What’s So Hilarious When a Millennial WSJ-Reporter Says What an App Does is New & Life-Changing Though We’ve Been Doing It for 3 Decades

Where are the grizzled editors to stop this? Has ageism reached the point where they don’t have grown-ups working there anymore?

Dear millennials, I love watching you come up with new stuff and invent things, even those things that we’ve been using for decades (just not on a smartphone), and I love the fresh thinking and new ideas you bring to the table, but please don’t write stuff like this without first asking a grown-up who is not your mom or dad. And dear Wall Street Journal, please put your grizzled editors back to work. Ageism is fine and new blood and expense cuts are needed, I understand, but good lordy, someone should have caught this. Otherwise you keep entertaining us with this unintentional hilarity.

This is what happened. The Wall Street Journal published an article by an emphatically self-proclaimed millennial reporter based in its New York bureau. For those still clinging to their paper-paper, it appeared today under the title, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind.”

This reporter writes at the WSJ about personal finance, such as “Pros and Cons of 529 Accounts for College,” or “If You’re Considering an Annuity, Start by Understanding What You Get.” Obviously, he’s a smart kid and a good writer, at the bottom of what (I wish for him) will be a long and interesting learning curve, not cut short by bots or ageism when his turn comes.

So it’s not his fault.

A grizzled editor should have read the first few paragraphs of the draft and called the reporter in for a come-to-Jesus meeting. That’s what the learning curve is all about. But what did the WSJ do with its grizzled editors? Where did they go?

The article starts out with a survey, which forms the data on which the article is then based – a sample with the sample size of n=1, namely his parents. From there, he extrapolates to the universe, drawing conclusions about how millennials are in a new world:

To get a sense of how different spending is for my generation than for my parents’ generation, just consider one simple transaction: a utility bill. When my parents paid their utility bill, they had to take out their checkbook, put pen to paper, write a check and then record it in their checkbook. If they didn’t know how much their utility bill was, they had to be willfully ignorant.

My utility bill is paid automatically from my banking app. For me to know how much my utility bill is, I have to be willfully diligent. And the truth is, sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not.

I’m not just talking about utility bills here, of course. As for most other millennials I know, technology has made paying all sorts of bills so easy that we don’t even have to think about it. And that’s the problem: By making personal finance so much easier to do, technology also has made it so much easier to ignore.

He veers into how this new technology of an app that miraculously pays for things automatically has changed life as we know it:

But in doing so, it has severed the connection between the things we buy and the act of paying for those things.

It’s that connection, though, that can keep our financial lives on track—making sure we save enough, and spend on the things that really matter.

The whole article is about how this new miraculous technology of automatic payments makes us lose “control over our money.”

This is hilarious for a grizzled guy like me.

I have been on automatic payments since about 1990. Using the antediluvian communication tools of a wired telephone and snail-mail, I arranged having all my bills paid automatically by having them charged to my credit cards, and I arranged to have my credit cards paid off automatically via direct ACH debit on my bank account. I also set up my mortgage payments as ACH debit to my bank account. Lots of people did this. You could go on line (PC, dialup) to check on it, but you didn’t need to. And you could look at the paper statements for your own edification, but you didn’t need to.

This part of my financial life has been automated for nearly three decades. It’s not new to me though it’s new to our millennial reporter.

It allowed me to leave the US in February 1996 and travel to 100 or so countries on all continents, including about 25 countries in Africa, where communication with the outside world was impossible for weeks at a time (can you even imagine that, dear millennial?). And throughout these three years while I was gone, my mortgage and my bills ran on automatic pilot, keeping my home in place for the day that I might return. Which was in February 1999.

I never planned to be gone for more than a few months, but one thing led to another. I was 40 at the time, and needed to catch a breath of fresh air. You can read about the first part of this life-changing experience in my book, BIG LIKE, which is mostly about the segment in Japan, where I lost my moorings.

The entire journey was made possible by automatic payments. I used my credit cards to get big cash advances in a few big cities where I could, so that I could live off the cash where credit cards were not accepted, as I traveled mostly overland through China, Mongolia, Russia, other parts of Asia, Africa, and South America. And the credit cards were paid off automatically. I just needed to have enough money in my bank account. Yup, 1996-1999.

The hilarity spreads with this quaint paragraph:

My parents and others of their generation describe to me a process that would entail three separate points of contact whenever they swiped a credit card: first, at the cash register, then when a bill came in the mail and finally when they wrote a check to cover it. On each separate occasion, they were presented with their decision to buy something and forced to assess the wisdom of that purchase and the impact it had on their account balances.

Yes, you can still do it this way if you like, but at least since 1990, you didn’t need to do it that way. The WSJ reporter is just seeing automatic payments for the first time and thinks the technology is new.

Paying bills was an act done with militaristic precision on weekend mornings. Envelopes were opened, pens were uncapped and checks were signed and then ripped in strict four-four time. My generation has traded that cadence for something with a structure akin to free jazz.

Good lordy… grizzled editor, please stop this in its tracks, I beg you. Or at least cut out clueless generalities such as “my generation has” and replace them with “I have.” But no. The WSJ allows its reporter to continue it a relentlessly hilarious cluelessness:

While each of the checkpoints from the original process is technically still there, automation has given people a chance to skip the two that happen after the initial card swipe. And when it comes to bills paid automatically through a banking app, even the first checkpoint is gone. We know it’s happening in the background, but it’s so far out of view that it might as well not be there.

Yes, I already knew that and did that in the early 1990s.

Grizzled editor, where art thou?

It’s obvious why such a system is appealing. As one 25-year-old friend described it to me, it’s an “out of sight, out of mind” approach that frees him from daily money anxiety while simultaneously ensuring that he doesn’t miss a payment.

Yes, this was “appealing” to me too, when I was in my mid-30s, nearly 30 years ago, when I set it up, like so many others of “my generation.” It was effortless at the time, and it’s still effortless. I do none of it on a “banking app.” No app needed.

Just because you weren’t around at the time, or because you were too young to notice, or because the folks in your sample of 1 didn’t do it doesn’t mean that it didn’t exist and that people didn’t do it….

And this sort of I-invented-sex hilarity continues:

But these arms’ length transactions come with a high price. A financial professional I talked to says the biggest concern is that it fosters a basic financial ignorance. If you don’t constantly think about where your money goes, you won’t think about whether you’re spending it wisely.

No, “financial ignorance” is not fostered by automatic payment systems. It’s fostered by the desire to remain financially ignorant, as in “I don’t want to know because I don’t care.” By contrast, using an automatic payment system is the result of a triage of priorities, as in “I’ve got more important things to do in life.”

For me, automatic payments have worked perfectly well since the early 1990s. Others still prefer writing checks. Whatever works for them is fine. The issue isn’t personal preference. The issue is that the WSJ got rid of its grizzled editors to stop a clueless young reporter from embarrassing the paper with a story about something totally new and awesome – automatic payments – that changes life as we know it though we have been using it for three decades, and life is still kind of the same.

And at the end, there’s the spit-out-coffee moral of the story.

The good news is that what technology has taken, it can also give. Much of the battle is simply recognizing what we’ve lost. After all, we don’t miss what we don’t know we miss.

