Flame war, party of two!

Financial Samurai wrote a post called There Is No Monopoly On Being Rich.

I wrote a long comment, he responded, and then I responded to that. By now, there’s probably a response to my response. But I’ve said what I need to say and will just get extra pissy if I go back for thirds.

That said, there are plenty of you who aren’t his key demographic. So I’d be interested to get your impressions of all this.

Maybe I am too negative. Maybe I’m reading too much into his overall message. Or maybe I’m your awesome champion of truth and pissiness. Or not.

Anyway, I’d encourage some of you in non-traditional situations to chime in with your two cents over at his blog.

Please note I DO NOT WANT A FLAME WAR. If you do meander over that way, please be polite.

That said, diverse points of view are always good — even if you’re stubborn like me and don’t like to hear them. (Because I don’t need other perspectives, since I’m always right. Duh!)

I’ve copied my comments and his response. In the interests of length, I’ve deleted some unnecessary parts of my comments, like our background.


My comment:

I think you need to be very, very careful about such generalizations.


The only reason we got any further than just “out of debt” is that I somehow stumbled on a one-of-a-kind job that combines a boss who understands health problems and the ability to telecommute. I’m telling you, these jobs just don’t exist. There is statistically no way I should be able to work to earn a livable wage right now. I’m the absolute exception to the rule.


And, yes, the vast majority of people can work full-time. So they probably have fewer excuses. But when I started my blog (because I got tired of everyone preaching about how you “should” be able to do things and their writing about struggling on two incomes) I found a lot of readers who were stuck in untenable situations — often thanks to health problems.

So there are more of us than you might think. And it’s pretty insulting and aggravating when people blithely state, essentially, that if we’re not financially comfortable it’s our own fault or our own lack of commitment. The readers with the special conditions are some of the MOST committed to finding ways to become financially stable. That doesn’t mean it happens. And they’re sure as hell not going to get rich.

In summation — and I know this is long so I apologize — there IS a kind of monopoly on being rich. Things have to go right. You have to not have health conditions that impair your ability to work. […] You have had the means and good education to get a good higher education — usually at a prestigious school. You have the temperament for work in a field with high income.

I’m not saying everything was handed to you. You had to know where to put that money, have the discipline not to spend it. But a lot of things that you take for granted… Well, you just don’t realize how much they contribute to your current situation.


His response:

What I’ve learned is that you can’t please everybody all the time, so I don’t bother. I have set backs and disabilities too,
but I’ve decided to always look on the bright side.

Why does something optimistic on my blog insult and aggravate you? If this short and sweet post makes you angry, then I fear your life is going to be even more difficult than normal.

We are always the exception. Nobody is special, or we are all special. What would you like me to do about your situation? I understand not everybody can start off on equal footing. There are always others who have it even worse, and I’m sure much worse than you. What do you say to them?


My response:

I think you misunderstood me. First of all, I was trying to be clear that I’m absolutely *not* the worst case. My point was that I am unimaginably lucky.

My point was also that most people with debilitating disabilities won’t be that lucky. They might find some part-time work. Few people drawing disability benefits can work full-time. Many can’t even work at all.

So it can be hard to read posts that seem to say that attitude is everything. The deeper implication there is that, if you’re not rich, it’s because you’re not trying. That’s the part of the message that I was trying to address.

I doubt any of that occurred to you as you wrote the piece. I didn’t think you actively had such a mentality. I certainly hope you don’t. That said, the implication is still present.
For the record, I’m not disputing that optimism is important. It does make a difference. It just isn’t always enough to get you over obstacles. Not all circumstances can be overcome with hard work and optimism. I wish they could.

As for your setbacks and disabilities… I truly hope you are using those words carefully. I know you have been flamed in the past for what people felt was a liberal use of the phrase “bleakest situation.” So when you say that you have disabilities, I really hope you are using that in its actual, literal meaning. Anything else is truly insensitive.

If you see me as an angry ranter, well I can’t change that. But I give a lot of thought to my words, and I’m mine was not meant to be an angry rant. It was not meant to tear down your argument. It was meant to point out that, whether you meant to or not, you were presenting an oversimplified view – and that it led a message you probably (hopefully) didn’t intend.


