The Real Problem With All Those “How I Got Out Of Tons Of Debt Fast” Articles

unpopular-opinion_boats

It seems like every other day, there’s a new bootstrapping narrative making the rounds on personal finance blogs. There are many variations on this theme, but it always goes something like this: an average person (let’s call him Winston) is in some sort of dire financial straits. Winston is drowning in frivolous credit card debt, or borrowed thousands of dollars to finance his education at a private college, or graduated into an economy where jobs are non-existent. Winston then realizes a dramatic change is necessary. Winston embarks upon a series of personal changes that generally involve embracing the life of a monk and a near-ban on frivolities like takeout and vacations. He will likely get a roommate (or three), or embark on an unusual living situation, like sleeping in his car or under his office desk. He may also embark on a series of virtuous, profitable side hustles in his downtime from his full-time job. The tale always ends with Winston, now debt-free and financially stable, sagaciously passing on his wisdom to future generations.

Here’s the thing: I like reading bootstrap narratives. I learn a lot from them, and I frequently admire the author’s tenacity, willpower, and overall creativity in getting to their goals. But I also think as a society, we idealize these narratives to an extent that has become toxic. In America, we explicitly tie good financial health to individual decisions; we often assume that being financially stable is the result of excellent life choices and exemplary responsibility for one’s money. And bootstrap narratives — intentionally or not — fuel this view by implying that anyone can be entirely debt-free or financially stable even on the sparsest of salaries by just making more frugal choices.

And it’s true that many of us have been prone to Regrettable Financial Decisions. My own list ranges from the small (many misspent dollars at Forever 21), to the large (like the time I didn’t fully grasp how my health insurance worked and wound up with a $1,000 out-of-pocket charge). And in tough financial times, re-examining your spending and cutting down on unnecessary expenses is absolutely the best first step. But to me, what this mentality fails to highlight is the bigger picture. To me, a larger issue is that we’re living in a time where our basic fixed costs — everything from housing to education — are surging, while wages remain stagnant and interest rates are non-existent. In this climate, it’s becoming harder and harder for everyone to get ahead, but yet, the myth persists that if you’re struggling financially, it’s because you personally are doing something wrong. 

And this sanctimoniousness extends to everything — just read the comments of any financial confession! We tell college grads struggling with debt they should have gone to the cheapest state school they could find (and god forbid you’re in debt with an English degree). We tell entry-level workers in big cities to get a few more roommates, or to just go live somewhere in the Midwest they can actually afford. We tell people struggling with credit card debt that if they’d just quit ordering Seamless every Friday night and cooked nutritiously at home, they wouldn’t be where they are. And don’t get me wrong. Of course we should all be conscientious of our debts and overall lifestyle spending. Of course we should encourage our kids to think about the money when choosing colleges, or make sure we can afford the rent before moving to New York or SF. But by shifting the onus entirely onto us as individuals to make the cheapest choice, I worry we’re missing a larger conversation. Why are most colleges so unaffordable for your average middle-class family? Why have housing costs in cities risen to the point that it’s impossible to survive without a million roommates on an entry-level salary? Why do we keep buying into the idea that saving a few hundred dollars on coffee, or takeout, or whatever your particular indulgence is, is the key to financial security when, truth be told, our general cost-of-living is increasing at a much higher rate than that?

We’ve reached a point where asking for a living wage is seen as a radically over-privileged notion. Take the author of this screed, whose justification for telling fast-food workers they don’t deserve $15 an hour is to point out that such a salary would put them at the same level as bank tellers and firefighters who work “real jobs.” And moreover, he mentions that he did not make $15 an hour until he’d spent over ten years working as a rock DJ. Or consider Stefanie Williams, whose viral response to Talia Jane pointed out that she’d lived at home and bartended for years before getting to her dream career. People seem to take a certain visceral glee in comparatively castigating others who dare to complain about the struggles they once endured. The overarching idea is, “Well, I suffered like this once, so if you’re expressing disdain over suffering similarly, you’re overentitled.”

