Drink cheap beer, at home

I love that Harold and others are addressing the gulf between people who understand money management and the rest of us. A lot has been written about why people don’t do smart things to save for retirement, but I haven’t seen anyone point out the following: all discussions of money management come with two features (a) words we don’t understand and (b) warnings about “experts” who will cheat the unsuspecting in the name of advice.  That’s a nice recipe for inaction. Can we do better?

I heard about a little seminar at which a math education expert (who also had financial planning experience) was supposed to be showing young teachers some tricks about teaching certain math concepts. The expert used compound interest and retirement accounts as the example for the lesson. The young teachers in the audience were properly attentive, but when it came time for questions, they blew right over the teaching part and asked about this retirement thing. Would small contributions really grow that much? What should they be doing? Most of them were making less than $40K per year, renting in the pricey Boston area and paying student loans. After assuring them that she wasn’t kidding about compound interest and how much their money would grow, she asked generally about what they spent on entertainment. Not surprisingly, most of them regularly socialized in bars with their friends and thought they were economizing by choosing places with happy hour pricing and free bar food. And so she delivered the advice that is in the title: contribute what you can to your public employee retirement account, and talk your friends into a rotating schedule of hosting evening get-togethers.  Drink cheap beer, at home. Now that is advice that I could have used 20 years ago.

Author: Lowry Heussler

Lowry Heussler is a lawyer from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Having participated in the RBC as a guest-blogger, she made it official in 2012. Her most important contribution to the field of public policy to date was her 1994 instruction to Mark Kleiman, "Read Ann Landers every day. You need to learn about real people." Her essay on the 2009 arrest of Henry Louis Gates went viral and brought about one of her proudest moments, being described as "just another twit along the lines of Sharpton, Jackson, Gates, etc." (Small Dead Animals Blog). Currently serving as General Counsel to BOTEC Analysis Corp., she has been a public housing lawyer, a prosecutor for the Board of Registration in Medicine, a large-firm associate and a small-firm partner. She serves as a board member for NEADS, Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans, a charity that trains service dogs to increase independence for people with disabilities.

12 thoughts on “Drink cheap beer, at home”

  1. But then what happens to my dream, of drunkenly stumbling across my future wife at a bar, without any serious effort or lifestyle changes on my part?

  2. Unless they are single. In which case, I still agree with you that the bar scene is useless… but they need to be counseled about the many other more enjoyable and (possibly) cheaper activities at which they might find love. Bowling leagues, softball, volunteering. I am completely with you on the beauty of the neglected potluck, but meeting new people is important too. Young or old.

  3. The same goes for coffee. Make it at home, carry a Thermos(r) bottle to work. Skip Starbucks altogether.

  4. How would you have met your partner if you had known of this advice 20 years ago? That may be feature, maybe bug, but nevertheless…

    Even more to the point, 1 night stands (hooking up for the youngsters) would become more awkward if they were drawn entirely from one's social circle. As a place where the costs of late-night beer goggles are smaller, bars fulfill an important social, even economic (see "costs") function.

  5. One of the best social activities I've done was the weekly mostly-potluck that we had for about 3 years before moving.

    We started by inviting our friends–as diverse a group as we could manage; after a few times, once group dynamics settled down, we told people who came to bring their friends. People who fit poorly tended only to come a few times, but we made many friends, and people made friends.

    Pasta and sauce for a dozen people costs less than a burger and a beer in most bars.

    1. What a great thing. Weekly is great if one can manage it. Social occasions – the idea of them – can be stressful if they are formal or you have to be on time. Whereas your setup sounds ideal. It is every week so you don't have to harass the hosts, and no one minds if you're a little late. Monthly might work too but might take longer to get people in the habit. (Some habits are good!) I'm going to think about maybe trying something like this.

  6. My advice would be drink fancy cocktails at home, with a few friends. A beer costs $2 more in a bar than at home; a nice Negroni costs $8 more.

  7. Drink cheap wine at home. Unlike the cheap firewater you can buy at your local drugstore or the filtered water (i.e., cheap beer) at the gas station, cheap wine is cheap only in cost, not in flavor, method, or ingredient.

    Or embrace the season and drink cider.

  8. This was an actual article in Good Housekeeping read more – written to give the house wife (a woman who works in her home…and as far as I'm concerned…that's some hard azz work) some "tips" on being a good wife and keeping a happy home. WOW! I got to thinkin…(I know, it's dangerous)…what if you have a house husband (a man who works in his home…like I do) HMMMMMM…..

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