America’s River

America’s River

Renoir's Young Woman Seated in a Rowboat

I’ve written nearly 100 articles.  And Molly Muniz is my very first guest writer.  She sent me an article and it was so clear that she “got it,” I felt I had to share it with you.  Then she sent me her bio, and I was even more certain.  Be sure to leave a comment below to let me know if you agree!

America’s River by Molly Muniz

Read by Sharon O’Day

Have you ever been boating down a river?  It’s a little strange because even just sitting in your boat, you begin to move.  If you go with the current, you move quickly.  And you practically risk your life if you have to turn around and go back upstream.  As you turn your boat, the waves splash at your side, threatening to overturn you. It’s as if the river has a will of its own and is asking, “How dare you turn against me?!”   It reminds me of the difficulty in turning around our spending habits.

To change from a spender to a saver is like trying to turn a boat in a river.  We start going downstream, gaining momentum as we acquire sporting goods, small appliances, and just the right clothes.   We gain more speed with help from marketing and advertising experts, providing an undercurrent that says, “BUY MORE!”

I’m not saying we don’t need food and shelter–far from it.  And I’m not speaking about government policy.  I’m speaking of the kinds of things we feel the need to buy.  In America we have become accustomed to having all the material things we could ever want flaunted before us with zero-percent financing for qualified buyers.

So we take a Saturday or two to buy grills, lawn furniture and a boat.   We buy shoes, belts and handbags to keep up with the trends.  We buy upgraded models of toasters, stereos and cars to better enjoy our lives.  Who could live without an iPad?  We buy jewelry for Mother’s Day, golf clubs for Father’s Day and endless plastic toys for birthdays.  Then we buy accessories for the things we already bought.  To top it all off, we buy electricity, batteries and a lot of gas to make it all work.

The needless spending doesn’t bother me as much as the fact that we’re putting our money into things that provide a wretched return.  We eat giant meals at restaurants and become obese.  We invest blindly into shameful companies on Wall Street who lose our money.  We buy plastic stuff made elsewhere, toss it into a local landfill a few years (or hours) later, and replace it again and again. Styrofoam cooler anyone?  Almost every household participates, creating an unprecedented spending flow.  It’s “America’s River.”

The economist in you might argue that we need consumer spending to grow the economy.  But the brain in you might argue that if we bought less junk we could probably afford to buy things manufactured here in our own country.  That’s not government policy; that’s personal policy.

But that is not American policy.  We love our ride down the river, McNuggets in hand, headphones on, keys to expensive houses in our pockets.

Now imagine what the mouth–(the end)–of the river is like.  It is foreclosure, it is insurmountable credit card debt, it is dependence on an understanding relative.  It bears a striking resemblance to the mouth of the Mississippi River: a dead zone.  Yes, the result of our materialism, greed and need for instant gratification has transformed a section of ocean into a cesspool of water that cannot sustain life.

But what if we changed course?!  What if we caught a glimpse of the future and tried to change?

All the billboards, TV commercials and Sunday paper ad inserts will scream at us, “How dare you turn against me?”

How do we dare, indeed.  We dare to buy only things we really need.  We dare pay with cash instead of a credit card.  We dare to stop buying and discarding plastic stuff.   We dare to use our money to invest instead of to indulge.   Think of America’s history.  What were the spending habits of the people two or three generations back?  If we acted like them, it would be revolutionary, wouldn’t it?

With our brave new creed we are starting to turn the boat.  Only by turning can we move back upriver.   Only by changing our ways will we evade the fiscal dead zone.  As we turn, the waves of our old habits will lap up at us, and the momentum of our spending will carry us sideways on the river.  But we will persevere, eating sustainably grown food, purchasing necessities based on quality not quantity, and using our money as a tool to create the world we want.

As we complete our turn and go back up river, we have to run the boat’s engines twice as hard to overcome the millions of gallons of water washing us backward.  Gallon by gallon, the suggestions come!  Wouldn’t a pergola be nice?  The new iPhone 5 is coming out!  How about an updated spring wardrobe?!  After all, you deserve it!

Making the journey back to economic freedom will require perseverance, discipline and sacrifice.  But when we can reach the headwaters of America’s River, we will find a pristine lake.  It is a place of environmental sustainability, economic stability, and personal responsibility.