Even more harmful is the idea that because those early struggles made so-and-so a better person in the long run, everyone should struggle when they’re starting out, because it’s a form of “paying your dues,” or a necessary step to long-term career success and financial security. Why does this happen? Part of me thinks it’s a warped coping mechanism. It’s a lot easier to tell tales of the struggles we once endured than to admit that we may have struggled needlessly in the face of a system that’s often stacked against almost anyone who wasn’t born into the 0.001%. Yes, perhaps EMTs should be making more than fast-food workers. But that doesn’t mean that fast-food workers should be making less than a livable wage. And this persistent notion — that others advocating for livable wages or better benefits should be demeaned with tales of our own relative misfortune, rather than supported — is harming us all, in my opinion. While we’re all over here quibbling about whose existence was more monk-like in their 20s, corporate profits are surging, CEO salaries are at an all-time high, and we’re never going to start talking about the real issue: why we’ve allowed a business model to develop that largely channels the vast majority of ever-increasing corporate profits to CEOs and majority shareholders, rather than the workers whose time and efforts make those profits possible.

I get the magic and possibility that bootstrap stories represent. I grew up in the shadow of a formidable one: my dad’s. He grew up very poor in a small town in India, and literally through grit, perseverance, and sheer tenacity, made it into some of India’s best universities on full scholarships, then landed a prestigious job in computer engineering at a time when Silicon Valley was barely starting out. He has made excellent financial choices his entire life, saved and invested wisely, helped finance my and my sister’s education, and was able, at 50, to officially retire to pursue his real passion: farming.

Here’s the difference though. My dad, despite the great success he has achieved, has never once made me feel like I deserved to go through the same struggles as him. His entire life, in fact, has been spent lifting up the people around him, from family, to the farmers he works with, because he does not believe that others should go through what he went through. Naturally, there’s a lot he’s aimed to teach me through his story. Particularly when I was a bratty teenager, he used his own circumstances to point out the comparatively vast privilege I’d been afforded and to set standards for the same sort of hard work and diligence he expected from me. His idea of “paying your dues” is doing the best with the circumstances you’ve been given, but he has never once trivialized my problems because they don’t compare to his early struggles. My dad’s example is how I wish we treated bootstrap narratives. It is commendable and praiseworthy that people have overcome difficult circumstances to achieve financial success. These stories have a lot to teach us about hard work, good choices, and perseverance in the face of insurmountable odds. That does not mean it should be a necessity for everyone to suffer in order to eventually live comfortably one day.

There are a lot of things about our financial life within our control, and financial health (to some extent) is absolutely about making good choices where we can. But I worry that a lot of us are missing out on are the conversations about the things out of any individual’s control — the cost of college, affordable housing, manageable healthcare expenses, and proportionately-increasing wages. It’s telling that my dad’s starting salary in 1991 was actually a few thousand dollars higher than my starting salary in 2014, and on his $40,000/year income, he was able to support a young family in the Bay Area. I pay much more in rent today for a room in an NYC apartment than he did for a whole apartment in Mountain View. In his college years (the 1970s), private universities cost roughly $10,300 a year in today’s dollars; I paid nearly $60,000 a year to attend my private college as an undergraduate in 2009 (luckily with significant scholarships).

We shouldn’t all need aggressive amounts of willpower to make ends meet. We shouldn’t be reduced to cutting out every frivolity, every little pleasure, everything that’s even a bit unnecessary to afford our lives. And the answer to your financial woes as a 20-something shouldn’t be wishing equivalent hardship on the next generation. Perhaps, instead of turning personal financial narratives into unending contests of who-had-it-worse-back-then, we can all just have each other’s backs and collectively advocate for a country in which financial struggle is not a prerequisite for a decent standard of living.

Meghan is a national security researcher and occasional photographer in NYC. You can find her on Instagram.

Image via Pexels

In-Post Social Banners_newsletter-03

  • Roselyne

    (and god forbid you’re in debt with an English degree) OMG THIS.

    Except that I’ve gotten a lot of (indirect) use out of my English degree (combined with a ton of Excel knowledge, thank you old colleagues who included me in data analysis lunch-and-learns…)

    I work as a business development manager (and occasional consultant on the side). And English degree is, on the surface, kinda useless. But suddenly you want me to take a complex set of narratives from a variety of perspectives, combine them with finance analysis, break it all down into component pieces, structure it into a coherent narrative that everyone will understand, and help structure your business plan for the next 3 years? Suddenly that’s a really practical use for skills learned by breaking down a complex book and writing a convincing essay.

