Stop Bashing Millennials

I’ve had conversations about millennials with a handful of people over the past few weeks, most recently when it comes to politics. To be sure you and I on the same page, a millennial is the generational name given to individuals entering young adulthood around the year 2000. Another name for the Millennial Generation is Generation Y. As such, it sits in between Generation X and Generation Z.

Nearly every day you hear the term millennial on talkshows, news stations and in politics. Stereotypes say millennials are the social media generation, the lazy generation, the entitled generation, and the generation that can’t put their phones down and are addicted to technology, video games and the internet.

All of this is garbage. I’m a millennial. I love technology, yes, but my favorite toy growing up was my mother’s old typewriter. My first recollection of the internet was dial-up at 56k per second, I had a walkman, and I called my friends using both corded and wireless landline phones. I didn’t get a wireless flip phone until sophomore year of high school, and I was one of the first people on Facebook when it was opened up to the general public. Clearly your typical late 80s / early 90s kid.

But really, I’m not much different than the generations before me when they were my age. Generations are just an awfully simple way to segregate folks into different categories. In fact, nobody can even agree on the specific starts and ends to each generation. It’s a convenient way to group people, but in today’s politically correct world where everyone’s offended at everything, I’m surprised generations still exist in the fashions they do today.

How does this all relate to money, you may ask? I just read an article that quoted some expert claiming that millennials don’t understand money, they aren’t setting aside money for retirement, and on and on. There’s a talk by Adam Conover of truTV’s Adam Ruins Everything titled Millennials Don’t Exist. I suggest you watch it, he’s saying a lot of the same things I am. In short, young people are much more open to change, and the older you are, the more set in your ways and bitter you become. It’s as simple as that.

“Kids these days” has been a saying for many generations. The 18-25 year old hippies of the 70s were just as reckless and careless as millennials are. And we’re not necessarily any more glued to technology than the Baby Boomers. Nearly everyone consumes social media, watches YouTube, can navigate the web and spends their work day on a computer. Our generation just came of age while everything exploded. Our generation’s children will be more receptive to change and adapt quicker than our generation will by that point, and the cycle will just continue.

If you’re a millennial, or even Gen Z, and you’re frustrated and roll your eyes whenever someone stereotypes your generation, just show them they’re wrong, rather than fit into the stereotype. We’re all living on this planet at the same time. We’re all presented with the same technology, the same politics, the same economy, and on and on. We’re just experiencing them at different times in our lives.


Winning at Personal Finance is an Invisible Accomplishment

There’s a problem with personal finance… It’s not sexy. Most people find the topic of personal finance to be either boring, too complex or too depressing. In one of my first posts, I described how it felt to pay off a credit card in full. I had somehow piled up a few thousand dollars on the card, and the feeling of having it completely paid off felt pretty amazing. But there were no fireworks when I paid it off, no congratulations from the credit card issuer, and no tangible benefits other than not having to ever worry about that debt again.

If you’re not in the top 1% or didn’t receive a financial windfall, winning at personal finance often seems like an invisible accomplishment. Again, once you pay off a debt, that’s it. It’s just gone. Those around you won’t be able to visually tell you’re any better off, and if you’re normal you probably have many more debts left to pay.

Just like learning a new language, reaching your fitness goals, or advancing in your career, winning with your finances takes time. If you’re average, you probably have some lingering student loan debt, credit card debt, an auto loan and likely a home mortgage, too. Those debts won’t go away quickly, even if you’re “gazelle intense” (as Dave Ramsey likes to say). And as you probably agree, there’s nothing sexy about cleaning up your finances.

Unless your income is vastly greater than your expenses, winning at personal finance takes a long time. There always seems to be a tipping point throughout the course of each person or family’s journey towards financial freedom, but for the majority of the ride it’s slow and steady. And that’s a tough pill to swallow for a culture that thrives on instant gratification. The world doesn’t care about our individual financial situations, how much debt we have, or how much of a burden the debt is putting us in. Yet if we can manage to delay gratification, put aside that vacation, and focus until we’re out of our financial messes, the reward at the end of the tunnel will be huge.

One of my favorite financial sayings of all time is this: Don’t use money you don’t have, to buy things you really don’t need, to impress people you really don’t like. That line has so much truth in it – and so many of our decisions are based on how we think people will perceive us. But none of that matters! Fix your mess and ignore the crowd.

Who’s to Blame for Your Student Debt?

As I write this, former President Bill Clinton just concluded a speech endorsing his wife at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. The United States is in the heat of an exhausting political season. Hillary’s presidential campaign recently announced new proposals on higher education, one involving eliminating college tuition for families with annual incomes under $125,000 per year, and others involving lowering federal student loan interest rates, making tuition free at all community colleges, and instituting a three-month moratorium on all federal student loan payments.

Let’s take a minute to reel in the rest of Hillary’s plan. Her plan would cost some $350 billion over ten years and would be paid for, as the Hillary campaign claims, by limiting “certain tax expenditures for high-income taxpayers.” I’ve dug for more details on what certain tax expenditures are in this case, with no luck. Yes, it’s election season and lots of claims are made with zero sound financial basis, but come on. I have $20,000 in loan debt I still owe to Uncle Sam, but I signed my name on the dotted line seven years ago and made a commitment to pay that money back when I got out of school.

