We recently wrote an article about how raising awareness isn’t enough. Our thesis was that you need to pair awareness with some kind of action. Well, good thing we practice what we preach!
Last time we talked about some of the many ways being white brings unearned financial privileges. We got a ton of great responses from readers—many of them white—who are happy that the talk is being talked within the personal finance community.
Now let’s tell you how we think you can walk the walk. Here are our suggestions to make the personal finance community more realistic, more inclusive, more ambitious, and all-around better.
Let’s get to work.
Work on yourself
Think about the ways your fortunes are shaped by your identity
On Monday, I listed some of the ways my racial identity has benefitted me. Race is not the sum total of identity. There are many other aspects of my identity: being queer, a woman, an American, a survivor of sexual assault, etc. They have worked in concert, to my benefit and detriment, all my life. But being white is a really healthy chunk of my identity. And the funny thing is, I probably think about it the least.
Think deeply and honestly about your life, and when you find defensiveness, poke it. There is no such thing as harmful self-inspection or wasteful soul-searching.
Most of our readers are well acquainted with the topics we covered last time. But if you’re a white person and some of these words and ideas are new to you, the first thing you need to do is educate yourself.
Start listening to people who aren’t us
We, Piggy and Kitty, should not be your primary source of information about diversity and inclusion. We are white, middle class, straight or straight passing, fully-abled, cisgender women. We’re as basic as buttered pasta.
We try really hard to educate ourselves, and we want to use our platform here to improve people’s lives. But there is no substitute for first-person experiences from a wide diversity of voices. The world is full of great books, podcasts, columns, films, and blogs. Find them and share them.
Follow people with different experiences on social media
Scan your Twitter feed—how much diversity do you see? Because with apologies to Ustad Ahmad Lahori, Dmitri Shostakovich, and John Milton, Black Twitter is the pinnacle of human artistic achievement. If you aren’t listening in, you’re missing out.
People who aren’t like you have access to different ideas, opinions, news stories, problems, and perspectives. And it’s always healthy to expose yourself—not in a subway penis way, but in a horizon-broadening way.
Believe people when they describe their own experiences
It can be tempting to rationalize the world’s ugliness away. That’s the root of verbiage like “What were you wearing?” and “I’m sure it wasn’t because you’re black!” There has to be a logical reason for people to be awful to one another, right? Sadly, the answer is “nah.”
When someone tells you they have been abused, harassed, oppressed, discriminated against, harmed… default to believing them.
Minimizing other’s experiences, intuitions, and perceptions is dehumanizing. “I believe you” is a full sentence, and a powerful one.
Before you ask, google
If you have a question about the black/gay/trans/disabled/whatever experience, don’t just turn to That One Black/Gay/Trans/Disabled/Whatever Guy You Know and start firing off questions.
You might save yourself from asking a well-intended but awkward question. It’s easy to leave the wrong impression if you use indelicate or outdated language. Don’t risk humiliating yourself or your acquaintances until you’ve taken advantage of the rich well of anonymous information online.
Plus, you save that person from answering a question they’ve likely been asked many times before. It can be rewarding to educate people, but it’s also draining. Don’t ask other people to do your work for you.
Find opportunities to promote equality in your career
I’m a graphic designer for a big boring company, which isn’t exactly adjacent to the “full-time activist” career path.
But one day I had a client who asked for stock images of “a CEO.” I sent them three options. All three were wearing expensive suits, standing in commanding poses at the head of a slick conference room with glowing cities in the background. But one was a silver-haired older white woman, one a middle-aged black man, and one a youngish Indian man.
I could tell that my client wasn’t happy with them. “Could you send me others? None of these people look like CEOs.” I smiled sweetly and said “sure, just let me know why these three don’t look CEO-ish to you.” They abruptly backtracked and decided the Indian man was fine after all.
It’s rather like the opposite of a micro aggression: an act of respect and enablement so small it’s nearly invisible. I’m confident that everyone can find some way to do the same, no matter what their career is.
