Wednesday, June 13, 2007

SHOCKER!: Teens unrealistic about money

What a superb article on MSN this morning. It also references five or six other msn articles that I have enjoyed as of late. The tie that binds is our fantasies and realities governing money. In this one, the particular issue at hand is teen expectations of money.

I constantly ask myself where these money grubbers come from? I mean sure, we all want to make a living. I'm far too bourgeois to pretend that I do not share this desire. But on the other hand, i'm also the product of an educational system that has reinforced to me time and again, in both religious and secular spheres, that money does not lead to happiness. And this isn't just pious drivel. Research bears out the basic truth, at least up to a point. To quote from the article:

Our whole society, and our economy, is built on the idea that "money will
make you happy," said attorney Jon Gallo, co-author with his wife, Eileen Gallo,
of the book "The
Financially Intelligent Parent
." "It's part of our cultural ethos. . . .
These teenagers are just epitomizing that."
In reality, money doesn't add
much to people's happiness once they're raised above the subsistence or poverty

"Money does make a huge difference when you're talking about going from
$8,000 a year to $30,000," said Gallo, citing the research of Harvard psychology
professor Daniel Gilbert, who wrote "Stumbling
on Happiness
." "Between $50,000 and $500,000, though, the difference is
scarcely measurable."

Many of the things that do make us happy, such as a sense of purpose
and strong relationships with family and friends, don't necessarily add much to
our nation's gross domestic product. In fact, Gallo joked that our economy
"would grind to a halt" if people gave up the idea that happiness lies in more
money and more stuff.

Basically most of us know this - in theory. Most others in our society are products of the same educational process I am, so what's the disconnect?

I think it's that in practice money is linked to other tangible good that we often want, namely power, prestige, and sex. I would venture to say that once these passions are controlled, the truism that money doesn't buy happiness becomes more meaningful to the individual.

Perhaps also we should take to heart what the good researcher says - we will grind to an economic halt without greed. And maybe this is exactly what needs to happen. The more and more we laud the idea that happiness results from stuff accumulation, the more and more we have to seize resources to sustain the idea. Many changes that we could make to maximize our lilfestyle effeciency would barely be noticeable if they were collective efforts. We could easily switch all motor traffick to hybrids. We could easily have plans to maximize the heating and cooling efficiencies of old units. We could easily set up an organic crop system that would allow for fewer but fresher and slightly more expensive food goods. The water pressure of casual focets alone is a big waste. And yes, we could switch to one-income households! Don't believe me? Check out the post on the economic value of the average mother.

Why must secular Europeans be the only ones that make these practical switches?


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