The Financial Wilderness

We live in a world of endless choices, were you can buy anything for virtually any price, and in a society were the majority can afford at least some luxuries. The responsibilities are great, however, particularly when the majority of us end up in debt, because we chose to enjoy too many of the luxuries offered. Some of us can attribute having learned how to do so to their immediate environment, for others this is something they came up with over time. For me it was a bit of both as I am a fairly intelligent individual who shouldn’t care about such meaningless things as high-end clothing, for example, yet I hadn’t enough confidence in myself, or my intelligence, or where I’d acquired that intelligence from, or who enabled me to even do that, to know any better.

Growing up I received conflicting messages about how to manage my money, from both family and friends. One guy has a closet full of the best silk shirts on the market and 3 high-end automobiles behind it, usually a Cadillac. Another woman has tens of pairs of shoes and not enough closet space to contain everything that she had to have every time there was a sale. Both pay a lot in debt, typically high-interest debt at that because of their prior offenses. Cars that only get 70,000 miles on a transmission, at 8 miles per gallon and overpriced heels that you can do without were some of the typical money traps of the 80s. Yet I wasn’t so much influenced at home as I was amongst my peers, of which I could get even closer to the trappings of materialism and understand even more about this phenomenon.

No one ever passed up a shirt for $100, a coat for $500 or $200 shoes. You could rationalize that you found it on sale for a fraction of the price or that you bought it from someone else for a deal, that someone else probably stole it off of some truck and hello, you are in college and you’re not really supposed to have anything. Your time is supposed to be spent obsessed with how you’re going to pass your exams, not how you’re going to show everybody something that you’re not totally convinced of yourself at the next party. Your initiative should be to have a job to go to years before you’ve graduated, not to be “clean” for the next unappreciative female who will pass you up for someone even cooler than you. I should have known something, when Kmart, who had perfectly good clothing, was only a few miles away while the department stores at the mall were an hour’s drive.

Sometimes I even defer to those sermons I heard on countless Sunday mornings, while I suffered underneath the summer heat, with minimal relief from ceiling fans. Who preferred to walk around in the wilderness for over 40 years, ignorant to the idea that what was best for them, what they needed in life, was not in the circles they were traveling in but in another land? Not so much another land literally, but figuratively as you had to think differently not only to appreciate it, but to get there in the first place. Yet our wilderness, thousands of years later, or millions depending on how you look at it, is to get a job making $100,000 so we can get out of the middle class, ignorant to the fact that we spend 3 times as much each year when we could live on a lot less. Who cares about things that only you had to suffer for and seek out, just to impress someone who is more preoccupied with more pressing matters? How many of us stockpile our closets and refrigerators with material goods and food with features that we never use and can’t figure out how to use, stuff that never wears out and not to mention that we’re never really that hungry, so we simply throw the excess food away. We wonder why we’re obese when our homes and lives have been so from a materialistic standpoint all along.

Rather than invest in ourselves, in others, we put our money into things that are dead to us, what depreciates over time. It would not matter so much that our bank accounts only appreciate 2% annually if we’d stop spending 20% annually in paying our credit card debts and up to 350% annually through payday loans. When you’ve fallen from the mountaintop as I have, you’re beneath those you thought were too scared to spend, that didn’t have any style or lacked taste, you’re being resuscitated financially, rather than existing and you can’t breathe money on your own anymore. An addict steals a television set and sells it to some opportunist for $20, who makes a profit otherwise and we laugh at the fact that he didn’t even have enough sense to enjoy what he’s reaped, as it will most likely outlast him and his short life because he’ll spend that money on drugs just to stay high for 20 minutes. Yet the television continues to illuminate once he’s died of an overdose. Yet we do the same thing when we steal from Peter to pay Paul, then lie to them both when we’re without the money or the means to acquire more. It is better to prepare for the future that we think we will never see today, than to find ourselves without later.

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