Color of Money Book Club

Michelle Singletary
Washington Post Columnist
Thursday, August 2, 2007 12:00 PM

Personal finance columnist Michelle Singletary hosted an online discussion with author Stanley Bing, who wrote "Crazy Bosses" (Collins Publishing, $21.95), on Thursday, Aug. 2 at Noon ET.

His book is the Color of Money Book Club selection for July.

In her column from July 8, Michelle says: Bing uses corporate history, his own experience and that of others to put to rest a question you may ask yourself every day as you walk into work: "Am I crazy?" Nope, it's more likely your boss, Bing writes.

A transcript follows.

Read Michelle's past Color of Money columns.


Michelle Singletary: Good day all. I've been looking forward to this dicussion for weeks. Based on my e-mail seems like a lot of folks work for some crazy people.

Anyway, let's get started.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Michelle, A little off topic, but I'm hoping you can help. If I add someone to my mortgage or credit card, will his lack of credit history affect the rate? I'm getting married to someone with no credit history in the U.S. Adding him to my credit card (and of course the mortgage) seems like the easiest way for him to build credit quickly, but I'm worried the rates will skyrocket. Thanks.

Michelle Singletary: Once you get MARRIED (and not a day sooner) you could add your now husband.

To add him to the mortgage you would need to refinance the house. You could add him to the title with no problem but I wouldn't do that unless you are married and you refinance the house so that you both are reponsible for the debt.

You could add him to your credit card as an authorized user but soon that may not help him build credit as it may have in the past. That's because the credit scoring system is changing. The way the system work is when you add an authorized user to your credit card ALL your positve and negative credit history get's transferred to that person's credit file. IF the information is positive that's a good think for the authorized user since it appears he or she has had good credit. That can help boost that person's score.

Because of some shading business by some borrowers that statergy may not work in the future.

Now if you add your husband as a co-signer to the card meaning he would also be responsible in full for any charges, his lack of a score could hurt your rate for that card. It's not certain but could.

Perhaps the best way to tackle this issue is to help your husband get a secured credit card. Go to to find out about this.


Upper Marlboro, Md.: Ohmigosh, my pastor is the beginning, middle and end of the book! We are just waiting for the unfortunate explosion and hoping not to get splattered in the process.

What really horrified me is that I have worked for all of these people, and I am a burgeoning narcissist. Of course, I am wonderful enough to pull it off...

Michelle Singletary: Crazy comes in all colors, age, sex and religious affliations!


Phoenix, Ariz.: I had a nitpicking, nasty boss until I changed agencies. He insisted we wear our beepers on our person...not always easy for a gal. I laid mine down on a desk... it disappeared. He had been in the area... I was sure he took it. Sure enough, when I called my beeper number, I could hear the beeper going off in his office in a desk drawer. He was going to teach me a lesson... all it did was delay my work. It was mean; he was mean.

Stanley Bing: What a loser. I think the next time you are in his office, you should see if you can take HIS beeper and flush it down the toilet. Lacking that capability, you might set off your beeper ten or twelve times while it's in his drawer. At least that will make you look busy. Do it while you're in his office. When you hear it buzzing, you can say to him, "Gee, Earl, do you think I could have my beeper back now?" You should also know that the requirement to WEAR your beeper is in itself insane. Good luck with this guy. He's a twerp.


Buffalo, N.Y.: What if many of us employees seriously suspect our boss is mentally/emotionally handicapped, unable to be a decent leader, but is a principal of an elementary school, and therefore the leader of staff, parents, students? We (teachers) can't oust her without a large majority taking action and, in doing so, risking great harm to our own reputations in the school district, and, therefore, our own futures. How should we handle this person when she makes requests we think are unreasonable or worse?

Stanley Bing: Don't you have a professional organization of some kind there? A Parent/Teacher's Association? I'd like to know how crazy your Principal is, really. Academia of any kind is a hotbed of institutional insanity. Schools at all levels tend to harbor maniac control freaks and people obsessed with order, status and rules.


