Gary Grewal Of Financial Fives On Modern Consumerism; What It Was, What It Is, How We Got Here, & What We Can Do About It

An Interview With Drew Gerber


Marketing starts very early in life, starting with children’s toys and cereal boxes, and is pervasive in clever ways. Sponsorships, affiliate marketing, fundraisers, and anything that involves needing money for something is going to have some kind of consumeristic marketing built in.

Sometimes it feels like we all live in a hamster wheel and no matter how much we make, or how much we succeed, it is never enough. Even people making 6 or 7-figure incomes, can still feel that they are barely making it. Where did this “never-enoughness” come from? Were things always like this? When exactly did it change? What would be needed to return to an earlier framework of consumerism that doesn’t burn us all out?

In this series, we are talking to historians, journalists, authors, social science experts, sociologists, thought leaders, and other experts about the history and progression of modern consumerism. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Gary Grewal.

Being a lifelong personal finance nerd, current Certified Financial Planner®, and serial entrepreneur, Gary researched countless personal finance success stories to make sure he knew all the tricks of the trade, and ensure he was doing everything right for his age to set himself up for financial freedom. Gary made it to a net worth placing him near the top 1% of his peer group before age 30, and his readers can too with these tips. Gary started his first business at 10 years old, and his second at 23. Gary knows what it takes to come from nothing and build what he calls “security and contentment”. Gary leverages personal experience and over a decade of studying personal finance to provide concise, engaging, and actionable content that the reader can act on immediately, rather than read and then forget.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to know how you got from “there to here.” Inspire us with your backstory!

I grew up in a normal middle class suburb, always wondering why there was such a difference in the apparent success of others, and why people fell through the cracks. In college, I realized I disliked science, and needed to find a career that helped me scratch the itch of money curiosity.

What lessons would you share with yourself if you had the opportunity to meet your younger self?

To not be so worried about the future, that everything works out just as it should. Learn as much as you can early on, and don’t be too worried about what other people think you should do. When you’re young, it’s ok to take risks!

None of us are able to experience success without support along the way. Is there a particular person for whom you are grateful for that support to grow you from “there to here?” Can you share that story and why you are grateful for him or her?

My mother worked tirelessly to give us a normal life. Never taking us away from sports, camps, or activities as children, or making us work to take us away from studies. I learned my work ethic from her and due to her generosity, I graduated college debt-free and was able to live in her house rent-free as long as I needed.

What day-to-day structures do you have in place for you to experience a fulfilled life?

I live by routines. Each weekday, except for weeks where I have vacation days, have a theme. Monday’s I do a certain workout at the gym. I do my 10 minutes of reading and mindfulness each day. Thursday evening is Yoga to center myself with gratitude. I reach out to a friend each Friday to see how they are doing. I write in my journal at least once per month.

Ok, thank you for sharing your inspired life. Now let’s discuss the “ism” behind most marketing: consumerism. To begin, can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority on the history of consumerism?

I am a financial planner by day and frugal enthusiast in my personal life. I don’t necessarily eschew consumerism and live off the grid, however I describe myself as a “conscious consumer” and that is the theme of my book and blog, Financial Fives. Money is a tool and has power, but we have exert that power over it, otherwise it controls us. I’ve seen how unfulfilled people are when they shop or buy things to life their spirits. It’s a never ending cycle. So I’m on a mission to spread the myth of consumeristic culture.

Let’s begin with a basic definition so that we are all on the same page. How do you define the concept of consumerism?

I would say consumerism is the tendency of a group of a community or society to align their personal values and self-worth to that of material possessions. It’s the idea that we are meant to buy, and keep buying even if we don’t need things. It teaches us that things bring us joy and fulfillment, and make us “better” than others.

Throughout history, marketing has driven trade for humans. What role do you see that marketing played to get human societies where we are today?

Marketing starts very early in life, starting with children’s toys and cereal boxes, and is pervasive in clever ways. Sponsorships, affiliate marketing, fundraisers, and anything that involves needing money for something is going to have some kind of consumeristic marketing built in.

As once-neutral organizations became cash-strapped, like schools, they turned to “sponsored” events like a book fair sponsored by a backpack company, giving them a captive market to advertise to in exchange for helping with funds. Marketing has been very fine-tuned to make people believe they will feel better about themselves if they buy things.

Were there other points in history when humans experienced “I don’t have enough” even when basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing were met?

I would say this happened after the second world war, when cars, suburban homes, and TV ads became mainstream.

Humans are distinguished from animals by their use of language. How do language, storytelling and other human-only attributes leave people with a sense of not having enough?

We are social creatures and want to be liked, and feel like we belong. The whole concept of “keeping up with the Joneses” is based on the fact that we’ll get invited to more parties and events if we wear the same clothes or drive the same cars. People don’t want to be left out when on the surface, it seems like the people who spend more have better lives.

In your opinion, how has the way humans consumed their news impacted trade, consumerism, and human development? Can you please explain what you mean?

When TV became more prominent, marketers became better and better and who they were targeting. They would have Jeep ads on sports channels for example, or makeup ads in-between daytime talk shoes.

When the internet came about and people took to reading newspapers online, people associated those publications with the ads they displayed. For example, newspapers and magazines have ads to help them stay in business, and ads would be curated to the topics in that issue as well as the target market for that publication. For example, The Wall Street Journal might have ads for expensive watches because many business people read them.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs indicates that humans only seek self-actualization after basic needs are met. How do you think “clickbait” impacts Maslow’s hierarchy and the overall human development?

Clickbait draws people out of practicality and appeals to their emotions. Even though people need to make the rent payment to have a roof over their head, if they see an ad on social media around a designer pair of sunglasses that they see on a model on vacation on a beach, they might feel good about buying it to feel like that, even though their checking account is empty and it’s the 28th of the month.

For you personally, if you have all your basic needs met, do you feel you have enough in life? Can you please explain what you mean?

I do feel I have enough in my life. I have safe and clean shelter, I have a reliable and efficient vehicle. I have good health and am mobile. I never worry about being able to afford healthy, nutritious food. I don’t worry about losing my job because I have savings and no debt. I have comfortable and attractive clothes without an overflowing closet. I don’t feel inadequate just because other’s have more.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would start a zero-waste movement. I think we spend too much of our hard-earned money on items that we just throw away, and it’s causing not only financial problems and feelings of emptiness in society, but also threatening the world that gives us everything we need to survive.

What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?

I write at, publishing a post every Thursday. My book, Financial Fives, is also there and on Amazon.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.

About The Interviewer: For 30 years, Drew Gerber has been inspiring those who want to change the world. Drew is the CEO of Wasabi Publicity, Inc., a full-service PR agency lauded by PR Week and Good Morning America. Wasabi Publicity, Inc. is a global marketing company that supports industry leaders, change agents, unconventional thinkers, companies and organizations that strive to make a difference. Whether it’s branding, traditional PR or social media marketing, every campaign is instilled with passion, creativity and brilliance to powerfully tell their clients’ story and amplify their intentions in the world. Schedule a free consultation at



Drew Gerber, CEO of Wasabi Publicity
Authority Magazine

For 30 years, Drew Gerber has been inspiring those who want to change the world