For 20-somethings, being broke is nearly a fad. We trade war stories about our under-or-unemployed status, dream up creative ways to evade our astronomical student loan payments, and show little shame about moving back in with our parents after college graduation. But once that Twitter hashtag #TeamiPhone or #TeamDroid pops up on our respective timelines, we’re all taking sides and writing dissertations in 140 characters or less about why one is better than the other.
Because despite having one of the highest unemployment rates in the country right now, studies have shown that millennials are the fastest-growing segment of luxury goods and services purchasers.
MSN.com recently reported that “although some millennials – people between the ages of 18 and 34 — are launching promising careers, most are burdened with large student loans, and thousands are unemployed. Despite all this, they are making luxury purchases a priority.”
Jason Dorsey, a millennials expert and the chief strategy officer for The Center for Generational Kinetics told MSN that he believes social media is a driving force in getting young people to prioritize spending money on high-end items. In his opinion, we are buying things so that we can say we did on Twitter, Facebook, or some other social media site. That in turn makes others want to say they did as well. The constant stream of conversation works as a way to sort-of peer pressure virtual strangers into owning non-essentials like flat screens, iPads, luxury cars (along with luxury car notes) and Android cell phones.
There is nothing wrong with wanting nice things, but can we afford those things on top of necessities and debilitating debt from a degree that has yet to result in a real salary? For many, the answer is a resounding no. A survey by WSL/Strategic Retail found that nearly a quarter of millennials are unable to make ends meet. We’re creating lives for ourselves that we cannot afford.
The good news is, studies show that we are less likely to use a credit card to bridge the gap between the money we have and the money we need to buy something. We are charging less and therefore paying off our credit card debt at a faster rate than other age groups. Low bank balances have also morphed us into super frugal shoppers, always finding the lowest price.
The bad news is that even a $250 iPhone from Craigslist is still $250 for a phone.
Of course, a phone isn’t standing in the way of anyone wanting to reach total financial independence, but the mindset that goes into making these costly purchases can be problematic — especially if you’re making these purchases in lieu of saving and investing your money.
Many phone companies are touting $100 a month for a cell phone plan. That seems reasonable for “unlimited everything,” but still that’s $1200 dollars a year. I looked up some numbers on personal finance website, The Motley Fool and it turns out – If you invested that $1200 yearly at a 9 percent interest rate instead of handing it over to Verizon for the next decade, you’d have 22-thousand dollars in 10 years and a whopping 480-thousand dollars in 40 years. $208 a month is $2,500 a year and investing that at the same rate will net you a million dollars in 40 years.
Here’s the thing, in our 20’s, being broke is still something to joke about with friends; but there isn’t anything funny about working our entire lives and then joining the legions of senior citizens who can’t write a five thousand dollar check because we squandered what little disposable income we had while we were young.
Luxury items are great and quality of life is important, but I hope we are more #TeamInvestingInOurselves instead of just #TeamPaddingThePocketsOfThoseWhoAreInTheBusinessOfKeepingUsBroke.
Which side are you on?Alissa Henry is a freelance writer living in Columbus, Ohio. Follow her on Twitter: @AlissaInPink or check out her blog This Cannot Be My Life
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