We are WMC’s – Weapons of Mass Consumption

I was driving to the gold coast for a day on the beach with my girlfriend Eimear last sunday. Along the way we had the tunes blasting. The sun was shining (finally back to proper Brisbane weather) and Lilly Allen came on… we had 2 options, plough the car into the guard rail so our ears didn’t have to suffer the pain OR bop along and try to enjoy her sickly sweet pommy note. We end up doing the latter and I am glad we did because one of the lyrics in her song hit me. she said this.. “I am a weapon of mass consumption.. its not my fault, it’s how I’m programmed to function” and I don’t know why but it just resonated with me. What a spot on and truthful way of putting it. Tell the spy’s to stop sniffing around Korea and rather take a look at the databases of local banks for customers of my generation.. that’s where the real terror lies! There are so many weapons of mass consumption around its not funny. And the ammunition fuelling the consumption catastrophy is a sexy, colourful, innocent little piece of plastic sitting in our handbag or man bag.

Our desire for new things and our obsession over new innovative products knows no bounds. The easiest example of this is the latest iPhone or Samsung phone. Those bastards are coming out with a new version every 6 months these days and they know for a lot of us, it’s a MUST HAVE.. hence the lines of people camping out the front of the stores waiting to get their hands on the new toy. Those extra 3 mega pixels in the camera and the new eye scrolling technology is a absolute world changer for us right??. Today we are bombarded on every device, computer screen, billboard and back of the local bus with new products, pushed towards us. How can we not be brainwashed into becoming G.I Consumer soldiers when this stuff hits our eyes roughly every 20 seconds. Let’s face it, most of the stuff we buy we might want, but definitely do not need. But even then, no one can deny the appeal of online retail sites where it is so easy to fill your cart up and click the PayPal purchase button and it’s in the mail. It’s just too convenient that I must do it!

It’s all the visual clutter that fuels our natural instincts to want more. It literally makes our urges stronger than our will power and transforming our “want and have it now” desires into weapons of mass consumption. We have to stop and wonder about when we will reach the breaking point… Is it when we finally look at that credit card statement, or when the friendly debt collector comes knocking at our door or even worse, when we go to purchase something of actual value to us, something called an “investment” that the good lender can’t budge because of the toxic bills you’ve racked up. I wonder when our senses will be fatigued by the daily invasion of deals and whether we can still take pleasure in the fact that we as consumers are playing a part in a retail revolution.

How should we youngsters fight the war on terrorising consumption?? Are we are own enemy or can we also be our own hero and take the necessary action to change…


Girl talk at Sunday breakfast

I got the rare opportunity to have breakfast with my lil sister on Sunday morning, which was great as we don’t get to see much of each other living in different cities. She had a couple of her friends meet us, who I had not seen for years join us so it was a great breakfast all round. We got to catching, reminiscing and catching up on the few years that have passed since the days of stressing over uni exams and scrounging coin together to have a soy cappuccino (not my choice but seems to be popular) together at the fav coffee store. There were a couple of standout topics whilst chatting which I wanted to share because I’m thinking the girls aren’t the only ones rowing the boat.

Post university life
All three girls studied together at the same time doing the same university degree and from what I saw back in the day, couldn’t love anything more than going to hangout with their class of 30 or so and learn the next thing about their degree. They were itching to get out and practice, the passion and enthusiasm they had was magnetic. This is definitely not the same experience I was having whilst trudging through a business degree… yawn! But after talking too them yesterday, they said about a third of their graduating year either want to leave or deviate from the discipline they spent 4 long years studying. They either hated the job completely and wanted out to a new adventure, or like my sister and her close friend, wouldn’t mind deviating to something else within the industry asap. I found this to be pretty extraordinary as looking at the girls and their friends going through university loving every minute (well almost) and having absolute certainty what they wanted to be to now, three years on, a little bewildered, battered, ready to head back to uni and/or ready for a complete change. It gets me thinking as to how many people spend years upon years of their early life studying a discipline only to either actually dislike the industry all together or decide that its just not their passion and further searching needs to be done. I would like to think of our careers as an investment. For a lot of us younger players, our careers is where our financial reward/return will come from for a good few years to come, so like any wise investment choice, I think a little more planning needs to go into the investment before you start swapping your time for the return. This comes back to really how you want to spend your time, understanding what personality you have, what way you want to live your life and what your passion really is.

