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I respect entrepreneurial spirit but my respect evaporates when people use their talents to knowingly peddle snake oil.

Why Are Hot Young Instagram Babes Using MLM to Sell Shady Personal Finance Products?

I’m used to pretty Insta-people hawking all sorts of things that will never, ever make my face more symmetrical—but what’s the deal with the recent trend of influencers selling financial products?

This week’s question comes from Patreon Donor Mara. Their question prompted a lot of deep thought about the aspirational nature of wealth, and our complicity in that paradigm. It’s self-recriminatory af, you’re gonna love it. 

Mara writes…

I’m writing to ask if you guys had any thoughts on all these Personal Finance Flavored MLMs that are popping up like crazy on social media.

I work in the entertainment industry. Recently I’ve noticed that a lot of young actors are selling “classes” and the like on their Instagram pages. It seems like they really target young artists/musicians/models and tell them that selling Forex or Bitcoin is the key to intergenerational wealth and stability.

It seems super sketchy and predatory to me, but I would love y’alls thoughts.

– Patron Mara
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I just made $1,900 very quickly and very easily. And you may be able to as well--but only if you're irresponsible and disorganized.

The Suspicious but TRUE Magic of Unclaimed Property: How I Made $1,900 in 10 Minutes Just by Being a Disorganized Mess of a Human Being

It’s hard to pinpoint which personal finance site I dislike the most. There are so many tone-deaf mansplainers and pyramid scammers to choose from!

… But The Penny Hoarder is way up there.

I see their ads everywhere. And I’ve read more than a few of their articles, thanks to their scientifically-engineered-for-maximum-clickbait titles. But they are so utterly and embarrassingly saturated with affiliate referral links promising “quick” and “easy” money that I feel the strong need to shower afterwards.

Ugh. I just really hate that kind of crap.

Spoiler alert, kids: almost nothing worth doing can be done quickly or easily. By definition, people only seek quick and easy solutions to long and hard problems! “One cool trick” ads ain’t out there saving lives.

  • If there were miracle exercises that gave you Jason Momoa’s body with only ten minutes of weekly exercise, there would be no highly compensated personal trainers in LA, and everyone would look like Jason Momoa. (And what a lovely planet that would be!)
  • If there were miracle diets or supplements that could really change the shape of your body quickly and easily, we’d’ve discovered them millennia ago, because there is nothing on this green earth that a human being hasn’t shoved in their pie hole. The only truly new food we have invented in the last ten thousand years is Velveeta, and in my hands-on experience, eating Velveeta initiates a slow process of becoming Velveeta.
  • If there were some miracle product that could eliminate acne, there wouldn’t be 2.5 aisles full of hundreds of different skincare products at Target. We would just use The One!

The same is absolutely true for money as well. If it could grow on trees, there’d be a fuck ton more arborists. Alas, currency is a scarce commodity that’s difficult and time-consuming to accumulate by its very nature.

I say all of this so that you understand how shocked I am to be writing an article with this headline… and meaning every word of it.

I just made $1,900 very quickly and very easily. And you may be able to make money in the exact same way—but it only works if you are as irresponsible and disorganized as I am.

Intrigued? Mwa ha ha… good.

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There are some questions you should NEVER be asked in an interview setting.

10 Questions You Should Never Be Asked in a Job Interview

I got a call from a recruiter the other day. His offer wasn’t very exciting, but I told him to keep in touch. It would’ve been a forgettable call… except that he then asked a series of really unusual questions.

“Can I ask a few more questions to complete your file?” he said.

“Sure.”

“You’re a U.S. citizen, right?”

I answered immediately, automatically. But as the “yep” escaped my mouth, a little warning light started flashing in the back of my brain.

“And your date of birth?”

I paused. There are some questions you should never be asked in an interview setting. Your nationality is one. Your age is another. He’d asked two of these questions in a row. What’s going on here?

I decided to give my birthdate, partially because I’m the exceedingly neutral age of 32, and partially because the truth is the easiest answer to give when caught off-guard. But then his last question was… 

“Do you feel comfortable giving me the last four digits of your social security number?”

WOAH. What what whaaaat?! I don’t know the dude from a hole in the ground! My birthdate and my social?! What’s he gonna want next—my credit card number? A copy of my house keys?? Shit no!

I thanked him for his time and asked him not to contact me again.

I knew the job offer was legit; I’d had other recruiters contact me about it as well. But the high number of sensitive questions betrayed a basic lack of training and discretion. It was just too many red flags.

Even though I know a lot of this stuff cold, I still wasn’t prepared for how to handle them when they came up in the moment. But you will do better than me! Today I’ll share with you ten bad questions to watch out for. We want you to be ready to identify and avoid sketchy workplaces. Luckily, many seem willing to make their sketchiness known before they even hire you!

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"Ugh, really? Shall I deposit this check before or after I churn the day's butter?"

How Do You Write and Cash Checks? Asking for a Friend.

I grew up in an era where checks were a completely normal and necessary part of everyday life. I wrote and cashed them frequently when I was a little kid—especially around Girl Scout Cookie season, trying to square the orders of all my neighbors.

Because yes, I used to sell Girl Scout Cookies the old fashioned way. I’d leave my family home, on foot, in the dead of winter, to walk aimlessly around my neighborhood, alone and unsupervised, ringing random doorbells, initiating conversations with strangers, accepting their invitations to come inside. Might as well have been helping them move couches, and answering persistent questions about my dress size.

Now if I want my Thin Mint fix, I gotta go to the grocery store awning and talk to a bunch of moms because the eponymous Girls are sitting in the car because it’s too cold and they need to charge their phones. Oh the times, they are a’changing!

It says a lot about the pace of financial technology that now, checks have become a chore. When somebody hands me a paper check, I’m like, “Ugh, really? Shall I deposit this before or after I churn the day’s butter?” They’re dinosaurs barely holding on to relevance. Like Adam Sandler.

But they come up just enough that you need to know how they work.

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It's not a goal, it's a wish your heart makes when you're fast asleep.

Raising Awareness About “Raising Awareness”

Our spectacular, gleaming, aerodynamically-sound Patreon patrons have once more voted on the topic they’d like us to explode with our thermodynamic wisdom and our nuclear gifs. Their selection was:

“What’s the deal with raising awareness?”

Okay, okay, my language was actually a good deal more colorful. I think the phrase I used was “raising awareness is a fucking scam” or “raising awareness is the biggest scam of all time,” something like that. Yes, I could look it up, but no, I will not. The past is in the past! We live in the now!

Yes, it’s true. I have some… strong thoughts on raising awareness.

Snap on your LiveStrong bracelets, fill you ice buckets to the brim, and get ready to drill down into this topic—with a Susan G. Komen branded drill, of course.

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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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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.

Look closely at the list again. Really scrutinize those names. Are you confident that you’ve spotted the diamond among the turds? Are you sure your $100 is going to be well spent?

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