About This Guide
Why I wrote this guide
I wrote this guide because I’m tired. And I’m angry.
I’m tired of consumers always getting the sh*t end of the stick. I’m tired of hearing story after story of people trying to navigate the system, trying to do right for themselves and their families only to find out the game was rigged from the outset. I’m tired of seeing the sadness in clients’ eyes when they say, “why didn’t anyone teach me this?”
I get it. That was me. I was an adult, adulting my heart out, doing my best to navigate a system chock full of financial products and gobbledygook terms and gotchas and information designed to leave out key points. A system designed to hook me into a lifetime of revolving debt and interest payments. A system designed to normalize fees for products I didn’t need. And a system that convinced me I was a lucky participant in it instead of a valuable commodity being bought and sold in a for-profit financial-product marketplace.
And I’m angry.
I’m angry about all of the misinformation I see and hear about banking and credit. I’m angry about all the new financial products being marketed to consumers and the half-truths and spin being used to sell them. I’m angry at all the clever tactics they use to separate us from our money, our privacy, and our autonomy.
And my anger isn’t directed only at the institutions.
I want to scream every time I read a Twitter thread or a Reddit post or a blog article regurgitating the same old misinformation. Or when I hear a YouTube personality spouting egregious, harmful lies. And my heart breaks when I read the comments from people who think they’ve just been enlightened and informed.
Can you trust this guide?
Before you read any further let’s be clear: this guide is factual. The content has been thoroughly researched and the facts checked. My goal, always, is not to persuade or manipulate but to present facts and let them speak for themselves.
However, I make no claim that this guide is written without bias. Nor that I am without ulterior motives.
So, let’s talk about my bias.
And let’s talk about my ulterior motives.
The system is rigged. The Big Guys make the rules in their favor and then use clever marketing to convince us otherwise. There is a lot of money to be made through manipulation, obfuscation, trickery, and confusion.
My bias is that consumers are better served by being informed participants in the game than they are by opting out.
My ulterior motive is to break the system as it exists. I have this dream that if enough people understand the predatory and deceptive practices employed by banks and lenders; if enough consumers are empowered to leverage the benefits of credit without falling into the traps; if the endless stream of victims generated for secondary- and tertiary-level service providers were to dry up to a mere trickle….
Getting the most out of this guide
Money is simple. Our relationship with money is often very complex.
I present this document as a comprehensive — but not exhaustive — guide to credit. In the following three chapters, I define terms, present facts, and debunk myths. This guide is intended to inform and educate; to improve your financial literacy.
Financial literacy is a red herring. Research has demonstrated that financial literacy does not correlate to financial behavior; people with high financial literacy do not necessarily engage in positive financial behavior. And vice versa — low literacy does not ensure negative financial behavior.
But if improved literacy does not improve positive financial behavior, what does? According to research, financial behavior strongly correlates to financial socialization.
This is not to say that facts are unnecessary or unimportant — just that they are only one ingredient and are nearly worthless in isolation. Facts, without context and a framework upon which to add new understanding, will quickly dry up and blow away.
If financial behavior is not determined by or even indicative of financial literacy, simply writing a new guide or creating a new course would be a fool’s errand.
Our money behavior, habits, and beliefs are tied, inextricably, with our emotional associations regarding money. The roots of our feelings were formed first through our family and later by our peers, cultural influences, and romantic partners. So, if we — both educators and consumers — wish to positively impact financial behavior, we must work simultaneously on improving financial literacy and healthy financial socialization (or, more likely, resocialization).
My wish is that you take the information provided in this guide seriously, but not literally. Meaning I suggest you understand the factual nature of the material and then use your discretion and self-knowledge in deciding when and how to apply that knowledge to your financial decisions.
I do not believe that borrowing money is immoral. Nor that having debt is bad. Nor that paying interest is to be avoided under every single circumstance. I believe that each circumstance and each financial decision deserves to be evaluated on its own merit. It infuriates me to see those who’ve benefited from the system advise others to opt out of it. I have leveraged credit and loans to my advantage and I’ve taught many others how to do the same. I’ve also made choices that honored my own code of ethics despite financial costs. I trust you to use the information provided in this guide to make the decisions that are right for you in your own unique circumstances.
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