Consumer marketing and advertising work.
In the United States, they have driven household consumption to 70 percent of all spending, a record. The long-term, rampant trend of overconsumption spawned the term affluenza.
What is affluenza?
Affluenza is a painful, socially transmitted condition characterized by wasteful spending, debt and anxiety. The dogged pursuit of more – fueled by that feeling of never having enough – can make you sick.
Recently, you may have encountered the term in relation to the case of a Texas teen that killed four people while driving drunk. But it’s more than a catchy word used by high-priced attorneys. Affluenza was first described in the 1950s. Later, it became the subject of a PBS documentary and a book.
Effects of affluenza
The unrelenting pursuit of more can damage relationships with your family and friends and, perhaps most importantly, your relationship with yourself. The symptoms of affluenza are visible through some revealing statistics:
Financial status: 80 percent of Americans are in debt and about half have no retirement savings.
Relationships: 70 percent of couples say money causes most of their arguments, and disagreements about money are more intense and longer lasting than other types of disagreements.
Disengagement: 70 percent of U.S. workers are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work.
You won’t find a cure for affluenza at the pharmacy or advertised on television. It’s not in a “little blue pill” or in the latest energy drink. You certainly can’t buy your way out of affluenza.
The cure is change – changing the stories that drive your behavior.
We have internalized consumer marketing messages to the point that they shape our understanding of the world and our place in it. They have become modern myths – powerful enough to displace traditional myths about personal fulfillment and self-realization.
It’s time to let go of consumer-driven beliefs that are making you miserable. This transformation can be achieved by dedicating yourself to a simple, new path of action:
1. Begin by deciding what you want.
2. Design a simple plan of action.
3. Measure your progress.
4. Assess and alter your actions, as needed, to reach your goal.
When you enter this path, think about how to establish a long-term savings plan, your relationships and your level of engagement at work. What actions can you take to support the healthful pursuit of these goals? How have those relentless marketing messages led you astray?
As your behavior aligns with your goals, you will discover what it means to be truly healthy. You will have more vitality, energy and power over your future. You may just give up the dogged pursuit of more.
firstname.lastname@example.org Durango resident and personal finance coach Matt Kelly owns Momentum: Personal Finance. www.personalfinancecoaching.com.