When I was a teenager I had a recurring dream which invariably delighted me: the episode would always begin by my noticing a shiny dime near the sidewalk where I walked. As I reached down to retrieve it, two quarters would be uncovered in the soil. By grabbing those two coins, at least four half-dollars would appear underneath, and it was obvious that I had stumbled onto a numismatic fortune. I would begin shoveling money by the handfuls, while looking over my shoulder. Always standing or walking nearby were dozens of people who hadn't noticed my discovery, and I was anxiously trying to stuff the cash in my pockets before being mobbed by competitors. There were slight variations to this theme (once I found millions of S&H Green Stamps,) but a distinct element of greed was always represented. Now, many years later, I'm happy to say that I've recovered from this greedy nature; instead, I frequently dream that I'm standing immobilized while everyone else finds the money! That's what decades of taxes and creditors have done to my adolescent aspirations.
What role do financial problems play in your mental life? It is likely that money matters are troubling to you too, because this item produces worry and anxiety for the entire human family. Financial stress certainly affected the women who completed our Sources of Depression questionnaire, for it ranked as their fifth most troubling difficulty. Remember also that this survey was obtained two years ago when inflation was less threatening than it is today; now it seems that every business, every school, every hospital and every home is struggling for financial survival. Furthermore the hemorrhage of gold into the oil-producing nations of the Middle East may continue to plague the rest of the world--meaning the worst may be ahead. If economic depression comes, we may all have to learn to cope with its emotional consequence.
There are thousands of books available for those who want to gain control of their monetary resources, and I am no authority on that subject. Thus, my comment on this topic will be brief and to the point. My one contribution is in opposition to the lust for more and more things--leading us to buy that which we neither need nor can afford.
Though I can make no claim to wealth, I have tasted most of the things Americans hunger for: new cars, an attractive home and gadgets and devices which promise to set us free. Looking at these materialistic possessions from the other side of the cash register, I can tell you that they don't deliver the satisfaction they advertise! On the contrary, I have found great wisdom in the adage, "That which you own will eventually own you!" How true that is. Having surrendered my hard earned dollars for a new object only obligates me to maintain and protect it; instead of its contributing to my pleasure, I must spend my precious Saturdays oiling it, mowing it, painting it, repairing it, cleaning it, or calling the salvation Army to haul it off. The time I might have invested in worthwhile family activities is spent in slavery to a depreciating piece of junk.
One summer I examined a swing set which was on display in a local toy store. It was shiny and well constructed, so I purchased an identical model for my children. When the delivery men arrived, however, they left me with a long box containing 6324 pipes, 28,487,651 bolts, 28,487,650 screws, and a set of instructions that would make Albert Einstein swear and bite his nails. For the next forty-eight hours, I sweated to accommodate bent parts, missing parts, and parts from a 1948 Ford thrown in just to confuse me. Finally, the wobbly construction sat upright, though by this time I had mauled the knuckles on my right hand while trying to force a half-inch screw through a 3/8" hole. However, the crusher came as I read the final line printed on the backside of the instructions; it said, "Please retighten all the bolts on this apparatus every two weeks to insure its safety and durability." What better example of materialistic slavery could there be? Along with every thing else which I dare not forget, I’d then have to devote every other Saturday to this tin monster, or else it'll gobble up my children! That, friends and neighbors, is the price of ownership.