Our podcast question today is on the topic of wealth, privilege, and g-g-g-g—
No, not ghosts! It’s g-g-g-guilt!
Specifically: rich white lady guilt! OooOOoooOOOO!
But don’t be afraid. Piggy and I are both ex-Catholics.Whatever kind of guilt you have, we can slice and dice it into bite-sized chunks with the studied grace of a teppanyaki chef.
“As a progressive person and someone who is starting to get into a pretty good place financially (have an emergency fund, bought a home a few years ago, paid off credit card debts), I’ve started feeling so guilty! It probably doesn’t help that I work in finance too. I don’t like capitalism but I’m working it the way I’m ‘supposed’ to. How do I feel less guilty for making myself financially healthy?”
Dear readers, we’ve been holding out on you. For there is something beyond the basic financial literacy we strive to teach you here at Bitches Get Riches. Something that comes after you level up as far as you go with your money.
It’s called FIRE, or “financial independence, retire early.” And it’s something a lot of our esteemed colleagues in the money-writin’ biz are fighting tooth and nail to achieve.
Tanja is awesome. Her book is awesome. Her advice is awesome.
She’s like the result of a long, fulfilling, romantic relationship between a timelessly wise Amazon warrior and your favorite cool aunt, the one who both comforted you about the mean kids at school and bought you your first box of condoms. I’d trust her both to carry my body to Valhalla from the field of battle and to give me sound financial advice, is what I’m saying.
Internships: a time-honored tradition in which young professionals gain valuable career experience and skills they can’t learn in the classroom. Internships are widely recognized as a great way to boost your resume and get a leg up over your peers in the job market. For many industries, they’re a rite of passage and an invaluable part of the workforce.
Yet there’s something horribly wrong with most internships as we operate them here in the bestest country on Earth.
Trigger warning: today’s lesson includes mentions of privilege and unfavorable descriptions of capitalism. Also law-breaking. Clutch your pearls and avert your eyes.
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.
We were recently nominated for some industry awards! This was absolutely shocking. I have no idea who nominated us or how or why, but it instantly gave me two very strong, very different reactions.
The first was a variation on Sally Field’s Places in the Heartacceptance speech. “I haven’t had an orthodox career, and I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!” Borrowing, of course, the original speech’s explosively manic and self-congratulatory tone. We feel tremendously hashtag blessed to have found so many warm and welcoming people in our short stay in the personal finance community. And we are truly grateful to all of our readers.
My second reaction was, “Shit. We’ve been pulling our punches!”
See, one of the reasons Piggy and I decided to start this blog was that too much financial advice ignored the hard questions and contentious issues that drive personal finance. Take, for example, this question: why do some people have more money than others?
There are so, so many potential answers to this question. People are different! They have different personalities, abilities, interests, advantages, backgrounds, opportunities, drives, beliefs, and knowledge sets that combine into a set of financial circumstances unique to each individual. The personal finance community seems inclined toward examining only a few of these differences—the ones that are easy to talk about, the ones that cast a flattering light upon ourselves.
Today I’d like to torpedo all hope of winning industry awards by talking about one of the things that this community really, really doesn’t like to talk about. That subject is race, and by extension, the financial advantages of being white in a white supremacist culture.
Friends, I’d like you to extend me a little trust. Take my hand and follow me on a journey. I’m going to try to inventory some of the gifts given to me by a white supremacist culture. I didn’t ask for these gifts—there was no registry, and I will not be sending thank-you notes. But they also didn’t come with a return address, and there’s no way to refuse them. The body I was born with—that of a white woman—comes with undeniable financial advantages. And the legacy of these advantages is terrible to consider.
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.
Wealth is entirely subjective. Depending on where you’re sitting on the great Staircase of Financial Solvency, your perspective of who’s wealthy and what’s expensive is going to vary wildly.
Because of this disparity, the definition of “expensive” truly depends on an individual’s personal money situation. Someone who makes $300K a year and can easily afford their rent and insurance isn’t going to think twice about buying cage free eggs, organic milk, and grass-fed beef. Meanwhile, their neighbor who makes $30K a year is going to be buying the practically expired store brand milk on sale. To them, the whole concept of buying organic, cruelty-free food seems absurdly out of reach even while their wealthier neighbor finds it “inexpensive.”
Which is why it’s about as irritating as a Spotify Premium commercial to hear people speak authoritatively about what’s expensive and what’s not. Especially when their version of “expensive” is a diamond encrusted dog manicure and yours is a Whole Foods grapefruit.