(noun, etymology Dutch from ‘boedel’: estate, possession, inheritance, stock.). 1. Crowd, pack, lot, as in ‘the whole boodle.’ 2. a. Counterfeit money b. Money acquired or spent illegally or improperly, particularly when used in bribery for political purposes. 3. Slang for money in general.

Financial Activism and World of Well-Beings

Posted on: Aug. 30, 2011  |  By: Ronnie Kahn  |  Category: Advice, General

It’s official.  The financial markets have been diagnosed with bipolar disease.  Wildly down one day and then up the next (or even during the same day).  Everyone wants to know whether consumers will have the confidence to keep buying anything and everything they can find.  One day it seems we will keep buying and buying but the next day we seem to be too scared to keep the wallet open.  So one day the market retracts and the next it rebounds.  If we would just keep on buying though, we can keep a recession away as we return to the days of old of buying those insignificant ditties that give us so much pleasure.  If we do so, each household will earn their own copy of Trivial Pursuit with a pink wedge already included for entertainment.

With the markets hanging on every bit of information for telltale signs of retraction and recession versus growth or progress, what is more to the point is the SIIMP index.  The Substance-Image Index of Manufacturing and Production, or SIIMP as it is known, measures how much relevance there is in relation to reactions from actual events taking place.   I put the index right now at 160.  Normally, a balance between image and substance is given a score of 100.  If more and more of us are using reason and tending to concerns over and above the individual self, the index goes down.  If more and more of us are drifting toward the sense driven image side of things, the index goes up.  Right now, due to memories of 2008, the wild swings of fear and emotion in the financial markets have caused the index to reach its highest level ever.

They say that many of the manufacturing jobs have left the U.S.  However, the financial markets have joined our pop culture in manufacturing the one thing we have left, irrelevance.  There is a world of substance out there but it’s just that everyone seems to have forgotten about it.  Do not fret though; there is a holistic, natural medication for being bipolar which even offers a little relevance at the same time.  Here is how we can improve our own feelings of well-being and satisfaction while making the world a better place at the same time.  It’s easy to do and it can be done almost anywhere.  The cure for this roller coaster sickness is financial activism.  The question is whether we can change before we over-consume the world to death.

Make no mistake about it, we need consumers.  It is the fuel of our economic engine.  The problem occurs when our reality is made up of outside events, and those events whip us around like a roller coaster ride, we can’t consume our way to feeling better.  In order to bypass this “life is good, wait no, life is bad,” tendency for overreaction is, for one, consumption that matches our values and interests.  As many have found out the hard way, our consumer society thinks that we are all out for self-gratification and always put ourselves first.  If we followed our cultural cues, we would focus on our senses by caring about money, materialism, pleasure, and beauty.  After many years of doing interviews around the goals of what to do with our lives and money, I can safely say that most of us find value in things other than just ourselves.

Did you ever wonder about what makes an ecological activist tick?  Some of these individuals donate half a normal working week to the cause of saving the planet.  For most of us this seems extreme.   Most of us just do not seem to have the time or resources to give even if the cause is worthwhile.  So many of us do what we can do in the form of recycling, trying to conserve water and energy, or riding bicycles whenever possible.  Some of us even go a little further by joining environmental groups like the Sierra Club or Greenpeace.  In other words, there are levels of activism.  Some of us may be fatalistic and say why bother in the sense that we say “what can one person do?”  Others are not sure if we can save the planet from greenhouse gases, pollution, and using our resources, like oil, until none are left.  Still, we feel that we can at least try to help and do our part the best that we can.  Hopefully, if there are enough of us who think and act that way, than perhaps a ton of little choices and behaviors can make a difference.  This same analogy works for money as well.  You can be a financial activist and if more and more of us do so, than it will solve a problem that is greater than the self while improving yourself at the same time.

Did you ever meet someone that is so consumed with their self and their own problems that you just wished you could give them a Get Out of Jail Free Card so they could see the futility that you see when you look at them?  It is as though everything starts from the outside and tries to work its way in rather than the other way around.  There is a vast difference between those individuals who put themselves into a framework that is based on personal growth, autonomy, and understanding and those who dwell and are fixated with themselves.  The former takes a look at the whole self which is made up of things not only of self-contemplation but interpersonal relationships and things that are larger than the self, such as spiritual values.  These same individuals use money to fit into their long-term goals and values that they hold dear.  This approach to money is based more on an inner look at money than the outer carrot and stick approach to getting money for its own sake.  The outer approach, similar to the person who needs the Get Out of Jail Free card, gets stuck on what our culture is good at:  cultural ADHD irrelevance in the form of our sensory products of materialism, beauty, non-stop entertainment and pleasure.  While there is nothing wrong with these parts of our culture in and of itself, it becomes an issue when there is too much focus on the individual.  This goes hand in hand with the media and advertising that promote a lifestyle that often leaves folks stuck in the self while losing touch with the self-transcendent.  This is not to mention that consumption is like our Federal budget as we cannot keep spending or consuming more than we bring in.

