Does the world of personal finance need more politics?

Note: I've added a short addendum to this piece in an attempt to clarify some things. This may or may not have helped.

Earlier this week at The Washington Post, Helaine Olen wrote that the world of personal finance needs more politics.

Olen specifically calls out FinCon, the financial media conference I attended last week. I love FinCon. She doesn't. She's disappointed that so many members of our community emphasize personal action and responsibility instead of directing our efforts toward changing the systemic and societal issues that make it difficult for some people to succeed.

She writes:

Spending a few days at FinCon 2019 shows the limits of the nonpolitical approach to improving your financial life…Over and over again, the systemic problems facing Americans are simply accepted as a given and unfixable, and tossed back onto the individual for him or her to solve.

Rarely mentioned are the political system’s many contributions to common economic troubles.

Olen is concerned that there are larger societal and systemic issues that hold some people back and prevent them from achieving financial success. I agree.

I disagree, however, that FinCon is the place to address these issues. And I disagree that we, the financial media, should turn our attention from the personal to the political.

Personal finance is personal. It's right there on the label.

Does the world of personal finance need more politics?

Politics at FinCon

I don't know how many times Olen has attended FinCon. I've attended every year so far (and have already registered for next year's tenth installment). From my experience, she's wrong that attendees accept systemic problems as “given and unfixable”. We don't.

This year, I had a memorable conversation about privilege with Julien from rich & REGULAR. I spoke with several people in the FIRE community about how we can make the principles of financial independence more accessible to everyone, especially those with lower incomes. (We talk about this all of the time. So much, in fact, that I'm tired of the topic.) In past years, I've had extensive conversations about the challenges women face in mastering their money.

Here's another example: In 2015, the Debt Free Guys attended their first FinCon. Kim and I (and several others) enjoyed hanging out with John and David at the hotel bar. They confided that they were afraid about coming out to their readers. “Do it,” our small group told them. They did. Four years later, they're killing it, and LGBT financial blogs now have a powerful impact.

Financial bloggers talk about systemic and societal issues often. But we talk about these things amongst ourselves, one on one or in small groups, not in hundred-person breakout sessions or, worse, as a 2500-person body in the Hilton grand ballroom.

Why not? Because these conversations are nuanced. They're sensitive. Nobody agrees on any of this stuff. Even two people who have very similar political viewpoints will disagree on solutions. (Case in point: The current Democratic debates.) Imagine what it'd be like trying to do this with hundreds of people from across the political spectrum. Tackling subjects like the “student loan crisis” is best done in small groups, not as a FinCon collective.

FinCon founder Philip Taylor says that past sessions at the event have explored Universal Basic Income, women and money, minorities and money, and more.

This year, there were sixteen attendee-organized sessions with political themes, including an “equity and justice” meetup. Plus, the National Endowment for Financial Education sponsored a community service project.

FinCon in not a political event and never has been. Too, nothing about personal finance is inherently political. Sure, some folks put a political spin on the material they present, but that's an individual choice. And the political spin Dave Ramsey employs is different than, say, the spin Helaine Olen would use.

That's the biggest reason I'm glad FinCon doesn't include politically-charged topics in its official schedule: We are a diverse group with diverse beliefs. Olen writes as if there are universally agreed-upon solutions to the systemic and societal barriers confronting Americans. There aren't.

It's this lack of agreement that causes so much friction in our current national discourse. What does she think would be accomplished by holding these sorts of political discussions at FinCon?

The Political and the Personal

In Olen's article about FinCon, she argues that personal finance has failed. She believes the solution is to move from the personal to the political:

We are facing staggering levels of income and wealth inequality, while facing staggering costs for housing, health care, education and so on. If better personal finance could fix this one by one for more than 300 million Americans, we would know by now.

Here's the thing, though. We do know by now that better personal finance can and does fix things one by one for Americans. I'm not sure why Olen believes that it can't.

I've been writing about money for more than thirteen years now, and I've had hundreds (thousands?) of readers contact me to tell me how they've turned their lives around after deciding to take charge of their finances.

  • Government doesn't help GRS readers get out of debt.
  • Government doesn't help GRS readers negotiate pay raises.
  • Government doesn't help GRS readers increase their saving rate.

No, GRS readers do these things themselves.

Each year, I meet one-on-one with dozens of folks from the GRS community. Without fail, these people are taking action to master their money — and their lives. They're not waiting for somebody else to solve their problems. They're seeking solutions themselves. And while not every reader finds success, most do.

I believe strongly that the focus of my work is (and should remain) personal, not political. I don't believe turning my attention to systemic and societal problems would solve anything for anyone. But by helping individual readers find ways to improve their lives, I can help many people.

If I were to write an article bemoaning the state of student loan debt in the United States, it wouldn't solve anything. I'd just be adding to the noise. If we at FinCon were to hold a panel discussion on student loan debt, we wouldn't solve anything. We'd just be adding to the noise. Frankly, it worries me that Olen believes we should be adding to the noise instead of offering readers tools and solutions that they can apply to their individual circumstances.

It's not my job to change the system. It's my job to give readers the tools they need to thrive within the world we've created. If Olen wants to fight the system instead of teaching readers to better their lives, that's fine. She can do that. I genuinely wish her well. But I'm not sure why she thinks it's necessary for everyone else to have the same goals that she does.

Here's the thing, though. As the 1960s feminist movement made clear, the personal is political. That is, how we live our lives should be consistent with our political (and spiritual) beliefs. Even though I don't discuss politics overtly here at Get Rich Slowly, I hope that my choices and actions for the site subtly reflect what I believe, in a way that leads by example rather than shouts from the rooftops. I hope that I'm “walking the walk”, not just “talking the talk”. That's my goal, anyhow.

Here's an analogy borrowed from my buddy Jim Wang.

A doctor's job is to maintain (and restore) the health of her patients. It is not a doctor's job to battle insurance companies or the pharmaceutical industry. She may have concerns about these aspects of the medical-industrial complex, and she may have a deep desire to see things change, but changing the system isn't why she spent 15+ years in higher education. She did that so she can improve the lives of individual patients.

Likewise, my job is to improve the financial lives of individual readers. It is not my job to solve the student loan crisis, to fight high taxes, or to rail against our modern corpocracy. I may occasionally bitch and moan about how shitty our healthcare system is, and I may secretly wish our corporcracy would die a fiery death, but I generally try to steer clear of politics because my job is to help you build wealth. Period. The end.

I'm like a doctor for your personal finances

Whose Side Are You On?

Another problem that Olen doesn't mention is that there's no unanimous agreement over how to address the problems with our socioeconomic system. There's not even agreement that the things she views as problems are problems. (Conversely, I'm sure other folks would consider some things pressing issues that she'd dismiss as unimportant.)

Olen complains, for instance, that Americans face “staggering” costs for housing, health care, and education. But she doesn't acknowledge that there's no consensus on how to address these problems.

