Why “spend it like it is your own” is a bad mantra

Recently I’ve been hearing people say fairly frequently “spend it like it’s your own.” The intonation behind this is to not waste the company’s money on things that the company doesn’t need. In other words, if someone gave you a million dollars, do what you would do with it. The foregone (but wrong) conclusion is that you will spend it wisely.

Seriously? If someone gave you an extra million dollars are you the person who would set it aside for your kids’ college, fill up an IRA and make sure you had an adequate rainy day fund? Of would you finally buy that beach house you’ve been dreaming of? The new BMW? The huge TV?

Ok, maybe you would, but what about everyone you know? Is everyone you know that responsible? I doubt it. In fact, I’m willing to bet you know a spendthrift or two, or more. People who have to go on vacation every summer but haven’t fully funded their retirement. People with two new cars but $30k in credit card debt. People with the latest gadget, no matter what it is. People who stand in line for the newest iPhone. In short, people who don’t exhibit any self control. People who can’t discern between ‘need’ and ‘want.’

Even if this person isn’t you, these people exist. They’re not bad people, but they have different priorities. Perhaps you recall the cookie study done on a bunch of children? Essentially, they offered kids the choice of one cookie now, or if they could wait a bit, two cookies later. Guess what, most children couldn’t wait. More surprisingly, as they followed these kids through their lives, the ones who could not delay gratification did less well in life overall (how you measure that, I don’t know.). It’s built in to many of us to desire what we can have now, whether it is the best choice or not. So with that in mind, the mantra “spend it like it is your own” probably deserves reconsideration.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *