Articles are available for reprint as long as the author is acknowledged: Domenick J. Maglio Ph.D.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Inflated Wallets, Arrogant Egos

The housing boom has turned into the mortgage bust. Financial experts are stating that people with “upside-down” houses, houses valued less than the mortgage, have no obligation to continue to pay. Their advice is “walk away and in several years you can restore your credit.” It is clear to these experts that money consideration trumps all other values.

Moral considerations of fulfilling one’s contract, keeping one’s word have been tossed out the window. They have been replaced with “it is all about money.” This is our new amoral guide to existence. The more we measure ourselves in material wealth, the less we follow what is right. Our humility plummets while our arrogance skyrockets.

Our corrupting materialism has trickled down to the youngest members of society. Children are blasé about even the most sophisticated gifts losing interest shortly after unwrapping them. The more people of any age receive something for nothing, the less gratitude and appreciation they can be expected to feel.

Even people who break our laws entering our country illegally demand the benefits of our social welfare system to which they are not entitled or deserve. Our unaware citizens pay in full. K-12 education, healthcare, subsidized housing, food stamps and college tuition for illegal aliens. Again it is something for nothing. Too many of us unconsciously believe our national treasury is limitless.

Disaster victims and our poorest citizens demand the government do for them instead of the citizens doing for themselves. Too many of us no longer feel it is our duty to help ourselves and our loved ones. Instead we expect the government do it for us. Our entitlement mentality has spread to every crevice of our nation.

Even financial mega corporations and affluent people who make risky investments in the stock or home market want others to bail them out. Financial decisions are being made under the assumption that they are going to make money, not lose it for companies as well as individuals. Presumptuously they believe since they made money in the past, the government has the responsibility to guarantee it in the future. The social welfare or “the government should save me from my poor but freely made choices” has caught on with all segments of society, even the wealthy.

Recent college graduates feel they should start at the top of the ladder. Their degrees should place them at the zenith of the pay scale, give them a great office with no supervisors above them since they already know everything. Their lack of professional experience is a non-issue. They have been told by their instructors that they have the latest knowledge and methods of doing any job. The professors’ hype and the parents’ material power have created an attitude of conceit that is detrimental to every aspect of their lives.

When the thickness of our wallet makes us feel good about ourselves, then the thinness of it makes us feel like losers. Many of us have gotten into the habit of buying something to make us feel good. People will no longer be able to use money power as their financial situation deteriorates. They will suffer the loss of a falsely inflated identity. The inability to continue to get a shopping adrenaline rush and no longer being able to hire people to do our menial chores will breed resentment.

People are already so desperate they are willing to raid their retirement funds. Using a debit card to withdraw their 401K is only delaying the pain of not being able to buy whatever they want whenever they want it. Eventually the person will deplete his nest egg and demand a social security government bail out.

What goes up must come down to earth. Losing the security of being rich on paper has a deflating effect that can reduce some to chronic depression. The worship of the amount of money accumulated leads to temporary arrogance and elation as well as inevitable disappointment. As the adage about money clearly states, “you can’t take it with you.”

The best antidote to corrupting materialism is to stop believing life is all about money. It is more about spiritual values: goodness, kindness and doing God’s work in every way Being rich in virtue can never be taken away no matter how poor one may become in material goods.

Thick or thin wallets can be a measuring gage of our monetary wealth but not of a life well lived. The measure of a rich man is not how much he has but how little he needs and uses to live a good life.

Dr. Maglio is the author of Invasion Within and Essential Parenting. He is a psychotherapist and the owner/director of Wider Horizons School.



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