The most recent batch of consumer spending surveys tells me my circle of friends are either the smartest money managers on earth or we’re one thin dime away from the poorhouse.
Some surveys say we’re ahead of the curve because many of us have existing, if meager, emergency funds.
Others suggest we’re on shaky financial ground because we’re not saving enough.
I don’t even know what to think anymore.
Consumer Surveys: Don’t Believe the Hype
Spending habit surveys conducted by qualified researchers actually provide a lot of useful data.
They help us understand how different variables affect our spending behavior and can spark ideas on where we can improve our money management strategies.
But they can also set the bar impossibly high.
I ran across a survey this week that said millennials would rather save their money than buy frivolous things they don’t absolutely need.
A few millennials around the Penny Hoarder office got a good chuckle out of that notion.
Junior Writer and all-around marvelous millennial Carson Kohler said, “Believe me, if I had an extra $50 I would buy a pair of new jeans. I know I should invest it, but sometimes immediate gratification gets the best of me.”
And you know what? That’s OK!
Surveys are only as real as the people who answer the questions.
This type of data collection is frequently conducted by self-reporting, which means participants provide responses based on what they believe to be true about themselves.
The problem is, people tend to cast themselves in the best light possible, which could skew survey results away from reality. Self-reported data is not particularly reliable.
Change the Angle
CareerBuilder released a survey this week that revealed “nearly 1 in 4 high school students pick their career based on something they saw on TV or in a movie.”
At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss that objective data point about soon-to-be workers as silly or shallow — but is it really?
Who cares how you find your calling? What matters is finding a career you love. It doesn’t matter if you learn about it from TV, a mentoring aunt or even a fortune cookie.
There are lots of ways to interpret data. If survey results get you down or make you feel like your money skills are subpar, I have some advice you should take right now.
You Do You
The bottom line is everyone has their own money management style that works for them.
Consumer surveys are interesting, but don’t be ashamed if your habits don’t match up with this majority of savers or that majority of spenders.
Spending and saving habits are very personal and no two situations are alike — no matter how surveys may make it seem.
From one Penny Hoarder to another, there’s no shame in your game!
Your turn: Do consumer spending surveys shape your habits or stress you out?
Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’d also rather drop $50 on jeans than invest it. Are you free to go shopping this weekend, Carson?
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