An unending research project about money

I guess I had too much free time combined with my money anxiety this year because I’ve become fascinated with trying to understand not just personal finance but “finance” as a concept, money, bills, just a general…..”I grew up poor, what is money beyond a thing you don’t have enough of and a system of bullshit out to ruin you” thing. Casual. Chill.

Since I’ve never been chill in my life here is a rundown of things to date.

Reddit: personalfinance, povertyfinance, and whatever the Financial Independence Early Retirement sub is. I’ve read all three more casually over the years and am amazed at how any subreddit given enough time can become three to five tropes. Biggest helpful takeaways here were the Dave Ramsey snowball vs avalanche methods being explained for free, and I guess finding out that Vanguard exists? I still don’t use it yet but I wouldn’t know how to google and vet an investment company as an average person. The age group general plans from the wiki are kind of useful but also very vague. The whole internet can seem to be full of millionaires saving 95% of their take-home if you spend too much time here. Someone really cool helped me understand a tax form in an annual tax megathread once, that was super great.

Money Diaries (R29): I actually also found out about this on Reddit because I kept seeing MoneyDiariesACTIVE in profile histories (because yes I’m that creep look I just get curious about what people are like). For a while I pored over these, especially the ones I hoped would be insightful for me because the poster was a similar age, and/or location. It almost never helped because apparently the entire rest of the country had their student loans/college paid for by their parents. Not to mention I suspect R29 knows they get the most engagement (ad revenue) from drama – one recent kind of low earner/big spender said she explained her new iPhone was a free upgrade but R29 edited it out. A lot of them are more of a personal diary with price tags not any kind of insight or explanation about bills, money, budgeting, etc. AND ANOTHER THING, they say the last taboo for women is talking about money but it’s pretty clear from the piste and comments it’s actually either body image or sex because somehow no one blinks an eye when these people eat a single yogurt and six almonds for an entire day but whatever.

Money Diaries (the book): This only had like six diaries (although they seemed a bit more in depth) and insisted it wasn’t about the “just stop buying lattes” budget advice often given out but then by the last third of the book it felt like they ran out of anything useful to say besides “just, like, stop buying things and pack lunch loser” all in all not much more advice than the diaries.

MoneyDiariesACTIVE on Reddit: sometimes some interesting threads but a lot of the same types of people on the other Reddits, because apparently everyone on that site is making way more than me and/or are capable of living in a van and saving 95% of their income. Related: the way femalefashionadvice is apparently full of people who wear Everlane, Madewell, Allbirds or Rothys, Betabrand and Eileen Fisher ONLY because these are all timeless and high quality.

Money Diaries (podcast): If I understand properly, R29 cut the staff that worked on this and the book not long after both launched which is a real kick in the giggle bone because I’d also bet R29 owns their IP and the book rights and royalties, so, for people who were talking about money and budgeting that extra sucks and seems extra terrible? Anyway, the few episodes available were kind of interesting but very short and also lack the diary aspect – more of a standard “here’s twenty minutes about money or investing” based around a caller’s question and two-sentence background.

Bad With Money (podcast): On the whole pretty enjoyable but the drawback is I think it’s best taken on the whole because it tries to intertwine social and economic and financial system forces with personal finance and give various stories and inputs. I did nearly give up on it at episode two because the financial psychologist (wow what a uniquely late capitalist term huh) talked about basically “rich people thinking” and “poor people thinking” which I agree with on concept but he said poor people thinking is “someday I’ll have money and I’ll buy a house or a car” and the rich people thinking is to put that money in an investment and live off the proceeds and….I’m just not fuckin sure the poor people will ever see the kind of money that can produce an income at 7% and investing in a roof overhead is a far cry from things like “blow my tax return on a TV because every time I save responsibly a hospital bill wipes it out so why not YOLO” or “I can buy fast food I don’t have to cook for the same or less money” that I would expect to be poverty mindset. Anyway, other guests have been more interesting and I think the host’s journalism makes her a really good interviewer especially in later episodes.

Bad With Money (the book): On my read list along with about ten other books mentioned on the podcast, but behind other books.

Debt: a 5,000 Year History: currently holding up my TBR list with an estimated read time left of like ten more hours. Not really financial or personal so far, but a very interesting (if a bit dry and academic) point of view and source of data on money and credit as a concept which can occasionally make our entire current existence feel really stupid which is a really pleasant bedtime read as you might imagine.