Check out the many articles on how to be a good ally
People more qualified than us have come up with great lists of things that white allies can do. There are many awesome resources that can guide you on where to donate your money, how to volunteer your time, how to help mobilize others and find opportunities for action.
Resist white fragility
It sucks that we’re stuck grappling with this nonsense. It’s not our fault, any of us. We’re all victims of a system that values male lives over female, white lives over brown, and rich lives over poor. It isn’t fair that we have to clean up the mess made by a thousand generations before us. But it still has to be done.
Not thinking about this stuff, or caring about this stuff, is a wonderful privilege. You can deploy it strategically as part of your own self-care. But living in a permanent state of not caring makes you willfully complacent to patriarchal white supremacy.
It hurts me deeply that people who look like me are so often history’s villains. That hurt is real. But it is so proportionally meaningless compared to those who have actually been oppressed that it’s rude to even bring it up. It’s like complaining about a paper cut to a recent amputee. It derails the more important conversation, and makes everything about you.
My dumb-ass dog loves to lick his wounds. It doesn’t heal them (probably because he also loves to lick chicken poop), but makes them all inflamed and scabby. Think about this metaphor: licking wounds doesn’t make things better. If you feel bad, don’t get defensive. Take action.
Be present in your community
Get comfortable with politics
I’ve said “I hate politics” many times. Actually, it’s usually “I fucking hate fucking politics.” (Shout out to all the people who share our posts with a strong language caveat!)
That said, hating something doesn’t preclude you from actively participating in it.
I hate doing my taxes, getting pap smears, walking the dogs when it’s raining, and talking to anyone on the telephone at any time, for any reason. But I still do all of those things because they’re important. There are unacceptable consequences for not doing them. Opting out of “being political” is an abdication of your responsibility to be an informed and engaged member of society.
Suck it up, read some newspapers, cultivate an opinion, and get engaged.
Vote in local elections
And when you do so, drag your family, roommates, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and Polly Pockets along with you.
Presidential elections are an overhyped clown rodeo. Your strongest opportunities for meaningful civil engagement are in your very neighborhood. Your school board, county prosecutor, city manager, town alderman, and state representative fucking matter.
Stick a sign in your yard reminding neighbors of a scheduled vote. Post about it on social media. Wear your “I voted” sticker. It all helps!
Accept jury duty graciously
Don’t forget what happened to Tom Robinson, for fuck’s sake!
This is about civil participation. Yes, it’s a minor administrative pain. Figure it out. Our country needs you engaged to change the ways we think about policing and incarceration. Rotten prosecutors put their thumb on the scale by actively seeking racially biased jurors. Go in there with the twin katanas of Fairness and Understanding flashing in your hands. (Not literally. No weapons in the jury box, please.)
Become intolerant of intolerance
You’ve heard of Karl Popper’s Paradox of Tolerance by now, right? “If a society is tolerant without limit, their ability to be tolerant will eventually be seized or destroyed by the intolerant.” He concluded that, paradoxically, “in order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance.” That means you…
Bitches Get Riches is here for Nazi teeth. We use them to craft our small, tasteful drop earrings.
We respect that not everyone feels violence is a productive tool of negotiation. But remember that you’re dealing with people who are nostalgic for the days when black people were lynched and Jewish people were incinerated in ovens.
What do you value more—your self-perception as a rational pacifist, or actual human dignity and life? We personally prefer our one hun’erd Natzee scalps.
Come for your people
Guess what happened the last time I was on the phone with my sweet, loving, stubborn, old-fashioned grandpa, and he said something racist? That’s right: I read my beloved g-paw for so much filth the trash can got jealous. Thrown off guard by my vehemence, he immediately apologized, and has successfully checked himself since then.
I don’t have a perfect success record, though. When my pain-in-the-ass, Trump-supporting coworker made fun of an Indian coworker’s name, I didn’t say shit. I was a lazy coward. You heard it here first: sometimes I suck!