So, there it is. Thoughts? Snark? A desire, after wading through my comments,  to never, ever read another typed word?


  1. Regular says

    Another reply to your comment from Financial Samurai's post

    Jerry Curl Reply:
    October 21st, 2012 at 8:20 am

    It’s pretty sad you’re trying to tear down such a positive article. Have you read your comment again? Who would want to hang out with someone like you? No wonder why you are having such trouble!

    Only in America do overweight people use hyperthyroid as an excuse why they are overweight as millions of people around the world starve. Only in America do people use ADD as an excuse for why they can’t get a job after over a year when there are plenty of minimum wage jobs to be had. People would die to just have the opportunity to come to America and wash dishes. Only in America do people blame someone else for buying too much how or taking on too much debt.

    Looks like you have a blog too. Why not create a blog as big as Financial Samurai and generate online income, that way, you wouldn’t feel as financially constraint. I’m sure it takes a lot of work, but if Sam and what looks like many others can do it, why can’t you? Finger cramping?

    • says

      Regular: Yeah, I saw that one. There was truly no point in responding to that one, though. Even answering his questions would just sound to him like I was making excuses.

      His questions seemed weird to me, too. I've met very few people who ever mentioned hypothyroidism. Most of us overweight folks know that we sit around too much and take in too many calories. Also, I've *never* met anyone who blames ADD for not being able to get a job. Finally, I find it funny that his ending question "If many others can do it, why can't you?" was pretty much my whole point.

    • Melina says

      Really? So we should all be thrilled to have minimum wage jobs and stop moaning? Brilliant. I should have thought of that.

  2. Catseye says

    Yes, Financial Samurai's post was simplistic, to say the least. The gist of it seems to be if you're not rich, you're not trying hard enough. Really? That's all there is to it, huh? Well, I'm getting started on the road to wealth today because it's soooo blanking easy.
    I'll just say that it's obvious you and Financial Samurai have different audiences who are looking for different messages. Something tells me that your messages are more useful to me than his because you and I seem to live on the same planet. ;o)

    • says

      Catseye: Giggle. (No seriously, I giggled.) You're right: Very different demographics. I'm sure some of my readers are quite optimistic, but I assume most of them are looking for a slightly more in-depth look at wading through the general muck life throws our way.

      His blog is about money, optimism and optimal ways to spend and invest that money. Mine is about getting through/around the things we can't get over. So live and let live, I suppose. Even when the other person's viewpoint annoys (me) us or baffles (Sam) us.

      • marie says

        You are looking for people to validate your buying of fast food, hiring someone to cook for you, and to feel sorry for Tim who has a sensitive stomach and cannot eat what you cook. You just want to whine.

  3. says

    My guess: you're dealing with health issues right now…or something else. (I dunno. Your in-laws would probably drive me stark staring crazy, eventually.) Financial Samurai is being simplistic — but I'm not sure if you would have replied with such passion, had something else not been happening in your life.
    Just sayin'. I enjoy your posts very much, and often learn from them. But I do from his, too.

    • says

      Cindy: There are certain issues that push my buttons more than others. I suppose that's true of anyone. This particular issue — ignoring or being ignorant of just how many things in this world are truly out of people's control — happens to be one of them. Maybe three months on life support back in the day made me eternally cranky.

      I appreciate your kind words, and I'm glad you're able to take away something from each of our blogs. You get a much saner view of the world when you piece it together from multiple perspectives, I think.

    • says

      Oh, I don't know: I'm tempted to respond to his post with similar "passion" — and everything is going pretty darned well for me.

      BUT IT WASN'T ALWAYS!!! While I'm sure he'd like to use me as an example of how things will work out if you have the sheer willpower to *make* them work out, he'd be wrong. Sure, I worked my butt off and yes, I went without. But a piece of sheer luck turned those two actions into success.

      This comment was originally a lot longer, but I've decided to turn it into a post on my own site. Stay tuned.

