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Are you an owner or a consumer?

What does it mean to be an owner rather than a consumer?  It really is about your perspective in how you look at and manage your money.

Let’s start with a basic review of economics.  The United States was built on a capitalistic foundation -- meaning we depend on a market economy.  Individuals and businesses produce and provide goods and services, profiting from consumer demand for those goods and services.  In a capitalist economy, it is good to be an owner; the owners are the ones who are generating profit, providing jobs, and creating the basis of the economy.  Consumers are greatly at the mercy of the owners – both for their income and for the goods and services they so greatly desire.

So how does one become an owner?  There are really a number of ways to become an owner in our world today.  The obvious answer is to start a business providing goods or services that are in demand by consumers. But that is certainly not the only option.  Our financial system allows us to become marginal owners in a number of ways.  We can take ownership interest in companies through direct purchase of their stock or though ownership of mutual funds, index funds, or ETFs1 that hold stock in those companies.  You can also lend money to businesses and governments through the purchase of bonds or through peer to peer lending. 

The key to becoming an owner is in how you focus your intention and planning related to your money.  Is it more important to have the latest phone next month or is it more important to place that $1000 in a vehicle where it can grow and leave you with over $3000 (potentially) in 10 years? 2

A consumer:

  • Makes to spend
  • Focuses on short-term rewards
  • Is the target of brand marketing. Companies spend millions to manipulate consumer behavior
  • Can often get addicted to the drive to acquire “stuff”
  • Is subject to impulse buys
  • The more they earn, the more they tend to spend
  • Uses credit as a means to continue acquiring when the cash runs short
  • May owe more than the value of what they “own”

An owner:

  • Spends strategically
  • Focuses on long-term rewards
  • Is generally immune to brand marketing manipulation
  • Is driven to grow their assets
  • Makes purchases thoughtfully
  • The more they earn, the more they save
  • Uses credit as leverage
  • Knows that the value of what they own is greater than the amount they owe


Consumerism easily becomes an addiction, with the habit of constantly seeking greater reward.  The problem with this is that when it becomes a habit or routine, we no longer are consciously thinking about our actions.  The infamous Madison Avenue knew this and used it as a tool to make lots of money for themselves and their clients.  They appeal to our constant desire for happiness and fulfilment, promising us that if only we buy their product that will be the thing that makes all our dreams come true.  We all know consciously that isn’t true -- but our subconscious is another thing.  What does happen is that we get a temporary dopamine hit (often called a “shopper’s high”) that quickly wears off and leaves us wanting more.  This is true regardless of how much money we make, because the price point of the items we acquire just gets bigger. 

Becoming an owner means making a shift in our thought process.  Probably one of the hardest steps is coming face to face with the realization that there is no item we can acquire that will give us lasting happiness.  As I’ve talked about before, we often set goals of “when I get $X” or “when I have X thing” then I’ll have arrived or then I’ll be happy; the truth is that once we reach that goal we just tell ourselves it has to be more or bigger and that dollar amount or that item are never enough; the goal post is always moving.  By shifting to a focus on long-term goals we are able to activate the pleasure-pain center in our brain in a different way, getting us thinking about the pain of losing the future reward.  This becomes even more effective when there are strong emotional connections tied to that long-term goal. 

I experienced this personally a number of years ago when my investments were still following the generic, old-school model of maxing out my 401k into a portfolio I knew nothing about, and saving for a retirement someone else told me I should be aiming for.  Some financial challenges came up and I immediately was more than happy to stop my 401k contributions because I “needed” that money in the short-term.  Fast forward to more recently, once I had discovered that there is more to an investment plan than that outdated model:  I had another set of financial challenges arise, but this time there was no thought to stopping my contributions because now my investments had a meaningful plan: that money is going to specific accounts and investments that will be funding the purchase of my “retirement” bed & breakfast, then later to supplement my income when I reach an age that I need to hire extra help to keep the business running.  It would have to be a very serious situation today to get me to stop saving toward those goals.

If you’re tired of being a consumer, the fastest way to make the shift is to start getting clear on those long-term plans and taking steps to get the dollars you are earning today working to fund those goals.  Allow your hard-earned money to shift you into the role of owner as you build your ownership interests through careful investment planning.  I’d love to hear about your plans and help you grow your dollars in order to reach them.  Let’s set up a time to talk:    


1 Mutual Funds and Exchange Traded Funds (ETF’s) are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from the Fund Company or your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

2 Investment growth based on a $1000 investment made in the S&P 500 Index June 2009 and withdrawn in June 2019. 

Indices are unmanaged and investors cannot invest directly in an index. Unless otherwise noted, performance of indices do not account for any fees, commissions or other expenses that would be incurred.  Returns do not include reinvested dividends.


The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general.  It is a market value weighted index with each stock's weight in the index proportionate to its market value.


Investment Advisor Representative of and investment advisory services offered through Brokers International Financial Services, LLC Member SIPC, Brokers International Financial Services, LLC and J.C. Warrick & Co. are not affiliated companies. 


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