Upon reading this, grizzled editors would have spit out their coffee and rolled on the floor laughing. But they were let go because they were too expensive, and too critical and had too much experience and knowledge, and were too hard to please and get stuff by, and because they poked holes into stories, and reporters would have to redo them or scuttle them. And so these grizzled editors were too inconvenient and costly in an industry that is switching to bots writing news stories in a millisecond, and so they got shafted.

And the millennial reporters end up with the short end of the stick because there’s no one there to help them up the learning curve with an occasional come-to-Jesus meeting.

Here’s my podcast on the “The Next Big Letdown for Stocks.” Ten minutes of grizzled essence. Listen to....  THE WOLF STREET REPORT

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  127 comments for “What’s So Hilarious When a Millennial WSJ-Reporter Says What an App Does is New & Life-Changing Though We’ve Been Doing It for 3 Decades

  1. MCH says:

    Wolf, stop being such an old dude, and let the kid have his space. I finally figured out that if you can’t beat the Millenials, join them. So, I will be fully focused on changing my social media profile… or I rather should say creating said profiles to make it appear that I am 20 years younger and be willfully ignorant.

    I don’t think that’ll be too difficult to pull off. Much harder to fake smart.

    And there is nothing wrong with ignorance, haven’t you heard of this new fangled saying: “ ignorance is bliss.” Oh I know, I used the word new fangled, in theory that marks me as an old dude, but trust me, I am ahead of the curve, looking to get with it on the next generation that will replace the Millennials.

    • Wisdom Seeker says:

      Ignorance ain’t bliss. It’s the grinding poverty of being exploited by weaponized financial math.

      • MCH says:

        Being only a little sarcastic here, but if you have no clue that people are exploiting you, then, you’re not unhappy. Think of all of the lambs that are going to become lamb chops. Right up until the whack whack here and a whack whack there, they’re probably all happy at being fed well and having their needs tended to while the wolves are kept at bay.

        Let’s face it, is it better to have a tough life with responsibilities, or a carefree one with only a very abrupt and horrific ending?

        • polecat says:

          So it’s the silence of the millennial lambs is it .. ??
          Dood .. quit Lectoring us …

        • MCH says:

          But remember, the lambs have had a very good life up until the end.

          Sorry, Lectoring again. ;)

        • Zippy says:

          “Let’s face it, is it better to have a tough life with responsibilities, or a carefree one with only a very abrupt and horrific ending?”

          Unfortunately, the clueless and carefree vote, thereby directing what little can actually be influenced by voting, that being to a very small extent the speed at which we descend into a turn-key police state, increased control of government by crony capitalism, and increased collectivism. Thus, even for those responsible and informed few there is the same horrific ending of the society around them brought about by the majority clueless. This is always how empires fall.

          Referring to the IQ bell curve:

          “Think about this; think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of ’em are stupider than that.” – George Carlin

          The only thing not being ignorant allows is the ability to prepare for the inevitable, but not stop it.

          And that was your happy thought for the day…

    • Setarcos says:

      The kid has a point. Taxes, SS, etc. for most people have been on autopay for generations, i.e. withholding. This group is well attuned to their annual refund, with little awareness of their actual tax cost.

      • CreditGB says:

        Stetacros, Bingo! Everyone should be required to write that Tax check or ACH quarterly. Only then could the true stupidity of Federal spending be realized by the masses who are so used to focus on net pay versus gross minus taxes withheld. Just another opinion here.

        Auto withholding dulls the pain of taxes. Auto pay dulls the pain of spending or misspending.

  2. California Bob says:

    Wonder if this brilliant millennial knows having your credit card handle autopays can result in hundreds, if not thousands of dollars’ worth of rebates/cash back every year?

    • JohnnySacks says:

      Or periodic service payments which can’t be stopped? As another old timer, I remember AOL and the inability of it’s customer victims to cancel their subscriptions and automatic payments.

  3. GP says:

    LOL, thanks Wolf shining light on these newly enlightened smarter than thou reporters :)

    I used to see this pattern in MarketWatch, Yahoo Finance etc. But over last few years even on Reuters, Bloomberg and WSJ.

    40 countries? Wow, that’s something we want to read more about.

  4. Old dog says:

    Damn you boomers and your condescending eye-rolling.

    Thanks for the humor Wolf!

  5. HR01 says:


    Author comes across as quite smug.

    Have to differ with your assessment that he’s a smart kid. No, the writer has learned little and is just one more example of the generations who have been educationally impoverished by the state (by design of course).

    Most millennials are in trouble once the next true crisis hits. When critical thinking is required, they’re out of luck.

    • Mean Chicken says:

      I’ll add, they’ve been impoverished by the state in more respects than educationally, they just don’t realize it YET.

      The person standing next to you may not be who they appear to be.

      • GK says:

        I don’t understand your second sentence, please clarify.

        • Mean Chicken says:

          Just trying to provide helpful advice for coping with their societal issues.

      • Chris says:

        Lest we old folks become too sanguine – or smug – consider how likely it is that YOUR DOCTOR may not be who he or she appears to be.

    • MCH says:

      My opinion is not so much that the state has failed to educate this generation. Part of the problem is trusting the state in the first place. It is first and foremost a parent’s responsibility to educate their kids.

      Financial literacy should not be the responsibility of the state. Heck, if anything the Federal government shows how imprudent it is to be fiscally responsible. Would you trust our schools to educate our kids. Kids need to fundamentally understand the value of the dollar, even if it is declining in purchase power.

      It is absolutely true that society today want to disintermediate us from our cash. All we have to do, is to look at Amazon and we have a perfect example. One click, and stuff magically shows up. it doesn’t help that are ruling class wants us to not have any responsibility, instead, we can get the nanny state who wants to give everyone universal basic income.

      But oddly, what you give up in responsibility, you also give up in power. In the end, we may as well all live in the matrix. Nothing more than blissfully ignorant Sheeple.

      • RangerOne says:

        Aside from the author writing a click bait, poorly researched article I am not sure how this is indicative of a major shift in Millennials knowing how to manage money any better or worse than previous generations.

        Its seems like pretty much everyone, not extremely interested in personal finance, is fairly ignorant of things they should not be with regards to basic investment and financial planning.

        No education system public or private appears to have solved the issue. And parents rich and poor provide shitty financial education based on their own perverse view of money.

        For the lucky few with parents who are well versed in personal finance and have a desire to pass that knowledge on. Not every kid will allow them to do so. Because human children usually lack the maturity to care about such subjects early on.

        • MCH says:

          I do agree with you on the fact that it is a matter of becoming educated, either by parenting, or alternatively, by realizing that there are things that one didn’t know. But if you connect the dots back to Wolf’s other articles on how we’re becoming nothing more than debt slaves, or a good amount of people becoming such, I think it isn’t a far stretch to draw the line between that problem and not enough people are financially literate enough to realize what’s going on.

          One of the bigger issue is of course, how easy our “technology” has made it to separate us from our money. Literally, just go read any article about fake online money (in video games, and how kids don’t have a clue that real money is being spent), now we have a generation becoming accustomed to digital goods and not even understanding how it relates to finances. This idea then gets carried into the real world, as people become debt slaves while Amazon and its allies reap the rewards.

