From Articles to Actuality: How Financial Columns Lie

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Men lie, women lie–numbers don’t.

While this pop culture easily applied quote is true to real life – it can also align with the pulse of wealth in America. You know the routine – you’re scrolling social media and this article title catches your eye: “Millennial pays off $100k in student loans in 12 months.”

So you click the article and start to read.

What you soon start to gather is that person made well over the sum of student loans.

An article in MarketWatch from January caught some recent clap back from social media. The reason for that is based on their “theory,” that by the time one reaches their 30s, they should have double their salary in retirement (or traditional) savings. What’s lacking is that many at 30 are just getting into their career, switching careers, starting families or have massive student loan debt!

We all see and/or read articles about how to handle our coins with care, but many of those articles fail to bring a collective truth to what Americans face. The advice that they give is out of touch and leaving readers to think that their financial goals are the same – out of touch.

So after reading this laughable article, we at 32 Letter gave our thoughts on a few points in this article – retrospective flow:

Question: With knowing that this is a fact, do you feel that money-based articles miss the mark on helping readers build better money habits?

Christina: I really think the companies like MarketWatch, who run stories like this, are fitting it to who they consider their demographic is. They must have focus groups or analysts who dissect who their readers are and they must be children of the one percent. I honestly don’t read MarketWatch for this reason, they’re not relatable. However, that doesn’t stop me from creating and researching for my own money habits.

Candace: I think money-based articles, while loaded with useful information, they fail to connect with millennials because they are formulated with assumptions. Obviously, everyone’s economic situation is different. Some people have no debt with the help of scholarships or family and some of us are still struggling to pay off loans we signed off on over a decade ago. These articles need to speak to a multitude of demographics straight out the gate — not just people who have a full-time job, with health care and a 401K package. It’s elitist and exclusionary to do otherwise and it makes those who are barely over the poverty line feel like they can never make it.

Nadia: Rarely, if ever, do you see articles and publications pulling from real-feel folks who make minimum wage and are trying to make it happen. What I wish that articles would highlight is how to take this strategy and scale it to make it more relatable. Articles like this have folks in their feelings – thinking that they aren’t doing enough to even see the light of financial ability that they wish for. While this post is focused on millennials – most articles don’t connect to folks (no matter the generation) who need the information. The information is there, the relatability is not.

Question: Why do you think that many money articles leave out about the realization of student loans and how it impacts wealth building — or even getting out of debt?

Candace: They do so because financial publications were created for those who live or want to live that 1% lifestyle, which in turn does a huge disservice to people who actually need financial resources. Before even thinking about saving for retirement, strategies need to be put in place to reduce debt as much as possible. Both financial initiatives are equally critical to our futures.

Christina: Let’s be real here. If a money-based publication called out the federal government and loan institutions for putting millions of millennials into debt they just might lose advertisement dollars from those same companies. The everyday consumer doesn’t have time to research which corporations fund or are on the board of certain publications to make a conscious decision whether to read their content.

Nadia: We live in the world of ‘clickbait’ or bait and switch. Articles like this services those with the fancy banner ads to the left and right of the website along the theory of the 1% mentality funnel down to the regular Joe. We are shown that the 1% are those of Bill Gates or Uncle Warren Buffett, but we have those 1% theories are seen on a smaller scale. This article gives you the tea on how to succeed, but in a sunken place. That sunken place makes it seems like it is hard to get to that level on Super Mario Brothers; that one can never really ‘get out’ of debt.

Question: Does this median speak truth to what many see today? Is it right for ‘society’ to figure we should have it all figured out by 30/35?

Candace: It’s silly to put an age on anything because everyone’s financial situation is different. I think they could have said, “By 35 you should be looking to have funds in diverse savings accounts because you are likely to be solely responsible for your own retirement.” This is how you do it: Boom.

Nadia: You see the memes stating the comparison of society stating how you should reach Jedi Level by a set age and on the other side to do it “your way”. Yes, that theory is true. Again, where publications go wrong is how they position the information to their readers. Most articles force 401ks as the only form of retirement income (I’ll save my messy for another day). Showing readers more step by step and examples that are easily transferable will make the information connect more.

So when reading articles like this, here are some ways to connect the information to your financial trek.

Look for tools that they reference. The article stated: “The problem? Not everyone is saving — or can save — that much toward retirement.” You see this as a jab, but what you should do from that punchline is to take an assessment of what you are doing. What are your saving focuses?

2. Take your feelings out of it. Yes, the person the article is about might be within the common 1%, but seek to find alternatives to apply it to your financial situations.

Most financial articles speak to retirement and how much you should have saved, which is understandable. Keeping track of and configuring your financial habits allows you to build a budget, snatch up debt, and of course retire comfortably. Learn from others and find the context how to move.

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