Penny: Here’s all the things that have been bothering me about the world lately


Dear Rich,

I am still SO. TIRED. But, I’m going to give this writing thing a shot.

I like what you had to say about your life and work. Good post. I couldn’t help but to think how it really exemplifies the differences between you and me. The whole “city mouse / country mouse” sort of thing. While you’re all about getting ahead in your job, living an expensive lifestyle, and having a busy schedule, I’m all about trying to find more ways to get back to nature, simplify my life, and focus on the little things.

I’m going to go on a tangent here about all the things that have been bothering me about the world lately, so please just bear with me and don’t take offense. Your post just reminded me of some of these things for some reason.

Here we go:

(I will address some of these ideas toward you, but that’s only because you personify a general way of living and being in the world that most of the culture engages in or strives for. Again, please don’t take offense. It’s okay for people to have a difference of opinion, I just want to take this time to highlight some of the differences between us [as well as between me with society in general] because I think that’s part of what makes this blog and these conversations interesting.

First of all, it bugs me how schools and education are geared toward “getting a good job”. Is that what our lives amount to?

I read the book Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto recently. This was a man who taught for 30 years in the New York City school system, and then quit (shortly after being named New York’s Teacher of the Year), and has been spending the rest of his life trying to reform our ideas about education.

He writes:

What nineteenth century American experience demonstrated unmistakably is that an independent, resourceful, too well-educated common population has the irresistible urge to produce – and the ability to do so. Many famous “panics” of nineteenth century America were caused in part by a hangover from early Federal times and Colonial days when the common ideal was to produce your own food, your own clothing, your own shelter, your own education, your own medical care, your own entertainment, etc. The common population was still insufficiently conditioned to be interdependent and specialized.

Now, all we are are interdependent and specialized. We don’t produce things for ourselves and our families anymore. We consume, consume, consume. We consume products, we consume education, we consume everything.

Under this outlook, the classroom would never be used to produce knowledge, but only to consume it; it would not encourage the confined to produce ideas, only to consume the ideas of others. The ultimate goal implanted in student minds, which replaced the earlier goal of independent livelihoods, was getting a good job.


In that super long Wendell Berrry article I sent you awhile back, he writes:

The modern household is the place where the consumptive couple do their consuming. Nothing productive is done there. Such work as is done there is done at the expense of the resident couple or family, and to the profit of suppliers of energy and household technology. For entertainment, the inmates consume television or purchase other consumable diversion elsewhere.

When questioned about Why Do We Need to Learn Math, my high school daughter’s math teacher presented them with an essay that had a lot of great points about how math is important in problem solving (“each individual problem because a small but important lesson for solving problems in general”), which I thought were great answers. But then, on the subject of Can I Get a Good Job Without Learning a Lot of Math?, the essay says: In all honesty, anything is possible. However, less and less labor intensive jobs are available. Workers in those fields are being replaced by machinery and robotics. Someone has to fix all of those machines and robots.

Really? That’s what our lives and jobs amount to, fixing machines and robots? I’m so tired of hearing about freaking robots. (Have you read anything about the production of robots lately? There’s some crazy stuff going on.)

And I want my kids (and people in general) to have labor-intensive jobs. I want them to have their own businesses (to produce) instead of working for big corporations. Sitting down all day, working in front of a computer, and moving from one indoor location to another is not a good thing. There’s not enough natural movement in people’s lives. Not enough nature. We have really created an unnatural world for ourselves.

We are really moving away from a lot of the things that are really important in life in pursuit of things that aren’t.

The number one case in point being the family. Now, instead of making the family the most important thing in our lives, it becomes our schooling and then our jobs that are most important.

In another book that I recently read, Common Sense 101: Lessons from G.K. Chesterton by Dale Ahlquist, he writes:

What common sense through the ages tells us is that most people have this simple basic desire: to have a happy family and a happy home. Chesterton says that “just now there is a tendency to forget that the school is only a preparation for the home, and not the home a mere jumping off place for the school.”

As is so often the case in the modern world, we have things exactly backward. In the process of turning our children over to the public education system, we have turned our backs on the home and the family. And we have somehow mislaid the primary purpose of going to school.

By turning public education over to “the experts”, we have undermined the natural authority of the family.