My conservative readers would suggest one possible course of action. My liberal readers would argue in favor of another. People like me who are generally centrist would prefer a third alternative. Which way is right? How can we possibly know? How would arguing about this at Get Rich Slowly (or any other money blog) possibly improve society?

It wouldn't and it won't.

But Get Rich Slowly can make the world a better place by showing people how to pay off debt, start saving, and achieve financial freedom despite the societal and systemic structures that surround us. I can make things better by helping people become more resourceful, helping them develop the skills they need to build wealth. And then these people can teach others.

Over the years, I've received many messages from readers thanking me for keeping politics off this site. While I'm a human being and have my own opinions and beliefs, I do my best to keep the blog itself as neutral as possible. All readers are welcome: gay, straight, black, white, religious, atheist, libertarian, socialist, whatever. I don't care.

This seems like a good time for a Taylor Swift GIF to express my stance:

Get Rich Slowly is a safe space for anyone who wants to learn about money. Or Taylor Swift.

Because GRS is a safe space, we're able to have civil conversations about topics — taxes, divorce, Taylor Swift — that would provoke heated nonsensical debate on other sites. Earlier today, I was reading an article about taxes from my local city's newspaper. The comments were ridiculous. Like five-year-olds with larger vocabularies and less civility.

Here's an actual example of what happens when an innocuous story — “local grocery store chain is closing” — is hijacked by political discussion. It's ludicrous.

Is this really a political topic?

Besides, the GRS readership isn't exclusively USian. We have many Canadian readers among us. (And my business partner is Canadian.) Lots of people in the U.K. read this site. I've had beer with readers in Turkey, Hungary, Ecuador, Germany, Switzerland, and France. (Well, in France we drank wine and in Switzerland we drank whisky. You get the idea.) If I were to shift my focus to politics, what good would that be for these folks?

About three years ago, Brad Barrett and Jonathan Mendonsa launched the Choose FI podcast. These two men have polar opposite political perspectives. But because they keep the politics out of their show and out of their friendship, they've achieved huge success. They're focused on helping people, not on changing the system.

Breaking Bread

On the final morning of FinCon this year, I met Joshua Sheats for breakfast. Sheats is the whipsmart host of the Radical Personal Finance podcast. His mind works at a million miles per minute, and our conversations always make me think. Whenever we meet, I take notes. Even at breakfast.

Joshua and I share drastically different political and religious views. Yet every year at FinCon, we break bread together. We engage in a deep, respectful discussion about the world we live in. It's one of my favorite parts of the conference.

We're only able to do this, though, because we're meeting each other as two individuals. While we disagree on certain fundamental issues, we share a passion for helping others get better with money, and we both believe strongly that ultimately it's up to each individual to improve her own life.

“Are you and Kim married now?” Joshua asked this year, pointing to the ring on my finger.

“No,” I said. “But we're committed to each other.”

“How does that work from a practical financial perspective?” he asked. “My world view is based on the Bible. I understand how Biblical marriage works. I don't understand how a secular partnership like yours would work.” I explained how we manage our shared lives.

Joshua wasn't challenging me. I didn't feel threatened. We weren't shouting at each other. We hold radically different viewpoints, but were able to engage in a civil discussion because we entered the conversation as two individuals with mutual respect.

In Olen's world — in a world where FinCon and money blogs focus more on political issues — this kind of thing would be less likely to occur. Instead of engaging as complex indviduals, attendees would engage as adherents of one or another political movement. When this happens, people stop thinking of others as real human beings. We end up with the sort of political discourse that is already destroying our society. It's as if Olen wants Finconners to give up their mutual admiration and respect in order to become a mirror of existing American culture. That seems insane to me.

We at FinCon come from myriad different backgrounds. The conference is racially diverse. It seems fairly gender balanced. (I don't have precise stats.) There's a large contingent of Christian bloggers. There are many atheists. There are Republicans. There are Democrats. In a way, it's almost as if the conference itself is a microcosm of American society…but without the bickering. It's wonderful.

I don't think FinCon could be this tiny five-day utopia if politics were a prominent part of the discussion. If politics were a central focus, we'd risk shattering this fragile, precious thing, this sublime soup of mutual love and respect.

Miranda praises Fincon

“I'm taking my son to the Museum of the Bible this morning,” Joshua said as we finished our breakfast on Sunday. “Do you want to join us?”

“I can't,” I said. “I have another meeting.”

But I was deeply grateful that Joshua would ask me to accompany him, especially since he knows my political and religious beliefs. He wasn't trying to proselytize. He was simply trying to engage and share. I'm honored he would want me to be with him.

These sorts of interactions are only possible, though, because FinCon doesn't do politics. The moment that politics become a primary focus, I believe much of the FinCon magic will disappear.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, what bugs me most about Olen's argument is this: By trying to convince readers that societal and systemic issues are too large and too powerful, she strips individuals of agency. She denies them the ability and power to change their own lives. She encourages a passive, reactive mindset instead of an active, proactive point of view.

This seems like a miserable worldview. It robs people of dignity and hope. It's a tacit argument that “you can't control your life; your life is controlled by larger forces”. I don't believe that. I don't want others to believe that.

The fundamental premise of this site is: Regardless the hand you've been dealt, it's up to you to take action to improve your life. You can't wait for somebody else to make things better for you.

[Circle of Concern vs. Circle of Control]

At the same time, I agree with Olen. There are problems with our current socio-economic system. And while we may not agree how to remedy these problems, talking about them is important.

But I don't think FinCon is an appropriate venue. Nor is Get Rich Slowly.

I love the idea of a new event dedicated to this discussion, a conference where financial journalists discuss systemic issues and politics and how they relate to personal finance. If this were deliberately inclusive, intentionally designed to include all points of view and to foster respectful discussion, I think it could be awesome. I'd attend.

But it seems misguided to come to an existing event that works, one that's valuable precisely because people can escape politics for a few days, and then complain that it ought to be more political.

Why politicize the non-political?

Whoa! While researching for this article, I found a short 2006 piece I published about the politics of personal finance. In it, I wrote: “Personal finance is non-political. It helps everyone when another person avoids debt, learns to save, and becomes financially independent.” I'm pleased to see my position has remained consistent all of these years!

Addendum

In the 24 hours since I published this piece, I've had some great conversations about the subject via email, on Facebook, on Twitter, by text, and here in the comments section at Get Rich Slowly. Many folks agree with me. Some don't. That's awesome!

My concern is that a few don't understand my overall point, which makes me feel like I did a poor job of explaining myself — probably because I took 3000 words to do it. Let me try a shorter version.

Personal finance is personal. Yes, I agree that the personal is often political, but I don't think it always is. And when there's overlap between politics and money, I believe the two can (and often should) be addressed separately. To me, it's like the following Venn diagram, which I have lovingly crafted for you:

The overlap of politics and personal finance

If you want to write about the intersection of politics and personal finance, do it. If you want to have a conference about the intersection of politics and personal finance, do it. But don't be cranky if and when others don't.

