The Psychology of Money (and Debt)
Too Much, Too Late
"Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on outward circumstances." Benjamin Franklin
The realization that Americans have accumulated way too much stuff came no sooner than the continuous headlines on the nightly news; house foreclosures, record debt, recession, job cuts, debt advice, business and personal bankruptcies. Everyone was quick to jump to conclusions about America's numerous poor money decisions, but the real news is it's not about the money. It's about our lives, how we live our lives, our relationships, our spiritual source, and our emotions.
Debt is now forcing us to get emotional. Sadly though, people are mourning the loss of their houses and jobs, but not the wedge that has been driven between their relationships/family during all the accumulation of this material stuff. This stuff gets in the way of relationships and what it means to be human. During the depression it was reported that people were happier within their relationships and family life. Debt happened because we lost focus on what's important.
Reasons why divorce is so high can be attributed to money and financial disagreements. Yes, it's true couples argue about money more than any other topic, but only because money matters that much to them. If it was lower on our list of importance I bet it wouldn't be brought up in domestic disputes as often. But still people are determined that more money will fix that problem too.
Money = Happiness
I could ask you if money equals happiness, but that’s truly a trick question for most people. They would say it could dramatically improve their life at the very least. But don't be foolish, we’ve all heard the horror stories and tragedies that occur when people win the lottery- it rarely has a happy ending.
Psychological studies in this area have predominately suggested that a person’s level of happiness before winning money has the most to do with their level of happiness after the money windfall. In other words, if a person was unhappy pre-lottery, then they will be unhappy post-lottery. The lesson; if you’re not happy now, don’t bother buying a lotto ticket. The more practical lesson; if you're not happy, don't go into debt to see if all that stuff will make you happy. I'm kindly saving you the trouble.
The best debt advice I an give you is to move forward instead of around and around, making the same mistake again. There is an idea in Buddhism that many people are plagued with wanting more and never being satisfied. It’s a vicious cycle of wanting something and having the notion that once you get this certain something, you will finally be happy. Of course what happens is we get what we were seeking only to find out it didn’t ease our desires and make us happy. We go on searching and seeking something else that will eventually quench our insatiable thirst.
We're clearly not a happy nation. Money does not make us happy, if it did why sould we try to get rid of it so quickly. The realy statement is material objects and status make us happy. If money made us happy, we would hang onto it, but we don't- we spendit ferociously. As our collection of material possessions increased over the last decade so has depression, divorce, and obesity. We have a rare opportunity during this ongoing recession to reflect and remember what it's like to have a savings account. Now is the time to search deeper in our pockets than our credit cards and find another definition of happiness.
Would You Feed a Lion Veggie Burgers?
Financial geniuses/experts will diagnose our debt and feed us a bunch of bull***. Really, the solution is simple. Start with the basics; if your pet lion looks malnourished and his health is fading quickly after you've been feeding him a diet of salad and veggie burgers, then obviously your pet lion does not thrive on that diet. Simple.
Our situation is similar to this lion. You wouldn't feed a lion a vegetarian diet because he's a carnivore. So why are humans living like robots? We would give robots what we're giving ourselves. Robots need a material and artificial diet, but humans need love, companionship, spiritual guidance, and self-worth. We are not thriving as humans because we're not fed properly.
We're in debt because the life of a 21st century human appears very similar to a robot. We start our day with artificial fuel(sugar, caffeine, energy drinks), our worth is equated to numbers (from our bank account to our productivity, and the always ticking clock), expected to exceed daily demands, and throughout the day we continue to keep on going even when given the opportunity to stop. Our friends; a computer and/or technological gadget. More of what it genuinely means to be human, less junk- simple really.
Debt = Luck
Luck obviously didn't get you in debt, but it will get you out. You can consider yourself lucky that you are being forced to go back to basics; you were obviously living like a robot and feeding yourself an artificial life. During this recession, many lucky people will have the opportunity for reflection, and hopefully (if you've taken my point seriously), not just on the money aspect.