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Affluenza- An Unhappy Relationship With Money Essay, Research Paper

Causes & Cures

In this essay I plan to analyze a dangerous disease that is infecting people through the U.S. This disease is called affluenza it is very contagious and once infected with the disease it is difficult to unseat. Affluenza us characterized as an unhealthy relationship with money, swollen expectations and trying to keep up with the Joneses. Affluenza creates stress, bankruptcies, and causes problems in relationships. Although, there are some people who have a different definition for affluenza. Many people find affluenza to be a rich man’s disease and have responded by suggesting that the world has bigger problems without have to feel sorry for the rich. I would contend that affluenza that affluenza can be cured and maybe prevented. In analyzing affluenza I hope to shed insight those possibilities.

There is a disease that is sweeping the U.S. at an alarming pace. It is called affluenza it is very contagious and growing at frightening rates. In 1997, an amazing 1.1 million debt plagued spenders filed for personal bankruptcy that was a 28.6% increase from ‘96. Economists predict another 1.6 million to file by the end of this fiscal year, (Shop ’til We Drop [STWD], 1997). These are two vivid examples of the amazing rate at which affluenza is growing. These numbers are occurring

Causes & Cures

despite the strong economy and perhaps because of it. With the economy in the U.S. going so well credit card companies are issuing more credit. Consumers are then using their new found credit to buy without even thinking of how they will pay for the products. They get the credit cards because of the appealingly low 5.9% introductory rate and go for it, but the credit card companies usually run those rates up to 18% or more in the first six months before the consumer pays off the purchase, (Insight into the News IIN, 1997). This in turn leads consumers into over extending themselves. Although 96% of all consumers are using credit cards responsibly according to American Bankers Association ‘97, the typical person who files for bankruptcy takes home less than $20,000 a year and has more than $17,000 in credit charges and of that’s not overextending oneself what is. It seems that debt and affluenza go hand in hand and that combination can’t be good for relationships.

Affluenza causes hardship in all types of relationships especially families. In looking at affluenza as a disease and how contagious it is one wouldn’t want his or her family to catch it. But, sadly enough many families get affluenza and it consumes them and the final product is surely not The Waltons. An example of this is a women named Julie, 24, who filed for bankruptcy last year when harassing phone calls from creditors and high monthly credit card payments overwhelmed her. The mother of a 7 week-old child, she erased more than $20,000 of debt, most

Causes & Cures

of which was run up by her affluenza infected former boyfriend who charged clothes and took cash advances on her account. Even after filing for bankruptcy she has received three offers for unsecured credit cards, (IIN, 1997). This is an illustration of how the blame does not solely lye with the consumer. She tried to rid her self of affluenza but credit card companies were attempted to give her more credit at the same time. This goes against a quote made by David Sandor, a spokesman for Visa he stated, “No bank-card issuer wants a consumer to be over his head or in bankruptcy.” But, surely Visa and other companies have access to her credit report which states her credit history, including current debt, and surely bankruptcy.

Materialism is also a symptom of this disease we call affluenza. What perpetuates materialism and causes affluenza? This simple answer is marketers by uses an abundance of information that cannot be avoided they condition consumers to buy. One example that supports this claim is a statistic, it states by the age of 20, the average American will have seen 1 million commercials, (Spokesman Review, 1997). It would be reasonable to believe that if someone view a commercial even half the number of times they would feel the need to buy or use that product, wouldn’t it? A statistic that adds support to my claim consumers are conditioned to buy is consumers buy more for the label or name brand (77%) than for quality

Causes & Cures

(13%), (STWD, 1997). That suggest marketers are succeeding in their plan to condition consumers into buying their product without thought about quality or price. Some would say the simple solution would be to turn off the TV, but that wouldn’t solve the problem of marketers attempting to condition consumers either. Advertising accounts 2/3 of the space in newspapers and 40% of all mail, (Affluenza, 1997). This would seem to go against my thesis that affluenza can be prevented. But on the contrary with all of these advertisements one can shop around, compare the prices and find the best deals for him or her using the marketers plan against them and finding the best quality product that fits ones budget, and lifestyle. Although, marketers are in the business of promoting materialism and in turn perpetuating affluenza it all comes down to personal choice and self-control.

