Do you avail yourselves of any generous refund policies? Do stores’ return policies affect your decisions about where to shop?
It looks like Nordstrom is going to tighten up one of the most generous return policies:
$2 Billion of Retail Fraud Could Be Ruining Nordstrom’s Legendary Return Policy
What stores that you shop at have the best return policies? Which have the worst?
One of the things I like about this group is the hijacks and side discussions that take place, often started by someone asking for advice.
Let’s share how things worked out. What car did you buy? What computer did your DH buy? How are those working out for you? Have the bullying problems been worked out?
More generally, what advice or suggestions have you received here that has been particularly useful?
With T-day in our rear-view mirror, we’re well into the holiday season.
Are you sending out cards? What kind do you send? Do you attach a newsletter to your cards? How do you feel about receiving newsletters with cards?
If you do send out cards, here’s some grammar help:
Are Your Holiday Cards Grammatically Correct?
Do you have travel plans for the holiday? Kids coming home from college? Do you have any travel planning tips to share? Ever tried Google flights?
Making travel planning less stressful this holiday season
Do you have any gift ideas to share? What items seem to be this year’s “it” gifts?
With the death of Fidel Castro, the healthcare system in Cuba has received some attention.
How Cubans Live as Long as Americans at a Tenth of the Cost
What parts of the Cuban healthcare system do you think could be adopted here?
These two related topics dovetail nicely so they are posted together.
Holiday Gift Giving
by North of Boston
OK, Totebaggers, the Holidays are upon us, so let’s talk presents. What are you planning to give your loved ones? What are you hoping to get? Are you changing your gift-giving habits this year (e.g. expanding or contracting your recipient list, or spending more or less on gifts than you have in the past)? And if you’re stuck on what to get someone, here’s your chance to ask for suggestions!
With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching, that can only mean one thing: Black Friday is also approaching, to be followed by Small Business Saturday, then Cyber Monday.
Are you looking to take advantage of any deals offered in this shopping season? What are your strategies? Are there any great deals out there that you’re willing to share?
A recent discussion delved into possible reasons college is getting so expensive. One factor we didn’t consider is the increasing cost to students of supporting increasing intercollegiate athletic budgets.
Sports At Any Cost
Why students foot the bill for college sports, and how some are fighting back
On the other hand:
NBC Accounts for $100 Million for Notre Dame Financial Aid
With fees supporting athletic departments running to hundreds of dollars per year, for many students that can mean additional thousands of additional dollars of college debt. For those relying on Pell Grants, it could mean millions of our tax dollars supporting athletic departments, many of which spend millions of dollars on coaches’ salaries alone.
What do you think? Are athletic fees excessively burdensome to students, especially those scraping through by borrowing and/or part time work and/or taking semesters off to work? Should there be limits on government spending supporting athletic departments?
If we’re all honest with ourselves, many of us have very smart kids. Perhaps they’re not supersmart, but they’re well above average, and common topics of conversation here are related to our kids being smarter than their classmates, and sometimes smarter than their teachers.
So these accounts of a study of supersmart kids will likely be of interest. Some here have mentioned some level of participation in the Johns Hopkins programs for very bright middle schoolers, and my niece participated, but I was totally unaware that the program was part of such a study of supersmart kids and how to help them maximize their potentials.
How to Raise a Genius: Lessons from a 45-Year Study of Supersmart Children
Want to Raise Wildly Successful Kids? Science Says Do This for Them (but Their Schools Probably Won’t)
What are your takeaways from these articles? Do they suggest any possible directions you will take regarding the education of your kids?
Having a kid who’s close to graduating from HS, this article caught my attention:
5 Financial Concepts To Teach Your Teen Before High School Graduation
What do you think? Do you agree with the five concepts? Are there any others you think should be added? How do you plan to teach these concepts to your kids?
On a related note, do your kids’ schools offer classes in personal finance? My kids’ school offers one, but DS tells me he won’t take it because he’s already maxed out on the number of classes he’s allowed to take, and doesn’t want to give up any of them.
Next year they plan to offer some short courses, with personal finance being one possible subject. With the PSAT being moved from Saturday to a school day, the school decided to cancel classes on PSAT day, and instead offer things like personal finance seminars for the freshmen and seniors. Another possible time for some short classes is the weeks after AP testing.
While this story is about college financial aid, what I found most interesting was the finances of the families involved:
An inside look at financial aid offers from private Franklin & Marshall College
For example, Student A comes from a family with an AGI of $400k, with $635k in home equity and $360k in assets not in retirement accounts. While recognizing the possibility that they could have millions stashed in retirement accounts, doesn’t that seem like a net value of less than $1M outside of retirement accounts is low for that level of income? Granted, I also don’t know what sort of special circumstances they might’ve faced, e.g., expensive medical treatments, long periods with much less income, but if we assume they didn’t face any of that, wouldn’t you think they’d have accumulated more?