Pushed out to sea with no paddles
We continued to chat away, eating our french toast and potato rosti’s diverting the conversation to some light girly chat (introduce monkey playing the spoons in my head for the next 5 minutes) and then one of the girls said… It’s just so hard, this world of business and money. One of the girls has been running her own business basically straight out of university which has been an amazing challenge and I applaud her for doing it but she said it has been difficult because there is so much to running a business that we don’t know about and don’t get taught and there is no guidance for the younger guys wanting to do it. Then one of the other girls started describing the difficulty of knowing what to do with their money and their partner wants to buy a house but doesn’t know where to start and the conversation went into a whirlwind of all things finance. So I imparted a few words and I thought I’d share them again. It often feels like after graduating whether it be high school or university and we get a job , we get put in a little boat and pushed off out to sea with no paddles and no functioning GPS, maybe if we are lucky a rusty compass that our parents gave to us growing up. We are expected to coast through our 20’s and possibly into our early 30’s learning the ways of the world and battling the stormy seas because we all need the learnings for each experience to help us grow. Well when it comes to our finances, our 20’s and 30’s are typically our best time to shine and get an amazing head start but this is rarely the case. Our rusty compass normally steers us to the local nightclubs, the local credit card store, maybe a few exotic worldy locations and maybe even the local car dealership. We typically have more than enough disposable income, the stuff we should have after paying for food and shelter, than we for a long while after “settling down” to buy a house and start a family, which could be used to start building wealth early on. So why do we normally get to our early/mid 30’s and go SHIT, I had a great time, but how did I get here… It’s not too late to do something about it, but man it would have been nice to start earlier on. The girls are still early 20’s and now have the choice. They can proactively take an interest in their financial position and start to grow their wealth early or they can follow their rusty compass until they finally hit a sand back and have to start padding against the tide to get to where they want to be. I have no doubt they will take a proactive approach to sorting out their finances, but I for one am going to make sure they have guidance in doing so. That’s what we need, guidance, advice and support. Almost everything we want to do with our financial position has been done before so we just need someone to show us the ways.

Now if you feel the same way as the girls do about your career choice or your finances, I’d love to hear about it and will help wherever I can. Have an awesome week!

Find your super and give a damn about it – it’s your money after all

OK, I have been talking about this with so many people over the last couple of weeks that I had to write a quick post about it. Superannuation… Let’s face it, not a hot topic in most peoples books and something that most workers couldn’t give a rats about but I’m going to give it a shot. Think for a second, If your boss paid you a weeks wage into your account and then said you have to give back 9% because they were going to go spend it on your future., you’d want to know what and how they were going to spend it right??? Damn straight you would. Well this is happening every week with your super contributions, only to most people its just a number that shows up on your payslip… You don’t really see it, you don’t really know where its going and you don’t really care because you can’t touch it for like a billion years! Speaking of billion, the ATO says their is currently around $20.2 Billion dollars in unclaimed super lurking in the abyss (Australian Taxation Office, commissioner of taxation annual report 2010-11). Chances are that some of that is yours. Tip for you today, give a damn about it. The reason it exists is because you need a big pile of cash to survive on after you decide to retire and these days, from retirement until till you’re expected to drop off the perch is a looonng time. Quite possibly just as long as you were in the work force! This being the case, that pile needs to be stacked high to ensure it lasts as long as you do. You need this thing to be working for you, you need to know where it all sits and you need to be looking after it as early as possible.

All private sector superfunds must report and pay their unclaimed super money to the ATO so that’s the best place to start the search for any unclaimed money. Go to http://www.ato.gov.au and use their “superseeker” facility to track it down. They also have a 24/7 phone line 13 10 20 but, hot tip, have your tax file number handy in order to access this information. As an added bonus if the balance is less than $200 you can withdraw this money tax free, regardless of your age.