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Does Our Culture Promote Debt?

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In a society ruled by consumerism, people tend to become fixated in replacing their items with newer and “better” ones. They buy goods, use these for a while, and throw them away to purchase other things. In fact, the idea of having these old items repaired is not a matter of concern to some people anymore. As long as they have the means and capability to buy another product, then they have nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, this practice only leads to dissatisfaction, depression, and more debts.

How Consumerism Affects People

Most western nations adopt the idea of consumerism because of the belief that an individual’s standard of living is impacted by the material things he or she owns. To shed light on this mentality, it is worth pointing out the pros and cons of consumerism to the economy and your personal life.

Basically, this principle offers positive effects because it leads to an increase in industrial production, higher progress rate in the economy, more supply of goods or services available to people, and greater employment opportunities. Furthermore, consumerism can help improve your lifestyle because of more advanced household or commercial tools used.

Although material prosperity is one positive impact of consumerism, there are also pitfalls and drawbacks on the society and every individual. For instance, there is a higher desire for goods, so those who have little purchasing power may feel dissatisfied about their standard of living. Additionally, there is a continuous rat race among people to earn more than what they normally receive. Hence, they are forced to deal with work-related stress, fatigue and tensions.

Material wealth becomes the primary factor that dictates whether a society or person is progressive or not. Unfortunately, spiritual values and morals are underplayed. The crime rate may also increase because of the intense craving to possess expensive items. It is also possible that personal relationships suffer since most people are trying to earn more than the average Joe just to improve their lifestyle and economic status.

About Consumer Debt

With the drive towards consumerism, more and more people find themselves buried in debts in order to keep up with their list of wants. They find ways to meet their financial needs by applying for personal loans, credit cards, student loans, housing and car loans. Generally speaking, consumer loan is the amount you owe to private or government lenders, which can help you meet personal consumption instead of your investments. If you spend more than what you earn from your job, it is likely that you will have the urge to borrow money in the form of consumer loans or credit cards. While these loans are quite accessible to some people, the repayment of debts can be very difficult and expensive, particularly when you have incurred a number of loans that you can no longer pay off.

Types of Consumer Loans

The following are among the common loans that individuals apply for, so they can maintain the quality of their life and keep up with their wants.

Credit Card

The most typical form of debt by most people is accrued through their credit card. There are some banks that will issue a credit card to almost anyone who has a valid mailing address or credit rating, even if these people are not qualified for the financial responsibility of paying off a loan. Moreover, interest rates and terms vary from one bank to another, and default provisions or penalties may differ, as well.

The compulsive usage of credit cards can be quite dangerous since these are convenient to use and frequently publicised as an option to increase your purchasing power. There are also internet sales advertised by most credit card companies since a number of websites provide quick payment plans by using a credit card.

Car Loans

Car loans are also common debts although these are more difficult for some people to obtain, as compared to availing of a credit card. In addition, auto loans can be one source of great financial worry, and the duration of the loan may range from 3 to 5 years with interest rates of about 5 to 10 percent. There may be instances that the rates may escalate to up to 23 percent for clients that have a bad credit score. Most sellers may also decide to push warranties or options to buyers, which tend to increase the cost of the loaned amount.

Mortgage Loans

Mortgage loans serve as the most expensive and largest type of consumer debt. According to the Federal Reserve Governors Board, mortgage debts have placed millions of borrowers with low home values. These loans usually come with numerous requirements depending on the financial history of the applicant. Mortgages also include various options such as fixed rate, balloon, interest-only, and adjustable rate. Unfortunately, these options tend to increase the mortgage company’s profits instead of the buyer’s. With a careful and thorough review of the terms, you can ensure that there are no irregularities existing in the agreement you have signed with the company.

Student Loans

According to the United States Department of Education, the cost of college tuition and fees can be a massive expense, which is why the total federal student loan has reached over $500 billion. In addition, about 77 percent of education loans are from federal loans, based on the report by the College Board. Lenders from private or non-federal sectors are not part of this total, since these loans are provided by a wide range of institutions, and it is difficult to measure the overall number of private student loans that currently exist. However, one fact remains – the volume of private student loans is an increasing phenomenon, as compared to the statistics obtained a decade ago.

Bottom Line

A nation that continues to adopt the concept of consumerism is known for prosperity and material growth. However, the economy is likely to suffer as it moves toward the possibility of recession. Many people have lost their source of income, and they experience great challenges in meeting their needs and wants. Thus, it is much wiser to live a simpler life where you can augment your expenses and still manage to experience the basic source of comfort and happiness.

My name is Kevin Watts and I am the creator of Graduating from Debt. I was like millions of recent college graduates in heavy debt with very little hope. With the right attitude and discipline I took control of my financial picture and now I can say proudly that I am debt free.

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AUTHOR Derek

My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.

21 Comments

  1. I think the answer to the question is a resounding yes. Our culture promotes debt like there is no tomorrow. This is every marketing departments job. Make you think you need something and then entice you to buy it.

    • Yes I certainly agree with you. And I think this becoming more of a worldwide phenomena as our western influence grows throughout the world.

  2. Absolutely! Not only do I believe they promote debt but they make people feel that they NEED the things that puts them deeper and deeper into debt.