What I object to is the idea that personal finance needs more politics (in general), and that FinCon needs more politics (specifically). I believe there's already plenty of politics in personal finance.

Some of my favorite money blogs tackle both politics and personal finance at the same time. (Bitches Get Riches is a great example.) And there are already alternatives to FinCon for folks who want political discussion at the same time. (The amazing Stefanie O'Connell and Emma Pattee, for instance, put on the Statement Event every year.)

My mission is to help individuals get better with money regardless their political or religious affiliations. Others, including Helaine Olen, have a broader vision. They want to change our society and are less concerned with the success of discrete people.

There's nothing wrong with either aim. There's room for both sorts of crusaders in the world. But I feel it's wrong to complain that somebody else — or some other conference — doesn't share your aim or objectives, that they ought do to things the way you would do them.

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Dave @ Accidental FIRE
Dave @ Accidental FIRE
9 months ago

Wow, one of your best posts ever JD! I wish I could have written these words myself and I agree 110% with what you’ve written. By trying to convince readers that societal and systemic issues are too large and too powerful, she strips individuals of agency. She denies them the ability and power to change their own lives. She encourages a passive, reactive mindset instead of an active, proactive point of view. I think that’s called having the victim mindset, but saying stuff like that gets you shunned, bullied, and banned by certain people out there, including some in the… Read more »

Herman Schwartz
Herman Schwartz
9 months ago

I’m astounded at how naive you are about politics and how it affects everyone’s bottom line financially. We’re not free. Politicians control our future and ALL our money. Don’t believe me? How many people were affected by Trump insisting that the Feds lower their interest rates? Trump writes a tweet and the markets rise and fall just on his whims? How does one build a financial future on a maniac who controls the world? How many people lost thousand of dollars when they watched their CDs interest drop? et cetera, et cetera??? Do you know anything about what the potential… Read more »

mb
mb
9 months ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I think there are important parts of personal finance that are affected by politics. Ignoring them puts you at risk of being blind sided, but there is little you can do about it – politics does not enable any one. Herman’s example of tax code changes is great. If you are saving money in a 401k, and warren changes the tax code – your personal finance strategy and progress were instantaneously changed completely. obama floated the idea of capping 401k accounts. While I agree personal finance should be apolitical, ignoring politics will be a disservice to your readers.

Larry Ludwig
Larry Ludwig
9 months ago
Reply to  mb

mb,

I agree with your viewpoint on you certainly MUST be aware of what’s going on politically. Sticking your fingers in your ears and yelling “lala la la” is a recipe for failure.

Politics certainly DOES affect personal finance.

I’ve always had the stance of what reality is than what I believe the world should be.

Personal finance bloggers, by very nature, are empowering others to understand how finance works. But more importantly to take action and not waiting for someday, showhow the government will save you from your lot in life.

Stephanie
Stephanie
9 months ago
Reply to  Larry Ludwig

Let’s not forget that the ones paying taxes are necessary for things we take for granted. If no one paid taxes, I’d imagine chaos would ensue. Sometimes political stances aren’t the answer. I appreciate the inclusivity of FinCon without wading through US politics… when there’s tons of folks from other countries as well.

Danny P
Danny P
8 months ago
Reply to  mb

Amen! Also, why does it have to be one or the other? Why can’t we discuss tools and strategies to support one’s journey to FI AND political issues that impact the community?

I haven’t heard one good answer for this…

Dan
Dan
9 months ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I read the first half of Herman’s post and thought, “yup, man’s making good points.” I skipped the second half and wondered why you were inviting him to, well, you know. And then I went back and finished his post. I must ask Herman what planet he lives on. I make over $120,000 at a W2 job. Fed taxes are like $15k, state another $5k, and “payroll tax deduction” is $9k. Boss matches 10% of my salary with the 401k, I dump another 10% in. My math isn’t quite jiving with Herman’s math, and math is what I do for… Read more »

Herman Schwartz
Herman Schwartz
9 months ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

J.D. Duly noted. I won’t comment anymore. I apologize.
As more and more socialistic programs take hold in America, it really stunts a person’s drive and ambition to achieve great success. Politics unfortunately, is becoming everything lately. My grandfather used to have a saying, based on his own experience: when you try to raise your head above the water, there’d be a bunch of people just aching to take you down and cut you to size. After a while, you don’t try anymore. That’s socialism.
Again, my apologies if I hadn’t expressed myself properly.

Ryan
Ryan
9 months ago

“Why earn $150,000 a year only to be taxed to death and live on $50,000.
Better to earn $50,000 and pay zero and keep it all. And work less.
That’s the secret. And that’s the ticket to true wealth.
If you have nothing, they can’t take nothing away.”

Wealth – “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTRKCXC0JFg

Gwen @ Fiery Millennials
Gwen @ Fiery Millennials
9 months ago

And along came Herman the Worm… (It’s a song I’m referencing)

Seriously though, comments like these are the exact reason people don’t like to talk about politics. There’s no conversation wanted here about different values – just attacking and name calling.

David
David
9 months ago

Herman sounds awfully negative. And wrong – if you spend less than you earn and invest the difference you can build significant wealth over a lifetime. Having a minimalist mindset, being conscious about where you’re money is going can help, as can learning more about investing.

Pete A
Pete A
9 months ago

Thanks for your insight! I’m so tired of these people injecting politics into every aspect of our lives like it is their own personal religion. The victim mindset is so strong in our society these days. People have forgotten that they have power to change their own lives, even in small chunks. Sure, not everyone will be FI. I doubt I will ever get there, but not because someone else is stopping me. The Declaration enumerates the Pursuit of Happiness as a right. Not that we actually get it, and i believe that most people are pursuing happiness however they… Read more »

olga
olga
9 months ago
Reply to  Pete A

Where’s Thumbs up emoticon? 🙂

Mysticaltyger
Mysticaltyger
9 months ago
Reply to  Pete A

Yes, we definitely need a thumbs up emoticon for Pete A’s comment here!

Sue
Sue
9 months ago

A very thoughtful post JD. I agree with you. It sounds like both FinCon and Get Rich Slowly were intentionally created to be non-political. The dynamics would change if either of them started addressing political issues and how they affect finance.

