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Destructive habits

Lucy spent $600 of her $700 spending limit on a credit card to play casino games online. “You’re maxing out a credit card for gambling?” Hammer asks, “You have zero dollars for retirement and you can’t afford [rent].”

While there’s nothing abnormal in seeking a little thrill — about 85% of American adults have gambled at least once, the National Council on Problem Gambling estimates — it can quickly become problematic.

The council defines a gambling addiction as “gambling behavior that is damaging to a person or their family, often disrupting their daily life and career.”

The council believes 5 to 8 million Americans have a mild to moderate problem with gambling behavior, with roughly 2.5 million dealing with a severe addiction to gambling. However, experts have noted that the crisis seems to be expanding since a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling unleashed a wave of sports betting legalization across several states.

Unfortunately, Lucy’s addiction to hitting a jackpot isn’t limited to online casinos. She’s also gambling with her career, spending money on frivolous online promotions and social media ad campaigns to promote her music in the hopes of becoming a famous pop star. Meanwhile, her nascent acting career has only generated one project and $3,000 in income thus far.

Making a living as an actor is extremely difficult, as the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA informed Rolling Stone, only 14% of its members make at least $26,470 a year. And just 7% of actors earn more than $80,000 a year.

Making money from music is even more difficult. In 2023, only 50,000 artists made more than $16,500 through royalties by streaming their music on Spotify, according to the platforms’ own report.

To be fair, Lucy earns enough from other sources to meet her needs. Hammer uncovers irresponsible spending habits that are preventing her from doing so.

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Being an adult

To make ends meet, Lucy works two jobs teaching English and scoring test papers for $20 to $37 an hour. She also offers ride-sharing services, which adds a little additional income every month. Altogether, her monthly income comes to $3,466.

San Antonio’s average rent is just shy of $1,725, according to Zumper, which means Lucy should be able to afford rent. But she argues she can’t manage the rent alone and asked her mother to move in and pay a portion of it.

She also insists on sending her son to a private school because public education is “horrendous.” That adds another $200 to her monthly expense budget.

Hammer also estimates that roughly 20.2% of her monthly expense budget is dedicated to “miscellaneous bulls—.”

“You can afford to live on your own, you're choosing not to based on your own spending,” Hammer tells her. “That's being a child. That's you prioritizing fun over being an independent adult.”

He firmly believes that Lucy can change her financial situation by focusing on steady sources of income, reducing debt, cutting back on her gambling habit and implementing a robust budget. As for whether she will do that, Hammer seems less sure.


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About the Author

Vishesh Raisinghani

Vishesh Raisinghani

Freelance Writer

Vishesh Raisinghani is a freelance contributor at MoneyWise. He has been writing about financial markets and economics since 2014 - having covered family offices, private equity, real estate, cryptocurrencies, and tech stocks over that period. His work has appeared in Seeking Alpha, Motley Fool Canada, Motley Fool UK, Mergers & Acquisitions, National Post, Financial Post, and Yahoo Canada.

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