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The Benefits and Downsides of the 401(K).

If your New Year's resolutions include getting a better grasp on your personal finances and putting money away for your retirement, you'll want to hear what my guest Mary Rowland has to say. She's written a new book called "A Commonsense Guide to Your 401(K)."

34:21

Other segments from the episode on January 5, 1998

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, January 5, 1998: Interview with Mary Rowland; Interview with Laura Zigman; Review of ska albums.

Transcript

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: JANUARY 05, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 010501np.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Mary Rowland
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

If your news year's resolutions include getting a better grasp on your personal finances and putting money away for your retirement, you'll want to hear what my guest Mary Rowland has to say. She's written a new book called "A Commonsense Guide to Your 401(K)."

The 401(K) is the retirement plan that's replaced pensions in many organizations. It's a tax-deferred savings plan to which the employer and employee contribute money. That money is invested in stocks, bonds, or annuities. Rowland's book is also about the 403(B)s, which are the counterpart plans at nonprofit organizations.

Rowland is a former personal finance columnist for the New York Times and is the author of a previous book about mutual funds. I asked her why more workers now have 401(K)s than pensions.

MARY ROWLAND, FORMER PERSONAL FINANCE COLUMNIST, AUTHOR, "A COMMONSENSE GUIDE TO YOUR 401(K)": Well, when you look back at the last 10 or 15 years in this country and see how the employment landscape has changed, the 401(K) is an interesting part of that.

They -- they came out right at the beginning of the '80s when employers were looking for ways to cut costs. And as you know, we've seen these huge downsizings or right-sizings, layoffs -- whatever you want to call them -- and the -- when the 401(K) plan came out, a lot of employers saw this as a way to shift their costs of providing a pension to employees.

GROSS: How do 401(K)s measure up against pensions? Tell me if I'm wrong, but my understanding was with a pension plan, no matter what happened, you were guaranteed a certain amount of money in your pension plan. But with the 401(K)s, if your money is going into, say, a mutual fund and you're invested in the stock market, the market crashes -- you're out of luck.

ROWLAND: Well, you're perfectly right, Terry. And beyond that, with a pension plan, you didn't have to put the money in either. Not only were you guaranteed a certain amount, but your employer provided that amount. And it was the employer's responsibility to make sure that it was there for you when you retired. So, that was certainly a wonderful benefit for employees.

A lot of critics say that the 401(K) has put far too much responsibility on employees for saving for their own retirement. And there's certainly a bit of truth to that. On the other hand, the 401(K) gives us a lot more freedom.

The pension plan really locked employees into one employer. If you were going to get a full pension, you pretty much had to stick with your employer. With a 401(K) plan, you could move every five years or every two or three years, and that -- it's portable. The plan can travel right along with you.

GROSS: Another freedom or flexibility that you have with a 401(K) is that if your 401(K) is in a mutual fund, you could decide what percentage of the money you want to invest in stocks or in bonds or sometimes in annuities -- and that's really great if you know something about the stock market. It's kind of daunting if you don't.

ROWLAND: It absolutely is. And I think that's where we're getting into what is probably for a lot of people a negative. Not only do we have the responsibility for putting the money in ourselves and the responsibility for putting enough in, but we do have the responsibility for investing it.

And I think for a lot of people, this is the first brush they have with investing. You know, a generation ago, most Americans were not investors and most Americans probably still would not be if it were not for 401(K) plans. So, there's where you really have to do a little bit of research.

And employers have been very reluctant to provide advice to employees for fear that if will bring liability with it; if they tell you, you know, "Terry, put more of your money in the stock market," and the stock market goes down, they fear that you'll sue them.

GROSS: Well, we're not going to sue you, so...

LAUGHTER

... are -- are there any guidelines that financial advisers have come up with to help people figure out how to invest their retirement money, depending on how old they are, where they are in their job growth, how much money they earn and so forth?

ROWLAND: Sure. In my book, I have some sample portfolios that kind of show, depending on your -- what kind of tolerance you have for risk -- how you might divide up your portfolio. But frankly, I think that a lot of these things make it more difficult and, as you say, more daunting than it needs to be.

Simpler is always better, and you can make it as simple as just choosing three different investment choices. You know, your employer maybe gives you seven. And you could put -- divide it just in half -- half in stocks and half in bonds. And that would be a fine diversified portfolio.

If you want to learn a little bit more about investing, you can make it more complicated and divide it into, you know, professional investors call these "asset classes" like international stocks, some small company stocks, some large company stocks.

But I think that it's important to simplify it for people and make them see that you can just put it in two different investments and you'll do fine.