Hambone
Hambone
9 months ago

I hear your arguments on why your blog doesn’t tackle some of these issues, and they’re valid reasons, but overall I have to disagree with you J.D. I think you’re oversimplifying her position and purposefully injecting the vitriol of modern political discourse into the conversation to argue that it would be harmful to the dialogue in the personal finance community. I think what Olen was arguing was that as leaders and sources of tremendous knowledge in the personal finance community we should be looking for systemic solutions that will help millions of people in addition to taking personal responsibility. Like… Read more »

Chadnudj
Chadnudj
9 months ago
Reply to  Hambone

I 1000% agree with Hambone. I think the personal finance/FIRE blog community is really doing its readership a disservice by NOT talking to them honestly about how politics (or more accurately policy and policy changes) could help or hinder their path to financial security/retirement/FIRE. For instance, Elizabeth Warren just announced a plan that would expand Social Security benefits (increasing benefits for all recipients by $200 a month) while also extending the longevity of Social Security via increasing taxes solely on high earners (re-starting SS taxation on wages over $250k) and imposing SS taxes on investment income for individuals who earn… Read more »

Chadnudj
Chadnudj
9 months ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

But that’s the point the original article was making — there needs to be that type of policy focus at FinCon.

And your exception on healthcare is making a political choice. It’s one I agree with (if literally every other developed nation has national healthcare, we should have Medicare4All), but it’s a choice on politics. You should feel free to write similarly on other proposed policies (regardless of partisan side!) that you feel are particularly positive in terms of helping people achieve financial security/independence, and those you feel would hinder those goals.

Mysticaltyger
Mysticaltyger
9 months ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I’m with you on keeping politics out, J.D. The medical issue is one example why. I certainly believe our medical system needs to be scrapped. But I believe it’s partly because of government intervention in health care that our system is such a mess. And many people in the Financial Independence movement who have gone overseas actually proves this point. Why is is in other so-called 3rd World countries, health care is available at a fraction of the cost it is in the U.S. and even other developed countries? It’s partly because lower income countries have a lower cost of… Read more »

Robyn
Robyn
9 months ago
Reply to  Hambone

I live in a small town in Pennsylvania. We have a preschooler who goes part time to a local preschool, for which we pay about a thousand dollars a year. This is a great fit for us. I don’t want the government to take away my options while providing universal care for all kids. I recognize that a lot of parents need a lot more help than they are getting. However, government is not good at allowing people to keep what works for them. Advocating one national solution to fix individual problems often doesn’t work well. I think personal finance… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 months ago

I don’t see such a clear division between “the personal” and “the political”. It’s not like the individual is a ship and politics is the sea, and it’s up to you to just navigate the seas whatever they are. The social “sea” is actually made up of other ships, of other individuals, and so we can decide to agree about how this sea operates. Society matters. Culture matters. At small and large scales. Also, nothing is 100% guaranteed, so odds matter. A society that offers high odds of success is less brutal than a society that offers low odds of… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 months ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Yeah, but the point I’m trying to make is that it’s not just “hard” to disentangle the personal and the political—it’s actually impossible once you’re in a group. All the people saying here “yes yes thanks for keeping politics out” are just people who agree with your (political) choice to organize this community around an individualistic ideology, which is actually a very common ideology in America. So common in fact that it’s often invisible. See: “this is water.” And what you’re actually saying about GRS and FinCon is that you’d like the politics to stay where they are, rather than… Read more »

S.G.
S.G.
9 months ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I think what you are describing is what I would refer to as culture rather than politics. Politics is the actual argument of policies to address issues. Culture is the frame of reference and, indeed, the water we swim in.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 months ago
Reply to  S.G.

No no, I know what I’m describing. Sure, culture is a part of it, but culture gives birth to politics, and vice-versa. E.g., April 15 being tax day is now part of the culture, but once it was just a political policy made unto law. We live and breathe in power structures we’re not even aware of. They seem “natural” and “obvious,” but they’re highly political, and sure were big issues when they were established. We only tend to notice them when they hurt (e.g. J.D.’s medical bills) or when they change their shape, or when someone is trying to… Read more »

Monster
Monster
9 months ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

El Nerdo’s comment here completely nails it. The personal finance community is intrinsically ideological. It is rife with subtext upholding ideological memes about rugged individualism, economic libertarianism, putting idealistic notions like “free will” above material reality, historical conditions, cause and effect. These aren’t “non-political” concepts, on the contrary: they are central tenets of modern liberalism and have been since John Locke formulated “life liberty and property” in the 1700s. This has been the unexamined, default ideology that we are all conditioned into by our culture so much so that it operates at a subconscious level where you don’t even recognize… Read more »

Shannon
Shannon
9 months ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

RE: survivor bias What possible negative side effect could there be from those who sought out financial improvement and failed? Those prone to illness would have still become ill. Those prone to error or fraud would have still been prone to error or fraud, but would have lacked the basic financial literacy that they could have learned here. This is a very myopic viewpoint “why try if 100% won’t succeed?” I bet JD has received a bunch of letters from people who rejected his viewpoints and don’t read GRS, but are off living their lives with some measurable improvement from… Read more »

Jazzandlee
Jazzandlee
9 months ago

Excellent and well said, I agree 100% with you.

Larry Ludwig
Larry Ludwig
9 months ago

I feel sorry for the people that have this stance of politics needs to be injected into everything! At least in my eyes, it’s a very dystopian view of the world.

The reality – it’s what you make of it.

We are all doled out strengths and weaknesses. We all can’t pitch a 90 mph fastball. We all can’t sing and write songs like Taylor Swift.

This is what makes us unique. We can tell our own story and we have a place in the universe.

The trick is figuring out what that is.

Aaron Hecht
Aaron Hecht
9 months ago

Wasn’t saying you were injecting at all – just that your argument against it was that talking about systemic issues at all would inject vitriol into the conversations and therefore wouldn’t be useful or helpful. In general, I love your blog and writing – yours is one of only a handful of finance sites I regularly read.

Jackie
Jackie
9 months ago

You’ve put your finger on every single reason I’m so glad FinCon is not political. You said it way better than I would have. Of course, politics and finance affect us all. But we can come together as people without having sessions on it. We can talk about things, learn from each other, and gain some new perspectives and insights. It’s almost as if FinCon is a version of Eisenhower’s People-to-People program.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 months ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I think what you’re trying to get at is not the problem of “politics,” but a lack of civil discourse. It should be possible to discuss politics in a civil and constructive manner that promotes mutual understanding between differing points of view. However… that’s an art we seem to have lost in this century, unfortunately. Politics on the internet quickly devolves into trolling and flames. I appreciate how restricting the discussion within narrow parameters here helps keep things organized, and tempers constrained. That’s addressing a symptom, not curing the disease—but unless you want to spend 18 hours a day taming… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 months ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

hey, where did my shrug emoji go lol

S.G.
S.G.
9 months ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I don’t think civil discourse will fix it. There is a reason “don’t discuss religion or politics” is guidance in many circles, though apparently it’s giving way to “discuss politics or you aren’t doing your job”. Politics is typically, by the nature of how we arrive at our political beliefs, highly emotional.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 months ago
Reply to  S.G.

I know that saying as “we don’t discuss politics or religion at dinner/at parties/etc,” but not “ever at all.”

