‘You’re the Problem With America, Basically’

My friend Greg has no credit card debt. I have some (okay, a lot of) credit card debt. We have different ideas about debt and credit cards, and one night we talked it out. Discussed: Marxism, the universe, blading. 

Logan: You’re my friend, and I feel like I need to tell you something. 

Greg: Okay.

L: I have $20,000 in credit card debt.

G:  So you’re the “Problem With America,”  basically.

L: Basically, yes. But does that surprise you?

G: No, it doesn’t, but it saddens me. Credit cards are terrible.

L: Well, they can be, yes.

G: No, they are. 

L: Tell me why you hate credit cards. Because I think that obviously I messed up, but I don’t think they are totally terrible. Like, they allowed me to do things I couldn’t have done.

G: They allowed you to live your life a certain way that you wanted to live, to afford that life. But that’s the “Problem With America,” right? Living beyond your means? And you’re seemingly the poster child for the “Problem With America,”  or one of them, one of many. The problem is that you’re carving out a piece of your life and giving it to people who have done nothing for it. You’ve lived your life a certain way, and now you have to pay that back for the rest of your life.

L: Not the rest of my life.

G: Fine, you’re how old now?

L: 27.

G: Fine, the rest of your youth. The rest of your youth is going to be dedicated to paying back these people. You’re giving them a part of your life. You work for money, that’s the whole thing. I don’t want to get too Marxist here, but when you work for a wage, you literally… I’m really just describing basic, dime-store, bargain-basement Marxist thought here kinda, but I’m just going to go with it. Some people have capital. You don’t. I don’t either. So what we need to do to have capital to buy things that we need—like bread or cheese or cheesy poofs or vodka with pickle juices—we need capital, we need little bits of money.

And so  since we don’t have any of our own and weren’t born into any significant sums of any substantive value, the only we have of any value is our time. Literally. The time that we spend on this earth is the only thing we have of value. And so we barter that to the highest bidder. So we can sell the skills we’ve invested in, or in some people’s cases, their actual physical being, like pushing a button, or turning a thing in a machine or whatever. It’s the only way to get money to get things they want or need.

So if you think about money like that, every dollar, every cent, is a second, is a minute, is a month of your life. $20,000 is six months of your life. Right now, at the rate at which you’re bartering your life.

L: It’s actually way more than six months, at the rate I’m going.

G: I was being generous. But you see my point. So now on top of that, on top of the $20,000 that you racked up, now you’re paying interest on your life—you’re paying interest on the fact that you lived, and that’s crazy. You’ve already spent that money and those minutes and those seconds which each of those bits of capital and currency amount to, now these people who have done nothing except have money, they’ve contributed nothing to society or you—they own you. Or at least, they own that period of your life that you’re now paying interest on.

You’ve been in debt how many times now, three times? If you had just not gone into debt the first two times, you would have been able to pay for whatever you just spent this last round on anyway. You would have been able to pay for this most recent trip to Europe. You’re literally taking off chunks of flesh and throwing it at them. You’re buying into this system, and it’s crazy.

L: I’m not buying into it.

G: You have credit cards that you only just gave away, and you have $20,000 in debt. You’ve bought into it. You’ve bought into it more than anyone I know.

L: I think it’s because there is something wrong with me.

G: No, I don’t think so. Again, you’re the “Problem With America,” dude. There are plenty of other Americans with the same problem. You’re not unique here. Seemingly, the majority of people in America have bought into the idea that it’s fine to be in a little bit of debt for an amount of time.

L: You never had a credit card?

G: Okay obviously some of this is due to the fact that I’m privileged. Both of my parents are public school teachers, it’s not that they’re super wealthy, but they could pay for stuff. But at the same time, I’ve been working, in one way or another, since I was 13. Also, I admit that I’m stupid and don’t understand how money works.

L: Um, you just explained to me how money works.

G: What I just went through (which I do believe, genuinely) is a biased view of how the system works. So yes, I understand, let’s not give away what you’ve dedicated pieces of your life to. That’s the only limited resource that you have any control over.

L: Can I explain why I don’t feel that way?

G: I mean, you can try.

L: For me, the credit cards allowed me to do things that I couldn’t have done in a time I couldn’t have done them.

G: I’ve heard of one worthwhile thing. This trip to Europe.