  4. says

    I can and am happy to learn from anybody provided they are honest about their experiences and the background they are coming from so I can understand how they used those means to get where they are. I don't require anybody to be a copy of myself in order to agree with or benefit from their experience or knowledge, I think that'd make for a pretty lackluster and limp learning environment. So that means I've learned from Ramit, Madame X when she was around, SingleMa, MyMoneyBlog, Flexo, countless people on Fatwallet.

    That said, when I encounter certain traits that minimizes and even demeans real world experience and gravitas in the message, that either fail to or refuse to acknowledge actual complexity, even if their mission isn't to address it, I have trouble with the messenger. It hearkens to the cult of personality where if you don't agree with the main message, then you're devalued and made unwelcome.

    And perhaps we've miscontrued that the blog post was a place for conversation but then why have comments?

    Anyway, while I absolutely believe that optimism is always a required ingredient to any kind of future success, it's not the magic ingredient. You can be as optimistic as you like but that's not a strategy and it's not a help and it's not, to paraphrase, the difference between starting from a mud hut during a war or starting in a castle. Luck and skill and help all play a massive role as well.

    And I do understand where luck and good health play a huge role in life as well having lost a parent to completely crap health situations after years of dealing with it and losing their business; dealing with chronic health problems at the same time myself and having the sheer good fortune of navigating it somehow managing to keep my employment (and health insurance) long enough to build my portfolio in way to get to the next step and be relatively secure enough to work with someone who respected my work and understood health issues enough to be flexible. These things don't just happen. It was like dodging bullets with some of the people I worked with, I had to be careful who I trusted about what I said, trying to avoid being undermined because of people who had nothing better to do, etc. And I would grade my chronic condition, though pretty bad and deteriorating for me, mild, in comparison to the scale on which all chronic and debilitating diseases are for all people. And still, it knocked me back on my rear many many days of the year.

    So I have some perspective on this and I say again, you absolutely do need optimism to succeed. And you need luck and you need help and you need a heck of a lot of other factors to work in your favor in some unpredictable way. I do not know what the combination is. I just know that I have to keep trying every single day and we all have to keep doing our best to be smart with what resources we have, and be generous because at one point or another, someone was to us, for us to be where we are. And we keep going for what makes us happy. Anything else? Well, I leave that to you know, someone else to figure. Because this is a monster comment :)

    • says

      Revanche: Wow. That was quite beautifully put and I wish I had been quite so elegant in my explanation at the time.

      And, yes, in case I wasn't clear: Optimism is a HUGE part of success. If you can't see all the good things you have, then you probably won't use them to their full potential.

      • says

        Oh no, you were clear. Because I know where you were coming from and agree with you. I was just trying to see if I could say what I think we both mean without actually losing my berries. :)

        But I didn't read the post because I knew I would just boil over. I've had far too many runs of sheer shittiness in life not to see precisely where I could have ended up instead (as witness, my mother or my brother or my father). I'm the ONLY one to make it through that to be "ok". So far. And I won't say I'm really ok either but I intend to keep scmucking through as I rather have a responsibility to make the best of having been blessed/lucked/whatever this is, right? Anyway. :)

    • Rachel says

      Revanche, I'm sorry to say but I think alot of the of the bad stuff that's happened to you is because of your constant complaining and negative attitude. From you quitting your job early, to complaining about your wedding, to your parents, it's depressing and you shouldn't be surprised why you are having such a tough time.

      I'm sorry. I just had to say it. You and Abigail are just way to sensitive to a post not even directed at you.

  5. Pamela says

    Why oh why did I go an read the post you were referring to? It made me so very angry. I know so many people that live as sparse and simplicity lifestyle and they can AND work multiple jobs and will never be wealthy. Yes there are people who complain yet do nothing to change their circumstances but in my experience, that isn't always the rule.

    • says

      Pamela: Sorry to make you read something upsetting. But thank you for checking it out and responding here. (And you can always rant on here. Venting is good for the soul, no matter folks over there say.)

  6. Natalie Cats says

    Hmm, I don't know Abigail. Financial Samurai has some very good points. He's not saying everyone will be rich. He's saying if people believe they deserve to be rich, then they have "an infinitely higher chance of succeeding" compared to those who don't believe.

