I know two extremely busy people with globetrotting habits, prominent reputations, and (in one case) an ego the size of a Big Top 747 and (in the other) a busines with eight-figure grosses. In my presence, both have sighed wistfully and looked away and muttered that they wished they could lead a balanced life like mine. I got the identical reaction from both, as though it came from some region in the base of the brain outside of conscious control.

I do have a nicely balanced life. I would like to have really thoroughly fixed-up teeth (I already go to the second-most-expensive dentist in the city, as I seem to be unusual neurologically), but that is about it as far as complaints go. Of course I’m behind on everything and I have not published enough and I never get enough done. Of course. But I’ve been like that for decades. I am now old enough to have been like a lot of things for decades.

Still, I find it difficult to avoid – what is the term? – “beating myself up” about money. My two friends mentioned above earn five or 900 times as much as I do. As I explained in my contribution to a book, nearly everyone I know has a nice solid income, even if they’re behind in their taxes, or are American (hence have to worry about getting sick), or have some other kind of expense they are putting off or afraid of.

I like to do research. I have read the only empirical book on lesbian and gay economics, Money, Myths and Change by M.V. Lee Badgett. It is all coming back because of throwaway comments posted at the acceptable face of homosexualist Hell’s Kitchen blogging, We(,) Like Sheep.

I always feel sorry for you pseudo-intellectual guys who listen to NPR and pretend to be cultural know-it-alls, but yet have an extreme inability to monetize their intelligence and are therefore relegated to living in holes in the wall in Hell’s Kitchen and share houses during the summer.

(Emphasis added; copy edited.) This commenter would be back later under the name of Steven (most ellipses sic):

I find it amazing that a guy as smart as you and with such writing skills cannot do better at monetizing his intelligence than this… Your problem is not that you need to reduce your expenses… but you need to increase your income… You may want to think about business school (I know business may be below you and your little underachieving mignons [sic] who seem to agree with your every post and keep telling you how cute and smart you are… every educated professional makes at least five or six times more than you) before the finer things of life pass you by…

Also, stop sounding bitter about your own existence and picking on those hard working professionals (bankers, lawyers, etc.) who can afford the expensive apartments you always comment on. These are people who usually [work] hard, most of time way into the night and the week ends, a times when you are usually frolicking around the city and making nothing out of your life…. I am simply tired as a successful professional with one of these hot jobs of being criticized by a group of underachievers whose only talent in life seems to revolve around their ability to correct the spelling of foreign words or using fancy English terms, and by the way, cannot get paid for it.

So! Feeling inadequate yet? Try reading all that while planning to publicly announce a retirement from an industry that has never paid enough to live on. (And never will.) Things haven’t gotten better since I made the announcement, which was excised from the ultimate podcast.

I later posted my own comment:

Of course we should all be saving for retirement, but the reality is that gays more often are artistic in one way or another, or are temperamental, or come from broken homes or difficult childhoods or single-parent families. Even if you disagree with all that, you surely will agree that proportionately fewer of us are high-earning, dual-income overachievers than straight guys….

We also place a [greater] importance on education than straight guys do. Even if you take into account those notorious class issues and the fact that people of like ilk hang around together, how many of your gay friends did not attend college or university? And education costs. Hence it is often harder for us to save money. Among other reasons, our artistic bent often means we work for ourselves, which means we have higher expenses – especially you Americans, who have to pay for medical care. It also means we have to have a decent place to live because we work from home, and decent places cost more.

The problem I see with… advice of this sort is that it is, in essence, a guilt trip. It may be irresponsible not to set aside money for retirement, but on the other hand, it may be impossible to do so [and] little privations aren’t really going to help, because the tiny savings do not put a dent in the astronomically higher expenses for which you are trying to compensate.

It is also a bit of a guilt trip because many of us like our lives pretty well and have, at most, an unemotional acceptance that it would be nice or helpful to earn more money. Essentially, we had accepted already that there are other things in life beyond money and that, to use a… commenter catchphrase, monetizing our intelligence is not the best or only thing we can do with it.

And advice of this sort assumes irresponsibility or incompetence.

  • Suggesting we pay off our credit cards because doing so confers an immediate return equivalent to the interest rate on the cards not only is mathematically false (confusing an absence of a minus for a plus), it implies we were foolishly hoarding or spending money that could have been used to pay off debt.

  • Telling us to save for retirement seems to suggest we are not already saving because we are spending extravagantly and have nothing left over.

In neither case is the obvious reality acknowledged: If we had more money we’d pay off our credit cards and save for retirement. But we don’t have more money.

How top bloggers earn money.” Yeah, monetize that intelligence, arsehole.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2007.07.18 00:56. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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