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Peronal finances, or how I learned to stop worrying and invest in a 401k
August 1, 2006 10:35 AM   Subscribe

Get Rich Slowly, a personal finance web site (created by our jdroth), has been educational to someone who spent most of his life until now pretending financial matters don't exist. His blog is updated frequently, and contains insightful tips on living frugally, eliminating debt, saving and investing. Between his site, and another very educational site entitled I Will Teach You To Be Rich (start here), I've greatly expanded my knowledge about managing my money effectively. Perhaps most importantly, they're both consistently interesting and easy reads. [more inside]
posted by knave (73 comments total) 91 users marked this as a favorite

 
For instance, I've learned:There is much more information on these sites, and they're both straightforward to read, even for someone (like me) with little background in economics. I Will Teach You To Be Rich, in particular, has an incredible amount of archived entries, where I spent the better part of a week when I first found it.
posted by knave at 10:35 AM on August 1, 2006 [4 favorites]


Thank you - I just learned that repairing the two dents in my car could cost me over $3000. I'm a little upset that I clicked on the link now.
posted by echo0720 at 10:39 AM on August 1, 2006


Wow, excellent post. Thanks so much!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:40 AM on August 1, 2006


I just read Greenblatt's little book, so this post is timely. Thanks!
posted by shoepal at 10:43 AM on August 1, 2006


Great post! I achieved financial independence some years ago, and noticed one thing he doesn't point out is it's a constant battle to keep costs down!

Utilities, food, energy, taxes, almost everything goes up every year. I keep an Excel spreadsheet on my PDA, and maybe once a month invest a few minutes reviewing every cash outflow, seeing what costs I can cut. I make it a goal to find something!

On the other side (I invest only for income) almost every week I review my portfolio, see who has raised dividends, who has cut and - most importantly - where to deploy surplus funds into additional, cash flow generating securities. It builds up pretty rapidly over time (the compounding he points out).

I've helped a few of my friends out this way also: select a bill, then identify investments that will let someone else pay that bill (i.e., let the cash flow from that asset cover the obligation). Repeat as assets become available.

All I can say is life gets pretty sweet when someone else is paying your bills.
posted by Mutant at 11:04 AM on August 1, 2006


One book I would highly highly recommend is Joe Dominguez and Viki Rubin's "Your Money Or Your Life".
posted by willmize at 11:39 AM on August 1, 2006


I achieved financial independence some years ago.

May I say how depressing that is to hear from someone who worked for investment banks. I applaud your single-mindedness in pursuing this end (not least your frugality on the way!) but worry that for many it's simply not possible.
posted by dmt at 11:42 AM on August 1, 2006


I just started reading the "removing barriers" entry, and thought of almost a dozen ways I can apply this in my life. Great stuff!
posted by Dr-Baa at 11:48 AM on August 1, 2006


How is this going to help me achieve my dream of going down to Malibu at 180MPH in a F430, a passed out hooker in the passenger seat and me fumbling around trying to shoot up another speedball all the while "White Wedding" blasts out of the speaker system.
posted by geoff. at 11:51 AM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


The first link's embedded music crashed my browser.

"Puttin' on the Ritz", my ass!
posted by Kickstart70 at 12:08 PM on August 1, 2006


I think the second site "http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/" is pretty lame. (For example: "But I'm still kind of unsure what I'll do. From a strictly financial perspective, in a few years I might want to start saving money for my kids' education.") It's written by a 23 year old and it reads like it.
posted by mattbucher at 12:21 PM on August 1, 2006


"...but worry that for many it's simply not possible."

Actually, it is. Even at the Investment Banks many of the people spend 98% of the money they make. I've worked with Managing Directors pulling in six figures a year before bonus who not only had less than five thousand pounds in the bank, but also were hitting up Graduates Trainees for payday loans to get by - absolutely amazing!

Achieving financial independence is not about how much money you make - it's about how much you save and how you deploy the surplus capital. So I disagree; financial independence is for everyone. It's a matter of focus and ignoring the siren call of the consumer lifestyle.

My Grandparents, of the Depression generation, never made more than $20K between the two of them and yet were financially independent. Sure, I achieved it earlier than they did but that's not the point. How did they do it? Simple rules.

Be aware of your income and your expenses. Seek to maximise the former while minimising the latter (a constant battle as I previously pointed out!) and you'll be fine. It's when consumption (aka "spending") rises to match current or expected income that problems develop. These problems can be near term shortfalls in cash flow (the MD above), an inability to achieve medium term financial goals such as purchase a home, or long term issues like an iinability to retire.

I have many blessings, but one is that I never, never, never got caught up in the Investment Banking lifestyle. I live in The Ghetto and walk to work. I take a high end holiday once or twice a year that someone else pays for. I don't need to show off with a nice detached house in Surrey or a flash auto; being in control of my financial destiny is enough for me.
posted by Mutant at 12:22 PM on August 1, 2006 [4 favorites]


@Kickstart70
I un-embedded the music. Let me know if the embedded video causes woe, too.

