This is a weird thing to write, because it isn’t often comfortable to get so personal with people, especially when the people in question are actually internet strangers — no matter how close they might feel in the comments section. But recently, some comments I’ve gotten have left me wondering if there are things I’ve left out about myself on TFD that are actually really important pieces of who I am.
I am entirely guilty of this myself, so I’m definitely not accusing anyone of doing anything I don’t do every day, but when you turn on your computer and look at the creative content someone is producing and putting out on the internet, it is too easy to forget that the small sliver of their life that you are watching or reading is hardly enough for you to make a true judgment call on what type of person they are. On TFD and around the internet, we show only a fraction of what we do, and even through that tiny keyhole, it can be very easy to assume we see everything.
Specifically, it has been noted more than once recently that I am not a financial expert. If she’s not an expert in finance, you ask, how is she writing for The Financial Diet? How am I supposed to take her advice or self-reflection seriously?
This is a hard question to answer. Short answer: you don’t have to. Long answer: *inhales*
TFD was not started as a place for finance experts to swap tips and give high-level advice. If you’ve read any of it, if you’ve followed it from the beginning or even read a good amount of the articles we’ve published, then you already know that. TFD publishes and interviews some experts, but it is primarily a place for people to talk openly about money as a topic, in an unfiltered and honest way. There are so many finance experts, and so many publications that publish technical instructions on managing your money goals. I consult them from time to time myself, and if you like them in one handy place, there are resources galore — in fact, we round them up for you every week.
But what about the other billions of people in the world — the ones who aren’t finance experts, but still have to deal with the green stuff on a daily basis? Those are the ones we’re here for. Those are the ones we are.
The TFD team members, as well as most of our regular contributors, don’t claim to be experts. We claim to be people, talking about our experience with money on a day-to-day basis. We might not be able to tell you exactly how you should manage your investment portfolio — but we will ask an expert to tell us what advice they’d give. We might not be able to tell you exactly how you can save enough money to move to a new city — but we’ll interview our friend who did it, and ask her what her best tips are. We might not be able to tell you the best way to start saving for retirement — but we will tell you what our mom did, and if we think we’ll do the same. The point is, part of the reason money has been such an obstacle for so many people is in part because we treat it like this elite, obscure subject that only certain people have the right to talk about. But TFD aims to make this conversation something everyone can be a part of, and that means that you will sometimes see money thoughts or struggles that seem beneath you, or not worthy of your time. When everyone gets a chance to speak, we are all at different levels.
The work that I do holds true to what I’ve loved about TFD since before I even became an intern, and I feel consistently proud and happy about what I do. It is absolutely understandable that content I produce may not be relatable or enjoyable for all readers — that is totally okay! It wouldn’t really make sense if it was. But to leap from “This article doesn’t relate to me, and I don’t wholly agree with it!” to “This girl is stupid, not a finance expert, and supported by her rich boyfriend” is kind of shocking, and very silly. Put simply: I’m a person who reads these comments, who sees frequent (and inaccurate) leaps to judgement about my own life, and am hurt.
One of the reasons I started with TFD is because I do actually think a lot about money, and have always been relatively good with it. I make mistakes sometimes — little mistakes. Like, “I bought coffee three times this week,” and “I lost a pricey textbook.” Sometimes I go shopping when I should be putting the money in savings, or I forget my brown-bag lunch and buy something on-the-go. It isn’t great, but it happens. I have a self-deprecating sense of humor (as Chelsea rightfully pointed out to me as the team and I discussed it earlier this week), and that sometimes leads people to believe that I am a constantly floundering financial mess.
But the “messiness” that I’m ~known for~ — or at least, people think I’m known for — isn’t real messiness. I graduated with a college degree and only around $5000 in loans. I didn’t make the fun decision to live on campus because I knew it was too expensive. I have more than one job that I love deeply and feel emotionally fulfilled by — they also happen to pay me well enough that I support myself entirely. I own a car that I purchased myself, I have a retirement account that I contribute to monthly, I have an emergency fund and another savings account where I am saving for (eep!) an eventual house of my own. My credit score is over 750. I am doing my very best, and I feel happy — until I get a comment that invalidates it all, or implies that the only reason I’m happy and comfortable is because I’m supported by my “well-off significant other.”
I think it is worth mentioning here that I don’t believe that having one partner financially support the other is a bad thing — in relationships, more often than not, one partner will out-earn the other. Sometimes, one partner will fund the other, and help them out when they are trying to pursue a new passion or career path. I think that is amazing, and totally okay.
However, it has come to my attention more recently that people believe I’m being supported by my boyfriend. My boyfriend is a doctor in the middle of residency, and I think it is easy for people to hear the word “doctor” and assume that a lot of money comes along with the fancy title. Someday, it probably will — at least we hope so (babyboy does have a lot of debt to pay off!)
But as of right now, he makes a lot less than what you might imagine. On average, residents tend to earn somewhere around $50,000, give or take a little. Not terrible money, but considering the fact that my boyfriend has six-figures of student debt and routinely makes four-figure payments on it, that salary doesn’t leave him with a ton of money to live on. As of right now, we pay every single shared bill — rent, utilities, food, etc. — 100% equally. If we’re really splitting hairs, I actually often pay more of our shared expenses, because even though he earns more money than me, I don’t have a $1500-per-month loan payment, so I have a bit more disposable income. If he has an unexpected expense (last month it was an insane bill from the dentist) and things are tight for him, I will pay all of our utilities, or buy all of our groceries so he can make his loan payment on time and remain afloat. People assume I moved in with him so he could take care of me. Oddly enough, our decision to move in together was actually made because his roommate suddenly moved out, and he couldn’t afford to keep his apartment without someone to split rent with. (We had planned to move in together after my graduation, but did it six months early so he wouldn’t be in financial ruin, or have to move further away from the hospital he works at.)
I do acknowledge that I may be on a path or in a situation that isn’t always entirely relatable to every reader. I also acknowledge that I do come from a family where I had the great privilege of being supported and cared for, almost in excess, for my entire upbringing. (I wasn’t joking when I tweeted that I literally fell asleep as a child to a cassette tape of affirmations from my parents. They are amazing and I love them.) I acknowledge my relationship privilege, and the fact that relationship privilege in general is a thing. I feel lucky, and I know I’m in the comfortable position I am today because of the people in my life — but also because of myself. I’ve grown into the person I am today. I went to college, I applied for jobs, and I found ones that worked for me. I get up every morning and go to a job where I work 9-to-3:30 (so not 9-to-5, but close!) and come home to write, because it is a passion that I also earn money from. This could all change at any moment. I have no idea where I’ll be in a year, or five years from now — the future feels far, and entirely mysterious.
But that’s why TFD is a place I love to be: because I don’t have to be on the other end of my journey looking back at a finished picture, and explaining to everyone exactly how to do it just like me. I can talk honestly about the journey, and even if I don’t always give you the full picture (because I err towards the self-deprecating and not-braggy), I don’t have to worry if and when I do make mistakes. And while some of what I go through and learn may be thing you already figured out years ago, I’m not embarrassed to still be learning them. I’m okay with not having everything figured out yet. Not because I’m “bad with money.” Not because my boyfriend is supporting me and I’m floating along beside him not worrying about what happens. Not because I’m only 23 years old. Because I am a dang human being.
Image via Unsplash