  • McKenzie

    This might be my favorite article on TFD to date. There’s a bigger picture that can’t be solved just by working three jobs, living in less than ideal situations, and cutting your budget down to bare bones. Yes, we all need to make financial sacrifices but why is it too much to ask for a living wage we can all live comfortably on? Very well written.

    • Meghan K

      thanks for reading, this means a lot!!

  • Summer

    100% agree with this. I’m so tired of seeing the “entitled millennial” label slapped on every sub-35yo who dares bemoan his or her student loan debt or lackluster salary. I think there are very few of us who legitimately feel as though the world “owes” us something and expect the fine things in life to simply be handed to us. We’re willing to work; hell, we WANT to work, if evidenced by the almighty side hustle becoming the deity to whom many of us pray—why is it so terrible for us to want a living wage and perhaps have had the opportunity to gain an advanced education without paying out the nose for it? I don’t like ~the system~ at all. It’s bullshit. It’s hard to get ahead. I’m fine with tightening budgets and make sacrifices here and there, but I am NOT okay with giving up every pleasure in life simply to pay debts or make ends meet. Honestly, what is the point of being alive if everything we do is in the name of barely scraping by and, largely, feeling miserable more often than not? No thanks. I’ll keep going out to dinner on weekends and traveling when I can even though I have student loan debt.

  • zsu

    This article is wonderful. Thank you!

  • Scissors

    “we’re never going to start talking about the real issue”
    Ha here’s another unpopular opinion. I mean, I understand your sentiment and I think debt payoff stories have their disadvantages (like fuzzy math or random windfalls) but: 1) there are hundreds of articles written hourly discussing the problems of corporate profits, CEO pay, lower wages, and rising student loan, healthcare and housing costs. Multiple times more than any “I paid off my debt” stories. I can’t imagine debt payoff stories in any way impede discussion of these issues; and 2) Even if there wasn’t enough discussion of macro issues, micro issues are the ones that individuals can control. It wouldn’t do minimum wage workers any good to rely on the $15/hour wage being effective immediately and until then, they have to make ends meet. An article like – how to grocery shop on $29/week doesn’t address the macro issues of poverty and hunger, sure, but it may be more useful to someone struggling.

  • Keisha

    Meghan! Yas girl! Financial stability has to be about more than putting out fires. Thanks so much for articulating the bigger problems, this issue has been on my mind too 🙂

    • Meghan K

      yaasss! thanks so much, keisha!

  • Caila Henderson

    This is fantastic. You have a very intelligent, well-rounded perspective and have brought to light some things I (and surely others) haven’t fully considered! Also love this: “His idea of “paying your dues” is doing the best with the circumstances you’ve been given…”

  • I love this and agree 100% Thank you!

  • A.S.

    Spot on assessment. Well done!

  • Irene

    This! This, just so much this. No matter how much anybody budgets, and goes without, and side hustles it won’t matter if nothing changes. And wouldn’t it be nice to work hard at one job and not have to hustle afterwards? These big changes take time (years? decades?) but it would be easier if some of the judgment stopped in the meantime.

    • Christian Gonzales

      Yes! The fact that our generation is starting to be known as a generation of side-hustlers and entrepreneurs proves that we (as a whole) feel the need to supplement our income to make ends meet, or to have enough to ~live~ our lives. Which, as this article points out, is just fundamentally wrong. As you say, we should just work hard at our jobs and get to live our lives, not move on to something else we need to work at to make enough money.

  • Samhita Pennathur

    SPOT ON! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Couldn’t agree with you more.

  • San

    This is a great post and I agree with this 100%.

    I also want to take it a step further: there is a myth that if you only work hard enough and “pay your dues”, you will eventually make it big. Young people are told to follow their hearts and dreams and pursue their passions to get to their dream career, but what’s wrong with working a 9-5 (I work to live, I don’t live to work) and what if the dream career doesn’t pay the big bucks? Not everybody can be a superstar (although that is what’s advertised these days.) As a minimum, the focus should be on making living expenses (like housing, food, insurance, etc.) affordable on a full-time salary. Period.