        • RagnarD says:

          True, but in my family we have four kids, each with very different views / knowledge on matters financial. Meaning, we as individuals/DNA play a big part in our financial journey

    • van_down_by_river says:

      Millennial vs GenX vs Boomer what’s the difference?

      Millennials are (still) young and idealistic and not yet corrupted.

      GenX is disillusioned and basically given up, they understand the importance of low expectations. They have not sold out because they never had the opportunity to sell out.

      Boomers have full on sold out whatever values they held when they were young idealists. They don’t care how badly they trash society because they are fairly certain it will hold together just long enough to see them through to the end.

      One major intergenerational difference: intelligence. Millennials were not poisoned with leaded gas while growing up and as a consequence are believed to be, in aggregate, as much as 8 IQ points more intelligent then the immediate preceding generations.

      Note that after Boomers came of age we stopped going to the moon and had to scuttle the space shuttle program, it was determined that “deficits don’t matter” and it was necessary to teach Iraq a lesson after a bunch of Saudi-committed terrorist attacks. Funny how the military budgets and spending on medicare (especially drugs) exploded after Boomers took control. Before laughing at Millennials might want to take a look in the mirror – just sayin.

      I believe Millennials will right the ship but it will be a rough ride as the boomers try to consume every last resource and commodity on the way out the door.

    • Emanuel Bocancea says:

      They are critical all right, but can’t think!

    • intosh says:

      Go to Youtube “anonymously” (not logged in) and look at the popular or tending videos. 99% is trash and that trash is available 24/7, unlike trash on TV. Same thing with the popular apps with millennials: TikTok and Snapchat. Add that to slave jobs of the “sharing economy” (Uber Eats delivery guy, Uber driver, Amazon Turkers), and add “news” that turns reality and truth upside down and you get a time bomb. And automation will ignite it.

    • Atticus Finch says:

      When my son got his house loan in 2006, I told him to ask the loan officer how he survived the 1979 real estate debacle. Blank stare.

  6. qt says:

    I’m 38 but I dont blame my credit cards for my overspending.

  7. KMOUT says:


    I’m 63 years old and witness daily the disconnect the my kids and friends have with their money. We had the benefit of the relationship with money handed to us and money leaving our hands. The kids nowadays have skipped that experience.
    That consciousness is simply not there. They are insulated from the concept of existing balance. No wonder the credit card gangs set up shop on the college campus.
    A couple of decades ago there was a test where 100 young people were given a debit card with 1000 dollars on it and 100 with 1000 cash. At the end of a set period the group revealed how much they had left.
    The cash group averaged more retained cash than the plastic group.
    And those were people who ostensibly had our background with managing money.
    It takes a lot of work to imbue the youngins with something that is just not witnessed or experienced.

    • curiouscat says:

      The credit card gangs have been “setting up shop” on campus since 1962 when I entered the University of Delaware. In those days a “free” Esso or Shell card would show up in your mailbox. Ready to use. I kept using the Exxon card until my wife made me give it up to penalize the company for the Exxon Valdez disaster.

    • Bankers says:

      I agree with you there, in fact the whole WSJ article underlines that very well, not by the actual text but by the fact that “the millennial” has not addressed it in terms of handling cash and worked accounts but only from a tech service point of view.

      Also I am going to disagree with Wolf on credit card use. Firstly because debit cards were/are often more difficult or impossible to use (e.g. try renting a car with debit – difficult), and secondly working on credit to secure payment is not really an ideal example. Payments and transfers are much easier lately for if you are generally working outside of tech solutions – which is sort of contrary to what the WSJ is saying :-/ .

      I have also lived in and travelled to many tens of countries over several decades, and have never owned a credit card. So domestically it should be even less nescessary, but as Wolf says whatever anyone prefers.

      Point is you now have young people signing onto credit or more debt than their parents are even worth sometimes before ever taking part in any mundane but complete work/management of own circumstance, and I don’t say that to start laying blame as that is much more complex. I’m not sure that just changing payment method is going to resolve that, but it is definitely a place to start – actually being properly aware of own accounts.

    • sierra7 says:

      “Auto-Pays” and their ilk used by “modern” spenders removes the intimate relationship between money holder (spender) and the commercial recipient. It removes a certain financial discipline awareness by the “spender”. I’m almost 90 years old and was trained as young as 8-9 years old on how to “handle” money. We had a small produce business and every night I would sit with my father and watch how he handled his meager finances.
      No, I do have just a few auto-pays now only because of imminent termination of life and to make it easier for my children to move forward. We are loosing that self-awareness of how to use our hard earned monies. And we contribute enormously to the “financial float” scooped up by the creditors.

  8. Jim Watson says:

    I’m 72. When my parents paid their utility bill in a small Louisiana town they put cash in an envelope with the bill and either went to the utility company during the noon hour or sent me on my bicycle to pay the bill.

    Times change.

  9. Mean Chicken says:

    Where have all the (real) reporters gone?

    • Jack2 says:

      Just for the record, I went into the military in 1970 (in Canada) and had all my paychecks deposited auto”magically” into my bank account.

      Then after I got out by 1974 and started working in the private sector, my new paychecks were being deposited into my bank account, too.

      Two years later ATM machines were installed in my hometown, and voila, money came out of a box.

      But today, after nearly 30 years of high-tech employment, I prefer my flip-phone because that’s all that Capt. Kirk ever needed ;-)

  10. Iamafan says:

    Me, too, Wolf. I’ve setup Auto Pay for all my credit cards and things like EZ-Pass, AT&T, etc. Soon, I plan to do the same for Obamacare premiums. Saves me the hassle of logging in to pay or sending a check.
    I also setup Treasury Direct for automatic reinvest for extra Liquidity.
    Millennials can learn a few tricks.

  11. Marcus says:

    The article also entirely misses an alternative storyline. I started my financial life as a check-writing bill payer. And I got monthly statements. But I was way less in tune with my spending habits back then (yes, it could have been youthful irresponsibility). I often forgot to balance my checkbook and rarely ever looked at statements. I was living at the edge of “flat broke” with two jobs in college and sometimes I bounced checks. Fast forward to today and I’m blissfully aware of every penny of spending thanks to electronic statements and alerts that ping my smartphone. I see my watch light up every time my cards are swiped. I know exactly how much money I have in every account all the time. So, the only way to be ignorant of my finances is to seek ignorance. For me, and I’m guessing many others like me, electronic transactions have led to an improvement in spending awareness.

    • polecat says:

      I know exactly where our pennies go, whether paying via autopay, with a check, or cash … all without benefit of either a watch, nor a ‘smart’ phone. Old school …..

  12. SocalJim says:

    Automatic bill payment vs. check writing? Who cares. Does not matter. What matters is getting the investments right.

    • edmondo says:

      It could matter. I got a $12,000 water bill a few months ago. Obviously a mistake but would the auto-pay at the bank know that?

    • polecat says:

      When a vast number of plebs don’t have enough assets ($400) to pay in the event of an emergency, the only ‘investment’ they generally consigned to is what is colloquially referred to as .. grief !

  13. stan6565 says:

    Wolf, be careful. You are getting old (like some of us). For if this kind of run-of-the-mill millennial (no pun intended) dumbness can excite you, mmmm, trouble ahead.

