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I realize coffee is a fraught topic in the world of personal finance.
Many people will tell you buying coffee every day is a waste of money, and depending on your overall budget, it often is.
But, as a certified financial planner who spends a lot of time analyzing other people’s spending habits, I’ve learned to view coffee through multiple lenses.
For one, caffeine is an essential tool for a successful client meeting. I ask every client for their favorite Starbucks order, so I can come prepared to our meetings with their beverage of choice. Without it, the risk of glazed-over-eyes syndrome increases significantly, especially during the first meeting, which often runs long.
But, truth be told, I have an ulterior motive for asking this question. What you buy at Starbucks reveals something to me about how you spend your money. I don’t even need to know how often you buy coffee — just what you order when you do.
In my experience, if you prefer a basic drink like a venti black coffee or green tea, or even a tall cappuccino, you’re probably not a big spender in other areas.
If your order is more elaborate, like a venti iced skinny hazelnut macchiato with sugar-free syrup and light ice, then I’ll brace myself for a conversation about budgeting and scaling back.
And, if you respond by telling me how much you hate Starbucks and only drink premium espresso from a pricey independent cafe, then I’ll expect to have a frank discussion about maxing out your retirement accounts because your disposable income may be higher than it should be.
These are just observations, of course, and are not based on any kind of data or science. I ask many more questions during the meeting to get an accurate perspective on a client’s approach to spending. But more often than not, your answer to the Starbucks question holds true.
Lauren Lyons Cole is a certified financial planner and Business Insider’s Your Money Editor.
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