John D. Spooner is an investment adviser, author and novelist. His most recent book is No One Ever Told Us That: Money and Life Lessons for Young Adults. Here, he responds to queries from advice seekers of all ages. Send your conundrums to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My new boyfriend tips 15 percent when we go out to dinner. I can’t stand it. I hate cheap people. I wonder if this is going to be a pattern in life, and if so, is it a dealbreaker? I have mentioned a few times how it’s typical to tip 20 percent, but he doesn’t take the hint. We’ve been dating for a few months, and I think I might be overstepping by trying to get him to change his ways. Well, you’re right. I was a busboy on Cape Cod during my summer after junior year in college. I was paid $35 dollars a week plus 15 percent of the waitresses’ tips. I lived in the back of the restaurant with the two other busboys and the dishwashers who were college students. Cape Cod was jammed with kids, many working these restaurant or construction jobs. We’d go to various joints after closing and party. I learned that summer how tough restaurant jobs can be and how badly customers can act—and how cheap they are. After that summer, I promised myself that if I could afford to eat out in restaurants, I would never be cheap. Remember this: If you’re dating someone and they have a habit that you find annoying, think hard about it. The habit almost never improves or goes away if you marry that person. It gets worse. Never stiff people who take care of you. You’ll eventually pay the price.
I was given a book for my birthday. I finished it and gave it to a friend to read. Should I expect to get it back, or do you think he will just keep it? What is the proper way to handle this? I’m wondering since someone else is giving me a book to read, too. I never have this problem with my Kindle. No one ever returns books, so you should just give up. If it is an autographed copy or one of your favorites from childhood, ask for it back. If it’s not a precious possession, just let it go and forget it. It’s easy to be a pack rat and accumulate stuff. But it will feel really good to pare down and simplify. Less can really be more. I have thousands of books in my house. I recognize the sickness, but I admit that I’m addicted. When I lend a book and it’s never returned, it makes me happy.
But as an author, remember that most people in the creative arts starve and have to work second jobs, like teaching, to have steady paychecks and health care. If you have a friend who writes books, buy it, don’t borrow it.
I’ve just inherited $22,000. What should I do with it? I am single, without kids and work full-time. I do have a car loan ($8,000), student loan (don’t ask) and am trying to save for a trip with my friends. Should I invest it, pay bills or just save it? Your problem sounds like “real America” today, having debt from an early age and wanting to live the “good life” at the same time. Based on your lifestyle, my guess is that you’re going to spend your recent inheritance. So be practical. Put $5,000 toward your student loan, because it will feel good. Move $1,000 against your car loan. Reserve $2,000 for your holiday. Invest $5,000 for long-term growth: Either in two companies you believe can grow exponentially over the next five years or into two exchange-traded funds that you feel will really grow over a long period such as biotech or health care. Promise yourself that you will leave these investments intact and they will be part of your long-term strategy toward retirement. Keep the remaining funds for emergencies in a CD or Treasury bond. Inheritance money should be appreciated. Make a plan and don’t simply “pig out.”
I live in a small condo. There are 20 apartments in the association, and several neighbors are always complaining about something: loud music, crying babies, assessments and concierges. And they’re always sending email blasts about their issues. These go to all of the residents. These emails are just like President Trump’s tweets; they come out of the blue and are incredibly upsetting to the harmony of the building. I hope we don’t have to resort to legal wrangling in which we have to hire lawyers, as I’m worried about these neighbors hurting our property values. Well, the bad news is that one percent of almost every association—a condo, co-op or community—is a pain in the butt. Most people don’t like confrontation and they tend to cave into bullies. “Shaming” has become a big word in the lexicon of today: body-shaming, gender-shaming, you-name-it shaming. There’s always rancor in any building. So I would tend to take it up a notch. You and your friends in the building should calmly tell the complainers that the majority of the owners do not appreciate the constant rants, and that they are really poisoning the pleasure of the word “home.”
In my opinion, peer pressure, if it’s brought to bear, will either calm the complainers down or it will nudge them into selling. Your revenge will be in seeing that their attitude has gotten them a lower price than they would have liked. A friend of mine recently had a situation similar to this one with a neighbor who seemed to have a monthly tirade about small issues. My friend’s son had solution for his father: “You want me to bring a horse’s head down to place on the dissenting member’s pillow? Just like in The Godfather?” That might be a little harsh. But don’t let bad behavior get a pass. ◆