Why a new job might be best treated as an emergency

Limbo

I just got a new job! (Don’t worry, I’m not shutting down this site.)

Getting a new job is an exciting and terrifying time, one of the big life transitions. As it’s not a stretch to say that we spend a good third of lives working at a job, changing it can make a large difference in your life. To me, it’s up there with moving (which I hope not to do for a long time).

Everything is good on my end, with no concerns at all. And yet, I’m considering my situation of moving from one job to the next an emergency. And if you’re in a similar situation, it might be a good idea for you to do the same.

Why? I never thought you’d ask.

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How store credit cards foreshadow the retail apocalypse

Target Red Card

In my last post, I mentioned how I had once had an Exxon credit card given to me by my mom to use for emergencies.

It made me think about those specialty credit cards. How quaint I thought. A credit card that people would use at a given store.

And then I had a bit of sinking thought that right now, people are still using those credit cards! <shudder>

Regardless of what you think about using credit cards (I say the best place for credit cards to be long-term is in a drawer), it’s hard to disagree that store, or retail, credit cards are anything other than a terrible idea.

And not just for us. For the companies who issue them as well. Even though it seems like they are their salvation.

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Emergencies are the worst time for using debt

Exxon

Not long after I got my drivers license, my mom gave me an Exxon card to carry around with me. “For emergencies, in case you run out of gas and are stranded.

I never used it. It’s not that I had any special objection to using it at the time (aside from not wanting to spend my parents’ money) but I was never in a situation where I needed it. Gas was expensive for me at the time, but it wasn’t that expensive.

Still, I appreciated the offer. Moreover, I appreciated the trust my mom put in me (though I guess with a gas credit card, it’s not like I could really run up the tab all that much).

More broadly, you see this argument for credit cards quite frequently. “Keep your credit cards around in case of an emergency.” It seems sound on the surface, but does it hold water?

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Can someone please explain to me why there is so much wage disparity?

Hoagie

I worked in retail for many years. I sometimes have nightmares that I’ll have to go back to it.

And yet, I think my retail experiences were relatively tame. A department story, a toy store, a gas station, Kinko’s. I never had to work as a busboy or waiter. I never ever had to work in food service at all.

So I consider myself blessed.

I make a decent living these days. And I have been reflecting on wages recently, and it was in that frame of mind that I walked into my local Subway sandwich shop one day this week for lunch.

Subway logo

Don’t judge.

As my order was a little customized and as the place was slow, I ended up chatting with the “sandwich artist” (shuddering at the patronizing name) for a few minutes. Among much else, I learned that she had moved from Connecticut, where she had worked at a Friendly’s. I’m terrible at ages, but she looked to be in her late 20’s, early 30’s. She was friendly, personable, and sharp.

Now, I know nothing important about this person.

But I do know that she probably makes around $9 an hour, according to Glassdoor.

And if you’re not appalled now, you should be.

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If you’re not wealthy, is it your fault?

I’m troubled.

I was listening to a program on the radio (which I’ll leave unnamed for reasons you’ll see soon). It was one of the 27 various programs on financial wellness that seem to pepper the AM dial at any given time.

On the program, the host was talking about people who had become millionaires. His assertion was that the vast majority of millionaires (defined, let’s remember, as those with a net worth of $1 million or more, not those with an income of $1 million) were self made, and did not inherit much or any money.

That’s a little weaselly, but that’s not what troubled me.

This was couched adjacent to a rant about “fairness”. The host mocked how some people believed that it was “not fair” that wealthy people shouldn’t need to give more to those less fortunate. “Not fair?” the host said (and I’m paraphrasing here). “Almost every one of these millionaires are self-made! They are successful! Why is it not fair that they’re successful and you’re not?

Ouch. This is a dangerous train of thought, and all it takes is one tiny logical leap from that one sentence to:

If you’re not wealthy, it’s your own fault.

Let’s explore that assertion.

