Entitlement – What The Hell Is Wrong With Us?

ENTITLEMENTCTV News released the new figures on consumer debt in Canada yesterday. In the report the writer points out that in the past five years, debt loads have increased 400 per cent more than the rate of inflation. “Debt’s outpacing us and continues to outpace us, so at some point in time there’s going to be a reconciliation,” Higgins said.


It is a word we are all familiar with. An epidemic of our own making. At least in North America we have spawned the most coddled generation ever known, and they are demanding Smart Phones and iPads and texting plans. Turn on the television and you can watch twenty-somethings argue that the new house they are contemplating buying does not have granite counter tops or ten-foot ceilings. Couples think nothing of spending thousands in credit on vacations they have not worked for. There is a pervading sense of entitlement, that we have somehow earned a lavish lifestyle built on credit payments.

The deeper issue here may just be an ingrained selfishness, combined with an unrealistic expectation of life. We assume we are going to have money and credit companies keep trying to prove us right. I have patients in their early twenties who are $60-70,000 in debt with little or nothing to show for it. This is consumer debt, usually at 19% interest or worse.

And it is not just the teens who are feeling the need for greed and self-indulgence. It is little wonder that my fifteen year old feels abused by life because he does not have an iPhone. His friend’s parents apparently have unlimited access to funds, in spite of the fact that they are single parents with multiple credit cards. Matt’s buddies have extensive and expensive phone plans with unlimited data. These kids feel hard done by if their parents do not pay for their $50/week paintball addiction or do not give them rides wherever they want and whenever they want. These same teens insist their parents buy them cars and trucks while they are still in their teens… and they usually get them. What the hell is wrong with us? Are we so guilt-laden from our divorce? So afraid of our children missing out? Are we so insecure that we need our child’s approval, or so desperate to be cool that we are willing to sell out a fundamental tenet of good parenting?

We are the problem.

I routinely ask my clients to watch shoes like Til Debt Do Us Part or Princess, both with the same host. While I would never tell a client to watch Dr. Phil or Oprah, I am convinced that Gail helps people deal with the reality of debt and financial bondage. The problem is, however, that the issue is actually a psychological and emotional issue as much as it is a financial one. What is it about us that we believe we are entitled to trips and toys and two hundred-dollar haircuts, handbags worth thousands and weekly trips to the spa?

And let’s be honest, reality television is not helping – rich, arrogant, young and beautiful people who have been surgically enhanced flaunting their money and low IQ’s so that our children can learn that they deserve the best and should dedicate their lives to things that do not matter.

Christmas is coming and the urge to spend what we do not have to impress our children and friends can be overwhelming. Commercials push and prod with amazing tenacity and we are all tempted to spend more than we budget. What are we hoping to accomplish? Do we realize the message we continue to send to our family when we indulge in such technological hedonism with little regard to the psychological ramifications of what we are preaching?

The issue is not neutral, but profound and important. I cannot help but feeling that we have sold our souls for a stupid phone.

13 thoughts on “Entitlement – What The Hell Is Wrong With Us?

  1. The legacy of the older generation?

    An addendum to a birth certificate?
    You are hereby informed that someone has used your imputed financial value to borrow money for their own use. It has been spent and is not recoverable. This may have been immoral, but was nevertheless quite legal because those that borrowed the money said so (made the laws). Payment on this debt will require your lifetime of labor. There is no way that you can escape this servitude. You have been, thus, taxed without representation since you failed to vote before you were born or achieved legal age with wisdom. Try to bear your lot with its ever-present pain with the knowledge that the “Greatest Generation” that left you with this dire financial legacy did do some admirable things. Those may have been necessary for their own survival and welfare but do redound to your benefit. Keep in mind that they had a really good time with your money.

