Earlier this week I was driving back from a visit to my local children’s museum. The museum is in an area of town that is slowly being gentrified. As we drive through the not so good neighborhood my wife pointed out 2 billboards side by side. One advertised bail bonds, and the other advertising for crime watch. Just seeing the context of those signs tells you a lot about your safety in that particular neighborhood. But what does it tell you about the people that live there? Is it a case of advertising to the average person? Or is the advertising focusing on the extremes?
Advertising focuses on the Extremes
I am going to go out on a limb and guess the average person in these neighborhoods is not using a bail bonds man or crime watch. I am sure its much more common in this neighborhood, but it could not possibly be the average. Also I’ve found in general advertising seems to focus on the extremes.
Advertising does not generally look at the Mid Age Brackets
Take the stages of life advertising focuses on. Everything these days seems to be written to focus on either side of the age spectrum. Either your a boomer and venturing into retirement, or your a young millennial with colossal debt. There is little in between when it comes to advertising. Sure in the 30-50 bracket you do get a bit of advertising around having kids, but if you have no kids in your 30s you might as well be a non person to advertising. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as there is less temptation to spend, but it is an interesting phenomenon.
Advertising focuses on low Credit and Debt
Advertising and services around spending and finance in the mainstream also seem to focus on the extremes. Watching TV or surfing the internet you will see a lot of advertisements for getting out of debt. You will also see advertisements for the latest Audi or other luxury car. What you do not see is a huge amount of time spent on those in good or average credit/finances. I have personally encountered this in the past when trying to sell a car. We were having CarMax look at purchasing our car when I noticed the dealer across the street was advertising top dollar paid for used cars and no one turned down. The last part of the sentence should have been my clue as to the focus of the establishment. Ultimately they turned me down, because my car and myself did not match their clientele of subprime.
Why the focus on Extremes? The undefinable Middle.
But why does the mainstream focus so much on the extremes? Gen -X is a large group of people after all. So is the middle class financially. The problem seems to be with defining who these folks are. No one can agree what the middle class is. Is it the professional in San Francisco making 110K or the manufacturer worker in Rural Pennsylvania making 50K an hour? Similarly Gen-X is hard to nail down. Sure we all have similar experiences early on, but people 30-50 range from still having student loans to early retired financially independent. It’s very hard to figure out how to market or direct things towards a category of people you can not define.
Politics and Government and the Extremes
Politics and Government also seem to focus on the extremes. These days the media seems to define an independent (non Republican or Democrat) to be someone who has no opinion or compass on important issues. Someone to be easily swayed by the latest BS out of a politicians mouth. Government laws and taxes are no better. They give a lot of help to those at the extremes. The rich get tax breaks. The poor get hand outs. The entrepreneur gets to control their income streams and take advantage of the rich persons tax break. The average joe working for a corporation gets to pay more taxes.
Being Middle has Benefits
Despite this lack of focus, this area in the middle is where you really want to be. Being rich means your targeted for disdain by the poor. Being poor means the rich see you as lazy. Being old starts to limit your ability to do things you did as a kid. Being young means you do not have the experience to know you probably should not be doing those things anyway. And of course being invisible to marketing is like bliss, since there is less temptation to spend. But what does it mean to be in the middle?
Embrace being Undefinable
The thing is, there is no way to define middle. Each one of us is different in our own way. Personal finance is always started with that very important word, personal. And your application of finance and life reflects that. As I peruse the blogs in my age cohort I see a bit of everything. You know what? I also read a bit of everything. Because its possible the different perspective of someone in the middle might lead to a new learning about myself. Embrace your uniqueness and the uniqueness of being Average, and learn from your fellow average person. You will be surprised how different they might be from your own experiences and what interesting insight they might provide you.