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Does frequent travel conflict with financial well-being?

Dawn field

If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you’ve no doubt seen me periodically talk about my quest to see one new country a year.

You might find this topic potentially a diversion, even perhaps antithetical, to much of the other topics I talk about. Eliminating debt, building wealth, eliminating the unnecessary financial burdens from your life.

Getting your financial life in order is hard enough, you might think. Isn’t this suggestion to go see the world a little out of place, maybe a little tone-deaf? Might there be a little bit of a brag in there, talking about all that I am able to do that you might not?

All valid concerns. But I will argue that my travel goal, while admittedly quirky, is just as fundamental as any of the other suggestions I offer here.

Allow me to explain.

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The new country I will travel to in 2019…or maybe 2020

Eclipse

Did anyone notice anything strange in the sky this past Monday? Or, failing that, did you notice anyone looking at the sky wearing (hopefully) something that looked uncannily like 3D glasses?

Of course I kid. Over a large swath of the United States this week, a solar eclipse was visible in the sky. Millions of people watched the sun get partially blotted out, while a smaller few got to experience the real deal, a total blocking of the sun by the moon.

I was one of those people. Situated in rural Idaho (far away from the throngs who crowded into Oregon, and possibly near where Neil DeGrasse Tyson saw the eclipse) I was fortunate to stand in a field of only a few hundred people, enough to feel like part of something, but not too much like Woodstock.

I had never seen a total eclipse before. I had seen pictures, of course, and many people I knew had seen a partial eclipse, but as the author Annie Dillard famously said:

“Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him.”

(She also, less famously but more poignantly, likened it to the difference between “flying in an airplane” to “falling out of one“. “Although the one experience precedes the other, it in no way prepares you for it.“)

Given how close this was to my home, there was no way I was going to miss it.

I won’t even attempt to describe the moments, the odd sense of shaky panic and foreboding that preceded it, the light changing and then disappearing, the ecstasy of totality, grown adults whooping and hollering all around, the evanescence of it all. I would never be able to do it justice.

Instead, I recommend you read this essay by Annie Dillard. It’s imperfect, as of course it must be, but it will give you a flavor.

But it left me with one singular and powerful feeling: When can I see that again?

And with that, I became an eclipse chaser. Hello.

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What if you can’t contribute to a 401(k)?

Pool water

In my previous post, I talked about what to do if you’re ineligible for contributing to a Roth IRA. This most commonly is due to having an income over the limit set for those contributions.

But just like you could be unable to contribute to a Roth IRA, you could also be unable to contribute to a 401(k).

What then?

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What if you can’t contribute to a Roth IRA?

Sand

Roth IRAs are awesome. There’s just no other way that I can see that regular folks can invest in a way that lets money grow tax-free, without any Required Minimum Distributions or anything like that. Plus, a retirement account where you can withdraw your contributions at any time for any reason, without any penalties? This is almost too good to be true.

If you’re at a place where you have paid off your debts and can start investing, a Roth IRA is an easy choice. Here’s how to start one at Vanguard.

That’s all good, but what if you can’t contribute to a Roth IRA? I’m not talking about whether you’re ready to or not, I’m talking about not being able to. What then?

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Forget Amazon, I’m going with Jet

Boeing Jet

I talked about how Amazon has recently taken to requiring you to join Amazon Prime in order to purchase some of its products.

To me, that seemed like a bridge too far. And so I began researching alternatives to Amazon.

I found a worthy contender relatively quickly, as I had recalled a news article I had read recently about a site called Jet.

Jet

Is that an umlaut?

Jet is an online e-commerce site. They sell a whole galaxy of items, just like Amazon. And while they used to have a subscription model like Costco, now anyone is free to order. I had heard about Jet recently because Walmart had purchased it for something like a zillion dollars, in a bid to compete with Amazon.

As a practical matter, I was still needing to find my cheap source of Vega powder, so I logged on to Jet.

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