The people there are by no means carefree, rather, they are wise and careful.  We can join them on that clear, cool lake, noting that it has no discernible current.

xxxxxxx

Bio:   Molly Muniz is a stay-at-home mom who is helping her family turn its financial boat back upstream.  Partnering with others, she’s purchasing apartment buildings that provide safe, affordable housing.  Her current pursuits include investing in a 35-unit building that will cater to single moms and their children, allowing those families to flourish.  For more information contact her at Molly@CommercialPropertyInvestors.Biz

  • Denny Hagel

    Incredible analogy demonstrating without a doubt that Ms Muniz ‘gets’ it…interestingly enough it appears that the ‘powers that be’ are leaving many no choice these days but to turn their financial boats around and head back up stream. Perhaps there is a lesson of gold in these times of struggle…maybe we are all going to meet in that pristine lake! Thanks for sharing this Sharon!

    • SharonODay

      Part of effective communication is finding some imagery everyone can relate to.  That’s what’s so great about this article of Molly’s.  (And I know that’s what you often use in your own articles …)  Thanks for also sharing this on your FB with your readers, Denny!

    • Thank you, Denny, for your kind words.  Just this morning I told my husband that it’s NOT been fun to be forced to repair our finances, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  We will close on an apartment complex in 60 days and that is the result of turning ourselves into investors.  I’ll see you on the lake!

  • Thank you for sharing Sharon! An awesome article and analogy starting with the ‘Title’ and flowing right through to the last word! Indeed, making the journey back to the economic freedom enjoyed by previous generations will require perseverance, discipline, sacrifice and perhaps above all a community of leaders who will provide the Leadership at all levels! Thank you Molly! …Hughie 🙂

    • SharonODay

      Ah, leaders, Hughie!  Where ARE the leaders???  (That’s probably the greatest deficit we face today but, as Molly says, it may have to be substituted by responsibility at the individual level …)

    • Thanks Hughie!  Yes, I have given up on most companies and governments being responsible but am still hopeful for the individual.  We tend to ignore our elders in America but maybe, since they’re the ones who could handle their own wallets, we should start listening to them!

  • Great article, MollyI especially love the line: “if we bought less junk we could probably afford to buy things manufactured here in our own country.” Thanks for the reminder.

    • SharonODay

      One of my silly dreams, Mari Ann, is that we agree to live with less unnecessary (and imported) “stuff” … but that we can actually find an appliance or clothing item to buy that’s made in this country.

    • My family reprimands me when I call their plastic treasures, “junk.”  Yet within 90 days these things are neglected, lost or bear a garage sale price tag.  I try to take at least a 91-day view. 

  • I love this line too – ”
    if we bought less junk we could probably afford to buy things manufactured here in our own country.” Great article. Molly thanks for this post and Sharon thank you for publishing this article!

    • SharonODay

      You too, Anastasiya, have identified the “main vein” of out-of-control consumerism.  I remember when we used to save up for things we really wanted … things that were outside our purchasing power at the moment.  Now everything’s available immediately from China, knocking off those things we used to dream about.  And dreaming was good.

    • Thank you, Anastasiya!  Growing up, I watched Mr. Rogers give factory tours on TV, showing how products are made.  Fast-forward to now, when my kids watch cartoons colored overseas and US manufacturing is all but gone.  It can’t be a coincidence that personal debt has exploded too. 

  • I love this! I am trying to make this very U-turn right now. Great piece, Molly!

    • SharonODay

      Good luck in the turn, Emma.  Let us know if we can support you in any way as you do so!

    •  Emma, I know the feeling!  Hang in there and remember that your mind, pointed in right direction, is more powerful than even the very best merchandiser.  I do rely on Sharon’s messages to help me stay empowered.

  • Love the analogy of the river.  As I read, I felt myself as sitting on the bank watching.  Dipping a toe in every now and then, and maybe even getting in far enough to be bumped downstream a time or two… but always able to get back to the bank, turn around, and see it for what it is.

