Emerging last year, a newly coined term, “f**k-it expense” has been a fad among the young generation in Korea. The terminology roots from the concept of opportunity cost, but specifically refers to “those costs that would not have been made if not for stress or situations worth swearing for.”
“This phenomenon displayed in the new Korean slang shibal biyong (which can be translated to f**k-it expense) is real,” quoted Kim Jeong-min, pursuing her master’s degree in Political Science at Seoul National University, a former journalist at Reuters Seoul bureau. “Economic problems are not making millennials more frugal; rather, they’re making them give up on long-term goals like housing and spend away salaries on small things that make daily life slightly happier.”
Kim’s viral tweet about this phenomenon sparked an online discussion in Korea. Kim listed her f**k-it expenses on a daily basis: ordering sushi after surviving on bananas the whole day, spending a whole week-worth of salary on a cute humidifier on her desk, getting a MacBook Pro for reading and then surviving on bananas again, at which she ends up in the perpetual cycle.
The following tweets were ‘liked’ over 25,000 times and many sympathized with the behavior even though there was no coined term for the phenomenon as in Korea. The topic was soon handled by media abroad like the Scout and Foreign Policy. Though the term may have recently been invented, these kinds of consumption behavior are not unprecedented. But as it was introduced as an international phenomenon between generations, it has brought up to question the difference between the millennials and previous generation’s sense of economy.
“I can relate to the phenomena. I also fail to save and instead, go on spontaneous journeys every break,” said Oh ji-yeon, a junior majoring in English Language & Literature.
Professor John Thomas Brady of Seoul National University’s Department of Economics gave his thoughts on this issue.
“First, young people have always tended to be more present oriented than their parents (or older brothers and sisters),” Brady said. “If you think about it, the further off the consequences of your actions and the more time you have to correct a mistake, the less restricted you feel in your actions. I think if you combine this with the optimism bias that behavior economists and cognitive scientists say we are all subjected to, you can get a ‘f**k it’ attitude pretty quickly.”
When asked if the economy has an impact the professor agreed. “I think specifically about ‘The Charlie Chaplin Effect’ or the ‘Lipstick Effect’ first observed in the Great Depression in the US and Europe and seen again in every economic downturn,” Brady said. “The idea is this; if long-term success seems to be closed off to you, you indulge in small luxuries rather than waiting around for bigger ones that may never arrive. So, during the Great Depression, attendance at movies actually increased (Charlie Chaplin) and sales of inexpensive women's cosmetics increased (lipstick).”
When also asked if this kind of behavior is bad, the professor had this to say: “I don’t think most economists would classify any behavior as ‘good’ or ‘bad’,” Brady commented. “Doing something extremely self-destructive can be rational if it maximizes the person's well-being at the time. There might be negative consequences for society if everyone takes a live for today attitude (e.g. reduced savings and investment, more demands on government agencies) but that is not to say that every individual didn't make the right choice for him/herself at the time they made it. As an economist, every decision is a marginal decision. What do I get for what I give up in the next instance? As long as the margin costs are less than the marginal benefits, it’s the right decision.