Life Hacks Money Now + Beyond

Pay your oshi: a simple money-saving trick for fans

At the start of the year, I had a startling realization: I really sucked at managing my money and savings. After years of avoiding thinking about money, I realized I just didn’t have the motivation to care. I was at a point where I was ruining myself financially through a mix of my ill-managed ADHD and a three-year mobile game obsession, but I didn’t have any reason to change my money habits other than the knowledge that it was bad. Then I remembered an old trick I heard from online friends about turning my gaming obsession into something that might solve my money problems instead.

If you’re in a similar position and find yourself needing a proper goal to help, keep reading. Keep in mind, there’s no single thing in existence that will magically make you good at managing every aspect of your finances, but this tip worked for me and several others. Today we’re going to explore a niche-saving trick I learned from Japanese idol mobage fans on Twitter: Paying your oshi, aka oshi savings.

There are a few terms we’ll need to break down quickly. For starters, oshi is a Japanese fan term that roughly is the equivalent to the English stan as used by stan Twitter groups or bias if you’re in Kpop circles. It translates to “push” and refers to your favorite character or person in a given franchise or group. 

I came across it on Twitter while running in fandom circles related to an idol-raising mobile game. This mobile game happened to be a gacha game, which means that you spend some in-game currency to draw in a virtual box filled with selected cards of all the characters. You could also use IRL money to buy the in-game currency and continue spending. One can imagine that starting a gacha game can quickly get overwhelming for the wallet, and for me, it indeed started to take a toll.

A significant factor involved in the gacha game trap comes from collecting as many cards of their oshis as possible. And in some circles, your worth as a fan is judged by how dedicated you are to getting the cards. It can get overwhelming to keep up with this lifestyle, so some fans invented a method of saving that would utilize the love for our oshis and put that into saving money. The original post for this idea was shared on Twitter and eventually deleted, but I still remembered it and put it into practice at the start of 2021.

The trick is exactly as it sounds: When you want to put away money for savings, you tell yourself you are paying the money to your oshi.

Some suggest doing this physically, like with piggy banks which you can decorate with pictures of your oshi to remind yourself why you’re doing this. Others suggest keeping a separate savings account just for your oshi so you can have a distinction. However you choose to do, the fundamentals remain the same. The idea is you’ll feel more encouraged to regularly put into your savings if you feel like someone, even just a fictional character, relies on you. 

Since the power of this trick lies in giving yourself a reason to be responsible, it can be pretty flexible in its setup. You don’t have to choose a fictional video game character to pay; you could choose your favorite idol, celebrity, or even someone you know in your real life. The options are endless, and all that matters is that you feel better about “paying” them regularly.

Admittedly, games aren’t forever, and the field of gacha games is so competitive that some games will end before even making it to the first anniversary. And sometimes, we just lose interest and no longer feel dedicated to this make-believe person we’re paying. And once that character or person you put your soul into is out of the picture, then chances are you’ll quickly lose motivation to pay them regularly as well.

But the trick isn’t meant to last forever; it’s like having training wheels. What you want is something that you feel dedicated to, which can help you get into the habit of saving money regularly. And then, hopefully, seeing the proof that you’re capable of properly saving money will be motivation enough to continue doing so without the need to rely on something like this.

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After several years of spending far more than I should on video game characters, this trick has helped me get on track again. I’ve finally found the motivation to put money into saving without feeling bad about ignoring my oshi, and I also have a healthier relationship with my games. It’s not going to replace a proper budgeting system or help you earn tons of extra money, but it’s a step in the right direction for those of us who don’t know where to begin our money journey.

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Money Now + Beyond

Here are 11 terms that will help you better understand the business world

Starting a new business is exciting but it can also be a lot to handle. There is a constant learning curve when you enter the business world until you reach a more “professional” level. When it comes to running a business, certain terms can be overwhelming for a lot of newcomers. It can be intimidating, and not always easy to navigate when these terms are thrown around with the expectation that you already know what they mean. Too often, people are scared out of the industry, especially those who were not raised to know the language or taught these words–and too often, those who aren’t always given access to learning these industry quirks are women. Jargon and industry-specific language can be barriers for those interested in growing a business, but they shouldn’t be. That’s where we come in. From assets to depreciation, here are 11 business and finance terms that will help you navigate the world of business!

1. Asset

You may have heard this word. A lot. ‘Asset’ is one of the most common business finance terms as it basically means anything that has value and can be turned into cash. Assets can be owned by companies, individuals, and the government. As far as companies go, assets can be anything that generates revenue or benefits the company in some way. When it comes to cooperation, assets are listed on the balance sheets and are netted against liability and equity.

2. Balance Sheets

Balance sheets are basically the statement of your financial position. These typically include a list of your assets, liabilities, and the owner’s equity at a certain point in time. Balance sheets also include an income statement that shows an individual’s net income for a specific period of time.

3. Liability

A liability is a sum of money that a company or individual is indebted to. Current liabilities are payable within a year or less whereas long-term liabilities have a time limit of more than a year. Liabilities are listed on balance sheets and can include taxes, wages, and accrued expenses.

4. Bookkeeping

Bookkeeping is essentially an accounting method. It involves keeping a record of all of a business’s financial affairs. It’s not so different from keeping a budget!