@mattbutcher
Ramit may be young, but I think that's part of his charm. He has energy and has an ability to communicate with the college-age crowd that I've long since lost. His financial advice is excellent, and he's especially keen to promote young entrepreneurs. If I'd known of his site before I started mine, I might not have made the attempt.
posted by jdroth at 12:26 PM on August 1, 2006


Mutant: These are not sarcastic or rhetorical questions, but simple curiosity...

- Who paid for your post-secondary education?
- Who bought your first car?
- Did your parents help with house downpayments?

The thing is, almost everyone I hear claiming "financial independence" has had major help getting started. Almost everyone I know who has really struggled throughout life financially had little to no help from parents/grandparents/etc.
posted by Kickstart70 at 12:27 PM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm really getting sick of the high-horse "youre spending too much money on expensive shoes and ipods, dummy" form of advice which purposely ignores the real reason for consumber debt: being saddled with student loans from a young age, credit card debt from getting by post-college, slumping job markets, unrealistic debt payment schedules, lack of insurance, and medical bills.

I wouldnt be surprised that people opt for the bling because they know they were never, ever be out of debt no matter what they do so they might as well splurge. I wonder if spending habits are different in countries with free healthcare and higher education. I wonder if the psychological effect of being 30-100k in debt in your low twenties because of school/medical makes people just give up.
posted by the ghost of Ken Lay at 12:39 PM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


Dead men tell no lies.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:42 PM on August 1, 2006


Not to mention the people who can take huge risks like starting their own business and put away 25+% in savings monthly are in a pretty good position to begin with.
I faced this exact situation when I was graduating from college: Google made me a great offer, the position was a nice fit, and the people there are really smart. Plus, the food is amazing. But I decided to go the startup route (to PBwiki) because I can always go back to the corporate side. The people at Google couldn't have been more supportive.
Good for you! You know you're no where near average when you turn down google for a job.
posted by the ghost of Ken Lay at 12:42 PM on August 1, 2006


I usually treat financial subjects like the plague (luckily, my wife doesn't). But, jdroth is a swell fellow/filly, so I'll check this out for that reason.
posted by teece at 12:42 PM on August 1, 2006


Thank you, ghost of Ken Lay. This guy Ramit is basically saying he's going to saddle his kids with student loans from the get-go because it will teach them something (even though his parents paid for him to go to Stanford).
posted by mattbucher at 12:43 PM on August 1, 2006


I would love these sites if only the privileged would acknowledged how lucky and privileged they are and how their "advice" applies to only other privileged kids.
posted by the ghost of Ken Lay at 12:47 PM on August 1, 2006


Money is obviously a sensitive subject. There are always going to be people who have it better. The point is, these guys are providing some pretty good information for free, and it's the basics that I was missing for 26 years. I'm just now starting to be more intelligent with my money and the results are already obvious.

I also think taking on 100k of student loan debt is a choice. I think that because I chose the other route. I went to a perfectly good state school, and graduated owing $5k, which I've since paid off. My parents assisted minimally while I was in school, the rest was my work and my choices.
posted by knave at 12:47 PM on August 1, 2006


Dr-Baa - re your comment about reading the 'removing barriers' section - which site are you referring to? I did a quick look at both, and couldn't find an obvious link to such a section? I'm interested, though, as you mentioned it being helpful - so help me out, too :o)

thanks
posted by crepeMyrtle at 12:51 PM on August 1, 2006


I wonder if the psychological effect of being 30-100k in debt in your low twenties because of school/medical makes people just give up.

Yes but in reality it is possible to pay off such debts. It's done all the time. 30k is a car loan.
posted by scheptech at 12:52 PM on August 1, 2006


@teece
Fellow. Not a filly!

@Ken Lay

I've actually read some personal finance advisors who recommend against college for the very reasons you cite. However, the real reason for consumer debt is not college loans. The real reason for consumer debt is that people buy things they cannot afford. There are many reasons that they do this, and that's a subject for a lengthy debate perhaps, but that's it. If you spend more than you earn, you will generate debt. If you earn more than you spend, you will generate savings.

I, too, think it sucks for parents to saddle their children with extraordinary student loans, but the kids need to take some responsibility, too. There are a lot of other options:What to do once you're already saddled with those student loans? My wife graduated with loans and spent the first five years after school throwing every dollar she could at them. I got through school without any debt, but I had full tuition scholarships (as a result of studying in high school), and I worked as many as four jobs at a time in order to pay for room-and-board. And to finance my nascent credit card debt.

I don't think "you're spending too much on iPods" is "high-horse" advice. It's the voice of experience trying to warn you from mistakes that others have already made. If you don't want to listen, that's your choice, but it's good advice, not bad.

I would love these sites if only the privileged would acknowledged how lucky and privileged they are and how their "advice" applies to only other privileged kids.