L: Well yes. But the rest of it was also important, it was—

G: Going to bars.

L: Amazing times!

G: Dude, I’m not not-a-drinker. I’m buying your drinks right now. I LOVE going to bars. But the fact of the matter is, sometimes you just can’t do it. I had this Lithuanian ex-girlfriend who said to me, “Americans are the only people that expect happiness.” And it’s true. Sometimes you have to be fucking miserable.

L: But I’m kind of always miserable? And I think that ties into it. But also, the universe, man. I want you to look up at those stars for a minute, and then tell me that my credit card debt matters at all.

G: Of course not. You could go over there and murder every person in this bar and that wouldn’t  matter either, by that fucking rationale. That’s fine, if that’s the way you’re going for it, then fine.

L: I’m just saying.

G: You’re just saying stupid things.

L: That was not stupid! If I died right now, in a way that I could have some moments to think about things before I died, I would not think, “I wish I hadn’t spent that money that wasn’t mine.”

G: I totally understand and agree with you, that’s obviously a thing people say. You could die tomorrow, you’re here for the ride, right.

L: And that’s not why I racked up the debt. I always fully intended to pay it back, and I still do fully intend to pay it back. I didn’t rack up the debt hoping to die.

G:  You know you don’t have to pay your relatives debts off. They try to make you, but you don’t. So yeah, that would be awesome for you, to die now, I guess.

L: So on a scale from one to stupid, what do you think I am?

G: In general, one. I don’t think you’re very stupid at all. I mean, not stupid in like, you don’t know where to put a stamp on an envelope or like, stupid in such a way in that it hinders you in the line at the supermarket. But yeah. You’re pretty stupid with credit cards.

L: That may be, but I still have a good credit score. I mean, I am not totally irresponsible. Do you have a good credit score?

GB: Yeah it’s a good score. My parents opened a card for me, and I never used it. I was terrified of it. When I went to uni we had a joint Bank of America account, and I used the debit card and got overdraft charges all the time. I’m bad with money. I’m terrified of it. And I think this is a useful fear. If you view every cent that you have a second of your life, you’re much less likely to go around willy-nilly and just spend it.

I’ve done cool things, I’ve done plenty of cool stuff. I’ve been to Europe a shit-ton more times than you have, but I don’t have any debt. And yes, my parents helped me, they paid for a lot of my university and helped me out a bunch of times otherwise. I’m not saying it’s all me, it definitely wasn’t, and again, I am not trying to discount the privilege thing. BUT, I still paid for a lot of stuff myself and worked a lot.

S: Did you take out loans for school?

G: No. But my parents didn’t ever let me have my paychecks when I was younger. They would pay for whatever I wanted or needed, and they would take my paychecks and invest them, or save them, or whatever.

L: What kind of jobs?

G: I was a forester when I was 13.

L: You were a 13-year-old forester?

G: Yeah my friend’s father owned a forestry company. So my parents would take that and save it, or invest it or whatever, for me. And they pushed me really hard to apply to every scholarship, and I got a fair number of scholarships, and my parents had put stuff away from me. And yeah, I had a bar mitzvah.

L: Bar mitzvahs were so great. G-d bless the Jews.

G: My social life has never been better than when I was 13 years old. Every weekend, dressed to the nines, going out, dancing, a girl on my arm taller than me, you know, because girls are taller in middle school and all the dudes are still short. So a tall babe on my arm, great. Honestly, it’s a shame, I wish everyone was having bar mitzvahs now.

L: Epic parties paid for by their parents, yes. And everyone brings you money. Were you allowed to touch it?

G: Mostly, no.  My parents saved and invested most of it, and that’s how I eventually paid for a lot of my school and my travelling. Plus, I worked. I did buy a pair of rollerblades, though. I bought a SICK pair of rollerblades.

L: I miss rollerblading.

G: Blading, dawg. Super cool.

L: I saw this couple holding hands on Sixth Ave the other day, and he was on rollerblades, and she wasn’t. And I was trying to figure out the reason why.

G: No reason dude. She left hers at home.

L: I was thinking more he had some disability that somehow required he be on rollerblades.

G: He had to blade, all day long? I don’t think that disability exists. If you can’t do anything in shoes, you certainly can’t do anything in rollerblades.

