Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sunday Reading: Grab Bag

via Sarah C. Andersen

Today's post is a bit of a grab-bag, mostly money-related, of things that I was reading this week. Some of the links were either a bit clickbait-y or not that substantive, but they generate some food for thought and a jumping-off point for deeper discussion nonetheless.

Designer Items on Credit

I'm totally preaching to the choir here, no doubt, but I was shocked by this Refinery 29 article "21 Women On the Biggest Purchase They Made in 2016 - and Whether they Regret It." Out of the 21 women surveyed, five of them bought a designer item on credit without (it's either strongly implied or explicitly stated) having the cash set aside to cover the purchase. That way lies only madness, or at least  some serious ambivalence about where all that money went. 

As a general matter, I quite like Refinery 29's money-related features. They satisfy my ever-insatiable craving for financial voyeurism. More often than not, their money diaries imply a fair amount of financial responsibility across many income levels (though I sometimes find that the numbers don't quite add up or that some parental subsidies are implied). So it was a bit of a surprise to see them publish something that maybe plays into sexist stereotypes of women as spenders.

I don't want to sound preachy or that I'm putting myself on a moral high horse, by any means. I've done plenty of financially silly things in relatively recent memory and I hate how much contemporary American society like to judge women, in particular, for their consumption. That being said, I don't think anyone would argue that it's distressing to think that it's at all common for people to buy designer items on credit cards and let that balance sit.

Emergency Funds

This piece on "Why Emergency Funds are a Bad Idea" is particularly clickbait-y. It's gotten a little traction in some of the personal finance online communities I follow and generates some helpful discussion, mainly about why having some sort of emergency fund or cash savings buffer is actually really important. The universal response is that the article is silly. Even those who advocate extremely aggressive debt repayment and who might frown upon my six-months' basic living expenses emergency fund, given my student loans at ~7% interest, would agree that having at least $1,000 in an emergency fund is a good idea and should occur before tackling high-interest debt.

Ken Liu's Dandelion Dynasty

I recently finished Ken Liu's The Wall of Storms, the recently released second volume of his Dandelion Dynasty series.  It was fantastic, a really wild ride in the second half, and I enjoyed it more than the first volume, The Grace of Kings, which was also good. (That pattern of slower set-up in a still good first book and a dramatically faster-paced second that was therefore more enjoyable reminded me of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, incidentally.) Liu's writing style is very different from most of the other fiction authors I read, particularly in the sci-fi/fantasy genres, and it took some getting used to. Among other things, I find his characters a bit flat as a result, though I think it's an intentional stylistic choice.

I would understand entirely if a reader had trouble getting through The Grace of Kings or stalled through The Wall of Storms, but the last half of the second volume really shines and established the series and Liu's writing as something special. One of the top Goodreads reviews of Kings criticized Liu heavily for alleged poor representation of women, which I actually thought was unfair even then. I believe deeply in the importance of diversity in fiction and media, with a particular emphasis on diverse authors and voices and diversity on screen, but I still found the criticism misplaced. Either way, Storms establishes that the criticism contained in that review cannot be applied to the series as a whole: Storms is filled with women taking central stage in both political intrigue and war.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love to hear from anyone who might be reading! Please feel free to leave a comment or question.