Friday, February 6, 2009

My Unsolicited Opinion on Things

Here are a couple of really great stories I found about people making the most out of today's circumstances. They're both very inspiring. Just because we're in the middle of a massive economic struggle doesn't mean that our lives have to stop progressing. This should be a time of self discovery and a time to for all of us to reevaluate what is truly important in this lifetime.

CNN - 'Found money' is frugal family's hobby

CNN - Fired exec: 'Starbucks saved my life'

That second story is about a big time CEO who literally lost everything he owned, but he came out on the other side happier and more successful than he had ever been. I've been thinking a lot about that story since I read it yesterday. For the last few years (up until very recently) I've noticed this alarming trend of more, more, more. I'm sure you have too. Reality TV shows are centered around selfish "Sweet 16ers" and "Real Housewives" spending money, acting like brats and complaining that they aren't being given enough. Shows like SATC brought high-end designer shoes and handbags to the attention of the masses, and now women all over suburban America are walking around with Prada and Manolo. People everywhere are ignoring sticker prices and buying the biggest cars and houses they can find so they can keep up with the neighbors. It's disgusting!

I don't deny that I have a materialistic side. Everyone does. I like buying clothes and nice things for my house. But we (Matt and I) are living within our means and being realistic about it. Not only do you have to know when to say when - but you have to stick to it when people try to oversell you with the temptation of "bigger and better." We luckily were approved for a home loan prior to the huge real estate bubble burst in Omaha and found a modest home in a modest neighborhood. We spent less than what we asked the bank for, which was $130K. To me, $130K is a staggering amount of money, especially when you wrap it up into a mortgage. We felt that it was the most we could comfortably afford to pay back at this time in our lives. But you know what the bank did? They gave us the $130K and then told us that with my credit score we could basically have as much as we wanted (within reason), we just had to ask for it. Not once did they ask us what we thought we could afford. They just told us what they thought we were qualified to pay back on paper.

And this boys and girls is how we as a nation got into this mess.

It's the same story with cars and credit cards. Everyone stopped thinking "What can I afford to pay back?" and started thinking "What's the most that they'll give me?" It's good old American greed. I respect anyone's decision to buy a $30,000 car or drop $5000 on their credit card, if they can afford to pay it back. Can I afford the payments on such debt? No. Of course I can't. Neither could millions of people out there who assumed it. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that we can blame the banks and credit companies for shelling out irresponsible loans to people who ultimately couldn't afford it, but shouldn't we also blame the people who accepted the debt? Isn't it the responsibility of the borrowing individual to assess their own ability to pay something back before they accept it?

As much as this recession may suck right now, I'm cherishing the opportunity to finally have a clear view of what I need versus what I want in life. There are some Americans who are really hurting and struggling right now. But for most of us, this is just a time of inconvenience. The days of "buy, buy, buy" are coming to an end and the days of "stop and think" are upon us. It's refreshing. We should all see it as a fresh start. We are being given a chance to break away from the consumerism that has swallowed up our souls. It's a chance to purge our lives of the excessive and unnecessary crap that weighs us down. It's a chance to finally see what we have become as a nation and what we need to do to mend ourselves from the inside out.

Love, family, happiness, karma, contentment, spirituality, nature, exercise, laughing. Those things are always free.

1 comment:

Jen said...

I whole-heartedly agree! Well written - and trust me, I am an expert at writing ;o)