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Yes, We Mind the Wage Gap

Gen Z wants to shrink the wage gap by… talking.

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It’s 2022 and you can ask a woman her age but you still can’t ask how much she makes. Most of us would prefer to talk about anything other than money. We’ll choose marital trouble, mental health, addiction, sex, race, religion, and politics before we’ll wade into salary talk. 

Why does this matter? Silence around money — encouraged by the wealthy since the Golden Age — feeds a wage gap of between 60 to 89 cents on the dollar

The Wage Gap isn’t news. We’ve lived with it for as long as women have worked. We know, for example, that racialized women bear the brunt of the inequality, earning an average of 59.3% of the average white male salary. But even school girls experience a gendered wage disparity. According to the Girl Guides of Canada, young women 12-18 earn almost $3 less per hour than boys at summer jobs. 

Not only does this make us want to talk about money… it makes us want to scream.

If present trends continue, according to the World Economic Forum, it will take the world about 267.6 years to reach wage parity.

Hannah Williams wants to move that date up a few hundred years. The 25-year-old TikToker recently took to the streets to ask her fellow Washingtonians two simple questions: What do you do? And how much do you make? The series (@salarytransparentstreet) has gone viral. Williams hopes her project will break down the social stigma around money talk, and move us toward addressing pay inequality. 

Will it work? It’s working! Williams’ project is part of a growing movement focused on real change. New data shows that about 40 percent of Millennials and Gen Z talk to coworkers about what they earn. Compare this to 19 percent for Baby Boomers.

This spring, New York passed a law requiring employers to disclose salaries on all advertised jobs. And even companies who aren’t forced into transparency would be smart to consider it. The job posting site Indeed Canada recently revealed that posts that include salaries attract 90 percent more applicants. 

That’s something worth talking about.

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A Burger Explains Inflation

Everyone’s freaked out about inflation, but what is it exactly? (Asking for a friend)

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Tell your friend there’s no need for embarrassment. People stress about inflation, but ask them to explain how it actually works, and that gets a little hazy.

Okay, cool. The friend—c’est moi! What do I need to know?

In a nutshell 🌰 Inflation is the rate at which the costs of goods and services increase over time. It gets a bad rap, but a modest level of inflation (around 2%) is a good thing.

As the economy grows, businesses and consumers have more money to spend. That means higher demand, which leads to higher prices. Over time, wages should rise along with inflation (since the price of labour should increase with everything else).

Unfortunately, this recent inflationary spike — to almost 7% — has been too sudden for many salaries to keep pace. So, people are feeling it whenever and wherever they spend.

How do we fix it?

Governments can heat up or cool down the economy by raising or lowering interest rates, making money more or less expensive to borrow. There are other issues that impact inflation, too, such as global supply chain flows and geopolitics.

Zzzzzzz…..

Okay, okay… Do you like burgers?

Wait—what?—burgers!

Welcome back. The Big Mac Index was invented by The Economist as a more digestible way to explain the purchasing power of a dollar around the globe. In 1986, a McDonald’s signature sandwich cost $1.06. In 2022, you need $5.65 to buy the same burger. 

Whazzat?

Inflation makes your dollar lose value over time. As the price of ingredients, real estate, employee wages, and transportation go up, the power of your dollar goes down. It’s one reason people work to grow their money in the markets, instead of holding it all in a savings account. Because on its own, a dollar today’s worth a little less tomorrow.

Can I get a side of fries with that?

Whoa, Rockefeller! Potatoes average an inflation rate of 4.58% per year

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The Business of Bans

From books to beef to screen time, a peep at the profit margins of prohibition.

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  • Book bans are sending old classics back to the bestseller list.
  • Banning meat’s proved pretty lucrative for one beloved California chef.
  • If your kid is asking for more screen time, order Chinese and tell them they’ve got it pretty good.

