Vanity Marketing (for women only)

As I often do, I was browsing reddit when I found the following post by an apparent Singapore native who was annoyed that a bank was advertising a female only credit card…

In my country, only 2 banks here offer women-only credit cards; this is one bank. It’s been around for almost as long as I’ve lived so this is nothing new.

Still, it irks me that there’s all the talk about “gender equality” and “sexism” yet women here can apply for any credit card but men actually have (slightly) less choices.

First, it’s “women are constantly being discriminated by men and aren’t given ample opportunities to prove themselves”. Then it’s “banks are doing this because it’s been shown that women spend more than men due their higher disposable income”. So which is it?

To bad unlike in the US, there’s no statute to protect against gender discrimination, (there is for race, language or religion).

I suppose he is technically right that it is hypocritical to want gender “equality” while supporting gender segregated whatever (in this case credit cards). Even so, taking a “Bu, bu, but the dems are the REAL sexists” analogous line isn’t really worth bothering with. You can’t out-left the left. I reject gender equality altogether so such things don’t bother me per se. There are plenty of instances where men and women justifiably shouldn’t be treated the same. Credit cards are probably not one of those times, but meh, who cares how banks advertise this stuff. It doesn’t matter. Well, I could see banning women from getting credit cards at all because many are irresponsible with money and high debt makes for a poor wife. But that is a different topic.

Even though the above logic holds in this case, there is another reason why the proper response to things like “Women-only credit cards” should be amusement rather than annoyance. Female-focused advertising is, in most cases, a blatant gimmick with no real substance. In the case of a credit card, it probably has higher interest rates or worse conditions than non-female focused competitors. At minimum it is no better than similar gender neutral competitors. The fact that it has a gender focused marketing campaign is NOT a reason to pick it over other offerings on the market. In fact, it is hard to imagine how a credit card could be made female focused in anything but name. Perhaps it gives 1.5% back on any purchase of tampons, cat litter, ice cream, tissues, romantic comedies, and weight loss programs. Jokes aside, female-centric marketing is a naked attempt to appeal to female vanity and/or solipsism in order to bypass sound judgement to close the sale. That such marketing is relatively common suggests that the gambit works reasonably well. If the deception works that well, that means a large proportion of the female population is flagrantly stupid enough to fall for it. Ironically, the marketing which successfully appeals to female vanity and pride directly countermands its justification immediately upon the marketing’s success. Falling for baseless, naked manipulation is a sure sign that there is nothing to be proud of. The success of such branding is a clear and unambiguous indictment of female incompetence at the population level. Hence why I find it so amusing that most women hop right on the bandwagon for such campaigns without even a second thought. The joke is on them.

I think the funniest example of vanity marketing I have seen was when I was grocery shopping a few years ago. I was walking down the medicine aisle when I suddenly saw a laxative that was specifically “for women.” This marketing was absolutely preposterous because intestines do not vary by gender in their response to commonly used laxatives. I would have to look it up, but I would guess the same is true for more esoteric prescription laxatives. I stopped my cart and balked for a minute at the idea of “female” laxatives (or even just that some cheeky bastard would have the gall to shamelessly market such bullshit and it WORKED) before moving closer to confirm my suspicions. Sure enough the ingredients were all the same as every other brand in the aisle. Female laxatives, like many other “female” products, were just a stupid marketing gimmick to make women buy it, at a higher price, over other brands. Think about this for a second. The sales advantage of increasing female buyers more than made up for any sales disadvantage of alienating men away from this product. And this increase happens IN SPITE of it being identical with everything else available and more expensive. Either a whole lot of women are really susceptible to this type of marketing, or else women get clogged up way more than men do [or both]. Even if women get constipated more, that doesn’t change the fact that the “female” laxatives were no different than any other laxative. The pretty (turd?) flowers on the label provide absolutely zero rational justification to chose it as a product over any of the others.

Since our laws require most products list their active ingredient right on the labels, it really doesn’t make sense that “female” marketing should work at all. Maybe this is a guy thing, but I know when I am shopping for something I usually spend a minute comparing price, volumes, active ingredients, other ingredients, concentrations, or anything else that might inform my decision on what to buy. This process of evaluation would almost always make such a transparent gimmick useless (or worse than useless if I was annoyed by the deceptive nature of the label). Especially in the case of the laxatives above, the ladies could easily compare “female” laxatives to the cheapest generic brand and realize what the better deal was. Many, apparently, do not go through this obvious process and marketing female laxatives is a successful sales tactic.

