I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember this, and perhaps I’m showing my age a bit, but do you remember what life was like before debit cards? I still remember what it was like when we didn’t have the Internet (or at least the World Wide Web), or cell phones, or ATMs.
The more I think about that, the more I can’t help but wonder if all the conveniences and advances in technology actually make life better, simpler or happier. That the last one is not true is probably a slam-dunk argument. What about better or simpler? As far as “better” that would be difficult to determine since that is a subjective thing.
So, for today, let’s look at whether or not life is simpler. Is it? I suggest that life is not simpler. Allow me to explain just one area…money.
When I was in my late-teens, ATMs were just starting to become available. But, at the time, if you wanted to get money from an ATM, you had to find one from your own bank. You couldn’t just go to any ATM. Plus, your card would only allow you to do transactions with the ATM. It wasn’t a “debit” card as we know it today. No Visa logo. No check-card purchases. All you could do was go to the ATM and make a withdrawal or deposit (or check your balance).
Now, that was just 20 years ago. Go back another 5 – 10 years. No ATMs at all. You basically had a couple options when it came to big purchases. You could write a check or you could wait until a branch office was open and make a withdrawal from a living, breathing human being (they’re called “Tellers” by the way…which is where we get the Automatic Teller Machine from).
In many cases, people would pay cash for things. Some would do checks. If you were the “cash” person and you saw a new television that you wanted that costed a couple hundred dollars, what did you do? You couldn’t whip out your debit card…sorry…they didn’t exist yet. So, you’d leave the store planning on going to the bank the next day during your lunch break so you could go back after work and spend $500 on that new TV.
Except, something often happened between the time you walked out of the store and your lunch break the next day. You started thinking about it and realized that you don’t really need that TV. In fact, that did seem like an awful lot of money to spend on something like that right now. You’ve got some repair work on the car that needs done and you’re supposed to be taking the kids on vacation next month.
Compare that with today. Today, you would have walked out with that TV. Back then, you would have saved that $500 because you had to wait. The waiting part is the key, here. Nowadays, people want instant gratification. They see something and they have to have it right now! Don’t wait. Don’t reconsider. Don’t give it more thought. Ready…FIRE!!!….now aim.
As a result, today our debt is higher, we’re working harder to pay for things that we bought a long time ago, credit cards are rampant. We spend hours fretting over whether someone is trying to steal our credit card information (well, those of us in IT jobs who have to protect that information do, anyway). We have identity theft, passwords on our bank accounts, juggling balances between multiple credit cards, personal loans, a million different options for taking out a mortgage to buy a house (yes, there used to be your basic 15-year or 30 year loans…not much else).
Simpler? I don’t think so. It’s more complicated. More dangerous. More risky. More unstable. More uncertain.
Am I trying to be a doom-sayer, here? Not at all. But, I do think that people need to be reminded about things now and then. I do think that, once in a while, we need to take a look at how we got here and make sure we’re still headed in the direction we thought we were 20 years ago. If we lose sight of why we started doing certain things, those things tend to morph into habits and cultural norms that no longer have any meaning…therefore we can change them into things with different meanings.
When I think about that, this principle works in more areas of our lives than just money and finances.
Grace, love and peace.