Tag Archives: finances

Gen Y Is Unhappy Because We Can’t Get Off The Fence

20 Sep

I read an article the other day called “Why Gen Y Yuppies Are Unhappy.” Since then, I’ve seen quite a few reaction articles. The gist of the argument seems to be that previous generations think that Gen Yers have falsely inflated self-esteem and can’t cope with the reality of having a job that isn’t 100% fulfilling all of the time, while Gen Yers claim that previous generations have created an economy so fouled up that there’s no hope of finding any job, let alone a fulfilling one.

The way I see it, both sides are lined up along a white picket fence, arguing over whose fault it is that the grass is brown. And I can’t help but think that all that this arguing is doing is spreading more weed killer. Maybe it’s time we stopped caring who the blame falls on and started learning how to care for the grass under our own feet.

I am a member of Gen Y. I was born in 1986. I went through school participating in programs like Student of the Week, character education, D.A.R.E, self-affirmations, etc. I learned that I was special, that I had a value, and that I deserved to have a life that met my expectations. And you know what? So did every other member of Gen Y.


Not that that was a bad thing. Our parents wanted us to know that we deserved a life as good as or better than theirs. After all, isn’t that the wish of every parent? And isn’t that how Gen Y members are raising their own kids?

The point where this grand scheme of promoting a better life full of opportunity fell apart was when the world changed in a way that no one was expecting.  Parents raise their kids based on what they know. Our parents knew that we were living in a time of economic growth and financial stability, so they raised us to succeed in such a world.

When that world fell apart, the paradigms for success did too.  Going to a good school no longer counted for as much.  Businesses circled the wagons, leaving the newly-graduated Gen Y out in the cold with only our ambition to keep us warm. When we raised our voices to complain, we were slapped with titles like, “spoiled” or “entitled.” People say things when they’re angry or scared that they later regret, but words have a way of sticking around forever.

Back in middle school, I once used the word “entitled” instead of “deserved” in a paper. My teacher circled the word in red and wrote a note that has stuck with me for 13 years. She said, “Something entitled is given for free. Something deserved has to be worked for. We are entitled to live, we deserve to choose how.”


“We are entitled to live, we deserve to choose how.”

Boy, was that more than a simple vocabulary lesson. Gen Y has been placed in a world of choice by our parents- a world in which we can be whatever we want. We can dress up like superheroes every day, or discover the cure for cancer, or create works of art that will be in our children’s and grandchildren’s textbooks.

It’s all right there in front of us like a smorgasbord of life achievement. We can see the plates, we can smell the success, but there are so many people at the party that all most of us got left with are the scraps. We may have been entitled to a seat at the table, but did we deserve to have our plates filled yet?  Maybe or maybe not, but we did deserve the chance to prove that we can succeed on just scraps.

After all, it’s possible to assemble a four-course meal from scraps, if you’re willing to spend enough time scavenging.

So, to my fellow Gen Yers, I say this: We know we have the potential for great things, and we know we’re sick of being told that we’re lazy or delusional. It’s time we did more than write on our blogs or Twitters about how unfair the world is, and acted on our own potential.

We deserve to prove that we are exceptional, because our parents and grandparents sacrificed so that we would be. They put us in head start preschools, they taught us about seizing the moment, they even bought us handheld devices that have more computing power than a rocket sent to the moon in 1969. The methods to success may have changed on us, but that doesn’t mean our tools won’t still work. We just have to learn to use them a different way.

And before the comments start coming in about how bad the economy is and how it’s impossible to find a job, let me say this. My dad used to tell me something that his father told him, “you’re never too good to flip burgers.”

Chances are, you’re not going to find a fulfilling job, or even one that uses your college degree right off the bat. I worked at GameStop for two years. That certainly didn’t use my Master’s Degree (although the discounted video games certainly helped my wallet). I fought for minimum-wage jobs (and sometimes neglected to mention my Master’s degree) so that I could pay my bills, and I used my free time (what little of it I had) to pursue the things that did make me happy.

It took me ten years after high school graduation of working minimum-wage part-time jobs (ask me about the 4 months I worked at a skating rink, or any of the times I got ignored for being a girl in a video game store), but I earned my full-time job, and I got to see my dream of being a published author come true.