I lead a privileged life now, but I was not raised with one. My family was poor. And this advice is great for everyone, even whiny little phantoms.
posted by jdroth at 12:55 PM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


Kickstart70, that's simply a product of the culture in America. There are so many ways to save money it's not even funny. Everyone seems to need to push the envelope of their standard of living rather than scale it back a bit and save. It's amazing what can happen over a few short years if you can sock away a few hundred a month.

There are savings accounts out there on the net now that return you a guaranteed 5.15%, for god's sake.

There are credit cards that only charge 4% interest over the life of a transferred balance! Getting out of debt doesn't have to be so difficult if you just do the research yourself. And neither does building wealth.

People simply need to manage their finances better. It's not voodoo, you just need to lay out the numbers and live within your means.

And of course, being part of a dual-income household always helps, too.
posted by fusinski at 12:57 PM on August 1, 2006


Kickstart70:no offsense taken. Country boy, archetypical White Trash (being reared in a trailer I can say that), hard core religion, KKK nearby, poor dental hygenie, the whole trip. I grew up fairly poor, was adopted by my grandparents in the mid 60's, learned a lot of frugality from them (Depression Generation!), bootstrapped my undergraduate (Math/Comp Sci, worked at the Computer Lab at Uni) back in the late 70's/early 80's, was fortunate enough to get employer sponsorship for my first Masters (Quantitative Finance) in the late 90's, I'm paying for my own MBA, and until the age of 40 or so I dealt with major guilt issues for realising it wasn't my fault I had so much money.

Everyone else spends too much!

That's probably the best thing about these web sites, even though the writing is a little crappy at times. Minimise your expenses. Be aware of your spending no matter how much money you think you've got (after working on many a friends budgets with them, I believe it's human nature to think you've got more money than you really do).

KenLay: It doesn't matter what you spend it on; shoes, iPods, dope, booze, whatever. If your income is less than your outgoings, you have to readjust your spending. It's as simple as that, and my apologies if this came across wrong - I'm definitely not trying to be "high horse".

It's a simple philosophy that worked long before all the financial engineers (I'm one!) thought up creative ways to saddle everyone with all the debt they could handle, financed by someone else who had a stomach for the default risk.
posted by Mutant at 1:11 PM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


jdroth I had the exact same attitude you have. "Why cant these morons stop spending money on all this bling? Damn rap music!" "Why cant they have gotten a scholarship or two?" "They must be drug addicts or gamblers." etc etc. "Thank god Im young and white!" "Did you read rich dad/poor dad yet, dummies?!"


Then real life happened to me. Real medical bills and an insurer that couldnt care less. A paycut. etc. Now I live in a poorer part of town and the people who I meet are not the "bling addicts" you love to portray them as. They pay a very very modest rent. They have basic credit card debt. They simply cannot make more than x a year and thats damn close to the money you need to get by. Some are immigrants. Some are college graduates. When I see the occasional ipod mini or when someone decides to buy a new car instead of a 2year used one I don't scream "consumerist idiot addict," because I know that is one of few things in life that makes them happy. That new car. Or maybe those 80 dollar shoes. The poor know all the money saving tips the rich have forgotten, and then some.

In my experience, its the semi-well off who end up being the consumerist addicts with all the fashionable shoppings, high tech toys, and absurdly expensive cars. Like I wrote above, you're preaching to other well off, if not spoiled kids, if youre writing about being able to afford to give your children more than what most people make in a year in gifts. Youre audience is other well-off people, not the average. Once you accept that you will be much happier.

--a whiney ghost
posted by the ghost of Ken Lay at 1:11 PM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


Isn't this a double post?

I thought I have seen this before at Metafilter at least once.
posted by dios at 1:12 PM on August 1, 2006


jdroth: nice work, by the way.
posted by dios at 1:13 PM on August 1, 2006


It's never had its own FPP, but it's been mentioned in comments several times, and it is on Projects.
posted by knave at 1:17 PM on August 1, 2006


Riddle me this:

If conventional advice regarding savings is to squirrel away 10 (or 15 or 20)% of one's income in savings, is that pre-tax or post-tax?

Because there's a big difference.
posted by docpops at 1:17 PM on August 1, 2006


Ken Lay, you are mis-characterizing my attitude. I don't think people who spend more than they can afford are morons. I've never used the phrase "bling addict" in my life. I know that life deals hard blows to some people, and that sucks. But my advice is sound for anyone, rich or poor or middle-class.

@docpops
Some people say pre-tax, some people say post-tax. I like to think people should start with post-tax and then gradually work to pre-tax. Does that make sense?

So, for example, I'm only just to the point where I can afford to begin saving. I'm saving about 5% post-tax. My goal is to be at 5% pre-tax by the end of the year, and from there to ramp it up to 10%, etc.

