PP ....Where Did It Go

General Discussion on the Permanent Portfolio Strategy

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Re: PP ....Where Did It Go

Post by Pointedstick » Fri Apr 10, 2015 4:37 pm

ochotona wrote:
Pointedstick wrote: "Room and board" is just housing and food costs, right? Wouldn't a non-student still have those expenses? Don't we all have those costs? I don't see why they're relevant to education. And you can live-off-campus to lower these costs to pretty low levels, too. Outside of somewhere like NYC, room and board off-campus would be cheap, right? To keep going with the UNM example, a student could (and can) easily rent a room around here for like $300/mo, and eat for $200/mo easy, likely less. $500/mo for room and board comes to another $6,000/yr, which said student would have to pay anyway even if they weren't a student and can easily afford with a part-time job. What am I missing?
You're kidding, right?  ::)

Well... as parents, we don't generally rent out our children's rooms when they go to college. So the incremental cost to us to house them through college is close to zero, as their childhood rooms are vacant anyway. They do use extra power and water, but how does one even measure that? I'm not going to meter their room.

The differences in the costs per meal for food that we cook at home as a family as compared to university food service meals are large. Last time I checked they don't want students cooking in dorm rooms on hot plates (fire safety). We spend $200 per person per month on food here at home. It would be more to eat at college.

No, you cannot just "assume that everyone has to eat and live somewhere, so you can ignore the cost of university room and board". Wow. I can't even wrap my head around how someone would arrive at that idea. It's almost as bad as "ketchup is a vegetable".

Do you have children, sir?
Hmm, I think there's been a miscommunication. I do have a child, and I graduated college a few years ago, so my experience there is both fresh in my mind and something I think about for the future a lot. My point was more or less that I think it's acceptable to make your children pay for their own housing and food once they're out of the house--including those who are attending school. That's what I did while I was in college. I got jobs and paid for those things myself. In fact, the high cost of on-campus housing and food was a big driver for my move off-campus. If someone else had been paying for those costs, I doubt I would have cared. The "room and board" racket where students pay far above-market prices for largely sub-standard housing and food is simply yet another example of the scammy behavior of modern colleges.
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Re: PP ....Where Did It Go

Post by ochotona » Fri Apr 10, 2015 4:44 pm

Pointedstick wrote: Hmm, I think there's been a miscommunication. I do have a child, and I graduated college a few years ago, so my experience there is both fresh in my mind and something I think about for the future a lot. My point was more or less that I think it's acceptable to make your children pay for their own housing and food once they're out of the house--including those who are attending school. That's what I did while I was in college. I got jobs and paid for those things myself. In fact, the high cost of on-campus housing and food was a big driver for my move off-campus. If someone else had been paying for those costs, I doubt I would have cared. The "room and board" racket where students pay far above-market prices for largely sub-standard housing and food is simply yet another example of the scammy behavior of modern colleges.
Understood. Different economics when you can remove the kids partially from your books.
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Re: PP ....Where Did It Go

Post by pugchief » Fri Apr 10, 2015 4:49 pm

Desert wrote:
pugchief wrote:
Desert wrote: Same year, BSME, then hung around for an MSME.  Go Illini.
"And take the Cubs and Bears with you."
UIUC Class of '80 BS Biology here.
;D

Illinois is a sad state for sports these days.  What happened to the '85 Bearsss, the Jordan Bulls and the Mackovic/Lou Illini!?!  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  I'm thinking it's all Obama's fault. 

Pugchief, at least most of your classes were on the side of Green St where all the girls were.  Cortopassi and I were over there sweltering in the TAM building with a bunch of dudes.  :)
It surely is Obama's fault. And I lived in Bromley Hall for 2 years, which was air conditioned!  8)
Your timing was just off. The engineering campus is now the nice part of town. Not sure if the girl situation has improved up there though.
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Re: PP ....Where Did It Go

