Company benefits and perks

by Grace aka costofcollege

Inspired by a CollegeConfidential discussion about Work Holiday Perks I began to wonder about the most common or latest types of employment benefits.  Long-term parental leave has been in the news recently, with New York City one of the latest to offer this to some of its employees.

A young person I know scored big with time-off policies when he recently changed jobs to a London-based employer.  They offer at least 24 vacation days to everyone, plus they close the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  He was thrilled because most employers only offer 10-15 vacation days for their U.S.-based junior employees.

Flexibility is an important workplace perk for Totebaggers.  What other benefits do you value?  Do you see any trends, positive or negative, in job benefits?

Happy New Year!  There will not be a post tomorrow, but maybe you can share how you rang in the new year and any other topics on your mind.


A Somber Holiday

by Anonymous

Yesterday I heard that a friend’s younger brother had died of a drug overdose.

This is the third 20-something in my neighborhood to pass away from an overdose in 2015. Drug overdose deaths are up 6.5 percent over 2014, and there has been a spike in heroin-related deaths in particular.

All of the ones I knew were from UMC families, with devoted parents who went to every school play, soccer practice and band concert. Two of the three went to good colleges. The other started his own business after high school instead.

When over 400 people showed up for one of the funerals, the eulogist looked out at the congregation and said: “it’s great to see so many here, but we should all ask ourselves: where was I when Michael needed me? We all have an hour to go to his funeral now, but what would that hour have meant – over 400 hours with his friends, his extended family, his classmates and neighbors – when he was still alive? Could we have saved his life?”

What can parents do? What can the community do? What are you telling your kids?

Is there a sports bubble?

by Honolulu Mother

This Daily Beast article argues that a sports bubble has grown up fueled by the cable bundle model, but that the cable-cutting trend is going to pop that bubble because not enough people will want to pay $35 for a stand-alone ESPN subscription.

Big-time college sports has been blamed for a share of the inflation in college tuition, by siphoning off tuition and student fees at the expense of colleges’ academics and facilities.

We’ve seen both effects locally, with college students complaining about hikes in student fees to support a football team that relatively few students go to see play, and unenthusiastic fan response to the high ticket prices and even-higher-priced cable tv package for watching those games.  (The stadium’s location 10+ miles away from the campus probably doesn’t help students feel connected to the team either.)  At the same time, one interesting sidenote in the recent Mizzou protests was the light it shed on the relative power of the president versus the football coach within the institution.

Public money for a new stadium, usually on the premise that it will bolster economic development, is a frequent municipal bone of contention.  And on the international level, the increasing cost of hosting the Olympics, and the increasing reluctance of countries to bid to do so, has led to speculation about whether future games will be hosted only by autocracies.

I enjoy watching the occasional game, but I don’t have strong sports loyalties — I’m the type of viewer who’ll watch the Superbowl and some World Cup games and favorite Olympic sports, but doesn’t tune in regularly or follow a team.  From my perspective, I’m inclined to agree that there is something of a sports bubble going in several areas, but I don’t see it popping immediately.  The cable business model is the one I see as likely to change first.  I think it would take a mass student defection to lower-spending Division II and III schools for the big college sports schools to rethink the role of athletics at their institutions, and I don’t think the supply of strongmen interested in playing host to international games is going to dry up in the near future.

Totebaggers, what do you think?  Is there a sports bubble in cable, college sports, or elsewhere?  And if so, do you think it’s due to burst?


How Taxpayers Keep the NFL Rich

The growing gap between rich and poor parenting

by MooshiMooshi

This article, on the widening gap in childrearing practices between the upper classes and the lower classes, seems right up Totebag territory. I couldn’t resist.

Most interesting to me was this passage.

Less-educated parents, and poorer and black and Latino parents are more likely to believe that there is no such thing as too much involvement in a child’s education. Parents who are white, wealthy or college-educated say too much involvement can be bad.

Interesting, because while parents may say they value either greater or lesser involvement, their behavior is the opposite. Upper class and upper middle class parents are very interventionist, bringing in tutors, therapists, special ed advocates at the first signs of any trouble – and hold the school administrator’s and teacher’s feet to the fire. Conversely, my college students, who are mainly from lower class circumstances, find the idea of parents knowing ANYTHING about their education to be strange. Many of them have non-English speaking parents from cultures that defer completely to the school authorities.