On reading comments, I'm amused by Mutants' mini-autobio:

Country boy, archetypical White Trash (being reared in a trailer I can say that), hard core religion, KKK nearby, poor dental hygenie, the whole trip. I grew up fairly poor,

This could have been my bio exactly except we didn't have the KKK in rural Oregon. (Though we certainly had their attitudes.)
posted by jdroth at 1:26 PM on August 1, 2006


The rules of thumb are really there just to encourage you to actually save. The pre-tax/post-tax question, believe it or not, is really the kind of minutiae mentioned in my first comment. How much you need to save depends on how soon you want to retire (aka become financially independent), and what kind of lifestyle you expect to live when you do.

I do believe they're talking pre-tax, and they're usually talking about 401ks or a similar pre-tax investment, so the tax hit comes in retirement, not today.
posted by knave at 1:27 PM on August 1, 2006


I think you're exactly correct, knave.
posted by jdroth at 1:31 PM on August 1, 2006


jdroth & Ramit, oh fwiw, by the years end most of my medical/credit card will be gone and I'll most likely be back to putting money in my money market and spending sensibly but richly compared to my current neighbors. I'll be back to being one of you, but I doubt I'll be back to being a high-horse spoiled ass anymore. I'll have more humility and probably won't rail against the "financial dummies." I'll accept that medical problems and job loss are real and lead to real problems the high-horse 'lets get wealthy' crowd usually never see in their lives. Hell, its usually seen as an excuse anyway. I might even start a little financial website with the naive assumption that everyone can make it, regardless of their circumstances. I'll preach this to the internet because it'll make me feel good about my wealth guilt (doesnt it help guys?). Of course I could never shout this "advice" in the barrio as we all know its does not apply to the people who aren't bringing at least 50k or so annually sole/combined income. But we kid ourselves and believe it does. Caviar and Rousseau Chambertin on me in '07! I mean discounted Chambertin.

But my advice is sound for anyone, rich or poor or middle-class.

Indeed! Especially the poor! Is the guilt gone now?

As for misrepresenting you. Well you open your blog by quoting this "many people focus on the cars, houses, and clothes, and that is the root of our debt problem." Actually the root of debt is none of those things. Number one cause of bankrupcy? Medical bills. Whoops, its not that ipod mini after all!
posted by the ghost of Ken Lay at 1:38 PM on August 1, 2006


jdroth, And this advice is great for everyone, even whiny little phantoms.

Thanks bud. If you ever drive by my neighborhood maybe you can throw your empty starbucks container in my whiny gutter. Thanks for your professionalism! Why, I'm richer already!
posted by the ghost of Ken Lay at 1:40 PM on August 1, 2006


Thanks for your professionalism!

He's a blogger you're haranguing on Metafilter, not your financial adviser. What do you expect?
posted by mendel at 1:51 PM on August 1, 2006


You're right, Ken Lay, I shouldn't have said that. I was trying to be funny and cute, and it didn't work.

I'm sorry that you're bitter about your financial situation. You do sound as if you've experienced some things that I haven't. I grew up poor, no question, but I recovered from that, and have not been dealt any bad blows as an adult. Call me lucky, I guess.

I still think you do a disservice by trying to say that advice offered at personal finance sites -- of which mine is but one -- are geared toward the wealthy. It's just not so.

I'll tell you what, though. You seem to have some strong feelings on the subject of personal finance, and your perspective is not one that I've seen represented. If you'd like, I would be happy to publish an entry (or more) from your perspective. I don't know first-hand about how ruinous medical bills can be, for example, and I believe you have something worthwhile to share. If you're interested, e-mail me (check my profile for contact info), and we'll set something up. Seriously.
posted by jdroth at 2:02 PM on August 1, 2006


wow, i gotta applaud jdroth for being so level-headed and reasonable. i share some of ghost of ken lay's pain and perspective on wealth -- and some of his anger at how those who aren't wealthy and/or aren't geniuses about investing, saving, and cutting costs are frequently dismissed by those who are more financially secure.

thanks for the calm, jdroth. your measured responses have led me to view what you write in the open-mind with which it should be read.
posted by lord_wolf at 2:21 PM on August 1, 2006


Getting rich slowly is a synonym for BEING A SLAVE TO THE MAN.

By the time you're wealthy, you're too old to enjoy it!
posted by delmoi at 2:22 PM on August 1, 2006


...and your perspective is not one that I've seen represented.
You're kidding, right? The concept that many people simply cannot gain financial independence because they barely bring in enough money to pay the bills is unheard-of to you? The idea that medical problems or sudden job loss can destroy many people's financial future, despite their best efforts to save whatever they can, is new to you?
Wow.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:33 PM on August 1, 2006


By the way, it's my opinion that not getting student loans is just idiotic, unless you plan on getting into a field that pays really poorly, like English or something. If you're getting into a high-paying field, then take out big loans.

Federal student loans have some of the lowest interest rates available. Not taking a federal student loans is like giving up free money. Even if you could pay for school, if you took out a federal loan, put it in a high-yield CD like HSBCdirect or INGdirect you the loan would literally give you a positive cash flow.

