finance

"I was in the car when it dawned on me why millennials are so bad with money."

Millennials get a bad rap for being a bit dim about finances, but a recent realisation makes me think we’re not entirely to blame.

A few weeks ago, I heard a radio ad for a short-term money lender called Nimble. They’re known for giving out short-term, high-interest loans from $300 – $5000, and judging from their marketing, they skew to a younger, millennial, audience.

Chances are that if you’re in your 20s and trying to balance an entry-level income with increasing living expenses, rent and a social life, you’re going to need a good dose of self-control and money know-how if you want to build up that savings account.

But Nimble, like other short-term, payday loan businesses, have capitalised on our generation’s obsession with immediate gratification, and positioned themselves as the ‘no-consequence’ money lenders which will give you a little injection of cash to cover those spontaneous moments.

For example, times like…

When you forget to furnish your new place but you’re still waiting for payday.

When you want to go on a road trip but you also need to get your car serviced, or just, you know, feel the need to rent out a convertible for the weekend (?).

When you really, really want to go on a holiday, but your bank account isn’t feeling so flush.

In Nimble’s advertising, these scenarios are paired with their whimsical, hipster, mascot of a rabbit, and followed by the tagline, “If you need money fast, #justNimbleit and move on”.

While I’m no financial expert, I know this is awful advice. Do not do this.

By now, the damaging rhetoric of ‘buy yourself some happy’ has wormed its way into the millennial mindset. Stores use this mantra to make us spend more, and targeting our FOMO (fear of missing out) is another popular tactic, with loan and layby services targeting our instant gratification mindset to make us buy more.

But the advertising around these concepts is misleading.

In 2015, one of Nimble’s ads came under fire from the consumer and social services sector for exploiting people in financial hardship. In the ad, a young man is shown taking a shower when he realises he forgot to pay the gas bill, and as as a result, his hot water is cut off. Nimble’s rabbit mascot immediately advocates for him to “Nimble it and move on”.

Watch the controversial ad right here:

Video by Nimble Australia

In reality, utility companies have government-mandated hardship policies which work with consumers to create alternative payment schedules and won’t just ‘cut off’ your electricity or water supply for one-time offences. For example, on Energy Australia’s website, they list some of their criteria for financial hardship as “losing your job, unexpected expenses relating to your home or your car or a relationship breaking down”.

Although the company told the ABC their ads weren’t “designed to be taken literally,” they ended up pulling the ad. They have, however, continued to use a similar marketing strategy.

People use payday loans for many reasons, and there’s a reason companies target desperate, financially-vulnerable people. But to suggest someone take out a loan to cover something as trivial and fickle as an impulse holiday, is a damaging message to send.

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Even if you are in need of urgent money help, there are a number of other avenues that won’t leave you in even more crippling debt. The government’s Money Smart ‘Urgent Money Help’ guide is a great place to start.

Ultimately, Nimble profits off how quickly they can deposit the loan into your account – and this convenience comes with an exorbitant fee.

Nimble Australia
Image: Getty.

For example, Nimble offers two types of loans for prospective lenders - small and medium loans.

For principal amounts between $300 and $2000, you're charged 20 per cent of the amount as an establishment fee, plus a monthly loan fee of 4 per cent. That means with a loan of $900, if you pay it off in two months, you'd be charged a total of approximately $1152, depending on how much you pay off each month. That's an extra $252 for the ease and convenience.

For medium loans, principal amounts between $2001 and $5000, the costs increase exponentially. These loans incur a set $400 establishment fee and are calculated at an interest rate of 47.6158 per cent per annum. Nimble lists its comparison rate at 65.6597 per cent per annum  (lenders legally have to include this, and calculates the fees at a repayment period of two years, which Nimble doesn't actually offer for amounts over $2500). For comparison, credit card interest rates range from 10-20 per cent per annum for purchases after the interest free period, and roughly 22 per cent for cash advances, depending on the bank.

Nimble encourages impulse spending - giving us a temporary burst of happiness that in hindsight is never worth the cost to reward ratio.

Good finances start with sensible, considered, everyday habits - as boring as that sounds.

There is no quick fix. And it's time we stopped that lie.

Mamamia have approached Nimble Australia for comment.

Have you ever taken out a short-term loan? What was your experience like? Tell us in a comment below.

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