Here is what I call the ‘Eldering Consumer Checklist’ in this new marketplace. Actually it is a checklist for all consumers—it just comes more naturally as we get older and start living on a fixed (finite) income. We can take it with us and ask these questions before we spend a nickel on anything.
- Is this something I need? (As in, will I suffer without this?)
- Will I need this in the future? (Does this have continuing value?)
- Does the production of this item (or service) harm or potentially harm others?
- Does my consuming this contribute to our collective quality of life?
- In consuming this, who should I thank? Is there anyone I should apologize to?
“But wait a minute!” you say. “What about all the things I don’t really need but really do want”? My answer is that you still have a choice. But as long as our ‘wants’ are the drivers of production and growth, then we are heading down a dead end street, since most of our ‘wanting’ is automatic and ego-based reactions to scarcity thinking or media/ marketing manipulation. As the saying goes, we can never get enough of what we don’t really want.
This doesn’t mean we can’t demand and pay for quality. I can still have pretty much everything I have now, but perhaps two or three suits instead of ten or fifteen. Most of us can probably get by with one residence and one automobile that is engineered to last and to consume less of whatever fuels are invented. An even more challenging question shows up if you only consume according to the above questions. You are likely to have more money left at the end of the day. What then would you spend your surplus income on and invest your savings in?
In my scenario, I would invest in companies and projects that are the most effective at adding real sustainable value—those are the companies that are the most likely to have long-term economic growth as well as make ongoing contributions to expanding health, social justice, environmental sustainability and empowered employees. I think this is a no-brainer for individual investors.
The real challenge is to break the cartel of institutional investors that are amassing wealth for abstract entities—corporations, foundations, sovereign and private equity funds and so forth. These institutional investors aren’t human and don’t ‘feel’ compassion or have ‘faith’ in the future. They are machines designed exclusively to maximize ROI and their ideology externalizes human beings and believes that all other human needs will be satisfied by the economic marketplace.
We probably won’t change the machinery, but we can transform how it works by changing what we shop for in the marketplace and by rewarding those entities that spend their talent, time and resources to produce what we need in the most sustainable ways. There is a book going around by Lester Brown called Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization. It is calling for a campaign for change equal to or even more than what was mounted in World War II. I encourage you to download Plan B 3.0 for free and take the time to read it. but whether you do so or not remember that we all have the power of an individual consumer and if we are concerned to the future then it is time to stop being spectators and join the game. My suggestion is start with the Eldering Consumer checklist and see what happens.