Wow, this is a great article

Ramit Sethi

Casey points me to You Can Learn a Lot From a Rich Girl, a breathtakingly good article filled with insights about the dumb things we do with money:

The author (I don’t know who it is) writes about Marilyn, the “rich” girl:

Driving home from the bar one evening, my friend Marilyn confided in me that she was afraid. In six months, she would be graduating from grad school and her parents were going to cut her off financially for the first time in 26 years. Marilyn works twice a week (8 hours total) waiting tables to pay for pot and shoes, but everything else from her rent to her groceries has been paid for by her parents. Marilyn, at 26, doesn’t know how to balance a checkbook and has no idea what a gallon of milk costs. On top of that, she managed to secretly charge up some credit cards to the tune of $12,000 and that debt alone was overwhelming her. She couldn’t imagine what it would be like when she had to pay all of her own bills, plus the credit card debt. She fucked up big time and rather than admit that to her parents (who amassed their wealth through careful, responsible investments) she was desperately confiding in her older friend hoping for a magic solution to her problems.

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On young people buying expensive clothes, going out extravagantly, and not realizing how much we can really afford:

I’ve spoken to a lot of college kids lately who regularly spend $200 for a pair of blue jeans. When I ask them how long it takes for them to earn that kind of cash, the answer usually falls in the realm of a week or so. At this point, I will stress that not even the very wealthy spend an entire weeks worth of salary on one article of clothing. College kids disagree because they’ve seen wealthy people wearing more expensive clothing than their jeans. So I explain that while they may wear more expensive clothing, that it doesn’t constitute a week of their salary. Normally, they earn the price of expensive jeans in an hour, often less. On the off chance that the kid understands the picture that I’m trying to paint for him, he expresses shock that I would suggest he should never spend more than $8 (his hourly wage) on a single article of clothing….or alternatively buy significantly less clothing. But most of the time, the idea that they might be living well above their means only confuses them and they just stare at me blankly.

And on the cluelessly stupid way we act about Christmas gifts:

Every Christmas we go over to her house bundled up in sweaters and jackets, swathed in a layer of blankets because she can’t afford to turn the heat up. But everyone will be plowed with the presents that she couldn’t control the impulse to buy. It pains me to see and I just want to say to her to please take back the bracelet and the sweater and the gift certificate and the 20 presents you bought the children that will most likely be donated to charity without them ever playing with them because they have so much already and please, turn your heat up.

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  1. Anas

    good advice

  2. Enrique

    Who’s fault is that she can not balance a checkbook? The Parents. Another financial idiot was created by believing that Love is giving everything to a child.

  3. Dimes


  4. Lazy Man and Money

    I can’t balance my checkbook. I mean my parents taught me at one point, but I realized it’s more work that it’s worth. I just keep enough in the that there’s not a problem. Perhaps I have to deal with fewer $200 pairs of jeans to keep a surplus in there, but I’m okay with that. I do go over my statements at the end of the month to make sure there are no mistakes, but that’s about it.

  5. Harm

    Pretty dismal…..
    But, though I consider myself
    to be very financially aware, how
    aware would I be if my parents
    hadn’t taught me well, and
    inspired me to find out stuff on
    my own? Her parents weren’t
    doing her any favors not
    teaching her financial facts
    of life, Enrique is right.

  6. MrFunk

    You guys still have chequebooks? Or is that just a figure of speech these days?

  7. Lazy Man and Money

    MrFunk, you don’t have a checkbook?!?!

  8. Brice

    When you hear stuff like that it’s hard not to shake your head. My parents have done the same thing with my little sister. They bought her a 12,000 dollar car cash, sent her to a 24,000 dollar two year art school, and she works in a tmobile call center as a temp. Now she has no common sense when it comes to money at all. Another shining example is my good friend. His wife stays home to watch their one year old, he works full time, is a full time student, and they are on welfare. But when I bought a 12 dollar pair of shoes from walmart to save some extra cash he laughed. He actually said that he could never buy off brand shoes. And then made himself look even more intelligent by saying “he had too much pride for that.” I’m not a financial guru or anything but I definitely thinks blogs like this and those kinds of stories need to be told more often to raise awareness. Or at least for parents to try and teach their kids some financial responsibility.

  9. Hawk

    Lazy Man, some european countries have moved almost entirely to electronic money transfers for stuff that isn’t cash.

    I don’t balance my checkbook either. I think balancing a checkbook is really, “keeping tabs on your finances.” I check my bank balances every single day.

    Brice, I know someone who is now completely unemployed and living with her (abusive and substance-abusing) parents because she was too full of ‘pride’ to file for unemployment when she was laid off and graduated into a world that has no interesting jobs for poli-sci majors.

  10. Jonathan

    Hey Lazy Man, have you read The Lazy Person’s Guide to Investing? Your name reminded me of the book.

    I don’t carry a checkbook. I keep track of everything on the computer. The only time I would bring a notepad or checkbook would be if I was tracking EVERY single thing I spent to see where I should cut back on.

  11. Gerard

    What I find even better is the article in which she explains how she got out of debt. That really scared me and will scare and help a lot of people.

  12. Laura

    This author fleshes out a good point very clearly. It hits home. I need my designer jeans like a crack addict needs his pipe, so I get around this by limiting myself to one pair a year.

    What frustrates is how working for a company at the “peon” stage costs so much to begin with. Example: The savings I plan to use as a down payment is in an ING fund earning a solid yield of about $60 a month for me. If you forget about the benefits of compound interest for a second that may seem solid—that’s $60 I don’t have to do a thing for. It’s a good start, don’t get me wrong, it would let me move to a third world country and live a pretty solid simple life without working much. But I’m not in a fishing village in rural Botswana I’m a twenty-something in SF who appreciates quality jeans and commutes everyday to her a-little-too-close-to-peon job. That commute costs me $60 in bridge toll a month, so there goes that money.

    You get my drift, there’s a bunch of other ways this happens as well making it hard to break out of the grind. I do believe if we’re clever enough and start early enough it’s possible.

  13. SCapitalist

    Great article. I like how she explains the relative cost of buying clothes. Yes, celebrities do spend a large amount of money on clothes. However, they have a much higher income than the average college student. This should be mandatory reading for all senior high school students.

  14. Vic

    I don’t “balance a checkbook either.” However I do “balance my quicken” religiously.

  15. hypatia

    Hey Laura,

    Why not save the bridge toll and ride the bus to work? You can even get your bus passes as a pre-tax benefit up to $160 through the federal CommuterChek program. Ask your human resources department or your regional transit agency about it.

  16. LornaJay

    The article was really good, in terms of managing money – I was taught as a child about budgets and savings (ta folks).

    However, the rest of the blog is bitter, vindictive and incredibly prejudiced. I was hoping for other interesting comments, but only found a load of spleen about fat people, folk with mental disabilities, etc…..

    Sadly, that one’s just fallen off my bloglines list.

  17. jayzee

    When/if you ever run across the author of the site — tell her she is my hero. She’s is like the “howard stern of blogs.” I love people who are *realists* and who *tell it like it is!*

  18. Kitty

    Bah. Violent Acres is a boring troll. Just look at its other posts – making fun of people’s kids, being grossed out by fat people, disabled people make it uncomfortable, poor people are dumb – so original, so groundbreaking.

  19. Greg

    How can someone NOT know how to “balance” a checkbook? I never understood the big is adding and subtracting. How can someone over 6 or 7 years old not handle that?

  20. TTFK just put up an update on Marilyn:

  21. m

    Link to an interesting piece on the NY Times re: L.A. rich kids’ spending habits