Updated on 09.28.11

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: How I Round Up Edition

Trent Hamm

How do I select the links that I use in the weekly roundup?

Each day, I visit quite a few personal finance blogs and blogs on related topics such as personal growth. If I see an article I like, I add it to my “roundup” folder.

When I assemble a roundup article (usually on Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning), I just go through all of the links in the “roundup” folder and choose the ones that stick out at me from that group. The number varies, but I try to keep the number of links between four and seven. I think that less than four ends up excluding some great stuff, but more than seven is too many for people to really enjoy.

Navigating The Mixed Messages Of Our Consumer Culture Mixed messages are everywhere. The only way to get ahead is to understand what you value independently of advertising and popular culture and stick with that. (@ matt about money)

Your Will: Give to Kids Equally or Not? I’m definitely in the “it’s your money, do what you want with it” camp. There’s no need to give your estate equally to all of your children. (@ squirrelers)

Does It Pay to Become a Vegetarian? I have not seen a significant increase in overall food spending since becoming a vegetarian. I haven’t seen a big drop, either. I’ve just noticed a shift in the types of things we buy at the store. (@ totally money)

To Boost Your Self Control, Beware the “Licensing Effect” This is a real phenomenon. If you give yourself permission to “cheat” in one fashion, it becomes far easier to cheat in other fashions and before you know it, your goal is kaput. If you make a pledge to yourself, keep it. No exceptions. (@ happiness project)

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  1. Michelle says:

    I would say that going veg has made a difference in my families grocery budget. We used to spend about $600 a month on food, but now it’s closer to $500-$550. It’s not a lot, but it is a difference.

  2. Johanna says:

    On wills: Yes, it’s your money and you can do what you want. But if you divide your estate in a way that’s vastly unequal (or could be perceived as vastly unequal) without making clear your reasons why, some people are going to end up hurt and confused, and you’re not going to be around to explain yourself or patch any family rifts that might arise. Maybe you want there to be a family rift, or for some of your heirs to be confused and hurt, in which case, knock yourself out. But if that’s not what you want, then be careful.

  3. valleycat1 says:

    Talk about your mixed messages in the media – on the one hand, gloom & doom regarding how people are not going to have enough $ to support themselves through retirement, versus the new debate about how their estate should be equitably split…

  4. valleycat1 says:

    Having been part of a few estate distributions myself, and watching friends go through the same, it seems there’s almost always at least one heir who disagrees with the allocation, no matter how it was set up – equal shares or equitable shares, with or without clarity on the deceased’s part.

  5. Courtney20 says:

    I don’t think that’s what the “licensing effect” means. In fact, I believe it’s the opposite. It’s when you say “I worked out today, so it’s okay to have that giant bowl of ice cream.” You’ve done something VIRTUOUS, so you give yourself ‘license’ to slack off somewhere else. Another example was a clinical study that showed that when smokers took a daily multi-vitamin, they smoked more cigarettes. The fact that they were doing something good for their bodies (taking a vitamin) made them think it was okay to do something bad to their bodies (smoke more).

  6. Johanna says:

    @valleycat: True, but that’s no reason not to at least try to be fair or to provide clarity.

    The point I was trying to make (admittedly not very well) is that “it’s your money, do what you want” is all well and good, but decisions have consequences. Either own those consequences or do what you can to mitigate them.

  7. valleycat1 says:

    #6 Johanna I agree completely.

  8. Cass314 says:

    I think the article on the licensing effect is interesting, though I think it’s kind of the opposite of what you described it as in the blurb–that is, doing something good makes you feel like you have license to do something less good, as opposed to your description which made it sound like breaking your resolve makes you more likely to do it again.

    I think it’s also of note that behavioral research has recently started to suggest that the opposite might be true, to an extent. That is, some studies have correlated exercising self-control in one area with have less to spend in another, such as one experiment in which subjects who were given treats were able to persevere longer in an impossible to solve puzzle than those who were shown the treats but told not to take any. In my life at least, I feel like this is more the case than a licensing sort of effect–that usually comes afterward, as a sort of justification. But really what it is for me is that at a certain point I’m just tired or irritable or whatever and do the easier thing–be it another slice of cake or going to the closer grocery store that’s more expensive or what have you.

  9. Riki says:

    Regarding how to split an estate, Trent gives exactly the same advice when it comes to marriage . . . “do what you want because it’s your day” or “nobody else’s opinion should matter”.

    In either situation, that advice certainly has some shreds of truth. But the way it’s presented always sounds rather adversarial to me.