L: Maybe if I’d had a bar mitzvah I would have avoided the trappings of credit cards.

G: Didn’t you tell me that your parents paid for your school? And like, a lot of your life after?

L: Well, yes. 

G: And you still messed up.

L: Well, yes. 

G: So I think you could have been given any amount of money and would have spent it all and then some. Stop messing up.

L: I’m trying.

G: Try harder. If I figured this stuff out, you can, too.

L: Thanks for that. I feel like I should buy you a drink now. 

G: You and I both know there is nothing in that wallet of yours.

L: That’s true.

G: You can buy me a drink when you don’t owe multiple people multiple thousands of dollars.

L: Deal.


72 Comments / Post A Comment

Toby Jug (#801)

I think how we spend has more to do with our parents then we think. My parents loovvvee to spend money, and are perpetually in debt, but manage it very well. They have a medium-to-large house on a medium-to-large piece of land and travel and go out all the time and have nice cars and put two kids through private college.

Again, they manage their debt very well. They live JUST BEYOND their means.

And the thing is with my parents is that they started traveling and buying things and going out a lot in the eighties and nineties.

I think if I have any hope of not living in poverty I’m going to have to teach myself to expect different things than my boomer parents expected, because the realities of our economies are very, very different. I don’t expect to have a pension. I don’t expect job security. I don’t expect to get a mortgage easily, if I ever even get a mortgage. ‘Merica’s different now.

Toby Jug (#801)

Also, uh, team Pup ‘N Suds

cbrownson (#23)

Greg’s tone here is kind of… well, it’s not my favorite. “I’ve been to Europe a shit-ton more times than you have, but I don’t have any debt.” DUDE!

krumpies (#503)

@cbrownson Seriously. I enjoyed how that little bon mot was followed immediately by “Try harder. It I figured this stuff out, you can, too.”

hallelujah (#802)

@cbrownson Seriously. All of my thoughts on the substance of this were eclipsed by FUCK THIS GUY JESUS feelings.

yankeepeach (#276)

@cbrownson Greg’s not my favorite either: Born on third base, thinks he hit a triple. It’s easy to brag about being debt-free when your parents are picking up the tab for everything and put your bar-mitzvah money into a brokerage account.

krumpies (#503)

@yankeepeach I can’t hit the thumbs up hard enough.

Cat Ballou (#231)

@cbrownson Also what is this attitude that going to Europe is some inherent good? It’s not, it just a thing people like to think for some reason.

And his parents “helped [him] out a bunch otherwise”? That can cover all manner of sins. Guy needs to step back.

neener (#242)

@yankeepeach those over-privileged fat cat public school teachers! always saving their kids’ bar mitzvah money to pay for their college educations! so out of touch.

@yankeepeach I don’t think he was bragging about being debt-free — I think he was saying that he’s always had a healthy fear of debt, and he thinks I should, too. That’s the thing he figured out — that if you don’t have money, don’t spend money.

And I think it’s pretty cool that he is willing to be so open about what his parents have given him. He’s thankful for it, he knows that privilege has had a lot to do with his situation. Essentially, we have very similar backgrounds! And now very different debt loads.

@Logan Sachon
Okay, this makes a lot more sense if you guys are from the same sort of background. I no longer wonder why you sat through this entire conversation (besides the whole “free booze” enticement).

smack (#307)

@cbrownson So also, like the generality of the tone of Logan Should Probably Just Kill Herself Because She Makes Terrible Descisions All the Time makes me sad. Logan, you are a normal person and this all seems like it gets a little too WAY FUCKING HARD ON YOU sometimes.

krumpies (#503)

@smack Yes. Logan seems like she is trying really hard, and she’s really open to admitting her mistakes, and given all that this entire conversation reads like this guy kicking her while she’s down in order to stroke his own ego for his Great Decisions and Enlightened Opinions on Money.

Sarah H. (#408)

@cbrownson Greg may have some good points, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that he’s a giant asshole. I’m not sure how Logan sat through that conversation without getting up and leaving, and possibly without decking the guy on the way out.

Sarah H. (#408)

@Sarah H. (sorry, I have more to say) ESPECIALLY because Logan has reached the point where she realizes that her credit card debt isn’t a great thing, that she needs to buckle down and start paying it back and that she has to re-think her attitude about money and consumerism and such. She is an adult and thus can handle honesty and the truth about her financial situation, but Greg was basically treating her like a stupid child who had never heard that debt JUST MIGHT be a bad thing. Ugh.

