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Anti-Capitalist Financial Planning with River Nice Part I

That's our roles in society under the economic model of capitalism, you're either working for someone else to keep the profit, or you’re spending the money that you've made by buying stuff so someone else can keep the profit.

In 2019, I read the Harper’s Bazaar article, Rachel Cargle Insists Rest Is the Real Revolution for Black Women. In it, the writer and advocate discussed many things, but a statement she made about capitalism and her place within the system, struck me.

“As I continue to move forward in my career, I've been considering how much money I actually need,” Cargle said. “I'm a single woman, essentially living by myself in New York City. I don't plan on having children. I am fairly low maintenance in terms of I don't go clothes shopping and shoe shopping and jewelry shopping. That's just not really me, who I am. So how much money do I really need to be comfortable? I'm just fighting this capitalist idea that I need more and more and more.”

In turn, I asked myself the same question. The tension of living under a capitalist system continues to squeeze every cent out of us and diminish every dollar we earn—the dollar of two years ago is certainly not the dollar of today. Add to that climate change, failing state and federal governments, and constant home-grown terrorism threats, how can we plan for a future that seems so uncertain and how do you do that as a budding anti-capitalist?

River Nice, an anti-capitalist financial planner, talks about these topics on TikTok regularly.

“Capitalism at its core is incentivized to pay workers as little as possible and get consumers to pay as much as possible,” Nice said. “Most of us are workers and consumers. That's our roles in society under the economic model of capitalism, you're either working for someone else to keep the profit, or you’re spending the money that you've made by buying stuff so someone else can keep the profit.”

I caught up with Nice to talk about capitalism, how anti-capitalism financial planning works, and why popular financial planners traffic in shame. Here is part one of our conversation.

Capitalism is a term we hear a lot more in everyday conversations. What is crucial for someone to understand as they begin unpacking what that means?

I want to give credit to the Occupy movement for starting this conversation [and making it] more prevalent over the years to talk about it.

[In] capitalism there in an owner class and a working class.

The owners own the land, and what we call the means of production, the factories, corporate entities, [and so on]. The working class get paid a wage to do their labor. So, no matter how much value is accumulated in—let's call it a factory—there's all the workers working together. They make all the stuff that gets sold for however much money, they make the same wage, even if the amount of money made from selling stuff is more than that [wage]. The owner of the factory gets to keep all the extra money, even though all he did was happen to own the factory.

Already, that’s a problem, that's messed up, it takes all of us; the owner organizing the thing, and the workers doing the thing to make this stuff happen. But no one person can do that on their own. So how come one person is making so much more than everyone else?

Then you take [that situation] and make it worse with [former President Ronald] Reagan and his trickle-down bulls—t. Wages get lower and lower, companies want to profit more, and the owners are going to profit more and more.

How does—or can—anti-capitalism financial planning work if you are living paycheck to paycheck, receive disability assistance, or live on pensions?

[My] approach to personal finance is all about; what are you doing with the resources that you have access to? And is that as closely aligned with your values as possible under an oppressive system?

Some people need to use state benefits, some are scraping by, and some are using and surviving on credit card debt. We're all doing our best.

I've met other financial planners who primarily work with high net wealth clients, and help those folks entirely divest from the stock market. Those people have so much money and generational wealth that they can pull all their money out and still be fine in old age, they don't need a 401k. But for those of us not coming from [that kind of wealth] if we were to pull our money out of the stock market, we would run out of money [during retirement]. I don't see a way out of the stock market. And that doesn't mean that you are a bad person for having to use the tools that we have been forced to use.

It's more about how much—within your abilities and capacity—are you thinking through what you're doing with your resources to get as close to the life you want as possible. Some of us are so exhausted and burnt out by trying to survive in the rat race, that we don't have a lot of extra time and energy to think [things] through. And some of us have brains that don't function very well with numbers—everybody's got their own abilities.

How does an anti-capitalist financial mindset differ from the capitalist financial planning mindset?

The thing that I came to first, was money for a purpose helps us get away from the scarcity and hoarding mentality. If I know this bank account has my money in case of an emergency, and that account has my money for retirement, and that account has [money] for my house down payment, that helps me know what I need. That's enough for me without getting into “Oh, there will never be enough, I need to keep everything for myself.”

The other thing is money’s not the only tool in our financial lives. There are the tools created governed by the state like money, credit scores, property ownership, the stock market, but we also have relationships and skills we can share with other people. Maybe somebody is good at writing a resume, maybe somebody else is good at cooking a meal. Mutual aid are tools that we can also use for our financial well-being and future.

When I'm thinking about anti-capitalist financial planning, it’s about how we use those state tools—within our values as much as possible when the tools are clearly not designed for that—And what are we doing with the other tools that we can create outside of what the state wants us to do.

When I was living paycheck to paycheck, I remember putting a lot of pressure on myself and feeling shame for not being able to handle money the way popular financial planners like Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey said we should. What should people keep in mind when they hear advice from these kinds of planners?

Anybody who's not addressing that the game is rigged and trying to make it the individual’s fault is not helpful. The funny thing is the stuff I teach is not different than what any of them teach. A budget is still a budget, and a credit score is still a credit score. It's just how we frame it and what we acknowledge about it.

I hate Dave Ramsey because he says [things like] you are a bad person if you dare to enjoy a meal at a restaurant. That makes absolutely no sense. Especially when it's 2023, the racial wealth gap is the biggest it's been in 100 years and rent prices and the minimum wage do not correlate at all anymore. He's out of touch, and he's profiting off shame.

It's more about how do you frame it, what are you acknowledging [when] you're teaching, and how are you trying to motivate people? I'm not teaching anything vastly different. I'm just saying, it's not your fault that it's this hard.

Thank you for saying that, because a lot of people would benefit from hearing that part of it. So much of financial planning advice is about it being completely our fault and that it’s a personal failure, but once it finally dawned on me that I wasn’t making a living wage, and I couldn’t do the things that they're talking about, it changed my perspective.

Yes. Instead of [these financial planners acknowledging] as a society, we have people starving to death, that's wrong, and a societal problem. They're trying to make it about the individual and that's white supremacy.

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.

Learn more about River Nice and anti-capitalist financial planning at Be Intentional Financial LLC. You can follow them on Instagram.


Perdita Patrice is a Texas-based writer and documentary filmmaker. She enjoys live music, reading, and watching TV. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @perditapatrice


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