    I think I’ll read it again and start throwing in life preservers at the imported plastic junk part 🙂

    • SharonODay

      Ms. Amity, so marvelously grounded and “green.”  I love the image of you throwing life preservers (made of sustainable cork, no doubt) at swirling imported “flotsam!”  😉

      • Big smile, Sharon. We’ll toss the cork preservers for the people BEFORE they get bogged down by the stuff 🙂

    • Amity, you have a wonderful perspective.  I feel so immersed in this culture of consumption and you have found a way to be an observer.  Isn’t it wonderful that you are the captain of your own ship and you choose when and when not to sail? 

  • Fantastic article. Great points. I love the boat analogy. It’s so true that all of us are bombarded with messages from the media and society that we need more and more “stuff.” Many people base their value on how much they own which is a big problem. People must realize that they are worthy and wonderful without owning every latest gadget that comes out. They don’t have to “keep up with the Jones” either. It’s much wiser, as Molly shares, to Invest rather than Indulge when you do not have the resources to do spend on items that are not necessities. Thanks for sharing, Sharon! Keep shining your light. 🙂

    Sheree Diamond, http://www.TheFlowDoctor.com

    • SharonODay

      Sheree, I think this message is particularly, not because I’m being an alarmist about what’s happening to the economy, but I think we’re going through structural changes in our economy.  Even at full throttle, it won’t look like it did before.  And not everyone is paying enough attention … but I know you are!

    • Sheree, thank you for your kind words!  Your remark about “keeping up with the Jones” reminds me of an experience I had working on a cultural awareness project with elementary kids.   We were inside a 10-foot diameter hut meant to mimic the homes of people in rural Kenya.  Spending three days in there and then coming back to my suburban home was an eye-opener.  No, my house isn’t “magazine-cover-perfect,” but it’s plenty good.  That realization has freed me to stop spending money on niceties for my home, and instead move money to an investment that cash-flows and helps the community. 

  • Cat

    That was excellent! So often I notice the Pressure to buy and spend is all arOund me and often it is hard to fight. If you just go with the flow all of a sudden you notice you’ve spent a lot of money without really realizing it. I’m learning to pay attention to that now.

    • SharonODay

      It’s easy to get caught up in it, isn’t it, Cat?  But I think if we’re focused on our goals and what we need to do to get there, those distractions are a little less tempting.  (As long as what awaits you at that goal is important enough to you!)

    • Cat, you “get” it!  I appreciate your remark and I know exactly what you’re feeling.  Stay strong against the current!

  • Sharon – You made an excellent choice in Molly Muniz as a guest blogger!  The article is fantastic and expresses eloquently that which I feel, but stumble with the right words.  Congrats to you both!

    • SharonODay

      I agree wholeheartedly with you, Lauren!  I find a lot written about specific money recommendations and a lot on the metaphysical … but rarely see something conceptual that challenges our basic decisions.  This does!

    • Lauren, I am honored by your remarks.  Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.  I hope this metaphor will be a lasting tool for you!

  • Amazing article by your guest writer, Molly Muniz, Sharon. The river analogy is perfect and draws a picture throughout the article…point well taken. Thank you Molly for sharing your take on Sharon’s money message. Indeed you did get it.

    • SharonODay

      Isn’t it amazing what “comes out of the blue?”  This article is a real treat, one I knew you’d enjoy as well, Carla!

    •  Thanks, Carla!  Sharon has been extremely helpful to me, perhaps because I subscribe to her social media outlets and get frequent, positive and powerful messages about doing the best I can with my life.  Thank you, Sharon!!

  • Lucy

    It is an excellent article, its helpful for our life.

    • SharonODay

      I agree with you, Lucy.  That someone can use an analogy to describe a group behavior so powerfully is truly a joy!

    •  Thank you, Lucy.  To tell you the truth, I thought of it after my mom told me she was sliding around on the snowmobile in Northern Minnesota.  I didn’t suppose too people would relate to that.  I hope a boat is a more universal experience. 

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  • I agree Sharon, Molly is a perfect guest blogger.  This is a great article!  I like what she’s doing to help single moms and their children too.  Very cool!

    •  Thanks, Robert!  I am very excited about that real estate project and am pleased to have the support of community leaders in accomplishing this goal!

