I Just Read an Article Promoting Appalling Financial Irresponsibility: Here’s What That Says About Us As a Nation

by | BiggerPockets.com

I recently read a jaw dropping article seen here on Elite Daily. Simply put, I was blown away at the financial irresponsibility the author maintains. As an investor, if this doesn’t make your blood boil, I don’t know what will.

I’m honestly not sure if this article is satire, but I’m going to assume it reflects the author’s actual views due to the fact that I have several friends whose views somewhat align with the author’s. The article is entitled “If You Have Savings in Your 20s, You’re Doing Something Wrong.” The basic premise is that you should enjoy your 20s and not save a dime. Live carelessly because once you grow up and have kids, your freedom will become defunct. Only at that time should you worry about savings.

The author goes on to argue that nights out with friends, eating out at restaurants, and impulsively buying clothes is more important than saving money. A direct quote: “[Saving] $200 a month isn’t going to make the dent that a $60,000 pay raise will after spending all those nights out networking.”

Wow.

Raise your hand if a night out at a bar or club landed you a $60,000 pay raise… didn’t think so.

I’m not going to get into the compounding growth of your savings and investments. If you are reading my article, you either are a real estate investor or an aspiring real estate investor, and you know good and well what compounding growth can do to your wealth.

2-percent-rule

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What’s More Important: Fun vs. Savings

Having fun and living vicariously are NOT more important than money. At the same time, money is NOT more important than having fun and living vicariously. But to totally disregard the need to save is inherently a fatally flawed argument. Money and savings are extremely important. By disagreeing, the author essentially guarantees that she will never have savings.

Related: 3 Negatively Cashflowing “Assets” That Devastate 20-Somethings’ Finances

The Law of Attraction simplifies this idea: If you don’t think something is important, you will disregard it or get rid of it in totality. For example, if you think your friends are important, you will naturally work to build long-lasting relationships with them. On the other hand, if you don’t think a pet dog is important, you likely won’t have a pet dog.

The same can be said for money and savings. If you think money and savings are important, you will save, invest, and find that more money somehow comes your way. The author doesn’t think this way, essentially guaranteeing herself a lifetime of financial pittance.

Even More Concerning…

What concerns me the most is that someone my age clearly possesses a lack of financial education and perspective (not that it’s her fault) and further has the audacity to share her ignorant advice with the rest of us. I’ve discussed this before with a few other younger folks on BP, and I think we are among the *lucky* ones whose parents took a vested interest in our financial education. That education will eventually lead to financial success and freedom.

But here you have someone who seemingly has a decent paying job, yet recklessly manages her finances and disregards smart financial decisions. Who failed her? Was it her parents? Educational institutions? A combination of both?

This is NOT just a problem for 20-somethings; it’s a chronic disease that our entire country, regardless of age, needs to work to correct. Why? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my tax dollars to help someone who never learned to respect money. I don’t want to see more Occupy Wall Street movements. I don’t want to see our economy unravel because a collective group of financially uneducated people think that living with extreme financial risk (i.e. paycheck-to-paycheck) is perfectly fine.

We need to work together to instill upon everyone a basic fundamental understanding of personal finance.

Sure, this author obviously takes an exceptionally contrarian view in regard to financial management. But it saddens me because I personally know 20-somethings who think along the same lines. The most classic thought is, “Well, when I die, I can’t take money with me.” True, but it takes an awfully long time to justify that line of thinking, wouldn’t you say?

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Related: Not Too Late: A 20-Something’s Plea to Generation Yers for Financial Change

How Can We Help?

There is a growing need in this country, and even the world, for financial education. I see it among my peers, I see it in the articles I read, and I see it in macro and micro-economic statistics. In the past, I’ve volunteered to teach local middle school kids basic principles of personal finance. There are organizations out there currently pushing, with some success, the need for integrating the teaching of financial literacy into our school systems. But it’s still not enough.

How do you disseminate wealth building fundamentals to the masses? The younger generations are increasingly connected, so why aren’t they receiving this critically important information?

By the time these people “grow out of it” and realize how important personal finance is, it will be too late. How can we, as a collective group of bright investors, help people realize the significance of financial literacy at a younger age?

I don’t know the answers, but I want to help build solutions.

I’m all ears.