The silver lining of censorship (kidding…but also, ka-ching)

Obviously banning books is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing (a phrase we learned *from a book*, btw). But is it also good for business? That seems to be the takeaway following the Tennessee School Board’s decision to remove Maus—a graphic novel about the Holocaust—from the eighth grade curriculum. That happened in mid January. In the weeks since, the 1992 Pulitzer winner has cracked Amazon’s top 20, hitting number one in the graphic novels category. 

Similar sales spikes have followed recent crackdowns on The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood) and The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison). And it’s not always the far right behind the banning: Last year the discontinuation of six Dr. Seuss titles (featuring racist imagery) sent other Seussian titles soaring up the best seller charts. 

It’s something we could be seeing more of. According to recent data from the American Library Association, the fall of 2021 saw the most instances of “book challenges” since the group started record keeping more than 50 years ago. Meanwhile, Maus author, Art Spiegelman, has rebuffed offers from Hollywood to option his book for the big screen. He says the story (where Jews are mice and nazis are cats) is best served by the comic format. And honestly, who needs movie money when you’ve got LeVar Burton AND the moral high ground on your side?

Next up: Why did the lab rendered chicken cross the road?

Lab grown meat is big business and it’s getting a boost from one of the world’s most influential chefs. In 2018, Dominique Crenn banned meat from the menu at her Michelin star restaurant in San Francisco. Her goal was to effect “real environmental change”, and clearly taste didn’t suffer—Atelier Crenn scored a third star after moving to a meat-free menu. 

Four years (and one pandemic) later, chicken is making its triumphant return, following Crenn’s partnership with Upside Foods, the California-based startup at the forefront of cell-based poultry production.

Is this the future of meat? Crenn says yes, and plans to introduce new “chicken” dishes to her menu following regulatory approval. Upside Foods has raised more than 200 million in funding, including an investment from Whole Foods CEO, John Mackey. Just last month, the company acquired Cultured Decadence, another cellular agriculture startup focused on shell-free, cell-based lobster, which sounds a little…well…fishy, but it’s an excellent tongue twister that we won’t knock till we’ve tried it. 

When your kid complains about screen time limits…

…spend a long weekend in China. Tencent Games, one of the world’s largest gaming companies, spent China’s month long Winter Break limiting access to their platform for kids. 14 hours over 30 days.

The policy is in line with a national movement to combat climbing rates of addiction and near sightedness. Last summer the Chinese government banned game play for minors on weekdays and restricted use to three hours on most weekends, encouraging gaming companies to break “from the solitary focus of pursuing profit.”  


These rules took effect last August, prompting stock sell offs and a slump in domestic market growth (a 14.3% decline in just one year). Still, profits are climbing, thanks to robust  global sales. And meanwhile, the policy’s working. Tencent reported that minors now account for 0.7% of time played on their platform, down from 6.4% in 2020.

The outcome? More time to read banned books!

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Inflation’s Hitting the Tooth Fairy

My six-year-old just mentioned that her friend got $20 from the Tooth Fairy. Is that the going rate?

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Twenty bucks is nearly four times the national average, which hit an all-time peak in Canada this year at $5.99. It’s possible the Tooth Fairy was feeling generous, but equally likely she forgot to make change before flying in. 

Given the predictability of this particular payday (20 teeth over about six years), tooth loss is a great opportunity to talk about, you know, fiscal responsibility. Sound about as fun as oral hygiene? Okay, we get you, but the tooth fairy really is a good way to table topics like saving and investing, even inflation (the rate of increase in prices over a given period of time). 

Let’s look at the numbers: 20 teeth x 5.99 = $119.80. Your child’s mouth is building an empire, so it’s as good a time as any to talk about what that money could do over time. 

Delta Dental is an American insurance company that has been tracking the tooth fairy’s financials since 2001. It turns out the amount kids find under their pillow is a good barometer for the overall economy. Your average baby molar fetched more in 2006 than it did in 2008 following the economic downturn. And the fact that rates are higher than ever this year is an encouraging sign of post-pandemic recovery. Another principle at play is what’s known as income elasticity of demand. This is the idea that when people (or fairies) have more money on hand, there are certain things they tend to splurge on disproportionately. Children are one of these items.

