Dafuq Is Credit and How Do You Bend It to Your Will?

We’ve been getting a lot of variations on the same question recently: “How dafuq do I credit?”

How indeed? A lot of our readers are struggling with not only maintaining a good credit score, but with even understanding credit in the first place.

It’s one of the many money terms I have the sneaking suspicion everyone else in my high school class was taught on a day I was absent.

Thus, I’ve been left to figure it out for myself over the years. And what I’ve found is reassuring: credit is not nearly as scary or complicated as you’ve been led to think. But like a pack of trained raptors, it must be treated with care and attention lest it rend you limb from limb.

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"Wealthy White Folks Welcome!"

Gentrification: Artisanal, Small-Batch Displacement of the Poor

I had just come home from work when three students from the college down the street approached my porch with official-looking clipboards in hand. “Excuse me ma’am,” (I’m a ma’am now? When did this happen?) “Can we ask you some questions for a school research project?”

Instead of hissing “Youths!” and retreating into the darkness of my lair, I obliged. I am a “ma’am” now, after all, and that comes with a responsibility to be magnanimous toward fine upstanding young people everywhere.

First question: “What does gentrification mean to you?”

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Using charitable platforms to push discriminatory policies is a no-no jerk move.

Judging Charities Like Judgey McJudgerson: How Can Your Donation Make the Biggest Impact?

As we’ve discussed previously, we love charitable spending, but it can be really hard to figure out the best way to do it. If you followed our advice, you’ve already verified that the charity you’re considering isn’t an out-and-out scam.

But is it a good investment?

A Ford Pinto and a Ford Focus both proclaim to do the same thing (you know, drive), but one does so in a much more sustainable, efficient, and pleasurable manner than the other. How do you sort out the absolute best way to support the causes you care deeply about?

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What's your Lucky Charms methodology?

The Magically Delicious Intersection of Financial Discipline, Generational Poverty, and Marshmallows

What’s your methodology for eating a bowl of Lucky Charms? And in a related question: how’s your financial discipline?

RESIST.

Do you peck the marshmallows out first, like a marshmallow-loving chicken? Or do you eat around them, creating a cereal-free pleasure palace of marshmallows, swimming together decadently in their milk? Or do you dig in holistically, indiscriminately, with marshmallows and cereal intermingling freely, devil-may-care, eating whatever ends up on your spoon?

The answer could reveal a whole lot about your life, your personality, and the health of your personal finances. We know this thanks to a fascinating series of studies conducted on children eating marshmallows.

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Most Millennials I know do not have an IRA. This is because it is viewed much like the burning bush: awesome and powerful, but completely mysterious and baffling.

Dafuq Is a Retirement Plan and Why Do You Need One?

For young’uns like us, old age and retirement couldn’t seem further away. And yet the thing about retirement is it goes way smoother if you prep for it in advance. Which is why all of us—yes, even you fresh-faced recent graduates—need a retirement plan.

The term “retirement plan” itself is a bit misleading. It suggests there’s a singular, one-size-fits-all tool for preparing to live out your sunset years in the lap of luxury. In reality, not only is there no one single retirement savings tool that works for everyone, but most people use multiple “retirement plans.”

Join me, dear readers, as I guide you through an entirely-too-detailed tour of the most common forms of retirement plans. Keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times and please don’t feed the wildlife.

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Come at me in the comments, you short-rest dependent motherfuckers.

A Dungeonmaster’s Guide to Defeating Debt

Let’s talk about D&D&D! That’s Dungeons & Dragons and debt. Strictly 5e. Live in the now.

Guys. I don’t mean to brag, but I run a fourteenth level wizard that I’m pretty damn proud of. She is a cold-hearted bad-ass lawful-evil murder-machine.

My steed is a magic broom with a fifty-foot move-speed. My staff turns into a friendly giant constrictor snake on command. My Contingency spell is set to Polymorph me into a T-Rex if my hit points drop below 20%. I know, I know, it’s basically a massive free heal! And I’m a resourceful motherfucker. I once used a level one Disguise Self to convince two-dozen hostile Kuo Toa that I was Blibdoolpoolp, lobster-headed mother deity of the sea. I ordered them to pray until they died of exhaustion. #lawfulevil

If you play Dungeons & Dragons, you already know the best way to handle enemies depends on your class strengths. A barbarian has no business casting spells. A wizard has no business grappling. (And a warlock has no business in any campaign, period. Come at me in the comments, you short-rest dependent motherfuckers.)

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This is the most fundamental lesson we can teach you. In personal finance, the end game isn't money. It's freedom.

Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying: Finance Philosophy Explained by The Shawshank Redemption

What you are about to read is pretty graphic. I’m sure it’s hard to read. At times, it was hard to write. It’s not an easy thing, to torture a metaphor to death. I was almost at the point of walking away from this article when I heard John 3:16 ringing in my memory: “For Kitty so loved the world, that she gave her only favorite movie, that whosoever believeth in her should not go broke, but have eternal cash.”

If you have not seen The Shawshank Redemption, I have two questions and one command. The first question: are you some kind of Alexandreey Dumbass? The second question: how did you get from 1997 to the present without watching cable television during daylight hours? The command: go watch The Shawshank Redemption. Only after you’ve done so are you allowed to return here and continue on. One hundred and forty-two minutes of narration by Ellis “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman) is the necessary prep work you need to open your heart and expand your mind.

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If someone handed you a single dollar bill, what would you do with it?

The Dollar Bill Game, Part One

“If money were no object, what would you do with your life?”

Did you get asked this hypothetical question a lot? Especially around high school and college graduation? I did. And it was frustrating as hell, because I was so overwhelmed by my choices that I had no idea how to answer. This question requires you to have a deep knowledge of yourself and your place in the world—deeper than many young people will have adequate experiences to inform.

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Income inequality is a real thing. Let's start there. We are not all starting on an equal playing field. In fact, some of us are actually starting at rock bottom.

How to Start at Rock Bottom

Income inequality is a real thing. Let’s start there. We are not all starting on a level playing field. In fact, some are actually starting at rock bottom.

Whatever way you define rock bottom, it’s a shitty place to start when envisioning your financial future. And it’s a frightening reality for many Americans. Giving advice about how my fellow college-educated Millennials can get ahead in their careers, defeat their student loans, and buy homes is all well and good, but it’s utterly useless advice for someone with no education, no family support, and no job prospects to speak of. It’s useless to those drowning in medical debt or responsible for supporting a family on a minimum wage salary. You can’t think about Step 1 when you’re currently at Step -37. Those living at rock bottom need to achieve a basic standard of survival before they can think about “getting ahead.”

One way to start at rock bottom—to survive—is by using a number of government social welfare programs. The purpose of these programs is to help those starting at rock bottom, or who find themselves at rock bottom due to drastic circumstances, to get back on their feet and working toward financial stability.

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