I write about money for a living, but being asked for financial advice makes me uncomfortable
Where will it come from? Where will it go? Do I have enough? How much should I save?
As a writer, who especially has relative editorial freedom as a freelancer, money has become a common theme in my work. For example, last summer, I contributed an essay titled, How a Low-Income Household College Student Graduated Without Massive Debt, for the Billfold, and Should You Check a Job Applicant’s Credit History?, for Business News Daily.
In the past two years, my writing has taken off and I’m forever grateful to be making a living as a full-time writer. I constantly receive feedback about my work, including constructive (and not-so-constructive) criticism, as well as love and hate mail.
In response to my money writing, I get a lot of “teach me your ways” type of comments.
But to those folks I say, please stop coming to me for financial advice.
I have minimal debt and save half of my paychecks. I keep my monthly expenses as low as possible. As an adult, I have control over my money, but only as much as a media professional. I’ve said this before, but I’m incredibly privileged to be living independently as a self-employed writer.
With that being said, everyone’s financial circumstances are different. Everyone has a different idea of what a budget even is and how much it should be. That’s why I cringe whenever I see stories about how to do things “on a budget” because budgets are incredibly relative. No single person has the same budget.
Whenever I write about money from a personal lens, the work comes from an extremely vulnerable place.
Growing up, my family relied on government programs like food stamps and Medicaid. Thinking about money makes me visibly fidget, bringing me back to a time in my life where I was too young to have control over my own finances.
I don’t expect strangers to know this about me when they reach out as readers, but I do write about money with a class consciousness.
There’s also this “pick your brain” problem that is extremely common in Millennial networking spaces. If you’re looking to break into an industry or career, all it takes is a quick LinkedIn search to find people already working in it, and then you can message them privately — I can’t tell you how often total strangers expect me to tell them everything I know about freelancing without giving me a penny. It’s exhausting.
That’s why I have prioritize who I help. I want to remain accessible to marginalized people in the media industry. At the same time, I can’t spend all day providing free professional advice, or I won’t have any time to be a small business owner.
In a similar vein, financial advice requires time out of my schedule and away from my work. It’s not that I don’t want to help. It sometimes hurts me to see other people going through what I once experienced, or even worse, without having the right answers for them. But I know I’m not the person they should come to.