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Conflict of our needs and wants

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Having free will, we are in constant conflict between our needs and our wants. The battle continuously rages for our resources, our time and our relationships. The enemy is omnipresent and constantly attacks us. We are being subjected to a war within ourselves and we don’t even know who we are fighting.

The casualties of these inner-personal wars are all around us. They can appear as the financially overextended or even bankrupted; they can be either stressed out, chemically dependent or even mentally ill; they can be in a family feud or divorce court or even end up on the police blotter. The war zone is in our head, with our needs on one side and our wants on the other.

Needs and wants

Our needs are what it takes to survive. At the very basic level, human beings need air, water, food, shelter, clothing, relationships and the basic means to continue to survive. Our wants are everything else beyond our needs. As an example, we might want clean air, champagne, gourmet food, designer clothes, relationships with the rich and famous and a prestigious job to support our lifestyle.

You are probably thinking that life in a modern society is more than just basic survival and should include some components of the so called “good life” and I agree. The issue is realistically distinguishing between our needs, relative to our position in life and our wants. As an example, let’s think about transportation. I have always wanted a Mercedes S500, which costs about $120,000 new. I drive on average one hour per day and therefore my car sits in the garage the other 23 hours. Now, why do I want that car? Well, it’s prestigious, it has all the latest gadgets and a good friend of mine has one. However, even in this materialistic society, do I need it and is this a good use of my resources? The honest answer is no!

Who is the enemy?

The enemy brainwashes us every time we turn on the radio, TV, computer or open a newspaper, magazine, and even our own mail. The message is powerful and can transform our perceptions of wants into obsessive needs.

But who is the enemy? The enemy is within us and it is our fear and greed. We fear being too old, too fat, too skinny, unloved, unhappy – just add too or un to whatever you fear and you will find a product or service to address that fear. On the greed side, we buy more and more things we don’t need to try and satisfy our desire to attempt to control our lives and those around us.

In too many instances, we become slaves to our fears and greed. We buy things that we don’t need, with money that we don’t have and for reasons that we don’t understand. Ultimately, the enemy prevents us from achieving our financial goals and it stifles our ability to achieve financial freedom.

Reduce the conflict

It is nearly impossible to eliminate the conflict between our needs and wants, but it is possible to reduce it to a workable level.

n Establish and periodically review your family and financial goals. Your goals will keep you grounded and help you through those periods when you have to prioritize your financial decisions.

n Live in the moment. A lot of fear and anxiety can be overcome by taking care of today and not worrying about the past or tomorrow.

n Pay yourself first and live on the rest. Setup payroll deductions and automatic checking account payments for your savings and investment plans.

n Sleep on it before making any major purchases over $500. Are there lower cost alternatives to buying the product or service – renting, borrowing, etc?

n If you have to use your credit card, can you pay off the credit card bill within 30 days?

n The conflict between our needs and wants will rage on. However, because we do have free will, we have the ability to fight the enemy within us and move forward toward achieving our family and financial goals.

Michael G. Shinn, CFP, is a NNPA syndicated writer and Registered Representative of securities and investment advisory services offered through Financial Network Investment Corp., member SIPC. Visit www.shinnfinancial.com for more information or to send your comments or questions to shinnm@financialnetwork.com. © Michael G. Shinn 2010.

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