Teenage financial burdens

While treading the elliptical machine the other day, I flipped through the June issue of Seventeen, to take my mind off my tiring legs.

OK, normally I don't read Seventeen. Of course, at 18 I am far too sophisticated for tween gossip. But with few choices on the magazine rack, Seventeen beat out ancient New Yorker publications, and it doesn't really hurt to learn how to catch my crush's attention while wearing flippy mini-skirts and knee high socks.

Sandwiched between a piece about loving you for you and how much everyone adores Josh Hartnett, I discovered an article about treating yourself to a brand new car &

what girl doesn't want that, right?

I usually opt for dessert, so this struck me as just a tad extravagant.

The article covered a range of car costs; from the always affordable $13,000 compact car to the $75,000 luxury automobile. It touched on the basics of car shopping and payment options, before introducing a number of cute details one could add to such a purchase. This list even included a sticker for your back window that looks "just like a flower garden."

Just what every girl needs.

I consider myself reasonably lucky and privileged. I have been able to indulge in certain upgrades with the hard-earned funds in my checking account. I bought my own iPod when I was 16, and once, when I mentally tried calculating the worth of my closet, I stopped quickly when I reached $400 after counting just my shoes alone. Right now I'm shopping for a computer for college. For me, dropping close to a thousand dollars for a new laptop constitutes a huge investment.

So just where are these teens shopping for luxury cars? I certainly can't envision such an extravagance anywhere in my near future.

But perhaps I am a minority. According to Packaged Facts, "The Teens Market in the U.S.," a total of $189.67 billion dollars was spent on and by teenagers in the United States in 2006. That number is estimated to reach $208.7 billion in 2011. The study also estimates the population of teenagers in America to be 25.6 million and considering that comes out to more than $7,400 in spending for each teenager, my $400 dollar shoe collection doesn't seem like so much.

In 2001, the average American teen spent more than $104 dollars a week, according to Teenage Research Unlimited. These numbers make teenagers a marketers dream; no bills, food costs or rent payments &

just money to spend. Therefore advertisers now hawk their products directly at children and teenagers, enticing them to purchase everything from green ketchup to new cars.

Yet, while the teen buying market continues to grow, the average debt for a college graduate has risen 50 percent in the last decade. College tuition rates continue to skyrocket while young adults continue to gobble up $500 iPhones and new cars. The result isn't pretty, though nobody really expects to change it. After all, the newest and most expensive gadgets are utterly cool, and young people just have to have them.

Yes, I too love cool gadgets. But thanks Seventeen &

this time, a car isn't in the plan. The laptop, and maybe a new pair of shoes will have to suffice. Sure it doesn't have seatbelts or display a sticker that looks like a garden, but that's alright.

Because someday, I will have a new car and a real garden.

Share This Story