GROSS: A fear that a lot of people have is that, you know, right now -- I think one of the reasons why the stock market has, on the whole, been doing so well is that so many people have money tied up in their 401(K)s invested in the stock market. So there's a lot of money in the market now. And you know, people with retirement money tied up in the market can't really take it out even if they want to in the sense that, you know, it's in their 401(K) plan.

So that's great for the market right now. When, for instance, baby boomers -- the bulge in the population -- starts to retire and starts to withdraw money from the stock market, is the stock market going to go down? And if so, how's that going to affect other people who still have their retirement money tied up in the market?

ROWLAND: Well, there's been a lot of speculation about that, and I think that's probably a bit overblown. There's -- as you say -- 22 million Americans have I think $750 billion in 401(K) plans. That's a lot of money and I don't think there's any question that that's been fueling the market over the last several years.

However, the baby boomers aren't going to all pull their money out on, you know, January 1st, 2020 or at any particular time. In fact, I don't think people have fully grappled with how demographics are changing the way that people will invest. You know, it used to be that age 65 when you retired, the advice was move out of stocks. But now at age 65, you might still have 25 or 30 or 35 years to live.

So I think as Baby Boomers learn more about investing, they will see that they need to leave money in stocks into their retirement.

GROSS: Well, I figure now when there is, for instance, trouble in the Asian markets and they're plummeting and that's having a bad effect on the American market, that people with their money tied up in 401(K)s and 403(B)s -- money invested in the market -- are really worried 'cause that's, you know, everyone's future is tied up in the market now.

ROWLAND: Well, it -- 1997 was a very interesting year. It looked sort of, even at the midpoint that it was going to be yet another year of double-digit returns. And then in the final quarter of the year, you know, everything sort of fell apart with the problems in Asia and Korea.

And yet, I don't think that most investors panicked. In fact, the evidence seems to show that it was the institutional -- the big professional investors who were doing all the trading and that individual investors sort of hung in there.

So, I do think that investors are learning. They're learning that if they're in for the long haul, they don't need to panic when something like that happens. Although there still hasn't been a prolonged period where the market has gone way down or sort of bounced along; you know, gone down 25 percent and then sort of bounced along at that level. I think that's what really wears people down.

GROSS: Do you still think that if the market falls in the short-term that in the long-term everyone whose got their retirement money tied up in the market is going to be OK?

ROWLAND: That -- that, you know, that's what professionals are looking at, trying to answer that question every day. I think that people are beginning to sort of digest the idea that if the markets go down and you sell, you've locked in your loss. That's common sense. It makes sense. It's rational.

On the other hand, I think what happens when you see that you've lost 15 or 20 percent of your money is: if that's goes on for a long period of time, you sort of lose the intellectual way of looking at it and you start looking at it emotionally. And that's where people make their really big mistakes is, you know, they start look -- looking at it emotionally and saying "I've got to get out of -- I've got to get out and preserve what I have left."

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Mary Rowland, and her new book is called A Commonsense Guide to Your 401(K). And it's about 401(K) and 403(B) retirement plans. And it also has advice on how to deal with other money for your retirement.

Let's take a short break and then we'll talk some more.

This is FRESH AIR.

Back with financial adviser Mary Rowland, and her new book is called A Commonsense Guide to Your 401(K). And it's about retirement money.

401(K)s force you to save because, you know, usually your employer's putting a certain amount of money into your 401(K). It's -- money's deducted from your paycheck every week and put into your 401(K). So it's this like mandatory savings plan. And it's great to have a mandatory savings plan because most of us would have trouble savings unless it was kind of done for us.

You think that your 401(K) should really be your first approach to saving money; that it's -- it's -- you'll put extra money in if you can. Why do you say that?

ROWLAND: Well, as you've just pointed out, it's -- it's the very best way to save and to invest. Financial planners, professionals always tell us, you know, pay yourself first, save regularly, develop this discipline where you take a certain percent or certain dollar amount out of each paycheck and put it away. And the 401(K) does all of those things for us automatically. So, there are a lot of reasons that the 401(K) is our best savings tool.

GROSS: Now, the money that you put into your 401(K) is tax deferred. What does "tax deferred" mean?

ROWLAND: "Tax deferred" -- well, maybe we should back up just once and say that probably the most important thing is that it's pre-tax. The money that you put in is -- you're contributing to your 401(K) plan before you pay taxes. So it's pre-tax money and then, as you say, it's also tax-deferred. And that means that the money and the money that it earns grow without paying taxes until you take the money out during retirement.

GROSS: So when you take the money out during retirement, you're paying tax money on the profits that you've earned too?

ROWLAND: Yes, you are.

GROSS: So, explain to me why this an advantage.

