How has the Microwave Oven Shaped American’s Investment Expectations?

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I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I have a theory that the microwave oven (and all that it represents) has caused American’s to lose almost all patience and ability to see or plan for a long-range goal.

I remember in 1980 when we moved to a Texas into a new home. While I wasn’t super keen on the idea of leaving all my friends and relocating to Texas to start over, I was excited to be in a new house. Not that our previous house was old or run-down but new things are always a bit exciting. One very new thing at this house was the microwave oven. This was one of the huge models that had big twist knobs on it, but hey, it was the latest and greatest technology at that time. The beauty of the microwave oven then (and still today) is that it provides a quick way to cook food in minutes or even seconds. It permanently changed the landscape of all kitchens in the US from then on. Do I like the microwave, you bet! Do we cook certain things in it almost daily; you bet. But, is it the best tool for every cooking job; no way. I can think of some absolutely delicious meals that were cooked in a slow cooker (crock pot).

I think the microwave was one of the pivotal devices that helped lead our society to the “I must have it now” mentality. Because of this cultural demand for instant gratification, we seem to no longer be able to wait for anything. The list of items that can now be accessed immediately (or at least much faster than they used to be), would take up way too much space for a blog post, but I’m sure you can think of many examples (e.g. email, text messages, mobile phones, google, etc.).

Who likes to wait in lines? Patience is a virtue as the adage says, but not too many of us seem to possess it and I think this really plays out in how we think about saving, investing and wealth. TV and the internet are filled with the next big thing that they claim will let you get rich quick, as long as you send them 3 easy payments of $19.95 for their program. Why do you think so many people play the lottery? Human nature tells us that we would love to get rich quick and not have to work and save for decades to achieve our goals. According to a website I found, the odds of winning one of the more recent Mega Millions jackpots was 1 in 259 million ( Those are crazy odds, but yet millions of people still play. Maybe they are eternal optimists.

I’ll grant you that there are few things in life that you have to do consistently for 10, 20, 30, or more years to reach your goal, so saving (as an example) is not a natural habit. I am still young (in my opinion) but I’m 20+ years into the saving game and have been fortunate enough to now be pursuing early retirement (or more correctly, I’m on pursuing financial freedom). I love talking to people, especially early in their career, about how they too can set up consistent saving habits and achieve all their financial goals.

I hope and pray though that you grasp the importance of doing this and fight the urge to treat your finances like they are in a microwave. Instead, put them in a slow cooker and savor the flavor when they are done “cooking”.