The world is unfair. It totally is.  We’re going to be judged unfairly and called things like Yuppies and GYPSYs. We may very well end up flipping burgers with a Master’s degree. but that doesn’t mean that all we’ll ever be is a burger flipper.

Fulfillment in life doesn’t have to come from a job title, and it certainly doesn’t ever come for free. The best way to get people to stop saying that we’re lazy or delusional is to prove them wrong.

And once we discover how to use our tools in this new unplowed garden of a world, you can bet that our grass will be greener than anything anyone has ever seen.



On Student Loans, Via A New York Times Editorial

26 Jul

A friend on Facebook posted a link to the following New York Times article today.  It’s a fascinating editorial piece on student loans, so I thought that I’d repost the first few paragraphs here.

Better Disclosure for Private Loans

About two-thirds of bachelor’s degree recipients borrow to complete their educations. The fortunate among them rely on federal loans that offer a low, fixed-interest rate and broad consumer protections that allow them to defer payments — and stay out of default — if they lose their jobs. But many students have been roped into costlier private student loans that have variable interest rates and few consumer protections.

This means that borrowers who fall on hard times have few options other than default, which can make it more difficult for them to obtain credit, find jobs or rent apartments.

A new study issued jointly last week by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Education makes clear that the government, Congress in particular, can do a better job of educating families to the significant differences between private and federal loans while making sure that colleges and lenders are upfront and honest about risks.

The study’s most distressing finding is that more than 40 percent of students who borrowed privately were in fact eligible to borrow from the safer and generally less costly federal program. Those students, and the parents who co-signed for them, simply may not have known the difference between the two kinds of loans because no one told them. But because of variable interest rates, even sophisticated borrowers may not be prepared for “payment shock” when graduation rolls around and the first bill arrives in the mail.

You can read the rest of the article by clicking here.  You can also read the study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Education by clicking here.  Both of these links are also available in the Other Links You May Want To Click section above.

I’ve talked about this before, but I am a big proponent of personal responsibility. If you sign to take out a loan, that is your decision and you ought to own up to it.  However, there are some very deceptive practices out there, and I don’t think that every 18-year-old kid is wise enough to understand all the intricacies of signing a loan.  I certainly wasn’t.  I signed for my first student loan when I was 20 and halfway through a college degree, and it still took me quite a while to understand the seventeen pages of information that I was given by the loan company.

Student loans are invaluable ways for people to gain access to higher education, but if lenders are allowed to keep taking advantage of young adults new to the financial world, all we’re doing is setting the next generation up for a lifetime of financial failure.  Surely we can do better.

$1,200 And As Many Reasons Why

24 Jul

I did a bad thing this weekend.  I broke the cardinal rule of budgeting.  Actually, I broke three cardinal rules of budgeting.

1. I went way over budget on a non-emergency trip.  I’m still totaling up the damage, but it looks like it’ll be around $1,236.  That number includes a round-trip (late-booking) plane ticket to Pennsylvania, parking at the airport, a hotel room for two nights, food, and all the other expenses that come with out-of-town travel.

2. I paid for the trip using a credit card.  I put the plane ticket, hotel room, and pretty much everything else on my credit card.  I know that I’ve railed against doing that with credit cards before, and you’re all probably shaking your heads at me and my financial hypocrisy, but at least I know I can pay off the balance on the card this month.  Which brings me to bad move #3.

3. I paid off the credit card using money from my emergency fund.  My trip out of town was for a family wedding.  It was not an emergency.  As much as I would like to claim that the chance to see all my dad’s siblings and most of my cousins is a rare enough opportunity that it constitutes an emergency, the fact remains that it just isn’t.  By using the money from my emergency fund (and with a trip cost of this amount, it was a fair share of said emergency fund), I broke the rules.  Bad finance blogger.

Having said all of that, let me be perfectly clear on this point: I went way over budget to attend a family wedding for a cousin I have not seen in person since I was 10, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I had the best time this weekend.  I was able to catch up with family members I haven’t seen since I was a kid, be introduced to cousins I’ve never had the chance to meet, hear the “true versions” of family stories, discover definitive proof that my weirdness does come from my dad’s side of the family, and most importantly watch my beautiful cousin marry the love of her life.

See? I told you she was beautiful.

