Financial Privilege: I have it

It’s 8 AM on Friday, January 12th, and I’m logging into Mint to check out my paycheck. Cha-ching! The first paycheck of 2018, and it’s a big one. I said to myself, “Wow, I can’t believe I’m so lucky.” Then it hit me. Over the past two years, I’ve remarked numerous times to others how lucky I am. But that’s really not it. It’s not luck, it’s financial privilege.

It was this realization, along with financial privilege posts from Adventure Rich and The Luxe Strategist, that really reminded me how common this is in the personal finance blogging space. Hell, just look at our Net Worth Tracker on Rockstar Finance! The vast majority of us are doing great. As of Jan 1st, 2017, I’m in the bottom 25% of bloggers who openly share their net worth, and that’s still a six-figure number. Wow.

Started from the bottom now I’m here

My mother came to this country with less than $1K in her pockets to get a US college education. She worked part-time jobs to help pay for school, her first of which was Dunkin’ Donuts. At first, she thought it was great. At the end of the day, employees would get all the leftover donuts they could carry. Sounds like a good deal, right? My mom loved it at first – free food! After two weeks though, she had to quit, and it was years before she could stomach donuts again. It’s a fun story that tells what my mother had to do to get by when she first came over. This isn’t a boast of my humble upbringing, though.

My father also came to the US for his education, although he had significantly more help from his family. When I was born, my parents were actually both still in school. (One of my early childhood memories is attending my mother’s graduation.) I have highly educated parents, but they also struggled financially due to starting a family early. Despite their challenges, we were a solidly middle-class family. Basically, my parents did all the hard work; I just reaped the benefits.

My financial education started early

Pardon my language, but I was a little shit about money when I was younger. I would go with my friends to the mall and spend $20 on crappy clothing. I didn’t know what saving an allowance meant (and yes, I was privileged enough to get an allowance, although it was sporadic). My mother was horrified. Thankfully, I wasn’t given use of a credit card until after high school.

I’m pretty sure I averaged a 30-50% utilization on my first credit card throughout college. I had a student card with a $300 limit; do you know how much textbooks cost?? Yeah. It wasn’t just the books, though. I started going out for food all the time, as many parent-free students are wont to do. My dad, bless his heart, paid the balance of the card in full every month, and I was smart enough to realize that maxing out my card was not an option. By the time I started working, I had years of spotless credit history (high utilization is an easy thing to fix).

Checking off everything that given to me

Years of spotless credit history. I could not have done this myself; this was a direct gift from my parents. Plenty of people are in a situation where parents do not have a strong hold over their credit buying power; I learned my credit behavior from the best.

An interest-free, no-limits debt, and a solid education. My parents paid for my undergraduate education in full, and my graduate degree up front. I didn’t have to worry about money while studying, which would’ve been a large burden. When it came time to pay them back, my dad told me to pay him in $5K increments, at times of my choosing. I ended up putting away roughly $1K a month over the next three years to pay him back. Because this was a decision that I made, I was more motivated to stick to it and had flexibility when money was tighter (when moving; changing jobs).

No fear of credit. My oldest credit card is a decade old. Apparently, millennials aren’t using credit. Something about fear of credit card debt (which I am definitely afraid of). However, I know that credit cards do not equal debt and that credit can actually be an extremely powerful tool. PSA: Always pay your cards off in full, people.

What I’m doing with my financial privilege

As one of the very last things on the personal finance checklist will tell you, one of the best things you can do with knowledge is to share it with others. That’s why I started Cash Fasting, and why I’m open about my career, my living costs, and my goals. Because, when you have financial privilege, sharing is caring. I know that when I write about living in NYC and maxing out my retirement contributions that it’s not feasible for everyone.

Blogging and reading about personal finance is aspirational.

This isn’t a competition; don’t treat it like one. The first thing I’m going to do is extend some of this privilege on. Not just information, but money, too. I’m not good about giving to charities. I’ve seen so much money be wasted that I prefer small-scale outlets, like Patreon and Kiva. My MO is to help individuals instead of causes (a personal preference that will likely change over time). My little brother just bought a house in D.C. It’s a fixer-upper; he’s got a mortgage and a loan with the Bank of Mom and Dad. You bet your bottom he’s getting help from his older sister over the next few years.

Yes, I’m working toward my own lofty goals, and yes, I am better equipped than most to achieve them. I’ll still blog about my journey; take whatever takeaways you want from it. I’ll do me, and you do you. For those of you who are interested; come get privileged with me 😁.

Comments

  1. From a person who didn’t grow up with financial privilege, but “inherited” after marrying my husband I see both sides from first POV. It’s interesting to note that those who deny it, they come from a stronger ego. You have to lose the ego and come down to realizing you’re human and the world is a process. That’s what you did here friend 🙂

  2. I really like the thoughtful ending to this post. I’m also the financially privileged daughter of immigrants (though they didn’t pay for grad school). It takes financial privilege to adopt many of the strategies written about in PF blogs (buying stocks on the dip, prepaying property taxes) and just to live in some HCOL areas. It’s what we do with the recognition of financial privilege that counts.

    1. Author

      I technically paid for grad school, but the interest-free loan they gave me was a HUGE help.
      Agreed with you on how we use financial privilege. Thanks for stopping by, Frieda!

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