Why Can’t We All Admit How Broke We Are?
The Debrief: We’re successful, smart and we’re bossing it at work. So why are we all still so utterly broke?
*Sound the obvious news gong*
Young people are nearly three times more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the population, the largest gap in more than 20 years according to official figures. 498,000 people aged 16-24 are out of work, with young people faring comparatively worse than at any point since 1992. It seems that fundamentally, wage growth is failing to keep up with the cost of living.
Typical wages for 20 somethings were £19,278 in 2012 (the latest available data) and living costs averaged £14,760 (depending on how flashy you are and where you live; h-obvs), which leaves the majority £376.50 to live on per month. Not surprising that one in six people aged 25-32 are staying at mum and dads...
Yikes. With no clear blueprint for guaranteed financial success, money stress affects us all, regardless of how well we’re doing at work. Take Clara Amfo, who recently took over the mid morning Radio 1 slot, ‘On my year out
before uni,I got a stung by my first credit card, and me and my overdraft definitely had some fun!'
I totally get it – there have been plenty of occasions when my professional success and my bank balance have looked like they belonged to two totally different people. I've found myself out with people from work splitting the priceof a fancy dinner knowing I'm gonna have to put a chunk of stuff on eBay to compensate, and at the height of the YouTube channel SBTV where I started my career, we were followed by a Channel 4 camera crew and I was constantly recognized on the bus by14 year old grime fans but online views weren’t translating into hard cash - I could barely afford an Oyster card.
It’s easy to presume online success means you’re making rolling in it. Brittany Ashley - one of Buzzfeed’s most popular US actresses - recently went into a depressive spiral after a co-worker asked if her tray was “a bit” when he spotted her waitressing. And lifestyle a lifestyle vlogger Rachel Whitehurst - currently on 160,000 subscribers - was forced to quit her job at Starbucks after fans started to memorize her schedule.
‘Personally, I don't want to admit when I'm not doing well financially – especially from a business point of view. First impressions count. It’s a warped way to earn someone’s respect but I think it has something to do with the way humans have been trained to revere materialistic objects.’ says Jessica Kruger, 27 and founder of vegetarian restaurant Ethos. I agree - I’m sure I was angling for illusions of grandeur when I was running to TopShop after uni lectures for clothes to interview popstars in on SBTV, only to return them the following week.
So how are we supposed to combat the squeeze? As the the demographic spending the most money eating out, some argue we're an insta-generation living beyond our means. The Office for Budget Responsibility warned households are outspending their incomes at a higher level than ‘any other year over the last 15 or 20’ as we splurge more of our savings than ever. Although if young people are getting screwed this much, the least they can do is let us enjoy a Wagamama's in peace, eh?
‘I had to sacrifice to make ends meet in the beginning’ explains Clara. ‘My family didn't struggle but no-one was on a ridiculously high income either, I was always taught to live with what I have. I just think 'can I afford something? Yeah I can this month.... Can I afford something? No this month I can't.’
Sometimes though no matter how hard you hustle, just trying to get by doing something you enjoy is tough. ‘In 2014 I had a £15k a year job in journalism. I was working all day, then in the evenings I’d work on my comedy show and I just couldn’t afford to eat!” says Stevie, a writer and part of comedy group Massive Dad.’
‘We rarely get money for shows, the biggest was for 150 people paying £12 each. But split between three, after paying the tech person, and the venue I think I made £20? Which is bullshit. Last year we did a show in Edinburgh, I was gigging every night to 70 people and I made a fiver when it was all totted up! It’s ridiculous… it does get you down, when you’re not able to pay rent and you’re just like “but I’ve worked constantly!”’
‘I’m doing better but I’m always “on” and worried about cash - like I went to see StarWars the other day and had to leave because somebody rang me about an article. I have really bad insomnia, definitely because I just can’t switch off because I’m terrified that if I do I won’t be able to afford to live.’
Fear of our own finances is a common theme among my pals: ‘my new year’s resolution is to stop being so scared of my bank account. I feel like if I don’t look, I don’t have to deal with it or something’ says my friend Lauryn. And she’s not alone, a Cambridge university study found one in five Brits suffer from ‘financialphobia.’
‘Financialphobes can be intelligent people who are high achievers in most areas of their lives - they are not irresponsible, feckless or spendthrift,’ says Dr Brendan Burchell, from Cambridge’s faculty of social and political sciences.
‘They have become entwined in this psychological syndrome which makes it very difficult for them to deal efficiently with their personal finances.’
‘There are those old sayings like “money makes the world go round,” which make people feel like they’re a failure if they don’t have it. Money is still the be all and end all in our society, so admitting you don’t “fit in,” can be a scary thing.’ says Jessica. ‘The brokest I’ve ever been was leaving for a university exchange in Paris from Australia. The exchange rate was highly unfavourable, so everything I paid cost me double. I worked three jobs to save enough money, and living in France not working saw all that money quickly dwindle. Everyone thought I was over there having this amazing time, but eating noodles at home on your own is hardly a way to make friends in a foreign country!’
‘Weirdly - I get more judgment from my friends who have opted for stable jobs than my family’ says Stevie. ‘There tends to be a bit of snobbery like “ohhh you’re still doing that are you?” Or the best is when you go to a birthday party and everyone who works in the city wants to split the bill and you’re like “I only ordered a starter!”’
Clara agrees: ‘I've got mates who are getting married and trying to have hen do’s in Vegas for two weeks, weddings overseas and gift from really expensive shops. It's like wow! That's their prerogative but not everyone’s getting paid the same. I think there should be a bit more of a mindfulness when it comes to people and their friendship groups. We can expect a lot from people financially these days without thinking, it's quite dangerous.’
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