ColdFinger (#815)

@yankeepeach But but but! He didn’t say they were picking up the tab for everything – his parents just invested wisely. Whereas they do discuss how Logan’s parents paid for college and “a lot of [her] life after.”

I agree that the “I learned this, so you can too,” is obnoxious, but it doesn’t sound like the guy is pretending to be good at money, when really everything’s been taken care for him. (Trust me, I’ve MET those people.) I do wonder, though, what kind of kid gives up his pay checks as a teenager to have them invested…

I cringed every time he used “literally”

@myrna.minkoff Me, I literally cringed.

@Amasa Amos@facebook I literally just laughed out loud.

Norrey (#407)

I think the problem with America is that companies are *allowed* to get people in 20,000 dollars of consumer debt. I mean, personal responsibility and all that, but credit card companies really need more oversight.

chic noir (#713)

@Norrey –

The NYTimes had a fabulous indepth article about debt around the world. OMG it’s so shocking.

Greg is a wise, wise man, but he also appears to be wayyyyyyy more blunt with his friends than I would ever have the gall to be.

RosemaryF (#345)

@werewolfbarmitzvah I like this Greg person. I think we would get along.

@werewolfbarmitzvah so true! even at my most “telling it like it is” times, I would still try to phrase things more nicely than “Stop messing up” and “Try harder.”

melis (#42)

@redheaded&crazy WALK IT OFF

chic noir (#713)

@RosemaryF -Yea he seems like a pretty cool guy. I don’t get why people think he’s a jerk. Better than one of those people ” I pay off my credit cards every month and I get 2k in rewards and gift cards from my credit card every year” type person.

dotcommie (#662)

EXCELLENT BRINK REFERENCE. erik von detten foreverrrr

bgprincipessa (#699)

I have to agree with some of what was already said above. I appreciate that he acknowledges his privilege, and there’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of what is given to you. But at the same time, be aware that not everyone has that opportunity. I’m very torn – because I know he is trying to say well, yes, I had help, but he is also saying that he … ugh! It’s very hard to express how I’m simultaneously appreciative and annoyed.

allreb (#502)

@bgprincipessa Yeah, it’s very much… like, yay, dude, you recognize that your privilege exists! Now maybe use that knowledge a little and stop saying things that are super privileged and entitled. I just grit my teeth through it, because I think these discussions are important, and it’s amazing that Logan is so open about debt, but, like… some of us figured this stuff out because we had no alternative, no one to give us a leg up in life financially, and no safety net to help out if we screwed up.

Cat Ballou (#231)

@allreb Yeah, paychecks from your jobs when you were younger and bar mitzvah money may not seem like a big deal to some people, but they would be the difference between paying for a surprise expense and putting that expense on a credit card for others. I got the feeling he wasn’t really engaging with that.

tiktaalik (#778)

@allreb Yeah… I thought this guy seemed like kind of a tool. Mostly because when he was all, “You’re the problem with America, Logan, because you spend money you don’t have and it would be so easy to stop doing that!” and all I could think of was my $10,000 of debt that I got paying for severely not-fun things like “clearance groceries” and “repairs on my 16-year old car” and “gouged by my property management company for rent increases because I couldn’t afford to break the lease and get out.” Yeah, Greg, it’s easy to know that you are out of money and shouldn’t go out to the bar, but when you have no food in the house and you know you’re not getting paid for 10 more days and you ALSO know that check will go entirely to your douchebag landlord… Some of us don’t have your options, is what I’m saying.

I really like the whole tone of the Billfold, it’s very positive about managing money and trying to live within your means, but this was a bit much.

DoctaJones (#847)

@tiktaalik To be fair to Greg though, it doesn’t seem like Logan spent her money on things like repairs to her 16-year-old car. She’s pretty clear that she has a spending problem, which I take to mean, she spends too much on things she doesn’t need. If you follow the links through she mentions she had a chance to pay off a chunk of her debt after moving back home specifically to manage said debt but that she spent the money on a couple weeks in Europe.
People who are responsible with money don’t do that. They pay off the debt, not increase it. If a friend of mine did that, I’d call them out on it. Especially when they repeatedly complain about their debt.

lalaland (#437)

Greg is just kind of mean. I’m sure there’s something happening in the conversation that we’re not picking up in the transcript, but maybe stick some emoticons in there or something? Like when he tells you it would be awesome for you to die right now?

