January 28, 2020

Just Buy the Coffee, Already

“I’m calling it right now: This is the summer of bad personal finance advice.

An industry of experts exists to advise us on how to spend our money. Some of those experts are truly on your side and sincerely want to help you be better with money. Some of those experts are … not exactly on your side, and are perhaps more interested in riling us up about our spending. It can be difficult to tell them apart, and it makes our already-fraught relationship with money even worse.

Earlier this month CNBC generated an outrage cycle about money advice by tweeting this story, in which the personal finance professional Suze Orman claimed that buying coffee means “you are peeing $1 million down the drain as you are drinking that coffee.” (Even the legendary writer Susan Orlean weighed in.) Earlier this summer, USA Today generated a similar negative buzz when it published an article from the money website The Motley Fool that claimed Americans waste an average of $18,000 a year on “nonessential items,” which they said included personal grooming, gym memberships, restaurants, coffee and lunch. These are all on top of similarly shaming articles that tell us we’re not rich because we sleep in and travel; because we buy shoes and jeans; and, of course, because we buy too much coffee.”

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