ROWLAND: Well, when -- if you think about that, you know, compounding of interest. This is one of the most basic principles -- right? -- of math or economics. When -- when you put money in a savings account or put money aside, not just the -- it's not just the principle that earns interest, but the interest earns interest or the earnings earn interest. And so, the money grows almost magically.

When you don't take anything out for taxes, it can compound much, much, much more quickly. And so, it provides a -- just a powerhouse of savings. If someone starts in their mid-20s, for example, they could have a million dollars in retirement by saving, you know, an amazingly small amount of money.

GROSS: What are the regulations surrounding an early withdrawal of retirement money in your 401(K)?

ROWLAND: I think that the biggest reason that most people who don't contribute don't contribute is because they're concerned that they're locking this money up forever. All of us have lots of competing demands on our money. And especially if you're in your 20s, the idea that you're putting this money away to retirement is -- is very frightening.

And in fact, there are a number of ways that you can get it out. The hardship withdrawal, which is perhaps what you're referring to, is a very difficult thing to qualify for. And I -- for the most part, you should just forget about that. You have to be disabled or -- the rules are very difficult. And then further, you're not allowed to contribute for a while if you take a hardship withdrawal.

But most plans have loans. You can borrow the money. You don't have to even give a reason for it. You can usually make the loan just over the phone. And then the repayment of the loan is just deducted from your check, goes right back into your account, and you pay yourself interest. So, that's a very attractive way to get it out.

GROSS: What are some of the typical mistakes you think people make when it comes to investing in their 401(K)s?

ROWLAND: Well certainly, the first one is that they don't do it; you know, not getting the money in there. I -- I tell people that -- we've just been talking about how to get the money out -- and I tell people if you're worried that you can't get it out, don't think about that. You can get it. You can get it very easily. Just tell yourself that you're going to get it in there.

Now, we're at the beginning of a new year, and I think you should contribute just as much as you can to your 401(K) plan. So, that would be the first mistake.

The -- not contributing enough to get the employer match; the employer -- we haven't really talked about this, but most employers match a portion of the money that you contribute. The most typical match is for every dollar you put in up to 6 percent of pay, the employer would put in 50 cents. I've seen a recent study that shows that employees are leaving $6 billion on the table by not, you know, capturing that match.

So that -- that is certainly the first mistake.

GROSS: What are some of the others?

ROWLAND: I think the second one would be -- we talked a little bit earlier about how people should invest. I think employees are still too conservative. They're still worried about -- we talked about what happened in the Asian markets last year. And I think people are still a little bit too concerned about seeing the value of their account go down, and so reluctant to invest in the stock market.

I think that almost everyone should have at least 60 percent of their money in stocks, of their 401(K) money, 'cause this is long-term money that you're going to use for your retirement. And you -- you could put that 60 percent in a large company U.S. stock fund. That would be the most conservative stock investment.

And then the third mistake would probably be, you know, not diversifying. If you put that 60 percent in stocks, then you want to put the rest of the balance of the money somewhere else. Ideally, I think you would put a little bit in international stocks and a little bit in small company stocks. If you're very conservative, maybe you would put the rest in bonds.

And then the next mistake would be, I think, tinkering with it too much. You know, we talk about this as if it's all a mathematical equation or something; that you just -- you know, you sit down and you decide "here's how I'm going to diversify my money."

But in fact, people start looking at it and they say: "this is the money that I earned, that I've worked for, and you know, maybe the market's going to go down; or maybe the Asian problems are going to spread." And so they start, you know, kind of second-guessing themselves and trying to wonder where -- "should I move now?"

And that is probably the mistake that causes people to lose the most money is moving from one investment to another.

GROSS: What happens if you have your retirement money in a company 401(K), and then you leave the company?

ROWLAND: That's a time you really have to pay attention to. That's one of the times people make their biggest mistake. Whenever you leave your employer, there are tax pitfalls if you don't do the right thing. The money is portable. The money belongs to you and you can take it with you. But if you don't do it properly, you're bound to lose some of it to taxes.

When you leave your job, one of the things you can do is just leave it in your employer's 401(K) plan. And that's not a permanent decision. I mean, you can -- you can leave it there for six months, for a year, for as long as you like. And I would encourage people to do that, you know, if they're not certain what -- what else they're going to do with it.

The second thing you can do is roll it into an individual retirement account, where you -- that protects its tax advantages. The important thing is that you have to have it -- it move directly from your employer to the individual retirement account without taking possession of it. If you -- if the check is written to you, your employer is required to withhold 20 percent of it. And then once it's in the IRA, of course, you have access to it.

GROSS; Immediate access? Or do you have to wait a certain amount of time?

ROWLAND: Well, you have immediate access. I mean, you know, it's taxable. You'll have to pay tax and you'll have to pay a 10 percent penalty if you're under 59-1/2. But once you're got it in an IRA account, it's in your name. At that point, you can tap into it whenever you like.

