Poor People Aren’t the Ones Who Need a Lecture on Fiscal Responsibility
Yesterday, Chase Bank took some heat and ultimately deleted a tweet in which they suggested poor people just need to stop wasting money on coffee and other frivolities. The Chase Bank twitter debacle was their idea of #MondayMotivation.
In the tweet, a fortunately fictional customer questions why their bank balance is so low, and the bank suggests they “make coffee at home,” “eat what’s already in the fridge,” and walk three blocks instead of taking a cab.
The Chase Bank tweet backlash was epic. Tweeters went to town roasting the bank for its tone-deaf advice. Some pointed out that Chase Bank’s parent company, JP Morgan, got a taxpayer-funded government bailout of 25 BILLION dollars after the mortgage meltdown of 2008.
But…why couldn’t they just make their own coffee and eat what was already in the break room fridge?
Others noted the bank’s $34 overdraft fees and pointed out that JP Morgan’s CEO Jamie Dimon didn’t exactly amass his riches by making his own lunch.
Although Chase apologized and deleted the tweet, the problem of poor-shaming is not going away. For years, the cash-strapped have been told their financial woes are all their fault, and would go away if they stopped spending six dollars on coffee every morning and brown-bagged their lunches.
Now, that is good advice for some people…. the ones who can afford to eat out in the first place. Yes, if you’re currently spending a lot on coffee and meals out and cabs, you can probably save a significant amount by not doing those things.
But this ignores the many people who don’t eat out, or go to Tenbucks Coffee every morning (or ever) or take a cab. I made just under $14,000 last year as a freelancer (that means I get no benefits, in addition to my lavish earnings). Do you think I go to fucking Starbuck’s every day?
No. The only time I go to Starbuck’s is if I want to use their free wifi. The last time I bought coffee there someone had given me a gift card. If I eat out, it’s because the restaurant sent me a free meal coupon for my birthday. So basically, I only eat out in February. I buy most of my groceries from the Dollar Tree or Aldi’s.
So, why is my bank balance low? Because I paid my fucking bills like a responsible adult, that’s why.
Don’t get me wrong, there are people who live above their means. I talked with dozens of them when I worked in the financial aid office of my alma mater for $10.00 an hour a few summers ago.
Interestingly, it was never the genuinely poor people who yelled at me about their lack of financial aid. (Keep in mind, my job involved looking at their FAFSA, so I actually did know exactly how much each person I talked to made.) I talked to a lot of rude, angry, entitled people, and most of them were making six figures a year or more.
“I know it looks like we make a lot of money, but we’re really living paycheck to paycheck here,” one student’s mother told me. Her FAFSA said she and her husband had a combined income of about $300,000 a year.
I went through a series of questions to determine if there were any special circumstances that might apply here. Had the primary earner in the family lost their job or become unable to work due to a disability or illness? No, everyone still had their job at the same earning level. Did they have mounds of medical debt? No, they had debts, but none of them were medical.
Now, this was a cheap-ass state school, so we’re not talking Harvard tuition here. Was it still expensive? Sure, college costs have risen exponentially in the last thirty years, skyrocketing far ahead of inflation, which itself has zoomed ahead of the minimum wage. But a family making $300,000 should have been able to afford it comfortably.
So there I sat, listening to this woman berate me about how her family lives paycheck to paycheck, and all I could think was, “Boy, would I like to live paycheck to paycheck on YOUR paychecks. Have you thought about selling a polo pony?” All I could do was think it, because obviously, I needed the lousy ten dollars an hour.
And she wasn’t alone. I talked to many parents in the six-figure bracket who swore they couldn’t afford to send their kid to college at a cheap state school. So are there people who need advice about budgeting? Absolutely, but it’s not the poor people with the low bank balances. We already know how to make our own coffee and eat what’s in the house, because we have to. Hell, I’ve been shaving my legs with the same disposable razor for more than two years just to avoid buying a new package at the dollar store. Don’t give me advice on budgeting.
So the next time a wealthy corporation like Chase Bank decides to give financial advice for #MotivationMonday, maybe they should aim it at the people who actually don’t know how to budget — the upper middle class and above.