People act like being debt free is a good thing. It's not. Having more debt then you can afford is a bad thing, but debt itself isn't a problem.
posted by delmoi at 2:34 PM on August 1, 2006


I'll tell you what, though. You seem to have some strong feelings on the subject of personal finance, and your perspective is not one that I've seen represented. If you'd like, I would be happy to publish an entry (or more) from your perspective. I don't know first-hand about how ruinous medical bills can be, for example, and I believe you have something worthwhile to share. If you're interested, e-mail me (check my profile for contact info), and we'll set something up. Seriously.

That's a magnanimous gesture, and one I hope Mr. Lay takes you up on.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:35 PM on August 1, 2006


I take "financial independence" in this context as defined in Your Money or Your Life: having guaranteed interest income that exceeds your expenses, i.e., being in a position where seeking employment, or otherwise earning other income is optional.

It doesn't constitute a claim to being a heroic self-made person who started with nothing.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 2:39 PM on August 1, 2006


In my considered opinion, there are two major schools of thought when it comes to people who are experiencing financial straits:There is a degree of validity to both perspectives, but they're extremes, and, much as in politics, I suspect that those extremes dominate discourse on the subject of financial self-discipline.

Someone who is experiencing financial problems may or may not bear the primary responsibility for those financial problems. Try to avoid imputing character based on an arbitrary measure of value like money.

Similarly, someone who is financially independent is not automatically privileged, out-of-touch, and elitist. Try to avoid imputing character based on an arbitrary measure of value like money.
posted by scrump at 2:56 PM on August 1, 2006


You're kidding, right? The concept that many people simply cannot gain financial independence because they barely bring in enough money to pay the bills is unheard-of to you? The idea that medical problems or sudden job loss can destroy many people's financial future, despite their best efforts to save whatever they can, is new to you?
I don't think he's saying that. My reading of his comment was that he had not seen that perspective represented in the pantheon of "how to get yourself out of debt and back on solid ground" advice.

Frankly, with my sampling size of me, I haven't seen that perspective represented much, either. It's gone largely ignored by the media, and strikes me as one of the great underexamined issues of our time. For my money (er, no pun intended), it's one of the key problems with our healthcare system as it's currently constituted, and I suspect it will be the single issue that leads to healthcare reform in our time.
posted by scrump at 2:59 PM on August 1, 2006


Similarly, someone who is financially independent is not automatically privileged, out-of-touch, and elitist.

I'm certainly not saying they are, but once they start believing their their econ-drop-out advice is universal for all peoples of all incomes and for all circumstances then they are for all intents and purposes out-of-touch elitists. One of the joys of reading Mark Cuban's blog is that he certainly knows his advice is for the investing and entrepreneur class. He doesn't make the ignorant assumption that if you follow these steps then you'll be better off even if you're, say, a sustenance farmer, usually prefaced with a personal anecdote, which is the format of the linked blogs.

Finding financial independence or just getting out of debt is like finding jesus or joining AA. Its very easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees and decide that the very specific advice that might help someone in a very similar situation as you is suddenly universal advice for all. Sadly, this line of thinking degenerates into a blaming of the victim mentality. You wouldn't be in this mess if you followed my advice (or found jesus or joined AA) yadda, yadda. I call this Fortune Magazine syndrome.
posted by the ghost of Ken Lay at 3:04 PM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


I gotta hand it to JD. His blog has really been getting a ton of attention.

Anyway, I hope that personal finance blogs inspire people to take control of their finances BEFORE they make major mistakes.

JLP
posted by JLP at 3:08 PM on August 1, 2006


jdroth's being pretty understanding of your position, spectral mr lay, but I think you're combining lazy thinking with overly-broad strokes and a lot of presumptions about what expenses and choices are necessary.

First off, absolutely, there's a segment of the population in a life situation that precludes much improvement and a lot of economic advice. The financial advice that you say you're so sick of and contend is delivered with a sense of superiority is not aimed at them.

Secondly, your contention about a 'real reason behind consumer debt' is specious and lacking any foundation as well as overlooking pretty clear evidence out there about the kinds of debt people take on and what they purchase with it. Aside from that, you make a bunch of presumptions about the ways they choose to make purchases:

being saddled with student loans from a young age

Few people should really have the right to use a loaded term like "saddled" with regards to student loans when options like state universities exist. Almost 20 years after I first took a class there you can still go to Florida International University for approximately $102 per credit hour. That's $12,240 for a four-year degree, or about 3k a year. It's not Yale but the reality is that a sizable percentage of the people going to Big Name Schools aren't reaping a financial advantage in their paychecks that justifies the additional expense.

There's a lot wrong in the college money universe but people who presume that huge expenses, private universities, and full-time enrollment are simply givens are doing harm to the cause.

credit card debt from getting by post-college

Using credit of any kind for basic living is an unsustainable strategy, no matter how horrid your situation. I dispute the assertion that any significant percentage of people doing that have no other choice.

slumping job markets,

The job market has always changed and always come and gone. Some things like outsourcing cause rapid change in certain fields but you cannot blame poor financial choices on the fact that some people find themselves suddenly in hot fields and others find themselves in declining ones. Take a look at the chart on this article about savings rates and note that it doesn't take any kind of upturn in conjunction with the economic boom of the 90s. Clearly a growing market doesn't improve people's financial decisions.