While I may have spent a lot of money on this trip, I don’t regret it at all.  For every dollar, there were at least a dozen reasons why it was money well spent.  The best example I can offer is this:

Ladies and Gentlemen- meet my family. 14 grandchildren, 5 children, and the woman who managed to get us all into one picture.

This past weekend, I got to reconnect with my family, and that is definitely priceless.

Off To A Good Start

12 Jul

Last month, I twisted my knee oddly and ended up with a partial patellar dislocation.  This meant I got a fancy knee brace, three weeks of bonding time with said knee brace, and a referral to a physical therapist.  It also meant that I received a bill for a five-digit amount.  That’s right- at the bottom of my bill was a red Pay This Amount box with FIVE DIGITS inside, three of which were even in front of the decimal point! (Wait, did you think I meant something else by five digits?)

I reluctantly accepted this amount, waited until this month to address it, and sat down this morning to finally pay it.  I hate writing checks, since it takes a while for the amount to post to my account.  I don’t know about you, but I always spend that lag time trying to decide if the check made it to its intended recipient, or if it is wandering in a strange town stuffed in an ill-intentioned man’s back pocket.

Luckily, this doctor allows payment by credit card.  I grabbed my silver rectangle of instant-debit-gratification and dialed the office number.  The receptionist pulled up my account, and read me the outstanding balance.

People, I almost dropped the phone.  I asked her to repeat it twice.

My balance had lost two digits.  It was now a size three, with only one of those digits before the decimal point.  The offered explanation was that my health insurance company had paid up.

My health insurance company has never voluntarily paid on anything, ever.

I take this situation as proof that there is a God, and He knows how to work insurance companies.  In any case, I happily authorized the amount charged to my credit card, and hung up before the office could realize they made a terrible mistake and that decimal point was supposed to be two digits to the right.

This was a good beginning to the day.

Last night ended well too, actually.  I made these at Art Club:

Bonus: Dalek photo bomb.

Bonus: space painting my roommate made last night.

The only problem is that I’m too fond of them to put them on the bookcase.  I’d rather have them on my desk so I can play with them as needed.  So I did this:

Yes, that is a robot ball and a Ziploc bag of magnetic silver balls and words.  You should have known my desk would be odd. The Doctor Who bookends were your first clue.

I hope all of your days are off to a great start.  If not, do what millions of O2 subscribers in England are doing right now- turn it off and turn it back on.  (I’m betting exactly one of my readers will understand that.  For everyone else, it is a piece of recent advice from a cell phone company a la iPhone 4’s “hold it the right way” campaign.)  Talk to you all on Monday.

Five Things That No One Will Tell You About Budgeting

9 Jul

I’ve been through accounting and finance classes (including three at the graduate level), Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, read countless internet articles about how to budget, and I’ve gotta say- every budget plan I’ve ever seen falls victim to the Diet Fallacy.

What’s the Diet Fallacy, you ask?  It’s the idea that if you just cut enough out, you’ll get the results you want.  If you cut enough calories, you’ll stop gaining weight.  If you cut out the couch surfing time, you’ll start losing weight.  If you cut out enough fat, you’ll get a rocking bod in time for swimsuit season.

As anyone who has ever been on a diet can tell you, that plan may work but the level of suffering that comes with it kind of destroys the happiness over any positive result.

The same is true for budgeting.  Sure, you can make it all work if you cut out enough spending, but if you’re sitting at home in the dark because you can’t allow for a higher electricity bill or gas for the car, are you really any better off?

So, in order to correct the prevailing Diet Fallacy in budgeting, I’m offering up The 5 Things That No One Will Tell You About Budgeting.

1. Chill out.  Seriously- relax.  Put down the calculator and step away from the spreadsheet.  Take a deep breath.  Look at this turtle.

Now that you’re smiling again, let’s continue.

Creating a budget is so much simpler than most people realize, especially if you have a steady income.  Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper.  On one side, write down your monthly income.  On the other side, write down your financial priorities (these should be along the lines of food, house payment/rent, utilities, etc) until you’ve written down everything you spend money on from most important to least important.  Then, go down the line and give some money to each item.  Adjust monthly as needed. It may take some time to fine tune it all, but just remember to keep breathing.