Under Hillary’s proposal, students in college simply have to work ten hours per week to do their part in making their tuition free. Just ten hours per week? And hardworking taxpayers take care of the rest? What a dream! If you can’t detect my sarcasm, I apologize. As someone who received two bachelor’s degrees in four years, spent most semesters loaded with 18 credit hours, spent around 20 hours or more each week at a part-time job, served two internships, served as news editor for my college paper, and had quite the normal social life at college, mind you, I find the ten-hour requirement laughably low. Continue reading “Who’s to Blame for Your Student Debt?”

Minimum Wage Does Not Equal Living Wage

I get frustrated when someone claims that people earning minimum wage should be paid a “living wage” and that minimum wage was designed for folks to get by on. I may be wrong, but to my knowledge minimum wage was only established to serve as a “wage floor,” reduce poverty and ensure economic growth is shared across the workforce. But before I dig any deeper, let’s pause and take a look at history.

Supposedly medieval England was the first to adopt a sort of minimum wage, one which was fixed to the price of food through a set of ordinances originally created to enforce a maximum wage. But we don’t live in medieval England, it’s the 21st century and I’m writing this from Atlanta, Georgia. So let’s look at the history of the US minimum wage.

On Saturday, June 25, 1938, President Roosevelt signed 121 bills, and among them was the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938. This act banished oppressive child labor, set the maximum workweek for non-exempt employees at 44 hours per week, and set the federal minimum wage at $0.25 per hour (about $4.25 in today’s dollars). Today, we can define minimum wage as the lowest wage that an employee can pay its employers. States can set higher minimum wages than the federal minimum wage, but the federal minimum wage is currently set at $7.25, and has been at that amount since July 24, 2009.

Someone working full-time at the federal minimum wage makes about $15,000 per year. This is clearly below the poverty line (and I’m not here to argue that). I acknowledge that $15,000 per year in today’s dollars is essentially nothing. But why would someone settle with a job paying minimum wage? If you can speak English (or any language for that matter), read and write, you should be able to pick up a job paying well over $7.25 per hour. Continue reading “Minimum Wage Does Not Equal Living Wage”

The 3 Prerequisites to Make Money Blogging

After digging through some blog posts of mine from years ago, on a blog that no longer exists, I wanted to share a short post I wrote about what it takes to make money blogging. So without further ado, here’s the original post:

It’s easy to set up a blog. You can do it in less than five minutes. What you can’t do so quickly is earn money with your blog. That takes three things: dedication, value, and time. Don’t try to take a shortcut – there’s no guaranteed fast track to blogging success.

Dedication. Dedication means committing to a task or purpose. In other words, KEEP BLOGGING. No ordinary person has become successful overnight through blogging. Those that became or will become successful spend hours, days, weeks, months, and years writing content for their blog.

“In other words, KEEP BLOGGING.”

It’s important to stay dedicated because if you aren’t dedicated to your blog and your topic(s), neither will your audience. Sitting down and writing a blog post every week (or even every day) proves that you’ve got plenty to say and will greatly improve the odds that people will keep coming back. Continue reading “The 3 Prerequisites to Make Money Blogging”

Debt Update: $21,954.75

It’s been seven months since my last debt update, and to my horror I’ve only paid off $2,391.62 in that timeframe. Awful! I could have cut my debt balance in half if I didn’t throw so much money away each month.

So what now? It’s crunch time. I wish I could eliminate the rest of my debt by January 1, 2017, but that seems like a pretty lofty stretch goal. There are only 175 days until New Years Day, or 5 months and 22 days. Assuming I was somehow able to get there, I’d need to be throwing over $3500 per month towards the debt. I don’t even make that much per month. Not to say I couldn’t add a part-time job or increase my side projects, but it’s quite a daunting goal.

Regardless of how impossible it seems, I want to try. I want to try to be debt free by New Years Day. Impossible? Probably. But crazier things have happened. I’d love to be able to keep $615.98 in my pocket each month instead of putting it towards the minimum payments on my debt. Fortunately, $350 of that monthly payment will go away after 3 more months, so I should be able to get more aggressive when I can use that extra amount to throw towards the rest of my debt.

Let’s see how this goes! Time to get creative.

How I destroyed a $20,000 car

It was a cold wintery Illinois day on December 31, 2013. The last day of the year, and one of the supposed best days of the year to go car shopping. Dealers want to get rid of their inventories, and the holiday season means plenty of auto manufacturers are offering discounts. So what was I doing on this day? Hunting for a new car.

The decision was a spur-of-the-moment happening, a quick “let’s take a peek at some used cars” for fun, I told my mother. I had plans to drive 3 hours north to celebrate the New Year with some friends, and had no intention of making a purchase that day. Yet after a good three hours at the dealership there I was, signing a loan for a 2011 Hyundai Sonata.

If you’ve read some of my recent posts, you’ll know that I have happily sold that Sonata, so here’s the reason why: I destroyed that $20,000 car.

IMG_01796It was the worst financial decision I’ve made thus far, or, on the other hand the worst mistake you could make when you purchase a like-new car. What did I do? I drove that Sonata (with only 2,000 miles on it at the time of purchase) into the ground, putting over 75,000 miles on it in less than two years. And I’ve been making payments on the car for the past two years, at $338.43 per month, and put $4,000 down at the time of purchase. Continue reading “How I destroyed a $20,000 car”