December 22, 2023

Be frugal. Avoid debt.

This is Michelle Singletary’s advice in a nutshell. She writes “The Color of Money,” a personal finance column geared towards African-Americans in the Washington Post, and has for 25 years. She cites her grandmother, Big Mama, as her most enduring influence.

Jared Bernstein, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, praises Singletary as “a walking, talking, vigilant consumer protection bureau.” And I got hung up on that line.

There’s nothing wrong with preaching the virtue of prudence. Being prudent about one’s financial decisions is well and good. We all ought to strive to follow the advice of Singletary and her grandmother. But — you knew there was going to be a but, didn’t you? — I cannot escape the feeling part of the advice here is people who make financial mistakes are simply to be abandoned.

Last year, according to a report from the Federal Trade Commission, 95,000 Americans reported losing $770 million to scams propagated through social media.Investment scams, particularly bogus cryptocurrency investments, made up more than a third of the reports.

Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, and their related exchanges are largely unregulated. Leading proponents claim cryptocurrency is the future of finance. Often these same proponents are committed libertarians, deeply resistant to even the idea of government regulation. Indeed, the entire purpose of cryptocurrencies, first described by a shadowy character…

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