We’ve officially corrupted some youths with our subversive anti-consumerism, frugal weirdo manifesto. Mr. Frugalwoods and I had the honor of delivering a presentation to New York University students on Wednesday about the alternative path we’re taking through life. These eager, intelligent young people only seemed mildly shocked by the concept of early retirement and, based on their insightful questions, they know A LOT more about personal finance than I did as an undergraduate.
Erin of Broke Millennial also presented and we served on a panel together. She is charming, witty, and has a fabulous repertoire of knowledge on all things credit, debt repayment, banking, and more. I learned a great deal from both Erin’s presentation and our subsequent conversation. I love meeting people who nerd out over personal finance as much as I do!
The Q&A section of our panel ran long and we could’ve continued Q-ing and A-ing long into the night. To say that it’s invigorating to share our passion for living a savvy, frugal life is a major understatement. I’ve never presented on anything that I’ve felt so astoundingly passionate about. Speaking to groups of folks about early retirement and frugality wasn’t necessarily on our radar before NYU reached out to us, but, I sincerely hope this was the first of many such gigs.
I firmly believe that we do our students (and adults for that matter) a supreme disservice by not incorporating personal finance into our educational curricula. Not just at the collegiate level, but in middle and high schools too–heck, even elementary schools! Mr. FW and I are grateful to NYU for inviting us and for prioritizing a talk on personal finance for their students.
Having the opportunity to spread our non-conformist message was exhilarating and, now that I’ve tasted it, I crave more! So, if anyone is looking for some frugal weirdos to speak about financial independence… look no further.
Though Frugal Hound was sadly not there in the flesh (or in the fur, as it were), she was an integral part of our sweet power point presentation and hopefully there are some future greyhound adopters roaming the NYU campus now.
I showed my age during the Q&A section when I tried to discreetly ask Mr. FW what “OG” means, but of course everyone heard and now knows that I am old and do not know about original gangsters. People, I turned 31 on Monday so clearly it’s all downhill from here.
I had the realization after our presentation that this is what it feels like to truly enjoy, and believe in, the work you’re doing. I gotta tell you, nothing makes me happier than preaching the frugal gospel.
After our presentation, we took the subway over to Williamsburg, Brooklyn and had dinner at our friends K and J’s lovely apartment. They whipped up fabulous tacos and we listened to mariachi music while discussing plans for the future. There’s nothing better than savoring a home-cooked meal with super smart friends who make you think. We kept them up far past their bedtime before we trekked back to our hotel (where we promptly demonstrated what responsible adults we are by watching a Boy Meets World marathon until 1am).
Yesterday we slept late (no Frugal Hound to howl us awake) and then ventured out to Crown Heights, Brooklyn where I lived right after college while in Americorps. The neighborhood was almost unrecognizable.
When I lived there, it was incredibly impoverished and crime-riddled with no grocery store, few viable business, and a seriously grungy laundromat. The gentrification that occurred in the intervening 9 years is astonishing, and perhaps somewhat concerning.
The Associate Dean of Students, who organized our NYU presentation, asked me what I think about the viability of early retirement for people with low incomes. And my honest response is that I don’t know.
It’s expensive, challenging, and often depressing to be poor. I gained some insight into the experience when I lived in Crown Heights, but I have no idea what it actually feels like to truly be in poverty. To be enmeshed in the cycles of disadvantage that families can find themselves trapped in generation after generation. To not have loving, financially stable friends and family I could call upon. To not feel enfranchised to seek out financial advice.
As we drank artesian coffee and munched a homemade doughnut in a tragically chic cafe worthy of a Portlandia skit all its own, I wondered what had happened to my former Crown Heights neighbors. Clearly they’d been priced out; likely pushed deeper into Brooklyn, farther away from desirable subway lines, access to healthy foods, and proximity to the nexus of wealth and power–Manhattan.
After our jaunt down my own personal memory lane, we journeyed into Chinatown, which is so stereotypically bustling, raucous, and smelly that it almost seems like a movie set.
At one point, we encountered a guy walking down the sidewalk carrying a two-by-four with nails sticking out, being passed by an elderly Chinese couple toting a dead goose by the neck, with a construction worker jackhammering in the gutter, and a bevy of firetrucks blocking the street (unknown why).
I sincerely wish I’d captured this moment on film for you, but I was too busy busting a gut laughing and trying not to get knocked down in the melee. New York City is so absurdly, delightfully wonderful. It truly is the most extreme form of urban existence.
We met up with one of my former college roommates, J, at Vanessa’s Dumpling House, which I cannot recommend highly enough. For a mere $7, Mr. FW and I feasted on an array of delectable steamed dumplings and sesame pancakes along with a red bean bun (my personal favorite).
We liked it so much, we bought another $7 worth for our dinner on the train ride home. We brought granola bars to eat for dinner, but felt the splurge was well worth it. Dumplings > granola bars. J is a lawyer who represents tenants rights cases and I deeply admire his dedication to justice for people who otherwise wouldn’t have an advocate. He’s one awesome and inspiring guy.
For the remainder of our 48 hour whirlwind in NYC, Mr. Frugalwoods and I employed our typical travel methodology of strolling with periodic stops for coffee. It’s our preferred mode for catching the flavor of any city in the world and, it’s a dirt cheap way to sightsee.
I honestly don’t need the Museum of Modern Art (at $25 per person I might add) when I can watch the parade of creative humanity that patrols the NYC streets. After all, what could be more encapsulating of modern art than the user-generated graffiti of a subway car.
I had forgotten how electrifying, overwhelming, fascinating, disgusting, wealthy, vibrant, delicious, poverty-stricken, and utterly singular New York is. It’s the type of place I adore visiting but am so terribly glad not to live in anymore. It is, for me, the very incarnation of a sensory overload and I loved every minute.