Fast Money

Just as fast food tends to compromise nutritional health, ‘fast money’, in the form of credit, compromises financial health. There are many parallels.

Analogy of fast money as fast food

Convenience – It takes time to cook. It takes time to save money. It is not just the convenience of a quick swipe, it is the access to money when time is a higher priority than prudence.

Empty calories – Even when fast food restaurants offer ‘healthy’ choices, the default choice favors fat, sugar and salt; neglecting nutrients that would contribute to better physical health. Fast money choices result in closet fodder and drawer dumps; short term ‘wants’ that serve no needs. The long term consequences leave one wondering “Where did the money go?”

Pleasure – Fat and sugar light up areas of the brain associated with pleasure. So does a ‘deal’ or a sale. The brain rarely experiences the same ‘hit’ when purchasing real necessities.

Social cohesion – Debt and obesity have become the norm. That reduces the social stigma that might otherwise cause one to consider alternative habits. Rather, many openly discuss debt with a common proviso “…at least I am not in as much debt as most people I know!”

Perception of low cost – If you slow down and do some basic math, a ‘great deal’ based on ‘easy credit’ usually costs more in the long run. Short term lenders count on borrowers not to pay off that 0% interest loan in 90 days. Credit card companies stand to earn much more every time someone decides to ‘stick it to them’ by remitting the minimum payment. These short term strategies to cope with insufficient funds accrue interest in a way that can easily add 50% to 100% to the initial cost of any item purchased with credit.

Ailments not attributed to behavior – A diet heavy on fast food leads to gastric distress, heartburn, etc. Fast money distress presents itself as overdue notices, then as bill collection, progressing in the long term to repossession and foreclosure; all accompanied by a perpetual sense of depletion and deprivation. In other words, trying to keep up with payments on past purchases leads to discouragement when trying to plan for future needs. Instead of attributing such unpleasantness to fast money, blame goes to rising costs and stagnant wages.

Link to childhood – Think of children’s Happy Meals as a ‘gateway drug’ to brand loyalty as an adult. Then consider the absence of delayed gratification afforded by fast money at a young age; i.e., offering credit cards to credit-unworthy teens at Spring Break. That early start (with the presumption that parents would pay up if the teen could not) leads inexorably to a growing tolerance for debt as one ages (multiple credit cards, debt consolidation, etc.).

None of the above makes fast money inherently bad or evil. But if some of the descriptions hit a little too close to home it may be time to re-consider your relationship with fast money. A reduction in financial stress improves the quality of life.

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