Some years ago, when my husband went into business for himself, he elected to take the money from his retirement account and pay the 10 percent penalty and the tax. He reasoned that he wasn't going to be making a lot of money that year. You know, it wasn't going to boost him into a much higher tax bracket. And he made the decision that it would be worth it to him, and in the long run he would be better off -- you know, he would make more money and it would be a good investment -- sort of an investment in himself.

GROSS: My guest is Mary Rowland. She's a financial adviser whose new book is called A Commonsense Guide to Your 401(K), and it's about saving for retirement and planning retirement money.

Would you compare for us the 401(K) and the IRA?

ROWLAND: If you were debating about whether to put your money in a 401(K) or an IRA, a traditional deductible IRA, the 401(K) would win every time, I think.

GROSS: Why?

ROWLAND: Because -- because you can contribute a lot more. The IRA -- all the IRA limits are $2,000. Whereas with the 401(K), the legal limit is $10,000 this year that, you know, that different companies have other limits, but it's certainly going to be more than $2,000.

The 401(K) plan almost always has an employer match, which you don't get with an IRA. A 401(K) plan is what we call a "qualified" plan which is another jargony word, but it just means that the Congress looks at it as a tax qualified plan sponsored by an employer. And that has certain advantages.

For example, they're always protected in bankruptcy. If you should file for bankruptcy, you -- the assets in your 401(K) would be protected. Many states have moved to protect IRAs as well, but that's not universal. And when Congress passes laws, it typically distinguishes between a qualified plan and an IRA.

So for example, if there's a tax advantaged way of getting your money out of the plan, like we used to have something called "10-year averaging," which was a favorable way to pay your taxes, it applies usually to qualified plans like your 401(K), but if you had your money in an IRA, it wouldn't apply.

GROSS: Mary Rowland is the author of A Commonsense Guide to Your 401(K). She'll be back in the second half of our show.

I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Back with Mary Rowland, author of the new book A Commonsense Guide to Your 401(K), which is filled with advice on financial planning for your retirement.

There's a new IRA this year, the Roth IRA. What's that?

ROWLAND: The Roth IRA is -- the limit is the same, $2,000, but it's very different from the traditional IRA in that with a traditional deductible IRA, you put in your $2,000 before you pay tax, and then you're -- everything is taxable when you take it out at retirement. With the Roth IRA, you put in after-tax money; put in the same $2,000, up to $2,000, but you've already paid taxes on it. But then, you never pay tax again.

So although it sounds, you know, if you're debating about it this year, in 1998, it sounds better to put the money in pre-taxed. The studies show that you will almost always do better letting your money grow without ever paying tax on it again. If you leave the money in for 10 years, all of those earnings are tax free.

There are also some little kind of arcane things with the Roth IRA. For example, when you take the money out, it is not considered taxable income, which is an important distinction for people on Social Security.

You know, there are all kinds of rules with Social Security that if your income's in a certain level, your benefits become taxable or you lose part of your benefits. And the money from the Roth IRA doesn't go into that equation. So, that could make a really big difference for people on Social Security.

GROSS: So who would you recommend the Roth IRA for?

ROWLAND: Well, the -- I've done some stories on it. And the people that I've talked with say that it works -- no matter where you are in your working life, the Roth IRA would be better for you than a regular IRA. In fact, this year, in 1998, you can convert your regular IRA into a Roth IRA if your income, your family income or your own income, is under $100,000. And I think that's going to be a really big personal finance story this year, is people are going to be advised to try and get their income within those limits, so that they can convert IRAs into the Roth IRA.

GROSS: And then, do you pay the taxes on the money you're converting?

ROWLAND: You do. You do. And even though you have to pay tax on it, planners, mathematicians -- people who run the numbers -- say that it's so much more advantageous. It -- there are some other little technicalities with it as well. With a regular IRA, you must start taking money out at age 70 1/2 -- the year after you turn 70 1/2.

And there's -- a whole little cottage industry has sprung up around this because, you know here people are with probably the most assets that they have anywhere -- in their 401(K), their IRA -- their retirement money that they've put aside. And now, you have to start taking it out. The rules are so arcane that many people unknowingly get sort of pulled into a method that's not advantageous to them, and then they're stuck with it.

With a Roth IRA, you never have to take it out. You can do -- you know, you can take it out as you like and that would be a -- that's another really big advantage to it. You also can tap into the money. And when the money's been in the Roth for five years, you can take it out, provided you don't take the earnings and take only the principal, which I think is really appealing to people; the idea that they can get the money to buy a home or to put their kids through college or something has a lot of appeal.

