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Finance Philosophy

Reining in Consumerism

Why do lots of kids think that money grows on trees? Why do some want everything they see? Why are retailers’ shelves at just the right level to annoy me, while my teenager squeals with delight? One reason is that we are created with a selfish nature. The other part of the answer is that we are teaching the next generation by our example.

When we examine the last fifteen years of the US economy, my generation by-and-large has walked around without financial self-control—that is, until the last five years. That’s easy to understand because most everything was readily available. Credit was cheap and easy. No money down! Three years to pay! For a couch you’ll be tired of before you finish paying for it. And what about vehicles? We are paying over forty five thousand dollars for vehicles and financing them for seven years when most of us will have the new car itch before we are mid-way through the terms.

I call our age group (parents of youngsters and teens) the throw-it-away generation. We throw things away when we are done with them. We very rarely wear anything out or stay satisfied with what we have. Sometimes, we do throw away money like it grows on trees. Then we wonder why our kids – and perhaps we? – aren’t satisfied.

We may say that we want to do better for our family than our parents did, but what does that actually look like? Many of us are slaves to highly mortgaged, thirty three- hundred-square-foot homes. Many of us own two gas-guzzling cars that might cost us an average of seventy thousand dollars combined. We insist on having the newest gadgets, the most fashionable clothes, and the best opportunities for our kids.

During past economic booms, we have definitely created some very damaging Shoes that our kids will most likely fail trying to fill. The national philosophy has been “print more” when it comes to money – at least until our collective attitude was adjusted in 2008 (an adjustment I’m thankful for, from the financial perspective). Our financial outlook will be healthier for us and future generations if we save to spend; evaluate need over want; think about long-term effects of purchases; and stay more focused on the real wealth of spending time around the dinner table with our families.

I challenge you to do what you tell your kids to do: Be the change. Don’t buy things just because everyone else does. Put some brainpower into your choices, and cut out the emotion. Set an example for your kids by telling yourself “no” sometimes, just like you sometimes tell them “no” for what they think they need. I encourage my daughter not to do things or buy things just to stand out or ft in with the crowd.

Most people would agree that character matters more than material possessions, so let’s live that philosophy in our homes. Set a limit to the amount of money and time you spend on things that develop the outside but do nothing for the inside. There is a song I love called “Slow Fade” by Casting Crowns. It talks about how things occur gradually without us even noticing. Your kids will be out of your home in a blink of an eye. So be honest: Are you preparing them with the kind of skills that will sustain them for life, or are you developing fleeting skills that will leave them bankrupt in more ways than one?

Angie Z. Shay has worked in the financial services industry for more than 22 years. She is president of THE PATH Financial Strategies, LLC. Angie Shay is a financial adviser with Eagle Strategies LLC, a Registered Investment Adviser and an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of New York Life Insurance Company. THE PATH Financial Strategies, LLC is not owned or operated by Eagle Strategies or its affiliates. Neither THE PATH Financial Strategies, LLC or Angie Z. Shay provide tax or legal advice.
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