The other night I was having a conversation with a friend about money, and we started talking about inflation. When my friend asked me where I’d learned about the concept, I think he expected me to say, "college."
Instead I said, DuckTales, and explained how one specific episode of the '80s cartoon had forever etched the concept of inflation into my memory. It was a humorous anecdote, and I felt clever telling it. But was it true? After some introspection, I realize that what I said was only partly true, and the reason why says a lot about the state of financial education in America.
It was the last night of business for the restaurant, it was closing after a few years. A waitress had told a pair of lunch patrons the week before that the building needed a lot of expensive repairs, that the owners weren't able to undertake them. A sign outside said, Thank you for dining with us, We will miss you.
Did the host have a new job yet? He did not. He'd been trying, but Thanksgiving was coming up, not the best time to be job seeking … Could he collect unemployment? He could not–he'd been working off the books, "mostly." But the owners had told them a month in [...]
I used to be an unreasonably frugal. What were once rational, economically efficient decisions—limiting "impulse purchases" to the change at the bottom of my bag—became, on the aggregate, absurd.
When I started college 10 years ago, I refused to pay 65 cents for a morale-boosting cup of coffee, because I had an unlimited supply of "coffee" available at the dining hall under a pre-paid "continuous feed" plan. My clothing budget is around $50 a year. I spent two years sleeping in a sleeping bag on a futon on the floor, because I thought sheets and a bedframe were too expensive. If life were a game of Oregon Trail, I'd [...]
"There are job functions that wouldn't apply to most people."
Last month we talked to Amy, a longtime personal assistant who currently works for, among others, a Very Famous Writer. She talked about some of the weird things that come up when you're handling large sums of other people's money, what it means to get to 401(k) land, and how making a living as an artist is hard even when you're on top of the creative heap.
Some readers wanted to hear more about the things Amy does on a day-to-day basis, so here's a closer look at her job.
How do you explain what you do?
My cat didn’t always have a savings account. But now he does, and it’s not because I’m a crazy cat person, or because I’m saving to send him off to a competitive cat college. I’m convinced it’ll save his life.
Let me explain. It used to work this way: I’d get paid weekly. The necessary monthly bills got paid: electricity, gas, life insurance, and water. Then a big, meaty chunk of my pay, everything minus a bit of fun money, got moved automatically to an online bank account blandly named "My Savings."
For years I commended myself on my high rate of savings and became obsessed with my total savings [...]
• 5K entry fee: $25 • New running shoes, obviously: $100 • Maybe those Nikes all the cool kids have: +$50 • New running clothes, for motivation: $50 • Maybe from Lululemon so they last, I deserve quality: +$200 • And better socks, I read that socks are almost as important as shoes: $20 • How much are Lululemon socks?: +$50 • I'll need an app to tell me how to train: $4 • Or maybe I should hire someone to train with me, you know, like a trainer: $100 • And I need to buy the Daft Punk album to run to: $9.99 • And obviously also [...]
At the San Francisco literacy center where I work, I see more than 40 volunteers every week. They drive an hour from Intel or ride the bus from high school to read with a kid for at least 45 minutes for $0. Some are required to volunteer as part of a class, but most are there of their own free will. Why do they do it?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to go all Ayn Rand and suggest that everyone should have a selfish motive for their actions. But I do think the choice to volunteer is a curious one, and that a mix of intentions drive otherwise [...]