How dumb are Radio 702’s six dumbest things people in their 20s do with their money?

According to the Citizen twitter responded somewhat negatively to Radio 702‘s article about the dumbest things people in their 20s did with their money.

The negative response appears to be driven by the all black caste of characters used to illustrate the “mistakes” – which is fair enough really.

The thing is, I find this less interesting than actually looking at the list, and so far as I can see, these aren’t all that dumb.

  • Buying a car after getting a raise or some windfall.
  • Relying on a credit card.
  • Using store cards.
  • Not saving for retirement.
  • Falling for get-rich-quick schemes.
  • Buying stuff rather than experiences.

A lot of the job ads I’ve seen, have stressed the importance of having your own transport – which is to say that in a lot of cases buying a car isn’t a dumb thing to do with your money, but a means of improving your ability to find work.

Credit cards are a great way to manage your cashflow provided you pay them off every month, and in our high crime society you don’t want to carry cash around with you.

Store cards are again, not a bad thing if you pay them off. They often come with discounts that can add up over time.

Not saving for retirement is an item which points to the privilege of the person who made the list. You need to pay for today before you can think about tomorrow – and your 20s is when your earnings are at their lowest and your expenses are at their highest.

The reason for this is because you’ve just gotten your first job, you’ve just moved out of your parents’ place so you’ve got the hidden expenses of adulthood hitting you, and if you’ve gotten a degree that’s a load of debt you’ve got to pay off.  It isn’t dumb to prioritise living today over a few decades down the line.

And that is without even considering the risk of us going like Zimbabwe, and having all of your savings wiped out, or the fact that more than half of our youths don’t have jobs.

Buying stuff rather than experiences – this is meaningless buzz speak. Okay lets look at savings for retirement, now generally if you’re saving for retirement you’re going to do it by – buying shares. One can also consider buying property as a form of retirement saving, as the value of property tends to appreciate over time, insurance policies, retirement annuities, all of this is buying stuff.

That is having an asset – so one bit of advice is buy stuff, the other is buy experiences.

Even on the level of buying a TV or a computer – this is stuff that provides experiences over a long period of time. “Buying experiences” meanwhile tends to be eating out which is fun to do, but over in about two hours.

The only one that is kind of dumb in this list is falling for get rich-quick schemes, and lets be honest about it, this is something that is hardly restricted to the younger set.

The 2007 financial collapse demonstrated that on a global level, it wasn’t unusual for some really big name companies to buy shares in assets – when they didn’t know what the assets actually were. The derivatives market had all the hallmarks of a get rich-quick scheme, and it wasn’t people in their 20s doing it back then.

Not only that, but we can look at issues like televangelists and the prosperity gospel. That is fundamentally a get rich-quick scheme that urges people, often retirees, to give con-artists posing as religious leaders their money as a “seed” and demonstration of their faith in God, with the understanding that God would reward them for it.

Con-artists prey on the vulnerable and desperate, people in their 20s falling for them isn’t a sign of stupidity, but rather the desperate situation our country’s youth are in.

Overall this is why I don’t like money advice columns in general. What can seem foolish to one person can be necessary to another – and we have no way of telling.

To say “To do this is a dumb thing” – generally misses the reasons why people do the things they do. To give really good advice generally requires understanding someone’s circumstances – and it is very rare when that advice can really be generalised.

Picture courtesy of TheDigitalWay via Pixabay.



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