Washington D.C.: Hi Michelle, I have a question concerning family responsibilities and finance. I am in my early thirties, the youngest of four girls, and am single with no kids. My three sisters a married with children. My elderly parents currently live with me, however every time I try to ask my sisters for help they say they are too busy, something comes up and needless to say I end up footing the bills. Two questions how can I get my sisters to help -- I know that they are preoccupied with their families and what financial options do I have being a caretaker..

Michelle Singletary: Perhaps it might help if you called a family meeting and as nice and loving as you can, ask for their help.

Ask them to bring their calendars to the meeting. Then see if you can get them to agree to help with specific things -- a doctor's apt. etc.

Then ask -- againg as nice and loving as you can -- if they could help in some way financially. For example, if your parents have co-payments for medication see if they can help with that. The point is to be specific and as forceful as you can.

Finally, good for you for helping your parents. There's a special place in heaven for you.


Ashburn, VA: Hello Michelle and Stanley! I read with interest your column on Mr. Bing's book (which I admit I have not yet read, but will!). For most of my adult life (which is not much, since I'm only 27) I have been in one situation or another with a boss that I just don't get along with. Some of them are "crazy," some are just mean. And I haven't been perfect either. I have a short fuse and don't react well to criticism. So whenever I am in a situation I don't like, I leave. So far, I have depleted my six-months expenses, and I haven't been at a job long enough to build it back up. I know this is wrong, but I don't know what to do about it. (It may go without saying, but I am in between jobs right now.)

Please help this lost, misguided 20-something who feels like she's in a sinking ship!

Stanley Bing: There's an old line from The Godfather. "It's not personal, Sonny," says Michael. "It's business." You have to develop the ability to see issues from a distance, and stop moving around so much. Your problem may be your level of expectations. What do you expect in the workplace? You SHOULD expect that you will be managed by a person who is hyperactive at times, depressed at others, angry, moody, needy, cold, whatever. It is your job, more than any other in your working life, to figure out the key to each boss's craziness and figure out a way to live within it, manage it. If you don't, if you are always "in the right," but can never fit in, you'll be just as you are now, aimless, incapable of working within the insane organization that is just about every workplace. Roll up your sleeves, determine to stick it out and for goodness sake, BUY MY BOOK!


Springfield, Va.: I'm sorry this question probably doesn't have anything to do with the book discussion... I have about $10K in credit card debt and I still owe $6K on my car. I have over $5500 in Series I bonds that I am thinking about cashing in and applying towards my car and making the last payment in full. Or do you think it would be better to apply it against my credit card? If I pay off my car that is an extra 350 toward my CC payment that I can make. I've been paying over $350 already a month to get the balance down. But if I could apply $700 to it a month I could pay it off in a little over a year. My CC is no interest. What do you suggest?

Michelle Singletary: I would first ask if that $5,500 is the only savings you have. If it is, don't cash it in. You may need that in an emergency. Plus don't forget taxes.

Sounds like you are in a rush for a problem that took a while to get into. Now if those bonds is extra money and you do have a good savings cushion, pay off the debt with no interest, then as you plan aggressively pay off the credit card debt.


Henderson, Nev.: Hello!

I had a boss that "conveniently" forgot. I would have deadlines and projects where I needed his input to be successful and he said he didn't remember that. How frustrating! It's payback now, since he's finally being held to task for his past loss of memory involving mgmt higher than him.


Stanley Bing: You have what I refer to in my book as a Disaster Hunter. All bosses are eventually brought down by the crazy stuff that makes them tough to work for. In your case, you are probably working for a narcissist who is very wrapped up in his own world and doesn't remember other people very well. Narcissists have really bad memories and very short attention spans. They take aggressive management. You need to be in his or her face every day with each important project. That way they don't have to remember anything and can simply react to your agenda, which they can be quite good at.

