In this week's Weekend Reads, we look at understanding money problems when you're giving advice, building a house with nothing but a YouTube stream, and the life and death of an American legend: The Happy Meal.
We give a lot of advice here at PolicyGenius. Some might say too much advice, and that the hard-working writers should be given a break, but apparently my editor disagrees. Anyway, it's hard to give everyone the perfect advice. Often you work in generalizations, providing a template for how people could do things rather than how they should do things for their exact situation. It's not that that's isn't valuable, but sometimes it's easy to forget the nuisances. Maybe someone doesn't have enough saved up for retirement because they really are buying too many lattes, or maybe it's because they're drowning in student loan debt, or maybe it's because all but one health insurance provider pulled out of their county so they don't have an affordable option, or maybe an economic crisis sunk all of the savings they did have. This article from Living Rich Cheaply reminds us (everyone, not just personal finance advice bloggers) to have empathy - and that's not the same as providing a financial framework.
Okay, I'll skip straight past the YouTube cat videos joke and get to the point: YouTube can be a valuable resource for DIYers who can learn to change a faucet or install crown molding without needing to shell out for an expert. But this situation is insane. A woman and her family, having fallen on hard times and unable to afford a house, built one themselves. Like, the whole thing. From framing to the welcome mat (okay, maybe they bought the welcome mat). The home is now worth five times what it cost to build. That's the definition of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. Maybe not everyone can go to this extent, but it gives you confidence that you can at least google how to swap out your cabinet handles, right?
McDonald's Happy Meals. They're as American as baseball and apple pie. Don't read too much into the fact that this is publishing on Inauguration Day, but a part of America is dying. Happy Meal toys are becoming fewer, the meals are becoming healthier. What are we supposed to do? Happy Meals represent the best and worst of America: Fancying up gross, unhealthy food; marketing directly to children; inviting countless lawsuits; blatant commercialism with movie and television tie-ins. Heck, they even helped fuel the Beanie Baby craze! So pour one out this weekend for the Happy Meal. Looks like it's salads and Chipotle from here on out.