By Arren Kimbel-Sannit
I thought long about how I could best illustrate the impact of money or finances in my life.
I thought I might write about financial hardship, about paychecks getting stuck in the mail, or stipends getting delayed, and having to eat bread and peanut butter for a week.
I thought I might write about moving to Washington, D.C. for a semester, where food is more expensive than in my native Phoenix and where train tickets drained my bank account, where I had to hitchhike when I couldn’t afford a cab.
And sure, that would likely illustrate my point. But that point would be simple: Money is nice, and it’s tough when you don’t have it. Moreover, that point would be reductive. Because, as a middle-class white man, I was born into immense privilege, and I have never really understood what it’s like to be without money or without support. No belt-tightening will ever change that for me, because I will always have greater opportunity than most others.
Chances are, I will never really go hungry. There may be times when I’ll live paycheck-to-paycheck, but I will never truly be without, in a real sense of the word.
Because I am in college thanks to support from my family. I can afford to take unpaid internships, to work low-paying jobs at the student newspaper and to live in D.C. for a semester because I know that, even if all else fails, I have a network to catch me.
And as a business journalist, I need to understand the disparity between how I value money and how those who have not had the opportunity and privilege I’ve had value it. Otherwise, I risk conflation of two very different realities, and that will hinder my reporting, my reputability and my accuracy. Others in business journalism, which in my view often prioritizes covering corporate returns over the lives of people in underserved communities, must come to the same realization.
I understand that I’ve yet to really answer the question. So I will: this article made me realize the role of money in my life.
For this article, I will be paid $100. It will take me a little over an hour to write and proofread. In other words, in one hour, I will be paid significantly more than many other 20-year-olds will make in one day, especially if they live in a state without its own minimum wage, defaulting to the federally mandated $7.25 an hour. It’s true, I am likely more specialized than an average 20-year-old worker on the minimum wage, and the market has deemed it can bear my $100 payout.
But think for a moment about why I am more specialized. I wasn’t born that way. I am no more deserving to be in a position to earn $100 an hour than anyone else. There’s a valid argument that, as someone who comes from a privileged family I am in fact less deserving than others. Instead, I’ve achieved my level of market specialization because I never had to take time off school to support my family, because I could take the time to hone a skill that contributes relatively little to the economy.
So, what did I learn about finances? I learned that I don’t have a clue.