5. Capital

Capital refers to the total wealth of an individual or company. These can be in the form of money or other assets owned by a business. Capital is also known as “fixed capital” which refers to a business’s long-term worth. Capital can either be tangible, which refers to physical assets, or intangible like intellectual property.

6. Depreciation

If an asset loses its value, it is referred to as depreciation. For instance, if there is a decrease in the value of factory equipment. Depreciation usually occurs due to the wear and tear of the assets.

7. Gross Profit

After deducting the costs that are associated with making and selling products, the profit a company makes is known its gross profit. Gross profit can be easily calculated by subtracting the cost of items sold from the revenue.

8. Liquidity

Liquidity basically means how quickly an asset can be turned into cash at market value. Anything ranging from savings accounts or checkable accounts are known as liquid assets because they can be easily converted into cash whenever an individual or business requires it.

9. Bootstrapping

Bootstrapping essentially means being your own investor. When an individual finances their own start-up business with their own personal money, it is known as bootstrapping. The term is also used as a noun with bootstrap referring to an entrepreneur with little to no experience.

10. Debt financing

The most common method of funding start-up businesses is usually through debt financing. Debt financing entails a company borrowing money to support their business from a lender. The original amount is then paid back with an interest at a given time.

11. Secured Loan

When funding a business, a company may take a secured loan. When a secured loan is taken, the borrower pledges an asset as collateral for the loan. If the loan is not paid within the specified time period, the lender may sell the asset for market value and redeem the money lent.

It’s easy to feel like you’re not professional enough or experienced to start a new business, but without giving it a shot you won’t ever gain that experience. Being able to navigate the jargon and words thrown at you is just the beginning to standing on your own two feet as an entrepreneur and call the shots for your career. It can be difficult and frustrating at times to feel like everyone else secured an education in business or inherently was born with a copy of the Wall Street Journal in hand, but when you start to decode some of the common words tossed around you begin to realize that it’s not at all that intimidating or difficult. So here is to building your own way in business and remembering your value isn’t based on fancy words!

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Money Now + Beyond

Workplace discrimination is hurting the economy, and us

There’s no doubt that you shoot yourself in the foot when you promote workplace discrimination in any form. Racial minorities, women, and members of the LGBTQ+ community make up a huge chunk of society and with diverse backgrounds, ideologies, and beliefs come a vast pool of talent. Why would a hiring manager keep their organization from growing by turning their back on talent? 

Historically, workplace discrimination has been catastrophic for the economy. For example, before Nazi Germany extracted Jews from the workplace in the early 1930s, Jews were leading 15% of senior management in German companies that were part of the Berlin Stock Exchange. When these executives were stripped of their titles, their positions were unable to be well replaced. New management lacked the same skills and experience.

[Image description: Soldiers march by a Jewish storefront with Anti-Semitic graffiti in Nazi-occupied Vienna.] Via
[Image description: Soldiers march by a Jewish storefront with Anti-Semitic graffiti in Nazi-occupied Vienna.] Via
The consequences of this were immediate and long-lasting. After 1933, companies on the Berlin Stock Exchange saw their stock prices and profits plummet, hurling Germany’s economy into a depression that had people pointing fingers, specifically at Jewish people. On the economic front, the country had already been suffering from hyperinflation and the “war guilt clause” of the Treaty of Versailles, which held Germany responsible for World War I and demanded the country repay 132 billion gold marks ($269 billion today) in war debt. When the American stock market crashed in 1929 and caused a worldwide ripple effect, Germany had no hope of climbing from its deep financial hole. The companies who expelled their Jewish leadership shot themselves in an already bleeding foot; they did not recover for the next ten years.

It’s no different today. The effects of workplace discrimination are simple (lack of diversity equals lack of growth), but also have deep, intricate impacts on the individual level. From decreasing someone’s standard of living, barring them from certain jobs for which they are qualified, to increasing anxiety levels of people who face hostile work environments, none of the consequences are positive. 

When you hurt acceptance, whether it’s during the hiring process or within the office itself, you hurt diversity, and when there is less diversity and acceptance, you cripple productivity. And that’s when the economy suffers. 

This idea can be traced to the 1950s, a time when the Civil Rights Law had yet to exist and discrimination was the norm. University of Chicago economist Gary S. Becker argued that employers who discriminate keep them from filling their organization with productive, talented individuals. Less diversity means less productivity, which also means less profitability. 

This logic has not changed in more than 70 years. A 2013 report from the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee found that a better chunk of the top 50 Fortune 500 companies who embraced diversity increased profitability. In addition to hurting your own success when you discriminate, Becker also argued that it keeps you behind competition who do promote inclusion. In this lies a full-circle cycle of negative economic effects. 

And yet, the same issues that workers faced in the 1950s are similar to those that exist today. As recently as 2013, while federal laws prevented workplace discrimination based on race and gender, there were no laws that protected the LGBTQ+ community. It wasn’t until November 2013 that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)  was passed and directly protected workplace issues of harassment, hiring rejection, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity specifically. This was an issue since the Joint Economic Committee found that more than one in five LGBTQ+ workers faces some form of discrimination in their lives, according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center

Like most social issues, however, passing bills that prohibit discrimination doesn’t eradicate the problem. Just because there are laws against workplace prejudice does not mean that it’s not done in secret. What’s to stop a hiring manager from rejecting a woman in an interview and telling her that it’s due to her lack of skills or experience? He’s not going to tell anyone that it’s really because of sexism. 