[Editor’s Note: We are republishing this article to benefit our newer members.]

In your opinion, what would be the best strategy for combatting the financial illiteracy of our nation?

Let us know your ideas below—and let’s talk!

About Author

Brandon Hall

Brandon Hall, owner of The Real Estate CPA, is an entrepreneur at heart who happens to be good at taxes. Brandon is a real estate investor and CPA specializing in providing business advice and creative tax strategies for real estate investors. Brandon's Big 4 and personal investing experiences allow him to provide unique advice to each of his clients.

53 Comments

  1. The first thing is to teach someone young that \”Education\” by itself is NOT the golden key to success.

    Nor is just \”Saving\” the answer when not coupled with investing.

    Nor is letting someone else invest your money for you, like Wall Street, while you remain financially ignorant.

    Neither is working 9 – 5 and coming home to crack open a beer, flop on the couch and watch someone else on TV get rich a strategy for success.

    However, educational systems today are nothing more than sophisticated forms of factories from the 1900s where like Pavlovs dogs you are programmed to begin and end your work day with a buzzer or bell and you worth is recited on a time card.

  2. Patrick Desjardins

    I don’t mean to play devil’s advocate but too much of anything is usually bad. People who save and save and save and don’t do anything because it costs money are a lot worse imo.

    I have a friend who wouldn’t come to a real estate seminar with me, even though I was going to pay for everything, because he would have to pay for food (at restaurants) for 2 1/2 days.

    Another major consideration is that there are a lot of fun things you can do in your 20s (that cost money) which aren’t the same later in life. In the past few years I’ve travelled with my father who’s 65+ and the pace is a lot slower than when he was younger. Point being do you want to be one of those guys that saves for 40 years and then not have the energy to enjoy the fruits of your investments?

    I wholeheartedly agree with saving – in a reasonable way.

    • Brandon Hall

      I agree with this. I would add that you can save and invest “smart” even if it means you aren’t buying assets. For instance, your friend not wanting to go to a seminar – if he had spent the money and went, I’d consider that a “smart” investment. The result isn’t tangible, but the network you may have a chance to build could very well be priceless.

      I also think it’s important to budget in “fun money” or save for a trip. I’m currently saving a bit for a trip to the Caribbean next year. But the key is that I’m building it into my budget and making sure it’s not going to hinder my business/real estate plans.

      The author seems to take the opposite view. I wonder, if she really got a $60k raise, would she still spend every penny simply because she’s young and doesn’t think saving/investing is worth it?

      I appreciate the thoughtful comment sir!

      • Brad Lohnes

        I agree, Brandon, especially with your comment on the investment of going to the property seminar. The interesting thing is that, if you take action, the results actually can be tangible. I attended a fairly expensive property investment “course” which was a difficult investment decision early on. If we’d taken no action, it would have been throwing away a lot of money. By taking action, I realized an increase in net worth (through property investment) ten times the cost of the seminar in the first year, after all other associated costs were accounted for (example renovation costs, fees associated with purchasing property, etc.). Now, a little over 2 years on, our overall net worth has tripled – not all of that from real estate but much of it. (The rest just through paying attention to what we’re doing with the rest of our money). Now, the future looks very bright and, while there’s always a lot to learn, I feel relatively confident buying, renovating and renting out properties. And I also know that there are a lot of other strategies out there that I’ve yet to try.

        Investment isn’t just about “saving”, it’s about knowing what to spend your money on.

    • Patrick Huey

      To be honest, at this point in the economy, I can sort of see why saving money would be pointless. When you consider traditional savings accounts at the bank or CD’s paying one or at most two percent on your money while the rate of inflation is four percent or higher depending on where you live, you’re actually losing money in the long run. Plus when you are in your 20’s, you’re just starting out in the real world, and you want to spend that time discovering yourself and not worry so much about settling down.

      Now having said that, I would not call the people who frequent this site savers but investors. By virtue of being investors, you’re seeking a much higher return on your money than any bank savings account or even 401 (k) funds invested in the stock market. Now the best way to make the most return on your money is to own your own business. Of course, the people who frequent this site consider real estate investment to be their business, but that doesn’t mean other business opportunities can’t be just as lucrative, like online marketing or day trading. Granted they have their own risks as well, but then again not everyone has the desire or patience to invest in real estate, and even those experienced in real estate are subject to the boom and bust cycles of the economy.

