Shopping, overwork, stress, and high household debt are symptoms of a communicable disease that is sweeping the country and threatening health, marriages, and families. The name of this disease is "affluenza."
In a recent series of PBS specials, Scott Simon, a correspondent for National Public Radio, described how the nation's "penny-saved-is-a-penny-earned" frugality has been transformed into a consuming mania he calls "affluenza." " Never has so much meant so little to so many," Simon observed. However, despite more possessions and spending power than past generations, many people feel stressed, unhappy and overwhelmed. They are working harder and harder and enjoying life less.
How is marriage and family life impacted by "affluenza?" Fueled by advertising and easily available credit, priorities can become skewed. For instance, more people visit the mall each week than attend church. The average shopping time each week is six hours, yet the average time spent playing with children is only forty minutes. Add to this picture more than one million people declaring bankruptcy each year and you have several major symptoms of "affluenza!"
Is there a cure for "affluenza?" Simon says yes. To cure yourself of this affliction, people can take aggressive steps such as:
Place yourself on "shopping quarantine." In other words, stay away from malls and Internet e-merchants.
Read a good book instead of shopping.
Plan an activity together with your family or friends that doesn't cost any money.
Be more critical of commercials and advertising.
Reprogram your thinking. Picture the Jones as the thriftiest people you know rather than those who own the most and then try to keep up with them.
For more information about "affluenza" and its cures visit the following Web site: www.pbs.org/kcts/affluenza/home.html . Another good source of information about voluntary simplicity and downsizing debt is the book "Your Money or Your Life" by Dominguez and Robin.
If household debt has you worried, contact Rutgers Cooperative Extension for a PowerPay analysis. The principle behind PowerPay is that, as one debt is repaid, the monthly payment from that previous debt is applied to remaining creditor until all debts are repaid. Depending on the number of creditors owed and the outstanding balances, the amount of money saved by following the PowerPay program can range from several hundred dollars to well over $10,000.
With the PowerPay program, the total amount spent monthly on debt repayment remains the same. Calculations can also be done of "scenarios" with optional additional monthly payments (e.g., $25). Persons requesting a PowerPay analysis receive a calendar indicating the amount that should be paid to each creditor until all debts are eliminated. Up to 30 separate debts can be analyzed by PowerPay.
To obtain a PowerPay analysis, contact your local Rutgers Cooperative Extension office for a PowerPay enrollment kit. Included is a worksheet with spaces to provide information about the names of creditors, the monthly payment, the interest rate, and the outstanding balance. The cost of a PowerPay analysis is $2.50.