Short-term gain vs. long-term pain

We’re wired to over-spend.

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Research has it that the reason more people aren’t saving is that they’re subject to impulse control problems. Turns out people who are into immediate gratification just don’t see the point in setting aside any money for the future. That future with no money–the future pain–is so far off, it doesn’t have any pull against the “buy-me,” “buy-me” of the present.

We like to use the word “bubble” to describe a lot of economic phenomena that can have quite a painful long-term impact. Remember the technology bubble? How about the housing bubble? Such a pretty image for something that can be so devastating. After all, bubbles pop all the time without wiping out anything of significance: soap bubbles, spit bubbles. Why haven’t we come up with a really ugly image to describe what’s really happening and how dangerous it will be.

Imagine that instead of spending bubbles (which our society seems to be floating around in) we see the problem in terms of quicksand. Imagine that as you spend every penny you make, you are pulled deeper and deeper into the quicksand of poverty. Early on, you have ways to get yourself out: you can grab a nearby branch, call for help, reach for the rope hanging near to the edge of the quagmire into which you’ve stepped. But as you continue to spend every penny you make, you sink deeper and the routes to rescue move further away from you. How do you feel about those new shoes now?

We know our brain chemistry rewards us for shopping; it’s a feel-good activity. If we don’t have a means of introducing a balance to that feel-good, we’ll keep on feeling good until we’re up to our eyeballs in quicksand. Is that what you’re waiting for?

Debt is a quicksand of sorts. It saps your ability to move, to reach, to progress to a new place. It keeps you struggling in one spot, inevitably to drown in your own struggles.

Everyone is susceptible to stepping into the quicksand. It’s so easy with all the credit being thrown around. But at the first sense of being sucked down, those who want a future will reach for the branch and pull themselves out.

If you don’t have the wherewithal to look past today, the last thing you’ll see as you finally sink are all the things you could have done differently.

4 comments on “Short-term gain vs. long-term pain

  1. I like the analogy =)…sad but true – and having pulled myself out, a few years back…a place I never want to find myself in, again…

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  2. Debt is a virus that has infected not just "regular people" but also government at all levels: city, province or state, and federal. Buying things we don't need is an addiction like any other. People won't stop until they hit "rock bottom", which can mean going broke or declaring bankruptcy. Sometimes that's the price to achieve sanity.

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  3. I make a very determined effort to save money, conserve what little is left at the end of the week or month, but it's tough. We have commitments more so as parents, but even in my professional career (Geek) there are pressures to equip myself with that the latest "stuff" so we're in the know. We do for our kids, trying to give them every chance we can, while trying to instill the idea that money doesn't grow on trees. We provide a nice home, perhaps better than we should, and once we're there it's hard to cut back, reduce. Moving is expensive and a headache, and you're a collector of bits and pieces, you end up with more to move. Then there's the cash as an anti-depressant, bad idea… well it can be. It's worse when you have a Credit Card at your fingertips. You need to be VERY aware that that balance needs to be paid off, and frankly if you don't KNOW if you'll have the money, you shouldn't figure on having the money. In 3 days my credit card will return to a zero balance, and since my job was eliminated 9 days ago (no end date yet) I've put the card away. The temptation, and opportunity, to spend money is everywhere, it's in all the fodder of ads we get barraged with, and unless you're careful, it's very easy to get sucked into debt. Especially when credit card companies are so willing to give you a ridiculously high limit.

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  4. Nothing like a little revisionist history in the morning. Let's see who could have written that? It couldn't possibly be a staffer could it? lol. More stomach turning spin.

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