Post by sophie » Fri Apr 10, 2015 10:06 pm

ochotona wrote: Yes, if you put assets in the student's name, the FAFSA computation will grab most of it. So don't put it in the student's name. The 529 should be in the parent's name FBO the student ("For Benefit Of"). No Custodial accounts. I'm not sure about Education IRAs (Coverdells), have a small one, after the 529 came out I didn't see the point of the Coverdell any longer.
Even better:  I opened a 529 account for my brother's two kids, instead of buying the usual toys and onesies.  It's possible that parental 529s will one day be considered as fair game, but aunts could still be safe!
Pointedstick wrote: What you're buying for the more expensive schools is the reputation of "very good or excellent" which only matters in the private sector inasmuch as some schools have a direct-to-industry pipeline (e.g. attend RIT, MIT, Caltech, GT, VT, or UIUC if you want to be recruited by a silicon valley tech company). But after that, nobody really cares; it's your real-world experience that matters. Now, in academia, all this stuff is hugely crucial, but you don't want to go there anyway because it's a giant dysfunctional mess. It also matters in upper-class social circles, but like I've said, that's just social signaling. Ignore it.
(bolded emphasis mine)

PS I can understand your sentiments here, but - before anyone dismisses a career in academia, let me just say from first hand experience that while it is indeed hard work and not terribly well paid, it is a tremendously satisfying career path for someone with all the right characteristics.  For me, it was the only career path that really made sense...I could have done lots of other things, but I think I always would have had the sense that something was missing.  And unfortunately you're right, choice of school is very important - but much more so for graduate school than undergraduate.  There's always a benefit to having a name like Harvard on your CV, but you can still do quite well with an undergraduate degree from a good state college.
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Re: PP ....Where Did It Go

Post by Pointedstick » Fri Apr 10, 2015 11:11 pm

Believe me, Sophie, I've seen the benefits too. I grew up in the world of tenured full professors. They get four months of paid vacation every year, have very flexible schedules, great pay, gold-plated benefits and retirement packages, and are actually paid and expected to work on commercially dead-end side projects (aka publishing), not to mention other schools will occasionally pay to have them flown around the world to give one-hour talks and panels to a handful of people. They can apply for and receive grants to do all kinds of fun side projects that basically amount to money thrown away or spent on themselves and their family members with a thin academic veneer. Think free plane tickets to a conference in an exotic location that turns into a family vacation.

Sound great? Well it sure is, for people who are now 60. Are you younger than that? The farther you are from 60, the less chance you have of entering that life, because if it looks too good to be true, it probably is, and everybody already decided this life looked awesome and crowded aboard, and for you now, it'll look a lot more like no chance of tenure, no chance of making full professor, no pension, teaching 6 classes a year at $5k each, and no political power in the vicious game of inter-departmental politics. For the love of god don't try to become a professor of creative writing. Creative writing professors are all insane. Put a bunch of them in a faculty meeting and they'll practically kill each other over pointless nonsense and then hold a grudge for 20 years. I have seen it happen.

In fairness, all of this is a less true for the sciences I think. The sciences are are harder to get into, so there aren't as many liberal arts washouts who have selected teaching in one of them as their backup plan, and scientific research may actually be useful to somebody. These things make the people who are in these fields more normal, so the departmental politics aren't as bad. The choice of school also isn't as important to professors in the sciences because instead of you having to use academic pedigree as a substitute, they can be measured by their actual achievements and value provided to society due to the possibility of their work being commercializable and their ability to partner with people outside of academia to turn their work into something useful--in addition to the fact that their work just plan sounds cooler ("Fire Response and Mechanical Behavior of Polysialate Syntactic Foams" vs "Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Empire and Identity"--which one sounds cooler?). And the pay is better, too.
Last edited by Pointedstick on Fri Apr 10, 2015 11:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: PP ....Where Did It Go

Post by Desert » Sat Apr 11, 2015 7:08 am

That was a great, interesting post! 

I just about spit out my coffee laughing at this line though: 
"For the love of god don't try to become a professor of creative writing. Creative writing professors are all insane. Put a bunch of them in a faculty meeting and they'll practically kill each other over pointless nonsense and then hold a grudge for 20 years."

