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Doctor-Why Is It So Difficult to Save?

A Poetic Tale: Gurus of Marketing

By Somnath Basu PhD MBA

What is in spending today that cannot wait?

Surprisingly, the answer in not so much a financial one but much more one that is sociological and psychological in nature. Much of the answers lie in how we, as a society, react to the titillations carried through media that cajole us to spend even in the face of distressing financial conditions while exhorting us mercilessly to do so during economic bubbles.

Our spending on basic living needs is not the issue here. It is the add-ons, the options bundles, much like when we buy a car. The basic need of going from A to B as simply as possible fade when we consider issues of images (yellow Ferraris, superfast Vettes, 57 Mustangs, etc.), or comfort (plush leather, auto all) and all the other complex factors that go behind the “bundling options” decisions. Behind all these images are some very clever folks who subtly or not so subtly, intrude in our mind and link connections between our desired images and a product that seems to exclusively cater to it.

Consumer [Physician] Behavior

This realm of the study of the purchase decision process lies in the academic arena of consumer behavior and market research. Some very smart folks study how we make these spending decisions, in every possible combination. They study how kids get excited about various toys when they watch Sponge Bob or Barney on Nickelodeon and suggest their appeasement possibilities. They copiously study every buying habit of yours when you save oh-so-many dollars because you used your grocery’s preferred card(s).

Of course your credit card company knows these already down to the details of what you charged $3.25 for on your card. The popular magazines and journals know exactly what type of people read their rag, down to the last details of the number of kids you have and whether you eat out more than five times a week. In turn, for most consumers, it is extremely difficult to resist such consumption spurring. Understanding our own personal financial health condition is somewhat akin to most people not wanting to conduct their own surgery and self-medication of their own appendicitis, no matter that drugstores may any day introduce do-it-yourself kits! In a nutshell, we are quite helpless.

Just Imagine

Imagine you are parents of two or three kids and you both work. You come back home at the end of a long hard work day after picking up the kids from various activities and figure out the day’s dinner protocol. After that, tuck them in bed and sit in front of a TV to relax and enjoy your personal quality time a bit. This is your prime relaxation time. Your guards are finally down.

Obviously, it also happens to be prime time TV for which corporations pay top $ to be in front of you. Wafting through the TV (or from the newspaper / magazines or radio for the snobbier) come through subtle and not so subtle images of a happier you skiing down some fine Colorado powder or on a Caribbean beach sipping umbrella-clad drinks. Pictures of yourself – a happy retired millionaire at 40 or so. And, you know what happy people do. Next morning the natural query is to enquire about credit possibilities on your home equity or credit card. What chance do we have to resist being like such beautiful people? Our present is all we know of our future and how can we step into this future without a happier now!

My Proposal

A friend once proposed this financial study to me. Call up a financial advisor, one you do not know, pls. Maybe someone from the yellow pages or from the local classifieds with lots of credentials after their name, preferably starting with a “C”, though any alphabet soup will do.  Ask them what you should do with the $200,000 you just inherited. Now watch for the effects of the underlying corporate marketing gurus to come through to you – fangs and all.


Who can protect us from this onslaught? Not corporations, politicians, bureaucrats or government. Can things get worse? We’ll have to wait and see what kind of a mess we get into, or not, when the Consumer Protection Act of the financial reform bill gets implemented and understood over time.


And so, your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

NOTE: Somnath Basu is a Professor of Finance at California Lutheran University and the creator of the innovative AgeBander (www.agebander.com) retirement planning software.

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One Response

  1. Financial Planning and Risk Management Handbooks for Doctors

    * http://www.jblearning.com/catalog/9780763733421/
    * http://www.jblearning.com/catalog/9780763745790/

    Hope R. Hetico RN, MHA
    [Managing Editor]


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