  • Good food for thought if your consumerism has gotten out of control.  Believe it or not, there are more than a few people out there who are NOT facing forclosure, high interest rates, and financial ruin. Would be great of folks would learn from history but history itself has shown they don’t!

    • SharonODay

      I know, Martha, there are lots of people who have managed their lives and money well.  In fact, they are the MOST frustrated as they watch government programs being created to forgive and lower debts for overspenders … when THEY paid in full by “sacrificing” over the years.  The question is how to find the balance of honoring their efforts while getting help to those who WILL learn going forward.  (Sadly, others just won’t.)   

  • Vicky Horner 3637

    Love the analogy of the river! I have learned to be a saver.  It is so plain to me that the more you have the more you have to take care of.  The TV shows on hoarding are also good examples of how things can take over your life and steal your peace.   

    • SharonODay

      I’ve watched from afar, Vicky, hearing you make some greatly empowering changes in your own finances.  Brava!  BTW, that hoarding you see (on TV, for example) can have deep “scarcity” roots, so it goes way beyond just buying because our culture promotes it.

  • I loved this —  “Making the journey back to economic freedom will require perseverance,
    discipline and sacrifice.  But when we can reach the headwaters of
    America’s River, we will find a pristine lake.” Thank you for the important reminder!

    • SharonODay

      You’re very welcome, Lisa!

  • Joseann

    For me as an European it comes as a relief to read that there are also people in the US that start to question the “American life style” and consumerism. Not saying that there is no useless spending going on in Europe, but I dare to say that the forces for “upstream swimming” have always been much stronger here compared to the US. Happily joining the group of fans :-).

    • SharonODay

      I’ve watched consumerism grow in Europe over the past 30 years, Joseann, as knockoffs of clothing and cheap replicas of objects made things far more affordable.  (We “exported” one of our less-attractive traits.)  And today China is trying to instill it in their population as well, to increase domestic demand for their production, now that our demand and yours have fallen.  The dirty secret is what a necessary “driver” consumerism is in any economy.  The key is finding a healthy balance between that, debt and savings rates … something we haven’t learned yet.

  • A brilliant message and one that I completely agree with. It’s so easy to get led to believe that you need something or that you ought to have it.  When I first moved to my husbands rural N.Ireland from a city in England I was in a panic at where I was going to get my ‘stuff’. Then I realised I could manage very well without it and so began my ‘Back to the Basics’ life. And it’s good!

    • SharonODay

      The strength that comes from a “Back to the Basics” life is hard to explain, isn’t it Carolyn?  At least what I feel is that today I have far greater choice in my life, not being tied down by things and by debts!

  • What a perfect analogy.  We gave up credit cards and downsized our life a few years ago and are now almost debt free.  It is a great feeling.  But it too a crisis for it to happen. We actively choose now to purchase only what we need and not what we “want”.  And yes, it is possible to live without a smart phone or an Ipad! LOl

    • SharonODay

      Kay, I hear you!  I did the downsize you mention right after 9/11 when my business went belly up (another crisis!) and my spending never changed back after things picked up again.  And being debt-free?  What a feeling of freedom!

  • Love the metaphor of the river and spending…brilliant! I like this realistic view:
     ”
    Making the journey back to economic freedom will require perseverance, discipline and sacrifice”…great post!  

    • SharonODay

      Molly really did a great job, didn’t she, Sherie.  From the comments, she truly touched a chord!

  • You are so right, great post.  My grandparents never charged anything, and paid off their house when I was very young.  Completely different than the way that we live now.

    • SharonODay

      Sally, there’s so much value in going back to some of the ways our parents and grandparents handled money.  (As long as women are allowed to be part of the dialog, that is!)  😉

  • What Molly writes here makes a lot of sense, what really caught my attention is her bio and what she is doing to provide safe affordable housing for women, wonderful work!

    • SharonODay

      Isn’t it fabulous, Karla?  A real case of “walking one’s talk!”