I can just picture that. 
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Re: PP ....Where Did It Go

Post by dualstow » Sat Apr 11, 2015 10:25 am

Oh, c'mon! One of my good friends is a creating writing prof and he is one of the most grounded people on the planet. Well, maybe he's an anomaly.  ;)
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Re: PP ....Where Did It Go

Post by sophie » Sat Apr 11, 2015 10:43 am

I wonder if you've seen the same side that I have.  Yes I am in the sciences which is more challenging, but has less of the issues you're pointing out.  Comments and clarifications below....ok really long post but I just want to make sure that no one is dissuading their kids or neighbors from this particular career path, without knowing what it really involves.
Pointedstick wrote: I grew up in the world of tenured full professors. They get four months of paid vacation every year, have very flexible schedules, great pay, gold-plated benefits and retirement packages, and are actually paid and expected to work on commercially dead-end side projects (aka publishing), not to mention other schools will occasionally pay to have them flown around the world to give one-hour talks and panels to a handful of people. They can apply for and receive grants to do all kinds of fun side projects that basically amount to money thrown away or spent on themselves and their family members with a thin academic veneer. Think free plane tickets to a conference in an exotic location that turns into a family vacation.
Paid vacation:  5 weeks, but no one ever takes that much.  I haven't had any real vacation in years, combination of being too busy and having the parental care situation.  However - see below comment about conferences.

Flexible schedules:  YES.  I'm my own boss.  I can work from home when it suits me.  Truly wonderful.

Great pay & benefits:  Huh???  Not sure where you got that idea, but academia is famous for low pay.  You only do this when you wouldn't be happy anywhere else.

Commercially dead-end side projects:  Do you mean writing papers & book chapters?  That all comes with the territory.  The activities are not directly paid but they are not dead-end, they pay off in very important ways, i.e. grants & industry consulting positions.

Grants for "fun side projects amounting to money thrown away":  That's quite a statement!  Do you really believe that all federal scientific funding is money thrown away, or that all federally funded research amounts to "fun side projects"?  Undoubtedly you can find examples of poorly conceived projects, but there's an awful lot of good work being done that really couldn't be funded any other way.  In any case, grants are the bread and butter of academic research.  It's how you stay employed.  If you don't get grants, you get asked to either leave or find some other way to pay your salary.  This is a serious amount of pressure that is one of the downsides of this career, in that it can keep you awake at night wondering if your job is sustainable.  It's a big reason why I got interested in becoming financially independent.

Conferences in exotic locations, being paid to fly around the world:  This is absolutely a perk of the job, although there are limits to "exotic".  I give several invited talks each year, most in the US but on average 1-2x/year in Europe, and have to turn some down.  Conferences provide you with "mini-vacations" and also intellectual stimulation, exchange of ideas, reunions, meeting people etc.
Pointedstick wrote: Sound great? Well it sure is, for people who are now 60. Are you younger than that? The farther you are from 60, the less chance you have of entering that life... it'll look a lot more like no chance of tenure, no chance of making full professor, no pension, teaching 6 classes a year at $5k each, and no political power in the vicious game of inter-departmental politics.
Job security:  Yes, younger than 60.  I am going up for tenure next year with very enthusiastic backing from my dept chair.  Job security is definitely a function of your accomplishments primarily, which is turn is a function of your own hard work, intelligence and creativity - which sounds reasonable to me!  Yes teaching is a lot of work but I would never want to give that up.  I often hear back from residents and fellows who have graduated and moved on, with questions on things like scientific issues, clinical management, and career advice.  6 courses a year sounds nasty though...I do clinical teaching rather than courses but I think standard course load here is only 2-3/year.

Academic politics:  There are always people who have nothing better to do than engage in vicious little power games.  Is any job truly safe from this?  I've noticed that there is an inverse relationship of this behavior with productivity, so one way to minimize it is to make sure you're in a place with lots of highly accomplished people - which means, a very high quality institution where the jobs are competitive, and where you have to work hard to establish yourself.  Ignore the game-players except to be extra nice to them when you do have to interact - a very effective technique I learned years ago from a friend.  Otherwise focus on your own work, and spend your time with colleagues who are successful, intelligent, and fun to work with.

PS hope this answered your questions!  It sounds like your parents were in a suboptimal location and not in a science/engineering discipline.  I can see why you might have come away with a negative impression.  I hope the above helps give you another perspective.  Further questions cheerfully answered by PM.
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Re: PP ....Where Did It Go

Post by Pointedstick » Sat Apr 11, 2015 1:04 pm

sophie wrote: I wonder if you've seen the same side that I have.  Yes I am in the sciences which is more challenging, but has less of the issues you're pointing out.  Comments and clarifications below....ok really long post but I just want to make sure that no one is dissuading their kids or neighbors from this particular career path, without knowing what it really involves.