    Are you sure you weren't in a bad mood and just projecting your anger at his post? Your recent posts are quite dower, I'm sorry to say. Not sure if you realize it.

    I found his post uplifting. It's a short post no doubt, but if you read his other posts, they are all much longer and very instructive.

    One of the things to be aware of is your audience. I think the large majority of readers and commenters are women who have problems they like to vent. Pretty soon, it becomes a vent party if you're not careful.

    • says

      Natalie: I wasn't in a bad mood. Also, I don't think my readers are just women with problems that they need to vent. I think many of them have obstacles that they are working to overcome. (Of course, everyone does. The size and difficulty and solvability vary from person to person.)

      I am sorry that you think my recent posts have been negative. I think we've been focusing more on the future and hopefulness/improving. Perhaps it seems different to others.

      For the record, I'm glad it was uplifting for you. I have problems with it, but if it at least inspired you then that's something.

  7. says

    I disagree with points both of you made. You are both wrong on key points. You are both right in some aspects. You both don't get it–my opinion. However, since your husband made nasty remarks when I said something, I find it hard to comment.

    • says

      PP: I'm sorry if Tim's comments were hurtful. He reads the blog and he has strong opinions. He will sometimes chime in, often in sync with my own opinions. That said, if I see rude comments from him, he and I will have a little talk.

      I am sure that there are plenty of ways that Sam and I both got it wrong. It's the nature of human opinion, I'm afraid. And it's even more the nature of a comment written more or less off the cuff.

  8. eemusings says

    I do enjoy Sam's blog, but I read every post with the knowledge that he comes from a different place than I do, and a very different place from where you do.

  9. Lynn C. says

    Abigail: Read the Financial Samurai's post that started this whole thing. Find it a little simplistic. Also thought his response was very disconnected from what you had actually written in your comment. Either he just skimmed & responded in haste -OR- he's very defensive.

  10. says

    I wandered over here from your mom's blog. I didn't realize FS was who she was referring to. Seeing that blog name in your post made me cringe. There is a reason I don't follow him. :-) I work in what I see as an advocacy/helping role and it is really eye-opening to me. I came from an upper middle class family and went to a great college and was able to borrow scads of money to get a graduate degree. I am not wealthy, but I am privileged as hell.

    My work exposes me to a huge variety of people from the lower class, people whose lives and opportunities are vastly different than mine. I would literally never know that folks live like my clients or their families lived if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. Hard work is not the get-rich solution to poverty or a sh*tty lot in life. If it were, most of the working poor would be millionaires.

    • says

      I know what you mean. I never realize just how much privilege I grew up with until I see its absence. Even in such simple things as areas where most of the people don't even make it through high school. Tim's old neighborhood is full of people who dropped out in high school. Totally normal to them, bewildering to me. And it makes for very different lifestyles and outlooks than what I grew up with.

  11. oilandgarlic says

    Just wanted to throw in my support. I learned about your flame war via your mom's blog. I used to read Financial Samurai among many other pfbloggers. I stopped because many pf bloggers who focus on wealth-building tend to very un-empathetic. Here's my detailed take on why I stopped reading most finance blogs. http://oilandgarlic.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/why-

  12. Ro in San Diego says

    I also wanted to pitch in my support. I commented on your mom's blog but wanted to give you my 2 cents here. I am the child of 2 disabled parents and am very aware of the obstacles that keep disabled people from having a shot at the brass ring.

    I remember with clarity how hard almost everything was for them.

    I have a friend who was disabled as the result of an on-the-job assault 20+ years ago when she was a young, healthy woman. It takes her 6 hours to manage her pain enough to dress and manage the most basic functions. She can no longer work and is basically waiting for death. She's 59 years old. To say that she can be a millionaire is absurd. To say that she could work but she's lazy is also absurd.

    If I'm having a bad day I thank G-d it doesn't take me 6 hours to get ready for the day but I am aware that there are people out there who struggle with basic functions many of us are lucky to take for granted. Good health is not a given.

    I have been dealing with a minor health problem and I know how time consuming it can be to be restored to good health after even a minor setback. I spend several hours in physical therapy each week and envy those who don't wince in pain when they climb stairs. I recently had a friend say why didn't I just run upstairs and… I just stared at her.

