June 22, 2007

I am going to give Netflix some free advertising but also admonish it to do more and be better.  We like movies.  We like watching movies.  In fact, our one weakness is electronic gadgets that make the movie watching experience at home phenominal.  Thanks to Netflix and their vast selection of titles, we rarely see movies in a theater any longer.  We enjoy them at home and we are lessening the global impact of consumption, waste and simplifying our lives.  However, Netflix could do more.

What I like, I select the movies over the internet and they come to me through my mailman.  In the past, we would see a movie in the theater and then if we absolutely loved it, we would buy it.  We don’t have to buy it now, we can get it from Netflix any time we like.   Since the mailman is coming to my mailbox anyway, we are lessening our impact on the earth by not making a trip to the store or the movie store, saving gas and most importantly, saving time.  I like any company that will use minimal packaging and turn my mailbox into a movie store.  No more late fees, no more deadlines, no more driving to the movie store.  No more expense. 

I like that Netflix doesn’t just have movies, they carry television series’ and exercise videos.  In the past, I would see an exercise video in the store, buy it and try it out only to have it languish in my cabinet because I got bored with it.  Now I can get one from Netflix and send it back for another when I get bored doing the same old thing. 

How is that for simplicity?  No excess clutter from unused tapes, no more buying videos to find out you hate the program, no more driving to the video store, taking time to pick out a video, driving home. 

What can Netflix do better?  Follow Amazon’s example of downloading movies to your dvr saving resources in mailers and the production of dvds.   Lets keep going to find cheap, simple and green alternatives to either buying or renting movies.

Trolling my favorite money sites, I found an interesting speech given to the United Nations by Vicki Robin, co-author of Your Money or Your Life.  In her speech Declaration of Independence From Overconsumption  Ms. Robin talks about the catastrophy of overconsumption on ourselves, our country, our humanity and our earth. 

The toll of overconsumption can be seen from many angles.    Ms. Robins makes a good case that in our “more is better” mentality, we are creating a global mess by tolerate wars over natural resources, such as oil, necessary to produce these goods and we allow corporations to indulge in wasteful, polluting or even unethical practices in our quest for more for less.   Each of these issues affects us individually but more importantly, it all has a global impact.  You know the old saying about tossing a pebble in the pond and seeing the ripples.  Personally, the more we consume the more we have to work both to pay for the goods and to actually  keep the goods clean and in working order, leading to a lower quality of life by leaving less time for ourselves, family and friends.  Overconsumption leads to debt, which leads to economic weakness for both individuals and the overall country because there is a less overall savings safety net, higher bankruptcies and less money to invest in infrastructure, education and future needs.

There are over 6 billion people in the world.  Can the earth sustain every one of those in a lifestyle in which the average American is accustom?  The answer is no.  The average American life is not sustainable because it uses enormous amounts of natural resources to produce just what American’s consume – only approximately 600,000,000 of the 6 billion people on the earth.  All ready at our pace, the earth is expected to be depleated of most non-renewable resources in just a century.  Not only will it depleat resources but more and greater consumption leads to more production that causes vast amounts of toxins and waste, vast deforestation, oil depletion, and depletion of fresh water causing species extinction, erosion, forest fires, enormous and vastly far more destructive hurricanes and storms. 

Ms. Robins challenges us all to sign a Declaration of Independance to become independant of consumption and consumer waste.  She challenges us to reign in our lifestyle to a sustainable level and to work toward minimizing the impact to ourselves consuming less, working less, giving ourselves more time for each other, civic responsibilities and ourselves and thereby reducing the overall global impact of our actions. 

I am signing a Declaration of Independance. I don’t want the things money can buy, I want time with my family, with my friends, with my hobbies and for myself. 

My recent vacation has recharged my batteries, help reprioritize my life and got me moving in more ways than one.   So, with that, I will jump right back into the deep end of the pool and get busy sorting my life out and helping others do the same.

Today I read an interesting article on MSN Money about today’s youth mistakenly believing they will be rich.  Now some will but there appears to be an over abundance of children believing that despite career choices such as teachers, they would earn a six figure salary and fall into the scant 5% of Americans in that bracket.  

When asked about their future, most polled for this article were not concerned, believing big bucks were simply around the corner.  What was even more apparent is that they don’t have any true idea of how they will earn that six figure income.  The fact of the matter is that today’s youth have a very unrealistic view of money, earning power and debt.  What will happen to these kids?  Well, since only 5% of Americans today boast a salary greater than $100,000, the other 95% is likely to end up in crippling debt before they have reached their 30’s taking out gigantic student loans believing their earning power will only increase and significantly offset the loan debt.  As well, credit card companies are making it easier to get credit cars and most college graduates are leaving college with significant consumer debt on top of their student loans.

This trend is disturbing on many levels but for me personally, I see it with my son.   As I posted earlier this year, my son has been trying to convince me to buy a new vehicle when my 9 year old car is perfectly fine.  He now has his eyes on a paddle boat that, in his words, ONLY costs $500.00.  We don’t need a paddle boat, nor do we want one, and spending $500.00 on a paddle boat simply isn’t going to happen, especially since we share a canoe with a relative. 

Clearly there are many influences at work in this great salary misconception going on in today’s youthful minds.  First we can look toward the media and the constant influence and bombardment of advertisement designed more and more for the youngest viewers.  Kids boast greater buying power than ever before; advertisers know this and focus as much energy as possible tapping into that market. 

Second, credit card companies make it easier and easier to gain credit with little or no financial rating allowing young children and teens to have access to fairly high credit limits.  Teenagers and credit cards without proper education on being “moneywise” is a recipe for disaster.  Both my husband and I achieved the grand status of credit card holders before we left for college.  Our lack of education on how to appropriately wield this power led to crippling debt that took over ten years and a fairly high income to retire.  It hendered our ability purchase a home earlier on in our marriage and meant lots of lean years right after our son was born.   

But ultimately even though the first influences two can be very powerful, we can lay the blame directly at the door of parents who fail in this one vital educational opportunity to teach their children about money, how to use it, how to save it and how to respect it.  Children look to their parents for instruction on how to manage their lives, including their buying power.  When they see parents racking up debt with impunity and trading in perfectly good older cars for the newest model, they will learn that debt is okay and image is more important than security. 

I take my job as parent seriously and with that, my husband and I will be opening our budget and sitting down with our son on Saturday morning to begin the basics of making him moneywise.   I encourage anyone reading to do the same so our children can escape the crippling debt/work cycle our generation has created for ourselves.