Paid vacation:  5 weeks, but no one ever takes that much.  I haven't had any real vacation in years, combination of being too busy and having the parental care situation.  However - see below comment about conferences.
Oh I wasn't even including paid vacation days; I was just talking about the combination of summer vacation, winter break, and spring break. Yes, I know in theory those aren't technically vacations for the professors, since they're preparing for next year's classes, attending committees, etc, but these are low-intensity activities, and once you've got tenure, you can more or less blow them off with no consequences!

sophie wrote: Great pay & benefits:  Huh???  Not sure where you got that idea, but academia is famous for low pay.  You only do this when you wouldn't be happy anywhere else.
You must not be 60. :) Apparently the median college professor salary is $86k (citation) and the mean is $117k (citation)

Tenured full professors make a lot of money. You don't have tenure yet; wait and see. If medicine and the sciences are anything like the humanities, your salary will rise dramatically in the first few years after you get tenure.

I expect these figures to drop over the coming decades, though. Professor salaries and benefits constitute a crazy bubble that is contributing to bankrupting public university systems all over the country, which is why administrators are clamping down on tenure-track positions and hiring more adjuncts.

sophie wrote: Commercially dead-end side projects:  Do you mean writing papers & book chapters?  That all comes with the territory.  The activities are not directly paid but they are not dead-end, they pay off in very important ways, i.e. grants & industry consulting positions.

Grants for "fun side projects amounting to money thrown away":  That's quite a statement!  Do you really believe that all federal scientific funding is money thrown away, or that all federally funded research amounts to "fun side projects"?  Undoubtedly you can find examples of poorly conceived projects, but there's an awful lot of good work being done that really couldn't be funded any other way.  In any case, grants are the bread and butter of academic research.  It's how you stay employed.  If you don't get grants, you get asked to either leave or find some other way to pay your salary.  This is a serious amount of pressure that is one of the downsides of this career, in that it can keep you awake at night wondering if your job is sustainable.  It's a big reason why I got interested in becoming financially independent.
I must stress that I have the most experience with the humanities, not the sciences or medicine. I firmly believe that scientific and medical research have the potential to be orders of magnitude more useful than any of the tripe that humanities professors publish. It can be used to create new materials, new products, new medical procedures, etc. It makes humanity aware of interesting technical things that were not known before, and it is this knowledge that I believe is most directly responsible for the advancement of humanity from barbarism to civilization.

A lot of this research is personally fulfilling to the researchers, and as you point out, there's a lot of pressure to supplement your salary with phony research money, which leads to a lot of marginal projects that serve as the veneer for a windfall, especially in the humanities. On that side, an enormous amount of the publications consist of "critical analysis" that is either completely obvious or completely pointless, research on a topic that is of no use to anyone, or advocacy for the author's far-left political agenda. The results are reams of pages that nobody will ever read except for the poor saps that the author gets to peer-review them or write generic blurbs for them.

IMHO there is a huge disconnect between the output and the value to society in the humanities: dissertations that nobody reads, papers published in journals nobody reads, books published that nobody reads--all of this stuff is created for the single selfish purpose of advancing one's career, not expanding the boundaries of humanity's collective store of useful knowledge. Once written, this stuff is ignored forever because it is un-useful, un-commercializable, uninteresting to anyone except the writer and their half-dozen academic peers; it's pure make-work. It could cease with no real negative impact to anybody but the people whose careers have been built on churning it out. It's a giant circle jerk where people write useless nonsense in order to impress other people with political power over their careers who pretend to care because they themselves only write useless nonsense and know they must go through the same process. It is insular, self-serving, and it hurts the country for so many resources and so much time to be wasted on the academic equivalent of digging ditches and filling them back in again.

sophie wrote: Job security:  Yes, younger than 60.  I am going up for tenure next year with very enthusiastic backing from my dept chair.
Good for you for your tenure prospects! Believe me, the world of academia changes dramatically once you have tenure. You start to realize that you really don't have to do anything you don't want to do. Some people let this get to their heads and they become horrible ogres. I've personally seen it happen on multiple occasions. I don't imagine this will be you, but academia looks very different from the different sides of the "tenure" line.

sophie wrote: Job security is definitely a function of your accomplishments primarily, which is turn is a function of your own hard work, intelligence and creativity - which sounds reasonable to me!  Yes teaching is a lot of work but I would never want to give that up.  I often hear back from residents and fellows who have graduated and moved on, with questions on things like scientific issues, clinical management, and career advice.  6 courses a year sounds nasty though...I do clinical teaching rather than courses but I think standard course load here is only 2-3/year.