      But as for the subject at hand, I do believe our financial education is severely lacking, but the educational system in this country is lacking overall. Putting aside the politics of race, class, bloated bureaucracies, teachers unions, etc., most schools in this country are still teaching children to grow up to become obedient employees for large companies when they need to be teaching more entrepreneurial skills. That specifically involves financial education, but that also involves teaching critical thinking, yet the current emphasis on standardized testing is doing exactly the opposite.

  3. Anthony Gayden

    That article is written from the perspective of the typical elitist (which isn’t surprising considering the name of the website). As though having fun means that you have to spend huge sums of money living in an expensive city, buying expensive food, and hanging out at expensive/exclusive clubs. Having grown up poor in the Midwest my expectations are far different.

    I think the biggest flaw the author makes is the continuous use of the word “saving”. We are investors here on Bigger Pockets, not pure savers. The money we don’t spend will most likely be used to invest. Investing thousands of dollars while in my 20’s and 30’s means that when I hit my 40’s, I will be able to relax and enjoy my life a lot more.

    • Brandon Hall

      I agree with your comments. Spending everything you make to essentially “fit in” with the rich crowd may land you great connections, but at what point does the savings/investment mindset kick in?

      Without savings, it’s tough to invest.

  4. Maggie Tasseron

    Whenever I hear someone talk the way Ms. Martin does in this article, I automatically assume she has a fallback support system somewhere. She says that parents are wrong to want their offspring to have a safety net but she probably isn’t smart enough to figure out the reason they do is that they are tired of being that fallback support system for irresponsible brats like her. After her diatribe about all the frivolous things it’s good to squander money on, she contradicts herself by saying “It’s good to be cautious and plan for unexpected events”. Huh? You can’t have it both ways baby. She loftily states that her generation is “refusing to be shackled by mortgages and diapers”; in reality, by the time you find yourself needing to buy diapers, you’d better be very happy to have a mortgage or you will probably be paying rent for the rest of your life.

    I had to laugh at her bio, which states that “she now writes riveting commentary on nude pictures, condoms and first dates”. Brandon, I don’t know how you happened upon this piece, but will bet you’d share my opinion that her editors should keep her chained up in her cubicle and honoring her bio rather than trying to break into a world about which she evidently knows nothing.

    That being said, I am enjoying the fallout, both here and in the comments attached to her article. Maybe she’s really a fat, 40-something guy who simply wanted to open a can of worms but if she really is the determinedly cutesy blonde in her photo, it would be interesting to get her reaction to her article. We shall stay tuned….

    • Brandon Hall

      Haha great comment Maggie. Especially liked “Brandon, I don’t know how you happened upon this piece, but will bet you’d share my opinion that her editors should keep her chained up in her cubicle and honoring her bio rather than trying to break into a world about which she evidently knows nothing.”

      Perusing the comments to the article (and other news sources that have written responses) it seems that she is certainly in the minority with her thinking. Hopefully it stays that way.

  5. Ben Walhood

    While I completely agree that young people need a strong financial education to prevent blowing all their disposable income through their 20’s, the upshot for us is that they make great tenants! Buy yourself a luxury condo in an area that’s popular with young professionals and you’ll reap the benefits of this unfortunate ignorance.

    • Anthony Gayden

      Don’t forget that the same mentality is shared by many people who don’t have a high income. These are the people who can’t pay their rent because they maxed out their credit cards buying junk.

      It shouldn’t surprise you that there are many people working menial jobs, living in less than stellar locations who have the same mentality of SPEND, SPEND, SPEND!!!!!

      • Brad Lohnes

        Yes, and that goes for some of the spenders with high incomes too. They don’t always make great tenants – even if they have a lot of money coming in, if they spend it all on fun, they sometimes come up short at rent time. I know from personal experience (a much younger and stupider version of myself) and from friends as well. It’s amazing what kind of facade a high income can create and the financial rot that can be hidden underneath.

  6. Assaf Furman

    “Lauren Martin is a Senior Lifestyle Writer at Elite Daily. After graduating from PSU, she moved to NYC to write fart jokes at Smosh Magazine. Making her way to ED, she now writes riveting commentary on nude pics, condoms and first dates.” Enough said…

    Brandon, I agree that too many people aren’t concerned enough by their financial illiteracy, but you can also see it in a positive way; for us investor it guarantees there will always be renters.