  • It requires a new mindset to change the way we think about debt, the way we spend and run our finances.  “Only by changing our ways will we evade the fiscal dead zone.” This is so true, there should be a great change in consciousness first and then reality will follow. Thanks for sharing Sharon, yes I agree great article by Molly to share! 🙂

    • SharonODay

      Solvita, my tagline is “Awakening the Financial Genius in Today’s Woman” because I believe we have everything we need to be empowered around our money.  We just need to get clear of mistaken messaging and the habits that can create.  That’s why Molly’s article is so powerful!  😉

  • oh I know that’s true.. spender to a saver.. a boat into a rive LOL Yikes! Thank great post!

    • SharonODay

      The proverbial “financial journey” from spender to saver … and the clarity to turn that boat around and head for smoother waters!

  • Great article!  I enjoyed it.  What a great story to illustrate shameless behavior!  🙂

  • Great way to invest Molly. I have worked with single moms getting their lives together and they are so grateful for the help they receive.

    • SharonODay

      Maria, I agree, it’s an undertaking with nothing but upsides … no downsides!

  • Lisa Birnesser

    Great post! it’s amazing how not being conscious of money can ruin your lie. It’s as if you spend thinking you don’t have to pay it back. I love Molly’s cause!

    • SharonODay

      Lasa, you said, “It’s as if you spend thinking you don’t have to pay it back.”  Part of that comes from the disconnect that results from rarely dealing with money per se.  We rub a plastic card on a little box at the cash register, and voila!  We transfer “funds” from account to account using the internet.  We make online payments or automatic deductions.  When we had to pull coins and rumpled bills out of our pockets, and watch them disappear into someone else’s cash register, we “felt” money.  And I’m not quite sure how we reverse that!

  • Lrnoble

    This is all fine and good, and I agree 100%, but where and how do you start? I haven’t had cable television for over two years. I split internet with a neighbor in my apartment building. I don’t travel, I don’t spend when I shop, my major luxury is a gym membership (at $10 a month!!!) and an occasional movie out. Still, at the end of the month, there’s none left over. What am I doing wrong?

    • SharonODay

      There are two sides to the money equation: earning and spending.  And both need to be revisited regularly.  We CAN get to the point where there is nothing left to wring out of the spending side.  At that point, the focus has to be doubled up on the earning side, as difficult as the economy may be.

  • The world I do beleive is shifting, slowly to ‘Live within our means”…I used to live exactly as you explained in this article..After being a single mother with no money for food sometimes…ones perspective changes. I will be sharing your post!

    • SharonODay

      PART of the world is shifting, Anita.  (Another part is oblivious and somehow feels entitled regardless what their means are.)  The money conversation has certainly opened up more since the financial crisis started in 2008, but has a long way to go.  Thank goodness for all the enlightened ones who ARE changing their habits!

  • Wonderful post! This should be required reading for everyone.  We don’t “deserve” goods, we earn them. And if we are acquiring them by acquiring debt, we are trading tomorrow’s freedom for today’s pleasures–a guarantee of long-term misery and enslavement.

    • SharonODay

      I’m not quite sure where the “entitlement” mentality came from, Marie, but it sure is strong these days … whether things can be afforded or not.  I can tell you that “debt free” is a wonderful feeling … and it is motivation in and of itself!

  • Sharon

    Financial freedom….one of my many goals!  Great article!

    • SharonODay

       Glad to help in any way I can, Sharon.  Just let me know …

  • NormaDoiron

    What a great story.  Thanks for sharing your financial journey, truly inspiring!

    • SharonODay

      Molly’s analogy of the financial journey is so representative of what many people are living today, Norma.  The question is:  how many people have the determination to turn that boat around?  😉

  • Cathy | Treatment Talk

    Hi Sharon and Molly,

    You make some great points, ones that we should pay attention to. America has become so commercial with new products being manufactured everyday. We become entranced with the commericals and ads to buy more. Thanks for pointing out how important it is to be wise and careful.

    • SharonODay

      “Madison Avenue,” as it used to be called when all top advertising agencies were headquartered there, totally changed how Americans purchased things, especially after World War II.  We shifted from buying out of need … to buying out of want.  That’s what Molly was reflecting …

  • This is an amazing article Sharon and Molly! The line that really hit me between the eyes was “We dare pay with cash instead of a credit card.” That’s where I’m at. For a long time I never carried anything but a debit card and credit card. Money was nothing but numbers on a page. Lately I’ve started carrying cash and paying for things with cash instead of the card, and it really does make a difference. I have to think before I spend because there’s a finite amount of “real” money in my pocket. 

