Published September 22, 2015|2 min read
The title was bold: "If you have savings in your 20s, you’re doing something wrong." The tone was aggressive: "I don’t know about you, but I like to enjoy my life." The insights were oddly poetic: "When you care about your 401k, your life is just ‘k.’"
Lauren Martin’s article for Elite Daily set off a firestorm in the blogosphere (people still say that, right?) last week, and for good reason: there was just so much to hate about it. So much to hate that almost every response article I read cautioned readers that it could just be a troll article, a piece of writing perfectly concocted to get clicks and write-ups on blogs like The Billfold and Gawker.
After looking into Martin’s past articles and her Twitter, I’m not so sure.
Another good reason her article touched such a nerve? A lot of these bloggers are either in their late 20s or early 30s and completely regret not saving money in their 20s. From Chelsea Fagan, founder of the excellent blog The Financial Diet:
And so even if this article is trolling — and again, it very well might be — it taps into a very real set of ideas and beliefs that are actively damaging our generation. I know this, because I was one of them. When I started TFD, I was YOLO’ing my way through my 20s, with nothing to show in my savings account, despite having a good job, benefits, and all of the right ingredients to setting up a good safety net and start putting away for the future. I had no excuse to be where I was, except that I loved instant gratification, taking taxis instead of the subway, and imagining that some far-off, smarter version of myself would come into a lot of money through some as-yet-unknown method. I was a f**king idiot, basically, so I started this blog, and have since gotten much better about money.
Hamilton Nolan over at Gawker was less subtle:
Gawker.com wholeheartedly endorses Lauren’s financial advice to 20-somethings, particularly the part that said "What memorable experience does money in the bank give you? How well-rounded can people become sitting at home, watching their limited funds gain interest?" All 20-somethings should mail their extra money to:Someone Over the Age of 30Gawker Media114 5th AveNew York, NY 10011Don’t worry about anything you stupid idiots.
There’s not much point in trying to deeply analyze Martin’s post. It appeals to a base fear in young people: that personal finance is hard to understand, that saving money is difficult, that becoming an adult robs you of "fun," or at least the concept of fun. You can imagine Martin’s "truisms" being spouted by the characters in Girls, who are walking warning signs to all 20-somethings stuck in arrested development.
You can also pretty easily imagine them as Instagram captions ("We’re not trying to live with safety nets; we’re trying to live on the edge" would be perfect for a snap of you and your friends jumping off a small cliff and into a lake).
From what I can gather from her other posts, Martin and I seem to be around the same age. We live in the same city. We’re both, primarily, writers. And that really freaks me out. Not because I’m afraid that secretly, deep down, Martin and I are actually the same. No – it freaks me out that some thirty-year-old is going to read this and think that all 20-somethings are this irresponsible.
So, please, fellow 20-somethings (and older, if you haven’t started saving money yet): please open a savings account. Please put money into it. It’s not as hard as it seems.
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