15 Topics Everyone Pretends To Understand But Really Don’t

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It's the internet age, and virtually every answer to every conceivable question lies at your fingertips. Yet, some questions and phenomena still manage to defy explanation. You seem like an intelligent person.

1. The Tax Code

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You use TurboTax, so you think you understand how taxes work. The most accomplished CPA barely knows how taxes work, and you think you have it figured out because you calculate your income tax once a year? 

The American tax code (and most tax codes, for that matter) makes War and Peace look like a flyer. The tax code makes the Harry Potter novel series look like a quick read. When it comes to taxes, all you need to know is this: you thought it was your money, but it's not your money. 

2. The Economic Proposition of Going to College

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According to U.S. News & World Report, the average college graduate owes about $30,000 in student debt, but many students owe far more. When you factor in interest, going to college is a surefire way to put yourself behind the financial eight-ball.

While STEM degrees can make sound financial sense, the math doesn't add up for many college degrees. Consider trades, community colleges, certifications, and more affordable alternatives to traditional universities.

3. The American Political System

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Congressmen. Representatives. Filibustering. Sequesters. Special counsels. Impeachment. Popular vote. Electoral college. Term limits (actually, you don't need to know about those). It's exhausting. 

Sometimes, democracy feels impossibly complicated, and perhaps that's by design.

4. Their Spouse

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Some couples have navigated 50 years of marriage but still don't know what happens in their spouse's head. Maybe that's the secret to success. 

5. What Banks Do With Your Money

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Once upon a time, it was easy to understand banks. You deposit your money, banks lend out a modest percentage to invest and hopefully make a profit, and you can withdraw your cash at any time.

Today, banks can lend out literally 100% of customers' deposits. So where does the money go? And how can banks ensure their customers' deposits when they are (presumably) lending out 100% of those deposits at any given time? Your answer is as good as mine.

6. Proper Nutrition

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We used to be able to fall back on fruits and vegetables. Yet, some podcasts, books, and diets confuse us more. Do we do paleo? What about keto? Is the carnivore diet the rejuvenating miracle some claim it to be?

We know not to eat Wendy's five times a week and that too many carbs will shrink your jeans. Beyond that, though, we're more lost than D.B. Cooper.

7. The Housing Market

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It's up. It's down. The housing market is less predictable than next month's weather, and you'll get ten pieces of advice from ten real estate agents.

What makes a house valuable? Size alone is not enough, and neither is newness. What did your neighbor's home sell for? How scarce is inventory in the area? How close are you to the nearest metro area? 

There are endless considerations when gauging the housing market and the fair price for an individual home. You could throw a dart at the board and call it a day.

8. Parenting

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Between the advice of Dr. Spock and your parents, raising a child shouldn't be nearly as difficult as it is. However, raising kids is like riding a bike. No matter how much advice you receive beforehand, there is no substitute for hopping on the seat and pedaling.  

Plus, the challenges a parent faces in 2023 differ (though in some ways the same) from those in 1963. 

9. The Lottery

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We don't understand much about the lottery between the odds, the split of the winnings between the tax man and the “winner,” and the question of where the government's share of the proceeds goes. We know so little about the lottery that we stay completely away.

10. The Brain

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Our brains are among the quirkiest, least rational entities known to man. Our brains do their own thing, and keeping them on a leash is our job. Even a well-trained brain is something of a loose cannon, and they are the ever-present roommates we will never quite figure out.

11. How Billionaires Did It

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Many billionaires started as thoroughly broke Average Joes and Janes. Those of us who remain in the middle or lower classes look at billionaires or anyone in an enviable position and wonder what it took to get where they are.

12. Dry Cleaning

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All you need to know about dry cleaning is the clothes arrive dirty and leave clean, crispy, and wrapped in plastic on a fabric zipline. What goes on between those two steps is a complete mystery. 

13. Dogs

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Wait, you're telling me that the adorable, boundlessly loyal furball who sleeps next to us and licks the baby on the face used to be a wolf? Why wasn't there an entire semester on the wolf-to-dog evolution in biology class?

14. Lab-Grown Meat

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Now that it's becoming common, we should learn how exactly lab-grown meat works. It sounds Frankenstein-y, and until further notice, we're assuming it is pretty Frankenstein-y. If you've seen Soylent Green, you'll have a healthy skepticism for lab-grown “food.”

15. The Youth

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You could be three seconds old — there is always someone younger than you, and they'll never quite make sense. Their lingo, taste in music, hobbies, and outlook will always be puzzling. So long as they stay off our lawn, though, we can all coexist.

Author: Sam Mire

Title: Popular Culture and Film Writer

Expertise: Film and Television, Life Advice, Comedic Writing, Movies, DIY Handiwork, Books, Current Events and Popular Culture


Sam Mire is a freelance writer with over seven years' experience writing about entertainment, global events, American law, and sports. With a Journalism degree from the University of South Florida, Sam focuses on popular culture, film and television, and general life advice in his role for Wealth of Geeks.