  7. Brandon K.

    I’d like to hear more about how you got into volunteering to teach personal finance to kids and how others like myself can. Schools don’t seem to teach it and a lot of kids seem to not have financially responsible parents or other family members to teach them even the basics.

    • Brandon Hall

      Hey Brandon – I went through PwC at the time (the company I was working for) and they partnered with Junior Achievement. I’m doing one this Friday through Ernst & Young (where I now work) and they are partnered with Capital Partners of Education.

      You could also look at Jump $tart or other local charities that need help.

  8. Justin Cook

    I saw this being mocked liberally all over Facebook this weekend, thankfully there were no supporters. One of the biggest drivers for this type of ignorance (aside from inherent wealthy privilege) is the fact that there are so many methods for young people to be bailed out these days. Kickstarter, GoFundMe, Indiegogo, etc, you just make up a sad story about something bad happening when you lose your job / apartment / relationship / dog, and the community bails you out. In previous generations, pre-crowd sourcing of everything, you were much more responsible for your own financial burden and the outcome of not saving anything. There’s also less negative social stigmas revolving around living with your parents into late age these days because, well, so many people seem to wind up doing it.

    • Brandon Hall

      Great points Justin, I suppose whoever has the biggest impact on financial literacy in the future will need to change the way people think about money. Or maybe that’s always been the case?

      I too saw that the article failed to gain supporters… thank goodness!

  9. Nnabuenyi Anigbogu

    Hahaha. That was a great article to start the day. Had me laughing.

    *can i raise my hand to the $60, 000 raise from a night at a bar (although mine was more like $40,000 from the job i landed from that night)*

    I agree that you have to have fun in your 20’s but there has to be a balance. Yes i traveled and plan to continue living it up prior to getting married (happening in 8 months) and kids that follow. However that required working hard to generate enough income where i could live on less than half and save the rest for fun and real estate. I have friends that don’t understand that there is nothing wrong with having fun but you should simultaneously be prepping for the future.

    The best way to live it up IMO, is to house hack or buy a multi unit and live in one unit. When renters pay your living expenses, you will be surprised how much extra cash you can take home every month given that living is the biggest expense a household has.

  10. Russell Tidaback

    “We need to work together to instill upon everyone a basic fundamental understanding of personal finance.” Be careful what you ask for… This was the premise for the US education system…at least the fundamental understanding of labor work.

    Be glad there are those that are spenders and savers and investors. This is what makes the world spin! IF everyone was investors or saving, life would be boring. There wouldn’t be deals to be had, there wouldn’t be the excitement or enticement of investing.

    It is part of the sociological aspects of being human and an american. Not that I agree with it but with others “keeping up with the Joneses” allows others to make a very nice lifestyle as an investor or producer!

    • Brandon Hall

      I agree that there will always be somewhat of a normal distribution, but think about it like this: what if we get in on the ground floor (i.e. invest now) and systematically raise the bar across the US (and world) for financial literacy and such. I think that ultimately our investments will become even more valuable.

      Or maybe not, just a thought!

  11. Ben Leybovich

    Haha – I needed a laugh…

    Having said this, I’ve got a couple of contrarian thoughts for you:

    1. Brandon – your parents did well by you, but let’s face it – if it weren’t for Serge and I you’d still be lost as all hell 🙂

    2. I don’t want to educate idiots. In fact, I want them to stay idiots and pay me rent! I’ll do the saving and investing. And, I’ll educate the next generation, which is where change can still be affected…Makes sense?

    Nice piece – funny stuff…

  12. Ayodeji Kuponiyi

    just as someone mentioned, people like her make great tenants. The best strategy for combating the financial illiteracy of our nation is active learning. We don’t learn simply by listening or read, but by engaging and practicing what we learn. For instance, back in middle school, when I was in the basketball team, the coach didn’t teach us the basis by standing and teaching us as we sit down and listened. Nor did our coach give us books to read, we learned by active participation. Through active learning we learned how to dribble, how to not foul, when to block, when to intentionally foul, etc.

