During my recent short vacation, I picked up a few books for the beach. Looking for light and fluffy reading, I wandered the library looking for books with pink covers. Not, romance, but chick lit, it promised easy reading that would focus on protagonists like myself; young, female and fun. Confessions of a Shopaholic, complete with pink cover, seemed to fit the bill.
It didn’t take many pages before I found myself cringing at the main character’s behavior and wanting to put down the book. It went against every bit of personal finance advice I’ve ever seen written. The main character overdrafts her bank account, doesn’t pay off her credit cards, shops emotionally, rewards herself excessively, and altogether does not live within her means. There are scenes of keeping up with the Joneses and certainly no planning for retirement or the future. It’s all a personal finance bloggers’ worst nightmare.
Worse, is that it all works out at the end. A couple hundred pages of fiscal irresponsibility are all undone at the end with the offer of a dream job and the gain of a multi-millionaire boyfriend. The financial meltdown that was the climax of the book is completely forgotten by the protagonist as she suddenly increases her income without really intending to. The lessons being taught to the average reader cannot be very positive. “Get into debt”, the book says, “and something will come along to pull you out.” “Having the perfect outfit is important, since it will get you the right man, so go shopping now”, the book lectures with a smug devil’s advocate smirk on its pages.
I know better than to fall for the book’s tempting take-away. I live within my mean, budget every month and track my spending regularly. I save for the future, never buy things on credit I can’t pay for, and started my 401(k) at 23. Even with my growing knowledge of personal finance, I find myself tempted by the book, wandering through shoe stores, eyeing things I do not need. If I find myself tempted, I wonder, how does the average reader feel? How much do they end up buying once they finish the book?