By Luis Gomez
There was once a time when common people would tout the benefit in saving hard-earned income. If you wanted something bad enough, you need to save up for it. Stories of working entire summers to afford a first car, or saving for months before being able to buy a coat, are commonplace among the baby boomer generation. In modern times, the idea of saving up is a completely alien concept which draws ire from the younger generations. Why on earth would anyone want to save their income to buy something when it’s incredibly easy to take out a loan? At least, this is what lenders would like you to believe.
However, according to a recent survey conducted by Bankrate.com, 76% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Fewer than one-in-four Americans have the savings to cover six months of expenses. Take a moment to absorb this information. Statistically, you are most likely in this group; I know I am. The question to ask is why we are in this position as a nation? It could very well be the down economy in action, but I believe there is a more interesting reason behind this matte
What exactly is disposable income? It is defined as the amount of money that a household has available to spend or save after taxes are accounted for. Essentially, it’s a term used by economists to gauge the spending ability of a populous. Hyper-consumerism is so prevalent that every loose dollar in our pockets is sucked out by clever companies and their marketing campaigns. I can not count the times I’ve had to ask myself if I really needed to buy something or if I was simply falling victim to a consumerist society.
What is not helping this situation is the common portrayal of wealth in popular culture as an indicator of normalcy. A majority of Americans can’t meet this level of wealth, so they have to opt for ulterior methods to display wealth. Faking of wealth is attributed to consumerism, to display belongings as indicators of real wealth. Do you have a new car on loan? Is your pocket phone the latest gadgetry on the market? Are your clothes designer and in fashion? Do you spend hours of your working life’s income on eating dinner at a restaurant instead of cooking at home? If you answered yes to these questions; congratulations, you are a hyper-consumerist. While there are practical applications to using consumable goods or services, chances are you were influenced into buying them by clever marketing. Marketing teams try to make these products seem like normal parts of daily life. Does it matter how you can afford to buy them? No. What matters is meeting the bottom line on their end with absolutely no thought put into meeting yours. Rather than trying to help consumers by improving their lives through marketplace competition and innovation, marketers of consumable products will do everything they can to remove money from the consumer’s pocket.
A much larger problem is the instant-gratification of buying products with credit cards. A consumer can afford to buy something they normally couldn’t buy with their income and pay it off with timed payments. Since debt is seemingly given to just about anyone, consumers were now free to have their products at the cost of incurring large amounts of debt. Consumers have become used to this method of purchasing goods and services.
People are now slaves to themselves, predatory lending, consumerism and the narcissistic impulse of instant gratification. Now that micro-loans, credit cards and the ability to own a car or house through large loans is common place, it would seem that there is no end in sight to hyper-consumerism. The old adage of simply saving up to afford whatever is you desire, it would seem, is an idea of the distant past.