The Billfold on the Billfold (Logan and Mike Get Meta)

by Mike Dang and Logan Sachon

Logan: Hey MIKE! Let’s talk about this week on the site. Starting with the interview we just published with Jake Smith. You told me you thought I didn’t push him hard enough. Want to elaborate?

Mike: Jake was an interesting interview subject for the series because he’s very well-read — not just in terms of all those personal finance books, but he’s aware of specific struggles happening within the middle class, and about those championing those struggles, mainly Elizabeth Warren. So understanding that, and that the typical middle class household doesn’t have multiple homes and cars and hundreds of thousands of dollars to invest — it just seemed to me like there was a little bit of a disconnect. I guess I just wanted there to be a moment where he just said, “Yes, I am a part of the one percent. No question. And yes that makes me comparatively rich. But I just don’t feel that way.” Which, fair enough. You’re rich, you just don’t feel rich. You are allowed to feel however you want.

Logan: Well, he said that in his original email to me. But yeah, my sense is that while he knows everything is relative and compared to a lot of other people he’s very very well off, he doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about that comparison — he just looks at his bank accounts and thinks, if everything went to shit tomorrow, what would happen? And really, I think about this sometimes, too — I know I’m better off than a lot of people, but besides being thankful for that, how does that help me get where I need to be?

At this point, I’m very comfortable talking to people I perceive as peers about their money. The original “rich person” I talked to was a young person with a big salary and he knew it was a big salary, and so I felt like we were coming from the same place. I think we also had similar upbringings so maybe it’s less a question of age and more a question of class. Maybe I’m more comfortable talking to people I perceive of being of the same class as me. It’s harder for me to talk to older people, and people with money — I read over the chats I’ve done with trust funders, and there’s something missing in a lot of them, this sort of line between trying to connect with them as humans, which I think I do an okay job of, but also getting them to acknowledge themseves as actors in this sort of larger story about our economy (RICH PEOPLE). Which is a long way to say, yeah, I didn’t push Jake to talk about his role in the larger picture. As a not rich person, it’s pretty easy to be like, ugh, rich people ruin everything and be sort of anti-rich, but everyone is a person. But maybe I should have asked about poor people. Or maybe it doesn’t matter at all. I don’t know.

Mike: It was more that he already seemed aware that the middle and lower classes are being hollowed out, and that their anxieties and problems are much different from what he’s experiencing as someone with three homes and three cars and three years of emergency savings. And when he compares that to those being hallowed out, does he feel fortunate? Prosperous? When I was reading through the interview, I sort of anticipated what the reaction was going to be — and it went pretty much exactly how I expected it would. I had some of my own questions, but hey, we could always do a follow-up, and also, we’ll be running these kinds of interviews for as long as we want, so there will always be opportunities to ask more questions. Also, Logan, the interview was great, and you asked a lot of good questions. Okay, next topic.

Logan: Dark Caves of Depression. Martha Kaplan and I published our third chat about depression yesterday. Every time we’ve done one I’m like, ughhhh I feel like I sound like a broken record, but then there is always someone who says in the comments, “I was feeling like this, thank you,” so I think it’s worth it, you know, to further my online presence as a depressive compulsive spender with a massive consumer debt problem. Anyway. In yesterday’s chat I dropped that our relationship — you and me — is the one that is most affected by my depression, and though we’ve talked about this and around this a lot, maybe we should talk about it Right Now.

Mike: I agree, this is good. And those conversations are also very good and important because it addresses something important, mainly, that a lot of people who have problems with money aren’t just obsessed with shopping too much or are super materialistic. Those people exist, yes, but there are also a lot of deep-rooted stuff people don’t really talk about when it comes to what affects their relationship with money, and, well, you are talking about it. Your conversation with Martha is a conversation with two people who are experiencing similar things. I think it’s good that we’re going to talk a little bit about this now: What it’s like for one person with depression to interact with someone who isn’t experiencing depression, and how it affects their relationship. So, how does it affect me? Well, sometimes when your depression affects your work, it means I have to work a little bit more, which I think has an even more adverse effect on you. Because I can tell that you feel bad.

Logan: Well let’s define, a little more work. One thing that’s really terrible for you, I think, is it’s not like I just wake up and know this is going to be a terrible day for me and can be like, at 8 a.m., “Hey Mike, this is going to be a terrible day for me, can we adjust the schedule, or something.” Instead I like, oversleep or will myself out of bed and get online and say I’m going to do all the things I’m supposed to do, and then sometimes just … don’t do them. I mean, I’m trying to do them, but then an hour goes by and I’ve read 10 articles but I have nothing to say about any of them because who wants to hear what I have to say about anything, etc. And then you’re like, “Hey that post you said you were going to put up 20 minutes ago, what’s up with THAT?” So those days are really shitty for both of us, I think, but I’m the cause of that shittiness. Or my brain. My brain chemicals? (That’s a hard part for everyone with depression, which part of this am I culpable for, and which part can I really not help right now?)

And I talked about this a little yesterday, but I do wonder sometimes if maybe I had some terrible fire-breathing boss who was like, going to CUT ME UP INTO TINY PIECES if I didn’t have a post on time or woke up late, maybe I would do better? Like, I definitely definitely don’t sit at my computer and consciously think, “Oh, Mike will do it so I’ll just sit here and have fun … “ Like, it’s not fun, I’m not having fun. It really does feel like I Cannot Do It. Sometimes. And this isn’t all the time. But sometimes. God I have no idea what I’m saying.

Mike: Truth be told, it’s not like I’m always taking it in stride. It can be very frustrating. It can feel unfair. But I have other people in my life who have also struggled with depression so I’ve learned to react to it in a specific way. Getting angry doesn’t help, so if I feel upset, I table it away and get the work done and then come back to it later to address it before it builds up to something really awful. Reprimanding isn’t going to help, because you’re aware of what the problem is and why it’s a problem. The only thing we can really do is to talk openly and honestly about it and figure out a way to make it work and what we can do to make it better. That’s how a healthy working relationship should work — or ours, I think. So, the dilemma I have with you sometimes is that if you are having a terrible, dark day you won’t tell me that’s the reason until the next day. Sometimes, it’s just radio silence, and I’m left wondering, “Is she okay? What can I do to help? Should I just finish the day by myself?”

Logan: Yeah, it seems so obvious, like: Just communicate! But it can be really, really hard. But I’m very very thankful for you, I don’t know how often I tell you that. Not enough, I’m sure. I have this new job, working in a restaurant on the weekends, and I was talking to someone about it, and she said, “Are you worried you’re going to not be able to get out of bed, and that you’ll get fired?” And the answer to that is no, absolutely not, because that is the consequence of not getting out of bed for that job, right? That’s how restaurant jobs and retail jobs work. You don’t show up, you get fired. My mom sent me a really sweet email last night and said, “I was reading your chat with Martha and maybe you’re trying to make something fit that doesn’t fit,” the thing that doesn’t fit being not having to be somewhere each day. Maybe I’m the kind of person who shouldn’t actually be my own boss! In that way, we are so very different. You are more productive and focused than anyone I’ve ever met, ever.

Mike: Well, thank you. I’m not quite sure what else to say besides I think we are building something different and interesting when it comes to how people talk about money. And that I’m glad to have you on the site. Your perspective is important! And also that we’re getting better and figuring out how to make things work, and that I’m willing to keep working at it until we’re all happy. What kind of person would I be if I just sort of gave up on that? Okay, before this gets to be too much, let’s end on something happy.

Logan: God yes this serious stuff, blech. Let’s end on a high note, care of William Foster and Mr. Biscuit:

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