Given the current global economic situation I thought it might be useful to share my thoughts experiences surrounding personal credit and debt. Money always looms large in the lives of families and individuals; We could always have a bigger house, nicer car, the children could be at better schools, or sometimes it would simply be nice to eat out more than once a month. This endless pressure to acquire has turned money into an abstraction. In my opinion, in today's secular society it has replaced religion for many, and become a yardstick by which we measure others and ourselves. I will be looking at two areas. Firstly, how the way we handle debt and credit is often linked to how we approach the rest of our lives, and the potential consequences of this. Secondly, how if we open our eyes and see money as a kind of living organism that should work for us and not against us, we can begin to live more contentedly in today's pervasive consumer culture.
Of course, it is possible to trace consumerism back at least two hundred years, but the debt culture as we know it really began in the nineteen eighties. The effective defeat of the unions and the selling off of council houses combined with private share ownership, made the major feeling that they had a stake in capitalism. The fact that this was seriously an illusion is not relevant here. The City and its ethos were perceived as a microcosm of UK PLC. To quote Mrs Thatcher, there is no such thing as society, only individuals. ' Whether you gained or lost by this was heavily determined by geography. Whatever way you look at it we were all suddenly affected by this rising up of money as a kind of icon. We have been on that path ever since. The sixties had peace and love, the eighties had the accumulation of cash and possessions. This cash and credit culture is governed by the law of diminishing returns, but is so embedded in our culture it is almost impossible to see. The current levels of personal bankruptcy show how money has become an end in itself; Who would bankrupt himself or herself for a car or a holiday? These bankrupts are not spending their money on food and clothing. It is as if the money is in control of the person, it has become almost spiritual in its influence.
I would suggest embracing the abstract nature of money, see it for what it is; The fallout from a ubiquitous cash culture that only has the power you grant it. I think this is something future generations will understand instinctively, for us it has to be learned. You can not make a Faustian pact with your bank and credit cards and expect to be happy even before the Devil arrives to claim his prize. To live within your means is to live a balanced life, and can only be positive.
We need money and credit to live in the modern world, but it is not naive to place it in its proper perspective. It is the acquired art of discovering the difference between what you need and what you want that makes for a balanced life. What you need should be obvious to you, what you want is for you to decide.