Dunaway Law June 2019

June 2019

DUNAWAY DIGEST

One Perimeter Park South, Suite 100 North, Birmingham, AL 35243 • 205.705.3590 • MatthewDunaway.com

Take a Step Back Relearn What’s Normal

I’ve been thinking a lot about the worst part of our culture. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about how to separate myself and my clients from the worst part. While there are certainly a lot of great things about society and our culture here in America, in my 48 years on this Earth, I’ve seen that one of the worst things we do is also something everyone seems to accept as normal: incur debt. As a lawyer, I know there are circumstances in which someone finds themselves in terrible debt even though they literally did nothing wrong. Some things went out of their control and sent their life spinning. However, most of the massive consumer debt we’re burdened with is the direct result of our society encouraging a “consume now, buy later” mentality. As I’ve discussed in the past, our economy is sustained by people going into debt. At this point, the “buy now, pay later” approach is expected of everyone. If you don’t have five credit cards, a car payment, and student loan bills, people look at you like you’ve done something wrong. “What about your credit score?” they ask. Keep in mind that I’m not criticizing anyone for how they spend their money. If you can afford a new car, by all means, get that new car. I am also not suggesting all debt is bad. Business debt is necessary because it can allow you to make more money in the long run. I’m saying that consumer debt — going into debt you can’t afford to pay off just to own something you don’t need — isn’t a good thing individually or for our society as a whole.

Personally, I think the answer is to find time during the day to unplug. We may need screens while at work, but we should make time to step away from the constant distractions from external forces and focus on our own interests. I enjoy reading. There’s nothing more satisfying than having a real book in my hands. Other people may enjoy gardening or sewing or playing board games with the kids — any activity where someone cannot sell you something or garner your attention. Embrace the real world around you. Working on hobbies instead of scrolling down social media every night won’t magically transform our economy from encouraging excessive consumer debt, but it may start to free us from the vicious cycle and learn what’s really “normal” again. “I’m not suggesting becoming a monk and smashing your cell phone.”

Things have gotten even worse over the last 10 years as technology changed the way businesses could reach consumers through advertising. Once, ads were just on the radio and billboards. Now every article you read or family photo we look at online is surrounded by ads. It’s not enough for companies to just have our money; they want our constant attention, too. Thanks to that smartphone in your pocket, you’ve probably seen 400 ads before breakfast. I’m not suggesting becoming a monk and smashing your cellphone. My phone is very useful to me. It’s possible to escape the cycle of consumer debt while still being with your family as a member of your community.

–Matt Dunaway

1 Phone: 205.705.3590

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