  • SC

    I am a religious reader of this site and agree with many commenters that this is one of my favorite articles to date. She forgot to mention that many of these massive debt payoff stories also feature the author living at home with their parents for at least a year, allowing them to easily save thousands – which is just not an option for many of us.

    Sadly I think that the global economic situation is in such shambles that I don’t think we’ll ever get back to the “American Dream” or quality of life that many of our parents were able to attain/enjoy throughout the 70s-90s. I’ve made peace with the new normal and have tried to really *embrace minimalism* even though I know it’s just a distraction to larger issues.

    • Melissa Klotz

      Ditto on the living at home with parents thing. Like yeah, if I were saving $1200/month by not paying rent, I could get out of debt in [XX] months too. I highly doubt they’re paying 100% of the grocery and utility bills either. Again, I’m talking about wedding stuff, but all the “our wedding only cost $10,000 and here’s how yours can too” articles are the same BS. “Our friend who owns a bakery made our cake for free, our family friend has a 3 acre backyard that we rented for free and put twinkle lights on, my friend from college has a side hustle as a photographer so it was his gift to us” Great, this helps the average reader how?

      • Meghan K

        totally– so many of these stories frequently have a lot of implicit privilege in them too, and that’s definitely something that doesn’t get talked about as much as it should. and while being privileged in some way doesn’t diminish how hard people work to get out of debt, it’s so important to recognize that not everyone has those options! thanks for reading and for all your great comments!

  • katiedid13

    THANK YOU. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this.

  • GemNoelle

    Fantastic article!

    • San

      So true. Where do you trim your budget, when it’s already bare bones? I can only laugh at articles that tell you to “bring your own lunch” and “cut out your Starbucks addiction”.

      • Melissa Klotz

        AGREED!! I’ve always brought my lunch and Starbucks has always been a 1-2x/month (at the most) treat. At the same time maybe there are some younger readers who haven’t figured that stuff out yet. But it’s like regurgitated in every single article. We get the point. How about some advice for those who are already counting each dollar.

      • Summer

        So, so, SO tired of seeing those “tips.” Really, it’s just common sense. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, you ALREADY KNOW that spending $6 on a venti iced latte is an unnecessary expense. Of course there is no one article that is going to be applicable to everyone’s financial situation, but cripes, seeing the same regurgitated nonsense about “stop going to Starbucks twice a day!” and “bring your lunch instead of buying it at a restaurant!” and “walk instead of paying for an uber if the distance is reasonable!” is just so slap-in-the-face obvious.

  • Aida Rosalia

    “But by shifting the onus entirely onto us as individuals to make the cheapest choice, I worry we’re missing a larger conversation. Why are most colleges so unaffordable for your average middle-class family? Why have housing costs in cities risen to the point that it’s impossible to survive without a million roommates on an entry-level salary? Why do we keep buying into the idea that saving a few hundred dollars on coffee, or takeout, or whatever your particular indulgence is, is the key to financial security when, truth be told, our general cost-of-living is increasing at a much higher rate than that?”

    Not only did you hit the nail on the head, you continue to throughout. Totally one of my favorites on TFD.

  • You make a lot of really compelling points in this article, awesome job. Unfortunately people would rather point out what others are doing wrong and act “high and mighty” instead of simply listening and coming alongside them in their struggles. Just like you mentioned towards the end of your post, we all should be supporting each other more often instead of trying to one-up each other on who went through harder circumstances. It’s a competition that has no winner.

  • Mj D’Arco

    i read somewhere that the minimum wage’s purchase power is only 40% of what it was back in the 60s (might be 60%, but regardless a huge decline). A mix between crony capitalism, open borders supplying more cheap labor than there is demand, jobs being outsourced or replaced by automation and corporations trying to profit with both hands have made making a decent living a struggle for our generation. No millennials are are workers, but you have to give them a chance to prove themselves

  • THANK YOU. This is probably my favorite article on TFD — so clear-headed and articulate.

    I’m one of the more-frugal people I know (to the point that it annoys my also-frugal boyfriend), and I’m struggling to make ends meet in San Francisco on — what would appear to many to be — a really good salary.