I do think, however, that the lip service we give to independence for our kids is a completely white, WASP-y ideal. My friends who are Hispanic or Asian largely do not share this ideal, and in fact, even my husband’s white-but-ethnic family does not share this ideal at all.

Here is the link. Total Totebag Fodder.

Class Differences in Child-Rearing Are on the Rise

What makes a good party?

by Grace aka costofcollege

With holiday season in full swing, the question of what makes a good party was posed to some celebrities.  Some of their answers were predictable (the mix of guests) while others were slightly more eccentric (topless vacuum girls).

10 Celebrities on What Makes a Great Party

Another writer is unhappy that her friends seem to squeeze “90 percent of the year’s parties into two godforsaken weekends” during the holidays.  She wants fewer lame holiday parties and more parties spaced out during the rest of the year.

… Is it really so hard? Is it rocket science, buying a case of beer and a bag of pita chips? Don’t bother vacuuming. Throw a real party, in January, or June, or October. You know you want to. You love parties. You miss them. You want to throw a rager so bad it hurts. And you know just the thankless curmudgeon to invite.

Stop Throwing Terrible Holiday Parties

Are you attending many parties this holiday season?  Are you hosting a party?  Or are you spending the holidays cocooning at home or pursuing other activities?

What makes a good party?  What are some of the best and worst parties you’ve attended or hosted?

We typically host large family dinners during the holidays, and the topic of seating arrangements seems to elicit strong opinions among some people.  At dinner parties, do you prefer to be seated next to your Significant Other or do you prefer to sit next to other guests? (This assumes that tending to young children is not part of the equation.)


No post tomorrow on Christmas Day, but we can comment on how our holiday weekend is coming along.  Which gifts were winners, and which were losers?

Merry Christmas!

Kitchen trends and fads

by laurafrombaltimore

My favorite topic: kitchen porn! Fad or trend?

Small Kitchens, by Choice

My nominee for the “well, duh” award: “The novelty of a small kitchen may well change once the millennials start families.” Ya think? Well-paid singles and DINKs have always found ways to blow their extra money and time; for DH, it was mountain bikes and scuba gear; for these guys, it’s the “overpriced hipster 7-Eleven” and food shopping several times a week. But priorities tend to change when the kids come along.

What are your favorite/least favorite kitchen trends or fads?

Maybe charity shouldn’t begin at home

by Honolulu Mother

I was interested to see the four charities listed in this article as the places able to do the most good with new donations this year: “These are the charities where your money will do the most good”. They’re addressing problems that wouldn’t have automatically occurred to me, and one of them involves just giving money directly to individual recipients. I’ve done microlending before, but perhaps just giving money is a better approach. The article also suggests focusing on giving abroad due to the much greater need, which is probably true, but I’m not about to stop grabbing those “$X can feed Y people lunch for a week!” coupons that are available to add to your purchase at the grocery checkout this time of year.

My wealthy alma mater is probably the least morally justifiable of my donations.

Do you step up your charitable giving during the holidays? What are some of your favorite charities?

Another way to label income groups

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

And here’s a piece from Robert Reich. I mostly found it interesting because he has new labels for various income groups. Whether Bernie is The Answer is up for debate. For Totebaggers, I think some of us are “Overclass” and some of us exist in the apparently unmentionable land between $300K and $1M.

There are now four classes in America: an underclass, an anxious class in the middle, an overclass, and an oligarchy at the very top.

The underclass is the bottom 20 percent with family incomes under $26,000 this year, who live in marginal neighborhoods, whose kids attend lousy schools, and whose families are in continuous danger of hunger, homelessness, or serious medical problems.

The anxious class is the old middle class — 75 percent of Americans, with family incomes between $26,000 and $80,000 a year, whose jobs are becoming less secure and who are living paycheck to paycheck, and most of whose children will not live as well as they do.
The overclass is the top 5 percent, earning between $80,000 and $300,000 a year, who still feel pressured and worry about the future but can afford to live in good neighborhoods and send their kids to good schools.

