a few good links

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  • I recently discovered a blog called “The Petite Pear Project”, dedicated to writing about getting dressed as a pear shaped petite woman.  I admire the narrow focus of her blog (some of the best blogs focus narrowly on one topic, and do it well).  I liked her new post on the issue of variable sizing across clothing brands, here.
  • I was moved by this Racked article about one woman’s experience of guilt over getting dressed in expensive clothes against her background of starting out poor. Having been between two classes my entire life, I can’t get dressed without thinking about class politics and feeling guilty about finances too.
  • And for those of you who are physicians or future physicians, I discovered this great new blog by Wall Street MD.  He wrote a very concise and clear article on the importance of disability insurance recently.  He personally answered a lot of my questions through e-mail.  The other day I listened to an episode of Dave Ramsey and was horrified by the bad advice he gave one poor physician who was in a deep hole of student loan debt that seemed insurmountable with her relatively small income.  At least in that episode, he was not up to date with the nuances of the student loan forgiveness programs and basically gave her advice that would cost her hundreds of thousands of dollars! I’m disturbed by how many people might have gone down a path of financial ruin by following his shallow advice.  The White Coat Investor wrote a letter to Dave Ramsey to call him out on it.  I think finally Ramsey has updated his knowledge, but for years he was giving out bad info.  This does not give me much confidence in his advice beyond some of his simpler points of paying down debt and tracking your expenses.  I want to be better informed about these personal finance gurus, so next on my reading list is this book, Pound Foolish:  The Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry.

[image:  Fan pattern on cloth at the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum]

8 thoughts on “a few good links

  1. I really enjoyed that Racked article! Although my “imposter syndrome” type feelings come from a slightly different place, I thought she really captured a discomfort I’m familiar with, this sense that I have x job and y income but it’s all temporary, it’s not really “me” or who I am. While I worked hard to get this sort of job (which I absolutely needed to pay for the education it took to get there in the first place), there’s so much luck involved. Tons of people who started law school right before or after the 2008 recession from my school, or better ones, never got those jobs and are kind of a “lost generation” of lawyers.

    I don’t have quite as much of a discomfort with shopping for myself (I seem to be good at distracting myself completely from most serious thoughts when I’m thinking about shopping), though more broadly, I feel a lot of guilt about my overall (highly indulgent) lifestyle as compared to my parents’ and my relatives’ lifestyles. This happens with a lot of my biglaw and biglaw-adjacent friends. For the most part, we each individually made more than both of our parents combined right out of the gate which is just… a lot to think about.

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    1. I’ve heard lawyers talk about the dismal job market before. It’s really sad because law school is expensive and a lot of blood sweat and tears. I’m glad to hear you dodged the recession. I would say the guilt isn’t something that is is heavily felt.. it’s barely perceptible when shopping but there’s a low level background of guilt/gratitude .. and I do think it shapes the what I choose to buy. Things can be expensive but still be humble in its appearance. No flashy watches or designer handbags.. I don’t think I could enjoy them even if I could afford them lol. To each their own though.

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  2. Thanks for the Petite Pear rec! I have nearly the same shape as the blogger (my shoulders are wider, though, so I’m more of an “hourglass”); I can relate to her frustration. Smaller sizes often assume a “ruler” shape; in addition to alterations for length, I often need to have the waist taken in on trousers or changes to the straps/sleeves on tops and dresses. It’s not the end of the world, but still extra time and effort.

    I thought the video explaining how brands select fit models was really interesting…

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  3. I’ve actually been thinking about that Racked article throughout the past week. It really resonated with me, as someone who also grew up without much disposable income (ALL of my clothing was hand me downs, or picked up in clothing swaps with friends). I now buy expensive items (and spend a lot of money on clothing each year). I actually feel less guilt about it now than I did before I was highly paid. Maybe because it felt more like a poser when I didn’t actually have the money? And because I’m not paying for stuff with student loans?