Side note: This example does suggest that maximizing retirement account contributions is one way to maximize financial aid.
Looking through the other examples, while some families have assets that seem commensurate with their incomes, especially the families with low incomes, it seems to me that others should’ve been able to accumulate more assets, including home equity.
What do you think? I know I’m well above national norms in terms of how much I save, but do you think these levels of assets and home equity seem low relative to their incomes, taking into account where they live?
A recent exchange of posts with Lemon brought this article to mind:
5 Signs It’s Time to Shop for a New Credit Card
How often do you shop for new cards? What criteria do you use in selecting which cards you get, and which cards you use?
We try to pay our balances every month, so we don’t really look at interest rates. What we look at primarily are rewards and annual fees. We value cash rewards over airline miles, due to its versatility, and the fact that we can use even small amounts of cash. We also look for cards with no foreign transaction fees, but since we don’t spend a whole lot of time outside the US, and already have a couple cards without those fees, that’s not a primary consideration.
We value the Discover Card cashback over others, because we can redeem cashback there by purchasing discounted gift cards from places we shop (e.g., Gap, Lowe’s). We once redeemed some cashback by buying several $100 gift cards for a hotel chain for $50 each, just before going on a trip in which we used those gift cards.
If you’ve found a card that offers a particularly good benefit, please share!
How have the recent bombings in Paris and Brussels affected you?
I’m guessing that one impact they might have on totebaggers is on travel plans. While Europe is not high on my list of places to go and things to do, there are a few places on my list, but those will probably have to wait for less turbulent times.
We’ve recently been affected. The kids’ school just hosted a group from Japan, who had originally planned a trip to Paris. But the bombings there caused a change of plans, and they came here instead.
Like several other regulars, I have a kid that will be leaving the nest for college soon.
As that day approaches, I realize that there are some things I should do before he leaves. Some fall into the category of things to teach, while others are tasks to be done in the remaining time. Among them:
-Take him to open a checking account, and teach him how to use it and to safeguard his checks.
-Walk him through a credit card application, and teach him how it works, and how to use it (e.g., always pay the balance, and never use it to buy something that will lead to a balance you can’t pay).
-Get a new phone and plan. We want him to have unlimited talk and text, because we want to have those channels to him wide open.
-Teach him to drive, and make sure he gets his license.
-Take him bike riding, both to sharpen his skills, and to teach him how to ride in traffic.
-Have him sign a health care directive/proxy and a HIPAA form, and keep copies on his, DW’s, and my phones.
-Have him do laundry. I’ve already taught him how to use the washer, but give him practice.
-Teach him how to use a non-solar dryer.
-Teach him basic cooking, and have him prepare some meals for the family.
Of course, in a lot of cases, ‘teach him’ can mean, ‘direct him to learn.’ I’m reminded of a story from a dad who was looking forward to teaching his son how to shave, only to have the son learn how from a YouTube video.
What’s on your list? How do you plan to prepare your kids before they fly the nest?
We are well into that least favorite time of year for many of us: tax time.
While some may already be done, others are yet to start.
Do you have any tips to share? Potential gotchas?
Tax time is also a good opportunity to review financial decisions, and make adjustments. What have you learned from this tax season? What worked, and didn’t work, financially over the past year?
A recent post on the impact of luxury housing construction on the affordable housing market led to a discussion of the conversion of housing into short term vacation rentals, often referred to here as TVR, or temporary vacation rentals or transient vacation rentals, and how websites like AirBnB and VRBO have facilitated that.
This raises the question: Should such short-term rentals be limited to certain geographical areas, e.g., by zoning laws? Are those who convert housing to TVR, and their renters, infringing on the lives and rights of their neighbors?
Here’s a somewhat extreme example of that, in which a college student rented his dorm room via Airbnb:
An Emerson College student rented his dorm room on Airbnb. Now he’s in trouble.
How would you feel about someone in your kid’s dorm renting out his room to strangers with no connection to the college, and not vetted by the college? How about if the dorm didn’t have private bathrooms?
How would you feel if your neighbors converted their home to a TVR? Would you welcome it? Would you think they should pay a higher property tax rate than homes used as residences?
With the huge Powerball jackpot having put lotteries into the spotlight recently, perhaps we can indulge in a bit of fantasy.
What would you do if you won a lottery? Would you take the lump sum, or the annuity? Would you keep working? Buy a new house? Pay off your mortgage? Invest it, and if so, how?
Obviously, one factor in the answer to these questions is the size of the prize. What would you do with, say, a $1M (lump sum) prize? A $10M (lump sum) prize? A $100M or larger (annuitized, less if lump sum), prize?
