If it isn't "buy now, pay later," it's "fly now, pay later." Just whip out that piece of plastic with your name embossed on it, let 'em crank it through the machine, sign your name, and you're all set to go tripping gaily off into the wild blue yonder, because "tomorrow may be too late." Every time I see one of those commercials depicting a happy, fun-loving couple throwing away all their cares and rushing off to Fiji, the Hawaiian Islands, or the Caribbean — on credit — I wonder what happens when they get home, when the credit card company says, "Okay, buddy, you've had your fun. Now it's time to pay up." According to a recent study made by a large Detroit bank, the typical U.S. wage earner — a 38-year-old father of two — makes $13,847 a year, but he is still about $500 in the hole by the end of every year. Why? Simply because society today is materialistic, based upon lust; because the advertising media dangle before us everything from vacations to automobiles, boats, furniture, appliances, clothing, an endless array of recreational gadgetry, and every type of labor-saving device to make our lives easier, happier, and more fun. And, of course, we just can't resist what we think we need — even if we have to borrow heavily to get it. We need that color TV; we need that trip; we need that new luxury car. "You owe it to yourself," we are told constantly. We don't want to wind down our standard of living. We refuse to change our life-style. We want to continue moving upward. There's nothing wrong, of course, in wanting to improve one's lot in life. But when it's done mainly on credit, a false illusion of prosperity is created. Spending money you don't have for things you don't really need will eventually catch up with you. The bills will start rolling in, and you won't have the money to cover them all. You might be able to successfully juggle them around for a few months, but ultimately the "final payment" will catch up with you. Not surprisingly, personal bankruptcies continue to be on the upswing across the country. The Detroit study also revealed that the typical wage earner's checking account balance generally falls below zero by about the 28th of each month. Two or three days later, he rushes to get his paycheck into the bank to cover a few checks he's already written, and he survives again — barely. This is the way the typical American wage earner is living. He goes under about the 28th of every month, only to emerge a few days later sputtering with a gasp of amazement that somehow he made it through another month. If the car breaks down or some other unexpected expense comes along, he might find himself in very serious financial trouble. In fact, the average person's financial affairs are so chaotic the study reveals, that he literally can't afford to die, given the high cost of funerals these days! How does a family avoid a hand-to-mouth existence? Some people don't have the faintest idea how to get out of the credit trap and off the financial merry-go-round. It never occurs to them to quit spending, to quit buying on credit, to forgo purchases of nonessentials, to resist that insatiable urge to get more and more things and, instead, to put that money into savings. Many have actually been conditioned by television commercials to believe that the way to make money is to spend! One commercial I've seen lately shows a bright, apple-cheeked newlywed couple going into a department store. "We just got married the other day!" they exclaim. "We saved a hundred dollars on this item, saved three hundred on this, and saved six hundred on this." Being wheeled in front of them is a big washer and drier, an electric range, a large-screen color TV, a giant frost-free refrigerator, and so on. What those ads ought to say is that you will spend comparatively less, or you will spend so many dollars less than with a competitor's product. But you are, nevertheless, spending. Yet, many people, apparently, are so gullible that they think they're saving when they are spending. I guess maybe they are following the example of the federal government — the number one spendthrift of all time. In short, the whole nation — both private individuals and government — is living way beyond its means. Politicians say they want to balance the U.S. budget. How they can do this, end inflation, and put all the unemployed back to work (presumably even those who don't want to work) is anybody's guess. But on the personal level, you can begin to do something right now to put some order into your own financial situation. Write for our free booklet, Managing Your Personal Finances. It will show you the way to end those nagging financial worries and escape the credit trap.