    • SharonODay

      That’s one of the most powerful ways to connect with your money, Helena.  It doesn’t give money itself more or less power.  Instead, it gives YOU a greater feeling of control.  Doesn’t it feel good?  😉 

  • A wonderful article but what appears to be a very smart woman.  I love how you say it like it is, bravo!

    • SharonODay

      That she does, Sherry.  Molly will go far by being clear on what she believes … and living it!

  • Jamie

    Amazing article! Loved it.

    I use to have a job where I made decent money, but I literally threw my money away.  Now, I make far less, and realize the importance of the dollar.  Better late than never, I suppose

    • SharonODay

      It doesn’t matter when the “awakening” comes, Jamie.  It’s part of a process of taking control of your money.  Congratulations, you’re on the path!

  • Going upstream is never nice and always a hard job; the minute you let you, you go back with the stream again and you have to get yourself again to go upstream. You aways lose ground. I read it as a little story and loved every line; thanks!!

    • SharonODay

      You only lose ground, Olga, if you stop moving forward.  That’s the key.  And the effort is only required until you get to financial stability … or, as Molly called it, the “pristine lake.”  I can assure you, the journey is worth it! 😉

  • Loved this article. Thanks for having Molly sub in Sharon.  She has a lovely way with building word pictures and what a great project she is doing.
     Thankfully we have recently found a shopping community system that is helping give us back money from all the basic purchases that we need to do like gas and basics.  It is methodically planning where to spend and the power of the group for extra discounts from merchants that is helping us get a handle on our budget.   

    • SharonODay

      I know you’ve made so many other efforts to come into balance, Pat.  I’m glad you’ve found this solution of “leveraged shopping” by doing it as a group.  Great idea!

  • Molly, this is a superb post, coming at a great time when I myself am thinking, “What do I need this big house for?” In fact, the things I need include: people who I enjoy to talk with, folks who understand me, family or friends who are willing to put their work aside from time-to-time to share a meal or a conversation together, words and deeds of encouragement and support…. I am wondering, how much does stuff like this cost? You got it, zero. Like you said, at the headwaters are a pristine lake. I would like to be there.

    • SharonODay

      Diane, what you’re talking about is what some of us consider “true” abundance.  It’s not just a number (of dollars, of assets, of whatever).  It’s having reliable access to whatever it takes to achieve the lifestyle that brings you real happiness. And that looks different for each of us.

  • Right On!  My favorite part: “The economist in you might argue that we need consumer spending to grow the economy. But the brain in you might argue that if we bought less junk we could probably afford to buy things manufactured here in our own country. That’s not government policy; that’s personal policy.”
    Molly is putting her money where her heart is, helping others so they can be in a position to help themselves, giving others a ‘bootstrap’ so they can pull themselves up.  Way to go, Molly!
    And, thank you, Sharon, for this article.  It needs to be read and heeded by all.

    • SharonODay

      Nice to see you, Duchess Sherri!  Knowing a little about your journey, I can see why Molly’s article would resonate for you.  And, what a great phrase:  “Molly is putting her money where her heart is …”

  • Lisa Carter

    Great article!  It’s so true, we have become so obsessed with “stuff” and the latest gadgets that we forget what is most important in life…each other.  Well done.

    • SharonODay

      Well said, Lisa!  The question is how to get more people to recognize that fact …

  • I enjoyed your article Molly! Thank you for sharing this!

  • Molly, what a great way to care for your family while helping to serve the needs of other families! I, also, have become sickened at my past consumption of “things.” It’s such a waste and instead can be turned into savings that can be invested in making a true change in the world. I definitely want to hear MORE of your story and more of what you are doing!!! Thank you, Sharon, for bringing Molly as a guest blogger to your website – what a treat!

  • I like how this reframed the situation: it’s not just the fact that spending is mindless and can be a shallow way of trying to fill deeper voids – it’s also the fact that the side effects of spending are harmful. So true. As a new stay-at-home-mom and aspiring entrepreneur, I took this message to heart.