On The Answer to Getting Out of Credit Card Trouble: A Spreadsheet

@Mae The difference between mortgage rates and student loan (and credit card) interest rates exists primarily because one is secured debt and one's unsecured. Interest rates are the cost of money. Money that's riskier for the lender costs more. With secured debt like a mortgage, the creditor is entitled to the property if the debtor defaults, so the risk is lower. Same with an auto loan. But you can't repossess someone's education if they default on the loan they took to get it. I'm not saying 6.8% is the inherently correct number (particularly given that it's set by statute and doesn't track treasury rates significantly) but there's an explanation other than subsidization of one social good over another.

Posted on December 16, 2013 at 2:26 pm 4

On The Loaded Question of "What Do You Do?"

In DC it's impossible to avoid the question. I'm certainly guilty of it, but I also don't mind when people answer brusquely or glibly. If asked in a social situation, I generally reply, "I bust trusts."

Posted on October 30, 2013 at 4:35 pm 2

On How to Get Your Security Deposit Back: Clean Your Filthy Apartment

Are there really landlords who will refuse to give back a security deposit if their tenants don't do a deep professional-level clean!? I've always heard "broom clean," plus charges for anything above ordinary wear and tear (that's what's in the lease for our tenant). In fact, it seems vaguely unfair to require otherwise- one of the expenses of being a landlord is repairs and maintenance, and you can't exactly threaten you tenants with losing their security deposits if they aren't also willing to be your free handymen, landscapers, painters, floor-refinishers, and cleaners...

Posted on August 28, 2013 at 9:48 am 0

On Maybe Taxis Won't Not Stop Now

Unfortunately, this isn't true for pick-ups. Cabbies using those apps to find fares can and do reject them based on where they're calling from. I live in city where Uber (yup, naming and shaming) operates, in a 95% black neighborhood, although I myself am not black. It is IMPOSSIBLE to get an Uber cab or sedan to pick me up at my house. If I drop the pin right across the street from my house, fifty feet away, at a university that is not majority-black, a cab or sedan suddenly becomes available, no problem.

Posted on August 14, 2013 at 5:00 pm 0

On Everybody in Life Makes Choices

This is the sunk cost fallacy in action. You have already put effort into doing something (waiting in line for the snack, choosing and going to the restaurant) so you don't want to "waste" the effort, and end up buying something you don't really want/staying at the noisy restaurant. You just have to remind yourself that sunk costs are sunk, and then you're less likely to settle. (Defnitely works best if you are alone and not with a bunch of people, who tend to annoyed as you walk around trying to optimize while they get hungrier and hungrier! We call this an externality.)

Posted on June 21, 2013 at 4:33 pm 2

On When Things Fall Apart: The Cost of Divorce

@alpacasloth I am not a family lawyer, but I do know that in some jurisdictions, it's important for BOTH parties to be represented by SEPARATE counsel. It's actually a factor the judge looks at when deciding whether the agreement was entered into voluntarily. Not voluntary = no pre-nup. (So don't just take a sample off the Internet and sign it in front of a notary. It might not hold up when you need it.)

Posted on June 11, 2013 at 5:14 pm 0

On When Things Fall Apart: The Cost of Divorce

@@fo Great advice! I'm actually a lawyer and I made sure we were tenants by the entirety when we bought a house. Short story: it's the only way you can make sure that your spouse's individual creditor can't get at your house, it means you automatically get the property if your spouse dies, your spouse can't sell your house without your consent, etc.

Posted on June 11, 2013 at 5:11 pm 0

On When Things Fall Apart: The Cost of Divorce

Having the family house in only one name forces an uncomfortable discussion: who gets to own it? "It is easier [to sell] if it is in one person’s name." Sure - easier for that person! I'd be VERY wary if my husband told me he wanted to be the sole owner of the house I helped him buy. When it comes down to it, this is a contradiction at the center of marriage. Where do you draw the line between protection and trust? Becoming a family and staying two people? Fully protecting yourself means looking out for number one first and foremost, no exceptions. And extreme versions of that seem sort of incompatible with what [many people think] a marriage is supposed to be... Definitely thought-provoking.

Posted on June 11, 2013 at 3:01 pm 2

On How Much Do You Spend on Transportation Each Month?

Posted on May 29, 2013 at 11:20 am 0

On How Much Do You Spend on Groceries Every Week?

About $125/week for 2 adults and 1 cat, including household stuff. That certainly feels like a lot, but we hardly ever eat out and bring our own lunches to work. So it's actually 3 meals a day times two people times 7 days, or approximately $3.00/meal. EDIT: Oh, and this is in central Washington DC, which is very expensive, new Costco notwithstanding.

Posted on May 21, 2013 at 1:56 pm 0