Workplace discrimination in today’s society boils down to lingering stigmas and stereotypes from generations before. All the laws in the world can’t change the prejudice in someone’s heart overnight. That’s why community is so important in the professional world; it’s not always about the dollar signs. Coming together for shared values, identities, and experiences is crucial for groups who are underrepresented and have historically faced discrimination in their daily lives. The fight for change is ongoing but, by recognizing the strides already made, the real progress begins. 

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Money Now + Beyond

Here are some things I didn’t spend money on because of the pandemic

It’s been over a year of living in a pandemic, and it’s just starting to get back to normal. But in the past year, a huge number of us put our lives on hold. Money has become the great humbler this year for millennials and Gen Y individuals who were preparing to move onto life’s next chapter. Furlough and unemployment have a tendency to do that. So while we’re all taking these last few weeks to celebrate and introspect, let’s talk about things we couldn’t accomplish because everything’s just too expensive.

Living in a capitalist society is hard work. It’s even harder work when your bank balance does match the imaginary vision board dwelling in your head. This year has forced me to make tough decisions and I’ve had to make a lot of personal sacrifices to make peace with where I am currently. That being said, it’s very important to note that all these decisions were made after carefully weighing each element and its corresponding effect on my life. It was, truth be told, hard work to learn the basics of financial literacy. But today, I want to talk about the six things I ended up putting aside and why they would have been the case of bad timing if I ended up doing them.

1. Moving out

A GIF of Zooey Deschanel as Jess from New Girl saying 'I'm moving out of the loft' via Giphy
A GIF of Zooey Deschanel as Jess from New Girl saying ‘I’m moving out of the loft’ via Giphy.

Now that I’m grown up enough to do pretty much anything and everything, this has been on my list since university. But I’ve had to put a hold on my one-bedroom apartment with cute balcony furniture dreams because I spent most of this year on furlough. While many cities have reported cheaper rent markets, I would suggest anyone planning on moving out to wait till they’ve got enough for a rainy day. You’ll thank me for that money tip.

2. Beginning the immigration process

A GIF of Hamilton with the saying,
A GIF of Hamilton with the saying, “Immigrants we get the job done.” via Giphy

Immigration can be quite an expensive process, depending on where you’re immigrating to and from. For myself, I had to put it on pause once I realized that it’s the safest nor wisest choice to migrate to places that could easily turn into a danger zone of outbreaks during the pandemic. It was more important to prepare and make sure I was safe and financially stable.

3.  Traveling

A GIF of a pug puppy looking at a world globe via Giphy
A GIF of a pug puppy looking at a world globe via Giphy

I personally cannot believe that as an adult you’re only entitled to a certain number of leave days (depending on which country you’re from). I was planning a holiday to one of my most favorite places in the world. Unfortunately, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Till next time then.

4.  Sign up for a gym membership

A GIF of a man and a woman cycling in a gym via Giphy
A GIF of a man and a woman cycling in a gym via Giphy

I know we can pretty much do anything thanks to Ms. Chloe Ting and her workouts but I really wanted to focus on getting fit this year. Getting a gym membership during a pandemic would be a mistake. So many gyms were forced to close due to the virus, and it would have been a money drain to be stuck with membership for a place I can’t even go to. I’m very glad that this thought didn’t stick. My bank balance would have yeeted me into the sun.

5. A short-term, in-person degree

A GIF of two news reporters saying 'Expand Your Mind' via Giphy
A GIF of two news reporters saying ‘Expand Your Mind’ via Giphy

I’ve always valued learning and, while there are loads of courses that are free online, I desperately wanted to level up my skills at work by signing up for a course that required human interaction, discussion, and the classroom ambiance. It’s a good thing I missed signing up for that type of course before the pandemic. Little did I know at the time that most of my family would be using YouTube for everything in a few year’s time. For many of us, learning online ended up being an inevitability.

6. Seeing my favorite singer in concert

A GIF of BTS performing live in socially-distanced settings via Giphy
A GIF of BTS performing live in socially-distanced settings via Giphy

I had made plans to see my favorite band in concert, however, due to the pandemic; their tour has been canceled and we’ve all moved online performances. Here’s to hoping that I finally, finally see BTS in concert in 2021 and my bank balance agrees with it!

As businesses and work begin to open up again in various parts of the world, it’s still going to take some time before things become completely normal. It’s easy to feel disappointed and down about missing out on major life experiences this past year, but I’m hoping to get to these six things eventually.

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Money Now + Beyond

If money can’t buy happiness, why are we so depressed after college?

I always laugh whenever I hear “money can’t buy happiness.” While that may be true, money certainly can’t hurt! Money makes the world go round, and whether you love it, hate it, or don’t really care, I doubt there are many people who would lock their doors when Publisher’s Clearing House comes knocking. 

Why do you want to work for us? 

For the fat paycheck. 