    The hard truth is that compensation trails behind cost of living EVERYWHERE in America, and if you don’t have a truckload of external/family resources, no amount of willpower or effort or budgeting or overworking will guarantee your financial comfort.

    (That doesn’t mean I’m not trying, which is why I’m so grateful for resources like TFD!)

  • Meghan K

    thank you all so much for reading and for your incredible, thoughtful comments! the community here is one of my favorite parts about writing for TFD. 🙂

  • Erin Williams

    I totally agree overall, though in the spirit of seeing the bigger picture I don’t get the ire against the guy who realistically compares fast food workers making $15/hr to firefighters and people with college degrees who struggle to earn that amount. Shouldn’t people who risk their lives or who spend years training and investing in pursuing a career earn something more for those sacrifices? It certainly makes the college debt situation even more difficult when you find out that not using your college degree could earn you more than using it. I’m not saying that fast food workers (or anyone for that matter) don’t deserve a living wage, but it’s silly not to think about how a major increase would affect the overall financial landscape.

    • San

      If $15 is a living wage for non-skilled full-time workers, then yes, firefighters and people with college degrees should earn even more than that.

    • Mj D’Arco

      i agree with you, and i don’t personally believe making a law that sets a minimum wage at 15$ will help much because it is likely to create large amounts of unemployment, i do believe however in fixing this issue by controlling labor supply. Do we really need a million of immigrants a year? does everyone need to go to have a college degree? do we need to allow foreigners buying real estate in top us hubs? i really see the view of just increasing the minimum wage myopic…

    • Meghan K

      hi erin! thanks for reading. to your point– i’ve honestly read really mixed things about what impact a standard $15 min. wage will have, so i don’t think i can really speak to what that might do. the reason i brought up that article was because i think it reflects this weird dynamic wherein when one group gets together and advocates for better conditions for themselves, there’s a certain societal response that castigates that effort as overentitlement and the results as undeserved. like in the case of fast food workers– it took so much work for FF workers in NYC to get together, collectively bargain, and get it into law that they would get a significant pay hike– and rather than say, people saying wow, that’s awesome, and if FF workers got $15 an hour, imagine what might happen if nurses/emts/firefighters came together and did the same– fast food workers are told they don’t deserve the wages they fought for.

      again, this is less about the actual mechanics of what wage increases might do– though again, i think also there is enough money for all workers to get substantially more money than they do now, the issue is that corporate profits now mostly go to CEOs rather than the workers, etc.– and more just how we approach, as a society, what seems like people making their dissatisfaction with their current income/status as “entitlement” rather than something to be replicated. does that make sense? (sorry for the rant! i have a lot of feelings on this haha)

  • Pippa

    Love this!

  • Allison

    THIS. THANK YOU. wow… definitely this best thing I’ve read on TFD. as someone struggling with crippling student loan debt ($1,250 monthly payments), I needed to read this and stop being so hard on myself. Yes, I could have gone a cheaper route for my education, but 17 year old me didn’t make that choice and now 25 year old me is paying for it. I’ve never missed a single payment, i have $$ in savings, and I’m doing the best I can. THANK YOU.

    • Meghan K

      this comment means a lot– thank you! and congrats on your accomplishments so far, never missing a payment while still saving $$ is definitely something to be celebrated!

  • Thank you! Thank you for writing and posting this. My favorite article on TFD to date. Side hustles are great if you want to earn extra income, learn new skills or pay down debt faster but what I’m seeing a lot of is people needing to do side hustles/second jobs in order to just SURVIVE. It’s so sad how much the costs of housing, education, and other things have surged.

  • Rosabella Alvarez-Calderon

    Great article, and very necessary!

  • Melissa Klotz

    A few notes:

    You say “interest rates are non-existent.” You are wrong. Credit card and student loan debt interest rates are plentiful. 9%! 15%, 22%, take your pick, you can have them all! 😉 Oh, you mean like savings account interest rates. Those are non-existent. It’s ridiculous!

    You make a good point when you say your dad tries to lift everyone up around him. He’s had his success and he wants others to benefit from it too. Perhaps these “they don’t deserve $15/hour” people aren’t as secure about their lives as they seem and don’t want someone they perceive as beneath them to start catching up.

