On Living Without Credit Cards

My take: If you're even a little responsible and can set up auto-pay transfers between your bank and your credit card company, you should have a credit card and use it all the time. Capital One offers a no-fee credit card with 1.5% cash back, Amex offers a no-fee credit card with 3% cash back on groceries, and I am sure there are many others. I just couldn't imagine leaving this kind of money on the table, for fear of...losing self-control? If you are not using a credit card for these purchases, you are really adding 3% to every grocery bill, and 1.5% to every discretionary purchase. It adds up.

Posted on December 19, 2013 at 4:03 pm 0

On Airbnb is Illegal in NYC, But When There Are Dollars to Be Made...

@deepomega Well, of course hotels are going to lobby to protect their interests. But in this instance, their quasi-monopoly is also good public policy. In any case, the presence of other 'causes' (though I think causality here is extremely confusing and unclear) doesn't make the behavior of these people any better, in the least. They are breaking laws that are in place for really good reasons!

Posted on November 8, 2013 at 5:46 pm 0

On Airbnb is Illegal in NYC, But When There Are Dollars to Be Made...

@deepomega On the part of whom?

Posted on November 8, 2013 at 4:33 pm 0

On Airbnb is Illegal in NYC, But When There Are Dollars to Be Made...

I have absolutely no sympathy for New Yorkers whose Airbnb income is threatened—particularly those who rent their entire apartment—and I hope they end up owing huge fines. It's really very simple: In a supply-constrained housing market with tons of tourists, it's always going to be more lucrative to rent space to transients than to residents. I work in real estate, and I can assure you that if this continues, professional landlords will quickly shrink the arbitrage, at the expense of normal renters like you and me. If I rent an apartment to Jane and she re-rents the apartment to Adam for twice as much, it won't take me long to cut out the middleman. Operating an apartment building as a vacation rental isn't so hard; new consultants and service providers will rise up to make it more seamless for landlords, and annual leases will become both more scarce and expensive. Turning attention to Airbnb renters who reside in rent-stabilized apartments, it's hard to see their actions as anything other than completely immoral. These renters are paying below-market rents to begin with, which prevents supply and demand equilibrium, puts pressure on landlords faced with rising expenses, and raises everyone else's rents. This is an incredible gift to these tenants; that they would use it as a profit-making opportunity spits in the face of all those with housing insecurity in the city. It also makes a joke of a valuable program, implicitly threatening it.The more the landlord lobby can collect examples of rent-stabilized apartment abuse, the easier it will be to say, "This program is done, it's obviously outlived its usefulness." This is by and large incorrect, but never underestimate the power of perception. Fuck Airbnb and their transparently self-serving lobbying effort, and fuck you if you're pulling apartments out of the city's stock in order to operate an illegal hotel.

Posted on November 8, 2013 at 11:07 am 9

On Judging What We Don't Know: The Intangible Value of Status Symbols

As someone who believes the economy’s structural changes are rendering the whole notion of 'work' somewhat outdated, I’m not one to demand people’s appetites for consumption be tied to their employment or lack thereof. So the fact that someone is on “welfare” versus having a day job isn’t really relevant to the point I’m about to make. Basically: I find very strange this idea that with the very poor, we cannot begin to understand the value of the things they desire, and so we should simply let them be. This seems inapposite for the Billfold, a community where authors and commenters, in part, explore money: our desire for it, the way it affects our psyche, and the best strategies for saving and spending it wisely. When a young (probably white) post-collegiate professional writes in about financial issues, commenters love to offer suggestions. Some of them involve financial planning: open an IRA, get your company’s full 401k match, reduce credit card debt. Some of them involve behavior: drink less fancy coffee, cut the cord, check out vintage stores. In both cases, commenters assume the letter-writer’s attachment to the status quo is less important than the need for improved financial security. No one ever chastises commenters for daring to offer suggestions to strangers. I never read comments that say: “Maybe without that daily walk to Starbucks, the letter-writer wouldn't get fresh air, and she would be super- depressed, so stop being so judgmental about the coffee.” On the Suze Orman show, there’s a segment where callers ask Suze if they are in the financial position to purchase a coveted good, like a car or a fancy watch. The answer is usually ‘no’. And even though Suze may not fully understand the depth of the person’s desire for a fancy watch—even though she may never know how much the watch could “provide a boost of self-esteem”—that doesn’t mean she’s wrong. Maybe the very poor are indeed very different than you or me, but I don’t think that’s the case. If someone receives a welfare check and spends the total amount on fancy sneakers, I think it’s fair to say, hey there, wait, that’s probably not optimal. If a friend with a salary blows her whole paycheck on a pair of sneakers when she has a perfectly good pair, I think it’s fair to say, hey there, maybe that’s not the best idea. Poverty doesn’t mitigate short-sighted decisions; in fact, it amplifies the consequences of those decisions. There’s something infantilizing about this "leave them alone" attitude, almost a sense that these people are hopeless cases. I don't like that so much.