This seems to be true of not just neutral products with deceptive “female” labels, but also for products implicitly understood to be mostly for women. Right out of college I spent a year teaching chemistry and biology at a high school. During one of my chemistry lessons I was rudely interrupted during a very important chemistry lecture by a group of gossiping girls. They were of course talking about which brand of hair care product was the best. Well, even back then I had the general concept of this post about female purchasing habits in my mind. I suspected their concept of “best” products had more to do with labels and gimmicks than with actual active ingredients and effectiveness. As “punishment” I required all of the girls to look up the active chemical ingredient of the various brands, the chemical reactions involved, and give a comparison report in front of the class. I can’t remember exactly which products they talked about, but it ended up having peroxides so it was probably some sort of bleaching agent. Sure enough, my suspicion was correct. All of the brands had the exact same active ingredient at the same concentration. My hope was that they learned a valuable lesson on product evaluation which could save them a lot of money, but I was left with a very distinct impression that they didn’t care at all and were just going to get whatever was most expensive because that was better for signalling status. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.

Now some people might complain that there are examples of the above sort of things with the genders inverted. However, examples like female credit cards and female laxatives are a different category than the male focused products that I can think of (if you have examples I haven’t thought of, please let me know). Specifically, in the case of credit cards and laxatives, there is no implied gender of the product. Companies are taking a gender neutral product, slapping some gynocentric packaging on it, and hoping female vanity will get them more sales despite the product being in no way changed. I can’t think of any male oriented products which fits this description (A gender-neutral product which gets male-focused marketing).

The most well-known example of a male-focused marketing generally is probably the “Just for men” beard dyeing product.* However, there is a fundamental difference between this example and the two female-focused examples. Hair-dying, and thus its products, is implicitly a female activity because it is all about vanity and vanity is a very feminine conceit. In fact, I would go so far as to say that most or all activities, brands, etc which are considered feminine, outside of child-rearing, are fundamentally related to vanity. Many or most men would gladly choose grey beards over buying flowery boxes of hair dye and sissy-dyeing their beards. Either that, or they just don’t care and see dying grey hair as wholly unnecessary [or both]. The “just for men” brand is very self-consciously trying to counter the perception of hair-coloring as feminine to open up a reluctant market. Despite this direct marketing, I suspect the greying male population is still fairly reluctant to bother with hair dyeing compared to the female population as a whole. Even in this case where men might have some pretty legitimate desire to use a vanity product, vanity marketing for men just is not as effective as it is for women. This is why you never see an objectively gender neutral product labeled for men. Such things don’t work, so they don’t happen

Now before you say this is just me and my anecdotal experiences, I want to remind you that the belief that women are more vain than men has existed since ancient times. For example, in Isaiah 3 the women of Judea are described thusly:

Moreover, the LORD said, “Because the daughters of Zion are proud
And walk with heads held high and seductive eyes,
And go along with mincing steps
And tinkle the bangles on their feet,

Therefore the Lord will afflict the scalp of the daughters of Zion with scabs,
And the LORD will make their foreheads bare.”

In that day the Lord will take away the beauty of their anklets, headbands, crescent ornaments, 19dangling earrings, bracelets, veils, headdresses, ankle chains, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets, finger rings, nose rings, festal robes, outer tunics, cloaks, money purses, hand mirrors, undergarments, turbans and veils.

Now it will come about that instead of sweet perfume there will be putrefaction;
Instead of a belt, a rope;
Instead of well-set hair, a plucked-out scalp;
Instead of fine clothes, a donning of sackcloth;
And branding instead of beauty.

Isaiah also talks about killing all the men to make the women suffer even more. Male Privilege. I hope god never decides to punish women too badly…. In an excellent article which is on another topic, but which also references Isaiah, Albert Nock sees a similar pattern among women in the 1920s and 30s:

The picture which Isaiah presents of the Judean masses is most unfavorable. In his view, the mass man — be he high or be he lowly, rich or poor, prince or pauper — gets off very badly. He appears as not only weak minded and weak willed, but as by consequence knavish, arrogant, grasping, dissipated, unprincipled, unscrupulous. The mass woman also gets off badly, as sharing all the mass man’s untoward qualities, and contributing a few of her own in the way of vanity and laziness, extravagance and foible. The list of luxury products that she patronized is interesting; it calls to mind the women’s page of a Sunday newspaper in 1928, or the display set forth in one of our professedly “smart” periodicals. In another place, Isaiah even recalls the affectations that we used to know by the name “flapper gait” and the “debutante slouch.”

