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Re: Overspending and Financial Ruin

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As VP of Brand + Creative for Ubiquity, Sylvia is a creatively driven entrepreneur with an unprecedented passion for the written word. With over 22 years in marketing and advertising and titles ranging from Director to CMO, Sylvia has worked with mega giants including Intel, Microsoft, IGN Entertainment, Activision, and Apple. She has also worked on projects with Jack Johnson, Mariah Carey, Denise Richards and YMCMB’s Lil’ Wayne and Birdman. Most recently, Sylvia co-produced Broken Eggs, the hard-hitting, feature-length documentary about the looming retirement crisis in America.

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September 7, 2014 at 1:33 pm
Personal Finance

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As one of the main characters featured in Veronica Dagher’s Six-Figure Incomes—and Facing Financial Ruin article, and after reading the multiple hundreds of comments on this polarizing piece on overspending, it is my opinion that overspending is a complicated subject that cannot be merely chalked up to acts of stupidity.

In fact, oversimplifying overspending and debt in general is dangerous. Getting to the root of an individual’s spending is critical if we want to fix what’s broken.

For some it’s an addiction, which can require a psychological reboot from a professional along with support from a group such as Debtors Anonymous.

For others, it’s indeed a crazy drive to keep up with the Joneses because they have the bigger house and the better cars and the fancy children who are polished and dressed head-to-toe in lavish branded clothing.

There is also, perhaps most importantly, a lack of financial education in this country. It’s not enough to attack the problem at the collegiate level—we must consider also an introduction of this education in high schools, heck, grade schools for that matter.

(Or are these not-yet introduced programs going to just be cut alongside the arts in favor of sports? Alas, I digress.)

For some, me included, overspending has its roots in depression. Although I know it’s tempting, don’t go pulling out the tiny violin orchestra just yet, or ever for that matter. This is not my personal pity party printed for millions of people to see. In fact, if it weren’t for the amazing company that I work with, this kind of article could/would be a career killer.

The facts: I was married for 15 years and was the sole breadwinner in my household. That is a tremendous pressure when you compound a marriage that is also not working. The anxiety, stress, and depression fueled my out of control spending—the only area where I seemed to have any control. When we split up, I was (and still do) pay alimony.

The article’s author embarked on this subject in earnest, of that I am certain. Ms. Dagher was looking to, and did in fact, ignite a conversation that needs continuous igniting. Obviously it came out with heat—needing only the WSJ as its platform for what will (hopefully) be a rabid forest fire.

It’s not enough that we went through an absolute melt down and annihilation of our economy. The fact is, our instant gratification society continues to not just struggle but epically fail—and it’s not just because there is a lack of education in this country. It is also because we live in a knee-jerk socially motivated society whose individual lives exist and persist in the limelight of 140 characters or less (no fact checking required).

Does overspending and fiscal ill responsibility also fall into that knee-jerk reaction without thought?

I submit that it does and will continue to do so. Until we indoctrinate our children in a financial education that has as much excitement around it as we have around sports, people like me will continue to tick off smarter people for years to come.

Stay frugal (and classy), America.

Sylvia, aka DebtGirl