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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.)

Life, as I have so often found, mirrors games. Here is some wisdom for humans and demi-humans of all alignments.

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Being frugal is neither a death sentence for your social life nor a monastic vow to sit in silence and think about all the fun you're not having.

7 Totally Reasonable Ways to Save Money on Entertainment

There’s this assumption when talking about frugality that it means a lifestyle of no fun, ever. “But if I live like a pauper, how will I ever take my cherished babies to Disney World?” we wail, assuming that a) Disney World is fun, and b) it’s impossible to afford fun on a frugal budget.

I am here to dispel this ridiculous notion, dear readers. We’ve been writing a lot about the big picture of personal finance recently, and I wanted to give you (and me) a break with some practical, small-scale advice.

Being frugal and smart about your money is neither a death sentence for your social life nor a monastic vow to sit quietly and think about all the fun you’re not having. Movies, concerts, video games, sports—all are well within your grasp as a professional penny-pincher. In fact, you can enjoy a whole weekend full of cheap shenanigans while still maintaining your badass, frugal ways.

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I know people who pay Spotify $9.99 a month just to avoid listening to ads. That is insane to me. You are not Bing from that one episode of Black Mirror. You are not in a science fiction dystopia with no mute button.

How to Insulate Yourself From Ads

“If any one unwarily draws in too close and hears the singing of the Sirens, his wife and children will never welcome him home again, for they sit in a green field and warble him to death with the sweetness of their song. There is a great heap of dead men’s bones lying all around, with the flesh still rotting off them. Therefore pass these Sirens by, and stop your men’s ears with wax that none of them may hear…”

You might remember this passage from high school. It’s from Homer’s Odyssey. Specifically, it’s the part where the sorceress Bavmorda gives advice to Willow Ufgood (hero of the Odyssey) about how to navigate temptation.

Although she is a rapscallion known for turning soldiers into pigs, she’s a smart lady and gives pretty good advice. Willow ends up lashing Madmartigan to the mast of their ship while stopping his own ears (and those of the prophesied child Elora Danan) with wax.

Sometimes, the best way to resist temptation is to physically stop yourself from experiencing it in the first place.

Did he get an Oscar for this?

This got me thinking about advertisements. The average American sees more than 5,000 of them every single day. For some people, it can be as many as 20,000. Although you only remember seeing a small percentage of them, the amazing supercomputer that lives in your skull is constantly processing them on a subconscious level.

The point is, the best way to avoid the temptation of ads is to insulate yourself from them. Here are some easy ways to do so.

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Emotional gratification and continuous encouragement aside, what is the best method of paying down debt?

The “Best” Way to Pay off Credit Card Debt

The Harvard Business Review recently published a study on “the best strategy for paying off credit card debt.” Set aside for a moment the idea that you should try not to rack up credit card debt in the first place (shit happens, no judgment). This study benefits the millions of Americans who are literally $800 billion in collective credit card debt according to the Federal Reserve. So it’s a problem that needs a solution.

The researchers tested a couple of different methods for credit card debt reduction:

  1. Dispersing payments equally across every debt account each month.
  2. Concentrating as high a payment as possible on one account at a time.

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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 one of her favorite movies, 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 Alexandreeey 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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The proof is in the pudding. The cold, hard, numerical pudding.

The Debt-Killing Power of Rounding Up

If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a big fan of incrementalism. Like an establishment politician, I believe in taking reasonable baby steps toward an idealized future (and unlike said politician, some day I’ll actually get there… at least where my personal finances are concerned).

You can make really big progress on your debt and savings gradually, by degrees, and it feels so much more manageable and easy than committing yourself to meeting your financial goals in big chunks.

Take, for example, the debt-killing power of rounding up on all your bills.

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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.

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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