Also, credit cards are not inherently terrible. Objects generally aren’t. I only use a credit card, and I pay it off in full every month. This conversation makes me miss Mike Dang.

aidan (#803)

Greg was brutal, but his comments about how we so easily parcel off bits of our lives to other people is really worth thinking about. Not to go all “burn the banks”, but he makes a really strong connection between us working to pay off a debt, which pretty much just goes into a big pile for someone who really didn’t have to work to get it (ie: a bank). Because they have capital in the first place, they can replace work with money. Because we don’t have money in the first place, we must replace it with work. And we should value our work more, knowing that it just gets tossed on that pile at the bank.

Oh man, Brink!. I used to watch that movie EVERY SUMMER EVERY TIME it was on TV growing up – as in, I would scan the TV Guide specifically for that movie every week, and it was on surprisingly often.

Too bad about Erik von Detten’s face these days.

viola bruise (#804)

Also, capital and money are not the same thing. Read some Marx, Greg. Geez.

aidan (#803)

@viola bruise I’m guilty of that too. Now! Can I download some Marx on my Kindle…? :)

viola bruise (#804)

@aidan I recommend Grundrisse for the capital/money distinction. It’s written in a casual style and Marx goes on some hilarious rants in random places. And it’s free on the internet.


aidan (#803)

@viola bruise Smart AND readable AND funny AND free? Perfect! Thank you. :)

Mike Dang (#2)

Logan and I have obviously talked to each other about her debt a lot. I think credit cards are good that they can allow you to do something you otherwise couldn’t do—like visit your family in another country before life prevents you from doing that.

That’s something my parents did when I was in the second grade. I took a week off of school to fly across the world to see my grandmother (my father’s mom). I remember that she hugged me for the longest time and said, “I am so glad I got to see you with my own very eyes, and I wish you grandfather was alive to see you too.” She was a lovely woman, and it was the first and last time I would see her. She died soon after.

My parents put that trip on a credit card, but they made plans to pay it off. And they did, and although I’m sure they paid a little bit of interest, they still paid it off. Credit cards can be good that way.

I don’t think they’re good when you’re charging things to have a bunch of good experiences, but don’t have a plan to pay off that debt besides, “Oh, I’ll just pay this off eventually.” Experiences are good. It’s worth it to pay for them. It’s why people do things like save money for weddings and vacations and doing that thing you’ve always dreamed about doing. I’m for that. But I’m not for it when it puts you in a debt spiral. I’ve seen how depressed Logan has gotten about her debt. And I don’t want her to be depressed, and I’m going to help her figure it out. I think once she gets into a place where she can put things on a credit card and pay the debt off in a reasonable amount of time, she’ll see that she can still live the life she wants to live without the depression that comes with all that messy debt.

bgprincipessa (#699)

@Mike Dang And that’s why Mike Dang is awesome.

Truly, you do a very good job of saying things frankly and openly without the condescending attitude. I’m very glad for Logan that she has someone like that in her life.

@Mike Dang welllllllll, to be fair, this is not a chicken and egg thing; being depressed actually came first. i don’t think “depression by debt” is in the DSM (though as a situational trigger, yeah, it’s a bummer).

Mike Dang (#2)

@Logan Sachon Oh yes, you know I understand the specifics of your situation. There is that correlation though—that debt and depression go hand in hand—and I really do think addressing it will help.

ImASadGiraffe (#982)

@Mike Dang I just had to reply because, yes, credit cards can be a good thing. A few years ago I suddenly was faced with a cheating spouse and when he found out that I knew he emptied our bank accounts and in order to get anything out of the situation I had to (1) hire a divorce attorney (2) find an apartment and put down a deposit (3) move out (4) buy things to live in new apartment. Which is all very hard to do when you don’t have any money.

