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A Budget Is Not a Body

Updated: Jan 6, 2022

The dreaded weight-loss analogy. A few years back on a conference call with the Seattle Times for a “Money Makeover” financial plan, I cringed when I heard it. The idea that dollars are like calories, budgeting is a diet, and financial advisors are personal trainers is wrong, but I hear it all the time from people in the industry. I made sure that the comment wasn't included in the article, but I wish I could do more to delete the sentiment. Because I don’t believe that being thinner is better, and because we have a world that’s set up to shame people out of fatness. (Surprise! It does not work.) I think there is beauty in abundance and I don’t believe it’s an “epidemic” that there’s more of it than in the ages of deprivation. We cannot fully parse out what is a cause and what is an effect in health until fatphobia is removed as a societal oppression. Thin people oftentimes don’t see the bone-chilling cruelty on the street or the obsession with the size of fat people that diverts medical attention from the issues at hand. Fatphobia confiscates the everyday sort of respect that all people deserve. But health is beside the point of ranking the worth of humans. How might we use our capacity if we removed the central preoccupation with body shape?

Sun and moon
Dare to dream of more than thinness

Weight loss is triggering for many people and especially traumatic for fat people. For that reason, it just does not need to be invoked in financial planning. A financial planner should treat their clients with respect, be sensitive to trauma around restrictiveness, and definitely not pop out of nowhere with some bigoted analogies. But then I got to wondering, what are the other ways that a financial planner can learn from fat positivity for their practice? The body of one’s finances are different than one’s literal body. But how? Well, for one, the body of your finances is somewhat more interpretive. It may include a partner or a family member. Does it include your sole proprietorship? Your corporation? How do you look at debts or inheritance, money that is tied to you but doesn’t exactly exist? I know there are some accounting standards for this stuff, but I am not an accountant; I am a philosopher with Excel. Genetics and environment play a role. I often think of this time that I was playing The Sims on my phone and taking forever to choose just the right look for my character out of a thousand different permutations of choice for clothes, hair, etc. When I had finally finished, I saw in front of me that the year before I had created exactly the same character. To me it was a shocking insight into how much my “choices” are actually ingrained, and that I could probably stop stressing out so much on the weight of each choice. We are predisposed by more than personal choice to do things a certain way. Budgeting is a small part of the financial planning picture. You can be a diligent saver, but it doesn’t turn you into a billionaire. At a certain point it becomes very hard to spend all of your money.

Old coins

It takes a little class awareness to see that personal choices are not the biggest component in our wealth. Personal choices are not the biggest component in the expression of our bodies either. It doesn’t mean that we can’t have autonomy and awareness over our spending or our food. Perhaps there’s a fad to be made in “intuitive spending.” How does it feel to spend like this? How does it feel in my body? Above all else, we should draw a distinct line in the sand over how those fluctuations speak to our inherent worth as people. As a Quaker, I believe that there is a Light of God in each person.

There is so much beauty in the work I do. You talk about where you came from and your hopes and dreams. How many versions of you are contained in that lifespan? To accept our eventual deaths and lovingly provide for our elder selves is a way of loving the body unconditionally. Our understandings of our own worth are never going to exist outside societal strictures. How many of us got through Thanksgiving without hearing comments that express contempt for fat bodies, or guilt about eating itself? But the least we can do is to get a little breather from the moralizing tones, whether that’s a moment within ourselves or a seat at a table with a few people who know better.


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