So while the TF’s feeling generous, take advantage of a happy time and a teachable moment—while it lasts. One columnist recently argued that given the terrible hours, unsafe working conditions, and non-existent travel budget, the Tooth Fairy may be ready to join The Great Resignation. Who could blame her? She’s an essential worker who doesn’t even get dental insurance.

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If I Had a Million Dollars…

Could I Even Afford the Things in this Song?
Wealthie investigates.

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Let’s get right to it. A million dollars doesn’t buy what it used to. Or does it? We look at the lyrics and break down the numbers to see how this Classic BNL hit has aged.

A House

$790,000

The average cost of a Canadian home in 2021 takes up almost the full million smackers. That’s about five times higher than it was in 2000 ($163,951) and more than double the 2019 average ($339,030). 

A nice chesterfield*

$2199

The Sven couch by the Canadian design company, Article, gets a great review in Architectural Digest. Here’s to buying local!

*Or an ottoman

$529

The matching ottoman goes for $529

A K-Car

$16,368

The Chrysler vehicle (and all around “nice Reliant automobile”) made history as the cheapest car in the compact class. Even adjusted to today’s dollars it’s pretty affordable.

A tree fort

$400

The US national average for building a treehouse is $7000, but you can get that cost down with a little DIY.

A little, tiny fridge

$178

The Frigidaire Retro Mini looks like a reasonable size for a tree fort.

Pre-wrapped sausages

$7.65

That’s for the Johnsonville Original Breakfast Sausage. (Just a thought, but aren’t all sausages technically “pre-wrapped”?)

A fur coat (but not a real fur coat)

$99.90

This snazzy faux fur from Zara is neither prohibitively expensive or creature cruel.

An exotic pet, like a llama

$900

This is for an untrained, untamed llama, which frankly sounds like a bit of a nightmare (but slightly more affordable than the alternative—an emu chick runs for around $1000).

John Merrick’s remains

Priceless

John Merrick, aka The Elephant Man, died in 1890 at the age of 27, suffering from a condition called Proteus syndrome. In 1987, the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, offered to buy this particularly significant bag of bones for $1,000,000. He was turned down by the London Hospital Medical College, which said that a sale would be “quite wrong on ethical grounds”.

A limousine

$85

Sure, it’s indulgent (and not great for the environment) to take a limo to the store. But, can you put a price on grocery storage space and legroom?! (Yes, actually, you can!)

Kraft Dinner

$1.34

One box of KD, no butter, no milk.

Expensive ketchup

$4.97

In the song they wonder why there is no Grey Poupon (or fancy) version of ketchup, which is a question that has been pondered by some of the great intellects of our time. Turns out Heinz has a solid grip on the market.

A green dress

$149

Obviously there’s a wide range here. The world’s most expensive dress is a red chiffon number by a Malaysian designer worth $30 million. (Now that’s cruel)

Some art… a Picasso (or a Garfunkel)

Variable

The cheapest work by one of history’s most celebrated artists will run you around $120,000. Which is cheaper than Art Garfunkel’s booking fee (apparently around $350,000). 

A monkey

Variable

The cost of Justin Bieber’s pet Capuchin was about $6,000 (not including the $10K in fees he had to pay when trying to illegally transport it across the border).

Total: $1,936,392.86*

*This figure includes the million dollars towards John Merrick’s remains. Assuming the medical powers that be adhere to their ethical stance, we leave out the million, and the new tally becomes a manageable $936,392.86. This leaves a balance/contingency of $63607.14 to buy “your/their love” — or to boost the house bid, since that may be necessary in this seller’s market. 

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The Business of Memes

Fast reads on things kids care about, or cared about, or may care about again.