Stanley Bing: It also may be better for you to help this forgetful person who is your boss. Who knows what kind of crazy maniac may pop up in the corner office next? Forgetful is not as bad as mean.


Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Michelle,

I think you would be proud of me. I have been monitoring my family's spending while in the process of creating a monthly budget.

Our main problem area is food! Our family of four can and has spent more than $1000 per month on food. To the folks in the peanut gallery - yes, I know it's way too much and that's why I'm writing in.

We will stop eating out, start going to only discount grocers, stop buying convenience foods, but we also need to find recipes (quick and easy preferably) that use inexpensive ingredients. Any ideas on where to find them?

Also - to you and others - any other tips on saving on foods costs??? Thanks so much for your help!

Michelle Singletary: It's tough I know. I have a family of five and the food bill can get crazy.

First, whenever you go to the grocery store take a list. Seriously this will cut down on your getting things you don't need. Now before you go to the store with that list plan out your meals so you know exactly what you need to buy. Whenever I do this I spend less time in the store and spend less.

Second, for easy and cheap recipes go online. For example, type in "easy, free and cheap chicken recipes." Up pops a number of web sites with recipes.

My favorite or

Also in the grocery store at the checkout you will find those inexpensive recipe books with easy and cheap recipes. I buy them a lot.


Washington, D.C.: I worked for one in a lab on Potomac. He womanized and would tell me to work on SAturday nights in the lab on the experiments, have the results ready for him see on Sunday morning after he drops his woman friend to her home. No sleep for me!! this was on top of 40-60 hour week M to F. Then he promotes his friends who helped to find woman friends. I am glad to be out of there!

Stanley Bing: The womanizing works hand in hand with the workaholic personality. This guy is an addictive character. he probably drinks too much, too. This is a very difficult person to work for. You have to establish limits. I see that you did, and you're not there anymore. The truth is, there ARE jobs out there for people who want to jump ship. I generally advise people to stay where they are and work it out. But anybody who made me work on Sunday every week would eventually drive me out of the company... unless they were paying me seven figures, that is...


Atlanta, Ga.: Hi Michelle,

I am a newly wed (3 weeks) my credit is not the best but it is okay (I own 2 homes) and have paid off my car (by the way I'm 28). My husband is 36 and has awful credit and 2 car notes. 3 months before my wedding (April 2007) I found out that one of his car notes hadn't been paid since October 2006. Is adding him to my primary residence mortgage a good ideal? I really don't even want to file taxes etc., with him because I don't want his bad credit to worsen my credit. Any advice?????

Michelle Singletary: First, get find a counselor. Seriously. Because you are in for a rough ride my dear.

Sure, you could keep all things separate but that won't mean his bad money habits won't end up affecting you and your money.

Talk to him right away. If you are the better money manager than agree that you should handle the bill paying, filing of taxes etc. But try to involve him by showing him what you are doing.

And the only way to get him on the mortgage as opposed to the title is to refinance. At this point that wouldn't help because his bad credit will make it hard to get a good loan.

I would not add him to the title unless you have a joint mortgage on the home -- something you should work towards as you seek counseloring.


Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Michelle, I would LOVE to meet with a financial planner and checked some out on the Garrett Planning Network. However, the rates are anywhere from $180 to $220 per hour--ouch! How many hours will it take for a plan? Thanks so much!

Michelle Singletary: Fee only planning can be expensive but at least you are supposed to be getting unbiased advice since the person doesn't make money on the financial product you chose.

A comprehensive financial plan could cost about $1,000 to $1,500. But if you are at the point where you need really good advice, it may be worth it.


Washington D.C.: We have a female manager here who has a PhD in economics and she supervises only two employees. One of the two employees is also a female and also with a PhD, but not in economics. The supervisor super-micro-manages the female employee with a PhD, but not the other. Any suggestions as to how to deal with this "crazy boss"?