    You’re right. There are real issues that the older generation does not want to address, such as the cost of housing, education, healthcare.

    Kind of somewhat related, I got engaged 3 months ago. People are spending $30,000 on a wedding and that’s pretty much the bare minimum to even have a wedding. Yes, you can go to the courthouse. But if you want to have a ceremony and dinner reception (with basic, no frills food) you either spend $30,000 or don’t have a wedding at all. I’ve been reading articles saying “I can’t believe people spend $30,000 on their wedding! It’s one day! It’s a terrible investment! It’s not even an investment at all, it’s just throwing money down the toilet!” Ok I get it, but show me a venue in Southern California where I can seat 100 people and feed them for less than $10,000. It doesn’t exist. That’s why people are paying $30,000. They have to if they want to have a wedding with people and a dress and food and a photographer.

    Everyone is quick to blame it on individuals, but I think we need to take a look at the industries and institutions.

  • Jack

    Throwing my hat in to agree I, too, think this was a really wonderful article. Extremely clear and articulate and a great example of critiquing something we all see here and on other PF site without being inflammatory — which I think is a huge part of the reason why there are 37 other comments about how great this is. I hope to see a lot more posts from you here!

  • Summer Fulp

    I had a mixed reaction to this article. I do agree that one shouldn’t be shamed for an english degree and private university debt and that a financial struggle simply for the sake of “paying your dues” is unhealthy. That said, based off some of the other comments I’ve read, I’ve noticed there seems to be a bit of a mix up between how hard we should work to make a living (which is a very fuzzy and relative term) vs. how hard we should work for our privileges. Do I think we should make such huge sacrifices to put food on the table and pay our phone bill? No. But I don’t think the cost of weddings for instance, is something we should feel disadvantaged by.
    Which brings me to “living wage”. Which isn’t actually defined by our government, but, for the sake of this conversation i’ll use it. Since FDR implemented it, the minimum has never been “livable”. In fact, the only time it came close to reaching the poverty guideline was in 1968, and that is for a family of four. Perhaps it’s because of some murky political reasons but it stands nonetheless, that our government measures minimum wage by what can support a family of four (two people earning, two dependents) since that is the average socio-economic status of americans. I do think minimum wage needs to come up, but not to the extent of livable, since in some parts of the country that would be around $38/hour.
    Unrelated-And since some people here thought it would be fun to blame immigrants for bringing the cost of labor down (which they may in all truth, have made hard labor jobs cheaper), the benefits of immigration far outweigh the [consequences?] of having to compete for cheapening labor. In the next 5-10 years, the boomers will be retiring which will leave the professional job market wide open for us (yay!) but will mean the millenials will have a very large burden to bear as far as social security payments go (boo!). We have an aging population and a declining birthrate. A cornerstone of a good economy is productivity, and immigrants are our only way to supplement that, unless y’all are prepared to start popping out kids, which, even then we’d have to wait 20-something years to see the benefits of.

    • I really appreciated your comment. I liked the article, but their is a difference between wants and needs. If people choose to pay a high price for their wants, I won’t be one to judge. It’s their life and their money. But to purchase something very expensive, then complain because it’s expensive seems odd to me.

  • I completely agree that “the things out of any individual’s control — the cost of college, affordable housing, manageable healthcare expenses, and proportionately-increasing wages.” need to be address and change should happen on a large scale. On the other hand, beings they are out of our control, it’s important for people to take responsibility for the choices they can make. The hubs and I made a lot of choices that weren’t cool in our 20’s so that we could have more freedom in our 30’s. We heard a lot of, “oh God, I would never do that!”. The joy of life, is that each person gets to make their own choice. We made ours and are happy with them. I think it’s great to fix the bigger issues, but until they are fixed, we have to make the choices that will help take us where we want to go.

  • AbigailP

    Thank you! My husband’s and my debt was due to medical issues and student loans. (Amazing how hard it is to pay off student loans when your health keeps you from working steadily!)

    We got very tired of hearing advice that assumed we’d gotten into debt through poor choices. It meant we got told to cut spending we never had (no coffee, no manicures, no high end clothing). And because of our health problems, a fair number of cost-cutting ideas weren’t feasible. We couldn’t visit multiple stores to get the best prices because, some days it was an achievement to get out of the house at all.