Academic politics:  There are always people who have nothing better to do than engage in vicious little power games.  Is any job truly safe from this?  I've noticed that there is an inverse relationship of this behavior with productivity, so one way to minimize it is to make sure you're in a place with lots of highly accomplished people - which means, a very high quality institution where the jobs are competitive, and where you have to work hard to establish yourself.  Ignore the game-players except to be extra nice to them when you do have to interact - a very effective technique I learned years ago from a friend.  Otherwise focus on your own work, and spend your time with colleagues who are successful, intelligent, and fun to work with.
In my experience--which seems to be largely mirrored by your own--institutional politics are most attractive to those who produce the least amount of value. This is why there's less politics in the sciences (and medicine apparently)--these fields produce value for society! Your academic credentials get to sit alongside all the cool things you've published, your students who have gone on to change the world, all your collaborations with NASA and Pfizer and 3M that led to cool new products, etc.

In the humanities, very little value gets produced. On average, you publish things that nobody reads or cares about. You teach students who go on to become starving artists, broke unemployed washouts, neurotic far left political agitators, and occasionally bitter humanities professors themselves. Your work is not used to do anything interesting, create anything interesting, or really advance humanity in any meaningful manner. It gets lost among the scads of people doing the exact same thing, desperate for a little money by writing pointless gobbledygook to appease the masters of the perverse system they find themselves in.

The less value is being produced, the more people engage in politics to paper over it and look important and busy.

In conclusion, if you want to go into academia, don't enter the humanities! Go hang out with Sophie and save people's lives, or invent some cool new ways for people to do things they couldn't do before. Just don't make a career out of writing things like this:
Wendy Brown, PhD PoliSci, UC Berkley wrote: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s8306.html

These aims require an appreciation of tolerance as not only protean in meaning but also historically and politically discursive in character. They require surrendering an understanding of tolerance as a transcendent or universal concept, principle, doctrine, or virtue so that it can be considered instead as a political discourse and practice of governmentality that is historically and geographically variable in purpose, content, agents, and objects. As a consortium of para-legal and para-statist practices in modern constitutional liberalism—practices that are associated with the liberal state and liberal legalism but are not precisely codified by it—tolerance is exemplary of Foucault’s account of governmentality as that which organizes “the conduct of conduct”? at a variety of sites and through rationalities not limited to those formally countenanced as political. Absent the precise dictates, articulations, and prohibitions associated with the force of law, tolerance nevertheless produces and positions subjects, orchestrates meanings and practices of identity, marks bodies, and conditions political subjectivities.
This is probably negative value since I'm sure more than one student has been driven to suicide after being forced to read a whole book of this toxic waste (she has written seven of them). Here, have some more of her!

[img width=550]https://i.imgur.com/n7Pcj5i.jpg[/img]

This is the kind of stuff you encounter on a daily basis in the humanities.
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Re: PP ....Where Did It Go

Post by dualstow » Sat Apr 11, 2015 1:07 pm

For what it's worth, my prof friend and his wife are both tenured and are making ~ $95,000/yr each. We haven't talked about it since Obamacare but they've had health coverage that made me green with envy. (And my coverage is so bare-bones that I decided to just leave my skin green).

They're at a Community College.

My guess is where PS and Sophie diverge is research vs classroom teacher.
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Re: PP ....Where Did It Go

Post by Desert » Sat Apr 11, 2015 1:26 pm

Wow, $95K salary at a community college??  That sounds really high. 
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Re: PP ....Where Did It Go

Post by dualstow » Sat Apr 11, 2015 2:35 pm

Desert wrote: Wow, $95K salary at a community college??  That sounds really high.
I thought so, too. It took them a long, long time to get up there, of course. I also learned from them that there are people who didn't work there for nearly as long who have massive pensions. Different rules back then.
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