Your Inner "Material Girl"
Pamela Ayo Yetunde
day is just around the corner. If you are an early-bird who has
already filed her taxes, congratulations! For everyone else, here
are a few tips to save you money and time.
I was invited to speak on the issue of Black Economics. As I
contemplated my remarks, I thought it best to begin with the greatest
obstacle to our financial power – our preoccupation with the material.
must have a collective preoccupation with the material because studies
show that Black Americans have never owned more than two percent of the
nation’s wealth. Some researchers have found that the more money
earned in the community (nearly $400 billion annually), the more our share
of the wealth dwindles (currently estimated around 0.5%). If neither
theft nor poor math accounts for this discrepancy, then what does?
inner “material girl” screams for release and seductively whispers for
attention. She cannot be ignored, for her appetite for expensive and
unnecessary things is hearty. Material girl must be fed, but she’s
only satisfied when you buy something you don’t need, at the expense of
doing what is necessary. She is usually a very bad girl.
there an inner “material girl” in you?
you’ve answered any of these questions, “yes,” then you may have a
material girl lurking inside you. If it helps any, you are not
one, save Madonna the singer, admits to love of things. Even when
challenged, some of us deny our dependence on the material. In
hundreds of conversations with my clients about their obstacles to
achieving their financial goals, only two or three admitted they are
materialistic. Most people have been preoccupied with the material at some
point in their lives because our culture applauds material attainment and
our economy thrives on materialism.
Random House’s College Dictionary, materialism is defined as:
attention to or emphasis on material objects, needs, and considerations
with a disinterest in or rejection of spiritual values.
Who said anything about disinterest or rejection of spiritual values?
Generally speaking, we are a buying and religious people. Faith brought
our people through slavery, through Reconstruction, through the Great
Depression and through the Civil Rights era. I guess that’s why we
claim we are a spiritual people. But can faith help us keep the
inner material girl in check?
With compassion, you can see the spiritual side to people and the world.
The more you focus on people, the more objects and trinkets become
why choose to be more compassionate when we could simply remain
materialistic? Compassion is a win-win for everyone and does not require
anyone to renounce an appreciation for things. Take my life, for
college I aspired to become a highly paid advertising copywriter. A
falling-out with my mother caused me to re-evaluate the meaning of life.
During this lonely period, I realized two things: I would be unhappy
without love and the world did not need me to be wealthy, but simply
required me to assist people in need. My newfound mission
disappointed my advertising professor yet compelled me to see the world
beyond my provincial existence in Indianapolis.
six weeks in Zimbabwe, I visited a refugee camp. Thousands of
scantily clothed Black people lived under rickety tents eating bowls of
meal under an unbearable sun. They had been there for several months.
I was there for 30 minutes. As I was reminded of my wealth, my inner
material girl was humbled. I also had my first true test in
compassion – I felt their suffering as if it was my own. My soul
was shaken, my worldview turned upside down, and my preoccupation with
things material diminished.
you think about your money management goals, and your inner material girl
begins to cry for attention, plot your beliefs on a value line. At
one end put material, on the other end, put spiritual. Then list
your budgetary items. For example, if you are single without
children and rent a two-bedroom apartment to store your stuff, ask if your
rental decision was inspired by the material or the spiritual (maybe you
needed the second bedroom for a meditation room).
experiences that have made you more compassionate. Was it
encountering a homeless person on the street? Was it a story about a
crack baby abandoned in a garbage can? Maybe it was a misfortune in
your life and the pain of it makes you pray that it doesn’t happen to
other people. If you cannot recall an experience that has led you to
be more compassionate, think of what would make your life miserable.
No job? No food? No housing? No love? And give
away some of what you have to someone else.
on spiritual values helps us reform the inner material girl in us.
With the material girl subdued, we can take economic responsibility for
the long-term well being of our families, our communities and our society.
Denying the material girl immediate and temporal gratification gives us
the fortitude and means to become collectively happier and wealthier.
and philosopher, Albert Schweitzer said that the happiest people in the
world are those who have sought and found a way to serve. I know
this truth, because as I serve the investment education needs of our
community, I have less desire to listen to my inner material girl.
Through serving, I have become happier and more prosperous. I know
that saddens my inner material girl, but girlfriend can’t always get
what she wants.