So I think there is more than a little something to this idea of vanity being more common in women, and unscrupulous marketeers using that fact to their advantage. Most “for women” marketing is taking advantage of female stupidity and vanity to make a profit. Most women seem completely unable or unwilling to recognize that fact. Frankly, they deserve to be fleeced if it is really that easy to do. And men should laugh at their folly rather than be mad. (Unless its your wife, in which case slap some sense into her.)

*I have never used a beard dye, and I didn’t research it for this post. Beard hair is obviously much more course than other hair and that may require different formulations or tools. If so that actually makes this a distinct product from female hair dye and thus even less of a suitable analogy.

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Idiot Tax

Words you never want to hear (surprisingly): “You just won the lottery.”

I just read one of the more interesting reddit comments I have ever seen and decided to share. I recommend you read through it as well. Apparently winning large sums of money in the lottery more often than not leads a person on roller coaster ride through their own personal hell. Opportunists, including family members, will hear the news of the large winnings and will attempt to beg, steal, divorce, sue, or even murder to get a chunk of it for themselves. Jealousy and resentment in the community can build up as well even for people not trying to actually gain personally. The prime example given in the comment was that of Jack Whittacker, and is apparently true. Amongst many other problems, the police began harassing him with traffic tickets to the point where he actually tried an abortive attempt to sue them.

One of the more interesting claims in the comment was as follows:

Large jackpot winners face double digit multiples of probability versus the general population to be the victim of:

  1. Homicide (something like 20x more likely)
  2. Drug overdose
  3. Bankruptcy (how’s that for irony?)
  4. Kidnapping

And triple digit multiples of probability versus the general population rate to be:

  1. Convicted of drunk driving
  2. The victim of Homicide (at the hands of a family member) 120x more likely in this case, ain’t love grand?
  3. A defendant in a civil lawsuit
  4. A defendant in felony criminal proceedings

I am not going to spend the time needed to verify all of these stats, but logically it makes sense that when someone suddenly gains great wealth the people around them would let their true (and horrible) colors show. And also that insane people would come out of the woodwork to harass them. A quick google search seems to support, if not the exact stats, the reality that lottery winners tend to have a bad time. I imagine reading through some of the horror stories featured in the previous search would prove quite interesting in a morbid sort of way. It might go a long way in sobering a person up with respect to winning the lottery.

I have a friend who describes the lottery as an “idiot tax” because the chances of winning are so small that you have virtually no chance of winning. A fitting description which is all the more apt after finding about this unfortunate trend. But there are plenty of idiot taxpayers and sometimes a few even win. To their everlasting suffering. If you decide to pay the idiot tax and despite all odds actually win, great care must be taken. The comment also gives seemingly reasonable personal finance advice on that as well. To quote another user:

That was the most useful thing I ever read on how to do something that i will never do

Until then, think twice about whether or not you ever want to hear the words “You just won the lottery.”

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Buy or rent?