What most of us need to be reminded of is that well-being for an individual is about the whole which is made up of more than just economic self-interest and a “what’s in it for me” attitude.  More to the point, it would be about the interrelationship between personal development, deep interpersonal relationships, social connectivity, purposeful goals, and spiritual meaning.  With this type of new holistic zeitgeist, we would lower our SIIMP index score as more and more irrelevance would be replaced by well-being.  The consumption would still be there but it would be driven by more stability, well-being, and moral values.  This new cultural narrative would take the form of financial activism.  Many would think that financial activism is about protesting at IMF events and becoming corporate shareholders in order to voice your opinion.  This level of extreme activism can be way too time-consuming for most of us.  Besides, there is the power of many small steps taken by the collective crowd.  This is what makes for change in our connected world these days.  Here are some do’s and don’ts to becoming a financial activist:

  • Create a long-term plan that works toward your life goals, interests, values, and purpose.  This keeps your focus on hope rather than a strict focus on the emotional self.
  • Goals should feel like they are “you” and should produce joy.
  • Use short-term goals within your long-term framework to provide feedback that you are making progress.  Do not put too much emphasis though on the short-term.
  • Study after study has shown that focusing on money for money’s sake or spending time dwelling on your own problems causes less satisfaction, fewer friends, less intimacy, and more envy.  You know you are in the land of ego when most of your time is about watching TV, playing video games, escaping with entertainment, shopping, and worrying about how you look to others.
  • Lower your personal SIIMP index score by reversing the image over substance bombardment that is our culture.
  • Money is social which means it works between individuals, groups, and institutions as billions of it changes hands each day.  So understand, use, and seek out the social side of money in the form of social groups, relationships, cooperation, and altruism.  Trust is a social relationship as well and that is what is at the core of the process of money.  The needs of the community can get you out of a focus on your own self and you’re your own problems while increasing a feeling of well-being.
  • Cultural values may help with connecting you to others and feeling a common bond but, at the same time, can also be out of touch with who you are and your own needs.  Question convention especially around areas where there is a tendency to avoid changing your goals and try to be open and inclusive with the groups that you form.
  • Focus on things that are greater than yourself by seeking out the wisdom of others and spiritual transcendence.  We need to lay the groundwork for an evolution that will keep future generations going.
  • Spending that works within your long term plan and your values will cause those who offer goods and services to develop more things that are in line with well-being.  If you like the idea of vintage clothing because it expresses more of who you are and does less to take resources from the planet then, if more and more of us think that way, used clothing stores will open up to accommodate the demand.  It is fine to give yourself a reward of entertainment for its own sake as long as you are not constantly trying to fill the deprivation basket.
  • Spending (and saving) is a form of redistribution of wealth.  Spend, even if it is a little more, on such things as local merchants, businesses that keep offering  jobs, businesses that have a sustainable awareness, businesses that support charitable causes and community outreach, businesses that give back by serving others, organic farmers, and so on.  Your job, like an environment activist, is to protect the money planet.
  • Your decisions are interconnected with others.   Small choices can move mountains if enough of us are doing it.  The internet has caused changes in economic and cultural structure from things that used to filter down to the masses which are now reversing that trend and causing institutions to react.  There can be a “power to the people” effect if decisions are measured and well-thought out rather than just knee-jerk consumer reactions.
  • Volunteer time especially to those who are vulnerable such as the elderly, youth, and those who are struggling to get by.
  • Speak to others and especially your children about staying away from the superficial and getting to your own deeper concerns and those of the community and world.  The bottoms-up and not top-down aspect of the internet means that more of us should be engaging in public dialogue in things like doing or commenting on blog posts, letters-to-the-editor, and so on.

Our cultural story tries to describe money as something totally separate from our world.   We supposedly behave out of self-interest and treat money differently from the real things we call living.  This story needs drastic change or we will keep serving ourselves doses of irrelevance until there is not much left to value or save.  Many of us know there is more to life than consumption, diversion, and popularity.   Most of us are not as egocentric and individualistic as economists would have us believe.  Entertainment and consumption do serve important places in our world and offer many positive qualities to our lives but meaning, purpose, substance, and knowledge are not part of their value.   There is a more holistic approach to money that produces a type of harmony.  Money needs to be reinvigorated as meaning, purpose, values, goals, and a way to transcend the self.  This is the core of Financial Activism.

2 Comments

  • Dick Vodra says:

    Good presentation helping put money decisions into a broader personal context – how do your choices affect the world around you, from your closest friends to your community to the world at large?

    Money isn’t wealth, but represents a claim on future resources (like lunch tomorrow), which in turn depend on our future supply of energy, water, stable climate, and other natural resouces. If those aren’t available, the money won’t buy anything. Thus, our lives, including our economic lives, should include actions and investments that are future-directed.

    Planet-wide, we have probably passed the peak of net usable oil (after deducting what it costs to produce the stuff), and we almost certainly have in the US, about four years ago. Many think we are close to a peak in coal production as well. Long-term plans like you describe need to keep these issues in mind. We need to build communities that involve less stuff and require less energy. We can make steps in those directions every day, including many of the things you recommend.

  • One of the main reasons for the success of small packs in several categories is their affordability to specific consumer segments.

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