I paid every one of my credit cards off recently and I can honestly say that it was worth the debt to get rid of my cheating, terrible husband. Sometimes credit cards are good.

clairapluie (#805)

Every time I read an article about Logan’s debt I pay off $10 of my credit card, so thanks I guess? This blog has basically been EXACTLY what I need because I think about money all the time, but you can’t keep talking about it with your friends before you become “that person,” so reading it gets the stress out of my system.

alpacasloth (#108)

@clairapluie Ditto. I read this, looked at my money and gave myself a budget for the next week (until I get paid). Now I know how much I can spend and still have some left over to put in savings after I pay bills. THANKS GUYS!

bgprincipessa (#699)

@clairapluie And third-ed. I’m so obsessive over it! And this site talks about it in exactly the terms that I like. Honest but not completely over my head, and really easy to relate to for a good majority of people in our demographic.

thewurst (#435)

@clairapluie and fourthed! I have actually been significantly better with my money (so still not great, but not as terrible) since reading this blog primarily because it’s forcing me to think about it, but in a way that I’m enjoying. I’m feeling constructive rather than defeated.

Fifth’d – I’ve always been someone who thinks about finance a lot…without really knowing much in the way of actual hard facts about it or having much of a strategy for dealing with it, and this blog has been a major help in terms of providing tools and answers to questions I didn’t even know how to properly ask. The timing of this site’s appearance has actually been really perfect (in a sad way), since my grandfather passed away at the end of March and left me with a small inheritance I had vague thoughts of “investing” or “saving” or something but no real idea of how to go about it.

Over the past month, though, I’ve paid off my student loan debt, consolodated my multiple random savings/checking accts at multiple random banks (don’t ask) into a set of Ally accounts, started a Roth IRA, and actually sat down to make my own budget – and I don’t think I would’ve done any of that without this blog to motivate me.

♥, Billfold.

Okay I respect that there’s a lot of anti-banking sentiment in the world right now, especially in America, and while I certainly take issue with lots of banking practices (i.e. my bank charging me fees if I keep my account under $2000 but over $2000 and no fees – charging fees to the people least able to afford it is just one teeny tiny example never mind the subprime mortgage crisis, blah blah blah etc)

but “people who have money and do nothing to contribute to society” is not exactly accurate. Banks take their money and invest it in what they think are good business ideas. A lot of those good business ideas will employ people. Some of them will be innovative. Some of them will be terrible. But in any case, they certainly do contribute to society.

Also people don’t just grow money out of nowhere! Sure, lots of people are born with money, but a lot of those people have parents, grandparents, or way back ancestors who worked hard to start innovative businesses, and probably were once went into debt themselves in order to be able to do so.

Anyway, there are lots of bad reasons to go into debt, but there are also good reasons to go into debt – not just to see family or whatever, but also to invest in a product or an idea you believe in, and therefore, people who have lots of money need to exist in order to invest in and provide opportunity to people who have less money.

Then again, I guess a Marxist would see things differently.

@redheaded&crazy I don’t think Marxists have a problem with capital per se — they have a problem with who gets to benefit from it and why.

@stuffisthings no doubt you’re right, everything i know about schools of economic thought i learned from … no i never learned anything about them.

Limaceous (#30)

@redheaded&crazy “Banks take their money and invest it in what they think are good business ideas.” Yeah, no. Not really. Banks lend, which is not the same thing as invest. Investment, as you’re describing, is mostly a good thing. But that’s the difference between equity (you get the upside if an idea succeeds, but you lose your money if it fails) and debt (whether the idea succeeds or fails, you get paid back).
You are right that there are lots of good reasons to borrow money. In fact, I would take away all value judgments about good and bad reasons. The key is having a realistic plan to pay it back, as Mike Dang mentions above.

@Limaceous Ok well I absolutely have no expertise in this area. But I’m pretty sure banks also invest their money, i.e. in businesses and charities. Although when it’s a charity involved maybe the only appropriate word to use is donate. The example I’m thinking of is Scotiabank buying the Cineplex theatre chain. Wouldn’t that be called an investment? (I don’t actually know)

@redheaded&crazy switch to Ally Bank! Please! There are no fees, and they reimburse you for your atm charges. Also, they hold off sometimes putting a transaction through if you don’t have enough money in your bank account. I love them so much!

