I think about money all the time. Just ask my wife. It annoys her.
I budget. I make spreadsheets. I track how much we spend each month in different categories and then adjust our next monthly budget accordingly. I keep track of our debt and make plans to reduce and eliminate it.
You might be wondering, What does this have to do with being trans? Everything and nothing.
I’m not sure if you know this, but trans people also think about money. Money — it’s not just for cis people. But talking about money can be awkward and difficult. Everybody thinks about it, worries about it, wonders how to get it, the best thing to do with it if they do get it, the things we can buy with it. But discussing how much you make is a social faux pas. Money can cause jealousy, greed, incredulity, confusion, frustration, breakups, etc.
Many millennials, myself included, weren’t given adequate financial literacy and education growing up. I went to college without really understanding the debt I was taking on. I racked up credit card debt while I was in college thinking I’d just worry about it when I got a “real” job. I went to graduate school assuming I’d make more money right away than if I just tried to find a job with my bachelor’s degree alone. Then I got a “real job” and it didn’t pay me enough to make a dent on my debt, let alone save for a home or retirement.
I’m not alone in my story. Millennials as a whole are financially strapped. We have more college debt and are struggling in an economy where wages aren’t keeping up with inflation. Millennials are also more interested in transparency regarding peer and supervisory salaries than previous generations.
The truth is that I chose to work in nonprofit work in part because I love it and I really believe in making a difference for my LGBT communities, but also because I want my student loans forgiven through Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
The hope is that after 10 years of working in nonprofit work while making monthly payments under an Income-Based Repayment plan, my debt will be forgiven. If it’s not, then I will have spent 10 years watching my school debt actually increase due to interest rates. I’m paying my school loan every month and the amount I owe is increasing. It’s criminal.
I’d like to think that I’m above worrying about money — that somehow my life doesn’t revolve around money-based decisions but on more important things like family, friends, making a difference, and helping my peers. And my life does revolve around those things, but my life has also revolved around money. I’ve moved states for the purpose of moving up in my career.
My wife and I now are doing just fine financially. We stick to a budget, but we’re fine. We’re not going hungry. But because we’re doing okay, I’m constantly worried about it all going away — that one of us will lose our job, that we’re making the wrong financial decisions, that we’ll have a medical emergency that causes us to go bankrupt, that we can’t afford children.
These are all legitimate fears. But isn’t doing okay, like we are now, exactly what we’ve worked so hard for and sacrificed for? Isn’t this the good life we want? I worry that I don’t deserve the good life I have. I feel guilty when I have nice things. Why do I have nice things when other people don’t? I almost passed on our new car because I thought I didn’t deserve such a nice vehicle. But I do deserve it. And you deserve nice things, too.