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The Simple Dollar

ARMs: How do they work? And can you use a Roth IRA as an emergency fund?

ARMs (question 2), Roth IRAs (question 10), and other personal finance questions fill the Reader's Mailbag.

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Q7: In-person insurance agent?
Do I really need an actual person with a name and a face as my insurance (car & home) agent? I’ve been very happy with GEICO for 15+ years, though I have never had any major claims. Maybe it is because I’m an introvert, but I rather enjoy the convenience of calling at 2am to talk to a faceless voice or doing everything online. I’m under the assumption that a real face to face meeting in someone’s office is where I will get swindled into coverage I don’t need. I recently started meeting with a financial planner and she hooked me up with an independent agent for car & home. Over the phone, the agent gabbed on and on about a personal relationship. I wanted to gag over all that cheesy “relationship” talk. Are claims with the big faceless national companies really all that horrid?
- Lisa

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I think it’s just a different approach for different people. Some people value that kind of personal relationship with their agent – others can easily do without it.

I’m basically in the “without” camp like you are. I actually prefer to just call a national number and get quickly through any business with the agent on the other end. I don’t want to spend time being “buddies” with a person I view largely as being a mix of salesperson and service person.

Having said that, I do understand why some people want someone that they feel comfortable calling with their own situation, someone that they have an established relationship with.

I think it has more to do with the customer than anything else. Some customers just want different things.

Q8: Moving up at difficult workplace
My husband hates his job, and I really just don’t know how to help him. We moved here to LA and he got an entry level job at a entertainment company in 2007, a typical way to break into the industry for an aspiring writer or producer. The problem is that the firm he works for is run by a bunch of old has-beens on the verge of retirement who sit back and count their money and don’t care about the people under them. Now, three years in, he really hates his job, and the people he works for, and I’m scared he’s either going to quit, or get so pissed off that he’ll say something to get him fired (and this town is NOT about burning bridges…). My salary combined with his is enough for us to live well enough, but we’re just finally starting to climb out of debt and build an emergency fund. We don’t have enough for one of us to be jobless, but I feel so much compassion for his frustration. Still, the job market is still tough, and I’m running out of ways to encourage him to stick in there. I want to help him but I really just don’t know how. I’m really sick of his complaining as well as the fact that his talent as a writer is being squandered by spending his days making dry cleaning deliveries. Do you have any advice for me/him/us?
- Michelle

I know exactly where he’s at because I was in more or less the same place once upon a time.

He has to make two changes in his mindset. First, the day job is just a day job. It’s a way to make cash, nothing else. Pick up your deliveries, drop them off, and spend your brain cells thinking about the writing, not about the grunt work. Yes, sometimes you’ll have to think, but when you’re driving around dropping off clothes, think instead about your writing.

Hand in hand with that is the fact that he’s going to have to spend his spare time writing and sharing that writing. He has to write, of course, because without actually doing it, one can’t be a writer and one can’t have content to sell. Once you have the content, you have to sell it in some way – a blog, selling short stories, and so on. He has to get it out there in front of people.