Limaceous (#30)

@redheaded&crazy I can’t speak to the Scotiabank/Cineplex deal specifically, as I don’t know anything about it (though Wikipedia says “Five Cineplex complexes are branded Scotiabank Theatres (French: Cinémas Banque Scotia), as a side deal to a customer-loyalty program agreement made in 2007 between Cineplex and Scotiabank” which doesn’t really sound like an M&A deal).
But anyway, I mostly agree with you.
I’m just skeptical of the motivations of the particular players involved, and I also believe the finance sector has gotten much larger than is strictly necessary. (So that what you describe, about investing in new business, is actually a small part of what finance actually does. Instead it’s off inventing credit-default swaps and mortgage-backed securities.)

@myrna.minkoff I actually have somewhat switched to PC (CIBC) which is a no-fee bank account. The problem is that they hold a larger portion of my cheques for a longer time than BMO which is particularly problematic because my employers don’t pay me on time! soooo it’s a transition process. good times.

8% a year (or whatever) is the price you pay to have a good time when you’re in your early 20s instead of in your late 60s. If you look at it that way, it doesn’t seem like a terrible deal.

chic noir (#713)

time that we spend on this earth is the only thing we have of value.


e (#734)

Logan, I’m not sure it makes sense to see the debt as years of your life.

As this Marxist understands it, Marx was saying that society came into being to moderate how human beings make stuff from nature. Over time we went from all being on our own, eating plants and living in trees and caves to a social structure where some people do the work, and some people reap the reward that is capital (ie money, property, power) and the “means of production/the things that make capital” (banks/factories/schools). The people who reap the reward now own most of the capital and means of production and that means other people have to give them labor to get access to the many things they own, like housing and food. Also the rich people have so much capital that over time that excess also turns into some good things like opera houses and libraries, charities and restaurants, things humanity couldn’t have enough resources to create as tree dwellers. But the issue is we don’t all benefit equally. So it’s not your time/life per se you owe, it’s your work, your effort, your labor that you put towards helping build Citibank or American Express, and anything that comes out of it.

Which brings me to you/the problem with America. In the US we really believe that we all deserve nice things and we’re all equals, even when reality would argue that we really aren’t. For instance people who are poor describe themselves as “lower middle class” and rich people say they’re “upper middle class”. And that’s not actually true!

So you see people who are told they deserve the nice things the rich people have, and that they’re really no different from those rich people who are after all, simply “upper middle class” and no mention is made of how little you can really and truly afford that. Everything is upsold. How many shirts do you really need? vs How many shirts do you feel like you need to keep up? Would you and your friends have had as much fun drinking on someone’s couch? vs Did you and your friends feel like you needed/deserve to have happy hour with $12 cocktails in a nice place wearing a shirt you just got to look new in?

And you know what? Marx actually wanted us all to have nice things. He said, over time all us poor slobs at the bottom of the heap would look up at the fancy jet peoplem and rise up and make sure everyone got a fair piece of the pie, and then we’d all be middle class, which means sadly no jets for anyone (this is the classic issue everyone has with communism), but also happily, no little kids starving in cold shacks working 18 hour days.

But Marx HAD no idea that someone would invent credit cards. Which created the illusion that we were all middle class and middle class meant living like we saw on TV where “middle class” people had mansions or huge NY apartments. So it’s not like you should beat yourself up for falling into a perception trap like that. A lot of people were fooled. Anytime one of your friends went to dinner with you at a fancy restaurant and they also made what you make per year, you were each confirming each other’s perception that what you were paying for was what people like you pay for things. Your debt is a manifestation of a shared delusion we all had for a while in this country.

One of the thing I think is so interesting to me about your perception of “worth” and value is “how good a time did we have”- and some of that is actually about things, but also it’s a lot about people. You love people, you want to hang out with people, so you use money you don’t have to make that happen. And the good thing about that is if you can shift your value system you can probably become the best picnic in the park host and free babysitter, and letter writer and volunteer and I suspect you’d ultimately be exactly the same or more happy, with just as many people who really appreciate you for you. Like you offered to buy Greg a drink at the end of this interview, but what if you said, “Thanks dude, I owe you cat sitting”?

jstar (#808)

just signed up to say:

dude. greg RULES.

3jane (#645)

I just feel like I need to comment on all of Logan’s posts to thank her for being so amazingly, unflinchingly honest about her situation. This site, and Logan’s posts in particular (but also Mike’s! Mike is great) really has made a huge difference in how I think about and approach my own debt issues and the effect my debt has on my life and my relationships. I truly, truly hope this site, Mike, and Logan get the recognition they deserve.

