On I Used An Accountant And I Liked It

Every year I debate getting an accountant to do my taxes. So far, my control-freak side has won out each year, but I always start pricing it out in my head around February (I also always contemplate TurboTax, but I have an entirely irrational belief that it will mess my taxes up, from growing up with a dad who would do his taxes twice, once with and once without TurboTax, double-check any answers that differed, and then call them to tell them all the ways they'd messed up. He did this for fun, although they did usually did give him a refund or some such). On the other hand, if I were to get someone else to do my taxes, I would miss out on the Dada-esque entertainment that is the tax code - special exemptions if you received payouts from the Ottoman Empire due to events in the 1920s, 'Line 21 reserved for future use', 'line 17 worksheet' (because the form was getting too long, they needed to move some of it to a different document?), etc. By this point, I also have The Spreadsheet that is essentially a customized tax-handling program, so all told it's probably less than 15 hours to update everything for the current year, gather all the documents (which is the biggest part, and which I'd have to do anyway), and then actually fill out the forms.

Posted on March 2, 2015 at 12:21 pm 1

On CA Money vs Midwest Money, & "Relative Wealth" at U Michigan

@MrDean Unfortunately, it's actually closer to 'living in Palo Alto is like living in NYC/eastern NJ' - you have to go outside about a 20-30 mile radius before housing prices start coming back down, basically on the other side of the bay or south of San Jose. Palo Alto is a local maximum, but the other cities in that radius still have COLs of 200+. Even if you sell your house, unless you want to add 2+ hours to your commute or quit your job, you still have to live somewhere, and so you're either going to be dumping the 2 million back into another house (median home prices remain above 1 million throughout most of the peninsula), or spending 4-5k/mo renting (which is going to start eating in to that 2 million pretty quick, which is a problem if, like most families, your house is most of your net worth).

Posted on February 23, 2015 at 9:25 pm 0

On CA Money vs Midwest Money, & "Relative Wealth" at U Michigan

I don't think the first author did a particularly good job of explaining her point, but it's worth noting that comparing incomes really should be normalized by cost-of-living. If everyone makes 3x as much, and everything costs 3x as much, they're going to have the same lifestyle as the 'average' person. For Palo Alto, the COL is 333 (national average is fixed at 100 - source = areavibes.com). For Ann Arbor, it's 105. So her family's 250k of income is equivalent to about 78k in Ann Arbor (probably slightly less, because taxes) - solidly middle class, in other words. Not working poor, but not extremely wealthy. If you bought a house there 20 years ago (when this now-college-student was a baby), prices weren't nearly so crazy, and with Prop 13, it may not make financial sense to move, at least not anywhere where you can still get to your job. It's not that she deserves a lot of (any?) sympathy, it's just that reality doesn't line up with a simplistic view of the numbers, and it's worth having our discussions about class and income brackets based in reality.

Posted on February 23, 2015 at 12:39 pm 0

On When Mentors Attack

@MemphisBlues while I have no more details about what happened than what's in the article, it sounds like he was assigned to mentor her in a class, and they started dating while that was happening. That moves it from 'both adults' to 'boss dating employee' type territory. There's also the accusations of sexual assault, but (if true), that's not ok for anyone, mentor or no, so sort of beside the point of the article.

Posted on February 19, 2015 at 5:50 pm 2

On How a 5 Percenter in Los Angeles Does Money

@garli Obviously, I don't know the specifics of this case, but for me (private school for elementary/middle, public high school), my private school was much more diverse, racially and economically (it gave a lot of need-based scholarships) than my public school. And not to sound all dewy-eyed, but it gave me a passion for learning that has been very influential in my life. Years of having intelligent, educated, caring teachers was really crucial, and let me weather the incompetent and petty staff (not all of them were awful, but a fair number) and administration (universally awful) of my high school relatively well. I saw a number of other folks in my high school who didn't have the same background, and had been dealing with the public school nonsense for longer than I had, who just gave up and checked out senior year. Incredibly bright, talented folks who wound up not going to college or not graduating, in part because all they had seen of life was being ordered around by people they could run circles around, and they just got tired of jumping through hoops. And this was at one of the better public schools in the area.

Posted on February 18, 2015 at 3:45 pm 0

On Should I Apply for This Job?

As someone who's done a lot of interviews, don't worry about wasting someone's time - someone hiring for a position wants lots of options. Another spin on the 'yes you should apply' front is from a friend of mine (who was talking me in to applying for a job): the worst thing that can happen is they'll make you an offer.

Posted on February 16, 2015 at 11:43 am 1

On Updates From a Plane

Geico paid my renter's insurance claim with no issues at all - it wasn't big compared to totalling a vehicle (got a couple hundred dollars even after the deductible), but they were super helpful about the whole thing.

Posted on January 27, 2015 at 9:45 pm 1

On Fixing the Hiring Process

I do a lot of interviews, and I've realized: in 45 minutes, I can't tell if you'll definitely be good at the job, much less how good. I *can* often tell if you'd be bad at the job. So I'm not surprised that the work performance of folks who made it through the Google interview process is uncorrelated with their scores, but I would bet that if you interviewed a bunch of people, then hired all of them, that you would start to see correlation (basically, believing that you can get more information than 'maybe' vs 'no' out of an interview is wishful thinking). I have no idea how folks in fields where there are less objective measures of skills than 'here is a problem, solve it with code' manage to interview at all.

Posted on January 27, 2015 at 12:06 pm 1

On Socialism: The Sharing Economy I Want

FWIW, psychologists have studied this. You can have a sense of community towards 150 people, give or take 1 or 2. Beyond that, the sense of goodwill/helpfulness/trust breaks down. So Israeli kibbutz (is that plural?) work well, but large-country-scale socialism tends not to.

Posted on January 26, 2015 at 5:36 pm 1

On One Is the Loneliest Number, So Find a Cell Phone Family Plan

I didn't get a cell phone until college (I know, I'm old), so the family-plan thing never really came up with my actual family. I did try the family thing with one boyfriend, and never again. Someone up thread mentions this, but the person who pays the bill for the plan owns the cell phone number, and must call and speak to the company before you can get your number back (even though theoretically the company knows it was your number before). In the case of bad breakups, that's yet another headache/invitation to stalking. Has anyone tried the no-contract plans? My phone is on its last legs, my contract has already expired, and I'm thinking about trying a tmobile 30-40/mo no-contract plan.

Posted on January 22, 2015 at 12:25 pm 0