    Joking, sorry.

    I mean, the world now holds that everyone has a god-given right to hurl any kind of dross onto surrounding people, at the cost of recipient people, and if you object, well you are to blame ‘cos you must be fascist, or a pedofile or a communist even.

    And that this dung was published in WSJ, just shows to us all, how low WSJ has fallen. Years ago, one would read it to keep in touch, now, the paper it’s printed on is so bad, it cannot be used in a Franz Klammer-type restroom.

    We have a similar sad story here in UK, used to be called Finance Times.

  14. hendrik1730 . says:

    Well, in this context I also have a funny story. Happened around 2010, Belgium.

    Was riding in a train, a young guy was talking to an elderly person ( not me, by the way ) and as he spoke very loud ( obviously, he was very satisfied with himself ) I ( and almost everyone in the train waggon ) could not help but to overhear the discussion, which went as follows :

    Young guy : ” You know, dear man, when you were young, things were simple, slow and easy. Only fixed phone, paper mail, no computers at home, only 3 TV channels, …. you had it easy. WE ( he means himself, of course ) are now living with E-mail, computers everywhere, smartphones, teleconferences, automation, domotica, …. OUR life is much more hectic and complicated than yours.”

    Old man : ” Yes, you are right. WE didn’t have all this stuff at the time, so we started to develop and invent and work in order to get all this up and running. Yes, it took us a lot of inventiveness, hard work end perseverance, it did not come by itself. But now, it’s here to stay – and we also use it all.”

    Short silence. Young guy enthousiastically nodding in full agreement, he scored – at least, that’s what he thought.

    Old man continues : ” And now, tell me. What is YOUR generation going to invent and/or develop?”

    After 5 seconds of dead silence the whole waggon burst out in uncontrollable laughter. I just LOVED it ( my age is 65 now ).

  15. Javert Chip says:

    Well, it is pretty special to watch a millennial get all atwitter about demonstrating a firm grasp of the obvious.

    (note to his dad: you should have bitch-slapped the kid back into the basement).

    This generic overconfidence usually gets squeezed out of an adolescent as they learn about “winning & losing” as opposed to “participation medals”.

    • John Taylor says:

      It seems strange that the whole point he’s trying to make is that his own generation isn’t responsible enough to handle automatic payments.

      You can find people who will write anything – think of the dumbest article you have seen in a high school or college paper. It’s more of a reflection of the modern standards of journalism than anything else.

      Most modern journalism is all emotional content with very little factual information. The only way I’ve found to glean anything is to stick with interactive sources. Online is better than newspaper, and passive news like TV or Radio are nothing but tabloids trying to make everything sound shocking. I like BBC.com a lot for example, but not their TV or Radio programs. WSJ is one of the better newspapers, but that’s not saying much.

  16. Duane Snyder says:

    For people like me who like using snail mail and aren’t really up to speed on electronic payments I didn’t see the error of the millennial’s way in assuming most older dudes don’t use electronic payment systems. It would be new to me to pay electronically for most things and is something I really don’t care to do. (Other than my mortgage which has been paid that way for some 10+ years). But I also don’t have a smart phone, don’t like going thru drive thrus, don’t use Uber and am not active on social media. I don’t think I am alone either, except maybe for the drive thru thing.

    • Peasy says:

      Well, you certainly weren’t alone back in the days. I was around in the 90s and I wrote checks to pay my bills and so did everybody I knew. Not sure why Wolf is so worked up about this, but I think the millenial reporter’s parents were pretty typical of people their age at that time–which is the point of the piece, as far as I can tell.

      • DanR says:

        I wonder if millennials know how to write out an amount like 154.37 in cursive writing on a check.

  17. Alistair McLaughlin says:

    I too embraced the auto-debit for bill payments in the 1990s. What with keeping the horses fed and shoed, washing my clothes by hand, grinding my own wheat for flour so I could bake bread, and raising and slaughtering my own cattle, chickens and hogs so we had enough protein to survive the winter, then rendering their fat to make soap, WHO HAD TIME FOR PAYING BILLS???

  18. Unamused says:

    Facts aren’t facts, like the man said, and “alternative facts” are now accepted as valid. That’s a problem, but it’s symptomatic of a far larger problem, for which there is no solution.

    Let’s be honest. Cluelessness makes people more easily controlled and exploited, and most of the population has been systematically gaslighted into cluelessness to this end.

    There are consequences. Democracy, which has grown up in the last three hundred years, represents, with its emphasis upon individual responsibility and individual actions, the most difficult societal system, requiring a definite human maturity. Totalitarianism can in many ways be regarded as an escape from this difficulty into the irresponsibility of following a leader who deprives the people of their liberty and their maturity but promises them ‘security’ and ‘economic progress’. Hence the celebration and promotion of immaturity and self-gratification in the media and entertainment industries, and in U.S. culture in general, as preparation for the conversion to totalitarianism.

    It gets worse.

    Every societal collapse in human history involved both the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity and the economic stratification of society into Elites and Masses. This “Elite” population restricts the flow of resources accessible to the “Masses”, accumulating a surplus for themselves that is high enough to strain natural resources.

    This is now happening globally, technology and institutions are fully corrupted to accelerate it, and the interests of “Elites” guarantee it. They’re as clueless as the masses they gaslight. We know how this ends, because we’ve seen it before.

    Here is there, and high is low.
    All may seem undone.
    What is true, no two men know.
    What is gone is gone.

    • curiouscat says:

      I agree with you, but it is not just democracy but capitalism that is at risk. Jonah Goldberg argues that it was capitalism that first set the stage for disparate groups to begin to trust each other and without it authoritarianism would never have been defeated. Read: Suicide of the West. https://www.amazon.com/Suicide-West-Tribalism-Nationalism-Destroying/dp/1101904933/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2RAPGAE7TMSN&keywords=suicide+of+the+west+by+jonah+goldberg&qid=1553548611&s=gateway&sprefix=suicide+of+the+west%2Caps%2C130&sr=8-1

    • stan6565 says:


    • Javert Chip says:

      A 2008 UK survey found that only 20% of UK students could identify Winston Churchill’s part in their own history. However, 60% thought Sherlock Holmes and 50% thought Elenor Rigby were real people.

      History may not repeat, but it sure does more than simply “rhyme”. This kind of historical ignorance is stunning…and dangerous.

      You cannot be a credible citizen of the world without some understanding of the world. Magical digital button pushing can’t substitute for that (neither can participation medal)..

    • Bankers says:

      The elite don’t restrict the flow of resources, they encourage the use of them wherever it brings them greater control or wealth. Accompanying that there is a purposeful intent to eliminate self dependence , which also means moving away from the more sustainable approach of lowscale production towards intensive methods. This is more efficient and therefore successful, the population of the world is such that there are always those ready to move up a notch to the higher consumption where others choose not to.

      The overall result is to place maximum use of resources as priority, and they will eventually strain those to the detriment of all. To hold this approach together politically is equally a lost cause, if only because the wider limitations are not recognised except as an opportunity for further profit. When the output is owned but does not satisfy quantity of demand, it makes the owner more powerful.

      So they either hang those owners, or get put to fight amongst each other, or both.

