Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Money Changes Everything

Are you hanging with the money pod?
Suze Orman, a financial writer and speaker whose latest book is "The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous and Broke" (Riverhead Hardcover), said young adults can go into debt trying to keep up with their friends.

"I call them 'money pods,' " she said. "Look at a group of female friends walking down the street. They're often all dressed identically: the same shoes, the same belts, the same handbag."

But what is not easily apparent, Ms. Orman said, is that one of the women may have saved for months to buy her one expensive handbag, or more likely, put it on her credit card. Her identically dressed friends, meanwhile, may have the salary or the family money to afford a closet full of designer purses.

"That is how we get in trouble," Ms. Orman said. "We think our friends are just like us, and if our friend can afford something, we fool ourselves into thinking we can afford it, too."
This excerpt, from a Sunday New York Times article called "Money Changes Everything," comes on the heels of their article on The First Bank of Mom and Dad which I wrote about here and which CBS news, linking to my blog, then wrote about here.

The question is: at what point do you take responsibility for yourself? I know so many people in their twenties and thirties, in the USA, Europe, and Australia, who still depend on their families to get by. And while I was in Florida last week, I could not help but notice that the stress on parents to pay for their kids' cars and now their astronomical gas bills, is getting out of hand. When the parents try and call them on it, suggesting to their 16-17 year olds that they get a job to help pay for these things themselves, the middle-class teenyboppers throw a temper tantrum with high expectations that they will eventually get the money they have requested. They mingle with privileged upper-class colleagues or the heavily indebted "fake upper-classers" and assume that they too are entitled to the endless good life that a materialistic-centered existence can provide.

Perhaps this is all tied to the fact that kids, like their parents before them, are now trained to be consumers and not citizens. That's what Scott Ritter has said is leading us to lose our democracy in the face of a lawless administration running rough-shod over the Constitution.

This past weekend I was surrounded by an army of kids, and they all spoke a language I can only call Consumerese. They spoke logos and brand names and were all about showing off their latest gadgets. Every kid I encountered over the age of seven, had a cell phone, and most had (video) iPods. Whenever their parents got mad at their social behavior, they were immediately threatened with having less, at which point they went through queenly fits of panic that I can only describe as withdrawal syndromes. It's like they are addicted to corporate-sponsored consumption patterns, consuming pre-packaged corporate food, prescribed mood drugs, and mucho banal content from the one-size-fits-all corpo media industries.

And yet all of these kids come from middle-class to lower middle-class families. For some reason, endless consumption of commercial products is now an inalienable right guaranteed by The Bill of Rights. Meanwhile, the real Bill of Rights is on the verge of being just another shredded document. How about the Bill of Far Rights?

Consumption-addiction is a real problem. I call it, Keepin' Up With the Jonesin'.

For those who are too embarrassed to ask Mom and Dad for money, you can always just load up your credit card. Everything will be fine - the huge budget deficits brought to you courtesy of W. and his Gang of Royal Corrupters will work themselves out in due time and soon you will be on that fast track to financial success, right?

Where is the Truth Fairy when you need them?

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