    That's kind of the same thing the Samarai was telling us. It's all in our head. We're healthy even though we're not. It's overly simplifying something he doesn't understand. I'll bet money he's never had to assist his parents with personal care like I did for many years.

    • says

      Ro: Thanks for your words of support and your input. I'm sorry to hear about your current/recent health problems. Even minor ones are astonishingly draining. I think you're right — Sam is simplifying things because he doesn't get it. But the thing about not getting it… You probably never will. At least, not unless tragedy befalls him, which none of us want to see.

      I was telling my mom the other day: The only good thing about pieces like this is that they tell me the person has probably never had any serious illness and resultant struggle. Which is a good thing, even if it sometimes produces somewhat aggravating posts.

  13. Rachel says

    I really enjoyed reading Sam's post. I think the reaction you have Abigail and others is more a reflection of your own attitudes.

    I'm sorry you are having a tough time in life. I don't think Sam is saying it's your fault at all. He's just saying to continue believing, because if you don't believe, nobody else will.

    You don't want to be just a pity party because it can get very depressing. Don't confuse one commenter's response with his either.

    • says

      Rachel: I am glad you got something out of Sam's post. As for your assertion that our reactions are a reflection of our own attitudes… Well, I'm pretty sure that's par for the course with anyone reading any post. We take in things and filter them through our own attitudes and experiences (many of the former are shaped by the latter) and so create our own impression of and reaction to the piece.

      Also, I was not confusing Sam and the other commenter. Sam was polite. The other guy got a bit nasty/personal in spots.

      I'm sorry if you feel that I'm verging on a pity party. I don't feel that's the case. I do vent on here, and I do write about my own battles with depression. But by and large I think my message is that — however slowly — we're getting there. Sometimes frustratingly slowly, but we are inching forward.

  14. Ariana says

    The Samurai's post was simplistic. Seriously, you could be 100% positive and smiling while on happy pills (or not) and still not reach your financial goal because of circumstances beyond your control. The hidden truth is non-stop persistence at obtaining financial goals (with positive thinking or not). Seriously, if positive thinking was the main factor in overcoming obstacles then why are there so many people not where they want to be yet?

  15. CgK says

    Financial Samurai's post was simply a pep talk to get us to think as positively as possible about whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. I don't at all understand how you interpreted it to mean that he was oblivious to people with disabilities, or other circumstances that might curtail financial or other types of success.

    I came to your blog from your mother's blog, which I often read, and often like.

    Abigail, from reading your blog, I see you're a bright and opinionated person who is comfortable with yourself. Because of that, nothing I or others say will likely change your attitude. I can, though, share my opinion for better or worse, and that is: your posts are often whiny. You write about eating habits, hobby habits, and lifestyle habits that are expensive and self-indulgent. And yet, you seem surprised that you don't have money for the inevitable emergencies life throws in all our paths.

    • says

      Cgk: Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Yes, we are far from being as frugal as we should. It's an ongoing effort with, so far, poor results. Many depressives can struggle through and still cook most meals, coupon, etc. I have a hard time with that. I talk about ongoing efforts to get better and accepting where I won't improve. If that comes off as whiny to some… well I guess from the outside it can seem that way. And yes we certainly dig our own grave on some fronts. On others — say, the $3,000 ER bill we're paying off now and the $2,000 one we paid off from a November trip — we have bad luck.

      • CgK says

        I hear you on doing the best you can. But with your health bills: that's what I meant regarding "emergencies life throws in all our paths". Your emergencies might be health related. Mine might be the unexpected $1400 plumbing job or the torrent of rain that made me get a new $6000 roof fix years before I thought I needed it.

        I had money saved for those. EVERYONE has unexpected and even terrible things happen to them. Yours happen to be health related. You can certainly choose to feel victimized about that, but honestly, that's why I'll stick with blogs like Financial Samurai, or Donna Freedman's (your mom), but won't return to read yours.

