Google "how to save money" and you'll get 3,740,000,000 results, promising you will be able to save up for any purchase if you just give them a click and scroll through their ads. Oops, I mean, text. Move over Jerome Powell, nowadays even teenage TikTokers are experts on macro and micro economy. Or are they?
The members of the subreddit Poverty Finance: Personal Finance For The Financially Challenged don't think so. And when you look at their content, it becomes pretty difficult to disagree with them. These Redditors share actual financial advice, frugality tips, stories, opportunities, and general guidance for people who are struggling financially. Oh, and they also torch pseudo financial gurus, burning their out-of-touch content to a crisp. My favorite.
So this time, as an introduction to the online community, we'll focus on the jokes and memes they've collected since getting together in 2018.
Being Poor Is A Choice? If You Play By The Rules You'll Be Safe? Really? Tell That To Him
A huge part of this community's charm is its inclusivity. "Much of the financial advice online and on Reddit is aimed at people who have varying degrees of disposable income, ability to invest, lots of free time, available transportation, no kids, a partner, access to credit, and beyond," the people running the subreddit write in its 'About' section.
"This is a place for people who do not have a lot, nor ideal circumstances, to help each other get by and hopefully move up in the world."
As of this publication, it has 847K members and if you relate to Poverty Finance's content, we suggest you join them too. "You do not have to be absolutely destitute to be here. Whether you are a single parent only pulling 10K a year, or a single person trying to get past student loans at 28K, you are welcome here," the moderators say.
"The goal here is to help anyone who doesn't have a lot of breathing room get to a place where they have stability, comfort, contingency, and maybe even a little luxury."
We contacted the moderator team and one of them was kind enough to spare their morning break for us. Regarding the content on the subreddit, they told Bored Panda: "There are fewer themes and more cyclical subject matters that come up depending upon the time of the year and the current economic and social ongoings. Right this moment, questions about housing, the moratoriums, how to get an apartment with low credit, or whether even buying a house is within the budget of those who fit within the national and international descriptions of low income/poverty line."
As an example, the moderator took us back a few months ago when there were many questions regarding the Emergency Broadband Benefit program issued by the government. But with fall fast approaching, they think the subreddit will soon see questions about how to get supplies for students and questions on how to qualify for free or reduced lunches at school."
"Once we approach November to December, we will be fielding questions with regards to worries about being able to afford gifts for their children, how to survive the holidays if you are economically disadvantaged," they continued. "Year-round common subject matters tend to be where to find the resources for food, someone to handhold or direct on how to apply for SNAP/EBT, Section 8 Housing, the hardships of just existing in society this day and age and just looking for some emotional support from their economic peers."
According to the moderator, their community is mostly composed of those who have or are currently experiencing poverty. "Whether it's [someone who faces] generational poverty, long-term poverty, short-term poverty, or self-identify as low income for their various regions. We have those who have made it out and into the middle class but are still dealing with the after-effects of having experienced poverty short or long term and the problems that that in and of itself brings."
Certified financial planner and frequent contributor to Forbes, Jeff Rose, agrees that there is no shortage of bad financial advice in this world. Rose finds it especially troubling when some of them become so widely spread, so championed, that people actually start blindly following them. The financial planner believes the most harmful tips are: 1. Never use credit cards; 2. Don't waste money on conveniences; 3. All debt is bad; 4. Getting a tax refund is bad; 5. Always get the 401k match; 6. Your home is your most valuable asset. Click here if you want to read Rose's thoughts on each point.
Talking about bad financial advice, the moderator of Poverty Finance thinks it has to do less with authors and influencers being out of touch and more with the fact that one size rarely fits all. "More and more people gain access to technology that's being developed to give the everyman more access over their finances and their financial future," they explained. "Things that were previously thought to be the purview of just the upper class or left to the financial professionals who knew better."
But they wonder if it can also be a sign of gatekeeping: "Oh, you're poor? Then you have no need for financial advice, it won't benefit you or the maintenance costs made what amount you wanted to add in, too costly and pointless. You can't come up with 10k to open an investment account? They don't want to deal with you. Salary jobs usually come with a 401k, hourly jobs at McDonald's and the like generally do not, and so you're left on your own to figure it out because no one will help you."
The good thing is that technology might be starting to bridge that. "People realize that there are far more low-income and middle-income individuals with a willingness and ability to put away ten, twenty, a hundred, five hundred a month into an account. Who care about not having to work once they hit sixty-five. A neglected and overlooked economic subset who have a significant buying power en mass. But the advice isn't there from the usual places because their advice only works for the upper income. For the gross amounts of money vs the smaller amounts," the moderator added.
I Know Many Of Us Are Taking Responsibility For Our Part, But...
But the reality is a bit worrying. Financial literacy — defined as the knowledge and understanding of areas related to personal finance, money, and investing — has been in decline. In 2009, 42% of respondents were able to answer four or more questions correctly in a five-question survey on fundamental concepts of economics and personal finance. By 2018 this dropped 8 percentage points to 34%. What's even more alarming, less than one-third of adults understand three basic financial literacy topics by age 40, although many important financial decisions are made decades earlier.
Under such circumstances, (online) communities like this one might be doing society more good than we can imagine.