We have a roundup of our favourite TwoCents articles of 2018, but when it comes to money, there’s so much more to understand beyond the practical “how tos.” The ins and outs of predatory lenders and how they prey on people, what the weight of student loan debt can do to a family and a frank conversation about why the American Dream doesn’t really exist anymore are all topics worth engaging.
Below you’ll find a sampling of finance-related articles and podcasts I found thought-provoking or enraging or both in 2018. I think they give a good overview of where America is now. Many highlight injustices or parts of the system that need fixed. Others put our personal finances into perspective with the larger forces shaping them. If there’s a through line, it’s this: Our personal finances are largely anything but purely personal.
by M.H. Miller for The Baffler
“The foundational myth of an entire generation of Americans was the false promise that education was priceless—that its value was above or beyond its cost. College was not a right or a privilege but an inevitability on the way to a meaningful adulthood. What an irony that the decisions I made about college when I was seventeen have derailed such a goal.”
by Kashmir Hill for Splinter
“Over the past five years, Mondrea Hasty has had officers come to his house multiple times to arrest him, had his mugshot taken, and been handcuffed during a routine traffic stop. His 10-year-old daughter now cries when she sees a person in a police uniform, fearing they could be coming for her father.
The reason for all this? An outstanding vet bill of $127.”
by Sarah Kliff for Vox
“What stands out to me is that in all these cases, it’s essentially the hospital that gets to decide whether it wants to negotiate or reverse a bill. And if a hospital says no? If it won’t change the facility fee code, or doesn’t offer a prompt payment discount? The patient is essentially stuck. The hospital has the trump card: It can send the bill to a collection agency, a move that could devastate a patient’s credit. In those situations, there isn’t anything a patient can do to stop them.”
by Ron Lieber for The New York Times
“While the steak dinner pitch might not be a con game, it is a bit of a psychological dance. You attend, you eat free food and by the time the cheesecake arrives, you may feel you owe a salesperson a one-on-one meeting.
Then you’re on the hook. If these meals didn’t catch lots of people, salespeople wouldn’t keep paying for them.”
by Ryan Felton for Jalopnik
“That’s why Parker’s situation is emblematic of the contorted equation that drives subprime auto lending: an individual makes a mistakes or falls into financial trouble—say, they lose their job, get sick or go through an expensive divorce—and that trouble takes a hit on their credit rating. To rebuild their credit rating, they try to take on a car note, an argument deployed by lenders to support financing subprime auto purchases.
But then higher interest auto loans are associated with a higher chance of default, and a default could lead to their car being repossessed, and the repossession makes it increasingly likely they’ll file for bankruptcy, and so on.”
by Helaine Olen for The Washington Post
“The economy of the Trump era is leaning into degrading both the quality of American life and our pocketbooks. It’s not just that the Trump administration misleads about the impact of its policies (such as those discussed above) on the bottom line of most voters. It’s not just that the federal government is doing away with regulations and laws that benefit ordinary Americans. It’s that the government is saying this sort of behaviour is more than permissible — it is what we should expect. If you get ripped off, it’s on you.”
by Hidden Brain
“Scarcity takes a huge toll. It robs people of insight. And it helps to explain why, when we’re in a hole, we sometimes dig ourselves even deeper.”
by Chris Hayes’s Why Is This Happening
“What we’re seeing now with Trump’s election, when they talk about ‘making America great again,’ I would argue what they’re actually responding to is the end of that social contract. That system that they’ve paid into for 60 years, the system that told them that they could retire on the value of their homes? Well, that system is only valuable if there’s someone else on the other end to buy that home. For many Americans especially in rural suburban areas there’s no one else to buy those homes. So, you’ve paid into this system, you’ve paid off your home, but it’s worthless.”
by Claire Cain Miller for the New York Times
“Generations of girls have been told they can achieve anything they aspire to, including having both a career and children — and many women have done so. But at the same time, both work and parenting have become more demanding. The result is that women’s expectations seem to be outpacing the realities of public policy, workplace culture and family life.”
by Michael M. Phillips and Heather Gillers for the Wall Street Journal [Paywall]
“The squeeze is coming from both ends. With lifespans growing longer, the number of 60-somethings with living parents has more than doubled since 1998, to about 10 million, according to an Urban Institute analysis of University of Michigan data, and they are increasingly expensive to care for. At the same time, many boomers are helping their children deal with career or health problems, or are sharing the heavy burden of student loans.”
by Call Your Girlfriend
“We’re living in a deep time of class rage. People want to eat the rich. It’s Marie Antoinette times all over again.”
(And read co-host Aminatou Sow’s work diary in the New York Times for some money #inspiration.)
by Janelle Harris for Buzzfeed/
“PleaseGodpleaseGodpleaseGodpleaseGodplease. The sweet sound of a printing receipt broke my meditation. No one in the grocery store had said a disparaging word or given me a sideways look — not the cashier who checked me out, not the lady who stood behind me in line just as I was paying — but shame forced tears up and over my water line as I wheeled the cart to my car. I loaded a dozen bags into the trunk and dropped myself into the driver’s seat, heavy and wholly exhausted before 7 AM The cold morning air turned my breaths into tiny, white puffs as I rested my forehead against the steering wheel and sobbed.”
If you have a piece you couldn’t stop thinking about this year, leave it in the comments.