      Basically people are quite destructive apart from the little they add by their own creativity, which obviously is thought of, and felt to be, superior.

      How could it be otherwise? Mankind is a predator, any systematic organisation that aims to restrict activity will also be a form of tyranny. Only some kind of innate realisation and understanding would guide a society towards a reasonable approach, but for how long before they forgot why they took that road and not one with more obvious reward.

  19. Rowen says:

    The funny thing is that this article would probably make more sense in an AARP publication. There’s one of these old school “payment centers” in a grocery store in the nearby town, and the majority of the users are retirees. Apparently, they cash out their Social Security direct deposit as soon as it clears, and then wait in line to pay all of their bills in cash.

  20. ohio says:

    interestingly the opposite is true for me. cash and check never really made my spending seem as real as seeing the total in mint at the end of the month and not hitting budget – right there in green and red. if I hit the budget my reward is an extra principal payment, or if someone pisses me off at work an extra 75 transfer to the fu fund makes it real for me. LOL.

  21. Peasy says:

    Well…OK, Wolf, but this just seems to be his sample-of-one versus your sample-of-one. Do you have any data at all about how common it was for people in the mid 1990s to set up chain autopays in the manner that you did?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      It was and is pushed by all credit cards and major utilities because it offers advantages for everyone. Anyone could take advantage of it. Millions did. I know a bunch of people who did. Why waste your time paying bills via check? It’s like the biggest no-brainer in the history of mankind.

      • Peasy says:

        Inertia, mostly. That’s why I, and pretty much everybody I knew, did it like that back then. That, plus possibly the fact that most of us didn’t spend years at a time overseas.

        I really would like to see the data on this. Either I and all my friends were the outliers, or you and all your friends were.

        • Wolf Richter says:


          BTW, my article wasn’t about what YOU did 30 years ago. I said in the article what the article was about, and I quote from my own article”:

          “For me, automatic payments have worked perfectly well since the early 1990s. Others still prefer writing checks. Whatever works for them is fine. The issue isn’t personal preference. The issue is that the WSJ got rid of its grizzled editors to stop a clueless young reporter from embarrassing the paper with a story about something totally new and awesome – automatic payments – that changes life as we know it though we have been using it for three decades, and life is still kind of the same.”

        • Wolf Richter says:


          Concerning the data, that’s a good idea and a separate article if I can get the data.

          I reached out to Visa and asked for the data. Sometimes big companies ignore me, other times they’re helpful. So we’ll see.

        • Bankers says:

          Tables 1172 and 1173 have some figures for direct debit (autopay?) ’95 to ’01 and card usage ’00 to ’08


      • Crazy Horse says:

        Hi Wolf

        Sorry, I can’t really see a fundamental difference between you and the 20 year old senior WSJ reporter. You both miss the real Question.

        Why pay your bills at all? Isn’t the purpose of automatic bill payment to automatically extend credit to pay all bills?

        And without it wouldn’t the entire economy collapse?

  22. Eamonn Harter says:

    We’ve even had an anonymous, decentralized peer-to-peer payment system since the days of Babylon. Forms of this payment system aka ‘cash’ or ‘coins’ weigh mere grams and fold up and fit inside your wallet right next to your credit cards! They even weigh less and take up less room than an iPhone! And get this… You can obtain this ‘cash’ by simply visiting your local bank branch in person, writing a check payable to ‘CASH’ and entering the amount, handing it to the teller (an actual person) and walking out of the branch with this ‘cash’ right in your hand. Best of all, no fees were subtracted from the amount you entered on the check! And no one can trace your payments back to you with ‘cash’.

    Now I just need to figure out a way to turn this concept into a start-up, a phone app, and an IPO so I can get rich.

  23. Gian says:

    Why are we surprised when schools and colleges indoctrinate, rather than educate. The 3 “R”s – Reading (w)riting and (a)rithmetic have been replaced with resist, reform and regurgitate.

  24. Auld Kodjer says:

    While it – Millennial mocking – is a sport I both participate in and derive great pleasure from, I am sure my father would have similarly rolled his eyes at me (and dare I say “my generation”) with our cassette players (replacing turntables), nail guns (replacing hammers), and mullet hair (replacing dignity).

    Welcome to the grumpy old men’s club, Wolf. Live content that Darwinism will prevail, starting with Millennials who cross busy streets never looking up from their phones.

    • cp says:

      i love reading Wolf Street articles and comments. So many excellent ones to this article, but this one made me laugh out loud. Thank you!

  25. GrassRanger says:

    There are a lot of us old timers who made immediate use of the new-at-the-time, automatic payment systems when they became available in the 90s. But one of the keys to making it work for you over time is having a steady, sufficient and reliable source of income that gets deposited every pay period. The reason you see folks lined up at a payment center to pay bills in cash is most of them don’t have a surplus to carry over from month to month. If an automatic payment hits that more than expected, suddenly they are overdrawn and have exorbitant fees added to their account, setting them even further out of kilter.

    The WSJ writer would do well to do some further reporting to provide some perspective about how much the “new” personal financial management technology is benefiting the other end of economic spectrum. But, I suppose we will have to wait for that info to come from “The Nation.”

    By the way, Wolf’s description of the millenial effect is now widespread in newspapers across the country, particularly in corporate owned small-city papers

  26. Eamonn Harter says:

    The funny thing is ACH and wire transfer pre-dates the internet and would use telegraph/telex communication technology. In the case of wire transfer, it goes back to the Western Union telegraph in 1872!

  27. Autopay = Free Vacay not the Otherway says:

    38 no social media NYC since birth and I was told I would be a loser for not attending college, now I watch my generation wash away into the sea of ignorance, with their degrees, jobless future lack of investments and fatal attraction with the nanny state.

    Class of 99 (high school) worked hard saved opened a retail business a year later and after several years on my own my fellow piers were piling on credit card debt/ student loans and all to live with their folks while I was getting ahead owned my own home and married @ 21 now with children and auto pay across the board and like the editor earning points for doing so basically a free vacation a year!

    GOD BLESS AMERICA, and my decision not to pursue higher education other wise I might be part of the status quo?? Same way I didn’t believe in the system Opted for alternative news early. I occasionally visit WSJ and say how are they still in business with so many better articles/ news sites out there?

    Its seams a small part of the real challenge with the writer of the WSJ article is a typical victim mentality – blame the auto pay not yourself for your poor decisions with your finances come on people grow up and tell the grown ups to wake up!

  28. Just Some Random Guy says:

    If it happened before a milenial was born, it didn’t really happen.

    • Javert Chip says:

      Millennial heads up:

      Assuming Millennials ever marry (preferred case) and figure out how to have kids, you will be stunned how fast your children think millennials are dinosaurs.

  29. Just Some Random Guy says:

    This is the type of “finance reporter” who thinks if one gets a refund, he isn’t paying any taxes.

  30. Bill from Australia says:

    WOLF WOLF control your self, once this [gender neutral person ] passes through puberty [hopefully before they retire] all will be well.

  31. Chris Garbor says:

    Can these millennial reporters even publish an online article with zero misspellings?!?!? Seems like 2 or 3 articles I read everyday have a misspelling. Such a joke!!!

