Life Credits

It stands to reason that our feelings regarding money affect our thoughts about money and therefore our behavior toward money. Money can expose feelings of shame, fear, regret and frustration, making us experience money as an unstable constraint. The perceived danger either encourages us to fight or flee. We either try to control the money (creating a power struggle that typically does damage to our closest relationships). Or, we turn a blind eye (avoiding addressing and discussing money, which typically does damage to our closest relationships). The damage is being done you see, whatever our natural response.

Many of us did not grow up learning the basics of managing money, how to be aggressive in earning it or how to properly put it to work; let alone how our economic engines and financial systems operate. Many adults missed this critical mass of information in their youth and by the time the unconscious incompetence (I don’t know what I don’t know) stage was over, their hole was so deep the entry was no longer visible, making finding the exit implausible. In addition, messages of shame and worth became entangled with money and there was little emotional or financial education to sort through the mess.

Before we can seek to find the exit and plan our escape strategy, we need to make an attempt to patch up our relationship with money. We need to name it something with a neutral vibration. What if it were called Life Credits? Think Super Mario Bros. We earn life credits by collecting coins and special bricks, dodging pitfalls, gaining bonus credits for efficiency, leveling up stage-by-stage, world-by-world until we have defeated the Goombas and mastered the game.

Real life is much the same. Every coin we collect and every bonus we earn is a life credit. We can use those credits to make purchases, grow our lifestyle, design an image for ourselves, attempt to create a sense of worthiness in our lives, all while effectively transferring our life credits one by one to the elusive marketing machine. OR, we can use those credits to build our own wealth and live independently.

Warren Buffet has been quoted saying “the stock market is a device for transferring money from the impatient to the patient.” Let’s assume the same theory reigns true for marketing. Marketers understand the psychology of money, it’s intrinsic emotional gravitations and they use it to lure our life credits away from us, making their corporate clients wealthy and leaving us broke. In that way, commercialism is a device for transferring money from the less informed to the strategic, emotion manipulators.

Do not misunderstand. It is vital to have hobbies, desires, needs, and to make purchases to satisfy them. Deprivation creates it’s own sort of money mess. What we are talking about is the type of targeted consumerism that seeks to quiet anxieties, self-doubt, fear, shame, boredom and the like. Pandering to these emotions creates wealth for the marketer and debt (or at best, decreased wealth) for the consumer.

9 years ago, we bought a brand new car. We had spent 2 years living on Michigan Avenue in Downtown Chicago without vehicles, utilizing public transportation and our own feet. When the opportunity to move closer to family presented itself, we decided we needed a brand new $50,000 SUV in order to move to the burbs. Interest rates were literally ZERO and every ad told you so. We ran the numbers and it made sense to us at the time to finance our BRAND. NEW. CAR. Well, it’s a good thing that we still love that car because we will be driving it for the next 9. We have learned a lot since that purchase. We have learned about the future value of our life credits and how that $50,000 would now be worth $170,684.60 if we had invested in VOO (Vanguard S&P 500 ETF) and paid cash for an old reliable car.

If we want to break the debt cycle in our own lives, we need to conserve our life credits. We need to understand the importance of exiting the revolving door of debt. Owing institutions every single credit we earn keeps us locked in the cycle. We need to widen the gap between the amount of credits we earn and the amount we spend, get the Goombas off the payroll, jump full-heartedly into the conscious incompetence stage (I am aware of how much I don’t know), ready to make the changes necessary to get to the conscious competence stage (I know what I need to do) and eventually to the unconscious compentence stage (I am a badass financial samurai who is doing financial independence in my sleep and can teach this to my friends and family).

Your life credits are yours and are intended to build wealth. Do not let the Goombas take your life credits and leave you broke and dependent on someone else to make life decisions for you.

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