GROSS: Mary Rowland is my guest. She's the author of the new book A Commonsense Guide to Your 401(K), and it's a book about planning for retirement and understanding your retirement money.

The thought of retirement is really frightening because, you know, to live on retirement money, you need a lot of money. You see estimates of like $750,000. And to think of what it would take to save $750,000, considering what most people's salaries are like now, is positively daunting.

ROWLAND: It is. It is. I think that -- I've been writing about personal finance for a long time, but I'm not really a, you know, financial person. I have a master's degree in Russian history, so I came from an entirely different background. And I feel that it's this kind of thing, what you're just talking about -- the idea of saving $750,000, that just turns most people off to the whole idea of saving money; of doing their personal finances.

GROSS: Right. The idea is like it's not possible, so why don't I give up now.

ROWLAND: Exactly.

GROSS: And spend the money.

ROWLAND: That's right. You know, I need a million dollars for retirement, $250,000 to put my kids through college, a million dollars of life insurance -- and you know, your whole life is just about getting -- getting these things in place.

And I think that you should just forget that. I think you should, you know, put a little money aside for your kids for college, save some money for retirement, have some life insurance. But so many things change and so many different things happen. I tell people in my book that they should think of their 401(K) money as kind of a freedom fund. You know, don't just think of it that you're putting this money away and you're not going to touch it until you're, you know, old and worried that you're going to be eating dog food.

You should put the money away and then you should dream dreams and, you know, think about what you want to do with your life. Do you want to start a business? Do you want to change jobs? This is your money. And I think you should put as much money as you can into your plan. And then, you should use it to accomplish what you want to do with your life.

GROSS: Are you suggesting using it before the age of 59 1/2 when you have actual legit access to it?

ROWLAND: You know, I guess I am. I mean, I know that's heresy with financial planners, and we keep reading, you know, we don't -- people don't save enough money for retirement. And I think that's true. I think we need to save money for retirement.

On the other hand, when I hear people saying that they're going to retire at age 50, and they spend their whole life up until that point just saving every single nickel. And they spend the whole life -- their whole life after that just watching every single nickel they spend, it doesn't seem like much of a life, does it?

And I think that, you know, if what personal finance does is make us feel that our life is so limited and dreary, that -- I don't think it's enhancing our life at all. I don't think it's helping us to create the life we want for ourselves.

And if you can put money in your 401(K) plan and then, you know, create a business for yourself and have a life you love, maybe you want to work longer. You know, maybe you -- I mean, that -- I think that we need to broaden a little bit the way we think about our life and our retirement.

GROSS: What do you think we should expect from Social Security?

ROWLAND: Gee, I -- I don't have any, you know, scientific reason for saying this really, but I -- I'm not expecting too much. I don't think it's going to go away, but certainly the trends are in place to keep moving the retirement age up. You know, it's already been moved up to 67 for certain baby boomers. And I think it will move up to 70. And the -- everything's also in place for taxing benefits of higher-income workers.

And I think that all those things will continue so that -- that there'll be something there, but it'll be mainly for people who have nothing.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

ROWLAND: You know, who have no pension. You know, like, as you know, many women because they've worked at different jobs and worked at jobs with no pension system, it will be really almost like welfare I think.

GROSS: What do you see when you look ahead to your own retirement? Have you been -- have you been planning it and thinking about it? Like, do you have a model of what you want your retire -- do you even plan to retire?

ROWLAND: Well, you know, I don't. This is something that I've talked about quite a lot in my book. I -- I don't plan to retire. I feel that I want to create the life that I want for myself now. I don't want to compromise my working life by putting away every penny for retirement. And I want to have something that I love doing so that, you know, I can keep doing it.

I mean I -- I think ideally, and I'm sure everyone feels like this, people would like to have something that they do in their working life that gives them freedom; some freedom to, you know, spend time doing with their family or doing things that they like to do. And then maybe they would like to just do a little bit less and a little bit less of it.

So that they have a little bit more freedom. But I think most people would still like to keep their mind active and keep, you know, keep doing something they love past some arbitrary age where in the past, people retired.

GROSS: Mary Rowland, I want to thank you very much for talking with us.

ROWLAND: Thank you. My pleasure.

GROSS: Mary Rowland is the author of A Commonsense Guide to Your 401(K), published by Bloomberg.

Coming up, a new comic novel about why men dump women.