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  • Meme stocks as an asset class? Nice work, Reddit. 
  • “Meme fashion” label Pizzaslime makes fast fashion look slow. They’re doing brisk business selling wearable internet culture to Gen Z.
  • Want to create a meme for the ages? According to one prof, there’s a formula for that.  

Read on…

***

The craze around the trading of “meme stocks” GameStop and AMC Entertainment has largely fallen out of mainstream news, but Reddit’s still chasing the highs. And so, it was just a matter of time before MEME ETF hit the scene. MEME launched this December, thanks to Roundhill Investments, purveyors of specialty ETFs such as the Esports & Digital Entertainment ETF, NERD.

With subreddit WallStreetBets 10x-ing in 2021, social investing is here to stay, even if MEME’s performance is on the decline…for now. 

So, should you “buy the dip” on MEME? It’s very early. The fund rebalances bi-weekly, and focuses on stocks “that are both highly shorted and subject to increased retail sentiment”. In other words, if you love roller coasters, this could be a love match. No matter what, it’s bound to keep you calmer than trying to keep up with what’s trending on Reddit.

Nasdaq.com | Sept. 4, 2021

The two millennials behind “meme fashion” label Pizzaslime have made millions selling merch to people interested in wearing internet culture IRL, reports Insider. Their wares reference nerdy-cool things like Elon Musk tweets about meme stocks (“Gamestonk!!”) and that endlessly remixed photo of a mittened-out Bernie Sanders. Commenting on Pizzaslime’s runaway success with Gen Z, one fashion expert said “What matters to younger consumers is what captures their attention and has the ability to spread like wildfire across social networks — and this is exactly why meme fashion is so popular.” We’ve seen plenty of articles in recent years bemoaning how Gen Z has killed the fast fashion propagated by millennials. Perhaps the younger generation has just put a new spin on it — one somehow both faster and more enduring at once.

Insider | May 16, 2021

Speaking of enduring, what is it that gives some memes such incredible longevity, despite the “here today, gone tomorrow” reality of internet culture? Speaking to Forbes, Leilani Carver, a professor of strategic communications, says that since older memes are better known, more people “have the necessary subcultural knowledge to interpret/understand the code and ‘get’ the meme.” 

In the age of the Remix, everything old is new again. We’re into it.

Forbes | Aug. 30, 2021

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The Business of Gaming

a cheat sheet for what matters (maybe) to the kids in your life.

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  • Young gamers can now add “e-sports athlete” and “digital content creator” to their picks for Career Day.
  • The pirated games your kids are playing could end up costing you thousands.
  • And, happily, video game violence appears to be on the decline, as, for the moment, is gaming itself. Impossible to believe? 

Read on… 

***

According to the NY Times, “e-sports is now the fifth-most popular future job among South Korean students”.  South Korea’s elite gamers draw big salaries and celebrity-level sponsorships, but South Korea’s universities offer no athletic scholarships for the pursuit, shrinking opportunities for committed young gamers working to go pro. Enter… the USA. In 2019, California-based company Gen.G launched The Gen.G Elite Esports Academy, to give serious gamers a pathway to an American high school diploma and a chance to apply for e-sport scholarships at American universities. Gen.G charges $25K a year, and works to help “more young gamers find jobs” — while also building a pretty solid talent pipeline for themselves.

NYT | June 19, 2021

You know the old adage: if something is too good to be true, it probably is… CNBC reports that “malware is being hidden in free versions of games like NBA 2K19, Grand Theft Auto V, Far Cry 5, The Sims 4 and Jurassic World Evolution”. Parents should be on the lookout for their kids acquiring games from these pirate sites — aside from being, you know, a little bit criminal, these bootleg programs may “quietly use the computer’s processing power to mine cryptocurrencies for… hackers”. It’s a multi million dollar enterprise, so if the pirates are paying you, have at it! However, if hackers are jamming your processing power and paying zero doge for the privilege, it may be time to start budgeting with your kid for the real stuff. 