Beyond that fact, part of making sensible economic choices is planning for the downturns. Yes, as stipulated above, some people may never be able to manage that but that is not a description of the majority of people.

unrealistic debt payment schedules,

The reality is that the scourge of our time, credit cards, have payment schedules that are insanely unrealistic in how LONG they allot payments for. The only people making unreasonable decisions are the consumers going along with the minimum payment which will keep them paying off a charge card for decades.

lack of insurance, and medical bills.

Our health care system leaves a lot to be desired but again, you're putting a minority label on the majority of people out there. The fact that a huge number of bankruptcies are a result of medical expenses doesn't state anything about all the other people carrying large debt loads who do not have medical collections hanging around their neck.

Additionally, there's a good number of these people who have these expenses because of poor financial choices that they could have made differently. Health insurance with a high deductible is cheap in your 20s if you have to buy it yourself. You can curse the darkness or you can light a candle... by running that "high horse" advice that under $50 a month for catastrophic care is a better investment than cable tv.

You're engaging in the financial version of arguing in favor of not wearing a seatbelt because a tiny percentage of people would have survived without it and another tiny percentage would die anyway. You're slamming what you claim is "fortune magazine syndrome when you're just making the same kind of error in reverse.
posted by phearlez at 3:20 PM on August 1, 2006


@Ken Lay
Its very easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees and decide that the very specific advice that might help someone in a very similar situation as you is suddenly universal advice for all.

I agree 100%.

Even a cursory glance of Get Rich Slowly reveals that one of my mantras is: Do what works for you.

I know that there are no magic bullets. I know that not every piece of advice works for everyone. (Or even for most people.) There are some general truths (such as: debt is acquired by spending more than you earn) that are a result of things like math (and not politics or ideology), and there are some goals that can be derived from these truths, but there are many, many ways to achieve these goals.

I try not to make value judgments. I don't care how people got in debt. (Hell — I got in debt by making foolish credit card purchases. Who am I to judge?) All I'm trying to do is provide a glimmer of hope, to collate advice from respected sources, and to offer my thoughts on what it takes to live cheaply, escape the credit trap, and live well. (Whatever "well" means to you.)
posted by jdroth at 4:26 PM on August 1, 2006


I wouldnt be surprised that people opt for the bling because they know they were never, ever be out of debt no matter what they do so they might as well splurge.

I'd love to see a book like Freakonomics devoted solely to personal finance.

I've got 50k in student loans.
posted by mecran01 at 7:50 PM on August 1, 2006


Call me lucky, I guess.

You're lucky, and not stupid. You need both of those if you want financial freedom. Or just have rich parents. In programming terms:

if (hasRichParents() || (isLucky && !isStupid)) {
  return rich;
} else {
  return poor;
}
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:26 PM on August 1, 2006


I'd just like to throw in my support for just about everything the Ghost of Ken Lay has said. I'd add more to the peanut gallery, but I've confronted this asinine line of thinking far too often for it to rile me into littany any more. Suffice to say, a good many people aren't making the choice between a $50 cable TV bill and a $50 health insurance premium. They're making the choice between selling their TV or selling their blood just to pay their rent.

Advice like, "compound interest is your friend!" doesn't mean shit when your 7am-7pm job (at minimum wage) just barely keeps Ramen in your stomach and a roof over your head. By the time you get home at night, you barely lack the energy to eat, let alone work to "better" yourself.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:37 PM on August 1, 2006



That being an entrepreneur is something more of us should consider, and in particular, that it's not the idea that's important, it's the effort put into creating a successful business (partly by removing barriers)

I can testify 1st hand that more people should consider doing something on their own. You don't have to be a genius or super-rich to get started. You don't even have to make a ton to be successful. The joy of working for yourself is probably worth something on it's own.

About 2 years ago, I started my own business. I had to work like crazy for a year while the company was making peanuts. Things were looking bleak. But once I had everything set up things got better quickly. On top of that, I didn't have to work crazy hours anymore.

Best of all, because I make my own pay and hours, I was able to get through a serious illness last year and more recently a broken leg that required surgery and about 2 months of recovery.

Had I been working for someone else, I doubt they would have been able to keep me around with all the time I had to miss. I worked about 100 hrs combined in June and July and instead of rushing back to put some hours in I took a nice vacation to celebrate the recovery.

Of course, if I don't start working hard again, business will slow down. But being my own boss has made some potentially tough times a lot easier.
posted by b_thinky at 9:15 PM on August 1, 2006


I know there are people in that situation, and honestly, they're probably not reading Metafilter. I agree with jdroth that this kind of financial advice is important and applicable to a great many people, despite that there are some people just struggling to get the necessities of life. For the most part, dealing with money effectively is something the middle class generally gets wrong. My thinking is that this is part of the reason the middle class is being eroded (of course, there are other factors), and I only see spreading this information as being helpful.

