George Orwell’s “doublespeak”, though more evident today on one hand, passes more often as truth, on the other. War is peace? Good is bad? Reality is manipulated in an attempt to control perception. “Credit is wealth” is the same sort of lie but believed by millions.
Credit and wealth are as opposite as night and day. But because of successful marketing, they have become one and the same in the minds of millions. When credit is considered wealth, quality of life and personal freedom gradually slip away and are replaced by doing whatever it takes to meet the ferocious demands of mounting debt service.
To understand how this misconception (that credit is wealth) got popularized in the first place, the word wealth requires closer examination. As with many words, the full and accurate meaning of wealth has become corrupted. The Oxford English Dictionary, one of the most respected dictionaries in the world, defines wealth:
(1) The condition of being happy and prosperous; well-being
(2) Spiritual well-being
(3) Prosperity consisting in the abundance of valuable possessions, especially in great abundance; riches, affluence.
In its first and second definition, wealth has little or nothing to do with money. Instead, wealth exists in the realm of the intangible yet equally real aspects of life. Although perhaps not as easily measured, personal and spiritual well-being impacts all areas of our lives. Well-being, or the lack thereof, determines how we experience each and every moment. How interesting that the first two meanings of wealth have taken a back seat to the last one, material abundance.
This third definition has become what wealth is known to be, above and beyond anything else and, as such, is seldom challenged. However when defined as money alone, oddly enough, you are the one that gets shortchanged!
With wealth thought of primarily as material abundance, the leap to assuming credit also to be wealth becomes a perilously short one! Credit, as the access to money repaid with interest in the future, has made the accumulation of material goods instant. No more deferred satisfaction!
Unwittingly, when life is lived by the “credit is wealth” doublespeak; mounting debt has the tendency to trigger a domino effect of personal consequences. Increased stress and its damage to important relationships, less disposable income, the need to “speed up” activities and, the high price of image maintenance are just a few of the side effects. If you stop for a moment to connect the dots, it gets pretty simple: The pursuit of quantity in the name of “having it all now” can run roughshod over the quality of our lives. Who knew?
For example, making the minimum payment on $9,312*:
a) Minimum monthly payment (2% of balance due) = $186.24
b) Time to pay off balance at 16% interest = 43 years, 5 months!!
c) Total interest paid on $9,312.00 = $17,953.44
d) Total repaid to credit card company = $27,265.44
NOTE: Compound interest turns 16% APR into 192%
(*Kentroversy Papers 2005)
How to opt out of this trend?
The first step is to reconsider wealth.
To reconsider wealth in its full definition is to remember what is truly important in our lives. Most of us have had insights about what is important after experiencing a personal loss, at which time we might recommit ourselves to doing better in the future. But all too often, we can revert back to old patterns in pursuit of the third definition of wealth, material abundance.
The second step to being able to live the full definition of wealth is to learn how the monetary system works and how, by design, it contradicts the possibilities of wealth’s first two definitions, spiritual and personal well-being. Many people simply blame themselves for not having the time and resources they want and need. Of course personal financial responsibility is essential but not the whole story. Money exists within a monetary system. In order to make personal financial decisions that are fully informed, understanding how money works within the context of a monetary system becomes essential.
To achieve a complete recovery from the “credit is wealth” mindset and its inevitable downward spiral, knowledge is essential but ultimately insufficient. Knowledge precedes taking action steps towards personal finance strategies based on this more accurate information about how money works. When such revolutionary strategies are implemented and practiced, personal and spiritual well-being can flourish along with material success instead of getting sidelined for survival demands.
True wealth spans the full spectrum of what it means to be well – from the most personal to the worldly (money). Conventional wisdom will continue to direct individuals and families down the primrose path. However, there now exists a road less traveled for those who realize that where the conventional wisdom path ends up is not where they want to go.