Round-up: Math and Motherlode

Last summer, I mentioned Sal Khan and the Khan Academy a few times on this blog. The feature piece I wrote on that topic, “The Math of Khan,” is finally up at City Journal’s website. I’m fascinated by the promise of blended learning, and how it easily matches the curriculum to the child, turning teachers into tutors equipped with real-time data. Khan is just one of several players in this space, and I may be looking more deeply into this topic in the future, so I welcome any thoughts about it.

Those of you who’ve reached Chapter 6 of All the Money in the World, “The Marginal Cost of Kids,” know it’s based in part on a Motherlode post over at the New York Times last year. As a mother of two, pondering a third (actually, already pregnant with the third, but that’s a different story), I asked readers if the third kid was cheaper. Now, a year later, I have a guest post up this week called “Zone Defense: From two children to three.” In it, I argue that the psychic marginal costs of each kid go down too. One changes your life completely. By the third, your life is built around the reality of kids — and a third fits in there relatively smoothly. 

A few posts at CBS MoneyWatch, as usual:

When being frugal can backfire.” I list 10 areas where frugal advice is either silly or shortsighted. A favorite topic of mine! Rather than going from store to store or gas station to gas station, choose one to visit that usually has good prices. You may occasionally lose a few cents but you’ll save a ton of time. I also laugh about the tips to buy bottled water in bulk or make your own seltzer water. If your tastes in water are that refined, I don’t think you’re that into frugality anyway. Get one bottle and refill it from the tap!

Don’t put off free time.” A much shorter version of my post on the Real Simple free time survey.

Keep employees around without paying them more.” A fascinating new survey from Accenture finds that women executives will stay in jobs they’re dissatisfied with largely because they have flexible work arrangements. I spun this as an incredibly easy retention tool for companies. You don’t have to pay people more or give them interesting work! You just have to let them work from home two days per week! But on another level, I think it’s kind of depressing. Perhaps another topic to probe deeper.

Other media mentions and reviews:

The New York Journal of Books gives a nice (and lengthy!) review of ATM.

Lifehacker picks up my WSJ column (“Are you as busy as you think?“) in a post called “Instead of Saying ‘I Don’t Have Time’ Say ‘It’s Not A Priority.'”

The Grindstone interviews me on many topics, but focuses on my take on part-time work, probably because it makes for a grabbier headline. Long time readers of this blog know that part-time work is a subject I’ve covered a few times. Some people have great arrangements (see Anandi’s comments from the ATM book club week 2 thread) but looking at various numbers from census data and the American Time Use Survey, I tend to think the financial cost is pretty high per hour of family time actually gained. I’m also in agreement with Mrs. Moneypenny (the FT columnist) that you may be better off not making formal arrangements (which companies often blow through) and just sneaking off whatever time you need. In general, companies won’t fire you if you’re performing well. They might. But they might anyway.

The Thankfulness Project is thankful for me and my books! Mel re-reads 168 Hours once a year, which I think sounds like an excellent way to spend one’s time.

Freelancedom covers ATM, writing about how you should “Change your definition of success.”

Perrin Drumm looks at “How the Happiest People In The World Spend Their Money.”

I was also on the WSJ radio network earlier this week, and spent Wednesday afternoon with a camera crew from Yahoo. I’ll post that video as soon as it goes up!



5 thoughts on “Round-up: Math and Motherlode

  1. First, thanks for the shout out! I am lucky that in my field, part-time work is financially viable, even when figuring in childcare and other “costs” for me to work (not to mention that I just like it.)

    I just finished reading 168 Hours and while I see your POV on working part-time, I think maybe you overlook the motivations/expectation of a lot of us who choose this path.

    I definitely agree that it’s a hit to the career – my promotion path is sloooow, if not stalled entirely, until I get back to full-time work. But honestly, right now, I don’t care. I am doing work I enjoy that’s valuable to my team/company, financially good for my family, and I’m staying current in my field.

    And I get to spend whole days with my daughter – that relaxed pace is very different from what we’d have if I worked full time (my field/company is very much an “on all the time” culture, so part-time really ratchets down that expectation).

    I wrote a post here about how I negotiated the part-time gig, and also what I do to make it work for everyone:

  2. reading ATM and the chapter on marginal cost of kids.. one idea I don’t agree with is that the childcare costs are lower or marginally lower with 3 versus 2 .. it seems our assumption for this is that a nanny is cheaper than daycare/preschool etc. which is t rue but it can’t be said that a 3 or 4 or pre public school-aged child benefits from a nanny as much as say a school type program in daycare or that nanny type care for a less than one year old would suffice for a four year old.. most folks end up paying daycare 3x for three or daycare/preschool for one and 2 and nanny and/or daycare for #3. I do see how 3 kids would also threaten to put primary parent out of paid workforce and would be curious about stats on this.. like what percentage of moms of 2 kids are sahms versus percentage of moms w 3 who are sahms. I could see how from 3 to 4 and 4 to 5 and the overall argument other than for daycare or childcare is good..

    1. @Cara – I remember seeing a study quoted somewhere that women were more likely to drop out of the workforce with each subsequent child past 1. Partly because of the cost of childcare and partly because of all the extra work.

      In our (expensive) area, infant daycare is $2000/mo for full time and you don’t get much of a price break for multiple kids in the same center – maybe 10% or something, though the cost decreases a bit as they get older.

      A nanny for one is around $20-25/hour, increasing marginally with additional kids. But I would agree with you – I think once your kid is 3.5 or 4, you’d need to pay for some kind of preschool, too even if it’s only part-time.

      1. @ARC- I’ve definitely seen studies, too, where women with three children are less likely to be in the workforce than women with two. But part of this may be self-selecting. I don’t know how you’d ever get around that. Maybe a study of workforce participation by women who had a third kid accidentally.

        1. I’m sure it’s self-selecting, in all cases, right? I mean, one parent is choosing not to work (if they have that luxury).

          I think this is one of those things that’s so individualized on what a family can take with respect to financial loss, time juggling, etc.

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