The Insufferable Simple Dollar

You ever listen to Sean Hannity? He’s the guy on Fox News Channel whose head, for some reason, perpetually tilts 11º to the left. On television, he’s just another gasbag with an agenda, identical in kind (if not in opinion) to Keith Olbermann, Bill O’Reilly, and that old wino on CNN who refuses to wear a jacket.

In addition to his TV work, for the last 10 years Hannity has hosted a daily 3-hour radio show. It’s the most earnest thing ever broadcast. Never mind the validity of his arguments, the man has somehow managed to go an entire decade without being interesting or funny. Not even by accident. For this – just the radio show – he earns $5 million a year. If you’ve heard Hannity’s intellectual ascendant, Rush Limbaugh, then you’ve heard everything Hannity has to offer and then some. But unlike Limbaugh, Hannity is as dry as the Atacama Desert. But he flourishes because a) he’s easy to digest, and b) he’s physically attractive. Women repeatedly call in to tell him how cute he is.

Equally digestible, somewhat homelier and even less endurable is Trent Hamm, the Iowan behind a soporific website called The Simple Dollar. It’s not the worst personal finance site in existence – there are others whose authors can’t even spell nor punctuate – but it’s the worst of the established ones. It’s the personal finance blog equivalent of Maroon 5’s music or Stephenie Meyer’s books. Hamm populates his blog with interminably long, utterly worthless posts that focus on life’s tiniest minutiae.

Americans, and people in general outside of Japan, spend too much money. Therefore, the most facile personal finance advice it’s possible to give is to tell people to economize. And like a James Valentine guitar solo, Hamm has been playing the same notes in the same order for his entire career.

Hamm is proud that he posts twice daily, which is hardly an accomplishment. Charles Dickens couldn’t write two worthwhile posts a day, let alone a man with no filter between his most trivial ideas and his blog. Hamm will spend paragraph after paragraph weighing the value of spun-glass residential air filters versus polyester fiber ones, then triumphantly conclude that the one will save his readers .000004¢ per use over the other.

But for sheer self-unaware buffoonery, nothing beats Hamm’s periodic advice columns. Thinking of himself as the long-lost triplet of Dear Abby and Ann Landers, Hamm runs questions from “readers” whose writing style is suspiciously similar to his own, then dispenses pointless counsel. We’d reproduce the answers here, but he seems the litigious sort and they differ only in their degree of inanity.

One recent idiot asked Hamm what vehicle to buy that has lots of leg room in the back seat. Keep in mind, Hamm is not an automotive writer, and doesn’t write about cars any more than anyone else does. The questioner tells us what type of vehicle his 6’6” son drives to college and back, and explains that the son will occasionally need to ride in the back of this as-yet unpurchased vehicle, details of interest to no one but which Hamm couldn’t bother to edit.

Rather than spend a nanosecond Googling “car” + “leg room”, the reader sought the advice of a man whose main talent is fashioning his own duct tape out of discarded pieces of smaller rolls of duct tape. After rambling for 3 paragraphs, Hamm tells the reader to test out vehicles at a dealership.


Another labor of Hercules, crossed off the list.

Most of Hamm’s recommendations, however, involve reducing expenses. That’s his life’s single guiding directive. Cut your finger with a rusty knife? Then turn off your lights when they’re not in use. Shingles falling off the roof? Use public transportation once a week and give your car (and the environment) a rest. Blood on your toothbrush and a hacking cough? Look for money-saving coupons in your Sunday paper. One day, he’s going to run the following question in his reader mailbag:

Dear Trent:
My husband just died and left me $6.6 billion. What should I do?

-Laurene Powell Jobs

Dear Laurene:

Now would be an excellent time to cut back on unnecessary expenditures. Have you considered making your own chicken stock? Here’s a simple recipe my family and I have used for years…

But nothing beats an unfortunate thread of last summer, when a possibly inebriated Hamm told his readers that an overlooked place in which to save money is in swimwear.

To recap, because we’re not going to give him the satisfaction of a link, he told his readers that they should never spend more than $3 on a swimsuit. Disregarding that Hamm apparently hasn’t looked at swimwear prices since the 1940s, he told his readers – the female ones in particular – that they could economize even further by swimming in their underwear.

(Note: We like to be sarcastic on Control Your Cash, but we’re not joking here. Or even exaggerating. As God is our witness, he really did advocate that.)

Some female readers explained that modesty and legal concerns aside, bras aren’t designed to be submerged and chlorinated. As someone who’s never swum with a harness on his breasts (although if you examine his picture, you’d at least think it’s possible), did Hamm defer to his readers?

Hell no. He dug in even further, insisting that it was women’s fixation on appearances and their malleability in the hands of the millinery-apparel-industrial complex that kept them from seeing things his, correct, way.

This is a married man. Whom, after being told that he didn’t know what he was talking about on a topic he couldn’t possibly understand as well as any woman, never thought to consult his evidently long-suffering wife and see if maybe he might be wrong. In Hamm’s mind, only two types of suits exist – proper $3 ones and extravagant $80 ones. (Again, we’re not joking.) He then goes on a tirade about needs vs. wants, explaining that swimming itself is unnecessary if you’re serious about reducing expenses.

The swimsuit fiasco was Hamm’s apex as a purveyor of stupidity, but every week (in fact, twice daily) he comes up with something moronic. We’ll save you the trouble of looking through his archives and recap his especially golden moments in future posts here on CYC. You’ll love them.

This article was featured in:

**The Totally Money Carnival #47-Prelude to a New Year**

**Top Personal Finance Posts of the Week -30K Challenge Edition**