Money is also highly emotional, and yet here we are… wait, we aren’t talking about money anymore, hahaha…

RE@54
9 months ago

Very good points, JD. Similar mindset. We adopted a mixed race pre-teen several years ago. We told her that no one will care about her background(adopted, mixed race) when she becomes an adult. At the end of the day, she is responsible for herself financially. Now that she is officially an adult, she sees this. People are only worried about themselves and how much of the pie they can get for nothing. She came from that type of background. She opened a Roth IRA at 18 after we had her research the advantage of the Roth IRA. Our politics has… Read more »

Danny P
Danny P
8 months ago

I’m bi-racial, half black and half white. Systematic racism exists and has an impact on people who are bi-racial too. Society views me as African-American, which I embrace. I also understand I have to deal with the same trials and tribulations that every Black person does. This was also something my mother, who was white, explained to me as a child. She understood the realities of society. That said, I knew, of course, I couldn’t use this as an excuse and always need to be accountable as it pertains to life choices. I’m assuming your daughter will have to go… Read more »

Peter
Peter
9 months ago

I couldn’t agree with you more JD. I think injecting more politics into Fincon would kill the event, it isn’t what it’s about at all, and would be too divisive. It’s more about community, about bringing together people from diverse backgrounds and beliefs and finding common ground in helping others to improve their lives. We may not agree on everything, but we can still get along, be friends, and share and break bread with each other. Love your story about Josh and how you two can have mutual respect and friendship, even while not agreeing on everything. Honestly, that’s how… Read more »

S.G.
S.G.
9 months ago

To start I want to be clear since it appears many commenters have differing opinions: Politics is the advocacy of specific policies to address issues (or parties with sets of policies to address sets of issues). Saying “homelessness in LA a problem” isn’t politics. Saying (as I heard on the radio) “homelessness in LA is a problem because the federal government has decreased funding” is a political statement. The beginning of any productive political discussion is agreeing on the premise (“homelessness is a problem”) and that both sides desire to address it. You can then discuss how you think the… Read more »

Scott K McGovern
Scott K McGovern
9 months ago

Hi JD,

Just looking at the comments on this article makes me happy you stay non-political on your blog. Please keep doing that, and thank you for all your work over the years.

My politics veer far left, but I like reading your and FIRE-related content, in part because its a break from the chaos of the world.

-Scott.

David@Fiology
9 months ago

A great read J.D.!

Well-written and thought out. Even your response comments.

But then again, you have had a few years of this to calmly take in and respond to many types of comments.

What was the craziest comment you ever had and how did you respond? Would you respond the same way today? – (maybe you could insert a link to it and I could scroll down and read the thread)

Great seeing you at FinCon and looking forward to our next visit.

Holly G
Holly G
9 months ago

Excellent point, JD. “Ultimately, what bugs me most about Olen’s argument is this: By trying to convince readers that societal and systemic issues are too large and too powerful, she strips individuals of agency. She denies them the ability and power to change their own lives. She encourages a passive, reactive mindset instead of an active, proactive point of view. This seems like a miserable worldview. It robs people of dignity and hope. It’s a tacit argument that “you can’t control your life; your life is controlled by larger forces”. I don’t believe that. I don’t want others to believe… Read more »

olga
olga
9 months ago

No politics, please! Personal accountability, even if some societal-economical surrounding does have some influence, it is still how we, ourselves, respond to it.

Becky
Becky
9 months ago

Just dropping in to mention that the gender split of this year’s FinCon was approximately 53% female, 47% male. Source is PT himself. Great article JD. I hear this argument all the time as it relates to personal environmental action vs political environmental change. That argument disempowers individuals and often comes from the perspective that if the government doesn’t change, nothing will. I have to acknowledge the importance of both political and personal actions. However, some forums are focused on one, or the other. Not all discourses about personal finance need to include political and personal perspectives. FinCon is one… Read more »

Financial Freedom Countdown
Financial Freedom Countdown
9 months ago

I agree JD wrt focusing on circle of control v/s circle of concern. There are no right and wrong answers but only trade-offs in every solution being proposed. Voting and getting involved with local politics is the better way to address the issues one cares about v/s mixing it in with personal finance. The basic principles of personal finance apply to most situations and the danger of mixing politics with personal finance is people can sit on the sidelines waiting for help instead of taking charge of their own situation.

Jan
Jan
9 months ago

I’ve met poor conservatives and rich liberals and visa versa.
I enjoy coming here to be encouraged in making the choice to “Get Rich Slowly”. The people I have sent here are every persuasion of politics possible. They are from 20-89 years old. “If JD can do it, so can you.” One step at a time- sometimes a forward step, sometimes backward.
You do a great job pulling articles that make me think. Believe me, there is plenty of politics out there. No need for more here. JMHO

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 months ago
Reply to  Jan

Okay, but JD did not get rich slowly. He did get out of debt slowly, but the rich portion was from an internet gold rush. Which is, you know, awesome— but it’s a different thing.

Jan
Jan
9 months ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

It took several years of good writing to hit internet gold. A few wrote to gold, many did not. If he had not slowly gone through the very public movement of getting out of debt it wouldn’t have happened. Once he got out, it was about managing that. His shared parts of his life that are real -family, business, relationships and now travel- making this something to read. Loads of great information here on getting rich slowly ( and rich is about who you are more then the money you have in the bank). There is a reason people stopped… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 months ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Of course it was a well deserved gold strike, but it was not getting rich by socking away a little bit every month and waiting 40 years. There was a confluence of good writing, a good community of commenting readers, and an urgent social need. The financial crisis sent millions of people to PF blogs in search of advice, answers, solutions (that’s how I discovered this place btw,) and suddenly J.D. was sitting on a hot property, and cashed in. There are a lot of good writers who don’t get big bucks because there isn’t a lot of demand for… Read more »

brooklynmoney
brooklynmoney
9 months ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

JD this comment is why I really love you (in a non-creepy way) and your blog. You are so willing to admit your faults and examine them. Not that getting rich relatively quickly is a fault, but you are so not defensive and just seem like a good person. And you are an excellent writer an deserve the success you have had.

