The Best Of Penny And Rich So Far — 6 Months Of Conversations Across The Income Divide

Dear Cousin Penny,

We’ve been at this blog for around 6 months, so I thought it’d be a good time to go over some highlights. This article will contain numerous links to some of our best posts. Of course, a complete list can be found via the Posts tab.

For any new readers, I’ll quickly reiterate our premise. We’re cousins from a small Midwestern town. One summer, around age 10 or so, I think we played together every day for 80 straight days. Good times.

Our adult lives diverged but we kept in touch, often writing long emails to each other about life and happiness and money — which is essentially the genesis of this blog.

You got married young, you have 4 kids, and your husband went from teacher to chiropractor. Along the way you gathered a boat load of debt, but you have no regrets. Low income doesn’t seem to bug you.

As for me, I went from the farm to theology school to French language study in Paris. Much to my own surprise, I landed a high income career, married a woman with similar career goals, and had twin boys. High income agrees with me. Why wouldn’t it?

Our full origin stories can be found here:


Click on image to see the details of Rich’s plan.

What’s a personal finance blog without goals? My goal is to reach a $1 Million net worth sometime during my 45th year of life. And after that I want to build a generational family legacy (um, in 3 easy steps!).

I admit, since starting this blog, the goal has become less important than the journey, the process … life. As I’ve thought about my philosophy of life, it’s become clear that it’s really not about the money. It’s about relationships, growth, and freedom — these are the keys to happiness, incidentally.

I have also become keenly aware of how lucky I am. I don’t want to be a selfish materialistic hedonist; I want to be a generous squirrel. I never thought I’d write a parable about squirrels, but this is modern blogging. Animals can talk.

So, I hope I can meet my goal the right way. Since we started the blog, I’ve been able to keep pace.

Click on image to enlarge. My actual pace is the blue line, the pace I need is the red line.

So far so good!

But, again, I’m much more concerned about happiness than money.


Click on image to see the details of Penny’s goal.

Now to your goals, Penny. You have enough student loan debt ($173,000 at the start of the blog) to make Dave Ramsey drop a dadgum mess in his britches. You’d love to pay it off, and you’re making good progress. I’m not sure how much you have left right now, but I think you’ve already lopped off $20k of debt in a few short months.

I’m continually amazed at how frugal you are when I read your monthly money checks.

But, like me, you know money is not the key to happiness. You spend very little because you just don’t value things that need to be bought. Even with low income, you feel the need to give more than the need to get out of debt faster. In addition to giving, you’ve learned the art of receiving.


Penny, sometimes I think we agree on a whole bunch of topics and sometimes I think we couldn’t be more different. But what I really appreciate is that no matter the topic, we can have an honest conversation, even if there are points of disagreement.

Continue reading “The Best Of Penny And Rich So Far — 6 Months Of Conversations Across The Income Divide”

Monthly Happiness Report: Rich Is Part Of The Global Elite And His Quality Of Life Is An Oppressive Symbol Of Class Warfare. Pass The Quinoa Crackers. –June 2017

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I’m going to take my happiness report in a different direction this month. I’d like to respond to an article that popped up regarding the way “the rich” spend their money. I saw it on BBC, entitled “The New, Subtle Ways the Rich Signal Their Wealth.” Originally it was written for Aeon and entitled “Conspicuous Consumption is Over. It’s All About Intangibles Now.” By any title, this article represents what I perceive as a growing resentment toward the rich. Toward me, in other words.

I encourage you to read the article, but I’ll summarize it here.

The rich are getting sneaky. They used to separate themselves with the conspicuous consumption of luxury goods for all to see — fancy TVs, cars, and handbags. But now, luxury items are widely available to the masses. So, to set themselves apart, the rich are increasingly spending on inconspicuous social and cultural status symbols: education, health, and retirement.

This kind of privileged spending activity is subtle but “pernicious,” benefitting rich families while excluding the middle class.

And here’s the concluding paragraph: “Inconspicuous consumption – whether breastfeeding or education – is a means to a better quality of life and improved social mobility for one’s own children, whereas conspicuous consumption is merely an end in itself – simply ostentation. For today’s aspirational class, inconspicuous consumption choices secure and preserve social status, even if they do not necessarily display it.”

End summary.