  10. STL Mom says:

    Yes, your estate is your money and you can do whatever you want. But you should think about how it will affect your family members relationships with each other. Also, situations change. Six months after your death, your healthy son could be sick, your daughter with the great job may lose it, or your son with the rich wife might get divorced. The differences between your kids might be a lot smaller than they were when you made your unequal will.

  11. Roberta says:

    About the equal or unequal division of assets….

    My parents valued education highly and promised that they would help with college money for our children. Is it fair that we had four, one sister had two, one had three and one had none? Do they give each family the same total amount, each grandchild the same amount, base it on cost of school or what? And how does that work out for the sister who chose not to have children? or the one who got an athletic scholarship because of hard work and talent, or the one who chose a much more expensive school but got grants due to family income limitations? Do they leave each of us an equal amount totally, or each grandchild an equal amount? Either could be considered fair or totally unfair depending on your perspective.

    My husband and I struggle with how to leave our assets as our children grow older even though until now everything has been divided equally. I lean toward helping with college, down payments on houses etc- getting a head start while they’re younger, and then when they’re set, spending on ourselves and possibly any potential grandchildren, and not leaving a large estate. I want to die broke (with a paid for funeral and cemetery lot and no debts). I think if we give them the best start in life we can, that I have no responsibility later in life to deprive myself in order to leave them a large estate when I die. Besides, who wants to wait for money until they’re 60 themselves and their parents die, instead of help paying for graduate school in their 20’s? Hubby leans toward seeing how things go as they grow up and handle money, and not worrying about how we divide it later.
    He has no issue with giving it away as it pleases him and thinks it’s none of their business how he chooses to gift it when alive or divide it when he’s dead.

    Our perspective is also colored by our respective family situations. One of my sisters provided much more care and support to my parents than the other three. In our case we lived out of state and were not there to do it, but two others lived much closer but were unwilling or unable to take on as much. I never expected an inheritance from my parents, but thought that sister should get more because she did so much more – but the other siblings disagreeed and thought it should be divided equally among us. Someone else got the last laugh though, as Dad’s and then Mom’s nursing home care at $10,000 a month ate up almost all of it, and we each only got a few thousand in the end.

    On the other hand, we moved my mother in law in with us when she became ill, and cared for her until she died. She changed her will and made my husband executer of her estate without telling his older brother who had previously been the one on the hook. My husband and I got the blessing of caring for her, but also the time, expense and hassle of settling her estate in another state after she passed away. His older brother whose proposed answer to her illness was to put her in a nursing home is still estranged from my husband. They haven’t spoken in the twelve years since MIL died and he found out about the will, which left her few assets to us as we had cared for her until her death (which involved me giving up my career to stay home with her and our four children fulltime.)

    I am convinced that the best idea is to talk to your children regularly about money and your perspective on it so that nothing comes as a surprise. Even then, there are likely to be hard feelings (Her husband makes more money and they don’t need it! I chose not to have children and now you’re spending more on the grandchildren!) No matter what you do, someone is likely to be unhappy or think it’s not fair, since so much of it revolves not so much around money, but sibling rivalry and old feelings.

  12. AnnJo says:

    If children are brought up with a strong understanding of the “difference between mine and thine” then their answer to how their parents should divide the parental estate will be, “It’s theirs. None of my business how they do it.” Both my parents told us all what they were doing, which was by no means an equal split, and thankfully, we all reacted the same way – You do whatever you feel is right, and I’ll be fine with it. It’s your money.

    The difference between mine and thine is a hard thing to teach. It means saying to a child who’s found a dime on the sidewalk, “No, you don’t pick that up. It’s not yours and that’s all you need to know about it. Its owner may come back for it, or someone else may steal it, but not you.” It means saying, “It doesn’t matter how much money someone else has. They don’t owe it to us just because we need it. It’s theirs. If you want some of it, earn it.” Not common lessons in today’s world.

  13. Sonja says:

    I appreciate Roberta sharing her perspective and thoughts. My in-laws, my mother, and my husband and I are all approaching this differently. I have a friend who is still bitter – 15 years after her mother’s death – that her brother got more than half the estate. But she gets upset when I point out that (a) it was her mother’s money to do as she saw fit, (b) mom had bought my friend a house along the way and did not buy the brother one, and (c) mom paid for granddaughter’s college education so my friend did not have to. I think my friend did get her share, just not all at once. Mom should have been clear in her will or had a chat with my friend explaining herself.

  14. Bill in Houston says:

    Here’s a mixed message I see in our consumer culture. You have some anti-capitalist protester at Occupy Wall Street complaining that her $5500 laptop computer was stolen.

    I could go on and on and cover the entire spectrum of our nation, but that would waste bandwidth. The example I cited just made me say, “Wow, really?”

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