Why are we so much in debt?

If you live for having it all, what you have is never enough.”
~  Vicki Robin, Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence

Why are we so much in debt?

Entire governments are in debt: countries, states and cities spend more than they have and all but a few in the whole world have deficits that scare: who is going to pay for it?

Households are indebted; individuals of all ages owe money to banks, agencies, governments, family and friends.

However, 100 years ago this was not common, how did we come to this mess, why did we allow it to consume our lives? And more important: how can we get out if this?

A century ago, and even 50 years ago in many places, debt was a bad word. People used cash to pay fo things, worked for what they needed, saved for what they wanted and didn’t get what they couldn’t afford. Most people lived very simple but didn’t starve and most had a roof over their heads, a family or a community where to find support and enough work for all.

On those times, many things we have made to believe are “indispensable” didn’t exist: nobody had insurance, few had fridges and almost nobody had washers or driers. Just 20 years ago cellular phones were rare and iPods non-existent. People would wouldn’t have TVs  60 -70 years ago and many had just one until recently. Mothers used to mend their children’s clothes and clothes used to pass from one generation to the next, from older family members to younger and even from friends and neighbours. Food came from the backyard or the local store, which in turn would have it from the near farm and so on. We were also 5 billion less people and the planet used to have more resources then…

Now you are getting the idea! When we discovered how to use the fossil fuels, we started to make all fast. At one point, there was over-production: people already had what they needed and most would have only what they could afford. So, companies invented “marketing” and “credit”: with marketing, they could convince everybody that we needed things we really didn’t need or couldn’t afford. And with credit, they found a way for those who couldn’t afford to become indebted so they had the illusion that they could afford.

Even with those tricks, people would still be careful and bought just one fridge, one stove, one TV and so on. So companies invented “planned obsolescence” which is no less than designing on purpose products to fail after a certain amount of years and make them in ways so people couldn’t repair them or where repair would be more costly than buying one new. This concept created a new concept that didn’t exist 100 years ago in most households or cultures: waste.

Credit and marketing, planned obsolescence and waste have extended to all: they are the parents of the “free market” concept and they now govern our lives. That is why we all are in debt: even if you think you are not, you may still live pay check-to-pay check and may not have enough savings to just retire.

Yet, books, experts and articles tell us it is our fault: it is that signature coffee you buy everyday (who is that? Sure not me!), those designer clothes that we all show off, that last model of a car, and all those dinners at fancy restaurants! (yes, sure!)

When people see at their finances (if they do) what they see is s painful that they usually decide to ignore it and continue working and dragging the debt, year after year, feeling uneasy and guilty for how they spend their money and wondering why, without shopping till dropping, without the signature coffee, the fancy restaurants and the designer clothes, they are still in so much debt!

Debt is an ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slavedriver.
~ Ambrose Bierce

How do we get out of this trap?

There is an excellent book called “Your Money or your life” by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez http://ymoyl.wordpress.com/ that shows you how to start detaching your life from that dependency that money causes on us.

Although I haven’t myself accomplished total independence yet, I have already started the path. Money, credit and waste are part of the problem that makes our current lifestyles unsustainable and damaging to the Earth, its inhabitants and the future generations.

It is really difficult to cut our ties with the world where we still live every day, most of us live double lives: we work and continue our errands everyday but we “know” that this is wrong and that the truth lies somewhere else. Some of us, use all our “free” time to those things that don’t generate any money but are necessary if we want to heal the world, the people and the future.

Follow me in this journey if you too want to be free of debt, waste and the dictatorship of Mr Money.

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