01 - @danieljthomason on Personal Finance


In this inaugural episode of Reset Default Settings, I talk with economist and fintech professional Daniel Thomason about personal finance. We discuss why and how financial illiteracy is the cultural default for most places, and how an individual can respond to that landscape.

Links mentioned in the episode:

Contents with timestamps:

  • 1:28 — The personal finance cultural default

  • 3:10 — What is the cause of the current cultural default attitude toward money

    • 4:10 — Personal finance is not taught, or taught well, in school

    • 5:45 — Parents don’t teach children about money, student loans, and more

    • 13:08 — Institutional interests and cultural pressures that have an interest in financial illiteracy (colleges, car financing)

    • 17:30 — A desire for financial wellness shortcuts; financial apps like Acorn and Robinhood

  • 22:50 — Context dropping: all advice is dependent on context; financial advice is often divorced from context when it’s offered.

    • 24:00 — Renting versus owning a home/apartment

    • 30:30 — The cost of living in New York City

  • 48:00 — What to do in a world where everyone provides bad advice and information about money and personal finance?

  • 49:30 — I am hosting an Interintellect salon with Daniel on personal finance

Introducing: Reset Default Settings


Hello, my name is Daniel Golliher, and I’m starting a new podcast and newsletter called Reset Default Settings. The content will be a mix of audio episodes and essays, and you can subscribe via email or through any podcast platform you use. 

Reset Default Settings--what does that mean. Well, default settings are what happen when you do nothing, they maintain the status quo. They’re the things that are chosen for you, if you don’t choose yourself.

Default settings are the prevailing wisdom, common sense, the stuff that everyone knows is true, and the things that everyone is doing. 

The Effects of Default Settings

But default settings are often wrong. Even when they’re true generally, they’re not true universally. What’s good for everyone else isn’t necessarily good for you, and even that changes over time. Many default settings don’t come about because of knowledge that’s been carefully distilled over generations. They’re arbitrary points of inadequate cultural equilibria. They’re bad epistemic accidents that people treat as wisdom without much thought. 

What I love about going beyond default ideas is that your sense of what is possible expands radically. If you ignore what people claim is possible, and look into it for yourself, you’ll find that the world is more marvelous than you ever thought. More is possible. More is achievable. More can be had. This applies on the level of sending manned ships to Mars, but it’s also directly applicable to everyday life for all of us. 

Want to go live in New York City, but you’ve heard it’s too expensive? I’ll be talking about the many ways that that’s wrong. Want to start a company, or build a product, but think you don’t have the skills or means to do it? That’s most certainly not the case. Having difficulty adjusting to the modern workplace, even though everyone else seems to have settled into it, or accepted it as reality? Well, it’s not. Reality is far more expansive.  

I want to reset default settings, because of how they tend to function in our society. They are limits. They’re bright lines that say, you may do anything within these bounds, but nothing more is possible or advisable. They are the clipping of our society’s wings, and blinders on each individual. 

By their nature, most people will agree with them. If you find yourself questioning the prevailing wisdom, wanting to reset a default, it will naturally be you against many other people. You might feel like you’re going insane a little bit.

But know two things: First, you’re not the insane one. It really is everyone else this time. Second, and despite the first point, you’re not alone. There are people forging new paths and living on their own terms all over the place. But this doesn’t mean living in the wilderness. You can do this in a corporate environment, at a startup, really wherever you choose. I’ll be interviewing people all over the map, literal and figurative, on this podcast.

Should you listen to and read Reset Default Settings?

If you grew up reading science fiction and fantasy, but you wonder where all the glory in life has gone, this podcast is for you.

If one of your regular intrusive thoughts is “surely this can’t be all there is,” this podcast is for you.

If you want to know how to identify cultural defaults and inspect them, even as you’re within them--you know, you’re a fish who wants to see the water--this podcast is for you.

If you believe in the power of human agency and individual autonomy, or you want to, this is the podcast for you. 

There is glory to be had, adventure to be gone on, and barriers to be smashed in this life. 

I hope you’ll come along with me. 

And on that note, who am I? As I said, my name is Daniel. I have an origin story that most politicians would die for, because, before I attended Harvard College, I grew up on a farm in rural Indiana. I used to aspire to law school, but after working in the legal industry I veered right of that road. Since graduating from college I’ve lived a lot of places, currently Manhattan; I’ve worked a lot of jobs, including a coffee shop, law firm, and higher ed; I’ve scattered a lot of sparks, like in book publishing and novel writing, piano, and saxophone; and deliberately sought out the people and ideas that I’m now going to discuss on this podcast. 

You can find Reset Default Settings anywhere that you listen to podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, all the Android applications, and even via email or through a web browser. If you go to resestdefaultsettings.com, you’ll find essays, transcripts, and more. New audio episodes will come out at least twice a month, and new essays will come out between those, with the first of both coming soon in January 2021. Happy New Year, everyone. 


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