CNBC | June 25, 2021

The Financial Times reports that video games are becoming less violent. “A study of [last] month’s E3 trade event … found that 33 percent of the games shown at the event contained no violence, almost double the number identified in 2019.”

Financial Times | June 29, 2021

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Your Kids Know More Than You: NFT Edition

The ABCs of NFTs.

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Just when you thought you had a handle on cryptocurrency, there’s a new frontier — non-fungible tokens (NFTs). NFTs are, suddenly, everywhere, and the term sounds like it requires a Master of Econ to understand it. Don’t panic. You’re already pretty familiar with fungible goods, since the most common one is money. A $20 bill or a Bitcoin is fungible, Picasso’s “Guernica” is not.

Are we having fungible yet? 

Fungibility, which sadly has nothing to do with mushrooms, refers to any good that is mutually interchangeable with another. A $20 bill has a fixed value, and it’s functionally identical to all $20 in that currency. Shares in a company are fungible — a share in GameStop is the same as any other share in GameStop. Commodities work in the same way: the market agrees on the price of a barrel of oil or an ounce of gold, as long as it meets a “basis grade” standard. Regular cryptocurrencies are fungible tokens (FTs): Bitcoins are digital, but all have the same value.

Contrast this with your child’s crayon drawing attached to your fridge: could you exchange that for a precise dollar amount? Maybe Grandma would buy it… if the price were right, but your bank almost certainly won’t, as that (charming) doodle is non-fungible. It’s a unique artifact with no set value, and it’s not intrinsically interchangeable with other works or assets.

Welcome to the NFT party

A non-fungible token is a digital object that’s one of a kind. The ownership of the object is traceable, standardized through the same blockchain technology that enables cryptocurrencies. (A blockchain is an impenetrable ledger of transactions shared across a network, allowing users to store both cryptocurrencies and NFTs in a secure digital wallet.) This technology enables users to officially “own” an image, video, or even a tweet. Although someone can still take a screenshot or otherwise copy your prized piece of multimedia, they won’t have the unique code that proves it truly belongs to them. Since these things are one of a kind, they’re worth exactly as much (or as little) as someone else will pay for them.

So which kind of token is better?

There is no right answer to this. Cryptocurrency fungible tokens (FTs) fluctuate in value, but at least that value is universally agreed upon. At any given moment, an Ether is worth as much as an Ether, nothing more or less. This makes FTs liquid, since you can easily sell them, and it makes them (reasonably) reliable, since you can know their current worth.

NFTs are tougher to value. Because they’re unique, it’s difficult to know the market value until you try to sell one. Of course, uniqueness signals scarcity, and that scarcity is driving demand, with year over year growth up 38 060%. 

So, is this a bubble or a wise investment? If the Cryptopunks know, they’re not saying. 

We’re happy to watch from the cheap seats.

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Mistakes were made

Anonymous Financial Confessionals. Your mistakes are safe with us.

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One of my best friends just turned 36.
She laments that she still has a mountain of student debt.
She wonders if she’ll ever be able to pay it off.

This same friend went to Hawaii and bought a $900 jacket last month.

Mistakes were made.

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Always take the doubling pennies

Exponential growth starts small but picks up speed fast!

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When Soren Wheeler was a kid, his father stumped him with this exponential growth model:

“He would say, I want you to mow the lawn every day for the next month, and I’ll either give you a million dollars to do that, or I’ll give you a penny today, and two pennies tomorrow, and four pennies the next day, and so on, for a month.”

Wheeler once told this story on Radiolab, the science podcast he helps produce. His response then was the same any kid — and really anyone — would have: Take the million! 

But if you go with the pennies, you’ll make nearly $20 million dollars for a month of yard work. The lesson Wheeler remembers: “Things can turn out way bigger than you think.”

Exponential growth model in a nutshell: Things can turn out way bigger than you think

His advice became particularly relevant a year ago, as we all become armchair epidemiologists, obsessing over how a virus might spread. It is also why compound interest is famously called the seventh wonder of the world. Exponential growth starts small and picks up more speed than we can literally imagine.