The oligarchy is the top 0.1 percent, most earning over $1 million a year and sitting on over $15 million of wealth, who now possess almost all the power. Through their political contributions, lobbying, “think tanks,” and media, they essentially rule America – influencing politicians and organizing the market to get most of the economic gains.

It’s a vicious cycle. The only way to reverse it is through a political revolution of the sort Bernie has been advocating.

What do you think?

Retirement planning

by Finn

We’ve had discussions here before about what we plan to do (or in some cases, actually do) in retirement (most of us would sleep more), and Rocky recently conducted a survey on how much money we need to be comfortable in retirement, and how much we expect to have.

But we haven’t had much discussion here of how we plan to get there financially.

What vehicles do you use to accumulate assets to support your retirement? 401k? IRA? Roth, or regular? Mutual funds? ETFs? Rental real estate? Medical Savings Accounts? Deferred annuities?

As we approach year end, and then tax season, this may be higher on our minds than during the rest of the year.

Food writer’s complaint: ‘Easy’ cooking isn’t

by Honolulu Mother

A food writer who now has a one year old wrote an Atlantic article on The Myth of Easy Cooking. Her basic complaint is that although lots of books and articles promise easy dishes, they mostly are not quick or easy enough to meet the needs of someone with a toddler to feed and less than 15 minutes to get dinner on the table.

My main response was to think, “That kid won’t be a toddler forever.” And my second response, regarding the fish sauce, was that if you want to cook with fish sauce on the regular, you already have a bottle on hand. It lasts. But her broader point, I think, is that for a truly novice cook these “easy” recipes really aren’t “easy” in the same way as learning how to salt and pepper pork chops and put them under the broiler, or how to make a white sauce to be used for creamed everything on toast. Bittman-style recipes are “easy” for someone like me (or the people writing them) who has a stocked pantry and cooking skills already, but if we gave recipes skill ratings what’s usually called “quick and easy” now might be quick in the hands of an experienced cook but is not really “easy” for an inexperienced cook.

Recipes that use canned soup concentrate or cake mixes are obviously anathema to the Bittman crowd, and even the linked article didn’t mention them, but I do think they serve a useful role in getting kids and other new cooks started. Even if a recipe is basically ‘dump a box of cake mix, a box of jello, and a can of soda together and then bake,” it’s a step toward baking.

I know some Totebaggers have wrestled with getting family dinners on the table after work, especially those in that special time of life when you have little people hanging off you whining who will move on to full-stage tantrums if not fed within the next ten minutes. Any cookbook suggestions for new cooks still trying to learn their way around the kitchen? Or 15 minute dinner suggestions?

Different types of spiritual communities

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

When Some Turn to Church, Others Go to CrossFit

Do you have a “church”? For those who actually go to church, is that your “real” church in the sense described in the article?

I can tell you that for those who are a little too old for Crossfit, I’ve seen Aqua Fitness classes function as “church” in every place I’ve ever lived. They even served that way for my dad before he died. The entire group at the pool sent a very touching sympathy card when he passed.

Ideas for gift giving

Two Totebaggers seek advice about gift giving, and you can post your own questions in the comments.

Gift giving on a budget

by Louise

I like to give gifts but I have to look at my budget as well. DH has over the years delegated gift giving to me. I primarily buy for my nieces and nephews. For the adults it is occasional gifts if I think they would enjoy them.

I try not to splurge. In a nod to MMM, I had my DD “save” her birthday gifts (craft kits) and open them in the lean months.

What are your strategies for gift giving on a budget, saving gifts for later or do you turn into MMM (modern day Scrooge) and declare a gift free holiday ?

Gift giving for families in transition

by SWVA Mom

I was wondering today if I should get my estranged husband a Christmas gift and thought I should ask the Totebag. Do you or your friends/family exchange holiday gifts with the ex-spouse? If so, what’s appropriate? More specifically, is booze OK?

Do you help young children purchase something nice for their other parent or just let them go with the craft project they made at school? I’m not there yet, but same question for step-siblings who might come into the picture.

What about ex-in-laws? (I did send gifts to my nieces.) And do you still exchange holiday cards with the ex’s aunts/uncles/cousins?

Any other holiday etiquette tips for families in transition? Please share your funny stories or cautionary tales about broken & blended family holidays.

