finance

Dear millennials: Afterpay is everything that's wrong with our attitude towards money.

Dear my fellow (beloved) millennials:

We need to have an intervention and it’s of the we’re all using Afterpay too much variety.

You see, we’re being a bit stupid, and it’s getting to a point where somebody needs to say something.

But HOLD FIRE. Put down your Chinese throwing stars and pitchforks. Let me explain.

We’re using Afterpay way too much, and with Santa Claus coming to town in a couple of months, it’s only bound to get worse.

“WHY DO I NEED TO STOP? I LIKE BUYING THE SHINY THINGS,” I hear you collectively hiss behind your screens. And I feel you, because I like buying all of the shiny things too. I thrive on it.

But guys… um… we’re all going kinda broke. Sorry – correction – very bloody broke.

According to Experian, an Australian credit bureau and data insights company, millennials are twice as likely to believe they cannot maintain their lifestyle without borrowing money compared to baby boomers and gen X.

The 2016 study revealed more than half of millennials use credit to buy things, even when we suspect we might struggle to make the repayments. Oh, and approximately 33 per cent of us currently owe money to our family members, simply because we needed help in servicing our existing debts and commitments.

It doesn’t stop there.

One in five of us are – get this – using one type of credit to pay off another, which is three times the national average.

So of course, as is common sense in our debt-drenched world, another technology to enable us to spend even more money we don’t have has been introduced. Now, after a meteoric rise between its launch in 2014 and today, Afterpay is available at more than 7000 Australian retailers. With it, you can purchase everything from $1000 Jetstar flights to new jeans and skin care; all you need to do is pay it off over eight weeks with four equal instalments.

Don’t mistake it for lay-by. Afterpay lets you leave the store with the product in hand, without any checks on whether you have the resources to pay for it down the track. And if you miss your payment periods? They’ll start adding on late fees. For every passing week, the amount you owe climbs.

The company says this system is “aligned with core millennial values and lifestyle preferences”, which roughly translates to we know millennials are weak little suckers who want everything right now without having the funds to afford it.

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Sure, we can whinge about things like the costly housing market and ceiling-less age of retirement, but somewhere, at some point, millennials need to start looking introspectively.

We need to fess up to the fact we’re being reckless. Unbelievably so.

Listen to The Barefoot Investor share his money wisdom with Mia Freedman. (Post continues…)

A reminder: The global financial crisis of 2008 occurred because, in the simplest terms possible, the world got greedy. We borrowed more money than we could repay.

That attitude, that materialism, that rapacity, reportedly cost 250,000 Australians their jobs.

Now I’m not going to call myself a finance expert (I did watch The Big Short at the cinemas with my dad – I’m not sure that counts), so I called in a finance expert to discuss whether or not our spending habits on Afterpay are something to worry about.

According to Bessie Hassan, money expert at Finder.com.au, they sure are.

“[Afterpay] does appear to have several perks, but there is a real danger, a trap that comes with using it too frequently,” Hassan told Mamamia. 

“It is feeding a worrying money practice that [millennials] are not learning to save for things they want, instead they feel entitled to the things they want automatically.”

This warped perception we have of personal finances is bleeding into a “worrying trend”, Hassan said.

“Digital payments – where we just pay for everything from our coffee, to designer dresses, without the physical exchange of money – are altering our attitudes towards spending.

“We’re losing that whole idea of saving for something and being rewarded for that effort.”

Hassan advises millennials use Afterpay sparingly, and recommends we employ other strategies for getting through the expensive festive season, like lay-by and good old fashion saving.

Because, ultimately, if you can’t afford something right now, the chances are you can’t afford it full stop.

And, as history has shown us, the toxic downfall of spending more than you can afford doesn’t only affect you.

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