Money Diaries Must Be Stopped

Screenshot: CNBC

Oh fucking HELL, it’s the Friday before Christmas, for FUCK’S sake, and CNBC went and published a fucking money diary? And now I have to see it 400 times in my Twitter feed AND I have to read it and get mad? For my JOB???

Fine. FINE.

Yes, CNBC published a prime example of one of the internet’s most assured paths to hate clicks, a money diary from a rich tosser. The implication of these is often “so you can do it, too!” but all of them—all of them—feature some unmentioned or skimmed-over source of wealth that most people don’t have.

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Today’s Money Shitread comes from Trevor Klee, a 25 year old entrepreneur (immediate red flag). To be fair to Klee, he is more modest than many money diary subjects:

Klee is the first to acknowledge he’s benefited from both luck and privilege: “Growing up in a family that talked a lot about money was a definite advantage,” he says. “In a lot of ways, I feel like I’m good with money, but I’m playing life on ‘Easy’ mode: I’m a single guy with no dependents and I make a pretty solid income.”

Hmm. “A family that talked a lot about money” doesn’t seem like it would be a privilege, unless what he means is “a family that had a lot of money.” But I digress. Here is the breakdown of his spending, based on his annual income of $100,000:

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The article gets into more detail. His rent is $825 because he has four roommates. Four! I’ve had four roommates before, when I was making $35,000 a year and let me tell you: It sucked, and I would not have done it if I could have avoided it. (Also, even with four roommates, I was still paying about $1,000 per month, because the rent in DC is insane.) It’s not necessarily wrong not to live with roommates if you don’t mind them, which he claims (perhaps falsely?) that he doesn’t, but... Why, if you make almost twice the U.S. median household income? Why. Why!!!

Many of his costs are likely so low because he lives with so many roommates: His internet is only $20, which sounds like it must be just his share. He’s also still on his family’s cell plan, so that’s only $40.

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Klee makes his money by tutoring for the GMAT, LSAT and GRE. His big innovation? Charging more:

He owes much of his success to his own hustle. “You can get more money a lot of the time if you ask for it,” he says. “There are other GMAT or GRE tutors who charge probably like a tenth of what I charge, or at the very least, half of what I charge. I just charged more and now I make more money.”

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Absolute genius. Charge more for the thing you’re selling and you’ll make more money. This is the kind of entrepreneurial spirit you love to see, folks.

You do have to give the man credit for his large donations to charity each month:

Philanthropy is a key part of Klee’s financial picture. Each month, he donates a significant amount, around $615, to a variety of charities, including More Than Words and GiveDirectly. The bulk of his contributions go to One Family, a non-profit located in Waltham, Massachusetts, that works to end homelessness and break the cycle of poverty for local families.

“I spend money that I would otherwise spend on going out, or just putting it in savings,” he says.

It’s a worthwhile expense for Klee because, while “it’s not a significant amount of money for me,” it makes a difference for others. “It doesn’t affect my quality of life at all, and yet I’m able to actually alleviate a lot of suffering and make a lot of people’s lives better,” he says.

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That’s great. Good lad. More rich people should do this.

However, one thing that is suspiciously absent from this diary: Student loans. Klee is a graduate of Princeton University, where the estimated cost of attendance is currently $73,450 per year. How did he pay for four years of schooling without any loans? If he had loans, how much of his income would they eat up?

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Unlike other money diarists, I cannot say that Klee is a bad person, or is displaying pure unexamined privilege, or that I hope he falls down the stairs. He seems to work hard, he gives back through charity, and he doesn’t like, work for Raytheon or something; he’s not making the world much worse by charging people (who are probably also rich) lots of money for grad school test tutoring.

But I would beg CNBC and other sites that run money diaries to, please, stop. I have learned nothing from this diary, because his experience is so thoroughly impossible to replicate. Should I be trying to Do Better with my money by going back in time and having no loans, or by “just charging more” for my work? Should my husband and I move in with two other roommates? These stories are kind of interesting on a personal level, but they are terrible for any kind of insight into your own financial situation. If you already make $100,000, you don’t need a CNBC diary to help you figure out how to both spend and save.

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Further, yes, people who make $100,000 are probably doing better at spending and saving, just as I would probably be absolutely awesome at saving money if I made $1,000,000. The common thread in all these money diaries about people who spend their money well is “people who have a lot of money” or “people who don’t have loans, or whose parents pay their rent.”

I do not care. Do not tell me about these annoying people who have lots of money and yet don’t spend it all at Madewell, as I immediately would. You should be paying me to read them. Then I’ll write you a fucking money diary.

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About the author

Libby Watson

Splinter politics writer. libby.watson@splinternews.com