So many of our daily decisions, including those we make with money, are influenced by the strong tide of our culture and social circle, even when the tide is pushing or pulling us in directions that are harmful.
That’s why I decided our agenda for the 9/7/13 meeting would be about how to swim against that tide and do what’s right for you and your family, based on your goals, values and beliefs.
Here are some typical areas that the tide can affect our financial decisions and remedies to consider:
Nesting and your home – there is a strong urge (and I’d even say rightfully so) to create a healthy, safe, and comforting environment. The problem is when glossy magazine articles and store advertisements influence our design tactics in such a way as to encourage spending rather than resourcefulness, (the true essence of authentic style).
Who hasn’t enjoyed the compliments received from family members and friends when you have a new couch or dining room set? Heck even a nice tea towel can garner praise! This attention is addictive, we like to feel admired for our buying decisions, to be told “You made a good choice.” The problem is, we may be spending money we don’t (yet) have and trying to put forth a lifestyle that we honestly cannot afford. That’s lying, and we teach our kids that lying is wrong. So why do we do it? Because we want to be accepted.
The second area that seems especially financially stressful is the wedding. Cue Bridezilla. Have you ever seen that program on TLC called Four Weddings?
Four brides attend each other’s weddings, rate their dresses, food, venue and “overall experience.” The winner receives a free honeymoon. This is awful, mean stuff. I can barely watch the commercials. But you cannot deny the pressure to have “the perfect day.” Why? I don’t know, maybe to show your family and friends that you have both the control and the money to put on a big show, because I doubt it’s about how much you love your intended.
I remember a few years ago, teaching an 8th grade Junior Achievement class, when I asked, “Why is money important?” The students generally answered, “To help you fit in.” When I pressed, “Why is it important to fit in?” I was met with blank stares. I know why: Because we humans are social creatures; we need to feel acceptable and worthy, valuable and smart.
I’m reading a very good book, Shoptimism by Lee Eisenberg. There are many nuggets to share, here is one:
“We buy because what we buy confers instant membership in a community or more fashionably, a ‘tribe’ consisting of other customers who for whatever reason impress us as hip, rich, sophisticated, or whatever we aspire to be…we buy because buying is a way to assert our identity (real or idealized). We buy to express ourselves.”
That’s why the ego’s involved and it’s not healthy to let your ego make your financial decisions; it can never be satisfied.
Eisenberg also quotes Abraham Maslow from, “The Maslow Business Reader” New York, Wiley 2000: “The American Dream…is typically expressed…almost entirely in materialistic terms. That is, personal success is generally defined in terms of the of money one receives and, along with it, the number of symbolic, status objects.”
And he’s the guy who created the hierarchy of needs! The need for social belonging and also for self-esteem and eventually self actualization are on the hierarchy; but if we are buying stuff to meet these needs, something’s definitely wrong, because when we can’t buy stuff, does that mean we don’t belong and do not have self-esteem?
And we wonder why so many Americans suffer from depression and anxiety…
Photos courtesy of ClipArt