I wish I lived in Theory… everything works in theory

by WCE

I read this article not long after LfB’s Nov 10 post “The Welfare Myth” and others where many Totebaggers expressed support for “adequate” levels of social support, with “adequate” not thoroughly defined. :)

This Washington Post article discusses the problems with both Democrat and Republican approaches to tax policy. You can’t cut taxes and maintain our current government, Republican candidates, and other than new defense spending (vs. VA benefits, what I consider “back end defense spending”), there is little government spending that the public supports eliminating. Democratic candidates don’t want to admit that raising taxes on the 1% is not going to generate much revenue.

What do you think?

The coming middle-class tax increase

College gender ratios

by Finn

As college looms closer and closer (and for those with toddlers, it’s sooner than you think), there are many factors to consider as our kids narrow down their choices.

One possible factor is sex assault, and the impact of gender ratios on that:

What a massive sexual assault survey found at 27 top U.S. universities

Unequal Gender Ratios at Colleges Are Driving Hookup Culture

Hookup culture isn’t the real problem facing singles today. It’s math.

Is this something you are, or will, consider, or encourage your kids to consider, as they make their college choices?

One takeaway for me is to be glad that DD liked Caltech and, at least at this point, has that on her lists of colleges she might want to attend.

WCE and I have discussed here some of the benefits to females of majoring in engineering, and this is another benefit, which we haven’t discussed previously.

‘Do your job’

by Mémé

We don’t have many small business owners with employees among our active contributors, but at least one of the farmers has often commented on the difficulty of finding reliable employees at the fair wage offered. Yesterday I had to stop in at Petco to drop off 24 cans of dog food (no dogs in our house) that had been included in our regular repeat order of cat food. My order was complete, I wasn’t charged for the extra stuff, but it was not the first time that my order had been incorrectly picked at the warehouse. I gave the box to the store manager and she said she would donate it to a local shelter. She also said that it was a known issue – she rarely got the correct inventory shipments herself. I asked if the company used contract job fillers – we have had local exposés on the practice of bringing a van to a neighborhood of poorly documented non English speakers and charging for transportation even if there is no work for the day when they arrive at the remote warehouse. She said, no, we hire our own employees, information I confirmed by some simple internet sleuthing.

That got me thinking about pride of work and the nobility of labor. A lot is made of the precipitous decline in work opportunity and wage levels for men with no more than a high school education. There are also stories of wage theft, demand scheduling and other abusive employer practices. But that doesn’t explain why many workers who have jobs do sloppy work, don’t arrive at work on time, why they don’t get any satisfaction out of doing their job well.

Totebaggers, do you think that the cultural denigration of hard work with one’s hands plays a large part in this? Is it just the relatively low wages? Is the decline of organized labor related to a lack of respect for jobs which by their nature do not require or even permit self-direction or entrepreneurial spirit?

Are your political views similar to your parents’?

by Honolulu Mother

This article highlights a study finding that people tend to adopt what they believe are their parents’ political leanings — even though in many cases they are wrong about their parents’ views!

People Mostly Inherit What They Think Are Their Parents’ Politics

Do you know who your parents voted for when you were growing up, and do you share their political views now?

In my case, my mother and father usually voted for opposite parties in national elections while I was growing up, but in the last few presidential cycles my father has migrated to the Democrats. He’s not ever going to be a Sanders voter — he liked Jim Webb — but he views Obama as being closer to the old-style Eisenhower Republicans than are the current Republicans. So my own politics are indeed close to theirs.

How about the rest of you?

Rules for being a gentleman or a lady

by Grace aka costofcollege

Are there certain rules for being a gentleman or a lady?

When to text an emoji, riding a horse… and undoing a bra with one hand: Country Life reveals its 39 key skills every modern gentleman should have

The 39 rules for being a lady: Country Life decreed this week there are 39 rules for being a gentleman. In the interests of equality, LIBBY PURVES offers her exquisitely witty response

Many of the rules listed make sense to me, for both men and women:

6. Wears his learning lightly

25. Can pay the tab in a restaurant without making it obvious.

Some might be considered less important.

29. Would never own a Chihuahua

I actually like most of these.  What do you think?  What are your rules?