If we are being honest, we can all admit that we have followed a celebrity trend at one point or another (remember trucker hats? Ed Hardy shirts? *shudder*). Hopefully, most of these trends are pretty harmless, save for a few embarrassing photos that may resurface from time to time. But as I was driving and humming along to the radio the other day, I realized there is one area in which we should be particularly mindful of what celebrities are telling us to do: how to spend our money. So naturally, because I’m an intern in the financial literacy field, I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to explore both the negative and positive money messages that we hear on a daily basis.


Katy Perry is a prime example of an artist that conveys negative messages in her songs, as two crucial negative messages appear in “Last Friday Night” and “This is How We Do.” In the first, “Last Friday Night,” she sings about maxing out her credit card and getting kicked out of the bar, while she just continues on with her Friday night like it was no big deal. After all, “this is how we do.” Don’t be fooled! Maxing out your credit card can be extremely detrimental to your financial stability and future, resulting in:


  1. Lowering your credit score;
  2. Increasing your risk of exceeding your credit limit, which incurs hefty fees;
  3. And difficulty in obtaining future credit, loans, apartments, and even jobs due to your low credit score. If you have poor credit, it’s nearly impossible to obtain a home loan, or any other large loan for that matter, but if you do the interest rate will be much higher than if you have good credit.


But Katy Perry is not alone in this. Both she and Nicki Minaj allude to the idea that not paying your rent and using that money for something else (something fun) is the way to go. And while I like to have fun just as much as the next college intern, I know it must be done in moderation… and after all your other bills have been paid. You know, like rent. So when Katy Perry commends kids for buying bottle service with their rent money, it makes me cringe. And Nicki Minaj also seems to make rent payments optional in her song “Starships” where she sings, “And I ain’t paying my rent this month, I owe that.” Yikes! There are numerous consequences for neglecting to pay your rent on time, or even at all:


  1. Late fees are the obvious consequence of not paying your rent on time, although the amount that you’re charged varies by landlord or how long you have neglected to pay.
  2. Neglecting to pay your rent can also inhibit your ability to rent in the future, since landlords can report this information to Equifax and TransUnion (and there goes your credit score).
  3. Getting evicted. Enough said.


So maybe the Perry/Minaj rent payment plan is something to think twice about before adopting. I know, all these irresponsible messages have you ready to delete all your iTunes, cancel your Spotify account, and swear off Pandora, right? Well, not so fast! Despite the poor advice shared by Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj, there are several artists that advocate being financially savvy, such as Macklemore, The Lonely Island and Jay-Z.


Macklemore’s hit “Thrift Shop” topped the charts for over a month, but the financial message contained within can stick with you forever. Macklemore explained the meaning behind the song was that you don’t need to buy expensive things to be cool or look good, but by budgeting your money and shopping smart you can “look as fresh as possible” with minimal financial burden. Macklemore has gone against the norm of today’s hit songs to make frugal look cool.


And although The Lonely Island is a comedy group well known for their role in Saturday Night Live, their song “YOLO,” featuring Kendrick Lamar and Adam Levine, contains some surprisingly critical financial messages. Lamar provides financial advice for few verses, starting with, “Invest in your future, don’t dilute your finances, 401k, make sure it’s low risk,” as well as, “And if you can’t afford it, don’t forge it on your last bill.” These are both solid pieces of financial advice! Maxing out your low-risk 401k may mean lower reward, but your investments are less volatile; trust me, you will thank yourself for this once you reach retirement . The second line is simplistic, but speaks volumes. Many people today want to buy the newest things, the most expensive things, and things that other people have, but not everyone can afford these things. Don’t buy things you can’t afford, and don’t purchase things you can’t afford with a credit card. There’s nothing worse than going in debt due to something you truly don’t need. Living within your means, and not keeping up with the Joneses are two simple, yet essential financial mantras, for a financially sound life.


Finally, let’s not forget the music moguls that have used their music careers to spread financial education to others. Take Jay-Z, for example; it’s no mistake that he and Warren Buffett are BFF’s, appearing on the cover of Forbes together as two of the richest people in America. Jay-Z regularly speaks about what it takes to build wealth and how to be a successful entrepreneur, as well as giving back to others through his scholarship foundation. In the song “Versus,” he even scolds his fellow rappers for lying about their money: “The truth in my verses, versus, your metaphors about what your net worth is.” Lesson learned? Live your life by your own measure, not by the material things that will only leave you bankrupt.


The real takeaway for this little musical journey of mine is that it’s always going to be up to me to make the best financial decisions I can, but that means paying close attention to what messages I allow to sneak in. It’s easy to think that spending unwisely is the norm, especially if that’s the song I hear every time I turn around. But that just means I need to analyze a little more, dig a little deeper, and decide for myself if my choices are lining up with what I want for my financial future – now THAT’S music to my ears!


This article was originally published on December 10, 2014.