Forget Stocks – Vanity is on Sale!
Today brought yet more news on how the downturns in the economy and stock market are affecting American workers and consumers. Two stories in particular expose and highlight some of the ignorance and carelessness among U.S. investors and consumers in matters of personal finance.
U.S. consumers are famous for their mall crawls to buy clothes and gadgets they don’t need. The only impulse needed for these purchases is that they are “on sale.” Many of those same frequent shoppers (such as those who have stopped contributing to their retirement plans) simply cannot mentally process the concept that stocks are now on sale.
Maybe we need to build an “investment mall” that looks like a regular mall. Inside the mall, the storefronts will have hip designs reminiscent of Abercrombie, the Gap and Victoria’s Secret. The stores themselves will be occupied by 401(k) plan managers, mutual fund companies, and stock brokers. The “investment mall” will display large and colorful signs with messages such as
“stocks marked down 40%”
“mutual funds on sale – lowest prices in ten years”
“buy now – our loss can be your gain.”
Do you think these messages will trigger an excited, pulse-pounding “I have to buy this – it’s on sale” reaction in consumers and investors who stroll through? I’m no psychologist but trying to connect this way with investors who are also experienced mall shoppers might actually work. The primary obstacle may be that investment mall shoppers will not be able to use their credit cards. Oh-oh.
Also today, the New York Times reported on marketing efforts by plastic surgeons and dermatologists to keep patients interested in expensive treatments and procedures that cater to their personal vanity. So now we have clinics promoting “botox Fridays” when you can save 30% on smoothing facial wrinkles. My favorite is a “two for one” promotion that extends a special discount to patients requesting multiple cosmetic procedures at once. Super savings for the super vain!
The Times article confirms that these promotions are in response to data showing that many plastic surgeons have experienced a decline in cosmetic procedures over the past six months. I suppose that’s a good sign that at least some consumers are cutting back on non-essential purchases. On the other hand, surgeons are reporting having success with these new discount promotions.
The drug companies that supply some of the products to the vanity surgeons joined in. The manufacturer of Restylane, a cosmetic “face filler” material, uses this tag line: “The Economy May Not Be Looking its Best, But You Can!” (No, I am not making this up – see for yourself.)
Don’t you love it? Mr. ToughMoneyLove has another suggested tag line: “Who Cares if You’re Broke if You’re Beautiful!”
Or, if they want to specifically target those who have stopped contributing to their retirement plans, how about: “Don’t Buy Stocks – Botox Rocks!”
Ok, I concede that my suggestions are on the lame side but I hope you see my point. Maybe some of these vanity surgeons should shift their focus a little to providing more essential medical services. At the same time, consumers should suppress their vanity and if they have some extra coin, buy what’s really on sale: stocks.