So Penny, you might be wondering why I’m talking about this in my happiness report. Here’s why. We have a high household income ($260,000), and I’ll grant that we are more or less rich. I’ve written extensively about how I prioritize my spending, both for optimal happiness according to my values and for the benefit of my family’s financial security (in 3 easy steps!). The above article is essentially saying that my way of spending is harmful (“pernicious” was an interesting word choice) as a form of class warfare and social privilege.

In short, I’m part of the problem.

Ok, well … let’s grant for a moment that I’m unknowingly part of an elitist conspiracy to oppress common folk by eating free range chicken and saving for college. How could I take action to distance myself from such a dangerous subculture? How could I prove my desire to be on the side of fairness and equality?

Should I take my kids to McDonald’s and tell them that one day, if they live long enough on nuggets and soda, they could ignore higher education and work behind the counter? Should I blow their college money on a Porsche in the hopes that they will make a career out of filling it with gas? Would I then be regarded as a more moral and less pernicious rich person?

Chicken nuggets — a great way for rich people to champion social equality.

I have another theory. Maybe the rich are just discovering that luxury doesn’t bring happiness, and that the best way to build a stable family environment is to promote health and education. And maybe that’s a good thing.

Continue reading “Monthly Happiness Report: Rich Is Part Of The Global Elite And His Quality Of Life Is An Oppressive Symbol Of Class Warfare. Pass The Quinoa Crackers. –June 2017”

Rich Will Spend $1 Million On His Kids. Easily.

What are these kids doing? Reaching up to a mythical sun god for money?

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Kids are pricey. As I mentioned a while back, I’ve easily spent $30,000 per year since my twins were born, just on child care and/or preschool. I estimate that by age 6, the twins will have cost us a cool quarter of a million, easy.

You and some readers might be thinking that this is ridiculous. But no. It’s quite reasonable. Consider. Mrs. R was pregnant with twins and it was recommended that she take some time off during pregnancy. Reasonable. She took 6 months off before the birth and 6 months off after. That’s one year’s salary: $80,000 at the time.

A few months after the twins were born, when it was time for Mrs. R to get ready to go back to work, our options were nanny or daycare. We went with nanny because our work schedules were unpredictable, it provided more focused attention for the boys, and as a bonus they developed Spanish language brain connections. Was this a move for the ultra-rich? Not really. The cost in our expensive east coast area was roughly the same between any respectable daycare and a full-time nanny. Reasonable. The market rate: $30,000 per year. 3 years = $90,000.

Then, 2 years of preschool and camp for 2 kids = $60,000.

$80,000 + $60,000 + $90,000 = $230,000. Boom.

I haven’t even started adding up diapers and beds and food. So as you can see, it’s very reasonable that we spent $250k before Kindergarten.

So let’s take a look at this USDA calculator that claims to show how much it costs to raise a child. On the calculator, I selected 2 kids, 2 parent household, high income (defined as over $107,400) living in the northeast. Here’s what it spit out.

USDA Cost of Raising a Child Calculator. Click on image to enlarge.

It tells me that it’ll cost $21,610 per year, per kid, or $43,220 total per year. For 18 yrs (Ages 0-17), that’s $388,980 per kid, or $777,960 total.  

I did my own worksheet using the same categories. When in doubt, I estimated higher than the national average. I also just started with the total amount for 2 kids, because with twins it’s easier that way. At the end I divided by 2 to get the per kid amount. I also included the year of no salary for Mrs. R. Here’s what I came up with.

Click on image to enlarge.

$1 Million dollars!

My numbers are higher than the calculator and here’s why.

Continue reading “Rich Will Spend $1 Million On His Kids. Easily.”

The Helicopter Parenting Paying For College FINAL SHOWDOWN (or, Part 3)

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Our beloved cousin-bloggers, Penny and Rich, have been bickering over whether or not Rich’s “legacy plan” to pay for his kids’ college is just a form of helicopter parenting.

In Part 1 of this Blogchat Debate CAGE MATCH, they discussed controlling vs. planning, manual labor, learning for the sake of learning, and the value of a degree.

In Part 2 of this awkward family debate, they discussed learning in and out of the college system, autonomy, and if someone can make these choices at age 18.