  16. Rachel says


    You have to admit though, Abigail provides a lot of entertainment with her whining. If we are to be truthful, we must admit that we enjoy reading stories about people who have it worse than us. It is human nature.

    On the flip side, Abigail and Donna can't stand it when they see people who have it better than them, or who are so optimistic. The only thing they can do is tear the person down to feel better about themselves.

    There will always be people like Abigail and Donna. Everybody just needs to move on and accept it. The sad thing is, I don't think Abigail and Donna will ever be successful at least when it comes to blogging because of their attitudes. It's offensive they think people with disabilities can't "make it."


    • says

      Couple things:
      I make my living as a blogger.
      Neither of us said that people with disabilities CAN'T make it. We just pointed out that to some people (not only those with disabilities) have greater and sometimes insurmountable obstacles.
      To state that a level playing field exists isn't optimism. It's either simple ignorance or willful blindness.

      • Rachel says

        I thought you make your living as a writer for MSN and for other sites? There's a big difference between making a living from your own blog, and making a living from earning money from another site. Please don't confuse the two.

        It's weird that you two continue to believe there is a level playing field when it's obvious nobody believes that and nobody says so. Playing the pity card gets really old.

        • says

          My job at MSN Money is writing the Frugal Nation blog. That's what I mean when I say I make my living as a blogger.
          I just quit the Get Rich Slowly job but that was a blog, too. The only writing I'm doing that isn't blog-related is the Woman's Day magazine freelancing.
          And for the love of God, will you stop talking about pity? I never mentioned pity. Neither did Abby. We're just asking people to look outside their own lives for a little while. The opportunities you feel are yours for the taking are not universally accessible.
          Believing that they are makes you oblivious to the reality of many people's lives. Acknowledging that is not pity. It's empathy.

          • Rachel says


            OK, thanks for the clarification. So tell me, what are you doing about the reality of many people's lives? What makes you special and different from other people who live their own lives?


          • says

            What I'm doing about the reality of other people's lives:
            1. Donate to organizations that I believe make a difference.
            2. Give money to people I know are in need.
            3. Give physical support (when possible) to people who are in need.
            4. Try to start conversations with people who have never thought about the reality of other people's lives.
            5. Write about it.
            As far as what makes me "special and different," I don't believe I'm either one. But perhaps I'm misunderstanding your question.

    • worker bee says

      It must be nice living in that glass castle and knowing that nothing bad will ever happen to you. It is the self-righteousness that is really a downer. I know it was the baby's fault that it was mistreated because it did not have a positive enough attitude. Simply a pep talk by demeaning someone else is not a pep talk or simple.
      I have been reading both blogs for a while and neither one are whining.
      No, most people do not like to read about people who are worse off than they are. People read stories that inspire them to be more because the story shows away to improve or a way to be heroic.

      • Rachel says

        Look at the type of people this site attracts: Pessimistic women who have a lot to complain about. You gals are making us women look bad.

        The only demeaning people are the ones who take their lives for granted and keep on complaining how difficult life is when so many people have it way worse.

        I'd love to read the inspirational posts here! Where are they? Feel free to respond with the links.

  17. Linsey says

    I enjoyed Sam's post! Not sure why you and others are making a big deal about having a positive attitude.

    I think you are being a little too negative. In my limited experience on earth (I'm 26), I've noticed that people who are negative tend to be very insecure or jealous about others. I've had my own insecurities and jealousies, but I'm trying very hard to keep those at bay!

    • says

      Again: I'm not being negative. Neither is Abby. We're just pointing out that not everyone has the same opportunities. In other words, we're being total buzz-killers because what we're saying intrudes on your comfort zone.
      I have an incredibly positive attitude; if I weren't an optimist, I would not have made it this far. But a positive attitude does not mean you can forget about other people. As I said before, assuming everyone has the same chances isn't positive thinking. It's simple ignorance or willful blindness.
      If you have a moment, go and read the post I put up at my own site. It explains what I mean more fully than is possible in a comment.

  18. says

    I went on to read your mom's post (and struggled through a share of the comments before giving up). You've both made your points, and helped your readers learn from them. Maybe you'll just have to agree to disagree at this point…and go on.

    Sometimes that's the best option.

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