    I believe implementing Kiyosaki’s “Cashflow” game as well as other engaging and active learning at school levels and home will help people from childhood into adulthood with financial intelligence as well as being financially aware and in control of both their money and control of their future.

  13. Brad Lohnes

    My favourite / most distressing comment from the article is:

    “But like most things our parents have ingrained in us, we must consciously work to push it out. Because while they may have the best intentions, they don’t always have the best insight.”

    Ahhhhh! I’m a parent of three little ones and I sure hope they don’t have this attitude. I KNOW that kids will want to rebel at some point, and reject some of the things that parents have established as fundamentals of living, and I also know that it’s important to young adults to establish their own identity. But I don’t believe the goal of every 20-something is to actively reject everything their parents taught them precisely because they’re parents! Ugh.

  14. The article seems to be one of those “make the headline more shocking than the article” things. Not that they’re right by any means – but still. I do agree with you that the sooner you can start saving your money and budgeting properly, the better.

  15. Tony Maro

    It seems the author heard a quote that possibly originated from Grant Cardone and was completely taken out of context and then horribly abused. Cardone states something similar to what the mentor in that story said – but his real point is that pinching pennies won’t make you rich, but working towards your goals with unbelievable effort and obsession will. Unfortunately the author only grasped the first half of that advice and took the gen Y attitude we’ve all seen of “I’ll just browse Facebook all day and spend every dime I get paid while doing it because you can’t take money with you.” A defeatist attitude right off the bat.

  16. Tyler Chartrand

    i lived this way through my 20s and grad school…then when i got the big time job my spending habits increased as well. I still felt that pinch between paychecks although my paychecks were substantially larger. i knew i needed to get right and now live completely frugally and am much happier. i am investing to live the right lifestyle.

    thanks for the article it is very sad that so many young adults enter the world so unprepared to handle themselves.

  17. Mike Dymski

    There are investors and there are consumers…to each their own. That article just puts into words how many people live their lives, whether intentional or not. Contrary to popular belief, most people do what they really want to do (invest or consume) and wishes and words are not wants.

    Junior Achievement, lunch and learns, church group finance sessions, etc. are likely the best way to reach a small percentage of consumers who would like convert but need some help.

  18. Dani Sung

    You are preaching to the choir here! I agree with you 100%. I think financial knowledge is passed on from parents to their children and that’s why the rich keeps getting richer as they teach their children how to keep and grow their wealth. The inability to save money and the need to indulge in the “fun things” in life is a cultural problem we have in this country. If you ever travel to some of the Asian countries, everyone is taught to save, save, and save at a very young age. To change a culture of a whole country is a huge undertaking. I definitely support your efforts in trying.

  19. Because of the recession and slow economy, most Millennials are better educated in personal finance habits than their parents. At a median age of 22, 72% of them already save for retirement. If anything, this article is a natural reaction to the general trend of millennials trying to save hard for their first homes.

  20. Senthil N.

    The American economy depends on people who spend. Germany for example “suffers” from savers and too much export. If everyone saved, we would all be in trouble. And of course the best time to spend is when you are younger as you may not be able to do that later. Work hard, play hard, spend hard, work more is not necessarily a bad thing. Seriously very few save at 20 something. With the new generation postponing marriage and kids they can actually afford to spend more than their parents. If you of course say this out to the folks at BP, they are going to laugh at it. In the end I think moderation is key. When you save too much you will end up not working harder or smarter. It sometimes helps to put yourself out there on the ledge. Sensibility is key.

  21. Daniel Somers

    I love this article. As a 20-something myself, I am blown away that people willing chose to live paycheck to paycheck. Luckily for me, I had a teacher growing up that took 2 or 3 days out of our calculus class to teach some personal finance basics and most importantly, the power of compound interest. From then on, I didn’t want to be a paycheck to paycheck person.

  22. Dominic Allen

    I don’t think anyone in their right mind could take that Elite Daily article written by that person seriously when her bio reads like a high school angsty teen’s blog:

    “After graduating from PSU, she moved to NYC to write fart jokes at Smosh Magazine. Making her way to ED, she now writes riveting commentary on nude pics, condoms and first dates.”

    LoL, it is obvious that personal finance and responsibility in general are ideas so far outside her wheelhouse that she won’t be adhering to much of anything that’s not irresponsible spending. I did however enjoy your article Brandon haha.

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