No one would ever say this during a job interview, but in the business world, there is an unspoken understanding that money drives our goals, hard work, and ambition. Yes, money doesn’t buy the non-artificial loyalty of a real friend, or people-connecting experiences, or the joy of raising a family. But when these things are made better (and easier) by money, a special quality enters your life–not that I speak from experience (I am a 20-year-old attending American public college, which is anything but free).

Social classes defined by status and wealth still exist–and they always will. And who is the greatest perpetrator of reminding us of where we stand on that social hierarchy, of what we don’t have, and of what we are doing wrong?

Social media–specifically (at least for me), Instagram. 

Yes, I am aware of how artificial Instagram is. No one is posting pics of their eviction notices or job rejection letters; Instagram is one big competition to see who can brag the most. 

And what’s there to brag about if you’re not flaunting a shiny new Maserati in the driveway, or your vacation in the Maldives, or a selfie with the latest, yet-to-be-released Gucci bag? 

In the caption under these posts always lurks something like #riseandgrind or #hustle, as if these culture trends guarantee the kind of success glorified in the post. But I already know that the rise and grind culture is a lie and, despite knowing all this, these captions get to me every time. 

What’s their secret? What are they doing that I am not? There are so many people who are younger than I but are more successful. I am almost two years older than Youtuber Emma Chamberlain, who gets invited to Paris Fashion Week every year. Is she a harder worker than me? Am I lazy? Am I doing something wrong? 

I am not alone in these thoughts. Studies have shown that the pressure to become successful after college affects mental health. This is amplified when young people are bombarded with the success stories of people their age on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and other platforms that allow the rich to flaunt their lifestyles to people who want in. 

Do these unrealistic expectations drive ambition? Or do they promote depression when unattainable goals are not immediately met? 

What makes this pressure even more anxiety-inducing is how expensive it is to get a degree, move out of the house, and get your foot in the door–all for just an entry-level job. The real work only just begins after college, and you’re already drowning in debt when you don’t even have a house yet. The entry-level job certainly won’t make a dent. 

What were these pressures like for our parents’ generation? 

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In the past, the stigma behind success is that it comes later in life, when you are older, when you have hustled at the right pace, and took your blows when you were young. Today, that concept has been tossed out the window with all the young, new money sparkling across the Internet. Despite this, the ability to make more money than your parents has declined since 1940 (as of a 2018 Brookings Institution study), making the pressure to be successful all the more suffocating. 

Getting laid off during the pandemic certainly didn’t help, and only contributed to the feeling of being stuck, of a rut being thrown into your momentum, of a general feeling of helplessness to prevail among the younger generation trying to make a name for themselves. 

This pressure, and unrealistic success expectations when you are young, is not exclusive to 2021. Our parents lived through the inflation crisis of the 1970s, the housing market crash in 2008, and now a pandemic economy. The point of remembering all this? You are not alone. Of course, the cost of living in the 70s and 80s is nothing compared to what it is today. In 1980, the minimum wage was $3.10. In 1970, paying a $108 monthly rent (including utilities) was outlandish (it was more than what half of U.S. families paid). 

In high school, I was naive and had yet to decide what I wanted to do in life, yet I still found solace in Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book, Outliers: The Story of Success. The book taught me the value of real expectations behind success (not the unattainable glitter you’ll find on Instagram). 

Gladwell explains that while you need 1,000 hours of input to be an expert at something (my interpretation: to be successful), most of the time success depends on upbringing, life experiences, outlook, and sheer, simple luck. 

“When and where you are born, what your parents did for a living, and what the circumstances of your upbringing were make [sic] a significant difference in how well you do in the world,” Gladwell writes. It was an important quote for me in high school, and it’s just as relevant now in my 20s. 

So whenever I scroll through Instagram and start to think, God, what am I doing with my life? I remember that success has less to do with status, image, or how many vacations I take a year. It’s about feeling fulfilled on the inside, because when you are doing the best you can do in some pretty dismal circumstances, all the while maintaining your mental, emotional, and spiritual health, some things are simply out of your control. 

And when you realize that, you might just find a little peace. 

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Money Now + Beyond

I’m 30 years old and I still cannot afford a car

I’m about to turn 30 this year, and my father still drives me to work since buying a car isn’t an option for me. In his passenger seat, looking out the window, I often remember the untranslatable Welsh word hiraeth: a weighted, unnameable longing for a home that never was. Perhaps it is because this word tenderly holds the entirety of our father-daughter relationship. I became daddy’s girl on the road through decades and thousands of miles in different places we’ve made home, a bond forged on the go instead of living rooms, from my school years up until today. By now, I thought I would’ve switched seats with my father, my capable hands firmly clutching the steering wheel. But nothing could be further from the truth.

I didn’t get my driver’s license until four years ago and it rests in the back compartment of my wallet, unmoved except for its biennial renewal date. Having a parent driving me around at 30 years old is not the picture of adulthood I envisioned for myself. My younger self would have never imagined that I’d work multiple jobs and still not cut it financially, without the personal convenience of a mini red hatchback that I’ve always wanted.

The fact is, cars are expensive, even if you’re looking to buy used ones.

