A Millennial's Guide to Growing Your Salary

A Millennial’s Guide to Growing Your Salary

I don’t attach the word “millennial” to topics willy-nilly. A lot of our advice is aimed at everyone living in these strange times! But this advice is tailored specifically to those who came to adulthood immediately before or after the 2008 recession.

Graduating in a recession leads to earnings losses of about 9% compared to those who graduate in balmier financial climates. The pay gap takes a full decade to become statistically insignificant. For the average worker, that amounts to five grand in a single year. The lost opportunities to invest some of that income—as well as the recession-graduate’s stymied options for other jobs—creates a staggering wealth gap.

Worst of all, it’s completely fucking unfair, because we were kids when this hot mess was cooked up, yet we’re still the ones who have to eat it. We have every right to be salty about that.

There are some things you can do to get yourself back up to the level you deserve. Here’s what we suggest.

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The Delicate Art of the Friend Trade

The Delicate Art of the Friend Trade

When you’re short on money and long on time you get creative about paying for things. And a great, creative way to save money on goods and services is by trading for them with other goods and services.

I haven’t paid for a haircut in literally years. My hairstylist friend just happens to be a mom, so I trade babysitting for haircuts and we both walk away happy. This friend trade is a mutually beneficial arrangement: we both get something we really need, we both save money, and we both get the satisfaction of helping a sister in her hour of need.

But the friend trade is a delicate art. There’s no faster way to sour a friendship—and jeopardize your future trading opportunities—than to badly mishandle the intricacies of the friend trade.

Let’s examine how you can save money by navigating the waters of friend trading without being a total garbage person.

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Two-Ring Circus

Two-ring Circus

This is the wedding ring that I wanted.

Dinosaur/Antler/Meteorite Ring.

Hand-crafted by a bearded artisan, it’s made from dinosaur fossils and deer antlers and meteorites. Is there anything cooler?

A lot of people like diamonds because they represent eternity, but this strange mishmash of textures represented it much more clearly to me. The bones of things long dead. The pieces of ourselves that die and renew each year. Starstuff from dark, unknown, unknowable places our species will die without ever setting eyes upon.

AMAZON PRIME HEYO!

This is the wedding ring that I got.

It was available on Amazon Prime for $25.

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Why You Probably Don't Need That Gym Membership

Why You Probably Don’t Need That Gym Membership

Ok I know I just told you to start working out as a way to stay healthy and wealthy, but listen up: you can do it all without a gym membership.

Gyms are smelly, crowded, and over-priced. Their hours are sometimes inconvenient, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get a turn on the equipment you want to use or fit into that over-crowded aerobics class.

Even the most affordable, at $30 a month, are a big chunk of change that you could surely use for more lofty goals. And while the most expensive ones also offer things like saunas and in-house massage therapists, do you really use those services often enough to justify paying $500 or more a month?

Answer’s no, snowdrop. When you get right down to it, a gym membership is a great way to tell the world “My New Year’s Resolution was to lose ten pounds by going to the gym six days a week, but it’s February 10th and there’s a new season of Orange Is the New Black on Netflix and I’m too ashamed to cancel my gym membership so HERE WE ARE.”

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Buying the $7 Chocolate Bar

Buying the $7 Chocolate Bar

Last time I found myself in a high-end grocery store, I remember looking at the prices of everything and thinking “who the hell would buy a $7 chocolate bar?” Yesterday, I got my answer. And it was a pretty surprising one! It opened my eyes to a truth I’ve struggled for years to acknowledge.

I have a friend who is struggling with homelessness right now. She was in my house, staying for a spell while she looked for a permanent place to live. I watched her unpack her few belongings.

And there it was. Inside her purse was a large, rather expensive, luxury-brand $7 chocolate bar. She held it up and twiddled it back and forth in her hands, letting the silver foil catch the light.