Stanley Bing: You'd be surprised how many really crazy people respond, over time, to a sustained campaign of reasonableness. this is a gradual thing. If YOU are the one being micro-managed, the key challenge is having the patience to hang in there and make it work. It means on a daily basis doing a good job and, when the micro-managing starts, simply stating, "Hey, I think you know I can do the job without being quizzed like this. Why not give me a try?" At first, the boss will be resistant, because this is his or he perception of what it MEANS to be a boss. After a while, though, if what you do is good, and if you have a decent relationship, they will start to back off. Of course, if you're a screw-up and need to be micromanaged, then it's not a question of craziness, it's a reasonable policy on the part of a boss that doesn't trust you. that's a bigger problem, because the issue isn't the boss -- it's you.


Good Financial Problem in Maryland: Michelle,

Thanks for taking my question. I have what may be called a good financial problem. I'm expecting a $500-$600 per month raise from the government. My question is how do I most effectively use that money to lower debt.

My financial picture is as follows - approximately 30K in consolidated federal student loans at 3 percent interest ($250/month), 25K in private student loans at 8 percent ($295/month), 10K car loan at 9 percent ($230/month). My living expenses are currently about $1000 per month with out food. My take home is approximately $2150 a month. I've developed approximately at month's cash reserve. I fully invest in the TSP plan at the highest matching amount available.

I'm over paying an extra payment per year adding it in 12 equal shares for the car and personal loans. My employer is in the process of developing a student loan reimbursement program which I applied.

My question is with the extra income I'm receiving which loan(s) should I apply the extra money towards? I'm paying the minimum on student loans with the expectation that my employer will take them over within the next few months and they are at the lowest interest rate. My thoughts are to pay my car off first to give me an asset plus its the highest interest rate. Thanks for your help.

Michelle Singletary: I agree, start with the car loan. But if the student loan repayment doesn't come thu go after that debt with a passion, first the private loans then the low-interest student loans.


homeownership: Michelle, Can you remind me why homeownership is supposed to be so great compared to "throwing away money on rent"? We've been owners for 8 months now and all I can see is that it's great to paint it the colors I want; otherwise, we've had to cut back on eating out, taking vacations, etc. And now my husband may have a chance to work overseas for a year and while we were renting, I would have said, "great, throw everything in storage and we'll live overseas for a year" and if I found work there too, great, but if not we could manage. We can't manage to keep up the mortgage if I don't get a job overseas as well and there are no guarantees I could also find work. You always say don't be a slave to debt, but I feel like I'm a slave to a mortgage and I never totally bought into the notion that renting was throwing your money away - it's buying a roof over my head. Is that wrong?

Michelle Singletary: First, I don't believe renting is throwing money away. Like you I agree that you are paying for a roof over your head.

Second, welcome to the world of home ownership. Yup, it's tough. But you can keep second guessing yourself. Homeownership if done correctly is still one of the greatest wealth building tools out there. However notice I said if done correctly, meaning you bought a home that gives you room to save, save up for vacations, eat out once in awhile etc.

You may still be able to go overseas. Have you thought about renting the home for a year? Perhaps you can find a program where someone is moving into your area for a temp job and just needs to rent for a year. That way you get the mortgage covered and you don't sweat if you can't get a job overseas. Check with job relocation services, etc.

But in the end you may find that you can't take advantage of this opportunity and that my friend is called being an adult. You can't always have everything you want when you want it.


Washington, D.C.: I guess I'm boss is kind, supportive, and all around a great guy! If anything, I like him a little too much. It's a big part of what keeps me in my current job.

Stanley Bing: Hey, do you work for me?


Richmond, Va.: My boss always talks horribly about other colleagues in our meetings. I'm SO uncomfortable being pulled into his nasty gossip. And he REALLY says nasty stuff about his ex wife and his (female) supervisor. All his comments about women in power are of the "all women are shrews" tone and I feel like yelling "HELLO! I'm right here!!!!"