This reality isn’t unique to my situation. Millennials are dubbed the new ‘lost generation’, coming of age in the global financial crisis of 2008. We’re entering the workforce in an economic downturn more severe than the Great Recession while saddled with soaring student debts. We’re a generation of side hustles and gig cultures, stuck in cycles of low-paying jobs and stagnant wages. Gen-Zers are also facing the same dilemma, forcing them to look for alternative career paths and futures. Faced with grim prospects in long-term savings and wealth accumulation, it’s only natural that car buying doesn’t rank high on our priority list. There’s even a term for this: demotorization, where younger populations worldwide are losing interest in cars and are less dependent on them. 

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I wouldn’t be as bothered with car buying if I had access to an effective transportation system. Living in the poorest state of Malaysia means that I have to contend with subpar infrastructures and expensive ride-hailing services to travel. For those of us who live in areas with gaps in public transportation, having a car is a necessity that we can’t always afford. The fact is, cars are expensive, even if you’re looking to buy used ones. Here, in Malaysia, they’re notoriously costly where I’m from and we’re known for having one of the world’s highest taxes on cars

When I first voiced my car-buying intention to my father, I had no notion that it would be a harrowing process. First, I’d need to save up for a 10% down payment, which is near impossible when I can barely set aside paychecks for emergency savings. Although zero down payment schemes are available, I didn’t want to be burdened with high annual interest rates, especially in a flagging economy. 

Another concern I mulled over was the long loan tenure, which lasts up to nine years in my country to accommodate reasonable monthly installments for new car owners. However, if you have to take an extended loan period to finance your vehicle, you really can’t afford one in the first place. Then there’s also the issue of car depreciation, which makes future selling or trade-ins difficult. Cars lose their asset value over time and long-term loans mean that your car will depreciate in value faster than you’ll be able to pay it off, with high maintenance costs. Overall, the true cost of car buying isn’t listed on its price tag; it’s a hefty strain that charges interests over time beyond just financing your loans.

Looking at the bigger picture, I ultimately decided against purchasing one. I’ve had to let go of yet another marker of adulthood, on top of making the tough decision to live with my parents after university. Unfortunately, losing the freedom to travel has made huge dents in aspects of my personal growth, such as workplace choice, career advancement, hobbies, and a thriving social life. 

Still, I’m privileged and thankful to have parents who graciously understand the challenges of our current generation. Navigating life as an adult in the same home you grew up in has been a bittersweet lesson in patience and graceful acceptance. There are days when hiraeth and the grief of releasing milestones I expected to have at a certain age grow emotionally crushing. Nevertheless, I’m grateful to remain in my father’s passenger seat. As long as I have his steadfast hands and wisdom steering me, they’re reminders that I’m not alone as I continuously strive towards self-development in an increasingly uncertain future.

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Money Now + Beyond

Need finance tips? These financial advisors weigh in

I have never been one to care about money. I spend it on food like it’s my last day on this planet and I always have the need to try out every fancy eatery on the block. Before I know it, my tummy is full but my wallet is quite the opposite. In the quest of saving more and spending better, I started looking for women who would not only understand my situation but also impart their financial knowledge to me.

There is no science in saving money. The truth is, regardless of whether you are a college student, a housewife, or a businesswoman, you need to be certain of how much you are spending each month. No one can be too sure about what the future holds for them.

According to the World Health Organization, women live longer than men and earn significantly less as per data collected by the Center for American progress, even if they spend their entire life in corporate slavery. There is also the long battle that women have been fighting for centuries now: the idea that women and money have an unhealthy bond and that women are financially illiterate when compared to men.

To help you save better, I reached out to women who work, talk, spend, and save money like no other. Here is what these financial advisors had to say:

1. Use cash instead of cards

Rule one in the book of being mindful of how you spend money is to use cash instead of cards. Sarah, the head of a financial department in a well-known multinational company, shared that having a credit card made her feel like she was making purchases for free. It was only later, at the end of each month, that she realized that nothing in the world is a free lunch.

Instead, Sarah strongly suggests getting rid of that credit card as she calls it “the hub of all the extra spending.” Instead, having cash money means that you can keep a physical check on how much you are spending and hold on to your budget accordingly.

2. Dumb the debt

One thing the now 31-year-old corporate financer, Hannah, regrets is taking a loan for a luxurious car during her first job at 22 years old. She says that she is still paying the debt and does not know a way out.

“No matter how tempting a loan scheme might look like, do not fall into the trap as there is no looking back,” she said in an interview with The Tempest.

Try taking baby steps when it comes to paying off debt. Even if it means getting rid of the $500 you owe your brother. After all, a debt is a debt and you need to pay it off at the end of the day.

3. Invest in mutual funds

Neha, a 27-year-old financial advisor, calls investing in a mutual fund, “A day spent without having to work.”

She advises women of ages 21 and above to start saving and investing at least 30% of what they are earning in a month. Investing is part of saving in the long run, after all.

Many women do not know this, but you can save up to 40% of your taxes by investing in a mutual fund. A mutual fund is a type of financial vehicle made up of money collected from different investors for the purpose of investing in securities like stocks, bonds, money market instruments, and other assets.

4. Watch your finances like a hawk

Saving up without having a budget is like traveling without travel insurance. You never know what might happen next.

“You need to keep a check and balance of your finances, where and on what you are spending the money,” said Bina, a 37-year-old financial officer. “You need to be mindful and vigilant wherever money is involved, otherwise you would be at the losing end,” she added.