Fighting with family is hard. Calling out coworkers is awkward af. But when you avoid it, you are complicit in it. Silence is violence (you know it’s true because it rhymes). If you don’t come for your own people, you’re outsourcing that labor to the already-shat-upon group.
Support minority-owned businesses and enterprises
Literally: streaming 2 Dope Queens counts.
If all the personal finance bloggers you follow are white, fix that. Patronize diverse, minority-owned businesses in your community. Give your time and money to platforms that lift diverse voices and work to expand the perspectives that you incorporate into your everyday consumption.
Send your kids to public school
Because I’m trying to piss off 100% of all people everywhere, I’ll add that private schools and charter schools have made our school systems as segregated as they were in the time of Brown v. Board of Education. “The well-being of our children” is unconscious racial bias’s favorite and most effective mask.
From the brilliant Nikole Hannah-Jones:
“And I say this—and it always feels weird when I say it as a parent, because a lot of other parents look at you a little like you’re maybe not as good of a parent—I don’t think she’s deserving of more than other kids. I just don’t. I think that we can’t say ‘This school is not good enough for my child’ and then sustain that system. I think that that’s just morally wrong. If it’s not good enough for my child, then why are we putting any children in those schools?”
Our national school system has problems. But those problems will not get better if money, eager students, quality teachers, and highly engaged parents are siphoned off to for-profit institutions.
I know for some people the idea of sending their kid to public school is tantamount to this…
…but public schools are awesome! Some day I will write about my own experience switching from an all-white private school to a diverse public school. The two word summary is, “I blossomed.” Your kids can too.
Change the personal finance conversation
Advocate for a better healthcare system
Medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy in America.
Given that, we clearly need a better system for delivering healthcare. An ideal system would be universally accessible, nondiscriminatory, and not tied to employment. Poor people, unemployed/underemployed people, and sick people all deserve healthcare just as much as wealthy, employed, and healthy people.
I’m open to suggestions. But it sure seems a single payer system is the best proposal I’ve seen yet.
Advocate for pay transparency
But personal finance community, we’re in luck. Turns out, you don’t need legislation to capture and publish that data! Start a dialogue about what companies are doing it, and why it works. Business interests bow to consumer demands far more easily than demagogues bow to polite appeals for justice and transparency.
Advocate for a higher minimum wage
Advocate to redefine of poverty
The way we define poverty is, uh, darkly hilarious. The 2017 federal poverty level is $12,060. Good news, people making $13K a year! Turns out, you’re not poor!
This method for defining poverty is flawed for several reasons. Chiefly, it is not scaled to changes in our standard of living. It doesn’t factor in modern expenses (like out of pocket medical costs) or resources (like food assistance). It doesn’t differentiate by geography. (For perspective, the average rent in West Virginia is $1,100/mo. In Washington D. C., it’s $2,500/mo.) And its strict definition of what qualities as a family has become pretty irrelevant in an age where cohabitation is the norm.
Coming up with a better way to define poverty, designing a system that updates on a set schedule, and tying the minimum wage permanently to this calculation would prevent us from ever having to make this argument again.
Advocate for a better tax system
Libertarians, I’m throwing you a bone here! Huge pieces of our country’s tax code do the opposite of what they intend.
But there’s lower hanging fruit. The mortgage interest deduction makes no sense whatsoever. It helps people who are already wealthy enough to buy a house. Politicians treat it as a sacred cow; disavow them of this assessment.
I would happily give up the large tax break I get today for a larger return back when I was a student shaking my ass for $12K a year.
Advocate to end the credit scoring system as we know it
As we discussed last time, the system by which we currently evaluate creditworthiness is skewed in favor of white people.
Even if one were willing to set this issue aside—which I am not—these companies harvest personal data without consent. They are a bizarre historical vestige and need to go. Surely we have the data to devise a better, fairer, more optional system for evaluating trustworthiness.