@jstar YES. This whole thing is so maddening.

For a long time I’ve believed that people with emotional spending issues (like myself) might benefit from having a laminated card in their wallets that says, in large friendly letters:


in the place where their credit cards used to be. And then maybe, underneath that one, another card that says:

“We deserve to exist simply because we exist, and life is full of wonderful things there for us to enjoy freely.”

which is from The Successful Self by Dorothy Rowe. Because:

“But I’m kind of always miserable? And I think that ties into it.”

Yeah. Yeah, it really, really does. Sigh.

@Katherine Farmar@twitter As this Marxish-ist would say: romanticizing poverty is a bourgeois luxury.

@stuffisthings ahhh this is a really interesting point and something causing tension in my family. for one small example, my sister lives a pretty hippie lifestyle and she doesn’t like to wear shoes, which doesn’t really bother me although she will go into grocery stores and places barefoot which i don’t know, no comment. But anyway, my grandfather growing up was too poor to afford shoes and therefore couldn’t go to school because you had to wear shoes in school. so a lot of my family perceives this as her throwing her privilege back in their faces, which isn’t how she intends it, but ahhhhhhh.

@redheaded&crazy I would put it this way: buying shit will not necessarily make you happy. But not being able to buy shit will often make you unhappy. An important distinction that often gets left out of this conversation (which is often founded on the assumption that buying/not buying a particular thing is a more-or-less unconstrained choice).

So I guess the happiest people are those who can afford to buy nice things but don’t?

@stuffisthings Buying stuff to cheer yourself up when you’re miserable (whether you can afford to or not) is a bad habit, and not an effective way to manage depression. (In fact, it makes it worse, because being in debt is bad for your self-esteem. I speak from personal experience.) I don’t see how pointing that out is romanticizing poverty.

…and, yeah, there is this weird thing where “being able to buy stuff” can make you, if not happy, at least calm and un-anxious and able to handle setbacks, while actually buying stuff doesn’t have that effect. (See also: cakes, the eating and having thereof.)

smack (#307)

I think maybe I need to stop reading this blog b/c I was thinking more about it and there is this weird itchy paternalism vibe that I get from all of this. I realize it’s not the intent but this article in particular, but also the ones where Mike lectures Logan about her feelings and tells her exactly why she’s feeling something (ex. above where she asserts she was depressed prior to acquiring debt and then was essentially just told “no, the debt is making you sad so I’m going to tell you what to do”), and that they are going to SAVE HER FROM HERSELF it just gives me the squicks.

I admire Logan’s desire to get financially straight and I know that debt can be crushing, but the vibe of these articles just comes off as icky and lecturing and, anyway. I think I recuse myself from these posts in future.

Mike Dang (#2)

@smack I don’t think saying that I understand the specifics of her situation, and that addressing her debt (which she has told me has caused her to be depressed, and says herself that it triggers depression) will help her is lecturing Logan about her feelings and telling her why she’s feeling something. We have been friends for years and we’ve talked about this for a very long time. I would not say that the debt is causing her to be depressed if she hadn’t told me that in the first place. I’m not telling her what to do. It was Logan’s decision to give me her credit cards and to address her debt. I’m just doing what I can as a friend to help her do that.

@smack I kind of agree that the chats come off as paternal. I assumed it was for entertainment value. But you know what? I get the same paternal help/lecturing in real life, which makes reading this feel even more itchy.

Based on this and the role of the male contributors here, one wonders if there is a significant difference between the way women and men look at debt. Logan’s defense of the cards (that they afforded her amazing experiences and that debt has no significance in the Cosmic Scheme) summarizes my thinking exactly, while Greg’s “You’re just saying stupid things/Sometimes you just have to be miserable” attitude is pretty much the [completely unacceptable] response I get from a male confidante. Hmm.

tenya (#833)

Shorter? “People, like you, need to learn to be miserable, while people like me have financial security and this allowed me to have the same experiences without the debt you have. But you should learn self-discipline.” I’m not really seeing where Greg demonstrates that he did, the take away seems to me “acquire a time machine and tell your parents to aggressively manage your money better as a teenager, and this will help you with your debt.” Great consolation from a friend, or advice, or whatever.

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