And NOW, the final showdown …

RICH is in blue, and PENNY is in red.  


wouldn’t it be great for you to have received college support? you wrote eloquently about receiving food support, and your mom helping you obtain a mortgage, but why wouldn’t this also be true, even more so, of your parents or family helping you earlier in life as you’re figuring out college and career and what you want to do with your life?

This is a great question! I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, and here is why I am still not on board with funding our kids education. It comes down to indebtedness and control. Isn’t that the whole argument against government support? Because when people rely on the government for support then the government can control them?

I don’t feel particularly indebted to the government (in getting our food support), but let’s compare this to the scholarship that we get for the private school that we send our kids to. We definitely feel indebted to them there. My husband and I have talked about how after the kids move on from that school, we still plan on donating money there. 1) We like the school and it’s mission and we want to support it, and 2) We want to make up the money that they gave to us.

With this indebtedness, I also feel like I don’t have the right to have much a voice at the school. I feel grateful just that they let us be there, and, although I do agree with the majority of the stuff that the school does, I don’t feel like I would have the right to voice my opinion if I didn’t, since we’re not paying full price to be there.

And while we can be grateful for the support that we receive, I think that comparison can be made to funding our kids’ college education as well. I want to make sure that their voice is the one they’re following. I want to make sure they feel like they’re in complete control (as part of that whole autonomy thing that I talked about).

I don’t understand this at all 🙂

Do you really not understand? ///

Well, I don’t understand the diff bt your very eloquent giving and receiving point of view, and why wouldn’t that apply to you with your kids? So you’ll give to a charity so the kids in the charity can go to college or something? But not your own kids?

Continue reading “The Helicopter Parenting Paying For College FINAL SHOWDOWN (or, Part 3)”

Paris Hilton Is Full Of Knowledge and 18-Year-Olds Are Autonomous — The Paying for College Cage Match, Part 2

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Our beloved cousin-bloggers, Penny and Rich, have been bickering over whether or not Rich’s “legacy plan” to pay for his kids’ college is just a form of helicopter parenting.

In Part 1 of this Blogchat Debate CAGE MATCH, they discussed controlling vs. planning, manual labor, learning for the sake of learning, and the value of a degree.

And NOW, Round 2 …

RICH is in blue, and PENNY is in red.  


i liked what you said about how there’s so much to learn in the world, but … that sounds like me! i’m the one that wants them to see the world and experience new cultures and ski in france and eat fresh mackerel in ireland. there’s just so much for them to see and learn.

Well, if all it took to acquire knowledge about the world was to travel and have different experiences, Paris Hilton would be one of the most knowledgeable people out there. Life and learning and education is about more than just that, and I think a person can have that anywhere. But, yes, seeing different parts of the world is part of that as well.

Paris hilton c’mon now.

Hey, she’s travelled all over! Her and the Kardashians must be geniuses by now!

Hmmm. Well Paris did work on a farm one summer with Nicole Richie, right?

It seems you’re having it both ways. You’re saying it’s not all about school and not all about experiences or travel. It’s easy to poke holes in my efforts. I’m saying it’s about school AND experiences AND all that life has to offer. I’m trying to at least expose them to all, and you are seemingly saying it doesn’t matter if we expose them to anything. So what is it about for you?

I can’t really think of much to respond here. What is about for me?

Yes, I’d like to know 🙂

… Hmm… I guess I agree with you? ///

My approach is I want them to see everything, and sometimes I think maybe you are projecting the fact that you do not feel the need to see everything that your kids will also not be “attracted” to lots of stuff or experiences or whatever, but maybe they will.

I’m okay with that. I used to love to travel, just don’t feel like it so much anymore. I’d be happy to see my kids travel, they can if they want. I dunno. I’m mucking up this question.

/// Ok. Nah you’re not, you’re figuring it out. It all goes back to options for me. I want them to have options.

Okay, I think the thought I was trying to express with this statement was that there is so much to learn in the world, right?

You took that in terms of having worldly experiences. I guess what I meant, in terms of All That There Is To Learn In The World, was more in line with things like: how to till a garden, how to sit with a dying person, how to harvest honey from bees, how to tell time by looking at the position of the sun, how to soothe a crying baby, how to cook a really good souffle, how to photograph a birth. Things that aren’t taught in schools that a person might be inclined to learn, if only their life wasn’t so busy with learning that slice of the pie that they are supposed to learn for school.

well i learned to till a garden and still went to college. this doesn’t need to be either/or. it does seem you have a real distaste for the system of college. where does that come from?

