“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.”
― Joseph Campbell
“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace,” John Lennon once preached from the pulpit of his own genius.
And he was right. We, meaning you & I, have the power to change things if we desired to do so. We have the power to elevate our lives to a whole new level. We have the power to live on our own terms.
But we tell ourselves that we can’t possibly do that. We can’t live on our own terms, we’ve got too much baggage to carry. We’re strapped down with too much responsibilities. Too much stuff to pay for. Too much debt to deal with it. Too much stress to medicate for. Too much… too much…too much… of everything.
And not enough life.
What if we had less, we were able to live more deliberately. What if being debt free, would enable us to fly higher. What if we spent money on “experiences” rather than “things,” we’d finally feel alive again.
Buy Buy Buy… And Then Buy More
Marketing is the most successful gimmick on the planet. It leads us to buy stuff we can’t afford to impress people we’ve never met. And companies pay an obscene amount of money to convince you to do this. The money spent on advertising by McDonald’s alone is enough to feed Africa. Let that sink in.
And unfortunately, we’ve all bought into this highly efficient, very convincing propaganda. We truly believe that if only we buy “this” or “that,” we’ll be happy. We’ll be more relevant. We’ll be better off. And even though we never are, we go on buying the next new and improved thing, believing maybe this time.
It’s always “Maybe This Time.”
Maybe this time I’ll be happy with this brand new truck (on a 72-month loan). Maybe this time I’ll look better with these designer jeans. Maybe we’ll have more family time if we put in that backyard pool. “Maybe this time” is a time that never comes. And the things we buy end up chaining us to a life of mediocrity, enslaving us to a 9 to 5 job we hate and robs us of the life we’ve always dreamed of. This is the big charade we call “The American Dream.”
Americans Are Financially Screwed… Again.
In the crash of 2008, half of our retirement savings were wiped out. Jobs disappeared. The housing market plunged. Layoffs happened. No one had savings to fall back on. Things were very grim, financially. Did this crash teach us a valuable lesson? It should have, but it didn’t. We’re back in the same boat. And the boat is sinking…again.
The whole US economy survives solely from the feeding tube of available credit. Debt, debt, debt. We buy crap when we’re bored, take out unnecessary loans, drive cars we can’t afford, max out credit cards and use home equity lines of credit for inground pools that, unfortunately, we drown in.
Delayed gratification is a relic of the past. We need it now. We will get it now. At all costs.
The average household credit card debt is now at its highest level since the financial meltdown 8 years ago.
The average person has 4 credit cards in their wallet.
With the cost of living outpacing income growth, a great number of us are using the buoy of debt to stay afloat. This isn’t good. It won’t last.
How bad is it?
According to Nerdwallet.com, the average American household carries $15,675 of credit card debt. Auto loan debt hovers around $28,000. Student loan debt lingers near $50,000 for the average household.
Almost half the folks in the country aren’t able to cover an unforeseen $400 emergency without borrowing money or selling something.
Hardly anyone has 6 months of savings in the bank. More than half of Americans don’t even have ONE month’s worth of income saved up.
62% of Americans have less than $1000 in the bank. Even more alarming is the fact that around 30% of people have absolutely nothing in savings.
Could this be the reason that we live in the most prosperous nation on earth and yet we’re all depressed, stressed to the core?
Is this the reason that so many people survive on antidepressant medication?
According to a recent study, “people with credit card debt and overdue bills are much more likely to experience symptoms of depression than those who don’t have such debts.”
Could this be the reason 50% of marriages in the US end in divorce?
Debt is not only robbing us of our freedom and dignity, but it’s actually killing us. According to researchers from Northwestern University and McGill University, “young adults aged 24 to 32 with high debt had higher diastolic blood pressure than others.” Debt also leads to insomnia, bad eating habits, and extreme restlessness.
According to the NY Times, “Suicide rates among middle-aged Americans have risen sharply in the past decade, prompting concern that a generation of baby boomers who have faced years of economic worry and easy access to prescription painkillers may be particularly vulnerable to self-inflicted harm.”
Today, more people are dying from suicides than in car accidents. And the number is rising steeply every year.
In short, our financial habits are a great burden. And debt is completely ruining the essence of who we are.
What To Do
Stop shopping and start living.