Advocate for an end to the War on Drugs
The War on Drugs disproportionately affects people of color. It’s an enormous drain on our country’s resources, as well as a stain upon our collective sense of decency.
Legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana would be a great source of income for cash-strapped local governments. Conversely, this would keep that money out of the hands of drug cartels. It would also make life much easier for people who benefit from using medical marijuana.
Advocate for reproductive justice for women
The biggest impact on a woman’s financial life is how many children she has and when. Given that, it’s incredible how seldom the personal finance community talks about reproductive rights.
The total cost of raising a child averages between $12,350 and $14,000 a year. An average family with two parents and two children will spend a quarter of a million dollars raising those children to adulthood. Personal finance enthusiasts should be horrified at the idea of anyone paying this amount of money for something they don’t want.
Personal finance, as so many people have rightly pointed out, is about freedom. The freedom of women to be childfree, either permanently or temporarily, is being subjected to a death by a thousand cuts. This is completely unacceptable and makes no financial sense whatsoever.
Birth control and other contraception should be free, widely accessible, and available without onerous and scientifically dubious proscriptions. And we need to stop lying to young men and women about how their bodies work.
If you’re personally against abortion, cool! Go stand on your balcony and toss free birth control pills into the streets like mardi gras beads. Because the best way to prevent abortions is through comprehensive sex education and free contraception.
Contemplate the possibilities of the future
The day is coming when Millennials and Gen Y will replace Baby Boomers in the seats of power. We should start thinking now about the big picture stuff we’d like to accomplish.
I firmly believe everything mentioned above is achievable in the immediate future. But there are bigger fish waiting to be fried that require more political capital than we have today.
Student loan forgiveness?
This interesting idea could benefit a lot of overburdened young people. But we’d have to devise a way to make sure history wouldn’t repeat itself. Perhaps packaging it with a set of regulations on school tuition rates? Or implementing mandatory secondary education classes on financial literacy? So many options!
Universal basic income?
We’d like to see more research on a universal basic income, but we’re leaning strongly in favor. Automation is already reducing the need for human workers. Nonprofit research proves that the best way to help poor people is often to just give them money. For such a thing to work, we’d have to fully divorce our culture from the idea that poverty is analogous to immorality.
Special suggestions for our fellow personal finance bloggers
Quit writing shallow, bullshit success narratives
There is a fine line between being encouraging and being full of shit.
When you say, “If I can do it, anyone can!” what you’re really saying is, “It worked for me, and my experience with people who aren’t like me is so limited that I have a hard time even imagining their existence!” Hard work, discipline, and sacrifice may have led you to financial stability. But it’s ignorance to suggest that everyone’s life circumstances put them on equal footing.
I don’t want to hear any more exclusionary nonsense about how people who can’t make it work are “complainypants” losers and whiners. If you honestly think that willpower is the only determinant to success, you’re ignorant as well as a jerk. And you’re using personal finance and your platform to flatter yourself.
Be transparent about your income
Lots of personal finance bloggers are doing well on this one (Rockstar Finance has an awesome net worth tracker that I will join as soon as I get my life together and answer all these GODDAMN EMAILS).
Be transparent. Remind people often of how much you make. This helps your readers frame your advice, and should also remind you of your place on the spectrum.
I make $105K a year. My household makes more than 84% of Americans. Our readers skew very young, and I make triple what the average 15-24 year old makes. That said, this success is very recent. The days when I was scraping by on $12K a year were only a few years ago, and that’s the demographic for which I try to write.
I’m 100% positive I’ll occasionally say something oblivious, like “my god, the price of black truffles has become simply monstrous!” I look forward to my readers shutting my rich ass the fuck down.
Call out exclusion
I float silently in many personal finance forums and social media groups. And sometimes I’m fucking appalled by what I see.
A person of color asks for advice about taxes on part-time work while on disability. The response? Suspicious, incredulous questions that smack of racism and ableism.