This is FRESH AIR.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Mary Rowland
High: Personal finance columnist Mary Rowland talks about how you can maximize your 401(K) retirement plan. Rowland is author of A Commonsense Guide to Your 401(K) published by Bloomberg Press. For six years, Rowland was the personal finance columnist or The New York Times, and has also been a contributor for Bloomberg Personal.
Spec: Finance; People; Women; Media; Mary Rowland
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Mary Rowland
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: JANUARY 05, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 010502np.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Animal Husbandry
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:40

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Women, is this a familiar scenario? You meet a guy. He seems to really like you a lot. You start seeing each other. He's getting serious and so are you. He even suggests moving in together. And just as you agree, he's gone from your life. You've been dumped.

When this happens to the main character in Laura Zigman's new comic novel, she looks for explanations in the mating habits of animals. Hence the unusual title of this novel, "Animal Husbandry." It's Zigman's first novel, but it's not her first experience in the publishing world. She worked as a book publicist for a decade.

I asked Laura Zigman to read from the beginning of Animal Husbandry, in which the main character first lays out her theory of why men dump women -- her theory based on the mating habits of bulls and cows.

LAURA ZIGMAN, AUTHOR, "ANIMAL HUSBANDRY": "If someone had asked me a year ago why I thought it was that men leave women and never come back, I would have said this: new cow. 'New cow' is short for 'new cow theory' which is short for 'old cow/new cow theory,' which, of course, is short for the sad, sorry truth that men leave women and never come back because all they really want is new cow."

"The new cow theory was not my theory, though I renamed it and refined it for my own purposes. The seed of the new cow theory was culled from an article on male behavior which caught my eye partly because it appeared in a highly reputable newspaper, and not in a self-help book with a 23-word title. And partly, too, I think because of the timing, which was about nine months after Ray had left me for no apparent reason, and right after I found out that his no apparent reason had had a name all along: new cow."

"The new cow theory was based on several seminal studies cited in the article on the mating preferences of the male cow. First, a bull was presented with a cow. They mated. When the bull was presented with the same cow to mate again, the bull wasn't interested. He wanted new cow, and this was old cow."

"At which point, the same cow was brought in again, only this time they disguised her slightly, with a hat or little dress. And again, the bull refused to mate with her because he could tell that she wasn't new cow. She was just old cow dressed as new cow."

"Finally, realizing the bull couldn't be tricked visually, they implemented an ingenious ploy. The old cow was smeared with new cow scent. Smelling new cow, the bull got up and crossed the barn to get a better look. But he was no fool. This wasn't new cow. This was old cow incognito; old cow in sheep's clothing; mutton dressed as lamb."

GROSS: That's Laura Zigman reading from her new book Animal Husbandry.

So the main character in your novel Animal Husbandry, who gets dumped by her boyfriend, inexplicably, is based on -- is based on a relationship you had?

ZIGMAN: It's based on a composite of relationships that I had and that almost every single woman I know had. I mean, it was the kind of thing that -- it happens to you once, and then you hear the same story, very similar story over and over again. So much so that you start to think you've all dated the same guy.

And I think that's what was interesting to me was that, I mean if it were just sort of an isolated case for me, it would be one thing. But I really -- you know, in my -- in my misery, I started to, you know, talk to people just 'cause I had nothing else to do.

LAUGHTER

And everyone sort of, you know, you mentioned the word, you know, "dumped," and every -- you know, you don't have to pull it out of people. I mean, they -- everyone has a story.

GROSS: Tell me what some of the patterns were in all the "getting dumped" stories that your women friends told you.

ZIGMAN: Yeah. It seemed that there was a very particular kind of this species of getting dumped, and that was that, you know, you'd be sort of standing there one day and suddenly some guy would just fall in love with you -- you know, beg you; pursue you; woo you; court you et cetera.

And all the women, you know, were sort of like "well, yeah, you know, he's nice." And then they were so ardent that the women fell in love with them. And then there's a power shift and so, you know, the guy would have pursued them; would have begged them -- "I love" -- you know, they would have said all the things first. You know, "I love you" first; "I want to live with you" -- blah, blah.

And the woman, you know, falls in love, too. And then within -- whether it's six weeks or three months or six months or sometimes shorter than that, the guy would panic and leave; and just without certain explanation. You know, it wasn't based on "well, we fight too much" or you know, "you smoke and I don't" -- that kind of thing. It just was, you know, one minute they're totally head over heels in love with you, begging you to, you know, be in love with them. Then you are and then they're gone.

And this was the -- this was the particular arc of it that was so interesting, for lack of a better word; and maddening and sort of confusing and all that. And a lot of women I knew had had the same, very same experience.

GROSS: Now in your novel Animal Husbandry, one of the warning signs that the woman has that something's not quite right with her new boyfriend is, you know, when they're looking at the new place that he wants to move into with her, he's using all this really flowery language and he says to her: "my joy knows no bounds." And she thinks: "what a really weird thing to say? He doesn't talk like this. Nobody talks like this."