So, the best course of action: Start Early. Take the doubling pennies. Get a bigger piggy bank.

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Recovery Starts With Z

#JustwatchZ

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Generation Zs are ready to recover. As whispers of an economic recovery sit hopeful on the lips of Boomers, Xs, and Millennials, it’s worth taking a look at the demographics. When it comes to the “green shoots” of a recovery, Gen Z’s got the thumbs.

Here are the facts:

Businesses want/need them. The cohort born between 1996 and 2010 represents 40% of the U.S. population. They are the largest generation on the planet, representing 2.47 billion of the Earth’s 7.7 billion people. They’re also the most diverse. With spending power of $143 billion a year, Gen Z’s consumer preferences will shape all of our futures. Expect that Z’s will want a hand in the shaping.

Governments overlook them. Early economic response to the pandemic was focused almost entirely on older generations. And though Gen Z has lost the greatest number of work hours — by some estimates, a third of Gen Z has been laid off — many in the U.S. don’t qualify for a stimulus cheque because they’re still claimed as dependents by their parents.

They’re already building what’s next. Z’s are projected to be the most educated generation we’ve seen. They anticipate multiple jobs in their lifetimes, and more than 40% of them plan to start their own businesses. They expect to work harder than previous generations. And, as gamers and digital natives, they’ve always been at ease with “physically apart, digitally together“. Expect innovations on the future of work to come from Z. They’ll have an easier time imagining the future, largely because they’ve been living in it.

A Gen Z recovery is a demographic fact — so let’s get those Z’s what they need.

There’s a lot of unease in the world right now — and for today’s young people, that’s nothing new. From Trump trolls to #BLM activism to entrepreneurial innovation, Gen Zs are picking their lanes. Now it’s up to the rest of us to support or get out of the way.

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It’s time to rethink that $30 weekly allowance

Bed made, walk the dog, diversify…

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Do you give your kid a weekly allowance? If so, you should know the going rate is $30, at least according to 2019 research from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. That was a 50% boost from 2017 — though it’s anyone’s guess what that stat will look like in 2020. No matter what, it sounds like a lot of money — but is it really?

That depends, according to Robin Taub, a financial consultant and author of A Parents’ Guide to Raising Money Smart Kids. “The amount that you give for allowance has a lot to do with what you expect them to pay for with it,” says Taub, noting that if your kid has to buy the odd lunch and pay for social outings, $30 is going to run out pretty quickly. 

Far more importantly than “how much?” is “how come?” and on that point, the majority of parents questioned are aligned: 75% of them said that the reason they give a weekly allowance is to teach children a sense of financial responsibility. Which is, of course, an excellent idea…in theory.

In reality, though, the same survey suggests that intention and reality aren’t lining up with many young people spending the majority of their weekly windfall on outings with friends (45%), digital devices or downloads (37%) or toys (33%). Just 3% were putting the bulk into savings.

Now, with kids at home and the global economy in limbo, now may be a good time to rethink that. Wouldn’t it be good to have some cash set aside, kids? It’s a real-time lesson in liquidity — one worth walking them through.

A weekly allowance is really an annual plan

“Unless you determine otherwise, kids are going to see their allowance as spending money,” says Taub. In order for a weekly allowance to provide lessons around budgeting, she says, parents need to sit down with their children and establish what that budget looks like. Maybe that’s saving $5 every week for a longterm savings goal and putting another $5 into a savings fund. For older kids it could be paying a portion of their phone bill or contributing to an education fund. “

The key is that you are helping your kid to make a plan,” says Taub. “And then stick to it.”

That second part may be the most challenging aspect. (Who wants to see their 16-year-old sitting out a concert with friends because they blew their money on snacks?) But it’s also essential to forming positive financial habits, which actually form grooves in the brain that become hard to break. And which come in very handy during times like these.