Dan
Dan
9 months ago

JD, I’m having a hard time with the hair splitting here. Personal Finance is tied to economics, economics is tied to economic policy, and economic policy is pretty much as political as you can get. I’m the captain of my ship, and nobody steers it but me. But the height of the waves on the ocean? That’s politics, things I cannot control directly. But how rocky those waves are (and how sick my passengers are) influences how I operate my ship. Economic policy and PF is all over the place. Look at the 2008 housing crisis, which was precipitated (or… Read more »

Dan
Dan
9 months ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

JD, Thanks. I don’t know Fincon at all, so I can’t speak to the issues you’re having with Helaine’s position. As for the rest of it… go back to my analogy with the boat and the ocean and your Venn diagrams. The ocean is the ocean. That’s policy/politcs aspect of things. My ship is mine. How I operate it is up to me, but that ocean very much influences what *I* choose to do. If one says, “I don’t care about the ocean and what it’s doing, all I want to talk about is how to operate my small watercraft”.… Read more »

Chadnudj
Chadnudj
9 months ago
Reply to  Dan

And related to all this….politics IS actionable as a matter of personal finance. I can vote for, volunteer for, and donate to candidates who supports policies that will make my personal finance situation better/easier. Hell, that’s what rich donors to both parties are constantly doing — supporting politicians who will enact policies that help them in some way, either financially (tax/regulatory changes that reduce their tax burdens/business costs) or in regards to causes they firmly believe in. Why not educate your readers on policies (currently in existence, or proposed) that they may have an interest in because it will impact… Read more »

Katelyn
Katelyn
9 months ago
Reply to  Dan

I believe there are a number of GRS readers from outside the US. I’d think posts that focus too heavily on (US) policy would be largely irrelevant to that portion of JD’s audience, no? And even if JD’s audience is limited to the US, how do you effectively write about policy knowing there are policy differences between states. Additionally, a lot of these proposed and newly enacted policies end up in news articles. So there are already multiple forums outside of PF blogs for learning about policy changes and how they may impact individuals. I like how JD’s writing style… Read more »

Dan
Dan
9 months ago
Reply to  Katelyn

Not every post is directly applicable to every reader, I think we have to concede that. My credit card debt is paid off, so advice on managing high-interest credit cards isn’t applicable to me. I’m done with school, and have no kids, so issues related to the increasing cost of college don’t relate to me directly. So by that standard, should JD no longer write about those issues, because they don’t apply to everybody? With regard to your standard of “news articles” covering stuff so JD doesn’t have to, the basics of PF are well covered by many blog writers… Read more »

Shannon
Shannon
9 months ago
Reply to  Dan

Dan, it sounds like you are telling JD what he should write about. If he’s not a tax optimizing wonk, and has no desire to write about that then what exactly are you trying to accomplish by ordering an oddly specific article? If you are so interested in that content, you research and write it. Or find a blog that does. Go Curry Cracker does a lot of tax optimization stuff, although he is anti home ownership so you’re unlikely to find it there either. Michael Kitces is a tax wonk too.

Chadnudj
Chadnudj
9 months ago
Reply to  Dan

I hadn’t read down fully in the thread, but this is EXACTLY my point above. You’re doing a disservice to your readers/the personal finance community if you’re not engaging with them regarding how policy impacts their personal finance journey, and/or informing them how proposed changes to policy might make that journey easier/harder.

sara
sara
9 months ago

Extremely long time reader here but first time commenting. Like others have expressed, it seems to me that personal finance and politics are inextricably intertwined and while it may not be the goal of FINCON to address systemic issues around personal finance and politics, I do wonder if not personal finance experts, then who? The tone of your post has a bit of a feeling of protesting just a little too much – like maybe the whole thing makes you uncomfortable. And wrestling with the uncomfortable makes for good learning and great writing. It’s why I started reading you in… Read more »

Jessi
Jessi
9 months ago
Reply to  sara

This. This is me, straight down to the long time reader first time comment. Thank you for stating this so well, Sara. I’ve long been thinking about finding a way to blog about economics and social theory in the context of personal finance. It might be time. I’m all for pulling up on bootstraps and I’m glad that personal responsibility is a principal message of the PF community. But the very idea that somehow leaving out systemic issues from our discussions is a good thing, that it makes it “apolitical” strikes me as absurd. The idea that PF shouldn’t engage… Read more »

sara
sara
9 months ago
Reply to  Jessi

Jessi – I’ll be your first reader! I’m so with you. Particularly this – “But the very idea that somehow leaving out systemic issues from our discussions is a good thing, that it makes it “apolitical” strikes me as absurd.” If I knew JD better and we had a relationship on which to build, I might have suggested that if you are white and male and educated (and probably some other things too) in this country, you have the luxury of “staying out of politics” but I don’t know him at all and so I didn’t. But I think it’s… Read more »

James Khoury
James Khoury
9 months ago

Hey, I appreciate so much that you keep your bias/politics/etc. out of your blog posts as much as you do. I’m from Australia and here we aren’t exactly like Americans and so much of the time I have to google and decipher what things in the US world actually mean. One reason I keep coming back to read your posts is that they are practical and useful with specific examples while still being general enough that I can apply it to my situation also. I agree that while a country’s governance could be impeding our ability to get wealth the… Read more »

Tom Murin
Tom Murin
9 months ago

J.D.,

If only you could stay away from the Portland Timbers too! (just kidding)

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 months ago
Reply to  Tom Murin

LOL!

freddy smidlap
freddy smidlap
9 months ago

i admitted my privilege and nothing changed. if there’s one thing i can’t abide it’s some blogger telling others what they ought to be doing/writing according to their theses. i’m glad you avoid trying to make rules and policies for the rest of us who just want to write in the manner and style of their choice and include and exclude whatever the hell they like. it’s almost like the term financial independence includes the word “independence.” the readers ought to have enough independent thought to decide for themselves if the material is right for them and not try and… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 months ago
Reply to  freddy smidlap

Why do you say “bully”? All bloggers basically tell others what to do. Even “do what works for you” is being told… to do something. Just because you disagree with something it doesn’t mean it’s “bullying.”

WantNot
WantNot
9 months ago

Back in the day, the saying was: “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” That was a time when young people (myself included) believed that action and involvement would make things change — for ourselves and for everyone. Fast forward to 2019, and the nation is polarized again. Many people have just dropped out, buying into the idea that these big problems can’t be changed and they are in the game only for themselves. What a pity. J.D. has the right to shape his blog the way he wants. I’m a big fan,… Read more »

Chris
Chris
9 months ago
Reply to  WantNot

I’d like to hear some of your ideas, if you don’t mind sharing. Regarding J. D., there is a shift of people working to secure a middle class lifestyle before the age of 40, which will allow them t do better things for themselves and others. For example, Pete, the Money Mustache Guy, opened a hangout in his town, which draws a good number of people into the area where they likely shop in their local town instead of online. I think I recall he also made a $100k donation to charity a year or so ago. He’s clearly living… Read more »

Chris
Chris
9 months ago

I went to the MICDC event last Sunday (same place/time as FinCon) to meet with Doug Nordman – a very nice guy who was extremely generous with his time; we’re total strangers. What I liked about meeting with @Nords is the same thing I liked about the little bit I saw of MICDC: The agenda was to share thoughtful info at the level people are at. EXAMPLE 1: Nords told me he and his wife fly via military Space A, and they travel about 4 months a year, and said to me “if you follow this program, once your kids… Read more »

