The Millenial Urban Poor


There is a new kind of poverty that is rising among millenials. According to this story, millenials are spending more to look good, appear on trend and appear full, rather than buying more food to actually feel full. Looks and the appearance of eating at nice restaurants, while literally starving for most of the day, is given more value. Thus, most working millenials end up starving and broke.

I started noticing this form of millenial poverty around me, too, more so in Makati rather than here in Cebu. From a lawyer who spends so much money on shopping, while charging it on her credit card because she already consumed her salary, to the guy who racked up a PhP 20,000.00 unpaid phone bill but still manages to eat out every night. Another lawyer (who has worked for over a decade) goes on vacations abroad several times a year but cannot afford a down-payment on a house.

Some millenials live their extravagant lives rather dangerously. They carry credit card balances in the five digits and a car loan but hold cash of only PhP 10,000.00! And these are young lawyers! A serious illness and lost income from work could mean a serious derailment in cash flow or worse, foreclosure.

Other people are forced to delay certain milestones, like marriage and property (real or substantial personal property) ownership, because they have no savings, and yet these people go clubbing every Friday and hang out at nice restaurants!  Meanwhile, for most of the week, millenials starve themselves by eating crackers instead of actual food filled with the basic food groups of protein, natural carbohydrates and veggies.

Aspirational spending drives most millenials to spend. Hey, I’ve fallen prey to that too. Those wonderful images of things, places and experiences just hold such a misleading promise of taking away our stress and daily anxieties. For others, aspirational spending is believed to help them in networking with influential people in their industry. If you dress well and live well, the clients will come. Or so we think.

Aspirational spending is prevalent among white-collar workers, whose workplace require a certain dress code and where upward mobility is somewhat driven by appearances.

Unfortunately, I work in a white collar field. As such, there are more challenges for me to face in order to ignore aspirational spending. I constantly read personal finance books and articles to remind myself what really counts – in the calculation of your net worth, that is. Haha. Your clothes are personal property, yes. But they don’t appreciate. They are essentially consumable goods that don’t last forever nor do they pay dividends. But then I can say the same for bags, which give me joy and which I’m quite fond of. To cope, I try to balance my spending. I can’t tolerate a spartan lifestyle, because where’s the fun in that?

I do set aside a certain amount for the fun stuff like dining out, which becomes such treat if you do it so rarely. By laying off on eating pork and red meat, it feels like such a treat to eat steak once in a blue moon. You guys should try this. Please note that the underlying premise is always spending within or better yet, BELOW, your means and in cash.

This new kind of millenial urban poor isn’t unique to this generation. Most people would say it is caused by social-climbing – spending beyond your income on aspirational things, at the cost of our physical and financial health. With the prevalence of up-to-the-minute social media updates that constantly bombard us with images of other people’s lifestyles and job updates, millenials face more pressure than ever to keep up. But do we really need to sacrifice basic nutrition in order to get ahead?

Let’s remind ourselves of a person’s basic needs. We only need food, clothing and shelter to survive in this world. All the rest are just noise.

20 something lawyer

*Happy mother’s day to my mom and to all mothers reading this, wherever you may be in the world!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.