    • Wolf Richter says:

      I’m infamous for my typos. So I’m pretty lenient when I see a typo. Typos are human. But MSM have copy editors that should catch them. My copy editors are the commenters :-]

    • GuiriCateto says:

      Heh, you thinkin thsts bad eh?

  32. mark says:

    Home Depot Panics Over Millennials; Forced To Host Tutorials On Using Tape Measures, Hammering Nails

    While avocado resellers like Whole Foods only have to worry about creating a catchy advertising campaign to attract millennials, Home Depot is in full-on panic mode after realizing that an entire generation of Americans have absolutely no clue how to use their products. As the Wall Street Journal points out, the company has been forced to spend millions to create video tutorials and host in-store classes on how to do everything from using a tape measure to mopping a floor and hammering a nail.

    Home Depot’s VP of marketing admits she was originally hesitant because she thought some of their videos might be a bit too “condescending” but she quickly learned they were very necessary for our pampered millennials.

    In June the company introduced a series of online workshops, including videos on how to use a tape measure and how to hide cords, that were so basic some executives worried they were condescending. “You have to start somewhere,” Mr. Decker says.

  33. Wendy says:

    Reminds me of a Mark Twain quote:

    When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.

  34. Paulo says:

    I have never wandered about for a year or two so have never had to do the auto payment except for mortgage. I bought my first house at age 24 in 1979, and the mortgage was always automatically deducted on a fixed date. The problem for those days is that working we were always paid by cheque until the wonderful invention of direct deposit came into being. When I worked in the north I maintained an extra bank account to deposit my pay cheques, then (I forget how) we did a transfer to my account down south. It involved a trip to the bank, but it beat using mail. This allowed my family to live normally.

    But I wanted to emphasise another payment option, and why we use it. We don’t do auto pay bills but we do pay by online transfer. My wife gets the online statement and then quickly goes through it before she pays online. This is just for C cards and hydro. Phone is by auto pay, and Hydro is also by online statement and online transfer. The reason for this is simple. I have had some bogus CC charges in the past and this forces us to review the statements. With hydro it is how we compare our energy use and trends. It provides a daily use, average daily use, and we can compare it to years past. We also compare it to what kind of weather we have just gone through. It takes seconds and is interesting. We write maybe 0 cheques per year? Never, I think. In case you are wondering, our hydro use is about $1.75 per day in the winter for electric HW, electric range, lighting, my shop tools, and an occasional forced air electric heater. Main heat is by a Pacific Energy woodstove which is outstanding as our wood source is free.

    Here is another good idea which the millenial might note. I’m 63 and have never paid a bar bill by credit card and almost never dine out with a credit card. I drank myself silly for most of my younger years but I always paid and tipped with cash…still do. It was just a personal rule because I have seen people run up bar bills (in 1985) approaching $1,000 for one evening. We both staggered home, but I only had the one hangover. Just sayin’. (The idiot bought rounds for all kinds of people) Plus, it wasn’t that long ago in BC people could not buy liquour from our Govt liquor stores with credit cards. The intent was to keep people from getting in debt with their drinking which would make their families suffer. My, how times have changed. :-) The bars also had a mens side and a ladies and escorts side. Lounges were co-ed. It was pretty nice, if you want to know.

  35. Bye Gone says:

    Short story. Got pulled over by statey. Did not have wallet, said I knew my DL number. Later he asked how I knew it. I could not remember till later. Writing checks since 14 for lawn mowing business. What did everyone ask for? Statey said I was only the second person for him who knew his DL that did not have a criminal record. Ha Ha

  36. Tom says:

    I have yet to meet a youngster who as any idea what a mechanical ruler
    is, or the scale bar I put on my work.

    Instead they demand I show all distances to the structure.

    In the field, they have no idea how to use a transit or grade rod.

    But they made this old man smile when they trained me on my new gps software.

  37. Colorado Kid says:

    Don’t forget that one reason some don’t use auto pay and all that is they don’t trust the system. When you hear of hackers continually getting everyone’s card numbers and person info, a lot of oldsters (and maybe youngsters) don’t want to risk it.

  38. Mike Randall says:

    I don’t use autopay. To put account withdrawals on automatic pilot struck me as unwise. When I receive a monthly bill I pay 3-4 months at a time. Instead of 12 checks per year I write 3-4. Best of both worlds!

  39. Howard Fritz says:

    Don’t tell this kid about bank pass or he might have an aneurysm.

  40. Michael Gorback says:

    My parents, who are in their 90s, have been on autopay for years.

    BTW dear Millennials, you can easily track your spending using an app like Mint. That way when you get an email that says “The month you spent $12,000 on electricity. Usually you spend $55” it will (hopefully) trigger a WTF moment.

  41. KGC says:

    I live in a small town (@8000) in one of the most high tech corners of the world. My local utility still has not come up with automated billing and payment. Cash, check, or money order only. This is extremely annoying when I travel for business, as I can be delayed weeks on returning. There’s nothing I can do to convince them to change either. I’ve been in front of the city council so often they cringe when I come in. I can’t convince them that an 11 year old could automate their system to accept payments, and they’d have better accountability if they did. (Perhaps suggesting someone was tapping the till for that cash could have been done a little more PC…)

  42. Ook says:

    Speaking of experiences outside the US, I’m in my late 50s, and where I grew up in Asia, we had automatic bank transfers for the important things (rent and utilities) in the early 1980s. So there’s another level of cluelessness in this article, the assumption that the US has first-world banking systems.

    • Bankers says:

      The bigger question is how those were implemented. In a country in Europe where I spent some time they shifted to direct withdrawals mostly after 2000. What happened? First they downscaled customer service for utilities, didn’t bother with getting paper bills to customers, then they had online access of utility account and choice to transfer or pay in person, then just geared everything to direct withdrawals and took customer access to accounts away. Ended up being billed unknown amounts, that you weren’t notified about if they did not get accepted, and having rogue technicians roaming around cutting off people’s supply without the required notice. One neighbour came roaring out of his house when he saw them at his meter and they fled empty handed before he got to them.

      So automatic withdrawals and everything synched up to that level is able to place instant leverage in the hands of the supplier, and can take away the informal slack that was traditionally there as well as the simple courtesy of relating and checking with the customer. It isn’t like auto payments has saved the utility companies a ton of money either, I mean any savings would be employee pay plus moving forward their accounting by a few weeks, seems better to pay people who work with you than a bit less for people bunkered in offices who work against you? I guess not all services have reached this extreme yet though…and I guess it depends on what level of civilisation exists locally…and in future.

  43. carla says:

    Wow. 100 countries. And I thought I was a world traveler.
    I never did automatic payment until I had a business manager to check on things: I always feared that they would charge a monstrous amount by mistake and not give the money back.
    But seriously: and I’m not even talking here about the obvious fake news that the mainstream media bombards us with everyday, but the journalistic profession has to be the most laughable job these days. These people lost ALL credibility a long time ago. They are arrogant , ignorant, lazy and horribly politically biased to the extreme left.
    That’s why I stopped reading their shit a long time ago and feed on superb blogs like yours.
    Where I often have lunch in NYC they give the WSJ for free. FREE. And nobody bothers to pick it up. There’s a whole pile of it ( I assume it’s to boost their fake “circulation” numbers). And it sits there.
    Journalism is dead.