The generalizations about high-horses are really out of place here. This information is useful to probably a majority of readers of this site.
posted by knave at 9:19 PM on August 1, 2006


Sorry, I was replying to C_D.
posted by knave at 9:20 PM on August 1, 2006


Suffice to say, a good many people aren't making the choice between a $50 cable TV bill and a $50 health insurance premium. They're making the choice between selling their TV or selling their blood just to pay their rent.

Maybe the people you come in contact with can't make ends meet for legitimate reasons, but I've seen lots of folks who frankly deserved to be poor.

I used to work in retail, where our salaries, including commissions, came out to $25,000 a year at best. This is not an acceptable job for someone to be living as an adult on, let alone raising a family. Most of my co-workers were older, in their late 20s or early 30s (at the time I was 20). They were all poor for reasons of their own making; previous/current drug problems, dropping out of school, becoming a parent or single parent at a young age, etc. And most continued the idiocy by clubbing 4 or more nights a week, buying expensive clothes, leasing Cadallics they couldn't afford and making other inexplicable decisions.

I do know people who do have or have had legitimate financial troubles because of failed businesses, medical problems or other hardships. All have recovered and are doing well. My brother is currently in such a situation and I have no doubt he'll get back on his feet because he's a smart guy who can think for himself.
posted by b_thinky at 9:44 PM on August 1, 2006


Bah. I'm too old school for this.

I discovered that site ten years ago, advertised on a bumper sticker, and haven't gone back there until today. Glad to see it hasn't changed a bit.
posted by jewzilla at 9:45 PM on August 1, 2006


I know there are people in that situation, and honestly, they're probably not reading Metafilter.

And why would you assume that? Here's a hypothetical for you to ruminate over:

You used to work in the tech industry, but your company shut its doors after the dot-com bust. You don't own a phone. You don't have cable. Unemployment benefits are long gone. You have no health insurance. You have tens of thousands of dollars in college debt because those jobs that will finally pull you out of the gutter all require a degree. The only thing you spend money on is rent, electricity, food, and an internet connection. But why an internet connection? Because nobody in your field advertises jobs in the newspaper... it's all online.

So why wouldn't these hypothetical people read Metafilter?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:49 PM on August 1, 2006


My thinking is that this is part of the reason the middle class is being eroded (of course, there are other factors), and I only see spreading this information as being helpful.

I totally agree. It's not just about being smart - it's about thinking independantly. Our schools teach kids to take orders and to fall in line and be like everyone else. They teach us if our parents aren't rich, we've already lost and we need to go find someone to take care of us. Fuck that.
posted by b_thinky at 9:52 PM on August 1, 2006


Well, your original impoverished person was working 7am to 7pm, and that doesn't leave a lot of time for reading Metafilter. Plus, time spent reading Metafilter could be spent delivering pizzas or waiting tables. Internet access can be had for free at a public library. I don't know what you're getting at C_D, except that you want to be upset about something. There is good advice out there, and these guys are presenting it in easy-to-read doses. I'm sorry that some people are struggling to make ends meet, and there are social systems in place to help them, but most people in the US aren't choosing between Internet and pasta, they're choosing between Nokia and Motorola.
posted by knave at 9:56 PM on August 1, 2006


I'd just like to chime in to say that I've been reading Get Rich Slowly for a bit now and it's really helped me figure out how to better understand how to manage my money.

This comes from an early 20's guy living on the poor side of town that's having a hard time making sure bills get paid every month.
posted by mindless progress at 11:45 PM on August 1, 2006


Had I been working for someone else, I doubt they would have been able to keep me around with all the time I had to miss. I worked about 100 hrs combined in June and July and instead of rushing back to put some hours in I took a nice vacation to celebrate the recovery.

That sucks. Good thing my last job came with am optional short-term disability benefit, which would have let me stay off work while continuing to be paid. It also came with a non-optional long-term disability benefit.
posted by delmoi at 1:09 AM on August 2, 2006


I don't know what you're getting at C_D, except that you want to be upset about something.

Not at all. My point was that there are plenty of unemployed digerati out there, who might come to Metafilter during the hour or so they have before turning off their brains for the night after working a soulless job all day. Plenty of 'em. And this advice isn't very helpful for any of them, or the throng of un- or underemployed who might find it offensive to suggest that their plight is actually caused by their own actions and efforts (or lack thereof) instead of outside forces that they have absolutely no control over.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:10 AM on August 2, 2006


C_D, are you perhaps getting towards the territory of 'this post does not suit my chosen minority so should not have appeared?' Even if there are people reading metafilter who are not in any position to be helped by any of the advice on either of those two sites - well, who cares? None of the {insert hated post type} threads have ever helped me. However, I agree with many of the others here that the sites have a lot of good advice for a large section of the population.
posted by jacalata at 6:52 AM on August 2, 2006


delmoi: yeah it sucks, but the company I used to work for was a small startup not making any money. We had about 20 employees. They probably would have tried to carry me, but it would have been a huge burden and may have affected the livlihoods of my co-workers.

