“What is a down payment?” In an ideal world, no one would need to ask themselves this question because no one would need one! Expensive things like cars and houses and college educations would be a lot more affordable. Enough so that we could pay for them with the money that we already have. And we’d all have mountains of it.
But unless you have a Scrooge McDuckian money vault at your disposal, buying a car or house or bachelor’s degree in cash is probably impossible. Down payments are necessary because of how our world works. Today we’re going to teach you what they are, when you need them, and how to use them to your advantage.
The financial lessons we received from our parents are problematic for many reasons.
For one thing, they’re often out of date, as the economic atmosphere of the 1970s and 1980s is a far cry from what we’ve experienced in a post-2008 world. We’re long past the quaint advice to pay for college by “getting a summer job” and to start a career by “walking into a business and asking for a job in the mailroom.” Heckin precious.
But there’s also the way an assumption of background knowledge can lead to further confusion. For if you don’t understand basic financial principles, the sweet knowledge nuggets your beloved Boomer dad drops on you might go down like lead balloons. Just as you can’t understand where Beyoncé came from without Destiny’s Child, you can’t talk about getting loans until you understand how interest works!
This week we’re dealing with just this issue. Petey is one of my oldest and strangest friends. I made him walk down the aisle with Kitty at my wedding in the hopes that those two weirdos would have a vulgar joke-off (alas, they conducted themselves with the decorum expected of a bridesmaid and a groomsman and saved the nasty shit for the dance floor).
Petey has his head all in a tizzy over his dad’s vague and incomplete financial advice. So we decided to set the poor boy straight!
Our Patreon donors have been so wise with choosing quality topics in the past. So this month, I invited our supporters to pitch article topics directly to us.
Sounds great, right? WRONG. This was a huge mistake because all of our supporters’ ideas are fucking great! Now I have no choice: I simply must write them all. When am I supposed to do my life’s most important work: incorrectly cutting the wood for my woodworking project, then driving to Lowe’s to buy more wood???
One question stood out as being particularly time-sensitive, so today I’m answering this question from Patreon Rachel, who we all know to be so glitteringly beautiful that she’s regularly mistaken for an ice sculpture of herself:
I’d love to know your thoughts on U.S. federal student loans currently being deferred with no interest. Is it smart to continue to make my regular payments? Or should I stop making payments and use that money to invest in other things?
– Patreon Donor Rachel
An excellent question! Today we’ll address the basics of student loan forbearance, including how it pertains to the CARES Act. (That’s the $2 trillion stimulus package we explained here.)
Luckily there’s a fairly definitive answer, which I am just barely capable of explaining in human speech. Let’s get into it!
We have a question today from a Tumblr follower. If you don’t follow us on Tumblr, you should! Piggy is one of the Tumblr Deep Ones. She’s been on the platform since its infancy, and she answers tons of reader questions.
Like this one!
I need to move out, but I don’t have any money actually saved up. I do have a job that can cover my monthly costs and still have some left over. So I was wondering just how bad of an idea it is to take out a student loan to get me out of my situation and then immediately work on paying it off.
Ah. A very relatable dilemma.
For most people (and families), housing is the largest item in their budget. Young people spend, on average, a quarter of their income on housing—more than any other age group. Which means that saving money on housing can have an enormous positive impact on your finances. Especially when you’re young.
But is it ever a good idea to strategically spend a lot more than you have to on housing? Spoiler alert: yes, it absolutely can be.
It’s time for another thrilling episode of… INVESTING DEATHMATCH! In which we pit two forms of investing against each other and see which one escapes the struggle unscathed.
Today’s fight is an ancient grudge match between two opposing philosophies: extreme caution and risk-taking. In one corner we have investing in the stock market—an inherently risky proposition but one that comes with untold rewards. In the other, we have the option of the risk-averse everywhere: just… not with the stock market, and instead, playing it safe by sticking your money in a savings account.
It occurred to us that we needed to cover this battle to dispel some incorrect assumptions about money management.
After the Great Recession and stock market crash of 2008, a lot of young people coming of age in a new and fragile economy were scared away from the stock market. They saw the grownups around them ruined by plummeting stocks and improperly leveraged debt.
I don’t know who started the rumor that carrying a balance on credit cards is good for your credit score, but I think they should be drawn and quartered.
You shut your pie hole, Poppins. This is serious.
Of all the damaging misconceptions about personal finance we’ve had to correct over the course of running Bitches Get Riches, this is by far my least favorite. And it keeps popping up again and again in questions from our followers! Why? How? Who is teaching all of our darling kangaroo babies such a terrible way of handling their credit cards?
Until I can find the culprit and give them their just desserts (hot oil? The rack?), I have made it my mission to set the record straight.
When I was but a wee little thing, my mom took me down to the local branch of our regional bank and helped me open a savings account. We deposited my birthday money from Grandma, and I was told in no uncertain terms that I would thenceforth deposit half of my $2 a week allowance into the account (the other half went into the basket at church… a fact about which this apostate is still a little bitter).
Then Mom and the bank clerk told me of the wonders of savings accounts. “It’s a safe place to keep your money while you’re saving up for something like a car!” they said. “Plus, it earns interest.”
Interest, as you know, has the ability to work for you and for the forces of darkness in equal measure. You want your savings and not your debts to earn interest. So having a savings account is a great way to lure the vicious specter of interest to your side of the financial war.
I was all excited to check my balance and see how much interest I’d earned after a few months of dutifully depositing half of my allowance. But alas…
Baby’s first savings account wasn’t accruing jack shit in the way of interest. This is because most brick-and-mortar banks offer savings accounts with dismally uncompetitive interest rates.
I was facing an APY (annual percentage yield) of 0.01%. That’s… almost literally nothing. Which meant my savings weren’t even going to keep up with inflation if I trusted to the false promise that interest would help grow my savings.
As we’ve discussed, adult human beings need credit—good credit—to do lots of important adult things such as renting apartments and buying cars. But having debt, whether it be in the form of a balance on a credit card or just Ye Olde Stvdint Loane, can be fucking terrifying.
Fear not, gentle readers. For there is a way to build up good, healthy credit while neither increasing your debt nor your risk.
Here at Bitches Get Riches, we’re constantly extolling the virtues of compounding interest, which Albert Einstein, Mother Theresa, and Nelson Mandela all deemed the Eighth Wonder of the World.* This might lead personal finance novices to believe that interest is universally a great and wealth-building thing. Not so, dear readers. Not so.
Just as interest can work for you, contributing mightily to your financial goals over a long period of time, so it can spell your very doom. DOOM.
Like a monetary Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, interest has both your best interests (see what I did there?) and your utter financial destruction at its heart. Let’s explore its dual nature with a healthy dose of hyperbole, shall we?