If you are someone who is clueless about how to watch over your money, here are few tips you can use:

  • Start by making a financial calendar. You can call it your money to-do list. Put your monthly utility bills, everyday expenditure, fuel costs, how much you spend on shopping, and, most importantly, what you are saving on this list.
  • Always set a budget. Live on a budget. Make it your life’s motto until you become responsible enough to not spend on anything and everything. Be realistic with your budgeting. If your monthly expenditure is $500, you should not expect to survive on $250. Cut short but, slowly. Try making it $400 for the first month by letting go of some luxuries.
  • Keep checking in on yourself by going back to your budget. If you won’t do it, no one else will!

5. Save first, spend after

“You need to think about saving first before you plan on spending. That is how it works,” said Tasha, a 41-year-old financial assistant for a firm in the United Kingdom. She learned this trick from an article she read in The Economic Times. 

She manages her household finances as well as her work. According to her, she has attained financial peace by making sure that she is not spending too much on unnecessary things like online deals and offers.

While taking control of your finances and planning for the future might appear intimidating, it is also something that you cannot afford to compromise on. One thing that I have learned by talking to these financial advisors is that saving is important and a must, even if it is just one penny each day. 

You can also join money-saving groups online (there are plenty of these for women, by women), such as Coupon Mamas and Couponers United. You do not have to rush into saving. It is a habit that you can develop over time. And it is only with time that you will realize how this newly acquired habit is helping you make a difference with your everyday money matters.

Happy saving!

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Money Now + Beyond

AnimalCrossing made me feel better about how little I knew about money

Like many post-college adults, I’ve begun to ask many questions about money. I’ve come to a frightening realization that I don’t know a lot. How do I handle money after college? What should I be doing with the money that I earn? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always had something of a budget plan and understanding of money. It was essential to be working part-time jobs in college to pay for groceries. I even took a few economics classes here and there. But after college, I found myself increasingly worried about areas of budgeting that I had no idea about. Suddenly, my little Excel spreadsheet felt too elementary.

I am lucky to have parents who are financially secure and able to impart a lot of these lessons over the years, but trying to do it on my own is a whole other monster. It led me down a rabbit hole of online news articles and Youtube videos, with varying amounts of helpfulness.

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What percentage of my earnings should go into emergency savings? (Answer: 6 months of spending.) What is the difference between a rainy day and an emergency savings account? (Answer: Rainy day fund is for off-hand needs, an emergency fund is for living without employment.) How much should go into a future investment? (Answer: Depends on salary but $1000 is a starting place.) What does it mean to diversify my portfolio? (Answer: Having a variety of stocks and bonds to balance out risk and reward over time.) How much can I afford to donate to charities and non-profit organizations? (Answer: Depends on your other priorities, but a lot of people donate between 2-10% of their annual income.) What is a good credit score to have? (Answer: 670 and above.)

When I first read the articles and watched videos, it felt like everyone had a more in-depth grasp of financial literacy than meor at least paid more attention when their parents were telling them about it. I spiraled through articles, took notes, and revamped my entire Excel spreadsheet. But halfway through a video, one Youtuber around my age mentioned that her understanding of budgeting and finances began with childhood games of AnimalCrossing and HarvestMoon. My brain short-circuited and I paused the video, closing my laptop in confusion.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, video games AnimalCrossing and HarvestMoon are role-playing video games where the protagonist starts a new life, starting off by buying a home or farm and finding ways to pay off that debt, similar to StarDew Valley. But I played those same video games and I can tell you that AnimalCrossing imparts about as much financial wisdom as it does knowledge of black-market trading and family monopolies. Essentially, none. You pay your debts to a dog-raccoon character in the game, so trust me when I say the creators of this video game were not thinking about trying to teach important financial lessons. 

Instead, I came to realize that just about everyone my age was still figuring out their money and finances. I wasn’t behind. I was just 23-years-old. 

In fact, I’m not alone in this feeling of confusion. A lot of my fellow post-college students are doing the exact same way. Prior to the pandemic, I went grocery shopping with a friend who had graduated from college a year before me. They work in finance, and even they began to express their own worry about needing to build an investment portfolio and feeling behind on money planning. (I hadn’t even begun to think about investing until they mentioned it.) 

But in reality, it is ridiculous for me to expect to build an entire functioning system of income, credit, investments, and donations at the age of 23. I still continue to emphasize the importance of doing research and learning how to manage your money, especially as a young and independent woman, but I’m also realizing that I’ll figure things out as I go along. I recently got a credit card to build up a history of credit. I’ve been learning about utilities and renters insurance as I’ve started to look at moving to apartments. I’m building an emergency fund that is becoming more and more relevant during the pandemic. But it’s a process of learning, and I’ll figure it out eventually.

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Money Now + Beyond

The cost of moving back home with your parents

In a lot of Asian culturesincluding my family’s Chinese and Filipino backgroundit’s common for kids to move back home to their parents’ place after college. In fact, it’s encouraged. But having been born and raised in the United States, I have been placed in the stressful situation of balancing my family culture with the Western emphasis on independence and stigma against “still living with your parents.” 

But with the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m finding that I’m not alone in this problem.

