Thursday, June 28, 2007

“Savings” Pitch Tricks You into Overspending

More Dark Alchemy:

Free Money Finance cited a finance article about 15% of US households with $0 net worth. The article is a perfect example of tricking you with slick sales marketing that masquerades as news.

First, however, look at the faulty analysis:

  • The article cites 15% of households with $0 net worth but is on thin ice when it converts households to individuals—unnecessarily (what is wrong with simply saying "1 out of 7 households"?).
  • The 2.6 persons per household includes babies and college roommates.
  • The logical flaw is the article's assumption that a $0 household has 2.6 persons each with $0 net worth. Each household member can be wildly different from one another—think if your roommate were Casey Serin.
  • Besides, since about 15% of households are led by a “householder” under 30 years old, 15% of households with $0 net worth is not “shocking” (as the author asserted).

How To Twist “Savings” To Trick You into Overspending

  • The author claims “shocking” news to scare you into “saving” more.
  • Even more importantly, the pitch actually gets you to spend more money.
  • There is no mention of debt reduction. The author ignores the most basic method of increasing net worth (reducing debt), and also ignores basic savings, and skips straight to investments and advertises specific mutual-fund and stock picks.
  • Swallowing his advice means that you probably will be paying fees to someone, probably while paying interest (on unpaid debts) and taxes elsewhere along the way.

The Old Borrow-To-Invest Scheme Again: Who Profits?

It is no surprise when someone advises you to do something that would profit him/her (e.g. to buy a mortgage, student loan, insurance, investment, or anything). The strange part is that people continue to fall for it.

If you pay off debt early, the bank gets less profit off you and the stock market does not get to profit off that money either. It is no surprise when the banking and investment industries (including “free” websites that make money off the stock-market culture) urge you to invest instead of paying off debt; they make money off you coming and going.

When your “impartial” friend makes that same recommendation, you might find that you can trace his/her conviction to advice from the investment industry.

Cast a Jaundiced Eye on the Old Spend-To-Save Advice

Investments are great vehicles for surplus funds but do not confuse true surpluses with amounts above minimum debt payments.

You might do all the math specific to your situation and occasionally find a circumstance where borrowing to invest will (1) profit you as well as (2) profit others—but make sure that #1 is indeed part of the result.

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