“Sweetie, I’m homeless,” she said, very matter-of-fact. “You’d better believe I’m getting the good stuff.”

And boy was she making a great point.

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Businesses Will Happily Give You HUGE Discounts if You Ask This Magic Question

Businesses Will Happily Give You HUGE Discounts if You Ask This Magic Question

Also known as “the magical six-word question that’s saved me $1,140 in the last three months.” Sounds like clickbait, right? But miraculously, this tip is 100% legit and may one day save your (financial) life. It’s a special little secret called the cash discount.

I’m a little wary of asking for discounts, especially from very small companies. When it’s just one or two people running the show, it means those one or two people spend an inordinate percentage of their time doing things they don’t like to do. Nobody starts their own business because they love filing quarterly taxes—they soldier through it for the 10% of the time where they’re actually doing the thing they love.

And every small business owner I’ve known has lost sleep over their pricing. (Us included!) No matter what you’re selling, there’s local and global competition for it, and consumers have tools now that didn’t exist 10 or 20 years ago that allow them to find, compare, rate, and review similar services. The world is a buyer’s market, and it’s really hard to measure what you know your work is worth against what you know people are willing to pay for it.

So asking to pay less for the same product is almost always a wearying and unwelcome question… with one very special exception.

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The Library is a Magical Place and You Should Fucking Go There

The Library Is a Magical Place and You Should Fucking Go There

Back when I lived in a hippie commune with approximately nine humans and 37 dogs, I biked to the library on a regular basis. It was an easy way to keep myself in reading material without spending all of my meager paycheck on books.

As I was leaving one day, I asked one roommate if she wanted me to pick up anything at the library for her. Her response: “Is it free?”

Is it free? Is it free?

Let’s pretend for a minute that it’s not completely weird and unbelievable that an adult human being could grow up in the United States without ever having learned the first thing (literally, the very first thing) about the public library. Let’s also set aside the fact that this particular person was an English major! I’ll just state, definitively and for the record:

The library is fucking free, you fool. So why the hell wouldn’t you use it? Especially if you’re on a tight budget and trying to save money?

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Procrastinating on opening a retirement account? Here's 3 ways that'll fuck you over.

Procrastinating on Opening a Retirement Account? Here’s 3 Ways That’ll Fuck You Over.

If I had to rank all the things I love to do in my precious free time, where would opening a retirement account fall? Let me see, hmm… Above a root canal, but below politely accepting a religious tract from a door-knocking missionary. What can I say? Some of them have pretty nice artwork!

Have you been procrastinating on opening your retirement account? Feeling lazy? Avoidant? Afraid of the paperwork? Feel like you’d rather use that money on stuff right now? Obviously I feel you.

But buck up, son! I’m about to tell you why you can’t afford not to open a retirement account.

To recap: Americans have access to two main kinds of retirement accounts.

First, a 401(k)—or 403(b), if you work for a nonprofit—is a retirement fund facilitated by your employer. You set it up so they can take money directly out of your paycheck and squirrel it safely away for you to use when you’re terrorizing orderlies in the nursing home. That way you can focus on maintaining your record as Wheelchair Drag Race Champion of Shady Hills Retirement Community and not get distracted by petty financial concerns.

Pictured here: retirement goals.

Second, there’s IRAs (individual retirement accounts). IRAs are very similar to 401(k)s, but they’re attached to you directly instead of your employer. There are other differences, but meh, they’re pretty minor. You can get acquainted with the finer points later.

Retirement accounts are powerful tools for growing wealth and stability for your future self. The trick is you have to opt into your retirement account. If you’re self-employed, or you work for a company that doesn’t offer 401(k)s, you need to go out and open your own IRA. And if you work for a company that offers 401(k)s, you need to sign up and voluntarily tell someone to NOT give you part of your paycheck every month.

As broke as you are right now, ignoring a perfectly good retirement fund is a terrible idea. Because if you do that, you’ll lose money in three different ways.

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