    During the recession, everyone got into the spirit of extreme frugality. So I felt like there was an unspoken assumption that people who were being financially well-behaved would necessarily make leaps and bounds paying down their debt. People who were just chipping away at their debt — in our case because of doctor bills and living on disability and unemployment — just weren’t trying hard enough.

  • Jane

    Finally an article on TFD that begins the discussion of the systematic unfairness and failures of the world political economy we all live under. It’s all well and good to be mindful of the hows and whys we spend our money, but when the people who profit exponentially from a system of their own design, and who couldn’t give a shit about anyone but their own families and co-horts, run the whole damn show, a deeper analysis is needed than how to make an individual budget or get the most wears per dollar out of a coat.

    What is also relevant to the discussion of this piece and the events of the last few days “debate” on TFD is about women who are still making 70 cents to the dollar for the same job with often times more experience and education than men in the same job. I could give a shit if Chelsea receives money and labor from her boyfriend to run this site. I believe strongly that family, friends, and community should help each other financially, if they have the means and desire to do so, and there is nothing unfeminist about it. Rock on. The question is why is Chelsea’s boyfriend in a position to help her (and why does she/women need the extra help)? Is he that special in what he does? Does he make more or less than women in his firm/field? Is his field compensated highly because it’s seen as a traditionally masculine field? And don’t freak out people. I know nothing about him. It’s not about him. I’m sure he’s swell. Just take the point.

    I too agree this is the best piece on TFD to date, and if the others who commented the same are serious about what can be done to steady the field even a little, take a look at the work being done around basic income– payments to all citizens that represents the return to each citizen on the capital owned by society. Basic income is coming up for a vote in the next few weeks in Switzerland, the first country in the world to vote on the national level to give each citizen a basic unconditional/not means tested income because of the belief that each of us on the planet has the fundamental right to a minimum level of security for our shelter and food. Renowned feminist economist Ailsa McKay argued for a basic income as “a tool for promoting gender-neutral social citizenship rights.”

  • Frugal Millennial

    I love the “how I got out of debt fast” articles because I find them so inspiring. My blog is about paying off $117k of student loan debt in three years. I think these types of articles help people to feel motivated and to realize that it is possible to pay off high debt even on a low or average salary.

    On the other hand, I absolutely agree that there are some major problems with our current system. Often, when a person complains about student loan debt, they are called “lazy” or “entitled.” My parents went to the same college I went to, they worked part-time during school, and earned enough to pay cash for tuition. That isn’t possible today.

    Our system is definitely broken. I have a master’s degree and make more money than all of my friends who don’t have master’s degrees, but they’re all better off financially than I am because they have less debt.

  • MJ

    This is amazing. I couldn’t agree with you more and I’ve been argueing with people a lot recently about this. Why is it okay to shit on other peoples struggles because people think they had it “worse” or had to work “harder” than those people. Everyone has their struggles and everyone handles them differently. I hear this especially from a lot of older people saying things like “Young people have NO RIGHT to be tired” etc etc.

  • Ermisenda Alvarez

    Great post! Really amazing points. Thanks for writing this.

  • What are things we can do about it to change that? I’m all for this idea of “changing the bigger picture” and not blaming those who are struggling not of their own fault.

    To be honest, I’ve kept my head down and worked hard on my own goals. I never bothered to “look up” and see the big problem until I read Money After Graduation’s post about the bootstrapping millennial and now this post. I may even go as far as supporting Stefanie in believing Talia ‘could’ve made better decisions’. And this is because I didn’t realize there was that big problem in society.

  • Kara

    YES . I say this all the time, and I have quite the bootstrapping story of debt payoff myself. I did live like a monk to pay down my loans because I couldn’t find a full time job, and the first time I broke into the 30K range was 4 years after college graduation. This is the best article I’ve ever read on this site- very well done!

  • LynnP2

    THANK YOU! This is so fantastic. It’s really nice to see this acknowledgement and understanding on a website about personal finance.

  • azreb

    This is just such an important rebuttal. Thanks Meghan!