A Google search doesn’t turn this up because the web is a capitalistic endeavor and the search will return information for businesses in managing your wants to their ends. That’s how business views the consumer lifecycle.
In reality, I would suggest it is something quite different. For our sake we will talk about just three phases:
We are all born with nothing and no matter how much we have accumulated, we leave with nothing.
It makes sense at the beginning, since you have nothing, you want “everything”. At first, it is simple things like milk and toys.
When you are old enough to go to school, you want and need, actually, more and different stuff.
Once you get to school, you see others about you who have (and gloat about) things that you don’t have and your desire to have what they have, increases. You just have to have more.
All of this is pretty benign at that point but once you enter the labor force, the lust for things kicks up a notch. Cars, house, toys and more. This is where it really gets complicated.
You see, in the case of larger capital goods like homes and cars, the nominal cost of the item is rarely the total cost. Often, it is the tip of the iceberg. It’s not until after you buy them that this fact sinks in.
Homes need roofs, furnaces, water heaters, lawn care, furniture, tools and on and on. At least homes have held their value over the years, if you factor out bubbles and crashes.
Cars need tires and maintenance and while costing you these additional amounts, they also depreciate so they become worth less and less every passing day.
This results in the need for more income, which drives more work.
As for companies, in their drive to increase market share, they devise different flavors of their product and build in a good deal of pre-planned obsolescence so you the consumer, will feel the need to buy again. And again.
At some point, the process of getting new possessions slows. Usually, it is because most needs and wants start to be perceived as met or due to the realization that more stuff doesn’t add to your sense of well-being.
This often leads to an assessment of where one is and where to go. Self directed statements start to arise like “why am I working so hard” and “I have to find someplace to put all these things”.
After a period of rumination about the situation, many (not all) decide enough is enough. Often this is coupled with a realization that in retirement, living on a bit less income is going to be a necessity.
Most use this period to start a life anew. They may move to a new locale, down-size the house, and eliminate the huge pile of goods accumulated throughout a lifetime.
How far this goes, often depends on whether one needs or wants to leave an estate for heirs.
The end result can be varied. Most cut down on what they own from 10% to 50%. Some go much further and wipe the slate clean to start over again.
Consumption also goes down and value becomes a bigger factor in purchase decisions.
So, “what’s in it for me?”
Glad you asked.
If you agree with my observations, you might start by looking at where you are in the consumer lifecycle and begin to take some control. You might ask some different questions before you make purchases:
- What will this really cost over it’s life?
- Do I need another one of these?
- How long do I need to work to pay for this?
- Can I afford it?
- Is this a quality product or will it need to be replace in short order?
If you are nearing the de-acquisition stage of your life, act now! Get rid of little things that don’t add value. Plan for the next major steps.
And most of all, make your own purchase decisions based on what you want and need, not what other people have or what the media says is cool.
Remember, ego is a powerful thing but you are in charge.