But even in a big company than can provide these benefits, if they can afford to lose you suddenly and unexpectedly for several weeks, you're probably not of much value to the company. Your chances of being downsized at a later date would be more likely than promotion.
posted by b_thinky at 10:17 AM on August 2, 2006


are you perhaps getting towards the territory of...

I've said nothing about the merits of the post because I think as posts go, it's a fine thing. My comments were about the content, and the conversation that has developed because of it. "I disagree with what you say, but would defend to the death your right to say it" and all that.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:10 PM on August 2, 2006


Yay for jd! His site instantly became a daily visit for me when he started it. The blog post that it grew out of had long been in my bookmarks.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:44 PM on August 2, 2006


Also, I've found I Will Teach You To Be Rich a little unfocused and not terribly useful in comparison, though I havent' dug through the archives. Investor Geeks (which I don't think has been mentioned yet) I like a lot too, though.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:48 PM on August 2, 2006


> By the time you get home at night, you barely lack the energy to eat, let alone work to "better" yourself.

Tell that to the Korean immigrants, billy bob.
posted by jfuller at 6:04 PM on August 2, 2006


They already know.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:28 PM on August 2, 2006


OK, I actually read the thread.

the ghost of Ken Lay seems to be as much of an asshole as he was in life. Not a shocker, there. Maybe he's just staying in incorporeal character.

Neither he nor Civil_Disobedient actually seem to have read any of the posts at jdroth's site.

Ignoring ex-KennyBoy, I'll say that I don't exactly understand what C_D is on about, to be honest.

I mean, sure, there are people who can't make ends meet, for whatever reasons. A lot of them, in America and elsewhere. And yeah, many of those are careful with their money and still can't keep their heads above water. And yeah, some (but by no means all) of the advice found on jdroth's site would not be of use to those folks.

My question is: so? I'm not saying 'the hell with the poor' or anything -- all I'm saying is that who the heck are you to dictate to him the kind of advice that jd chooses to share? If he provides useful stuff for people who are in the many middle bands between 'just getting by' and 'financial freedom', how on earth could that be bad? Is there some unwritten blog-law that he write to as wide an audience as he is humanly capable?

Nonsense.

As far as the financial freedom thing goes, I'll be there in a few years, hopefully, and I received little to nothing from family, other than a $10,000 inheritance I spent to bootstrap my into one of my multiyear global vagabond trips more than a decade ago. I call myself poor (and happy), because I live on less than 40% of my not-large income. The rest is not 'disposable income', it's untouchable savings. The ways and places I've chosen to live entailed sacrifices, and I understand that not everyone is able or willing to make those kind of sacrifices, of course.

Contrary to Kickstart70's experience, almost everyone I know who has achieved or will achieve financial independence had no 'major help' -- they did it with the force of their personality, the sweat off their balls (or ball-equivalents), the friends they made, and (at least sometimes) their lack of emotional attachment to material goods and really hard work.

These, of course, are merely (and arguably) necessary, not sufficient.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:06 PM on August 2, 2006


> They already know.

No doubt they do. But somehow it doesn't stop them. There they go, heading off to job #3 exhaustion or no exhaustion, so their kids can live better. It does stop you? Or am I mistaking what you imply?

By happy coincidence. here's The Real Tragedy of [My] Student Debt from over on AlterNet, just in time for this discussion.

To be fair, I made the choices that put me in this situation. I attended an expensive university 3,000 miles from home. I stayed at that school, even though I could get a cheaper education elsewhere. I studied an impractical subject that I loved, then continued my studies at an obscure foreign university. I wasn't always aware of financial consequences.

Yet I made my choices based on the values I had been taught -- that helping others is more important than making money for yourself, meaningful career is more important than net worth, and brains, determination, and charisma are the key ingredients of success. I realize now that I subscribed to the fantasy of an equal society, when in fact everyone's options arise from class, race, gender, and a thousand other subtle differences in our experiences, assumptions, and privileges.

I perceive a conspicuously missing lesson here, that it seems anyone with half a brain would tumble to, namely that when you make the decision to help others rather than make a bunch of money for yourself, that implies that you can't spend a bunch of money. You can't attend Southern Cal like this lady or globe-trot to prestigeous overseas universities (Edinburgh "obscure" my ass) on loans, you must forego the high-power laptop, and so on. These are precisely the sacrifices that make the helping life hard and admirable. Hell, if you could live a life of helping others and still live like an investment banker, everyone would do it and it would no longer be admirable.

But that's not the lesson she perceives. For her it's all because of race/class/gender inequalities that she can't live the virtuous, admirable life of caring for others instead of taking care of no. 1 without being economically hurt by that. I really can't see anything here but self-justification by self-deception.
posted by jfuller at 8:44 AM on August 3, 2006


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