Monday, September 23, 2019

More Money Voyeurism

via Unsplash
I have a deep fascination with voyeuristic personal finance content: The more detail contained therein, the better. In fact, those Refinery29 Money Diaries are generally not comprehensive enough for my tastes. I often find that their standard set of introductory questions - plus the listing of a week's expenses - are simply not enough information to get an accurate general sense of the diarist's overall financial picture. (I definitely don't expect all the numbers to be exact, but I do think it defeats the purpose if a major source of income or financial support is obscured.) There's lots of times when some essential information seems to be missing. Plus, probably because the comments section there is so consistently vicious, one gets the sense that the diarists self-censor a lot, so most Money Diaries are rather bland. In short, I'm always on the lookout for other sources for the kind of money-related oversharing that I crave. 

Furthermore, I also love reading discussions about that kind of oversharing-about-money content: Even with the wackiness and gratuitous nastiness of the Refinery29 Money Diaries comments section, I generally still find the comments more interesting than the diaries themselves.

Recently, I've accumulated quite a few new links in this vein that I wanted to share: 

First, there was a series of retirement savings-related discussions on Corporette, in which a few of the anonymous commenters shared their data points. These weren't very active discussions, only a small number of people participated, but I still found the comments very interesting to read. 

Corporette can be a strange internet community, and it certainly has its share of trolls and/or people who feel emboldened to say some remarkably unkind things. But the site also seems to consistently attract a wide range of people who appear to know their stuff, and who are happy to chime in when another reader asks a question about something they can advise on. I've seen some really insightful discussions of legal career-related questions, for instance, and a lot of advice that I find very credible. (Though one must always read every anonymous internet comment with a critical eye, of course.)

Anyway, I think the nature of Corporette, where one can't even make a user account to comment, and each day's discussion thread feels very "temporary" and fleeting - more so than on Reddit or other internet forums - causes people to feel more anonymous and share more candidly than they would elsewhere. So when people share personal finance-related details there, even if its just in a brief comment, I generally enjoy reading. 

Second, and speaking of Refinery29 Money Diaries, there's a small subreddit dedicated to discussing them - and also other personal finance topics - that I've been enjoying, r/MoneyDiariesACTIVE. It's definitely a less turbulent space than the actual Money Diaries comments sections. It isn't a very active subreddit, but I like that it's a fairly calm and sensible space, with a lot of that kind of "putting the personal into personal finance" chatter that I enjoy, more focused on exploring the feelings and context that go into certain money-related decisions, rather than on more technical details. It was a recommendation in this subreddit that led me to the next set of links.

Third, this Marie Claire "Couples + Money" series is fascinating. I suppose that, out of all the varieties of voyeuristic personal finance content out there, I particularly enjoy reading about how different couples handle their money. There's a wide range of approaches out there, and few definitively correct answers. (And longtime readers might recall that I also have an unseemly interest in what happens financially when a couple separates.) 

The most recent installment of this series is definitely of particular interest to me, as it features the finances of a biglaw attorney. The real wrinkle here is their non-biglaw significant other, whose monthly trust fund income might technically put her in a similar territory to a biglaw attorney with regards to the amount of money incoming (provided that tax rates on trust income are at all similar to tax rates on W-2 income, which is a big and maybe inaccurate assumption to make). For obvious reasons, I have a special fondness for dissecting stories about how biglaw and biglaw-adjacent attorneys handle their money, whether those stories are real or imagined.

And I must say, there sure is a lot to unpack here! It's a far more unusual story than most. Based off "Justin's" salary, he's probably been in biglaw for approximately five years. And it looks like he paid off ~$200,000 in student loans after approximately four years in biglaw, which is fairly aggressive and also pretty tough to do. K ultimately paid off his loans on a similar timeline, though he started out with a smaller student loan balance than "Justin." K also saved significantly more than "Justin" in that same period, however, because K and I each spend significantly less on rent, restaurants, food, travel, and even shopping (even me, with all my indulgences) than "Justin" does.

Though it's a silly impulse on my part, I always find myself a bit cheered up whenever I see additional data points showing how, actually, K and I are not being that extravagant with how much rent we pay. I derived quite a lot of that particular kind of good cheer from this article, let's just say. I know it's foolish of me. The fact that far more expensive apartments than ours exist in NYC is hardly a surprise, and it also has nothing to do with me or my finances. But it makes me feel better nonetheless.

Is anyone else fascinated by this kind of highly voyeuristic personal finance-related content? Any recommendations for more? 

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