Maybe it’s because I’ve hit that age – people do dumb things following their 21st birthdays. Or maybe it’s just college. At any rate, I’ve started to notice more ink.
Tons and tons of ink.
Recent outrage from Bill O’Reilly’s assertion that people could, you know, actually regret getting a tattoo reminded me of just how many I see. It seems like everyone has a tattoo, and Bill O’Reilly quoted some study (one which I’ve yet to find) that 25% of people regret ever getting on in the first place. The FDA suspects that as many as 20% of tattooed people regret having one.
Tattoo Regret and Finding a Job
I’m sure there are a lot of people who love their tattoos. A good friend of mine probably wouldn’t wake up so happy each day without Sonic the Hedgehog on his bicep. Others have less noticeable tattoos that mean something special and so the tattoo sticks around.
I get that. What I don’t understand is paying for a lower income.
I looked for studies to show the relationship between tattoos and income. Most were just about people’s perceptions regarding the difficulty of getting a job with a tattoo exposed. Anywhere from 80-90% of people (depending on who you believe) say that having an exposed tattoo does negatively affect someone’s chance of landing a job.
That’s about the best I would expect of a study. Something tells me that any study that looks at the relationship between tattoos and income would find that lower-income people have fewer barriers to getting a tattoo, and thus lower-income people have disproportionately more tattoos than higher income people. Basically, no one is going to get fired as a bouncer for having a tattoo, so low-paid bouncers are more likely to have tattoos than the CEO running a chain of bars.
Any study that looks at the relationship won’t find the true answer as to how a tattoo does or does not affect the possibility of landing a job. And I would also think that the softer economy makes a tattoo a much bigger deal in 2012 than in 2007, societal changes aside.
Bad Long Range Planning, or Just Art?
I should probably disclose that I don’t have a tattoo. Nor would I ever want to get one. So when I see new tattoos, I often wonder what goes through some people’s minds when they hand over good money for sloppy art.
Among the best arguments I’ve ever heard for a tattoo was from a girl in one of my classes. “Tattoos are the cheapest original art you can buy,” she said. That makes perfect sense – and it appeals to my frugal senses! But of course any art is less expensive when your body is the canvas, and obviously tattoos aren’t known for having resale value.
On the other end I think tattoos represent poor long-run decision-making. I mean, is that tattoo really going to look great on a 50 year old body? Or will employers really care that about your memorial to a loved one on your neck or forearm? At some point, some time, someone else will be in a position to judge you for having or not having a tattoo.
Editor’s Note from Darwin: I also think getting a tattoo at a young age is often a really dumb move. First off, when you’re young, you do stupid things. So, do stupid things that aren’t permanent. A tattoo is (largely, and MEANT TO BE) permanent. I’ve interviewed several professionals and while I realize it’s now “in” to have paint, I do think twice about the maturity level and professionalism if someone has a giant tattoo on their neck and they’re seeking white collar work where you’re going to be the face of the company to external customers and business partners. You found Jesus? Great, keep it to yourself. You like cats? That’s just wonderful. You’re in love? Getting married is a perfectly rational way of celebrating your love. By the way, I have read (also didn’t find the study) that tattoo removal businesses are exploding. Evidently, buyer’s remorse is setting in for many professionals. If you’re older and don’t think it would impact your career or if you’re in a career where having a tattoo is pretty normal, then go for it. If you ever want to work in a conservative role where tattoos are not the norm (or would like to retain some flexibility to do so in the future), please, use your head. Either get it in a spot nobody notices during routine interactions or don’t get one at all. You won’t regret NOT getting one.
So are tattoos the worst investment ever, or just inexpensive art for fun-loving free spirits?
Are tattoos more acceptable now today than in the past?
Do you agree with the other 80-90% of people who say that having a tattoo makes it harder to find a job?
JT is our staff writer extraordinaire. He's an entrepreneur and has been a financial blogger, and writer many years. In that time he has covered topics ranging from international macroeconomics to the domestic (U.S.) financial markets, to basic personal finance.