  44. Mike in Boulder says:

    Agree that the article is ridiculous. But disagree that we want to go back to the days of old media where three very old white guys controlled everything that got heard.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      No one said anything about “white” and “guys.” “Grizzled editor” is the term I used very carefully, specifically to point that what is needed is some experience and knowledge to check and train these young reporters.

    • andy says:

      Would you write same comment about three non-white, non-old, non-male persons?

  45. james wordsworth says:

    To me it is about the “pain of paying”. The geniuses of the modern world (#1 being Amazon) have figured out how to get you to part with your money buying things you don’t need without feeling any pain, and if feeling anything, actually feeling good about pressing the BUY NOW button.

    In the days of cash it hurt a little to spend money. With credit and debit cards, it doesn’t matter whether it is $1,000 or $10, the feeling is the same.

    Great for the sellers, lousy for society long term and the environment.

  46. Ron says:

    “The issue is that the WSJ got rid of its grizzled editors to stop a clueless young reporter from embarrassing the paper with a story about something totally new and awesome – automatic payments ”

    The Wall Street Journal now owned I guess by Disney Via 21st Century Fox may have a few of the grizzled editors of the past on staff but they could care less about an article written by a junior on the paper as they are all about finding any content to fill the pages and getting another pay check before Disney shows them the door in cost cutting moves.

  47. Jack says:

    The Premise that this generation ( the millennials) are of lesser or no brains is a generalisation we could do without.

    Like every generation this Mob does consist of bad and yes to your surprise the good!!

    The problem is that with a protracted period of economic “ growth “ in the western world the ( the boomers) have neglected to learn from the lessons of the (great war generation) .

    The hardships that our grandfathers endured simply dissipated in to the mists of the technological and economic advances that engulfed these societies.

    The boomers were( the hippies) remember that?! Yes don’t let me remind you!

    There neglect to benefit from the lessons there forbears would have passed to them and pass to their children become virtually non existent!!

    So this whole construct that this generation is to be blamed for what Befall them is hard to swallow!

    I urge you all to reconsider in laying the blame entirely at their feet.

    I invite your comments of what I might’ve missed ?

    100 countries?! You Wolf!! Owe us a lot of explanation! How did you finance that mate?! :)

    • Wolf Richter says:


      “the Premise that this generation ( the millennials) are of lesser or no brains is a generalisation we could do without.”

      No, not at all. On the contrary. The premise is that the WSJ (and by extension other media) have gotten rid of their experienced editors that would check and train their young reporters and prevent these sort sorts of now all too common nonsense articles from being published — and in the process help these young reporters up the learning curve.

      • Gandalf says:

        See my comment above re: decline of WSJ in the Rupert Murdoch era. Bloomberg Businessweek, Barron’s, and Forbes, are still credible. Not the WSJ.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Bloomberg has quite a few of these types of articles — though other stuff is very good, just like the WSJ. I have found Forbes totally useless and Barron’s has become largely useless.

          I know one of the experienced and good Barron’s reporters (a woman) who was sacked a couple of years ago.

      • Jack says:


        I don’t differ with you when criticizing an individual or an individual’s behavior or their point of view ( this particular journalist in this instance),

        It’s the generalization that I have issue with. Don’t forget we bear quite a large responsibility when it comes what is befalling our economy and the way it is run. and also the way we raised these kids so to speak.

        As for the MSM, I wouldn’t waste my time bothering about what they say,

        These conglomerates that control what the public should consume can be simply dismissed as “FAKE NEWS “ to qoute the POTUS :)

        Thank you for providing a direct link to reply :)

        Keep writing, don’t travel too much:)

  48. andy says:

    Yes, this particular millenial working for WSJ is likely mayor’s nephew and/or dating mayor’s daughter. But generally, are millennials more disconnected from reality than baby boomers? I dont think so.

  49. WES says:

    Wolf: Did you ever make it to Zaire or now what is the Congo? Or Siberia?

    Did both in early 1980s! Lots of AK-47s and M15s! Not exactly tourist hot spots!

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Wow. You were ahead of me by maybe a decade.

      I was in Morocco headed to Zaire when civil war broke out in Zaire. And Nigeria was a no-go place at the time too. And shooting had started in Congo (Brazzaville). So I went through West Africa as far as Benin, then got on my fist plane since flying from Korea to Vietnam, and flew to Angola, from where I got deported back to Benin (“what a trip” took on a new meaning). After the dust settled, I flew to Namibia, at which point I was back on track. Went overland across southern and east Africa (climbed Kilimanjaro, 5 days) all the way to Eritrea, where I got stuck because the border to Sudan was once again closed, best I could figure out. I left Africa as a changed man.

  50. Don Griffy says:

    Wolf –
    Yikes and Wow.
    I normally defer to your perspective and vast knowledge – but you are overreacting to this fellow’s article (which – admittedly – is a little less than “WSJ grade”, but it is still better than a lot of what The WSJ wishes to pass off as “WSJ grade” each day).
    The author was only trying to illustrate how automatic bill payments CAN further separate one from the realities of their spending – until one day they get a notice that they are overdrawn or in more unservicable debt than their monthly payment schedules had them to believe. You (and many of your readers) do not have have this problem – but the writer was not referencing you rather than the hundreds of thousands who actually have fallen into the trap.
    You are blaming the guy for supporting something you already take as common sense. How many postings have you written on “Consumer Debt” lately? This article helps explain how such debt is so easily accrued.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      If you re-read the article, including the subtitle, you will see that I’m NOT blaming the reporter, but that I’m blaming the WSJ for having gotten rid of its experienced editors.

      The reporter made a HUGE factual error, on which the entire article was based. This error showed that he is a.) clueless (OK) and b.) didn’t do his research (not OK). The WSJ editors should have caught this. The fact that they didn’t makes it the WSJ’s fault. And I blamed the WSJ.

      The errors was stating that millennials are the first generation that has access to new life-changing automatic payment technology, and that his parents’ generation didn’t have access to it. This is pure BS. But I didn’t blame him. I blamed the WSJ. And I quote from my own article:

      “The issue is that the WSJ got rid of its grizzled editors to stop a clueless young reporter from embarrassing the paper with a story about something totally new and awesome – automatic payments – that changes life as we know it though we have been using it for three decades, and life is still kind of the same.”

      And I conclude with this:

      “And the millennial reporters end up with the short end of the stick because there’s no one there to help them up the learning curve with an occasional come-to-Jesus meeting.”

  51. Rejected By Target says:

    A few years ago there was a book called “Disrupted” by Dan Lyons, it was about the age discrimination he encountered when he was hired by Hubspot which was made up of nothing but millennials. Everyone loved the book except for this one whiny little millennial brat who was ever so offended by it that she somehow managed to get Fortune to publish this little rant review —

    Best LOL for me was her epically innovative and unique start-up of her own, some dumb freelance gig site called Freelanship. I guess she never heard of eLance, oDesk, Freelancer, Fiverr, or any of the other umpteen “freelance” websites out there…

    One other observation was that the comments section was loaded with commenters basically letting her have it (“you’ll be old one day, too, sweetheart”) so of course Fortune removed/disabled the comments (or were they bribed to do so)…

  52. Unamused says:

    Autopay has been around since the 19th century. Just make the appropriate arrangements with the bank.