2. Build in some wiggle room.  I have a section in my budget called “miscellaneous” and it gets $30 per month.  This goes to cover any part of my budget that goes, well, over budget.  Perhaps the cost of shampoo rises, the rabbit gets an ear infection, the mob comes and cuts the car’s brake line, etc.  The point is, costs are going to change each month.  The experts will tell you to have an emergency fund set up for these times, and that’s good advice; but having a place for the smaller emergencies already in the monthly budget will make you feel all warm and fuzzy for being prepared, and that’s a good feeling.

3. It’s OK to spend.  Repeat after me: it is ok to spend money.  Sometimes we get so caught up in watching the dollars and cents that we hold on too tightly to our money.  I catch myself doing this every single month.  I start worrying that the accounts won’t all balance out.  If I let it get too far, I’ll find myself rummaging through the tupperware cabinet, looking for a container big enough to freeze my debit card in a block of ice.  Don’t find yourself rummaging through the tupperware cabinet looking for a container big enough to freeze your debit card in a block of ice.  (Mostly because you’ll find tupperware from the 1980s and a surprising amount of dead bugs, but also because it’s counterproductive to the whole “chill out about the budget” concept.)  Put a line in your budget for entertainment each month, and spend every last cent of it.  Trust me- you’ll be a happier person.

4. Don’t punish yourself.  If you blow your budget one month, don’t start mentally berating yourself.  You’ve already spent the money, and chances are that you spent it on something you can’t return.  If it was a one-time thing (i.e. Best Buy had a 72” LED HDTV on sale for $100 for two hours, or ThinkGeek.com had a fire sale), accept the mistake and move on.  Enjoy your new TV and/or lightsaber.  If this was a repeat offense, take a look at your budget.  If you’re consistently overspending in one area, add more money to that area next month.  Take it from an area when you are under spending, or can make a cut.  Budgets can be flexible- don’t be afraid to make a change, and don’t feel bad for needing to do so.  Don’t end up looking like this:

At some point, I probably swore to never reveal this picture to the world. It’s cool though- my sister doesn’t read this blog.

5. Stop listening to the experts.  This is the best piece of advice I can give you.  For the love of buffalo nickels, stop reading everything you can find about how to budget.  Budgeting, like dieting, is a personal matter.  Read enough to learn how to make a spreadsheet, track receipts, and put debt collectors in their place, and then stop reading.  Sit down and do it yourself.  Don’t let yourself get stuck by the fear that you can’t do it, or that you’ll do it wrong.  If you are competent enough to recognize that you have money management issues, I guarantee that you are competent enough to make your own budget.  Plus, planning your budget yourself makes it a lot easier to stick to it.  Just saying.


So that’s it for my advice.  Do with it what you will.  Keep in mind that I’m not an expert, so that last bit of advice totally doesn’t apply to reading this blog.  You may continue to do that, and laugh at my frantic tupperware related searches, all you want.

Next week will have my loan payoff updates, provided the loan company gets their website back up by then.  In any case, there’s a good story behind how I scraped together this month’s loan payment.  Oh, and you may have noticed this site is now located at losingmycents.com.  I finally bit the bullet and registered the domain name.  I had a coupon, you see.

The Angry Patriot and I

6 Jul

I was called into work on Wednesday.  For those of you keeping track at home, that was the Fourth of July here in the good old USA.  I’d like to say that I don’t usually work on holidays, but I do.  The pay is better, the customers are fewer, and it gets me out of the house and away from relatives for a few hours.

Anyway, since I spend a considerable part of my life immersed in the Twitter-verse, Facebook-black-hole, & AIM-wormhole, on Wednesday I had to sign off from several conversations with the news that I was heading to work.

One person did not take the news very well.

Angry Patriot: You’re working on the Fourth of July? Isn’t that illegal or something?

Me: No, it’s capitalism at work.  Lol. (note- I rarely use the LOL phrase. I’m a bit ashamed of using it here. But in the interest of accuracy, I had to repeat it.)

AP: Are you at least getting overtime or something? (note- three other people asked me this. Sadly, the answer is no).

Me: I don’t know. Maybe. (No. It’s no.  I was such a fool, with such hope.)

AP: You shouldn’t have to work today.  It’s unpatriotic.  Why are you working on Independence Day?

Me: Because I’m declaring my independence from debt.

AP: … oh. *sign off*

I do believe I won that argument.

