Last week, Chase Bank made national news for an unintentionally controversial tweet it sent its 365,000 followers.
The tweet depicted an imaginary conversation between a person and their bank account. The full tweet was as follows
You: “why is my balance so low?”
Bank Account: “make coffee at home”
Bank Account: “eat the food that’s already in the fridge”
Bank Account: “you don’t need a cab, it’s only three blocks”
You: “I guess we’ll never know”
Bank Account: “seriously?”
The post quickly drew criticism by many in the media and in Washington. Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren quickly took to social media to call out the bank for not paying a living wage to many of its employees and for taking a government bailout in 2008. Freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also chimed in, arguing frivolous spending is not the root cause of poverty in America.
The outcry over this single bit of advice became so overwhelming that Chase deleted the post and issued an apology for their perceived “poor shaming.”
From a public relations standpoint, it made perfect sense for Chase to make a retraction and to promise to do better. However, as a financial adviser, it hurt my soul to think they would have to apologize for providing sound financial advice. Had the millions of people who took the time to voice their displeasure at the bank’s budgeting suggestions used those energies to really look at how they personally could reduce frivolous spending in their own lives, everyone would have been better off.
Mathematically, I find little to disagree with in Chase’s recommendations. After a quick glance on Amazon I discovered that a 24.2 ounce can of Folger’s, which produces over 200 cups of coffee, can be purchased for under $7. Depending on how often you go to Starbucks and what you purchase, the savings could be upwards of $1,000 a year by brewing at home. The savings one could experience by eating at home were even more substantial. A study done by food retailer Wellio found the average cost per person dining out is $20.37, compared with $4.31 when you cook at home. After tip and tax, a couple eating out twice a week spends just under $5,000 annually. If that same couple cooked at home, they would spend under $1,000.
Obviously, not all of those who live in poverty are there because of wasteful spending. In fact, I would guess the vast majority are not. However, for many who are just getting by, and not saving as much for retirement or a kid’s college as they would like, a lesson could be learned from what Chase Bank was trying to communicate. There are things we can do to improve our financial health, but they require being intentional and making some sacrifices.
Unfortunately in today’s culture, too many have adopted the status of victim. They have bought into the lie that they are powerless and it is the system that determines success or failure. I, however, was taught growing up. I learned that I alone was responsible for my lot in life. If I wanted my situation to improve, it was up to me to make it happen. As an adult I take great pleasure in teaching this life lesson to others, particularly in personal finance. It’s not always easy but you reach your goals, even if it is a single cup of coffee at a time.
(Advice is general in nature and not intended for specific situations. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.)
Luke Davis is the director of operations and compliance at Stewardship Capital in Independence.