So the story of Obama’s Orwellian plan to counter white flight has been making the rounds lately. Essentially what leftists want to do is make it so that it is impossible for whites within large metropolitan areas to escape the horrible consequences of leftist policies by moving outside of the city limits. They are using a several pronged attack to do this. On one side, they are keeping federal money away from suburban cities which won’t play along with the scheme to incentivize them to play. If they do play, they are subtly being forced to give up their independence with respect to the major city in the area. To receive the money from the feds, they must report a whole series of measures publicly which will demonstrate racial segregation and disparate impact. This publicly available information could then be used to sue municipalities and of course proof of intentional discrimination is not necessary based on a recent supreme court case with respect to Texas.
In fact, judicial fiat is likely to be the main mechanism by which cities will be forced to cede authority to the federal government. (Amusingly, the leftist activists working with the feds are apparently too stupid to realize what is going on and thus think it won’t have the effects they want.) To avoid getting sued and to continue getting federal money, these suburbs will be given options to increase diversity in the area such as building section 8 housing in relatively wealthy areas; including advertising this low income housing to the inner city underclass. Many cities have zoning laws which prevent these sorts of high rise living buildings from being built. Either by lawsuit or by coercion through federal money withholding these cities will be forced to reverse these zoning laws. In other words, whites (and even the exceptional minorities who escaped their dumb and violent co-ethnics) who have worked very hard and spent way more money than should have been necessary will have all of their equity wiped out. Leftists plan do this to virtually every suburban community[pdf] throughout the entire country. If you live in one of these communities, you should seriously consider getting out now before your property values plummet.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, I am a young guy with little in the way of responsibilities. I only have myself and my own bills to pay for. I am debt free with no wife, no children. In other words, my level of freedom to make decisions is quite high and this new information significantly reduces the chances I will ever buy a home (at least in the US).
My friends and I have had the conversation about whether or not it is worthwhile to buy a home as opposed to rent well before this new federal policy was known. We have discussed the pros and cons. The obvious pro for buying a home is that instead of rent money disappearing into the abyss, it goes into equity which you may eventually be able to get back. However, there are negatives as well. Once you get the home, you essentially become locked into a certain lifestyle. You have a mortgage that you have to pay every month, so you need to have a regular job that you can’t leave easily. If you leave you can’t pay the mortgage and you are screwed. If you want to travel, you are limited to very short durations of travel because you have to get back to your job to pay that mortgage. If you ever do decide you want to leave even for another job, you have to go through the whole hassle of selling the house. This could take a long time, and depending on the market, you might end up losing money anyway (home equity is of course a gamble). So, as a renter you have the option of jumping ship to something new at least every year and possibly more often if the apartment allows you to buy yourself out of the contract. So the major pro with renting is increased flexibility with your life choices. This is difficult if not impossible to quantify financially. How can you put a price on freedom? The main advantage of buying a home is equity, which is easy to quantify but is increasingly unreliable.
Though the government has been moving in this direction for a while, it seems as though they are accelerating an alarming trend which will make home purchase even less worthwhile. Many communities have been curb-stomped and responsible citizens screwed because the government subsidizes poor people (especially blacks) to move into communities they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. Contrary to popular belief, it is not just wealth which differentiates different classes of people. The underclass is more criminal than the middle and upper class. They engage in violent behavior more often which reduces the safety of the community. They do not do as well in school and lower the quality for the children of the higher classes. So what ends up happening when you move the underclass into reasonably healthy communities is a large reduction in the quality of life for the more responsible previous residents and lowering the property values. If you buy into one of these safe areas with good schools, it is now very likely that in a few years your money will be lost because of forced re-location of the underclass to your community. The gamble on home equity is thus very bad at this point.

On balance, I have always found more value in the improved flexibility and freedom of renting than the potential gains from home ownership. The idea of being locked into one place for 30 years just seems repellent to me. In the days of yore, a young man like myself would have been able to reliably start a family which would make buying a home and sticking with a single job in one place for 30 years more logical, if not more appealing. This of course has already been gutted because chances are all my work and efforts could be stripped away from me at a moments notice by an incorrigibly capricious woman with me having no recourse to protect myself whatsoever. Now, not only is that a worry, I now have to be concerned that even if a potential wife didn’t do this, or I decided to go into it by myself, I will have my equity destroyed by inner-city thugs being planted right next to me. Or Islamic refugees from some third world shithole. Clearly the US is a sinking ship which is why I have felt for a long time that eventually permanently moving overseas is probably the best bet for me personally. In places like Asia, relative safety and the ability to start a family under reasonable circumstances is still very much alive. Until then, though, I will maximize my flexibility over equity. You never know when you might suddenly need to jump ship.

I am sure I am not the only guy who feels this way, or at least there are probably many other men with similar perspectives. This probably constitutes a huge opportunity cost for the housing industry and maybe all industries. The more the government disincentivises productive men, the less they will stick in one area with one job. They will pay less taxes, they will make less purchases and will downgrade the purchases they do make. Ultimately, it will be society generally rather than these men who suffer the most as a result of reduced economic activity.
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Personal Finance

A lot of people seem to peddle get rich quick schemes, and that is just nonsense. It is very unlikely that any scheme that promises to make you a ton of money with low effort and low initial investment will do anything of the sort. If you hear about such a scheme, run away as fast as you can. However, just because get rich schemes are almost always scams doesn’t mean there aren’t reasonable ways to invest money.

