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More Residents Find Fulfillment in Forgoing Traditional Materialism


Digested From “Downsizing Becoming a Way of Life”
Chicago Tribune (08/27/13) Shlachter, Barry

John Zogby, author of "The Way We'll Be: The Zogby Report on the Transformation of the American Dream," contends that there has been a "downsizing, downscaling and re-evaluation of values" that started in the previous decade and has been fueled by the economic doldrums. He states, "It's not always taking people down to a 600-square-foot apartment, wearing a loin cloth, quitting their job, and growing your own organic food. But this trend is at least 15 years old, and what is significant is that it predates the recession."  

Zogby is not alone in his commentary. In the 2010 book, "Spend Shift," co-authors John Gerzema and Michael D'Antonio describe these mindful consumers as "people who, in adapting to [the economic] crisis, have subtly adjusted their lives to seek greater balance and a more fulfilling existence." Gerzema, a consultant with Young & Rubicam, says data collected by his company found that 55 percent of Americans are fully part of this "undeclared movement." Another 26 percent share many of the attitudes. 

Based on his surveys, pollster Zogby sees several basic causes. One, there are a growing number of Americans who are working for less, either voluntarily or involuntarily -- but mainly involuntarily. At the same time, he adds, Baby Boomers "are looking for a second act in their lives, those who can't retire and those who want to make a difference. ... I call it secular spiritualism." Zogby goes on to report that he has seen a decline in what he calls traditional materialism, which meant the acquisition of a big house, a fancy car, and so forth.

Still, other observers insist old spending habits die hard. Among them is Ronald Hill, who holds an endowed chair in the marketing and business law department at Villanova University. "As things improve and consumer confidence increases," he concludes, "people will return to previous spending behaviors that cause most of us to 'dis-save' — spend more than we take in."

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