Stanley Bing: This guy is cruising for his own destruction. What could he possibly be thinking? He has tons of hostility for women, and you are the target of his free-floating aggression. Again, I always believe that long-term, sane, dignified and open communications is a good place to start. The next time he begins his disgusting drivel, let him talk for a while and then say, "Hey, Barry, do you have any idea how uncomfortable this kind of talk makes me?" He'll say something like, "Aw, come on! Can't you take a joke?" And you can say, "Sometimes. But maybe not about that. How about we talk about something else. Like cheese. Or wine. Or dogs." Something he likes, you know? Give it a shot.

Michelle Singletary: I agree with Stanley.

I also think you should start keeping a diary and record when he does this. If it gets to be too much, take your evidence to human resources.


High food bills: Another thing to do is plan your next week's menu on Saturday or Sunday and shop by Sunday. The major grocery stores tell you what will be on sale (normally starting on Friday) in the Wednesday Post. Look at what will be on sale and make a menu to fit what you can buy more cheaply. For example, boneless chicken breasts (3lb+ package) goes on sale at Giant tomorrow - less than 1/2 price. Grill one night and have leftovers another.

Also, as much as it hurts to spend, do NOT cut out the fresh fruits and veggies. They cost more but are so worth it for your health.

Michelle Singletary: True that!


Boston, Mass.: What do you do when a boss seems to be working out a plan to oust you from your job or make you quit voluntarily but you can't prove it? In the office, there's new management and they have redrawn organizational charts, leaving certain people barely included. In public, one boss will even declare that one department doesn't exist, even though the man who is responsible for that department definitely exists but is being pushed out of the org chart?

What if you think there are signs that you are next on the boss's list?

Stanley Bing: Well, I wish I could tell you this was a manageable situation, but it's really not. Dust off your resume and get out there. It's better to look for a job while you have one. I will say, however, that you should NOT make it easy for them by precipitating an incident, getting mad or defensive, or taking things personally. There is always a shake-up during a change at the top of a function. You may be stuck in it through no fault of your own. Do the best work you possibly can. Show up to all meetings. Be on time for things and don't leave at odd hours. Use your lunch hour to look for a new place. And wait. Be patient. Who knows? I've seen people so close to the edge they were hanging on by one finger come back and become important players again. Careers have ups and downs. Don't be discouraged or hasty. Wait and see what happens while you're working on Plan B.


Food budget: My household goes through the same thing. Beans have turned out to be great. I make bean soup and then freeze up portions to take for lunch with crackers or bread. Much cheaper and you can make two weeks worth of lunch in a Sunday. Also, figure out when your grocer marks the meat down that is almost at it's date. Get there that day, and then freeze immediately so you can have it when you want it.

Michelle Singletary: Good tips.

I also try to cook dishes that will last at least two nights.


Ashburn, Va.: Hi Michelle!

Thanks for doing these chats. I love them. I have a question about my 401K. I have $20K that I left in my 401K from a former employer. It's still doing pretty well but I always hear that you should move it into an IRA. What are the advantages in rolling that into an IRA?


Michelle Singletary: Oh my don't have time to fully answer this. But look if you are happy with the returns in the old plan, no need to change.

When you do get unhappy, you certainly can roll it over into an IRA that you manage. That's the biggest advantage of a rollover IRA you are not limited to the funds in the old plan.

If you do a rollover be sure the funds go directly to the financial institution and don't come to you.


Southern Maryland: Thank you for taking my off-topic question!! We have future private school tuition for the next few years of $40K. Would it be better to take some equity out of our home to pay for the tuition and at least write off the interest since we owe federal taxes every year. Yes, Michelle, we are saving for college. Thank you!!!

Michelle Singletary: I understand the desire to send your kids to private school but I wouldn't use borrowed money in the way of equty from your home.

