There are constant pressures to spend – especially as a twentysomething. Marketing companies have perfected the appeal to youthfulness and adventure. And sometimes people get trapped in façades of the “good life.” They buy expensive cocktails, go to clubs, and spend til the only thing that’s dry is their wallet.
I’d be lying if I said that doesn’t sound fun from time to time. It’s a blast getting to hang out with friends, blow off some steam, and recognize that life is finite. Let’s have fun when we can and spend in the moment. For a few moments we can pretend like the financial pressures of student loans, income inequality, and variable credit debt don’t exist. When we swipe, the worries disappear.
Why am I talking about spending like there’s no tomorrow? Because two days ago I read something that shocked my senses. An Elite Daily author, Lauren Martin, wrote an article entitled, “If you have savings in your 20s, you’re doing something wrong.”
The entire foundation was on the premise of partying hard, networking, and enjoying life when you can. Instead of saving money or contributing to a 401k, Ms. Martin advocated for being on the edge and nearly penniless.
She explained that you needn’t worry about saving at this time because later in life you’ll be making more. With great simplicity, a friend of Lauren’s says, “Don’t save money. Make more money.” From then on, she’s awakened to the idea that buying expensive items is her right and obligation. When she turns 40 and looks back on her twenties, she feels confident that it will all be money well spent.
Her article wraps up with 7 of the most egregious statements I’ve read about finances:
- “When you’re too worried about your bank statement, you’re not making your own.”
- “When you’re saving for yourself, you’re refusing to bet on yourself.”
- “When you have something to bank on, you have nothing to reach for.”
- “When you live your life by numbers, you strip yourself of poetry.”
- “When you die, you can’t take your money with you.”
- “When you deprive yourself, you don’t learn how to TREAT YO SELF.”
- “When you care about your 401k, your like is just a ‘k.’”
Giving Lauren the benefit of the doubt, her words can almost be read as aspirational and inspirational. You might think, “Yes, I’m going to live it up while I can and make a name for myself. I’m going to show everyone who I am. Watch out world!” But read them again, and you’ll begin to notice privilege, ignorance, selfishness, and myopia.
Perhaps most egregious of all her recommendations is the age-old line, “When you die, you can’t take your money with you.” The adage is right, when you’re dead, you’re all dead. Unfortunately, this author is missing many of the reasonable reasons to save. By socking away cash when you’re young, you’ll be better prepared for uncertain medical complications, job loss, and anything life throws at you. But even more, death brings an opportunity to give back. I intend to give what I can to charities and offer the rest to family. If, instead, I spent it all on drinks in my twenties, I’d have nothing for either.
The second line I want to focus in on is, “When you’re too worried about your bank statement, you’re not making your own.” Presumably, Lauren’s suggesting you must spend money to make a name for yourself. Whether it’s the expensive clothing she purchases or fanciful “networking” opportunities at restaurants, she seems to know how to make her own statement.
But making a statement is complex in a society bombarded with advertising. Being unique requires constant reanalysis of culture. To be countercultural and your own person is actually difficult when certain brands aim to sell to that exact demographic. The good news is that statements needn’t cost anything. I can make a statement by saving, and that might be the most powerful of all.
The Internet is vast and diverse. Finding voices that encourage wanton spending is easy. What took me by alarm and spurred a response was two-fold. First, the article was published on a fairly popular news and opinion website. Second, the article had been shared over 35,000 times in two days. Lauren hit on the pulse of a large group of twentysomethings. Her article explicitly supported spendthrift ways. Anyone that needed an excuse to empty their wallets could find solace in her words.
We’re constantly at a precipice between spending and saving. Each day we are confronted with this choice. We can spend our savings away in a flash of 20s, or save for the many moments that life brings. To break away from the herd mentality and save can be challenging, but the choice is ours.