Some Advice for Eliza

  • February 8, 2024

There is an article on Substack making the rounds about a young woman named Eliza who – per the headline of the article – apparently believes that “work harder just doesn’t cut it.”

The problem is she’s not working all that much – and she’s spending way too much on the one thing a young person her age need not spend that much money on. She works a 40-hour week, which is nice work, if you can get it. She says she takes home $2,000 per month. She could take home more, if she were willing to work longer. When you’re young and single you’re free to do that because you haven’t got the responsibilities that people who have kids, for instance, have. You’re are also able to work longer and – yes, harder – because you’re young and your body can take it.

So take advantage of it.

Leverage your assets – your youth and energy and your freedom from the responsibilities, including the expenses that most older people are saddled with.

Let’s get into that.

Eliza says she spends $1,600 to rent a two bedroom apartment. Why does a single young woman need a two bedroom apartment? Who is the other bedroom for? Why not get a roommate and cut the rent in half? Eliza could be paying $800 per month rather than $1,600 per month for the luxury of having an extra bedroom no one is sleeping in. Having roommates or housemates is how you cut down living expenses when you’re young and single and just need a place to crash after work. This is how you save the money you work for, so as to be able to afford a place to live when you’re older.

If you’re a young guy, you can crash in a van – which is even cheaper living than renting a room. Once again, you are young – and this can be fun. You’re not tied down to a place – or a lease. You can follow the work without the hassle that attends having a lease. Find the local YMCA or join a cheap gym to have a place to shower. Is it worth paying essentially zero rent for a year, say? How much could you save during those 12 months? If you’re not paying  $800 per month to share an apartment with Eliza, you’d have almost $10,000 in your pocket after just one year. After two, you’d have almost $20k – and that’s enough cash to put a down payment on a first house. Your own place – with no roommates, unless you felt like having them.

Now let’s get into what the writer of the article has to say.

He says  people Eliza’s age ” . . . who don’t come from well to do households better be prepared to take out a six figure loan to make a future degree a reality. If they want to buy a vehicle, they better be ready to take out another loan on their car.” 

Why buy the degree? Unless it’s a degree in something valuable, that is. One of the great opportunities people Eliza’s age have today that people in prior ages did not have is the opportunity to pursue careers that used to require a degree to even be considered for. As an example, I’ll cite myself. I did not need the degree I have to practice journalism – in that I could write competently when I was in high school. But I had to have the degree to be considered for employment was a journalist. That is no longer true.

It has also never been necessary to get a degree – and six figure debt – to learn a trade. Electricians and plumbers and competent framers, welders and so on make more than most liberal arts college grads – and are not encumbered by six figure debt. Going to college may make sense if you are pursuing a course of study that justifies the expense. A degree in Gender Studies does not.

As far as the car: Buy one you can pay for – in cash. Do not take out a loan to get a car. Even though the cost of car ownership has gone up, there are still serviceable used cars available for $3,500 or so. They will have high miles, of course. And they may not be “nice.” But “nice” is for when you can afford it. If you have to finance it, then you can’t. Don’t be fear-addled about whether the old beater car is “reliable.” Or “safe.” If it works, it’s good. Maybe it won’t always work. Then you deal with it. Having to spend some money out of pocket for a repair that comes up is infinitely preferable than the certainly of a monthly payment. You’ll actually have money for the repair – if you’re not constantly making payments.

One of the things people Eliza’s age did get a raw deal on is government-mandated health care – which isn’t that. Your are not paying to get health care. You are being forced to pay money to the insurance mafia, which may pay for some of your care, if you ever need it. If you don’t you will still pay the mafia.

People my age and older had the freedom to not pay the mafia – and this enabled us to save money and so to have money.

But people Eloza’s age can still choose to have as little money extracted from their paychecks as possible, by choosing the least “coverage” allowable. If you work for yourself – as for example as a construction worker – and get paid in cash, don’t spend it on “coverage.” Reduce your visible income enough and you do not have to buy “coverage.” There are exemptions from the “mandate” for those who cannot afford it.

Remember: You are young and (presumably) healthy and so it is unlikely you will need “coverage.”

Live as cheaply as you can while you are young – so you won’t be forced to live harder, when you’re older.

While the author of the article about Eliza is right that times are harder, it’s also true they’ve never been easy. Back in the late 1980s, when I got out of college, I wasn’t earning much money, either. But I wasn’t spending what little I earned on a two bedroom apartment nor did I have a car payment. I lived with a bunch of dudes in a crappy townhouse and drove a beat-up old VW I paid for in cash, because it only cost about $700 and so I could. It had rusty floorpans and when it rained, I had to use an old sock to keep the windshield clear enough for me to see out of.  It did not have a Bluetooth stereo. It barely had heat.

But I didn’t have a car payment. And I paid very little rent, because all I needed when I was Eliza’s age was a place to crash. That is all anyone her age needs.

And there’s something else, which Eliza herself touches on in her teary monologue. She is “not made for this,” she says. Indeed. Feminism has pushed young women into careers – that is, into jobs – into competing for jobs, against men and and avoiding becoming moms, which is sneered upon as something other than a career. So that both can work harder – and longer – and pay more taxes.

And who pays for that?

If only she could see that.

. . .

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