At a more mundane level, do you buy lottery tickets? If so, do you buy regularly, or just when the jackpot reaches a certain point?
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.
One profession that seems unrepresented in here is teachers. Some of us have parents, sibs, or spouses who are, or were, teachers, but I can’t think of any regulars here who are.
Why today’s college students don’t want to be teachers
Are any of your kids thinking about teaching? Would you encourage that? Why, or why not?
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 kids’ schools have dress codes?
The Sexism of School Dress Codes
If so, what are those codes? What do you find good and bad about them? Do the codes treat boys and girls (and others) equally? Are boys, girls, and others treated equally in enforcement of the codes? Is it difficult to find clothes that meet those codes?
What changes would you like to see in your kids’ dress codes and their implementation and enforcement?
Finn and Honolulu Mother have some thoughts about Halloween.
Halloween is coming up soon, a fact of which you are well aware if your kids (or you) have been watching the Disney Channel, which has been trying to turn the entire month of October into Halloween.
This year it’s on a Saturday, which will change its dynamic relative to the more common weekday Halloween.
What are you and your family doing for Halloween this year? Throwing a party? Going to a party? Treating it like any other Halloween? Hiding in the bushes with a water hose?
by Honolulu Mother
Do you make any special recipes for Halloween? A spiderweb cake, mini hot dogs wrapped in pastry to look like mummies, a ghastly punch? Or perhaps food traditions that may not be Halloween-themed but that you associate with it?
We’ve taken to having pizza on Halloween night as it’s easy to eat for costumed people and also is something the kids are likely to at least eat a slice of before heading out to gather sweet Halloween bounty. We’ve also made various Halloween-themed treats, both for friends’ parties and our own place. The Taste of Home website has a bunch of Halloween recipes, broken down by category (spider theme, graveyard theme, etc.). If you prefer a more upscale approach, Martha Stewart’s site is another option. A couple of years ago I made a shrimp mousse brain, similar to this one.
So in addition to Finn’s questions, please also let us know what special foods or drinks you might be trying for Halloween!
When your kids ride in a car, where do they sit?
In the September 2015 issue of Consumer Reports, there’s an article that says that, “In cars made after 2006, a person sitting in the rear seat, even when wearing a seat belt, has a 46 percent greater chance of dying in a car crash than someone riding in the front passenger seat, according to a recent study….”
“The rear seat is still best for kids under 9 years old, probably because of the added protection of child restraints. We still recommend that all children under the age of 13 ride in the back.”
Shortly after reading this, DD sat in the front seat of my car for the first time (well, for the first time while the car was being driven). We were going to a camping trip, and the back of the car was full of stuff, so that worked out well, and she and I had a very nice conversation as well; she was quite excited about going back to school.
When will your kids move up to the front seat? For families with multiple kids, does this signal a return to the days of kids fighting over the front passenger seat?
I can see the light in the tunnel that is the approaching train of DS graduating from HS and heading for college. Some time before that, I should get him a credit card so he has a chance to learn how to use it before he leaves for college.
When do you plan to get your kids their first credit cards? What kind of card will it be? Will it be just his or her name, or will it be connected to your account? Do, or will, you let your kids use your card before they get their own?
DS has used my card a couple of times, on a trip. We sent him across the street from the hotel to get some breakfast for us, and there was no problem with him using my card.
It looks like we will be seeing a woman on our $10 bill soon. What woman do you think should be on that bill, or what woman would you like to see on that bill, and why?
One restriction is it cannot be a living person, so that rules out Beyonce and the Notorious RBG, among others.
And please, no suggestions of so-and-so because that means she’s dead.
In a recent post, Fred mentioned that he might be buying a car for his DS in the near future.
Providing cars for our kids is not something we’ve discussed much here, and this seems as good a time as any. This is especially the case for us, as DS now has a learner’s permit, DW and I are getting tired of driving him to his activities and would like him to be able to drive himself, and DW has talked about getting a new car for herself and letting DS drive her current car.
Totebaggers with kids at or above driving age, have you provided cars for your kids? If so, what kinds of cars? What responsibilities did you tie to the use of cars?
If not, how did you juggle your existing vehicles to allow your kids to drive? Or, did your kids just not drive during HS?
Many years ago, a coworker told me he had his kids pay their own insurance premiums to drive, and educated them on how moving violations would affect those premiums, and how his kids were extremely careful as a result. Would you consider this?
We’re now in the middle of everyone’s least favorite time of year: tax time.
We’ve already touched on a number of tax topics this year, but perhaps it’s time for a day of asking our questions, sharing our knowledge, and airing our complaints.
Totebaggers, what have you learned over the years that you can share with your fellow totebaggers that will help ease this time of year? What questions do you have that others here might be able to answer? If someone died and made you king, what changes would you make to our income tax system?