  3. I don’t think they promote debt but they don’t help it either. Example. When I was going through a debt situation I fell behind on my mortgage. I contacted a company to help me out. They took my money and barely returned my calls. The banks didn’t want to talk to me and it was a very lonely road. I somehow through the luck of god convinced my bank to refund me the money from the companies account. I got a full refund and swore that I would man up and do this myself. I don’t think we promote it but we don’t help it either.

  4. I think it promotes a “look at me” attitude at any cost, which, for many means incurring debt. I think a good practice is to remember the last “gotta have it” item you bought and how long it took for the excitement to wear off from having it. I think the more you get, the faster it does and then you’re left with the question, did I need it in the first place?

  5. I think all of western society is driven by consumerism. We are bombarded every day with the idea that we NEED all this stuff. That to just keep up with the neighbors we must have a smart phone, laptop, big screen TV’s etc. To dismiss this idea and to live within your “means” is to swim against the current of ‘normal’. I’m swimming upstream, the current is strong, most of the time I feel I’m getting nowhere, but then the current lessens briefly and I burst forward for a few hundred feet, and the euphoria makes the battle worth while! 🙂

    • Yup. By rejecting consumerism we are going against what everybody says. That having a 9-5 job, paying a mortgage with 2 cars is what we all dream about and it’s supposed to make us happy. In reality our happiness is derived from within.

  6. I actually was thinking about this topic while driving a few days ago. I definitely feel that I get the short end of the stick since I have no debt.

    People spend too much money and buying designer clothes/purses and other items/going out to dinner/vacations and have consumer debt on a credit card. However, they can go into bankruptcy and get that debt erased. (others have their parents pay off the bills) However, they still get the keep all those items that they purchased and vacation memories. However, I have spent my time avoiding expensive dinners out, vacations and don’t have anything to fancy in my closet to wear. I see many Louis Vuitton purses around my area, but I know many of those people probably don’t own their own home/condo.

    As a teacher, I went to grad school. I paid $10,000 for my masters. My co-workers can go get their masters and after 10 years since we work in a Title I school, their loan is forgiven.

    I have students that get free glasses from the government. However, many of those students don’t wear the glasses or they easily break them. Then as I teacher I am blamed regarding poor grades and test scores, but the students have broken the glasses which now makes it difficult to follow along with reading and my lecture notes on the board. They cannot even see the homework that I have assigned and written on the board (I do give it verbally also). Since they don’t have to pay for them (nor do the parents), they don’t care about taking care of the glasses. I think we need to charge families even a sliding or nominal fee for these services.

    I also work in a school with AP classes and exams. Since the students are low income, the school pays the $85 for the AP exams. As a result, we have many students who are taking the AP class, but have no business taking the AP exam. The teacher knows that they will never pass the exam based on the student’s effort and abilities. Some students are taking AP classes for exposure rather than mastery of many of the concepts on the exam. As a taxpayer, I am upset that we are spending so much money for students to take the AP exam knowing that they will not pass.
    It is also the same thing with the ACT exam. My students don’t have to pay to take the exam again which results in some of them not taking the exam seriously.

    I have family that are poor that don’t have to pay for health care as they never get any bills. They will brag about how they go to the doctor and never pay bills while I am complaining that I have to fight with my health care company.

    A family member is losing a home to foreclosure. His wife left him and he is unable to pay the mortgage. However, we know from others in the area that it is taking 2 years for the banks to kick people out of their homes. That is 2 years of saved mortgage payments. He is busy traveling, buying expensive gifts and dinners for his new girlfriend.

    • I think a lot of people try to take shortcuts in life and try to take advantage of the system. I try to pay to attention to those people because I realize that some people will always get the short end of the stick. Life is unfair but I think that can be a good thing

  7. I think many people feel they need to have something just so others don’t look down on them. I know there can be many benefits to owning a smart phone for some people. I, however, am not one of those people but I know several people who have them and all I ever see them doing is playing games and texting. I think there are many things people have just because others have them and they don’t want to be the person who doesn’t have the newest coolest toy. On a positive note, I do believe this is starting to turn slightly. I see more people writing and posting about how they want to get back to the basics.

  8. I think society does kind of advocate consumerism and debt. I think that’s also a good thing in a way because it helps drive the economy forward :0) I have almost $400K of debt myself, and financing all my expensive habits must be doing a great service to the local business, and the community.

  9. Congrats, Kevin on being debt free. I do believe everything that you have written and admit that I had fallen into a consumerism trap. I sought to enjoy a standard of living that matched my parents (ie growing up) not considering it had taken 20 years to get there.

    • Thanks JT. Yea you are exactly right. I think it’s hard even for me to escape the mentality of instant gratification. But now I see the way that hard work and delaying gratification are big keys to success.

  10. These days consumerism is a cultural thing. People are more materialistic because of the different things we are tempted into having and the various means available to us to get it such as loans and credit cards which in the long run is not a good thing to our own finances because we end up having loads of debt to pay. But, I think even if the means are there, it is still up to us if we want to buy them or not.

  11. Because of the latest innovations coming out every now and then, it is so sad that there are people who are trying to keep up with the latest even with the lack of resources and ended up getting into debts instead.

  12. For a while in my life, I let the consumerism mindset override that which my grandmother taught me. And old phrase that she would say every so often: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”. She often let me learn how to do that by asking me to fix things around her own house, which helped me learn skills that I still use to this day.
    Not to forget my grandfathers who used to give me a silver dollar every time they saw me do something that was somewhat creative like build something from scratch with my erector set.


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