Continue reading “Paris Hilton Is Full Of Knowledge and 18-Year-Olds Are Autonomous — The Paying for College Cage Match, Part 2”

College Savings Vs. Helicopter Parenting — An Awkward Blogchat Debate Cage Match!

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Penny and Rich, our beloved cousin-bloggers, do not see eye to eye on whether or not parents should pay for their kids’ college. In Rich’s Plan To Build A Generational Family Legacy. Uh, Yeah, In 3 Easy Steps!, he asserted that higher education is the key to a family’s long term stability, and it creates a positive feedback loop for the future. 

Rich noted, as a bonus, that people with a high education level tend to marry other people with a high education level, they tend to have friends with high education levels, and they have kids who are more likely to attain high education levels. It’s a positive generational feedback loop.

Penny, on the other hand, Thinks Paying For Your Kid’s College Is Helicopter Parenting.  She opined that paying for a kid’s college education is one of the biggest forms of helicopter parenting out there, and Rich’s plan seemed a bit (how did she say this in a nice way?) … controlling.

She noted the importance of children developing autonomy, and thought paying for their own education encourages children to take responsibility for their own lives. If parents are funding their education, they are taking all of that away from them.

Considering this wide divergence in views, our venerable blogger-cousins decided to hash this out in a virtual cage match, otherwise known as a blogchat debate. What you see below is their chat, possibly with poor grammar, improper capitalization, and strange slashes /// (which they used to keep track of thoughts for some reason).

Readers, think of yourselves as flies on the wall during an awkward family dinner, and feel free to chime in with comments. Now, into the cousin cage!

RICH is in blue, and PENNY is in red.  

Hi Penny! I’m here in blue ready and waiting. Just finished putting the kids to bed. They like a good espresso and a cigarette before turning in. They’re autonomous that way.

How are you?

I’m here! Yeah, this is weird.

Hi! Well isn’t this funny? So maybe the biggest difference off the bat is the idea of control vs. planning. Is this semantics or a real difference?


I don’t see my family legacy plan (in 3 easy steps!) as controlling as much as planning. I can’t control what they will do or what they will think, but i want to plan so they can do whatever they want to do up to their potential. This is about options.

Yes, you’re “planning”, but YOU’RE the one planning their lives, not them. That’s the part I have trouble with. And your “plan” seems a little bit too controlling for my tastes… down to the making sure that they attend college, to wanting to influence the type of person that they’ll marry.

Well according to child labor laws, they can’t work and save for college on their own just yet. They are 5. Hardy har.

I never said they could not choose their college or their course of study. If they have an incredible plan at age 18 for starting a business without going to college, I would strongly advise that a business degree would help. Because it would. 


Here’s an analogy. It’s like buying a car so your kid can get to school. You are not telling them what to do when they arrive, you are simply providing the means of travel. Sure, you could tell them to walk, but in practical terms that just doesn’t work, because walking 30 miles each day is cost prohibitive and limits their options. In practical terms, you’re holding them back.

As far as the type of person they’ll marry, if you mean marrying an educated person … uh, yeah, that would be nice. But I don’t see how this is any different from taking a kid to church or encouraging them to read books. 

And, I truly don’t understand how you equate “plan” with “control”. The opposite of a plan is not autonomy, the opposite of a plan is to be unprepared.

Okay, this is a long one. Where do I start?

Start at birth. ///


You said, “I never said they could not choose their course of study”… How would you feel about them wanting to go to a trade school or do manual labor? Become an electrician or carpenter or something? Would you steer them away from that? ///

It would be a challenge for them to convince me it was a good idea, but if it’s their idea and their passion, I’ll help them get on that path. But like, to me some of this is about health and well being. Manual labor takes a physical toll — I know, I grew up working on a farm. Other jobs can be worse. If my kids really wants to smoke cigarettes, I’m not going to just say hey it’s your life. ///

Continue reading “College Savings Vs. Helicopter Parenting — An Awkward Blogchat Debate Cage Match!”