Although most forms of slavery have been outlawed, some of the lesser obvious kinds are still pervasive in our society. One in particular that many Americans willingly sign up for is financial slavery. In doing so, millions of citizens are allowing themselves to become a resource for the enrichment of the elite. Instead of saving money like our parents and grandparents, in the course of a generation or two we have gone from a nation of savers to one of rampant spenders.
No longer is it enough to spend only what we make, for now too many of us willingly spend what we don’t have, falling into the snare of a system designed to keep us in enslaved for years to come. Practically every major life decision involves taking on more debt. Plan on going to college? Expect to go into debt. A home? More debt. A car? Still more. Getting married? Same.
Look at the numbers
The average American household with at least one credit card balance has run up an average of nearly $16,000 in credit card debt. Most will have a difficult time ever paying off that debt since the average interest rate on credit cards is in the mid to high teens.
Add on top of that $153,000 in mortgage debt and you can see that many Americans are on a financial precipice. Worse yet, many young Americans with student loans owe an average of $32,500. They leave school effectively indentured to those institutions they relied on for loans to pay for their education.
The debt crisis has even spawned an new industry in this country in the form of payday loans and other super high interest temporary fixes to get consumers deeper still in debt. Finances are no longer taught in school, resulting in too many Americans going into deeper debt because they don’t understand the basics of debt, like how credit card interest is accrued. Vast numbers of Americans have declared bankruptcy as a result of the recent economic recession and still more are contemplating it. However, there are still pitfalls from declaring bankruptcy that can follow an individual for years to come.
Beating the system
Two of the most insidious ways institutions get us to go into debt, particularly credit card debt, is through impulse buying and convenience purchases.
In a 2010 survey commissioned by the National Endowment for Financial Education found that 80 percent of respondents admitted to buying goods on impulse. Impulse buying is rampant in our society and is fueled by retailers with a deep understanding of human psychology. In supermarkets, candy is placed at the eye level of children, while the essentials like milk are in the back.
Americans are especially susceptible to impulse buying during this time of year, and merchandisers have become masters at separating us from our money. The only way of beating the system is through sticking to a list of items you thoroughly thought about ahead of time and recognizing the tactics employed by merchandisers. Doing this along with avoiding the purchase of overpriced items simply because they are convenient will help you avoid spending money you don’t have.
We live in an economic system designed to take advantage of us and keep us in debt. But we have no one to blame but ourselves. Too many eagerly jump at the opportunity for easy credit when it is dangled in front of us. We’ve been trained to believe that more stuff equates to more happiness. But in reality, it most often leaves us debt ridden, stressed, and ultimately unhappy.
Larry Lilly has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of collections in his 20 odd years in collections. He presently works for a mid-sized bank in mortgage collections and blogs for CompareCards.com in the hope that his advice January help a few avoid phone calls from the likes of himself.