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Taylor Swift is the anti-hero to some Argentinians, as inflation soars

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

There is a force moving global economies right now. It's bringing millions to cities and local businesses. The force I am talking about is...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ANTI-HERO")

TAYLOR SWIFT: (Singing) It's me. Hi. I'm the problem. It's me.

CHANG: That's right. It's her, Taylor Swift. It's estimated her Eras Tour will generate $5 billion in global revenue. But for countries like Argentina that are really struggling with inflation, Taylor Swift has become a bit of an anti-hero, as NPR's Stacey Vanek Smith reports.

STACEY VANEK SMITH, BYLINE: Leonardo Abdul Nur (ph) lives in Buenos Aires with his wife and kids. And his twin daughters love Taylor Swift.

Are they, like, singing Taylor Swift songs around the house?

LEONARDO ABDUL NUR: Yes, yes. They turn on this Spotify list almost every day.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHAKE IT OFF")

SWIFT: (Singing) I'm just gonna say shake, shake, shake, shake, shake it off.

ABDUL NUR: They've been kind of praying that she come to Argentina at some point.

VANEK SMITH: Their prayers were answered. Taylor Swift is coming to Argentina in November. And the second that news broke, Abdul Nur's daughters were begging him for tickets. But there was an issue - the price. Argentina is dealing with some of the highest inflation on the planet right now. Prices are rising at a rate of more than 114% a year. That means a coffee that cost $4 last year will cost more than $8.50 this year. And next year it will cost $18, and Taylor Swift tickets cost a lot more than coffee.

ABDUL NUR: Forty-five thousand pesos each, excluding, you know, these fees that they charge. So in total, it'll be, like, 50,000 pesos.

VANEK SMITH: That is about $180, which is a lot in Argentina. The average income for a household is about $4,500 a year. Using that same metric, that would mean one Taylor Swift ticket here in the U.S. would cost almost $3,000. Abdul Nur has a good job in IT, and his wife also works. They're lucky. But they're not super-wealthy, and the tickets were going to have a big impact on the family budget.

ABDUL NUR: We had to have this talk with my girls - right? - with my daughters, say, you really wanted to go to this - because this is really expensive, right?

VANEK SMITH: Abdul Nur and his wife talked it through, but it was not the same conversation parents in the U.S. were having because hyperinflation changes economic incentives. It turns everything on its head. Like, if you have extra money in Argentina, the smart thing to do is spend it as fast as you can. It buys less every day, so saving is kind of for suckers.

ABDUL NUR: The goal will be to spend all that we have because, otherwise, you are losing money because next month, you know, the value of that is much less. But then at the same time, you need to still save because you never know - right? - what happens. So it's kind of a game here - right? - what to do with your pesos.

VANEK SMITH: A game - what to do with your pesos. Spend them all, and you get the most out of your money, but then you have no cushion in a really unstable economy. Save your pesos, and your savings loses half its value every year. Right now in Argentina, expensive restaurants are booked solid. People bring backpacks full of cash to pay for a nice dinner while they still can. Shows, movies, concerts sell out. Abdul Nur and his wife talked it over. They did have this chunk of savings that they'd been planning to use for home improvements.

ABDUL NUR: We were saying, oh, we want to paint the house. What if we purchase tickets, and we are postponing the painting?

VANEK SMITH: Of course, it was risky. In six months, the cost of painting the house could be much higher. They didn't know. What they did know - Taylor Swift was coming to town, and they could bring a lot of joy into their daughters' lives, help them shake off this tough economic moment for one night. Finally, they came to a decision, got everyone together to discuss.

ABDUL NUR: We gathered together at dinner. And then we say, OK, we can purchase the ticket.

VANEK SMITH: His daughters were very excited.

ABDUL NUR: They were yelling. They were - they hugged me. They gave me a kiss. (Laughter).

VANEK SMITH: Abdul Nur and his wife had a long conversation with their daughters about how they'd made this decision, the things they would hold off on doing in order to afford the tickets.

ABDUL NUR: So they also understand our other priorities for the family. We are doing this. We are not doing that. But we all were happy anyway, right? I mean, they are happy. We are happy, as well. Yeah.

VANEK SMITH: Abdul Nur is trying to teach his kids how to make responsible financial decisions in the middle of a lot of instability and uncertainty. He grew up in Argentina, and hyperinflation has happened before. He knows it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL TOO WELL")

SWIFT: (Singing) ...All too well.

VANEK SMITH: Stacey Vanek Smith, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL TOO WELL")

SWIFT: (Singing) And there we are again when nobody had to know. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Stacey Vanek Smith is the co-host of NPR's The Indicator from Planet Money. She's also a correspondent for Planet Money, where she covers business and economics. In this role, Smith has followed economic stories down the muddy back roads of Oklahoma to buy 100 barrels of oil; she's traveled to Pune, India, to track down the man who pitched the country's dramatic currency devaluation to the prime minister; and she's spoken with a North Korean woman who made a small fortune smuggling artificial sweetener in from China.