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Everyone Is Right About Starbucks

How much do you want it? Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

I really liked Mae Rice’s defense of her Starbucks habit, written under the headline, “The Best $20,000 I’ve Ever Spent: Starbucks Every Day of My Adult Life.” The whole point of earning money is to be able to spend it. So, when consumption makes people happy, it’s perfectly sensible for them to say it was a good choice.

If you enjoy Starbucks, go ahead and spend a few dollars a day at Starbucks; over many years, your spend will add up to a large number, but then, isn’t that what you were making money for to begin with? Rice is on the right track here.

At the same time, I want to stand up for the anti-Starbucks scolds. I realize that sounds like a contradiction. But my point is that different advice is good for different people.

When Suze Orman says buying Starbucks is “like peeing $1 million down the drain,” she’s speaking to a fan base that finds her spending-restraint strategies useful in achieving their goal of saving more and spending less. For some of them, not buying Starbucks is one among a list of simple rules Orman provides to help them to get closer to their financial goals.

They may also not especially enjoy specialty coffee beverages.

But if you, like Rice, really enjoy Starbucks and find it to be a good value, you should feel free to ignore Suze Orman. She’s not God, she’s not the boss of you, she apparently doesn’t know what’s in your personal best interest.

Similarly, personal-finance guru Dave Ramsey urges his listeners to abandon credit cards, spending only with debit cards and cash. For some people, this is great advice: The availability of credit tempts them to spend beyond their means, and they end up over their heads in debt. But for other people, giving up credit cards would be a mistake. Maybe they reliably pay off credit balances every month, and giving up credit cards would mean giving up financially valuable benefits and rewards. Or maybe they really need access to revolving credit for a financial emergency.

That’s all okay. Not everything needs to be universal. Just because somebody is out there giving advice that’s bad for you, that doesn’t mean they’re giving bad advice.

An advisory relationship has two sides. People should consider which advisers are speaking to the specific set of concerns they have, and listen or disregard accordingly.

Everyone Is Right About Starbucks