What if at some point you need to sell and the value of your home has dropped -- which is happening all over the country right now?

If you can't afford to pay for the school with your salary (and save for college) you can't afford to have the kids in private school.

And never make this kind of decision based on the tax break. The break ain't big enough to counter the debt you will be taking on.


Washington, D.C.: I once worked for a volatile character, who was not liked by anyone in the office. I don't really remember what he did that day, but I was furious. I must have had a terrible look on my face when a young associate of the firm came by my desk. He asked me what was wrong, and I simply pointed to the character's office. He said, "Janet, do you remember the Mickey Mouse Show?" I'm old enough to remember it well. He then said, "Well, Janet, just picture him with the little beanie with the big mouse ears with his name written across the front." I laughed so hard at the picture in my mind that the anger disappeared.

Stanley Bing: Keep that young associate close, my friend. He's worth his weight in antacid.


New York, NY: Please HELP! I picked what I thought was a practical profession (law) and spent gobs of money on a degree. I am now working for drones that find this stuff fascinating (that's great for them), but I hate it and don't particular care for the other lawyers either (speaking of crazy bosses I've had some that scream at you for fun). After a few years (one year here), it's clear that being a lawyer is not good for my mental or physical health. From a monetary standpoint, would you think I'm totally foolish to throw away this salary and flush my educational costs down the toilet to find something that doesn't kill me. I have some savings and paid off my student loans.

Stanley Bing: Congratulations. You are now part of the 67% of all lawyers who want to leave the profession because they hate it. that's my unofficial number, by the way. It may be higher... like 90%. there are two answers to your question. The first is YES. YES, get out of the Law. YES, get out of the thing you hate to do and start doing what you LIKE to do. You are young! You have life ahead of you! Sing! Dance! Go into show business! Carve desks! Tour the world as a traveling mummer! Whatever! Life is too darn short to spend it laboring away at something you don't like to do. Really. And you know what? There IS a right thing for you out there, and you will never find it if you're pushing a tort across the table.

That said, there are a LOT of ways that people make good money doing Law. It sounds like you're in the wrong part of your business. Suppose you could be sweeping beautiful actors off their feet as a movie agent or personal attorney? Suppose you could be golfing in Jamaica with internal clients as a corporate lawyer who refers all the hard stuff to the out-of-house counsel? Look at your profession, the one you learned how to do -- and what it cost you not in money but in time and concentration! I'm amazed at all the stupid things lawyers know. It takes a heap of brainpower! Media! Digital start ups! Sports! All those areas need lawyers. Or maybe you want to take bad guys off the street? Whatever? isn't there a way you can use what you worked for to make the world a better place, have fun and make a ton of dough? good luck!


We've been owners for 8 months now and all I can see is that it's great to paint it the colors I want; otherwise, we've had to cut back on eating out, taking vacations, etc: aha. You haven't filed taxes as a homeowner yet. Just wait. you'll see what everyone is raving about.

Michelle Singletary: Oh please, I've been a homeowner since I was about 22 years old. The tax break ain't that great. It's nice but not great.

Homeownership is costly and often the money you spend on the home doesn't begin to be offset by the tax break.

It's when you sell and get that equity that it's GREAT!


postnuptial: My Mom owns a business, and she will soon be giving it to me. Her lawyer suggested that my husband sign a postnuptial agreement. That states in the event of a separation/divorce he will have no rights to the business or its assets. The lawyer also stated that in the event of a separation, that my mothers income might also be affected. How would you feel about an agreement?

Michelle Singletary: If my husband asked me to sign such a thing, I would put my hands on my hips, roll my eyes and neck and cook him neck bones for dinner.

I wouldn't do it.

But if your husband AGREES and has no reservations than fine. Me I think we BOTH should share in this wonderful blessing. Should we get a divorce then he would be entitled to what we got together as a couple -- even if it were a business my mom gave to me.


Alexandria, Va.: No question -- just two thank-yous...