Presumably most guys will get jobs, and thus make some reasonable amount of money. I won’t advise on specific careers, but whatever career you get you should be saving money. There are sensible ways that money can be intelligently invested such that you can earn a good return over time.

Your first priority is to build up a reasonable emergency fund. Basically open a bank account (money market savings and checking) and put enough cash in there to be able to live for at least 6 months should you loose your current job for whatever reason. I recommend you look for a high interest option. Your average bank like Wells Fargo has an extremely crappy interest rate. I personally use Ally bank. I have a money market account at .85% interest and an interest checking account for .15% interest. There are other options though, so look around.  You can see some high interest banks here. You might also consider getting a high yield checking account, but keep in mind that there are more restrictions on these sometimes such as a minimum balance and a minimum number of debit card uses per month.

Your second priority is paying off any debt that you have. Forget about get rich quick schemes, doing any investing, etc until all your debt is paid off. Becoming debt free will be the best bet for your finances in the long run. Paying this off earlier is guaranteed less money you will have to pay out overall, while there is absolutely no guarantee you won’t lose money on whatever investments you choose. Guaranteed savings are better than non-guaranteed capital gains and/or dividends.

Once you have all of your debt paid off, you should start looking at retirement savings. This is the best for investing given the tax breaks that you will currently or eventually receive. If your company offers any sort of match for 401k you invest at minimum enough to get the maximum they will match. That is free money, you need to get it. Whether to invest more in the 401k after getting the match or in some other type of retirement account is dependent on you tax situation. 401k is most advantageous to people with a high salary. By deferring to a 401k you get to defer paying taxes for your income in the highest bracket and thus pay less each year. You will have to pay taxes on the retirement when you pull it out, but in theory it should have increased in value significantly since you put it in. In other words, you get to make money off of what you owe in taxes until you start taking disbursements from your retirement account. If you plan on purchasing a first home, you can also pull up to 10,000 out of your 401k without penalty when you make that purchase. So, that money is still relatively easily available to you for that purpose. However, generally speaking, many of the funds offered in employer 401ks aren’t the best deal because they have high expense ratios.  This is because you are basically locked into only a few choices by the arrangement made between the employer and the investment broker, which allows the broker to push up the costs relative to what you could get if it wasn’t through your employer.  It is a good idea to pick the low-cost whole market indexes usually available in these funds. Besides the lower cost, whole market indexes actually tend to outperform specialized actively managed funds over time.  In fact, in 2011 84% of actively managed funds under-performed the market.

If you are in a lower income bracket and/or very young, then you really need to consider investing in a Roth IRA. If you are in a low tax bracket already, then you get less benefit from deferring taxes by using a 401k. In a roth, instead of deferring tax until later, you pay the taxes on your income now and don’t have to pay any taxes later when you pull it out for retirement. This is quite a good deal. If you are young then the money you put in today could very well increase several fold over the next 40 years and you will never have to pay any taxes on it. This advantage should not be overlooked. In addition, if for some reason you find yourself in an emergency or you need to make a big purchase you can pull out money up to the amount you have contributed (any capital gains or dividends have to stay in the roth until retirement).  I personally use vanguard because it is cheaper in general than most other funds offering Roth accounts.

Once you have a arranged for your retirement savings, you should still have a net savings rate. With this money you can make some investments in the stock market. It is not really a good idea to leave huge amounts of money (more than 2x your minimum emergency fund) in a bank account earning a relatively low return. Even the relatively high interest accounts I mentioned earlier. Your money is still loosing value at that rate because the interest is less than inflation. The main use of the savings account is to lower the effective inflation rate of your money. The vast majority of your investments should be in relatively sound vehicles. When you get to this stage, please get and read “The intelligent investor” by Benjamin Graham for very solid advice.

Lastly, you can if you want set aside a very small portion of your portfolio for speculation. Basically, taking wild gambles on the stock market that are high risk, but might offer a very high return. This fund should be completely separate from the rest of your investments, and shouldn’t include more the 1% of your total worth. You go in being fully prepared to loose it all, or you don’t do this.

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