You don't want to work for any of them.

Looking Weird at Work

This morning I was clip-clopping through the third floor stairwell of my office building. I don’t work on the third floor, it’s a completely separate department that I have no contact with; it’s just where the good coffee lives.

I passed someone on the stairs, and we glanced at each other and gave polite smiles. Then I heard her do a double-take behind me.

“Hey,” this perfect stranger said, “I don’t mean to be weird, but can I ask where you work within the company? My friends and I have seen you in the hallways and we keep trying to figure out where you work.”

It’s a strange question, right? But I know why she was asking.

It’s because I’m weird-looking.

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Whisper "any investment you make in yourself is an investment toward your retirement" three times.

How to Save for Retirement When You Make Less Than $30,000 a Year

Retirement is a difficult concept for young people to wrap their heads around. It’s hard enough figuring out how to be An Adult, let alone An Old.

We’ll be talking more broadly in the near future about the general concept of retirement. (Spoiler alert: it’s as outdated as an avocado-colored refrigerator.) But today I’d like to talk directly about the concept of saving for retirement while pretty legit poor.

For purposes of this post, I’m going to define that as someone making $30,000 a year or less. Obviously there are lots of factors that can stretch this figure. A mom of three with a high school education in Washington, D.C. is going to have a much harder time than a single, highly-educated person making the same amount in Woodstock, Alabama. And actually, that number is still more than double the official so-called “poverty line,” which is just over $12,000.

But Piggy and I feel strongly that there isn’t enough realistic, valuable advice for people in this general bracket, and so we’d like to talk to them.

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There are so many loopholes in pet insurance contracts that I assume they were constructed using Roller Coaster Tycoon.

Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

As we’ve discussed, Piggy and I are pretty obsessed with our pets. I admire Piggy’s restraint in having but a single dog. My house currently contains four dogs, one cat, six chickens, and two clinically narcissistic garbage disposals guinea pigs. Friends who know me to be an IRL Pokemon Master often ask me what my pet insurance rates are like.

My pet insurance bill is approximately zero dollars. Same goes for Piggy.

Neither of us have pet insurance. And there’s a reason.

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Riddle me this: when is your time worth more than your money?

Should You Increase Your Salary or Decrease Your Spending?

When it comes to advice on how to become financially independent, there are two schools of thought:

  1. Increase your salary as much as possible.
  2. Decrease your spending as much as possible.

There are personal finance gurus who scoff at the idea of cutting out lattes and other minor unnecessary expenses as a path to wealth and security, instead advising you to spend your time making as much money as possible. Then there are others who extoll the virtues of thrifty living and frugality in the extreme, championing a spartan lifestyle in which you can retire early by spending minimally.

So who’s right? Which method will lead most quickly to financial independence and a life in which you no longer have to worry about money? Which tactic for peak prosperity should you pursue?

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If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

Romanticizing the Side Hustle

Ah, the side hustle. More commonly known as the “second job,” side hustles are a badass, creative, independent—yet completely romanticized—way to increase your income. They’ve become a symbol of entrepreneurial go-gettership, a way to show the world that your ideas and goals are far too important to contain in a single 9-5. Side hustlers are super humans with the energy and vision to Get Shit Done.

Or at least, that’s the rhetoric we all perpetuate by romanticizing the side hustle.

Let’s call a spade a spade. A side hustle is a goddamn second job, and if you have one it means either a) your first job is failing to pay the bills, or b) you’re willing to trade all of your free time in order to retire early because your job sucks and doesn’t pay enough to achieve this goal. Neither scenario is particularly inspiring or empowering.

I’m not saying we should all revolt against the concept of side hustles and give up our efforts to make extra money. You can pry my side hustle from my cold, dead hands, as a matter of fact. But I think a dose of realism is in order lest we get carried away romanticizing the side hustle.

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My parents always treated the topic of investing the same way they did the topic of sex: knowledge to be imparted "when you're older."

