Contra the Pundits: “Buy the Damned Coffee, if it Makes You Happy”

  Source of illustration:  online version of the NYT article cited below.


APPARENTLY, I’m an idiot.  Every financial advice columnist seems to be telling me so.

My crime:  buying morning coffee from Starbucks for my wife and me.

Avoiding the regular cup of overpriced coffee has become an easy cliché for financial advisers, a symbol of money frittered away.  The advice has appeared just about everywhere.  Drop the caramel mocha frappu-whatever, they say, or you’ll spend your retirement testing recipes that combine Hamburger Helper and dog food.  David Bach, the author of “The Automatic Millionaire,” pushes what he calls the Latte Factor, which he has defined as “the daily extravagances that drain your resources.”  Another guru, Paul Farrell, has estimated that skipping Starbucks and compounding the savings could save you an eye-popping $500,000 by retirement.  At my own newspaper, Damon Darlin, a financial columnist, has repeatedly brought up this issue.

Before bringing up a point of disagreement — what logicians call the “Big But” — it is common to bestow a few compliments to ease the sting.  So, as a preface to the Big But, let me say that Mr. Darlin is a fine journalist and, for all I know, a swell dancer besides.

Still, I disagree.  Buy the damned coffee, if it makes you happy.  When I show up back at the house after dropping off my high schooler in the morning and I have that latte in hand for my wife, she will sometimes refer to me as “my hero!”  After more than 30 years together, this is about the only time I am called that.


For the full commentary, see: 

JOHN SCHWARTZ.  "ESSAY; Skip the Coffee? What’ s Money for, Anyway?"  The New York Times, Section 3, Part 2  (Sun., October 8, 2006):  25.


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