More and more of my friends are stuck at home with their parents, whether they are unemployed or working from home. According to the Pew Research Center, the majority of young adults, aged between 18 to 29 (52% in the US to be exact) are living at home with their parents. This extent of young adults flocking home has not happened since the Great Depression. It comes as young adults have been more affected by pay cuts and job losses than older generations. In fact, for those between the ages of 16 to 24, almost 30% are neither employed nor attending school. 

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As a result, I’ve had the same conversation with several friends, most of them recent college graduates who have moved back home. Despite what many may think, we are more than willing to move out. But while all of us have spoken about needing the space for a sense of self, our conversations often come to a standstill when we are unable to reconcile the financial cost of living alone during a pandemic.

With so many of us working from home, a lot of people are simply moving to live in cheaper towns, apartments and spaces where the commute to work is not a concern. However, living at home is a practical solution. It saves us a lot of money, especially during such a tumultuous time. Admittedly, not all of us live entirely cost-free with our parents. But it is a known fact that things like groceries, laundry, water and gas are sometimes easier combined with roommates. In this case, our parents happen to be the roommates.

And still, I’m seeing a lot of my college friends genuinely struggle and reconcile with themselves living back at home.

For many of my friends, we found a sense of independence in college. After all, most of us lived in our dorms with friends for the past four years or even rented spaces off-campus. Giving up this sense of independence is no small feat. Moreover, parents can drive you up the wall. Even with the most understanding parents, it’s a very different environment to being back home surrounded by your family 24/7 when you might have previously had a dorm room to yourself or some lone time in college. 

For some of us, our live-at-home situation might even have a negative impact on mental health. According to a study by Jennifer Caputo, moving back home can create a sense of failure in a culture where economic and “residential independence” is highly valued. 

A month ago, two of my former roommates and I were having this exact conversation over Zoom. One of my roommates, while living with her parents for the first few months of her new work-from-home job, eventually packed her bags and moved out. Since moving out to an apartment, she’s been happier than I’ve seen her in a while, despite now having to pay one-half of the rent. Our other roommate went back home to the Midwest. While she has a good relationship with her parents, she has been feeling the stress and pressures of living at home while studying in her master’s program. 

For myself, while I am freelance writing for different publications, it’s not enough security to move out. With the challenges of finding a job during the pandemic, such as facing historic unemployment rates in the United States, it’s not easy to find security either. The job search itself can become a stressful process.

The decision to move out of our parents’ homes comes down to the tough balancing act between financial health and mental health. It’s easy to say that your mental health should always come first, but realistically without caring for your financial health you will become unable to maintain long-term mental and physical health either. Both of those are incredibly valid and important to care for, and it’s worth considering those issues.

Ultimately, when we talk about moving back home, we have to remember that the way we handle money and finances can shape the very real mental and physical health we have. Financial health is just as important to be able to care for our relationships, especially during this downturn in the economy that the pandemic has created. It affects our relationships, not only with our parents as roommates, but our relationship with ourselves. 

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Money Now + Beyond

‘Runaway’ money and financial independence are not the same thing

If there’s one thing that my mother always taught me, it’s to have your own personal account and money stashed away. When I was younger and she told me about her own card, a different color than the family one that I’ve seen her use before, I was shocked. It disturbed me. It was as if she was keeping secrets from my father and I felt ashamed on her behalf. I was raised with the idea that, in marriage, you give yourself completely to your partner. So why would she need her own money? Was she planning on leaving? I could not wrap my head around it so I kept quiet. 

But for my mother, financial independence meant so much to her. Although she was no longer making her own money, she could feel a sense of independence through buying what she liked every now and then. It was liberating to not have to report to anyone.

In the culture that I grew up in, it is only recently that women have been able to freely open their own financial accounts. Even without legal barriers, it was frowned upon by tradition for a long time. A married woman having a personal account, that her husband could not access, was a massive red flag. It’s called ‘runaway’ money. 

This phrase, ‘runaway’ money, is used around the world when referring to bank accounts that women hold that are unconnected to their family or partner—secret or not. I always hated the way that it sounded, like it was a dark thing, almost like conning your partner. Even the idea that you would need a stash of money to one day make a quick exit implies a lack of trust in a relationship. In those terms, owning a personal bank account is an ultimate betrayal.

As I grew, however, my mother and I started a personal account on my behalf. I was about to begin my first year at college in another city, much to the disagreement of my father. Having my own account meant a lot to me as I didn’t feel bound to anyone else’s plans but my own. I could add the money that I earned into the account and pursue my own life plan. While I didn’t have a lot on my own, I wasn’t limited by anyone else’s approval. I slowly came to realize my mother’s perspective from all those years.

“Money is psychological,” said Andrea Kennedy, the author of the book Own Your Financial Freedom. It’s true. It is a testament to my mother’s independence and my own, even when we are still constrained by the lives of other people and how my father, extended family, and society expected us to be living. Having a personal account shouldn’t be shameful or a sign of distrust in a relationship. Instead, it is a validation of your sense of freedom.  

Furthermore, I eventually realized that there is an immense difference between choosing to stay in a relationship and having to. Some women genuinely believe that it is impossible to be happy in a relationship if you are dependent on your partner.  ‘Runaway’ money isn’t about having one foot already out the door; it’s about having a choice in your relationships. Every argument becomes a kind of ultimatum; either you let it slide or you cease to be able to support yourself. Today, I can understand how that kind of pressure can strain any relationship.

