On Monday, I read an interesting little piece on MSN’s Top Stocks.
It seems there’s a mini-baby boom in the U.S. And now’s the time, it seems, to invest in certain stocks: Disney (especially because of the Baby Einstein brand), LeapFrog and Gymboree. These are companies that consultants say will see a lot of business from the boom.
So what on earth does this have to do with frugality?
Well, sure, it’s not apparent. But it is about parents. (And if you just groaned, feel free to blame/email my mother for that lovely punning tendency.)
Anyway, here’s the line that tripped my miser-alarm: “Parents don’t skimp on their children.”
Above the high-pitched wail of said alarm, I couldn’t think of anything. I just kept rereading those words.
I always thought skimping implied forgoing basic necessities and niceties, usually because of monetary concerns.
Sadly, none of this really should surprise anyone. We’re in a credit crisis, which is following on the heels of a subprime crisis. All because of a sense of materialistic entitlement that seems to pervade the country.
- People decided they deserved big houses — as big as they could get.
- People thought, “I could get a lot more car if I just leased instead of buying.”
- People decided they should get the biggest, newest and/or best technology — even if they had to put it on the card
So we end up with a whole bunch of people who are in danger of becoming homeless — but have great plasma television sets.
And since the average parent thinks his kid derserves everything, well, it’s even easier to go crazy.
Since children learn from example, they will, of course, inherit this attitude about conspicuous consumerism. How could they not? They’re given more toys than they can play with.*
Then, they’re put in front of the TV which handily tells them about even more things they need. And there are always new products to want. Something bigger, better and (it practically goes without saying) more expensive.
And as their parents cave to every little quickly-discarded fad — from Furbies to Tamagachi and back again — the kids learn that they deserve everything they want. And what they want is whatever they see.
But doesn’t being a responsible parent also include knowing when to say when? Doesn’t it include raising kids who know they don’t deserve anything?
So many people, in the midst of the economic woes, are wondering where this attitude came from. People blame lax credit standards, but that, I think, was just a case of opportunism. I honestly don’t know when it started. Probably, it’s been building since mechanization started easing the physical toil of most people’s jobs.
What I do know is that, since credit cards have become so ubiquitous, our country has never been the same.
MP Dunleavey points out that credit changes the way we think about money — and not for the better. Once you’ve been in debt, you’re likely to end up that way again.
And if you don’t believe that, you haven’t been paying attention.
Heck, I’ve only been around for 30 years, but I know we’ve scraped out of a couple of recessions in just the last decade or so. Things were bad, we became more circumspect — at least initially. But, instead of really cleaning up our act, we were like grounded teens: Biding our time until it was okay to go back out. Then we just started the process over.
That’s why I’m pessimistic about how many Americans will actually make lifelong changes to their spending habits. There are too many defensive people out there, blaming everyone but themselves
In a few cases, people were actually lied to. But more often, they were victims of their own greed. They bought into the hype that they deserved it all.
*Okay, my parents were a little guilty of that, too.