Understanding Our Economy: Q&A with Economic Commentator Kyla Scanlon

UPDATED: June 18, 2024
PUBLISHED: July 2, 2024
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Kyla Scanlon began creating educational content about the economy when the pandemic hit because she realized that people needed to understand the economy. Her content took off and she soon developed a following on social media for her videos that unpacked the economy without all the muddled jargon. 

Since then, Scanlon has contributed to Bloomberg Opinion, The New York Times and New York Magazine and is credited with coining the term “vibecession,” which argues that how people feel about the economy has more impact than you might expect. Her book In This Economy?: How Money & Markets Really Work is a layperson’s guide to a conversation typically dominated by academics. 

Q&A with economic commentator Kyla Scanlon

SUCCESS: What made you decide to create finance content? 

Kyla Scanlon: It kind of began when I was in college—I had this blog called Scanlon on Stocks where I talked about my trading experience. The whole goal of the blog was to help educate people on the markets because I felt like that was really important. 

I graduated and moved out to Los Angeles to work for a company called Capital Group. And then the pandemic happened. I made the decision to leave Capital Group to focus on financial education. I grew up in Kentucky and didn’t really know anybody who worked in finance or studied the economy. 

If you don’t understand how [the basics of economics] work, it’s hard to exist in the world and not feel confused. So my content began with that in mind. 

S: Your website says you look at economics with a human-focused lens. What does that mean to you? 

KS: If you look at traditional economic theories, they oftentimes will treat consumers as variables in a dataset. What I try to do is focus more on the people who are driving the economy. So I coined the term “vibecession,” which is that how people feel about the economy tends to outweigh the data. 

When you’re talking to people about these big esoteric topics, you have to center them in the discourse. At the end of the day, people are the economy—the actions that people take are what drives consumer spending and government spending. 

S: When did you realize that you needed to write a book? 

KS: It wasn’t a big revelation where it’s like, “There has to be a book about this.” There’s a lot of very good beginner econ books like Economics in One Lesson by Harry Hazlitt, but that was [originally] written in [1946]. I wanted to provide a compilation of sources that people could turn to. 

It takes things from esteemed economists, cultural researchers and philosophers and ties it together into a book that will hopefully give access to the information people need to understand the economy. 

S: What is the main takeaway you would like people to have from this book? 

KS: [This book] is meant to be a toolbox, so [readers] can understand what inflation is, what the housing market is doing, what the labor markets are doing—all of those things to understand media headlines better and hopefully make better decisions about their own economic path. 

S: Are there any misconceptions about the economy that need to be addressed? 

KS: I think a lot of people misunderstand things like inflation. So when we say “inflation is going down,” that doesn’t mean the prices are going down; it just means that prices are going up slower. Or if you look at certain labor metrics, the strength of the market is not best measured by the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), it’s probably better measured through a metric called quits.  

There are so many confusing parts to the economy in terms of how we measure it, how we talk about it—like GDP probably isn’t a great indicator of economic power; it’s just an indicator of how much people can spend or how much the government is spending. There are endless misconceptions about the economy because we’re not really taught what it is. 

S: Is there anything I haven’t asked that you would like to add?

KS: The biggest thing is who the book is for, which is anybody who wants to understand the economy. And the importance of understanding the economy, especially in an election year, where we have this very big decision upcoming. What do the different policies that are being set forth actually mean for you and your future? 

When you ask about misconceptions, we do have a misconception that the economy is not something that we have to understand, but I definitely think that we do. It’s something that we live in every single day. 

Note: Scanlon also has a newsletter that addresses changes that may become outdated after the book is published. 

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