Carmine Red
Carmine Red
9 months ago

I think focus and avoiding feature creep is tantamount to any project, so I appreciate the care and thought you’ve put into this topic. Personally, I happen to think you’re making the right choice for this blog (though obviously life is bigger than just this one blog!) Some other commenters have mentioned a “victim” mindset. I prefer to think of this as “internal locus of control” versus “external locus of control”. Real life is honestly a mix of both, but basically it comes down to: if something bad happens to you, do you think there’s something that YOU can do… Read more »

Nick True
Nick True
9 months ago

Thanks for writing this JD. As always, I appreciate you, your approach, and your voice. Glad we got to see each other, albeit briefly, last week my friend.
– Nick

Barb
Barb
9 months ago

Good article but yes quite long. I think it was “If you can’t get your point across in less than 20 words, you don’t have a point.” I’m not meaning that as an insult, because I think you have SEVERAL points in this, each of which would be great for an article. What I like is your passion, this means a lot to you. For one thing, while I wish I saw fewer people ruined by health care costs (even with insurance it can break you) and also, needing to get rid of your savings so you qualify for some… Read more »

Andrew @ aFIREofFaith
Andrew @ aFIREofFaith
9 months ago

Definitely wish I could have experienced FinCon this year. I am inspired by the environment of open conversation and friendship rooted in the common ground like you and Joshua can share at breakfast each year. Being able to form friendships that cross political and normal social circles is one of the greatest aspects of personal finance, and I look forward to future friendships through the personal finance world. Well written, thanks for putting this out there!

Chris
Chris
9 months ago

Andrew, so long as you support [insert candidate you don’t like] you’ll be fine.

Javi
Javi
9 months ago

As an immigrant, new American and former undocumented person I find personal finance and politics highly intertwined within my community. But I agree, not everyone’s message has to be this way. I think FinCon has done a heck of a job to include everyone and every topic. Personally, I have always felt welcomed by PT, FinCon and all the awesome PF peeps.

BC @ FrugalWheels
BC @ FrugalWheels
9 months ago

I had an interesting experience while visiting a friend in Seattle. We were watching a documentary about a rich school in a poor neighborhood, and one of the residents in the poor neighborhood was talking about trying to better himself, build up his finances and make a better life for himself. My ultra-liberal friend (I’m more of centrist, maybe left leaning but not always) seemed disgusted and offended by this. I was a guest so I held my tongue, but I couldn’t help but think, what, should he just sit around complaining? Because that will solve something. There are certainly… Read more »

FoxTesla
FoxTesla
9 months ago

My guess was your friend being upset with “why did they help themselves instead of helping everyone?”…not realizing you can’t help anyone if you can’t help yourself!

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 months ago

Ok, with the hope of stirring the pot this morning (lol), here’s a good confluence of personal finance and politics. To get rich slowly you need a steady income, stable employment, a decent work-life balance, good health care, and protection against catastrophe. That’s how you win in the long run. Working retail, always on call, at minimum wage, and at the mercy of arbitrary policies and silly managers isn’t going to get you there. Low pay, long random hours, absurd health care and being fired or downsized at a whim leave you too exposed for your individual efforts to have… Read more »

Chris
Chris
9 months ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Are you always wrong, sir?!?!?! To get rich you have to support The True Party of the United States. Vote True Party 2024 (I have to get it started first, so 2024).

Send donations to Jimmy “The Shoe” Shine.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 months ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I’m dead serious/not trolling. Being a member of a union household is an ace PF move. I get health insurance through my wife’s job and it’s fantastic. She gets a pension too, employer matches and then some. We also get life insurance, dental, vision, all sorts of benefits and protections. She doesn’t have to work overtime, she doesn’t have to work on weekends, so she doesn’t have to contend with stress and its concomitant illnesses, and time to exercise/eat right/etc. PF victory all the way. Her union job provides a solid hedge for my (individual) entrepreneurial adventures. The money I… Read more »

Lizzy
Lizzy
9 months ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Thank you for bringing this up, El Nerdo. My father had a secure union job, so my family had the benefits you listed. My siblings and I had a stable childhood because of it.

FoxTesla
FoxTesla
9 months ago

J.D., the aspect of the article that jumped out the most to me was labeling GRS as a “safe space”. I don’t think that was an intentional use of the current “PC” definition…I think you were actually trying to say the opposite, right?

FoxTesla
FoxTesla
9 months ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Yes, I take your meaning – “this is a space safe for you to put forth/debate ideas that make people question his/her/your viewpoints”. The newish-“PC” definition is the opposite, and tends to be attributed to college campuses, where “safe spaces” are created for those who do not want to be exposed to opposing ideas and viewpoints, so they retreat to where only like-minded individuals will be present. Example: “That speaker coming to campus is too controversial, I don’t want to hear any of her points or be around/debate any of her supporters, I’m going to stay at the safe space.”… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 months ago
Reply to  FoxTesla

When people feel bullied by something they disagree with, and don’t want to hear it?

That happens on all sides of the spectrum, not just liberal college campuses.

E.g., shoving protesters into “free speech zones” or requiring oaths of loyalty for event attendance is the same thing.

FoxTesla
FoxTesla
9 months ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Concur, which is why I chose the wording “tends to be attributed to”, and not “explicitly found only at”.

Lizzy
Lizzy
9 months ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I once said someone derisive about “safe spaces” on college campuses. My college student daughter quickly told me safe space was not meant to be the classroom or lecture hall. Rather it meant a place where people could speak about personal experiences with which they were struggling in a judgement free zone.

Bill Dwight
Bill Dwight
9 months ago

Beautifully written. Amen.

Rick
Rick
9 months ago

NO PLEASE NO. Yes I understand that policies effect my bottom line whether it be Trumps tax cut that allowed me to deduct $24,000 even though I no longer have a mortgage or kids or whether it was Obama’s health care that took away my $20 dollar copay and replaced it with a $12,500 deductible. (family out of pocket maximum, $6500 individual) Politics have seeped there way into sports, TV, schools and just about everywhere else, the last place it needs to seen is on the FIRE/financial blogs I read. Today it is the left that wants everything to be… Read more »

Becky H
Becky H
9 months ago

I’m on the fence on this one. While I agree that personal finance is personal, I also agree that when you get a large group of people together who are all working toward a shared goal, that creates a lot of power. That power could be used for the good of society, if deployed correctly. Just arguing about politics wouldn’t be helpful and would add to the noise, as you say; however, discussing the issues that keep people from being able to fully engage with your/other financial advice, and coming up with potential solutions (not just ONE solution to each… Read more »

tommo39
tommo39
9 months ago

It’s an interesting discussion as arguably the degree to which people think politics and the personal should collide is in itself a political opinion that may well align which party they tend to vote for.

This is based on my limited understanding as an outsider looking in, although even here in NZ there’s the general idea that one side of politics favours smaller government and less overlap between the political and personal.