ZIGMAN: What a dandy.

GROSS: Yeah, well, what -- what -- what -- how -- in what way was that a warning sign? How do you diagnose "my joy knows no bounds"?

ZIGMAN: Well, there's just something sort of -- I mean in hindsight, you look at that and you go: "what?" -- you know, really truly -- "what a dandy?" I mean who talks like that? Who, you know, who -- who -- the person who talks like that is either, you know, a professor of literature, you know, at an Ivy League school, which he wasn't. But -- or it's somebody who is so in love with the idea of being in love that they use that kind of language.

And I mean, obviously, it's not, you know, a hard and fast rule. But that's one of the signals. I mean, if somebody is just so in love with the idea of being in love, then you have to start to wonder; as opposed to the, you know, being really realistic about what it means.

GROSS: Now, in the novel...

ZIGMAN: Yeah.

GROSS: ... the woman in the book falls in love with a man who -- after he falls in love with her, I might add. And...

ZIGMAN: Thank you.

GROSS: ... he's -- yeah -- he's already in a relationship. In fact, he's supposed to be getting married to this other woman...

ZIGMAN: Right.

GROSS: ... but he's -- he -- they haven't had intimate relations in a long time...

ZIGMAN: Right.

GROSS: ... he -- he seems to have really fallen out of love with her. They're -- so, so the -- the main character in your book is able to rationalize all this: well, he doesn't really love her. It's a bad relationship.

ZIGMAN: Right, right.

GROSS: Now, the woman who he was supposed to marry is the assistant director of an abortion clinic during the day and at night, works in a shelter for abused women. And so what the main character thinks is: "oh, God, she's probably so politically correct." And I'm thinking: what happened to sisterhood? You know, really.

ZIGMAN: Well.

GROSS: She has such a negative reaction to the fact that this woman works in a shelter and an abortion clinic.

ZIGMAN: Yeah, well, I think that's more -- in the character's defense, it's more of -- you know, it's more of just the competition thing. It's like, well, you know, how humorless can you be if you're having -- if these are your two jobs, I mean obviously she doesn't have, you know, a personality 'cause she's so good. I mean, she's basically jealous of her; that she's a do-gooder and that -- and that she's not.

But yeah, a lot of times sisterhood does go out the window. You know, a lot of times it doesn't. I mean I -- I would be nowhere without my closest, closest female friends who I've been very lucky, and my women friends have been unbelievable.

On the other hand, every now and then, a woman will date your ex-boyfriend and totally shock you. So I mean, you just, you know, that happens a lot more rarely. But you know, OK.

LAUGHTER

All right. I'm shamed.

LAUGHTER

GROSS: Laura Zigman is my guest, and her new novel is called Animal Husbandry.

Have you redefined your ideal man as a result of your relationship gone wrong and the research that you did for your new novel?

ZIGMAN: I think so. I mean, I'm not sure that it changed because I wrote the book. I think it changes with age and maturity on my part, too. I mean, what -- I mean, I'll always be attracted to a guy with a wash-board stomach, but you know...

GROSS: What is a "wash-board" stomach?

ZIGMAN: A wash-board stomach is, you know, abs.

GROSS: Oh.

ZIGMAN: Ripples and ripples of abs.

GROSS: Oh.

ZIGMAN: You know -- how shallow of me. But I mean, part of what comes with age and maturity in the dating arena is that you -- in certain ways, you accept more than you did when you were younger. In other ways, you will not accept certain things that you did accept when you were younger. You'll accept -- I'll accept, for instance, less bad treatment, you know, from a guy than I would have 10 years ago or five years ago.

On the other hand, I'll accept, you know, a stomach that isn't wash-board now. You know, I mean, so -- you change what you're willing to accept. But I mean, basically, the character traits of men have, for me, have always been the same. I mean, you know, I want a nice, smart -- I don't care what they do for a living. And someone basically who I connect with on a, you know, various levels.

GROSS: Not to be obnoxious here, but we know when rippling abs are really important, one shouldn't be surprised if one's mate is a narcissist.

ZIGMAN: You're right. No, I mean, that's the thing. I mean, at the time, when you're 27 or 26, you don't really know that. I mean, you sort of -- you see the abs and you're like "I'm in love." And of course, there's other things to back that up. I mean, the person's smart or they're this or they're that. But you have to understand, which is something you don't understand the first time you go through it, that a lot of times you have to really pay attention. I mean, you have to pay attention to what people do and what they say.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

ZIGMAN: And a lot of times what they say, you know, is -- are just words. And if you let yourself be wooed by flowery -- you know, "my joy knows no bounds" -- and you don't pay attention to what they do; if you don't pay attention to the fact that they're cheating on their girlfriend, their fiance, to be with you -- which they'll do to you, you know, down the road. If they're capable of doing it once, they'll do it to you.