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Plus, whether it is said aloud or not, financial dependence creates a power hierarchy in relationships that can potentially become dangerous. Although women will always face their own financial hurdles, such as gender wage gaps and even lower credit scores, at least having a personal account can potentially set us on equal footing in our relationships.

For so long now women have been reluctant to hold their own money. They’ve been conditioned to think that it is selfish, especially if they are part of a traditional family. The labels that women have over their heads (‘daughter’, ‘mother’, ‘wife’) are all in relation to someone else. But having their own bank account and a stash of money, no matter how small, can be a step to claiming their own selves back. Money may not be a source of happiness, but it is inarguably a source of independence.

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Money Now + Beyond

Defunding the police could benefit American taxpayers. Here’s how.

Last year was a year defined by abolition movements. As a result of several killings by police officers that rightly garnered national outrage in 2020, activists have fought hard to now bring police abolition to the forefront of the American psyche. 

In particular, #BlackLivesMatter and abolition activists have been strongly critiquing the inflated police budgets in metropolitan cities within the United States of America that disproportionately outweigh the budgets of other city departments; namely, city departments that could provide citizens with better economic opportunity. Ultimately, major cities in the US receive up to billions of dollars worth of funding at the expense of American taxpayers.

As a result, police abolitionists have been demanding politicians to “defund the police” — a now controversial statement and call to action that is becoming increasingly misunderstood by the American populace. Even months after several police killings made national or global attention, the popularity of defunding police authorities among the American people is low. According to an ABC/Ipsos poll, only 39% of Americans support defunding the police, while 60% do not. 

This is because many Americans still falsely believe defunding the police would result in societal anarchy or the immediate disappearance of police officers. Rather, defunding the police is the first step towards police abolition which seeks to create a new system (over time), free of imperialism and inequity, that is more effective and beneficial for all. 

There was a police abolition campaign created last year, during the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter protests last summer, called “8 to abolition“— a multi-stepped plan to defund police authorities, encourage decarceration, and accessible housing, and decriminalize Black, Brown, and poor communities.

The 8 to abolition plan provides 8 steps to abolish the police, the first being a call to defund the policing system. Defunding the police, among many other things, entails significantly cutting the disproportionate amount of funds police departments receive from cities and reallocating those funds to under-funded aspects of the community; specifically, city departments that aid in maintaining the well-being of community residents like healthcare, education, housing, employment, and arts.

Many Americans still falsely believe defunding the police would result in societal anarchy.

In truth, upon deeper examination, defunding the police makes more economic sense than keeping the current policing system and would actually benefit most taxpayers’ pocketbooks. Notably, police budgets are expensive and take up a large part of city budgets. “Police budgets remain high in 2020, ranging from 20 to 45% of discretionary funding in major metropolitan areas,” Niall McCarthy explains in an article for Statista.

For example, the city I live in, San Antonio, Texas, spent 500 million dollars on policing in 2020. Other cities like Chicago (where the police departments are even more corrupt) spent much more on their police budgets. The Chicago Police Department (CPD) received 2 billion dollars from their city in 2020Similarly, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) had a 2020 budget of 1.7 billion, and the New York Police Department (NYPD) had a budget of a whopping 5.6 billion

In addition, states across the US spend millions of taxpayer dollars on police misconduct lawsuits.

A Rolling Stones article details the history of CPD’s history of corruption and violence. Regarding money the city of Chicago spent on police misconduct and brutality suits over the last decade, Paul Solotaroff states that “between 2010 and 2017, [Chicago] issued more than $700 million in police brutality bonds.” Correspondingly, in 2017, the NYPD spent $302 million on police misconduct lawsuits.

Consequently, these aspects of police spending and city corruption tend to fly under the radar due to confidentiality agreements and attorney-client privilege. In turn, taxpayers are essentially paying their cities at least millions of dollars for ineffective, corrupt, or downright abusive policing. So much government money is wasted on police departments across America for no valid reasons except to protect officers from legal accountability as well as to allow officers the resources to militarize against the communities they vow to “protect.”

Defunding the police could more effectively benefit taxpayers by reallocating city budgets into new avenues that could create jobs, could increase pay for government or state workers, and put government money back into the community. Sean Collins affirms this sentiment in his article for Vox stating, “Defunding police departments successfully would create a virtuous cycle, in which communities reap social and political benefits that translate into economic benefits for cities, states, and the communities themselves.” 

Between 2010 and 2017, Chicago issued more than $700 million in ‘police brutality bonds’.

Defunding the police is not only an attainable and reasonable call to action, but it’s necessary. Defunding the police would ultimately put government money where it’s most effective — invested in American citizens; more specifically, invested in the working-class communities who are the foundation of America’s economy. Thankfully, cities like Minneapolis (the city where George Floyd was murdered), Baltimore, and Austin along with Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago have defunded their police departments for the following fiscal year. These cities are instead using the reallocated money to invest in social programs, homelessness, Black and Brown communities, and more.

These are the necessary and logical steps to be taken to utilize taxpayer money to maximize financial benefits for, well, taxpayers. This money would get reinvested back into cities and states over time, creating a virtuous cycle of efficient and effective economics.

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