Continue reading “Penny: Here’s all the things that have been bothering me about the world lately”

Monthly Money Check: Rich Horsed Around in October 2017

My kids: Up early playing with a “ghost horse.” (Picture from 2016, in Ireland)

Hey Penny,

Sorry to hear about your lack of sleep. I can’t imagine being pregnant, for obvious reasons. If that ever happened … now that would be a blog! Pregnant Mansplaining.

I get close to 8 hours nightly but the difficult part is that my boys wake up at 530 and go immediately to playing — experiments with water, indoor gymnastics, and other not so relaxing games. As I write this, they are playing some sort of imaginary game about ghost horses with a ball and a nerf gun. I guess this is cute but I’d prefer a quiet cup of coffee.

Anywho, what’s the topic here, monthly money check?

We’ve been back in the US for 2 and a half months now, and I think our spending is starting to settle down. September and October were full of big one-time moving expenses, like furniture. In November, I plan to track expenses more closely to see how we’re faring with “routine” expenses. That said, I’m not sure any month is routine. The holidays are fast approaching and perhaps we’ll have a vacation to book. Our spending routine is lumpy.

Let’s see how our net worth has changed recently, then we’ll look at each category and our longer term  goal. Here’s my net worth overview from the past 4 months.

Click on image to enlarge.

OVERALL: Overall, our net worth is up by $15k since July and flat since August, the moving month. In one sense, this is encouraging, because we’ve spent the lights out and we’re still not going backward. In another sense, we’re not going forward either, we’re just moving money around between categories. Speaking of categories …

CASH: Current level is $13,500. I try to keep cash levels between 10-20k. I was able to do this despite buying a car for $18,750 in cash and paying a hefty amount on rent. How did I do it? Well …

DEBT: Unfortunately, I increased debt by 11k with a 0% balance transfer. In other words, I paid $7,750 down financed the remainder. I’m growing tired of this debt, and would like it completely paid in a year.

INVESTMENTS: My investments are up because I’m slotting the car’s value here. So, nothing exciting on this front. Brothers, LLC is holding steady. I’ll be drawing down my alternative investments (Prosper) and my Opportunity Fund in order to pay down debt.

RETIREMENT: Here’s the bright spot. Retirement funds are up by nearly $20k in 4 months. This is the Automatic Millionaire budgeting method at work. Basically, max out the 401k and don’t sweat the rest. Live life, and retire at a reasonable time. Even if we save nothing else and earn a paltry 2%, we’ll have nearly $2 million in the 401k at retirement.


Click on image to enlarge.

Big picture, we are on track for my net worth goal of 1MM at age 45. The blue line is roughly tracking with the red line. I’ll be 45 in 3 years, and if I hit 1MM at any time that year, I’ll declare victory.

It’s interesting to look at the graph and notice how we get a bump in the Spring and dip toward the Fall. I think that’s because around tax time we get an updated valuation of our LLC holdings, and later in the year we’ve had preschool payments in 2016 and moving expenses in 2017.

I expect the coming year to present a new pattern. This will probably be the key year in achieving (or not) our goal. Expenses are high and we’re adjusting to new travel realities (it’s not as easy to get to new, cool places). Anyway, stay tuned for a more detailed expense review next time.

Get some sleep!


Monthly Money Check: Penny Has Normal Spending, Abnormal Sleeping in October 2017

Dear Rich,

I apologize for not writing more. I have lots of thoughts in response to your last post, but I haven’t gotten around to writing them out yet. I’m not sleeping very well. Probably because of pregnancy. I go to sleep around 9:00 pm every night and wake up for the day at 3:00 am. I just can’t fall back asleep. And then I spend my days tired thinking about how and when and if I can get a nap in. So, that is my life right now.

I did put together my Monthly Spending Report, because that doesn’t require much thinking. (I realize that these are probably getting kind of repetitious and boring for you to look at, but I still like doing them.)

Not much to say. Pretty basic spending.

It’s been 3 months since I put together a Financial Worth update, and I know you probably like these better, so here’s what we look like now:

This is not much more than our financial worth was three months ago. This is because the equity in our house went down a little bit. (Zillow is saying it’s not worth as much as it was three months ago.) Aside from that, everything adjusted accordingly (and minimally).

Hope you’re doing well, cuz. I’ll try to write more when I get a chance / get more sleep.