Casey points me to You Can Learn a Lot From a Rich Girl, a breathtakingly good article filled with insights about the dumb things we do with money:
The author (I don’t know who it is) writes about Marilyn, the “rich” girl:
Driving home from the bar one evening, my friend Marilyn confided in me that she was afraid. In six months, she would be graduating from grad school and her parents were going to cut her off financially for the first time in 26 years. Marilyn works twice a week (8 hours total) waiting tables to pay for pot and shoes, but everything else from her rent to her groceries has been paid for by her parents. Marilyn, at 26, doesn’t know how to balance a checkbook and has no idea what a gallon of milk costs. On top of that, she managed to secretly charge up some credit cards to the tune of $12,000 and that debt alone was overwhelming her. She couldn’t imagine what it would be like when she had to pay all of her own bills, plus the credit card debt. She fucked up big time and rather than admit that to her parents (who amassed their wealth through careful, responsible investments) she was desperately confiding in her older friend hoping for a magic solution to her problems.
On young people buying expensive clothes, going out extravagantly, and not realizing how much we can really afford:
I’ve spoken to a lot of college kids lately who regularly spend $200 for a pair of blue jeans. When I ask them how long it takes for them to earn that kind of cash, the answer usually falls in the realm of a week or so. At this point, I will stress that not even the very wealthy spend an entire weeks worth of salary on one article of clothing. College kids disagree because they’ve seen wealthy people wearing more expensive clothing than their jeans. So I explain that while they may wear more expensive clothing, that it doesn’t constitute a week of their salary. Normally, they earn the price of expensive jeans in an hour, often less. On the off chance that the kid understands the picture that I’m trying to paint for him, he expresses shock that I would suggest he should never spend more than $8 (his hourly wage) on a single article of clothing….or alternatively buy significantly less clothing. But most of the time, the idea that they might be living well above their means only confuses them and they just stare at me blankly.
And on the cluelessly stupid way we act about Christmas gifts:
Every Christmas we go over to her house bundled up in sweaters and jackets, swathed in a layer of blankets because she can’t afford to turn the heat up. But everyone will be plowed with the presents that she couldn’t control the impulse to buy. It pains me to see and I just want to say to her to please take back the bracelet and the sweater and the gift certificate and the 20 presents you bought the children that will most likely be donated to charity without them ever playing with them because they have so much already and please, turn your heat up.