Lessons from working in the corporate world

by July

I retired at age 35 — here are 7 lessons I learned working in the corporate world

Number 6 is particularly relevant for me and has caused a tinge of regret.

Do you agree with these lessons?  Any others you would add?  Other thoughts?


Summer plans in haiku

by Houston

Thinking of summer
What trips and camps are in store?
Tell us your fun plans!

We haven’t had a haiku thread in ages. Please tell us about your plans in haiku, other forms of poetry, or regular text.

Open thread

We have an open thread all day today.

I was wondering about this:

You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone

by S&M

We’ve talked seriously about plans for retirement and death. We stayed on those grim topics very obediently. Now let’s have a little fun with the end of life!

The Taj Mahal was famously built by an emperor grieving his wife’s death. Famous for its harmonious beauty, it is the epitome of romantic love. A general in Italy also had a memorial built for his wife, as he mourned her death. Only one octagonal structure in the sculpture park bears her name, but the entire park was supposedly dedicated to her.

An Italian duke created the Park of Monsters, filled with stone creatures, as a way of coping with his wife’s death

How about you? Assuming unlimited funds, what would your memorial look like? Would it reflect you, or your relationship with another person? This is all silly fantasy, a light-hearted look at your self-image, so no simple urns.

Climate change, infrastructure and the role of government

by WCE

This article educated me about the history of disaster response in the U.S. My leanings make me consider how infrastructure should be built and disasters responded to by the federal government in light of climate change. Relevant to Totebaggers are the likely effects of more frequent disasters on municipal bond holders. I was interested by the opinion that wealthy states should pay more for their recovery than poor states. That approach seems likely to undermine disaster relief. Key quotes include:

In the decades before Harvey, for example, Houston approved the development of more than 10,000 homes in a floodplain, inside the very reservoirs that take in the water spillover when federal dams that protect older parts of the city reach capacity. As the Texas Tribune reports, most residents of the upper-middle-class neighborhoods built within the reservoirs seemed to have no idea that they were living in a dormant, man-made lake until Harvey inundated them with days’ worth of standing water last summer. The episode points up how federal incentives interact with the local imperative to build: the national flood-insurance program’s official flood maps put the reservoirs outside of floodplains, on the grounds that they are man-made “flood pools,” indicating to residents and their home lenders that it was safe to build, according to the Houston Chronicle. For that reason, mortgage lenders did not require homebuyers there to take out federal flood insurance, though residents have received temporary housing and other assistance after Harvey—and are now suing the Army Corps of Engineers for not deliberately flooding the area to protect its dams, exactly what the corps was supposed to do under the dams’ design.

Building unwisely puts all residents, old and new, at risk. As Samuel Brody, coastal-planning professor at Texas A&M–Galveston, points out, Houston has less permeable landmass—places where water can go—than anywhere else except Los Angeles….


Consider: of the $278 billion that Washington spent over the decade before 2015, the government spent $37 billion on flood-insurance payouts. The flood program racked up $22 billion in claims from Katrina and Rita in 2005, $15 billion after Hurricane Sandy, and still-untold billions over this past year. These figures understate the amount spent rebuilding private housing, as the government also distributed $24 billion in block grants to states, which used some of that money to help homeowners after storms. And just this fall, Congress forgave $16 billion in debt owed by the flood-insurance program. “The U.S. government has provided an unprecedented level of support for flood losses in recent years,” says Brian Schneider, senior director in insurance at Fitch Ratings, a bond-analysis firm.

As Washington protects private homeowners from loss, it neglects what it should be doing: working with state and local governments to build better public infrastructure. Overall, of FEMA’s disaster-relief fund, which constitutes about half of all federal disaster spending, 53 percent goes to helping governments replace what they lost and 22 percent to helping people rebuild. Only 7 percent goes to “hazard mitigation,” or prevention. The Army Corps of Engineers’ annual budget to build and maintain levees is just $4.1 billion—far less than the flood-insurance losses from this year’s storms.


… Instead, Washington should offer more financing to support state and local governments that invest in better infrastructure to reduce flood risk—drawing some of these monies from funds previously used to rebuild and replace state and local infrastructure and private homes. Washington should also consider each region’s income and resources. New York and Houston, for example, have high personal incomes and thriving economies and don’t need billions of dollars in reconstruction money from poorer taxpayers elsewhere. As the CBO comments, federal aid “may underestimate a given state’s capacity to recover from a disaster using its own resources.” After Harvey, however, Texas’s governor, Greg Abbott, has resisted using the state’s $10 billion rainy-day fund to defray storm costs, even though the storm was, literally, a rainy day.


… Brody also suggests that Houston beef up its requirement for freeboard—the elevation of a house above sea level—from one foot to three feet. “Inches matter,” he notes, as keeping the usable part of a home above a flood zone avoids damage to much of the structure and contents of that home.

Are you interested in the role of flood plains, zoning codes and flood insurance on infrastructure development? (I would rather not be.) Given the general lack of interest in such topics, do you think government can make economically sound choices to mitigate the effects of climate change? If so, how?

