Money Observer: Hands Off My Cappuccino

A certain piece of advice has been circulating in personal finance discussions like a pesky fly. Now that it has landed on Tube posters, it is safe to call it an urban legend.

The advice goes: ‘Cut out your daily cappuccino and invest that £3.50 saving in the stock market instead. With an annual growth rate of 6 per cent over 30 years, you’ll have a million pounds by the time you retire.’

First of all, I have yet to find a cappuccino that costs £3.50. Second, 6 per cent returns are not easy to find in the current financial climate, even if a 30-year timescale smooths that out.

Third, even if both numbers were correct, the spurned cappuccinos would save thousands of pounds but nowhere near millions. And fourth, while I’m happy to save and invest money, I take issue with the target of this campaign – the cappuccino.

Nobody says skip your pint after work, but coffee has become a pariah. Well, I still buy into the romantic notion of cafés as spaces in which people meet to exchange ideas.

Cafés were historically places where newspapers were read out loud in the 18th century, and where writers and artists met between the wars.

There’s less romance to take-away coffee, I admit. But it still beats the office brew, which tastes of soap more often than not. I would rather spend the next 30 years enjoying an occasional caffeine kick and save money elsewhere.

I could switch to a cheaper gym, say no to starters, change my energy provider and hang on to my old phone. I could choose wine over the cocktail with a hint of absinthe, and save myself the headache. The stock market will happily accept my savings, no matter where they come from.

This article was originally published as part of my Marina’s Imaginary Millions column in Money Observer:

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