Someone asks for advice about how to work their wife’s clothing into their family budget. The response? Scathingly misogynist assumptions that the wife is a materialistic gold-digger.
A person asks for advice on dealing with an investment property in a “ghetto” full of “thugs.” The response? Helpful comments, and so much commiseration.
Someone asks an innocent beginner question, or reveals they have consumer debts, rent their home, or work for minimum wage. The response? Smug, unhelpful half-jokes designed to make that person feel small and ashamed.
I am also ashamed. I’m ashamed when I see this shit. Doubly so when good people sit back and say nothing, or whisper about it in DMs with “other chill/woke people.” Y’all, this shit does not belong in our community. And I don’t want to see it anymore.
Don’t root for others to suffer or fail
I was horrified when a giant in the financial blogging scene wrote a post called “Great News: There’s Another Recession Coming.”
During the last recession, I met a woman who ate spoonfuls of flour to settle her empty stomach at night. She gave all the food she could afford to her children.
So you can imagine how I feel hearing a multimillionaire blithely shrug off the concept. The worst part was seeing no one in the personal finance community call him on it.
We need to care about what happens to the people around us, regardless of whether they’re financially savvy. Everyone deserves to be respected, welcomed, and (if they wish) inspired and educated.
I get that the world is full of assholes who buy a family pack of jet skis, then declare bankruptcy two months later. It’s tempting to smugly mock these (from our perspective) foolish and irresponsible people. There are active sub-forums devoted to this sport.
But consider that this hypothetical spendthrift has kids who are confused about why they live in a mansion empty of food. His wife has no idea her husband is hiding several credit cards. He has elderly parents who’ve cosigned his mortgage because they thought it was the right thing for parents to do. When we laugh at this man for falling down, we’re also laughing at all the misfortune he brings upon others.
Another person’s anguish should never cause glee. Their failure does not make you stand any taller, or make you any more moral. You don’t need other people to be wrong to be right.
If you’re not familiar with this term, don’t feel bad. It’s a little academic and not the most intuitive. But it’s also a very useful and powerful concept.
Here’s what it means: people’s identities aren’t just one thing. I’m white, but I’m also a woman, an atheist, queer, middle-class, cisgender, abled, and American. I am multidimensional: oppressed in some ways and privileged in others.
Intersectionality is awesome because it shows us that when we make efforts to lessen the oppression affecting one group, we also lessen the oppression affecting other groups whose identities intersect with it. A rising tide lifts all oppressed boats!
In other words: if you’re an Asian man who writes about the harmful “model minority” stereotype, you’ve helped people of color who aren’t Asian, because you’re trying to reject unfair racial privileges. You have also helped women, because the “model minority” borrows a lot of ideas from benevolent sexism.
Isn’t that neat? You don’t necessarily have to step way outside your personal experiences to lift others up.
Write about what scares you
Do you have any idea how my heart pounded hitting “publish” on the last article? I was worried I might’ve gotten things wrong, or worded them insensitively. I am terrified of disappointing my readers. I am doubly terrified of being attacked by ultra-woke Tumblr teens. These aren’t low-key subjects. If you get them wrong, you’re gonna hear about it.
That said, to grow as a writer, you’ve gotta use your platform to write about the kinds of topics that intimidate and scare you.
You will probably get some tedious comments, but it’s worth it for the unique opportunity to engage your audience. Remember that your audience trusts you. Otherwise they wouldn’t read what you write. That gives you a unique “in” to inspire folks who might otherwise be hard to reach.
Friends, that’s it. That’s what I’ve got. I am spent. I need a stiff drink, a six hour nap, and at least four article cycles where I talk EXCLUSIVELY about Sailor Moon. I’ll find a way to make it finance-related. Maybe.
I know there’s plenty of stuff I missed! Please add your thoughts below. I’ll read them from my bubble bath.
Moon prism power, bitches.