    I have an accountant pay for it all. Fiduciary. Bonded, licensed, insured. Fine fellow. Terrified of my valet.

    Like all herd animals, most people prefer to have somebody else do their thinking for them. Then again, some people insist, so as to avoid straining any delicate parts. Most are unable to make any distinction between St. Francis and Charles Manson, which you have to admit explains rather a lot about the state of society. It gives them time for the important things, like weekend religious retreats where they can learn to be more judgemental.

    Half of US adults can’t balance their checkbooks or find New York on a map, but most remember to breathe and can be trained to wear shoes, bathe, and not make messes in the house.

  53. Augusto says:

    As a accountant and auditor who has worked around the world, I have seen a lot of “old fashioned” systems for payments. In reality many are not out of date but fit for purpose. My favourite was a cash payroll system in the Amazon for native tribes, what used to be called Pay Packets here (also audited a couple of Canadian cash-pay packet payrolls back in the early eighties). Of course, there are few banks where these tribes lived and they didn’t trust them anyways. A lot of our workers signed for their pay with an X, because they couldn’t write. Our guys had to go to their village, take lots of cash and make up the payroll right in front of them….the whole village watching….which is quite something to watch (no Netflix here, but there was a satellite TV)..thank God we had guys who could count cash by hand fast…another dying art…So what’s the point of all this…well everything we have in this world was built up over hundreds of years, systems, processes, including payment and accounting processes that are based on what is/was doable/needed at the time…with a sophistication of its own…in other words it wasn’t all delivered by Uber in a package from Amazon…..

  54. what happens when the water company adds an extra zero to your bill and ALL your payments bounce?

    • Jack says:

      You can only hope that your credit card/ debit card company/bank have a great (AI) to trigger the (red alert) & stop/ pause the payment!

      Although I doubt it … most AI specially those spearheaded by the big tech/ fin tech companies still have great lengths to cover to avert disaster.

      Take an example of the current crisis faced by Boeing , software can be tricky thing to manage… they can lead to disasters if let without ( intelligent human-hopefully) by their crib!!!

  55. Linda says:

    Are there actually studies that use a sample size of 1? I’m concerned if this is the new standard of measurement.

  56. raxadian says:

    My dad had automatic payments with his credit card and his bank account that was in… 1996 I think? Not for everything, just a few things. And we didn’t start to use debit cards around here until 1990 but back then almost no place took debit cards so it was mostly used to get money from an ATM.

    What’s hilarious is that story writter was just a Google seach away about finding out about how automatic payments have been made in history.

    Yes you could do automatic payments before credit cards, it involves banks and I have no clue how it works because I have always say no to that.

    We need a new term, for people born since the 2000s, since now they are legally adults and I refuse to share the same generation name with people who never used VHS and didn’t know fat TVs were a thing.

    Being born in the eighties is not the same that being born twenty years later.

  57. azbc says:

    This is just the state of journalism– and especially newspapers– in 2019. I can tell you with firsthand knowledge of a top-10-circulated daily newspaper in the U.S. that stories submitted by reporters in the field appear in print and online verbatim, as if no one edits the stories whatsoever and they are just cut-and-pasted onto a layout screen. Such stories might be edited for formatting, but are never edited for content.

    • I would say that is a good thing if it were true, in the midwest the Fox people are buying up small market TV stations, and they tend to editorialize, to the extent that they often “write” the copy for their anchors and demand they read it. The New Yorker has done a lot of research on this, including a recent article on the ties between Fox and the admin.

    • raxadian says:

      Is basically the jump to saving costs and people who aren’t gonna do research, even if it only takes a few minutes using Google, because their pay is too low or they are unpaid Interns.

  58. MarkB says:

    Much of engineering knowledge isn’t written down and when you lose senior people, you lose that knowledge. Take the old joke about the retired engineer.

    Setting: small town having power fluctuations
    The town management remembers the engineer who laid out the power grid was retired but still living in town. They go and find him and start explaining what’s happening. Half way into their explanation he starts nodding his head and tells them he knows what’s happening and to drive him to a particular substation.

    Arriving, he gets a hammer out of the toolbox, walks up to a breaker box and whacks it on the side. Like magic, the power grid stabilizes and the fluctuations stop.

    Management is happy and tells him to send them a bill.

    Week later, they get a bill for $1000.

    Wait a minute, they say, why should we pay $1000 for whacking a box with a hammer…. you need to itemize this.

    A week later they get a second bill:
    1) Whacking box with hammer $10
    2) Knowing where to whack $990

    Experience counts.

  59. Mary says:

    My assumption is that articles like this are deliberately crafted to appeal to a certain audience, who in turn will appeal to certain advertisers. Whether the article is smart, accurate (from Wolf’s point of view) probably doesn’t matter. In fact, it may have been written by someone who isn’t a millenial at all, but a 60 something reporter who has figured out formula articles that appeal to millenials.
    In other words, it strikes me as naive to believe that there’s a transparent relationship between a real person whose real attitudes and experience are the source of the article.

  60. WSKJ says:

    Haven’t had time this morning to read all the above commentary, but enjoyed your opening humor, MCH.

    Here’s my question: nothing is said in the quotes you gave, Wolf, re overdrafts, which as far as I know, are still a possibility….Even if, for example, you have revolving credit tied to a HELOC…or some such thing. From the looks of the quotes, the young writer has yet to discover the Overdraft.

    In fact, perhaps most amusing of all, the writer almost seems to regret that the awareness of expenses and payment, that came with oldfangled billpay, is not a part of his/her state of the art billpay app. That’s OK, we’ll have Cybil (AI advisor, who has a very sweet tone) giving you talking-tos about the sorry state of your finances, before you know it.

    How can we expect “the millennials” to have any sense of financial sensibility, anyway, when they’ve grown up in a world of NIRPs and ZIRPs, the message of which is: thanks for loaning us your nest egg; and by the way, your financial responsibility will go unrewarded.

    These same millennials are the same ones who will buy into the idea that Social Security is an “entitlement” program; and from the looks of it, they will be unaware that they have been paying into it ever since they started working. A sad state of affairs.

  61. WSKJ says:

    As for the lack of editing which was a main point of your post, Wolf, it is obvious that you, and in many cases your commenters, do more research for a post or a comment, than this junior writer did. A lot more….Dan Henninger (seems like he’s a senior editor), where were you ? Maybe lack of senior review is just one more newfangled modus operandi.

    A sad state of affairs. Certainly a reminder to NOT believe everything we read.

  62. Martin says:

    Direct Debit…….ummmm I must have been dreaming all those years I was actually put pen to paper in my cheque book!

    What a complete clot. He must have had a stash of super-sweet connections to land that gig at the WSJ.

  63. As both a Luddite (from a user standpoint) and an “old-timer” (from a day-job viewpoint) who has been designing in technology (both old-fashioned IT as well as the latest and greatest mobile stuff) since 1979, I always get a kick out of new-bes that act like they just discovered sex. Keep these articles coming!

  64. Truth-hammer says:

    The WSJ is now run by SJWs.

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