CTV 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.
- Debt loads grow at fastest pace in 2 years (cbc.ca)
- Canadian debt load grew at fastest pace in two years: report (metronews.ca)
- Guest Blogger – “Living With A Narcissist” (scott-williams.ca)