    It sounds like the woman in the article didn’t actually earn her job in the sense that she was plucked up from a Starbucks, and when the job ended, she wound up back at Starbucks. If she actually had the credentials needed for the job, surely she could have landed something other than another job back at Starbucks. I don’t feel like an impostor because if I lost my job, I have legit skills and I don’t doubt that I could get another one.

    Given that I am making financially prudent decisions (retirement savings, buying a house I could afford if my salary were cut in half or if my husband lost his job, slowly but surely building a 6-month emergency fund, getting life and disability insurance, etc), I don’t feel guilt about my expensive clothing purchases because my clothing purchases aren’t at the expense of building a strong financial framework for our life. And even though I individually make more money than my parents ever did, my parents are actually very proud of me for making prudent financial decisions, but also living a little. For example, my (penny pinching) mom has encouraged me to pursue expensive hobbies (like horseback riding) that I wanted to do when I was a kid but we couldn’t afford.

    But one thing I did feel guilt about – my pottery teacher made a comment about my LL Bean duck boots being really expensive, and I claimed they were cheap. From my perspective of spending $500 on winter boots, they are. From her perspective of buying shoes from thrift stores for $10, they’re exorbitant. I was so embarrassed, because I really do know better. I just forgot.

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    1. I think hardship lends perspective, and sometimes that perspective feels like guilt and/or gratitude.. in the end it makes us more sensitive people. And seems like you did feel sensitive toward your teachers point of view.. some people might not have been able to see it through her eyes at any point.

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      1. I love the way you put it, in terms of hardship leads to perspective that changes how you do things or how you interact with others. And you’re totally right that it feels like guilt. I don’t personally think it is guilt, at least not the textbook definition of it, even if it, whatever the feeling is, has changed my behavior in much the same way that guilt might. I also very consciously avoid visible logos on my clothing.

        After writing all this, I realize I think I push back on labeling it guilt because guilt comes with the connotation that I’m doing something wrong. Like there’s something wrong with spending my disposable income on expensive clothing. I totally wrote a long paragraph above to explain that because I’m responsible about my finances, my clothing spending isn’t wrong.

        But really, the root issue isn’t actually about how much my clothing costs or whether my financial house is in order, but about class in America. Like it’s shameful that my husband and I makes as much money as we do and combined we make way more money than we actually need for our life, even with its many (unnecessary) luxuries. There’s certainly shame for buying into this American system of economic winners and losers, though it isn’t clear how you can opt out. Regardless, robust charitable donations don’t change the shame inherent in this system.

        So that sounds a lot like guilt. But I still resist that label. Because even in poverty, in a run down house in a dangerous part of town with hand me down clothing from people at church, I had a warm and loving family, a happy home life and a great life (even if horseback riding lessons were never remotely possible). I think I resist the class guilt because it seems predicated on the idea that the lives of poor people are so terrible, how could they be worth living. And in my experience, that’s just not true. It was hard and stressful, but still very much full of joy.

        Anyways, thanks for sharing the article. It was clearly very thought provoking and I certainly would not have seen it had you not shared it.

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      2. Totally hear you on not labelling it guilt, because that implies regret and that you should be doing something different as an individual, which of course, is not the case in general, when the inequalities area a systemic problem in our society and political system. So rationally speaking, it’s not guilt. But we are human and can have perspectives from once being poor that can make us irrationally feel guilt on a micro level, even if just for a moment, and that is very real, even if totally irrational. Being poor doesn’t have to mean having a terrible existence and probably for a lot of poor people it does not, but there’s also far higher rates of trauma, drug abuse, housing instability, loss, and fear that come along with being poor. I would say that me personally I’ve been pretty lucky and look back at my childhood seeing mostly joy, honestly, but have come into contact with so many people who are poor and haven’t been as lucky and that shapes my perspective as well, which is mostly gratitude, but sometimes irrational micro moments of guilt. Thanks for being so thoughtful in your comment. I love hearing from you.

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