Storm Surge

Family Stories

These two submissions seemed to go together:

by Honolulu Mother

According to this Psychology Today blog post,

C]hildren and adolescents who know more of their family stories show higher well-being on multiple measures, including higher self-esteem, higher academic competence, higher social competence, and fewer behavior problems.

It goes on to offer a set of 20 questions that can serve as a starting point for telling family stories.

My kids like to hear family stories, though I don’t think they could answer all those questions. I specialize in telling embarrassing stories about my siblings, although some about me may slip in from time to time.

Do you share family stories? Have you created some of your own that your kids might pass on to their own families?

Our Parents’ Stories

by Swim

The link to the article about cliques in nursing homes made me very sad. So much going on under the surface there. Made me think of a topic suggestion: what have you learned about your parents that surprised you? Young kids and adult children think they know their parents, but often have little idea of their parents younger lives, or even how interesting their lives are when kids leave home.

Month-long trips

by July

Some of us have expressed an interest in traveling to various locations and staying there a month or more just getting to know and enjoy the areas.  These would likely be post-retirement trips since we typically don’t have the vacation time to do this while we’re working.

To my surprise Miami Beach recently caught my eye as a place to spend a leisurely month.  Maybe I’m too old to enjoy the cool vibe of South Beach, but I’m still intrigued.  Plus it’s just a generally beautiful location that probably offers a number of short side trips that would be worth exploring.  What do you think?  Yay or nay on Miami Beach?

What, if any, locations would you consider for a month-long stay?  Domestic and international.  What locations would you recommend?  Give us details on local activities that would help us decide if they might tempt us.  Let’s share our inside scoop on long-term trip possibilities.

Here’s a retired couple that spends most of the year on long trips all over the world.  Ultimately they built a home in California that precisely meets their needs and was designed to easily rent out to other travelers while they are away.

Home Free Adventures

2018 Politics open thread, March 11-17

Here is our weekly politics thread.

by Rhett

Right around the same time, New York University psychologist, Jonathan Haidt, was formulating a theory about why liberals and conservatives have such a hard time productively conversing.

After mucking around in a lot of survey data, he came up with this basic idea: Liberals and people of the left underpin their politics with moral concerns about harm and fairness; they are driven by the imperative to help the vulnerable and see justice done. Conservatives and people of the right value these things as well but have several additional moral touchstones — loyalty, respect and sanctity. They value in-group solidarity, deference to authority, and the protection of purity in mind and body. To liberals, those sincerely held values can look a lot like, in Dr. Haidt’s words, “xenophobia, authoritarianism and Puritanism.” This asymmetry is the fountainhead of mutual incomprehension and disdain.

When Smug Liberals Met Conservative Trolls

I don’t think that’s really correct. What do you think is the basis of disagreement?

Death planning

by L

Do you talk about death with your children? How about your end-of-life wishes?

Little Mirrors of Mortality
How one late-in-life parent discusses death with his children.

Cake Raises $1.35M to Help You Talk About End-of-Life Planning

and by Milo:

Last Saturday, my kids and I were driving to lunch at Chick-fil-A when we were delayed at the traffic light nearest our house. Two police officers, who had been waiting for their cue, activated lights and sirens and stopped traffic in all directions. I had no idea why, as we’re nowhere near the typical political motorcade territory, but then a couple of limos, a hearse, and a line of about 40 or 50 cars followed their slow, dignified path on the way to the cemetery.

So, my kids and I got to talking about funeral traditions. I have some limited (thankfully) familiarity with what I assume are standard, middle-class Catholic Northeastern customs: an evening viewing with an open casket, a lot of old people nobody’s seen in 20 years coming to pay their respects after seeing the obituary in the paper, a casual impromptu dinner at a pizza restaurant afterward, another gathering at the funeral home the next morning where the casket is solemnly closed, an escorted drive to mass, How Great Thou Art and maybe Nearer My God to Thee or Be Not Afraid, another escorted drive to the cemetery, and a luncheon afterward. (In earlier decades, and when there is still a significant amount of family living in the area, this part can happen at someone’s house. My dad refers to one particular dish of chicken, tomato wine sauce, and orzo as “funeral food,” because any time there was a funeral, at least one or two aunts would bring over a huge pot of it.)

Most of my grandparents were lucky, in my mind, to have outlived so many people that their funeral processions were much smaller than what I saw on Saturday. (As an aside, in college, I once heard a very entertaining talk by Ross Perot that was peppered with a lot of folksy sayings. On the topic of incompetence in leadership, he quipped that he “wouldn’t trust this guy to lead a *two-car* funeral.”) The older men who worked as attendants at the funeral home and did the little things like drive the hearse and limo reminded me of mob extras on the Sopranos with their dark jackets and ties and feathered fedoras.

How different are the customs in your family or geographic, religious community? Do you find them familiar and comforting, or torturous? If you had to plan your own funeral, what would it look like?