But what I meant what I said- I work so that I can declare independence from debt.  I don’t define myself by any of my jobs.  They are what I do to make money.  It is how I choose to spend that money that defines who I am.  When I spend that money on my student loans, I am responsible.  When I spend it on books, I am a reader.  When I spend it on art supplies for my Sunday school kids, I am giving (and also smart. Crafts are a great free-time occupier).  When I spend it on video games, I’m a bit of an idiot because I work at a video game store and I can borrow them for free. Regardless of what I’m buying, it says something about who I am. (This is strongly related to why I also use self-checkout lanes.  I don’t need some civilian judging my purchases of Star Trek pajamas or Harry Potter bath soap.)  Money won’t ever buy happiness, but it can certainly help get you there.

But let me turn this around on you, my darling readers.  If we can be defined by our purchases, what purchases define you the best?  Is it the mortgage on your dream home, the health insurance for your kids, the membership passes for sci-fi conventions, the books at your favorite bookstore, the racks and racks of shoes at the local Payless, or something else entirely?  What do you spend money on that best shows who you are?  Leave me a comment and let me know.


2 Jul

Today is the six-month anniversary of the blog, which means I’m now at the halfway point in this year-long quest to pay off my undergraduate student loans.

The thing is, it doesn’t feel like halfway.  Partially it feels like I’ve been at this for far longer, and partially it feels like it’s been much shorter.  It all depends on the day (or what shiny object that I can’t afford is in front of me at the moment).

Today is one of the days when it feels much shorter.  That’s probably because I’ve been doing some math, and I haven’t quite made it to the halfway-gone point in my loans.  I’m $487 off my ideal balance of $5,765, or half of the $11,530 balance I started with.

In any case, a midpoint is a cause for both looking back and looking forward.  So, let’s do some review and some forecasting.  The first section is a lot of number stuff.  The second section is a lot of non-number stuff.  Feel free to skip one or the other, depending on your personal opinions on number stuff.

By The Numbers:

  • LOAN
    • Starting balance: $11,530.12.
    • Amount paid, by month
      • January: $250
      • February: $961
      • March: $948
      • April: $1,296
      • May: $1,329
      • June: $1,334
      • Total: $6,118
    • Interest paid, by month
      • January: $307.41 (partially accrued from previous months)
      • February: $110.03 (partially accrued from previous months)
      • March: $42.83
      • April: $46.83
      • May: $48.64
      • June: $28.84
      • Total: $584.58
    • Principal paid, total: $5,533.42
    • Current loan balance: $6,249.03
  • BLOG
    • 26 weeks
    • 56 posts (including this one)
    • 6,704 total views
      • 1,230 views on busiest day (posted: Discarded)
      • Average 37 views/day
      • 258 views/week
      • 1,117 views/month
    • 0 Blog Awards or Freshly Pressed mentions, but some of the best and most supportive comments that I’ve ever seen.  The best of these sit in a document on my desktop, just for rereading when times get tough.


By The Non-Numbers:

It hasn’t always been a easy road this year.  There have been times when I’ve been worried about future employment, stressed out over current employment, freaking out over late paychecks, ranting against the economy, angry with myself, frustrated with internet trolls, beleaguered by writer’s block, paralyzed by fear, consumed by anxiety, physically sick to the point I could not stand, bereft without a computer, slapped with unexpected expenses, and left wondering just for what it’s all been worth.

But there have been good times, too.  I’m learning how to let go of anxiety, plan for contingencies, but live in the moment, make a change in my world view, enjoy social situations more, know when to engage and when to disengage, find inspiration in odd places, be brave, heal, adapt, grow, express my dreams, and how to do all of that while keeping the parts of me that I like.

I know that there may be harder times ahead.  That’s just the nature of part-time employment and variable income (and life with OCD).  I’m still searching for that elusive full-time job, but even that would come with huge life changes.  I’m a big fan of routine, and unpredictability and change scares me.  I’ve come to realize that most people feel that way, however, and the best way around the fear is to talk about it and find support with others.  This blog has helped me do that, and I hope that it continues to be that way over the next six months.

It turns out this blog has been worth $6,118, and a lifetime of self-realization crammed into six months.

Thanks for being here this far.  Let’s see what the rest of the year holds.  It should be interesting.

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