The Simple Dollar
One point I’ve talked about frequently on The Simple Dollar was whether money can buy happiness.
In the past, I’ve subscribed strongly to the evidence proposed by author Daniel Gilbert in his bookStumbling on Happiness where he claims that an income level above $40,000 does not actually increase a person’s happiness to any noticeable degree. Economist Daniel Kahneman argues a similar thing, but raises the necessary income level to $75,000 per year.
In other words, once a person’s needs are covered, additional income mostly goes to covering wants, which, beyond a very initial level, doesn’t lead to additional happiness in life.
Recently, though, a new study by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, as described in this Forbes article, adds an interesting new element to the mix:
“Relying on worldwide data from Gallup and other sources, Stevenson and Wolfers determine that the wealthier people are, the more satisfied they are with their lives, at least when you look at nationwide figures. They also find, contrary to what many economists believe, that there is not a point of wealth satiation beyond which happiness levels off.“ ( Continue… )
My six year old daughter is experiencing a bit of the frustration that comes with learning a musical instrument.
When she first began piano lessons, she had big dreams of being able to play some of her favorite songs quite quickly. She’s almost constantly singing songs and humming them around our house and she’s watched and listened to quite a few accomplished pianists in her life. She believed that with just a few lessons, she’d be on that level, too.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t really worked out that way for her yet.
She practices diligently, but she’s expressing a lot of frustration that she can’t just sit down and play the songs she loves. Instead, she’s learning how to play very basic songs like Mary Had a Little Lamb and Frere Jacques. ( Continue… )
I can’t tell you how happy I am to have Sarah as a spouse. Whenever we sit down and go through bills together, one or the other of us can explain exactly what each item is on every single bill. There is no “hidden” spending other than the occasional claim of “that’s a gift for you.”
However, the reader mailbag – and my own experience watching other married couples – has shown me that in a lot of marriages, such a level of trust does not exist.
They don’t know what their partner is spending money on. Often, their partner is spending more money than is probably appropriate for their financial situation. Sometimes, their partner is hiding spending by using a hidden credit card – one that’s going to eventually come due.
If your partner refuses to talk about line items on a credit card bill, you need to protect yourself. ( Continue… )
One of the true highlights of my day is the time I get to spend with my children. At different times, it gives me the chance to be a parent and a guiding force to them, but it also gives me the chance to look at the world through a different set of eyes for a while.
An example: I’ll teach them about sportsmanship and how to play a sport… but I’m also simply playing ball with them. They’re learning how to be good sports and they’re also bonding with me, while I get the fun of pitching the ball to them and, every once in a while, swinging the bat, too.
Another example: I’m supervising their visit to the zoo… but I also get to see the sheer joy they take in feeding the fish there. I watch them to make sure they’re safe, help them read the signs, and pay for the entrance fee, but I also get a sense of fun from the exhibits that I wouldn’t quite get on my own.
Parenting is a duty I value deeply, but it’s also something that fulfills me as well and constantly teaches me new things. ( Continue… )
You need some cheddar cheese for a recipe you’re going to make, so you head to the store.
The cheapest block of cheddar cheese costs… let’s say, $1.99. It’s got the logo of a giant multinational corporation on it. You don’t know where it was made. You don’t know what kind of milk is in it. There’s a long list of ingredients, but you don’t know what half of them are.
Right next to it is a block of cheese of the same size for… let’s say, $4.99. It’s got the logo of a dairy farm that’s twenty miles from where you live. There are only six ingredients listed. The package indicates that the milk is local, from cows you can go visit that live on an open pasture that you can also visit, and the cows are treated humanely and are not given hormones or antibiotics of any kind. The cheese was made at that facility, also twenty miles away.
RECOMMENDED: Daily deal sites: Beware these five things
Which cheese is truly the best bargain? ( Continue… )
It all started with a single day.
The first Saturday after my financial low point, I decided to spend just that one day doing what I could to improve our financial situation. “Today, I won’t spend any money. I’ll spend the day figuring things out and maybe making a bit of cash.”
That morning, I cleaned out my closet and went through our DVD collection (with Sarah’s permission, of course). I found several items to sell and about 100 DVDs. Sarah went through these and chose to save about ten of the DVDs.
With the rest of them, I went to a used media store in a nearby town and sold most of them. I kept three or four DVD box sets, though, to sell on eBay. I made about $200 in cash, as the store paid me about $2 or so apiece for them. ( Continue… )
Since 2000, the average attention span has dropped by 33%. That’s an amazing little statistic.
When I see statistics like that, I attempt to immediately translate them into what they mean from a money perspective.
I often talk about the “ten second rule,” which is a simple idea for shopping that helps guide you away from impulsive purchases. If you simply take ten seconds to think about a purchase you’re about to make before making it, you can often talk yourself out of making a buying mistake.
Over the course of those years since 2000, the average attention span has gone from more than ten seconds to less than ten. The average person will lose focus on that purchase by the end of the “ten second rule.” ( Continue… )
In a week filled with news about the Affordable Care Act and government shutdowns, it seems appropriate to step back for a moment and look at the bigger picture of all of this.
Regardless of your feelings on the Affordable Care Act and whether it’s a law that should stay on the books, as a program, it provides access to health care to some people who would otherwise be unable to acquire or afford it. There are drawbacks to that, and it’s the drawbacks that have people in an uproar, but the program is well on its way to providing that benefit to people.
This is on top of countless other government services out there, like Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, and the many national and local groups out there providing help to people, like Habitat for Humanity and local food pantries (which do amazing work, by the way). ( Continue… )
Welcome to the fourth entry in my “Ultimate Guide” series here on The Simple Dollar. If you want to hop back to the first three, here are some quick links:
Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Term Life Insurance Policy
Ultimate Guide to Choosing an Internet Service Provider
Ultimate Guide to Amazon Discounts
This fourth entry is about background checks, a topic that I’ve touched on quite a few times on The Simple Dollar but never really dug into.
Why background checks? Background checks are an absolutely vital part of the process of finding a roommate or a boarder or hiring someone. If you’re looking for someone to rent out a room in your home or you’re thinking about hiring someone to do some work on your property, you need to have a sense of who this person is and what their background is. It’s a simple matter of protecting your own safety.
The level of background check you do is really up to you. Many of the steps you can take are things you can do on your own for free, but a professional service can often do a deeper job. Let’s dig into what you can do on your own first.
Before You Start…
Before you start checking on someone’s background, you need to obtain some information from the person you’re searching. For some situations, like choosing a roommate, there are reasonable limits on what you can ask or what you can expect them to provide – info like a current address and current employment is reasonable, but a Social Security number is not.
I would suggest that having at least a person’s full name, their place of employment, and their current address should be the minimum information I would want before engaging in an arrangement with them.
The first thing to do is to browse through information that people have shared about themselves online, which is often a surprising amount. There are several tools you can use very easily to find this shared information. ( Continue… )
Recently, I came across this article from Time Business arguing – quite convincingly – that parents are poor financial role models for their kids. From the article:
“Most parents (77%) say they are not always honest with their kids about money; 15% lie weekly. Half are willing to discuss saving and spending issues but almost no one talks about tougher concepts like inflation (19%), investing (16%), diversification (11%), and asset allocation (8%). A third avoid talking about the family’s finances altogether."
Let’s break that down, piece by piece. ( Continue… )