There seems to me, in my experience, to be a tendency in queer/leftist circles to think that personal finance is for rich white conservatives and no one else.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Marginalized people have an even greater need for sound personal finance than rich white conservatives precisely because they are marginalized.
When you are, for example, a trans woman working in the wage economy and trying to save up for surgery costs, it is a matter of grave importance to (1) live beneath your means (2) budget carefully and (3) save.
But the medical costs associated with being trans are but one example of why having a keen interest in personal finance is crucial for marginalized folks. Far greater in importance is simply the concept of financial security. After all, if you cannot achieve security from society in virtue of fitting into the normative ideals of cis straight mono heteropatriarchy, it seems to be the obvious answer is to gain security through self-insurance.
There is an intersectional worry lurking here. A common refrain in personal finance circles is that spending $5 at Starbucks everyday is counter-productive to the goals of getting out of debt and saving up for a downpayment on a house. However, the intersectional response is that when you are marginalized the daily $5 latte at Starbucks becomes a release valve for dealing with society trying to beat you down for being marginalized. Furthermore, not everyone is capable of the self-discipline required for frugality.
But is this really the message we want to be sending to our fellow queers and marginalized folks? For me, it has a ring of a self-fulfilling prophecy. It says: we should not hold ourselves to the minimal standard of living beneath our means, which I believe is possible for almost everyone. And no: it’s not about deprivation. Because we don’t have to deprive ourselves of daily coffee – we just have to find smarter options, like investing in an at-home coffee making product.
There is often an assumption that budgeting is about deprivation. But in reality it’s about prioritization. What do we value? Do we value giving Christmas presents every holiday season? Then it’s better to put a little away every month starting in January so we don’t have to put the holidays on credit, essentially giving away our money to the creditors. For every dollar we give to the banks for being in debt, we could be giving to ourselves, securing our financial future. A budget is simply a written way to prioritize what we care about.
In essence, I believe we need to working towards queering personal finance. We need to normalize frugality, budgeting, retirement, and investing in queer/leftist circles. Personal finance is not just for old white conservatives. It’s for everybody. And it’s especially important for folks on the margins because we cannot rely on society to provide us with security.
But aren’t I not assuming that marginalized folks have enough spare executive functioning to successfully engage in healthy personal finance behaviors? After all, there is a psychological cost to being on the margins. We might not have enough energy to make good financial decisions. I am fully sympathetic to this objection. But I want to make space for the possibility that many marginalized folks are likely to underestimate their own proclivity for smart financial behavior because it doesn’t fit in with stereotypes they have internalized about what kinds of folks having smart financial behavior.
Furthermore, I believe we should continue to advocate for social safety nets and work towards democratic socialism. But in the meantime us queers need to survive. It is either that or die. So in the end we have no choice: we must queer personal finance because otherwise we will inevitably fall through the cracks of normative society. To do otherwise is to let conservatives win the narrative about money: that money is something that only benefits old white people. Money can work for all of us. Indeed we must as queers learn to have our money work for us.
Do you want to work everyday until you drop dead? Neither do I. Logically then, we must as queers start thinking about retirement. That means getting serious about our personal finances. Because personal finance is after all personal. It involves the personal stake we all have in making our lives go better – and who doesn’t want that? We all stand to benefit from queering personal finance.