Josh Michtom’s First Job: Helping Teach Argentinians English

The joy of a given job often comes down not to the salary but the intangibles: coworkers, setting, commute, and the like. This is doubly so in our teenage years.

Be Less Ambitious

Emily Layden’s excellent exploration of when a person can call herself a writer (or a painter, or a musician), given that many writers must also call themselves waiters, teachers, or lawyers, raises an interesting question about job satisfaction and how we measure success.

A Conversation With Anna Sale About ‘Death, Sex & Money’

Death, Sex & Money is a new podcast by WNYC’s Anna Sale and you should probably be listening to it. As the name suggests, its raison d’etre is discussing those taboo topics that are frequently on our minds but seldom in our conversations (just like The Billfold!). The first three episodes address topics often addressed here, like realizing you can no longer afford to live in New York, pursuing a creative career despite financial hardships and long odds, and, of course, having a former Republican Senator intervene in your love life. (That last one was featured on This American Life.) Anna was good enough to take some time to talk with me about the podcast, taboos, shame, and the challenges of adulthood.

Dear Bank: I’m Breaking Up With You

Dear Marie: It was with mixed emotions that I read your letter, in which you wrote that Liberty Bank values its relationship with me. I must confess to some serious misgivings concerning that relationship and the bank’s true feelings.

Raising Kids to Trust People but Distrust Corporations

My children are seven and 10 years old, and in teaching them to navigate the world, I find myself swimming against a great tide of distrust in the world. Despite data to the contrary, the prevailing notion among the middle class parents I meet through my kids’ suburban school is that children today simply cannot do the things that we did as children because there are too many lurking perils, principally in the form of bad people who will do bad things if given half a chance. I try to counter this notion, urging my boys to go outside, to explore the blocks surrounding our building, to make the world their own. Of course they know not to get into a stranger’s car, but I think they also know that most strangers are just people like us, people with kids of their own and jobs and places to go. Even when we talk about the people I represent in court (children charged with crimes and adults accused of abusing their children), I try to put bad deeds in the context of complex circumstances: “People are generally good,” I always tell them.

But then this: the 10-year-old is playing some seemingly innocuous game on the iPad when he asks, “Dad, what’s your email address?”

I start to tell him, then hesitate. “Why?”

“It says that if I sign up to get some emails, I can get free points in this game and…”

“Forget it,” I say. “It’s a scam.”

“What do you mean, a scam? They just want to send emails! And it’s the only way to advance to the next level!”

Of course. He thinks people are generally good. What could be the harm in sharing my email address with the folks who already proved how thoughtful they were by providing us with a FREE IPAD GAME?

So that is the dilemma: In everyday interactions, most people are good and kind. But when they organize themselves into corporations, most people are trying to get over EVERY TIME.

We Need a New Kind of Financial Advice

The vast majority of us, try as we might, are not going to be the Rich Dad, living off passive income while some hapless schlubs labor for our cigar-smoking benefit. We are going to be the schlubs. We need financial literature that recognizes this. We don’t need advice on how to be rich and idle. We need concrete tips for effectively treading water.

Debating the Value of a Public Service Career

B. is a graduate student at a major American university studying humanitarian organizations in the Middle East. (She remains anonymous because she is considering leaving academia, but doesn’t want to tell the whole world yet.) In considering a possible change in professional direction, she wrote to me to ask about my work as a public defender, and a conversation about career choices in the realm of social justice ensued. We thought it might be interesting for other people considering the (never lucrative, sometimes rewarding) world of public interest work, so we are sharing it, lightly edited for clarity, with you:

The Cost of Spring Break with School-Age Children, Illustrated and Annotated

Of all the coming sacrifices that you fail to consider when you have kids (so many!), the most insidious is how all the vacation time you accumulate will be divided in equal measure between staying home with them when they are sick and taking them places when they are on school vacation. This is not to say that raising kids isn’t wonderful and enriching and etc. etc., but for much of their lives, they are whiny travelers who insist on doing boring stuff. Important pleasures that they generally fail to appreciate include ocean sunsets, after-rain forest smell, and weekends walking around Philadelphia and getting drunk. Also, entertaining them costs money.

Tips For Hustling

The New Financial Advice is shaping up to be a real bummer: if we know anything, it is that we should expect to earn and achieve less, to be unemployed more, to carry debt always, and not to live where we want, but where we can. But beyond accommodating ourselves mentally to straitened circumstances, what shall we do? The answer, it seems, is that we shall hustle.

What Can We Do About Subconscious Racism?

Ester Bloom has joined Ta-Nehisi Coates in urging us to have a frank conversation about how to fix the massive racial injustices that inhere in our country. Coates proposes monetary reparations as an institutional remedy for the crushing toll of slavery, Jim Crow terrorism, and subsequent racist public policy. But what about the deeply ingrained attitudes, especially among white people, that perpetuate racial injustice? I don’t mean the cartoon plutocrat racism of Donald Sterling, which is ultimately a distracting anomaly. I mean the subtle favoritism that crops up in the choices we make when dating, hiring, and choosing where to live—the implicit racism we never consider. What’s the reparations for that, and are we willing to pay the price?

There’s Probably No Hope for Consumers Who Aren’t Filthy Rich

My recent interactions with my former bank have prompted me to think about the feedback loop between consumers and the companies that squeeze profit from serve them. We like to think that when companies do something stupid or abusive, market competition will allow us to express our ire by taking our hard-earned dollars somewhere else. But what happens when that just doesn’t work? (Spoiler: it mostly never works. We just get screwed and keep coming back for more.)

Hustles

There is certainly no shortage of other hustles: a couple weeks ago, a well-dressed man pitched me a story in Dunkin Donuts about having lost his wallet and run out of gas, needing to get to Bridgeport, etc., etc. The next day, apparently not recognizing me, he tried again a few blocks away. "You sold me that bill of goods yesterday!" I said, and he just walked away cursing. At least once every summer, when I’m sitting outside at the neighborhood bar down the block from my building, someone tries to run the out-of-gas hustle with an actual jerry can. I appreciate the extra investment in veracity, but I don’t offer money.