Advice I Wish My Parents Gave Me When I Was 16

My parents meant so, so well. And they were so, so right about some things (the relative unworthiness of all teenage boys, for example). But there are a couple of things I’m kinda pissed they didn’t tell me about when I was 16 and on the cusp of making serious decisions about finances and the next several years of my life.

It’s not that they told me nothing, or even that they gave me horrible advice. But I feel like my time as a 16-year-old was the last year of my life before I was expected to make monumental decisions that would affect my financial future in really, really big ways. And that future could have been drastically different (and potentially better) if only they’d told me some key things that would have influenced my decisions about college, a career, and investing.

I brought receipts.

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When running your own homestead was a supremely affordable option, nobody really felt like folding ye olde t-shirts at ye olde Aeropoftale.

Maury Povich Confirms Labor Shortages ARE the Father of American Business Ethics

You ARE the father.

Time for some History Lessons with Kitty and Piggy!

America is an interesting example of a country whose economic needs have flip-flopped wildly since its founding. The most interesting aspect to me is the story of American labor.

In the days of the American Revolution, labor was the scarcest commodity in the colonies. Which is hardly surprising if you think about it.

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Dispensing advice about the Latte Factor to those who live one medical emergency away from complete financial ruin sounds a helluva lot like poor shaming.

The Latte Factor, Poor Shaming, and Economic Compassion

There’s a piece of conventional financial wisdom that goes like this: if you’re looking to save money or pay off debt, start by skipping small luxuries like lattes and instead put that money toward your financial goals. The single digit savings will add up to a significant amount over time, all because you had the fortitude to practice a little self-control. It’s a simple, effective way to find some wiggle room in your budget and a great first step toward living a frugal lifestyle.

The Latte Factor, as it’s known, is both virtuous and practical. It gives its frugal practitioner a sense of self-righteous superiority over those who continue to waste their money on overpriced, over-sweetened, caffeinated beverages every day. And because it’s such a simple solution, those preaching the gospel of frugality peddle it like a magic elixir. Can’t seem to save money? Just skip the latte! It works miracles.

Yet to those who truly struggle with systemic poverty, getting advice about the Latte Factor feels horribly condescending. In fact, being told that skipping a small luxury here and there will raise you up out of your low-income status feels downright cruel and deliberately ignorant. Because in cases of economic disenfranchisement, a lack of frugality is not the root of the problem.

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We bitches are trying to reach a very specific audience of people who are cheap yet virtuous.

How to Spot a Charitable Scam

Let’s say I handed you a $100 bill and the following list of charities. If I asked you to pick one to give the money to, which one would you choose?

American Association of the Deaf-Blind

National Veterans Services Fund

Children’s Wish Foundation International

Cure Alzheimer’s Fund

Breast Cancer Relief Foundation

Now before you make your choice, consider this: four of these charities are considered to be among the absolute worst charities in America. These charities are shams designed to line the pockets of unscrupulous monsters who prey upon the charitable intent of others. They raise millions of dollars and blow it all on large executive salaries and lavish fundraisers designed to be self-perpetuating. No meaningful progress is made toward their charitable aim. Each spent less than 3% of the millions it raised on direct cash aid toward the causes they purport to maintain.

… So that’s four of them. One received a perfect score from charity watchdogs.

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Hand-me-down diapers are...not a thing.

You Don’t Have to Have Kids

I’ve spent a lot of time with kids over the years. I babysat in high school, I was a nanny in college, I look after my friends’ children on a regular basis, and I’m the proud auntie of the World’s Cutest and Smartest Nephew (he blew the competition out of the water). In fact, I have so much childcare XP that babies magically stop crying the second I pick them up and I can prevent small children from smearing spaghetti sauce on the wall with barely a glance.

All of this time spent with other people’s children has made me absolutely certain of one thing: I don’t want to have kids.

Fortunately for me, I don’t have to. And neither do you.

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