It's a fine line to walk after that. I mean, you have to be careful and smart about, you know, who you give your heart to. And on the other hand, you have to not be bitter. I mean, you have to always have a sort of sense of hope that, you know, hope and possibility that love will work. Because if you don't, you'll kill yourself.

So, it's a very fine line to walk.

GROSS: Well Laura Zigman, thank you very much.

ZIGMAN: Thank you.

GROSS: Laura Zigman is the author of the new novel Animal Husbandry.

Coming up, the "ska" revival. This is FRESH AIR.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Laura Zigman
High: First time novelist Laura Zigman talks about why men dump women. Zigman is author of "Animal Husbandry" published by The Dial Press. Zigman's novel, which she describes as autobiographical, explores one woman's search for answers after summarizing that men leave relationships for the same reason that bulls wont mate with the same cow. The reason, Zigman says, is for "a new cow" aka a new relationship. Zigman is a former book publicist at Knopf and now lives in Washington DC.
Spec: Women; Men; Culture; Relationships; Farming; Animal Husbandry
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Animal Husbandry
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: JANUARY 05, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 010501np.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Ska Revival
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:55

TERRY GROSS, HOST: In the past few years, dozens of young bands have taken up "ska" -- the original Jamaican-style of rhythm and blues. Ska faded in Jamaica some 30 years ago, but renewed interest has prompted numerous reissues.

Music critic Milo Miles reviews some recent reissues, centered on the most influential ska band, The Skatellites (ph).

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "THE SKATELLITES" PERFORMING)

MILO MILES, ROCK CRITIC: Ska has undergone two revivals since its hey-day in Jamaica. The first was the two-tone movement in the early '80s, mostly confined to England. The second is the ska boom right now, with bands like "Sublime," "No Doubt," and the "Mighty Mighty Bosstones."

Ska's appeal is obvious. It's danceable with a very tough-guy sound. Its structure of horns and heavy beats is simple, but not simplistic, and it can be twisted into endless variations.

Besides, bands with strong, ritzy flavors always get extra points from me. Having said that, I have to add that ska has lost a little grace each time it's come back.

More than ever nowadays, ska feels like a fashion to put on. The old Jamaican ska performers knew they were innovators, not a look back. And originally, the music was not just stomping, but swinging -- full of tricky jazz inflections.

The best way to hear this is to check out instrumentals by the Skatellites.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "THE SKATELLITES" PERFORMING)

The Skatellites were not just a crack instrumental outfit and the house band at Cox and Dodd's (ph) hitmaking studio. In terms of influence on Jamaican music, the Skatellites were the equivalents of Louis Armstrong's "Hot Fives" (ph) and "Hot Sevens" (ph) in jazz. They laid the foundation and set the standards for everything that came later.

And all this from a band that officially lasted only 14 months, from June, 1964 to August, 1965. A version of the Skatellites records and tours to this day. Of the nine original members, the stand-out performers were the two tenor saxmen Tommy McCook (ph) and Roland Alphonso (ph) -- and above all, trombonist Don Drummond (ph).

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "THE SKATELLITES" PERFORMING)

Drummond's coherent, passionate solos impressed American jazz masters like J.J. Johnson (ph). But he was already taking medication for mental illness when he stabbed his girlfriend to death on new years's day 1965. He played only sporadically after that, and died in an institution four years later.

On a happier note, the Skatellites recorded so many sides they must have slept in the studio during their brief existence. More of their work is available than ever before.

The collection that shows the Skatellites at their most diverse came out several years ago as "Ska Bonanza." It's a double CD also sold in two single volumes. Here we have the Skatellites backing potent singers like Bob Marley and the Wailers and Toots and the Maytalls (ph). There's also splinter outfits like Don Drummond and his Group in feisty, rare workouts.

Dedicated fans are advised to seek out a pair of widely-distributed French imports that include later and more well-rehearsed Skatellites numbers. The instrumentals are on an album called "Ska: Tribute to the Skatellites." The collection with the band baking up vocalists is called "Hog in a Cocoa" (ph). The purest Skatellites of all is on the new double CD set called "Foundation Ska," which includes 32 prime sides and excellent, copious liner notes.

The most poignant track here is an odd tune with heavy roots percussion, "Woman a'Come" (ph). It's sung by Margarita Mafoud (ph) and yes, that's Don Drummond's girlfriend.

GROSS: Milo Miles is features editor for Soundstone.com.

Dateline: Milo Miles, Cambridge; Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest:
High: Music critic Milo Miles with a review.
Spec: Music Industry; Reggae; Ska
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Ska Revival
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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