First, I think your Penny Pincher of the Year award is a great opportunity to reward conservation efforts, because far too many of us spend far too much (both money and resources) by not thinking wisely. I shudder some mornings when it's 60 degrees outside and I hear my neighbors' air conditioning units buzzing away. It's frustrating to think how much money people could save -- and how they could help our country, and our planet -- by reducing wasteful use of oil and other natural resources.

Secondly, while I don't always agree with you that all debt is evil, I do think that's a message that people need to hear. Lord knows how much money the credit card companies, retailers, etc. are paying to get us to spend money -- we need a few people telling us not to. So even if I don't agree with you 100 percent of the time, thanks for being the voice of fiscal sanity among all the spendthrift marketing schemes out there.

Michelle Singletary: You are so welcome, even tho I think you should should agree with me 100 percent of the time (smile).


Washington D.C.: Stanley,

With regards to your response to the question about the micro-manager, this is an employee with 30+ years of job experience and never a complaint from any previous manager. There does not appear to be any basis, performance or otherwise, to justify such behavior of the manager upon the employee. So, I disagree with your assertion that it is the employee. The manager chooses to communicate principally by email and despite efforts by the employee to schedule a one-on-one with the manager to have a dialogue to resolve whatever it is causing friction, the manager always has an excuse of being unavailable.

Any advice you could offer to help resolve this difficult, emotionally draining, and morale destroying behavior would be most appreciated.

Stanley Bing: Actually, I didn't say it was the employee. I just wondered. Here is my serious answer. This employee is working for an abusive boss. The boss is trying to drive the employee crazy so she will leave without making the boss fire her, because the boss has NO grounds and so is simply trying to torture the person to death. The employee with 30 years of experience should not rise to the bait. She should be very calm, very strategic. Do her job. Continue to make friends and keep the ones she has close. Not lose heart. Not lose her temper. Emails that are abusive and critical should be logged and kept in a file. You can bet that this loser boss is not making any friends elsewhere either. At some point, the employee's good record, put together with the abusive emails, can be used to make a case with Human Resources, if that department exists, that the boss is the one at fault.

If there is a senior officer, by the way, over this boss, or an HR department with a friendly ear, the employee should not be afraid to go there -- NOT TO COMPLAIN -- but simply to make the other person aware that there is an issue. The employee should say, "Hey, I've been here for a long time, I've never had a problem before, how do you think I should handle it?" That doesn't hurt either, although the ear should not be a worm who will turn and report the conversation to the boss.

Finally, they can't hurt you if you don't let them. They can't make you nuts if you refuse to get emotional about it. Cool. Sane. Humane. the opposite of the treatment you are receiving. And hang in there. Crazy Bosses destroy themselves over time. You may outlive this person yet.


Chicago, Ill.: Michelle, please help! I'm 23, have a good-paying job, no debt and minimal bills, so I'm accumulating some savings. I contribute 10 percent to my company's 401K with a 5 percent match, but I don't have any other investments. I have a savings account with about 5-6 months worth of living expenses. The problem is that I've got about $15,000 in my checking account, where it's earning no interest. I don't want to put it in something very long-term, because I'd like to have money available to potentially buy a house in a few years. I need something low-maintenance. Should I use a financial planner? Open an online high-interest savings account? Something else? How much interest should I be looking to get? Thanks!

Michelle Singletary: You should calm down!

If you will need that money in a few years leave it alone. The most I would recommend is for you to look for a very high yielding savings or money market account. Try ING. Look on

When you have a short-term goal and need money you can't expect to make big money on that money unless you want to gamble.

You don't sound like a gambler.


Upper Marslboro, Md.: I am a good worker but have way too much to do. (Trust me on this!) When I am given new projects, I explain that, if I take them on, others will have to be put aside. In short, I need help prioritizing and my boss is no help whatsoever. And when things don't get done despite my 60 hour workweeks, guess whose rear is on the line? I finally listed everything I have to do and carry this around at all times. It has helped a little, but much. Do you have any other suggestions? Quitting is unfortunately not an option, though bossicide is becoming more appealing.