Caroline Bakken
Caroline Bakken
9 months ago

So, I read the article by Helaine Olen, and I took away something a little different from it. It doesn’t seem that she’s asking anyone to become more politically ACTIVE when it comes to personal finances. It seems that she’s calling for a little more political AWARENESS, as she believes that monetary policies do indeed have an undisputable and measurable effect on our finances. I agree with that. It’s important to know how fiscal policies affect our situations, and figure out how we can best work within those realities for our best financial good. On the other hand, there are… Read more »

Barb
Barb
9 months ago

Honestly (and forgive me if I am misquoting) but the fact that you are really tired of hearing about how the finance community needs to be more accessible and helpful to others especially the low income commmunity says more to me than anything else in this entire missive. It implies to me that much of the PF community is unwilling to try and reach those who may need it most, even if the changes made in that population would be miniscule compared to the 40 something mid level manager. These are the people who actually NEED advice and help the… Read more »

Mollie
Mollie
9 months ago

I am pursuing financial independence, and I’ve been following the FI community for about 4 years. I am also a social worker (so definitely on the slower FI track), and my biggest critique of the FI community is that many folks shy away from “political issues” which in turn is refusing to acknowledge the very real systemic racism and classism in our financial systems. These realities ensure that you, J.D, will never get to “help [those] individuals get better with money” because getting “better with money” is not always the problem. For the last 5 years, I’ve been working in… Read more »

Dan
Dan
9 months ago
Reply to  Mollie

I get your overall comment and agree with most of it, but sometimes I think we see racism and classism where it doesn’t necessarily exist. Take your POC client getting their car towed, and you did not. Given that you and your client weren’t at the car and interacting with law enforcement at the time, I think it’s a stretch to assume that the towing was directly attributed to skin color. The only thing the cops can do is run the plates, see the registered owner, and make some assumptions based on the name. I’m not saying it didn’t happen… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 months ago
Reply to  Mollie

The reason we can’t have nice things (the reason we can’t work on both) is because whenever such topics crop up, the ideologists of ultra-individualism dismiss the subject outright as… communist propaganda, or something. In other blogs and places of discussion, such topics instead are the red meat for ideologists of statism who claim that nothing can be fixed except by government. Neither is right, but PF blogs by nature attract more individualists, and hence, the discussion gets promptly disqualified. Any accounting for societal issues also removes or reduces the implicit moralism of good/bad choices, and the comforting illusion of… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 months ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I don’t want to get sidetracked by the T-word, which is as explosive as it gets.

But sticking to financial/economic issues, I did mention other blogs & communities, and the ideology they espouse. Although that doesn’t happen here.

Here it’s more the individualist dismissal, or the individualistic cherrypicking of issues—which is also wrong, and a missed opportunity for productive discourse.

But it is what it is. Things have limits… who knew? xD xD xD

Carmine Red
Carmine Red
9 months ago
Reply to  Mollie

The Reveal story about modern day redlining, and people with perfectly decent credit not getting home loans because of their race, is mindblowing. Access to credit is a HUGE part of personal finance, and millions of people are being disadvantaged right from the get to by these practices.

No matter the direct focus of any one corner on the internet, I can’t imagine arguing against the awareness of institutional forces that selectively hurt a great many people and make it harder for them to achieve their financial goals.

Liz
Liz
9 months ago

Do people really believe a country that’s 22.5 trillion dollars in debt wants their citizens to be financially responsible? Do you think the government has our best interest at heart? I don’t if they did we wouldn’t be in this mess.

Mysticaltyger
Mysticaltyger
9 months ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I agreed with you, J.D. until you said government debt wasn’t a thing to worry about. Government debt, at some point, IS something to worry about. Just ask the people of Greece and Argentina. Debt levels can reach certain tipping points, and once that happens, it destroys the finances of most people in that respective nation. The thing is, no one knows where the tipping point is until after it’s been reached.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 months ago

Another one: http://nymag.com/intelligencer/amp/2018/07/oecd-study-labor-conditions-confirms-that-u-s-workers-are-getting-ripped-off.html In an environment like this, I wonder if PF couldn’t become a tool to squeeze more out of workers. “I can’t pay you more, but here’s a budgeting manual.” (I think JD once posted an old cartoon like that.) Think about it: the whole FI movement is predicated on being an outlier. People in your occupation get paid X, you spend a fraction, you win. But if everyone could be taught to save 75% of their income, employers would figure they can pay everyone just 25% of the usual salary, and kill your savings. “You’re going to… Read more »

Zoran
Zoran
9 months ago

Quote from blog post: “Ultimately, what bugs me most about Olen’s argument is this: By trying to convince readers that societal and systemic issues are too large and too powerful, she strips individuals of agency. She denies them the ability and power to change their own lives. She encourages a passive, reactive mindset instead of an active, proactive point of view. This seems like a miserable worldview.” Unfortunately, this is the worldview of Socialism. Individuals exist to serve the state, and you promoting ideas to empower individuals and create a mindset of independence threatens that. I’m glad you took a… Read more »

Dividend Quest
Dividend Quest
9 months ago

Politics has no place in this site or FinCon. Period. If somebody wants to “fight the power” and take up a cause, let them do it on their own time and dime.

As others have said here, financial education and FI are about individual self-reliance, agency, and real empowerment. It’s a message of hope and it’s a message that’s the complete opposite of those promoting a mindset of victimization and powerlessness.

In my opinion you can either use the system to your advantage, or do nothing and let the system use you.

Mysticaltyger
Mysticaltyger
9 months ago

OMG, this was an amazing post, J.D. Thanks so much for writing it!

Jason
Jason
9 months ago

JD, Thank you for writing this post. I didn’t get a chance to attend FINCON this year, but hope to someday. However, I have to disagree with your points regarding personal finance and politics. First, I appreciate your perspective. I really do, but those who are personal finance bloggers (even my small little blog) are many of the privileged few who do not. We have knowledge that others don’t. And those who publish on those blogs certainly publish pieces that are designed, hopefully, to help people. But what they miss is that all of those pieces tap into larger financial… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 months ago
Reply to  Jason

Applause, applause.

Saying there’s no room for agency in the civic arena is what robs people of their agency.

There is a lot of power in joining efforts with others where the lone individual gets swept away by large forces.

Robert Linker
Robert Linker
9 months ago

I loved reading this post because it reminded me of conversations I had in college with people of differing views. We wanted to understand each other rather than preach. I couldn’t agree more that personal finance should be personal and not political. It is enough that we have to constantly adjust to politicians decisions, but I agree that if we engage in political banter rather than financial training we will do ourselves and our readers a great disservice. Thank you for this post, and keep up the good work.

Jennifer
Jennifer
9 months ago

Thank you so much for writing this! I also get sick of everything seeming to be a political argument these days as 99% of the time it does nothing to change minds, only to entrench each side. And it is your blog! You can write about whatever the heck you want, frankly. As a centrist myself I rarely seem to run into others in the middle these days and appreciate you keeping politics out as much as you do. Always appreciate your insightful, deep posts and view into personal finances in life.

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