Posted on November 4, 2013 at 5:11 pm 1

On How I Got My Job: Senior Associate at a Public Relations Firm

@Mae What you've listed are all good ideas for improving the job prospects of those entering the workforce (and those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder). But with the exception of ending unpaid internships, none address what seems to be a big bugaboo on the Billfold: entrenched nepotism, and the need for connections for a resume to rise to the "top of the pile." I believe that even in a hypothetical system that allows for far more social mobility than our current system does, the issue of affinity advantages will still remain. I guess what I am saying is, "knowing someone," either because of your parents or friends or Ivy League school or whatever, is here to stay. Unless it's not. In which case, I would be interested in hearing how that will change.

Posted on October 21, 2013 at 7:19 pm 0

On How I Got My Job: Senior Associate at a Public Relations Firm

@Fig. 1 This is a great topic worthy of further exploration. When we critique "the system" as it is — and complain about how it favors the better-educated, the wealthier, those with familial connections — we rarely propose superior solutions or frameworks. (Hence my frustration with a commenter, above.) I have no idea what these solutions are, but I would love to talk about it.

Posted on October 21, 2013 at 5:00 pm 0

On How I Got My Job: Senior Associate at a Public Relations Firm

Throughout this interview, Abigail repeatedly makes the point that there’s nothing wrong with getting help from every one of your contacts, including family members. This is 100% correct. Yet I couldn’t help but wonder: Why should she have to explain and justify the fact that she pushed her contacts to the limit in order to get a job? Isn’t it obvious that this is a wise strategy? And then, of course, there’s a comment below: “To get my foot in the door in DC, I should have at least one parent in the industry with connections. Whelp. I’m fucked.” Comments like the one above reflect a naiveté about the world that is somewhat embarrassing. If you have a friend in an industry that you’d like to enter, and you send her your resume, are you “skipping the line?” If you send a resume through monster.com, do nothing else, and get offered a job, have you done something more meritorious than someone who calls every contact she has to simply secure an interview? If your father works in a career you’d like to enter, should you studiously ignore him (and the resources he could provide), in order to acquire the job with some vague sense of purity? The facts are these: We trust the people we know, we rely on the recommendations of acquaintances, and we look for common ground when vetting strangers. That’s why it’s so important to create and cultivate strong networks, rather than complain about the relative unfairness of it all. It’s just human nature.

Posted on October 21, 2013 at 3:32 pm 2

On Down to Nothing, With Few Options. What Would You Do?

@calamity I want to second this comment. Despite outward appearances, this question is most definitely not about money.

Posted on October 3, 2013 at 2:24 pm 0

On How Often Do You Go Home, Hmm?

@@fo I agree completely. I think the idea that "home" = where you grew up has a lot to do with how we've normalized a post-college city period. Nowadays, it seems like tons of young college grads sow their wild oats in a big, bustling city with the knowledge, explicit or otherwise, that they'll be heading somewhere more "practical" after a few years of fun. A surprising number of friends my age (mid- to late-20s) in New York already know they'll be heading "back home" in X number of years, once they're married, whatever. In Brooklyn, at least, I think this "grand tour" period (as Choire calls it in his great NY Mag article) has helped push up rents, as parents support children for a few years before they "head home." With such short-term horizons, the idea of buying a small place in a boring neighborhood makes no sense; better to rent a room somewhere where all your friends are. Apartment shares filled with three or four young college grads—each joint and severally liable for the lease and each with signed lease guarantees from parents—are a landlord’s dream (and a poor family’s nightmare).

Posted on September 9, 2013 at 12:58 pm 0