Stanley Bing: I think you should take the list into your boss and lay it in front of him in a very friendly way and say, "Larry, I was wondering. Here are all the things I have to do right now. Which is the most important?" Maybe that will help.

I also don't like your comment about 60 hour work weeks. That's not right. In at 8. Out at 6. Anything more is sheer exploitation.

Workers have a right to regular hours and a management that doesn't ruin their lives. I don't think quitting is an option for anybody. But nobody ever got fired for working a 50 hour week. Start standing up for yourself! You're obviously essential to your department! Make them treat you like it!


Anonymous: Good Afternoon,

I don't have a crazy boss. I have a crazy workplace. I swear everyone here is either power hungry or clueless and sometimes both. Some days it's really hard to get anything done, especially if I need something from someone. The rules change everyday and it's very frustrating. I want to leave, but I donn't know how.

Stanley Bing: Don't leave. Stick around. These nutbags will kill each other and you just may be the last one standing. I may be a total dreamer, but I think in an environment where everybody is nuts and one person is sane and hard-working, the latter individual will eventually come to be recognized as essential in some way. Just relax and when people go "WHY WASN'T THAT DONE?" you can say, "because everybody around here is so interested in political nonsense that things just DON'T get done, do they?" I'm sure everybody around there knows the place is a snake pit. Calling attention to it, and refusing to take part, may just be your brand around there.


Laurel:"It's when you sell and get that equity that it's GREAT! "

Even before you sell, you get the same benefit when your mortgage is exactly the same as it was the day you signed, while the rent on your old apartment has gone up 50 percent.

Michelle Singletary: That is one benefit as well -- that the mortgage MAY stay the same. But have you been reading the newspaper. People have been refinancing and taking out home equity loans so that their payments haven't stayed the same.

But my larger point is that if you are renting you are not a financial failure if you are not in the position to buy a home yet.


Harrisburg, Pa.: If an estimated one fifth of the population suffers from a mental health ailment, presumably some people with mental health issues have made their way into management. Has there been any study as to what percentage of managers suffer from mental health ailments, or what would be your estimate from what you have observed?

Stanley Bing: I think virtually ALL managers suffer from mental health ailments. The ones who don't have an ulcer.


Maryland: What do you do when a supervisor is vulgar and curses a lot in front of you? And tells you what vindictive things he has done to staff members.

Stanley Bing: I would say, "Don't curse, Fred. It's against my religion." LIMITS, ladies and gentlemen. Bosses, like babies, need LIMITS. If you don't set them, they will exploit you. And if you set them correctly -- gently, firmly, thoughtfully, reasonably -- you will prosper, even under the most insane of bosses. Believe me. 25 years into the business world and a crazy boss myself? I should know, huh?


Michelle Singletary: Well, it's time to go. I loved this chat today. Good questions, great answers from Stanley Bing.

Mostly I love that Bing's overall message was set limits. Like the person with the cussing boss. Me, I wouldn't stand for it and never have. And folks I worked in the old newsroom where cussing was normal. There was one rewrite man (the reporter who takes information from other reporters in the field) who cussed at me for asking him a question on deadline. I was 17 and new to the business. I cried. Then I read him the riot act. I said, "My grandmother, Big Mama, said anyone who cusses at you had no respect for you. Please don't do it again."

And he didn't. I have never allowed ANYONE to swear at me. Not my husband, co-workers and certainly not a boss.

So folks speak up for yourselves. And if things don't change, and it becomes too horrible to stand, as Bing says dust off your resume and get the heck out of dodge.

Anyway, Bing as agreed to answer some of the leftover questions. I'll write a column with his answers. Thanks again for joining me today.

Keep saving and get out of debt!


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