Another market segment that is being infected with the disease we call affluenza is the youth of America specifically young children. I would contend that marketers are trying to infect young children with affluenza so they can reap the benefits now and for years to come. Kathy Hoover-Dempsey, an associate professor of psychology and human resource development at Vanderbilt University states, “Young children believe advertisements are truthful and helpful, and it is not until early adolescence that they develop a healthy skepticism. I believe that marketers

Causes & Cures

agree and are attempting to infect these children with affluenza before they can become skeptical. My belief isn’t just personal it come with backing. At an

advertising conference at Disney World, Florida a Disney executive was quoted saying, “There’s something to be said about branding children, and owning them in that way.” (STWD, 1997). Branding isn’t that something one does to farm animals, and owning these are vivid examples of how serious marketers are about infecting the youth population with affluenza. Even credit card companies are advertising to young kid with the credit card barbie doll, and there always seems to be credit card advertisements in elementary schools lunchrooms, and the ads continue through middle and high schools as well as college classrooms as our own. Now with the information that is available to parents and consumers alike have to educate the children and instill the value systems that they see fit and hopefully steer the youth of America clear of affluenza.

One of the most common ways to catch affluenza is by trying to keep up with the Joneses it is also one of the most common occurrences in American families today. How does a family catch affluenza? A lot of families get it from other families. Thus, the term trying to keep up with the Joneses has significance. The produce of “Affluenza” John de Gaaf puts it into perspective though he says,

Causes and Cures

“keeping up with the Joneses is being replaced by a laser guided missile that makes keeping up with Michael Jordan or Disney a required part of life.” (STWD, 1997). I was infected with affluenza at an early age around the time I was 12 or 13. I was looking around at basketball practice one day and noticed I was the only guy without one of those $100 a pair Nike basketball shoes, and at that age fitting in was important to me. After practice that day I promptly returned home and began begging my mother for a pair of these shoes, but she explained to me that we couldn’t afford them. But, I was unrelenting and I finally got her to cave. Thus, although our family couldn’t afford these shoes I got them and that’s how I got affluenza. The question I ask myself now is can I be cured of affluenza? I answer myself with a resounding, Yes! The reason is simple I can be cured and so can everyone infected with affluenza. I know material items are sometimes necessary but now I list out my priorities and put them in order of importance and monetary value. Another method that I found useful is to value everything in terms hours. For example, this past summer I was making $9/hr. at my job and I wanted to purchase a new stereo with a price tag of nearly $500 installed. I computed the hours I would need to work to acquire this stereo and it came out to roughly 55.5 hours nearly a week and a halves worth of work. I then thought to myself is a stereo worth 55 hours of my time, and do I really have $500 for a unnecessary expense such as a new stereo. In the end I decided against the purchase, and by doing things of this sort when making a purchase can make affluenza a memory rather than a reality. This is just one method that I use but there are many other methods, simple methods such as going hiking instead of going to a shopping mall. Or while contemplating a major purchase sleep on it for a few days and then decide whether the item is within ones means. In the end one has to remember that the Joneses aren’t the co

In concluding, because affluenza is so dangerous it is important to track and gather information about it and how one can become infected with this terrible disease. Informing and educating oneself is always at the heart of preventing anything bad from happening but with affluenza it takes precedence. Remember to always take time when making a major purchase, use common sense, and ask the question do your ends meet your needs. There are many things one can do to steer clear of affluenza, but overall the cure for affluenza lye’s in the hands of each person and their spending choices. In the end I would warn that although affluenza can be prevented and even cured, it should not be underestimated it can do irreversible damage to families, and financial statements alike. I would also contend that society has an obligation to combat affluenza, but again the burden lye’s with the individual to make the difference. In closing, one final question one should ask them selves is do I have affluenza?

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