  2. I deeply appreciate your blog. One of my associates Dr David Gruder has termed it entitlement disorder as a form of narcissim that has been marketed as normal behavior for happiness.
    Dana Ansell, rev

  3. I remember discovering that little wedding planner show probably similar to till debt do us apart, and beside its obvious display of some very humorously inappropriate behavior on the part of the brides and grooms, it does show that despite their largest ego and attitude they can’t triumph over the budget they’ve set for themselves.

  4. Turning off the TV and social media would take care of the problem. Advertising is brainwashing an entire culture and it is a very deliberate campaign designed to separate the masses from their money, real and imagined (credit.) There are many of us out here who don’t believe that material possessions = happiness, and we are teaching our children to worship hard work and personal achievement over the latest gadget. The pendulum will swing back. It always does.

  5. You are so right about all of this. I go on and on about the up and coming generation of children that are ten years behind me being so spoiled and entitled.

    Modern technology is not helping. Social media is not helping. (I don’t care for social media at all, because I think it misrepresents just about everyone and offers a platform to encourage narcissism). And reality shows that feature famous people who are famous for being rich and famous are really not helping. It is all a gross misrepresentation of society and depletes all of our values.

    I agree that it is an emotional crisis in the making. It is a whole culture that is succumbing to the exact thing that other generations were attempting to avoid. We all work so hard so our children can “have the things we didn’t have”. But what does that mean to some people? It’s a completely relative statement. For me, that means my son can have a financially stable home where there would never be a worry about having the necessities. Growing up in that environment enabled a certain paranoia to develop where I fear being without utilities, food, and clothing. But, does that mean I’ll deprive my son of a good work ethic if all of his needs are taken care of?

    There is a crisis of want versus need anymore. What do we really need? Today’s society demands so much. Ten years ago, internet was not a need. Today, children are practically required to have a decent computer with a high speed internet connection at home. That’s at least $400 for the computer itself, plus another $200 for the monitor, and at least $100 a month for the internet connection. All for what? School? Research? Doubtful. More like Facebook and online gaming.

    But, we are taught that we need social networking as a means of communication. Which is completely ironic considering recent research is showing the negative effects of mental, emotional, and cognitive health and development. So in essence, not only are people crippling their children with a sense of entitlement, but they are also crippling them with exposure to the general toxic popular culture.

  6. While I agree that we are responsible for addressing our own behaviour – I think we need to be gentle with ourselves.
    One of the central causes of this greed is not so much some inborn entitlement, but a result of hypnosis. Marketing and media have for decades now perfected the art of making us feel inadequate and unhappy – that is their job – their function. Only an unhappy person who feels less than whole could be mad enough to believe that a new car can make them happy and complete.
    Beating ourselves up for greed will only increase the unhappiness and sense of failure – leading to more spending.
    Instead the message needs to be compassionate – to show that there is nothing missing, no need to feel bad if we don’t have x, y and z. We need to be kindly shown that we have all the tools necessary to opt out – to not buy.
    There is nothing “wrong with us” – we are just susceptible to a technique generations in the perfecting – and need to learn how not to watch the hypnotists pendulum.

  7. I must be in the minority…when my 18 year old complains he is bored or asks me to drive him to the mall, a block away… I tell him to walk. I did it when I was younger than him, and had to walk further… and not just to the mall, but also to work and school… neither of which he has to do because of the bus and his grandma. I also made him get his own cell phone plan at 18 and his own smart phone. I knew I could not afford it if he racked up some huge bill and he needs the account to build his own credit rating. IMO, it’s a better way to get credit rating than handing him a credit card. I have 0 credit cards that I use. I have one for a clothing store I am paying off, but have already told them I am canceling when it is paid off, due to the fact their clothes are cheaply (and incorrectly) made and I am tired of paying their high prices for crap. Their response was to send me coupons to buy more of their cheap crap. LOL I tossed them. The only debt I have now are student loans, which were unavoidable…

  8. there’s a great documentary about a bunch of people who are anti-consumerism. if i remember correctly, it’s called “what would jesus buy?” and it follows this rag-tag group to malls around the country at christmastime, trying to spread their message that material things are not the point of the holiday.

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