Money, Health, and Other Things

Educational Blog in the Area of Family and Consumer Sciences for the Middle Peninsula

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What are Microaggressions and Why do they Matter?

What are microaggressions and why do they matter? Microaggressions are everyday interactions, whether verbal or otherwise, that intentionally or unintentionally reinforce a person’s or group’s inferior status. Often these are unintentional negative slights of bias towards traditionally socially devalued groups.

They can take the form of jokes, such as “what do you mean you’re not good at math? You’re Asian!” or “what do you mean you can’t cook? You’re a woman.” They can also take the form of seemingly innocent comments, but depending on the context, the subtext of the message reinforces that discriminatory or alienating belief. For instance, asking where someone is from, at face value, is a pretty innocent question. However, if that question is only being directed towards people of color, the subtext becomes that that person is somehow less American or assumes they are a foreigner, reinforcing the idea that white is the standard American race. Another example is asking a mother if they will stay with the kids instead of working, but not asking the same question to fathers. Microaggressions can also seem like complements, but only at the expense of discriminating against a target group. “You’re so articulate, you don’t sound black.”

Microaggressions can also invalidate current and historical discrimination and undermine the challenges for those in traditionally socially devalued groups. “Everyone can succeed if they work hard enough,” “do you really have a mental illness? Do you really have a disability? You seem so normal,” “when I see you, I don’t see color,” “all lives matter.”

Microaggressions can also appear in the workplace, related to the organization and its hierarchical structure. This can devalue employee contributions, and create feelings of inferiority. This can include management not making the effort to learn and properly pronounce employee names, or claiming not to have time to respond to everyone’s emails, ignoring messages from subordinates but promptly responding to their supervisors. Pearn Kandola has a great 4-minute video on workplace microaggressions, here.

Microaggressions devalue individual and group identities, creating hostile and invalidating work climates, lowering work productivity and educational learning. This can create both physical and mental health problems to the recipient. To combat this, we all need to be more conscious of the things we say and do. Additionally, we need to be willing to speak up when we hear microaggressions from others. With that said, this doesn’t mean always aggressively denouncing and assuming bad intent. Often these microaggressions are unintentional and the person saying it simply needs to be educated as to why their action or statement is discriminatory. If we are to progress towards a more inclusive tomorrow we need to both assume good intent and not be silent bystanders!

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Predatory Lending – Part VI

This week we’ll return and conclude our series on predatory lending and discuss possible alternatives to predatory loans.

The best resource, if feasible, is your own savings account. You don’t have to pay interest when you borrow from yourself! This is why developing emergency savings, by putting aside a regular amount each month or each paycheck, especially when your financial situation is stable, is so critical.

If you’re considering these predatory loan options because you need to repay other loans, working out repayment options with creditors is another consideration. Often when borrowers fall behind on payments they don’t think to contact their creditor to see what options they have. Especially if you’ve been a reliable borrower in the past, and you’re not too far behind, many creditors will provide you feasible repayment options to help you get back on track.

Local, state, and federal agencies and organizations can be invaluable for short-term financial needs as well. Contacting social services and local non-profits and religious institutions can connect you to temporary resource to help you get through your financial rough patch.

Depending on your credit, you may also be eligible for credit union and bank loans, providing you loan products with lower interest rates and less predatory features.

Other options can include salary advances, credit card advances, and loans from friends and family. However, these options aren’t always feasible and are often undesirable for one reason or another. The important thing is to consider all of your options before deciding on the predatory loans we’ve discussed over the past few weeks.

If you have any further questions, please let us know!

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Predatory Lending – Part V

This week we’ll return to our discussion on predatory lending and discuss overdraft loans and rent-to-own contracts.

Overdraft loans, or overdraft protection, is a financial product that will temporarily cover you if you bounce a check or overdraft with a debit card, providing you a loan to cover that expense. However, the fees can be very expensive, from $10 to $40 per transaction, and the interest charged is often at a very high rate that isn’t readily disclosed. An $80 overdraft can carry fees and interest of over $20 for just a one-week repayment, resulting in an equivalent APR of over 1000%! As a comparison, a line of credit, at 19% APR, would have interest and fees of less than a dollar for an $80, one-week loan.

Next, we’ll discuss rent-to-own contracts. Rent-to-own contracts are agreements where the buyer will pay monthly or weekly rental payments for merchandise, such as electronics or furniture, and once they’ve completed all of their rental payment, will have ownership of that merchandise. There are a few catches, however. There are very few regulations regarding rent-to-own contracts. As such, their high interest rates are rarely disclosed, and there are no limits to late fees, nor much protection against repossession. Furthermore, as a rental contract, no equity is built up with each payment, meaning if you miss payment number 76 of 78 and the item is repossessed, you’re unlikely to get any money back.

Next week we’ll return and wrap up this series and discuss alternatives to predatory lending.