I know, this sounds extremely simple. And it is. Most solutions to big problems usually tend to be. It’s the initiation of the simple solution that’s the difficult part. Here are 8 practical things you can start doing today to get out from under the boulder of debt and start living a worthy life:
- Stop spending money. Track your spending for a month, locate the essentials and cut out everything else. Baby steps. Do this for 1 month. You’ll be amazed at the mindless things you spend money on and how easy it is to cut it out of your spending.
- Get out of debt. Read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover (click here) and follow it to a tee. It works. I’ve been debt free (besides a mortgage) since 2008. It was this simple book that opened my eyes to the fact that debt is not a necessity for living. He also introduces a workable strategy to rid the debt burden forever. You can also click here for a list of 5 great budgeting apps that’ll get you on track.
- Sell it. Sell it all. Or most. The average household has over 300,000 items in it. One of the first practical things you can do right now is start selling your crap. You’ll declutter your life while at the same time make a little money to pay off your debts. EBay is an effective tool. So is garage sales. The fewer possessions you own, the more deliberate you’ll live your life in the present. Consume less and live more. As Bukowski once muttered, “the less I needed the better I felt.” Click here for 21 benefits of owning less.
- Break the routine. You’re stuck in the pattern of everyday life. You have to break away. This is huge and I promise this is the key to living a more fruitful life. Do something out of the norm every now and then. Call in sick to work and start a blog. A new hobby. For me, I pack a backpack with only the essentials. Pick a place I’ve never been. Then go, alone. I do this with no plans and a very small budget. I bring a tent for cheap lodging. I walk the city. I talk with locals. I get a feel of what it’s like to live there. I mesh in with the vibe of the place. This makes me feel alive. It forces me to be uncomfortable. It shatters the monotony of doing the same thing every day. This is how I break the routine. Just recently, I bummed around for a whole weekend in Key West, Florida. It cost me less than a trip to Target would have.
- Strip away all negativity in your life. I know, this sounds redundant. It’s a cliché statement. Everyone says it. But it’s huge. Your thoughts define who you are and how you live. Your mind creates the reality around you. It can be your best friend or your worst enemy. And we all know how easy it is to get trapped in the cesspool of negativity, especially in the age of Social Media and the 24-hour news cycle. Turn off the news, learn to control your thoughts, and stay away from the Debbie Downers in life. They’ll ruin you.
- Be a creator. Nothing gives an individual more of a sense of purpose than creating something and being appreciated for it. Everyone is an artist. Everyone has the ability to uniquely produce something of value for other people. Once you find what your art is, hone this craft, learn everything about it, fail often, get better and then share it with the world. As Andy Warhol said, “Don’t think about making art. Just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they’re deciding, make even more art.” This will give you purpose and pave the way for you to make a living doing what you love. Freelancing our creative works is the future economy. Start now.
- Read quality books. As Dr. Seuss once wrote, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” To experience life on a deeper level, you have to read. Read the greats, the stoics, the poets. Read Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy. Read Sartre and Camus. Read Nietzsche and Schopenhauer. Read Emerson and Thoreau. Read Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth (click here). For me, this book, more than any other, opened my eyes to the mystery and wonder of the world while at the same time shedding light on the human experience.
- Prepare for the new economy. The “employee” is a dying breed. So is job security and the pension. 1 in 3 workers in the US work as freelancers. It’ll be half by 2020. This means you can hire yourself. You don’t need resumes or job interviews. You don’t need them now. College, which is incapable of keeping up with this new reality, is useless for most young people. A better return on investment would be to learn a relevant 2017 skill (which you likely already have), make it a side hustle, build a platform and a portfolio, then share it with world every day. This how you win as the old world crumbles away.
You’ve been snatched out of nowhere from the vast cosmic abyss and placed on this planet, the only planet we know of, that sustains a life like yours. The odds of you being here are nearly impossible. But you defied it all. You won the lottery. You’re a walking miracle. And to be alive, truly alive, is a radical thing. As Joseph Campbell reminds us, “Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.”
In the blip of time that you’re here, it’s on you to do what you love, and live deeply and fearlessly. Don’t enslave yourself with debt. Don’t waste your life trying to impress people. Don’t fall for society’s trap. Your time is almost up. Love. Explore. Be free. And just say yes to it all.
You can also visit my Etsy shop at www.etsy.com/shop/RamblinRittPhotos for prints of my recent photography!