until I finally landed a full-time position. However, the work load at that position became so overwhelming that I quit after 3 years. (I was also ready to become a stay-at-home mom.) Suggest she go back to school for a year to become a certified teacher or apply for a secretarial position in a field she wants to write about (eg. sheriff’s office or law office to write mysteries). Good luck!

  44. Tall Bill says:

    48 and at home in debt that connot be handled? Any further degree will add to that & she’ll be in her 50’s with marginal work experience? Please see what could be taken to get just the teaching certificate & jump in any job offered. Check into health care seminars with a supplier training, etc. To teach in the K-12 schools in WA State, most every teacher being brought in at this point has a Masters – even to teach Kindergarten! It’s crazy, but that’s the way it’s going.

  45. Lex says:

    It’s impossible to know ahead of time whether it will be possible to have children at all, or how long it will take. Often, having a good job with health insurance which offers infertility coverage may be the only way.
    So why tell women to not go to college if she wants to be a SAHM eventually? Who knows when or if that will ever happen!
    Also when you go to college, you’re often still young and single. There’s no telling how many years you will have to use your degree.

    My MIL was a SAHM, but she got married at 33 and didn’t become a mom til 36. She had many years to use her education! And now that her children are adults she still uses her education.

  46. AniVee says:

    Q#3 – rolling over the 403B – Do you (or will you) have any losses that you could put against the income from the 403(b) in the same year you roll it over into a Roth IRA ?

    We know someone who bought an apartment, hated it, moved out and rented it (at a loss) for a few years, then sold it (with a big loss, it was truly a dump!). She had operated the rental as a business for over two years and was able to take the loss as a real estate/business expense, and used the loss to offset rolling over all her IRA’s into Roth IRAS without paying any taxes or penalties. See a good tax specialist if you have any potential losses you could put against the taxes and penalties.

  47. SLCCOM says:

    I worked as an adjunct English instructor at a local University, and when the new department chair came in, who is a grade A you-know-what I decided it wasn’t worth my while. The workload she wanted out of me would have resulted in my earning about $1 an hour.

    Why people get English degrees escapes me entirely.

  48. Amy P says:

    As SLCCOM says, the workload involved in being an English adjunct is incredible. There is always a big pile of compositions to grade and you have to turn yourself into a grading machine. Based on what Keith says about his daughter, she doesn’t sound like the sort of self-starter that can deal with doing that year after year. She sounds like the sort of person who would be much better off going with a 9-5 life where when you leave work, you’re done for the day.

    Where can a person go for that sort of employment counseling to get realistic advice about the sort of work that would be most suitable for a person’s temperament and work habits?

    Does Keith have the sort of resources that would allow him to set up an incentive program for his daughter? I’m not clear on what that should look like, but maybe $100 a week, every week she works 40 hours? Or a financial incentive for job applications turned in or qualifications earned? Are there any community college computer courses that would be helpful in finding employment? Also, has the daughter considered doing some sort of overseas English teaching? Does she have any written work she’s particularly proud of, and would she be willing to put it up on the internet?

    It’s a tough and perhaps insoluble situation, but just stopping her from taking on more student debt would be a major success.

  49. Amy P says:

    As SLCCOM says, the workload involved in being an English adjunct is incredible. There is always a big pile of compositions to grade and you have to turn yourself into a grading machine. Based on what Keith says about his daughter, she doesn’t sound like the sort of self-starter that can deal with doing that year after year. She sounds like the sort of person who would be much better off going with a 9-5 life where when you leave work, you’re done for the day.

    Where can a person go for that sort of employment counseling to get realistic advice about the sort of work that would be most suitable for a person’s temperament and work habits?

    Does Keith have the sort of resources that would allow him to set up an incentive program for his daughter? I’m not clear on what that should look like, but maybe $100 a week, every week she works 40 hours? Or continued residence in his house? Or a financial incentive for job applications turned in or qualifications earned? Are there any community college computer courses that would be helpful in finding employment? Also, has the daughter considered doing some sort of overseas English teaching? Does she have any written work she’s particularly proud of, and would she be willing to put it up on the internet?

    It’s a tough and perhaps insoluble situation, but just stopping her from taking on more student debt would be a major success.

  50. Kai says:

    Everyone understands why you might sometimes prefer not to disclose something.
    But it would be logical to avoid posts in which you can’t explain a lot of the motivation behind something, since it just becomes confusing, and when you make a minor omission (either for your family or friend, or to avoid identifying a letter-writer), stating it would help.
    “We chose this because of x and y and also one other personal reason that I don’t want to disclose” is a lot better than a “because of x and y” that leaves people confused and wondering.
    If you identify when something is left out, it will be much better understood if the stated reasons don’t quite add up.

  51. marta says:

    No kidding, Kai. But that may be TOO logical!

    One could think those posts with omissions aren’t identified right away so that if there is any kerfuffle over something, Trent can later dismiss readers’ grievances and “crazy” conclusions with sweeping statements about protecting someone’s privacy, yadda yadda. But since the offending posts are rarely, if ever, specified in such statements, we never get to know whether some controversial post HAD some omission or not.

    I am all about protecting people’s privacy (seriously). But you can either just NOT post a potentially confusing post (and don’t act amused or puzzled if people are confused) or include some sort of statement about not disclosing some important piece of info… but seriously, if such piece of info is so crucial that the post or the advice won’t make much sense without it, just don’t post! Advice the reader privately if you wish.

    I don’t know, sometimes I think some issues here are overcomplicated. This is one of them.

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