How privilege affects your finances

This afternoon I was training my puppy in a local dog park and I started thinking. A lot of dog trainers speak about the importance of discipline and dedication when it comes to training puppies – similar to how a lot of people talk about managing money. But I want to suggest another key factor: privilege. In this post, I will discuss how privilege affects your finances.

What does it actually take to successfully train a puppy? I’d argue it’s not discipline.

Instead, I suggest time is key. I’m lucky that my job is flexible enough that I can get out in the daylight with him. I also don’t currently have other caring responsibilities so my full focus can be on him when I’m not working. Money also helps. Buying the right equipment and paying for puppy classes goes a long way towards having a well-trained dog. Finally, space. I’m lucky enough to live in an area with plenty of green, open spaces, ideal for a happy dog. I also have a garden so he can get out whenever he likes.

With a dog, some might argue you should make sure you have these things before you get a dog, otherwise is unfair on the hound.

But, I’d argue similar principals apply to becoming rich or making money and you can’t argue this with money. Everyone needs money to survive, but for some it comes easier than others.

This is where privilege comes in.

The inspiration behind this article

In this post I will cover:

  1. What is privilege
  2. How privilege affects your finances
  3. Bold vs privilege
  4. The problem with privilege
  5. How to use privilege for good

What is privilege

The Oxford English Dictionary defines privilege as: “A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.”

Based on this definition, some might prefer to use ‘luck’ rather than ‘privilege’ in this case. However, finance is fundamentally unequal and discriminatory, so I believe ‘privilege’ is appropriate.

How privilege affects your finances

Privilege effects all aspects of finance. It starts at birth. Where you live, your parents’ income and where you go to school can all impact your prospects and financial outlook. Some studies argue your financial habits are set as young as 8 year olds. This means how you view money may be decided for you before you’re even old enough to understand money.

There’s also the question of time and responsibilities. For some of us, it’s easy to say ‘get another income stream’ or ‘take a second job’. However, we rarely acknowledge that it’s a privilege to be able to do so. Not having to worry about childcare or other vital responsibilities creates a whole range of possibilities that simply aren’t available to those that do.

The housing market is a clear example of how privilege effects our finances. Nowadays, at least in the UK, it’s very difficult to get on the housing ladder without support from your family. This means those who can access this support are given a leg up ahead of their peers, often regardless of their attitudes towards finance.

The reason this post was uploaded late…

Bold vs privilege

What does quitting your job take? What does leaving a bad relationship take? What does moving across the world take? Some might say bravery or boldness. I think it takes money. It’s very difficult to leave your job if you’re relying on it to pay next month’s rent or your food bill.

Of course, bravery comes into it too. Not everyone with plenty of money is living their dreams and making bold decisions. I don’t want to take anything away from those that work hard and achieve their dreams – that’s great and you should be proud! But, I think it’s important to acknowledge that not everyone can.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t share your story or that you haven’t overcome obstacles to get to this point. Your story can still inspire others and it’s important that everyone’s voices have been heard.  

The problem with privilege

One of my favourite quotes, although I can’t remember the original source, is: “We’re all facing the same storm, but we’re not all in the same boat.” That’s where privilege comes in.

Money, like everything else, is fundamentally unequal. This means some will benefit and others will be penalised through no fault of their own.

This isn’t to say those with privilege don’t work hard and don’t deserve their success. In an ideal world, everyone would have access to the same privilege. But, they don’t. Instead, some people have a mountain to climb just to get to the same starting point as someone else.

I go into more detail about these problems in this post.

How to use privilege for good

This is something I’ve personally wrestled with a lot recently. As someone who does come from a privileged background and still sees its benefits, it can be difficult to determine the best course of action.

The first thing to do is acknowledge your privilege. Recognise the help or systematic factors that have aided you. This also includes removing the phrase: “If I can do it, anyone can” from your vocabulary. While your story can inspire others, everyone has their own struggles and challenges, so one person doing something, doesn’t mean another can do it in the same way.

Using your money responsibly is also important. Of course, you can spend your money how you choose. But, if you’re in the privileged position of having some money left over each month, you should consider putting some away for retirement or a rainy day. That way, if your circumstances change, you won’t have to rely on anyone else to support you.

I’m also a big fan of voting with your cash. If you are in the position to choose where you buy products, buy from places that align with your values. This post from Andy perfectly sums up my feelings about avoiding Amazon where possible!  Support small businesses and those that contribute to your local economy.

If you found this post interesting, please like it and share across social media or send it to your friends. I’d also love to hear your thoughts and experiences, so please leave a comment! How would you define privilege? Do you think privilege affects how we view money? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about how privilege affects your finances.

2 responses to “How privilege affects your finances”

  1. EXCELLENT post on a topic too little discussed from this prospective.

    I am extremely fortunate that I am among the ‘privileged’. Yes, I worked hard and long hours before I retired. But, I also benefitted from luck along the way. I realize that I was NO MORE worthy of that luck than the person who didn’t get the breaks that fell my way.

    While I worked hard, I didn’t any harder than those working two jobs or more just to pay for their basic necessities.

    Again, I appreciate you sharing your perspective!

  2. I am a former full-time traveler, & was always surprised when friends would label me as “so brave!” You are right – there is a lot of privilege behind that decision & for me it was freedom from debt & recurring financial obligations.
    Excellent topic to tackle, thanks for highlighting this as there’s so much more education (or acknowledgement) needed around the reality that we aren’t operating on an equal playing field. Many tout that the strong work ethic is the driving force that gives you a leg up… No, the silent actor called privilege plays an enormous role. If only it was so simplistic as a work hard mindset!
    Constantly being mindful of “how can I pay it forward” & creating opportunities to do so vs. waiting for them to materialize could be a helpful mindset to adopt.

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