Recently at work, one of my coworkers approached me about her finances. She started talking about how her husband’s 401k had been taking a beating.
I laughed and said “Yea”…we’ve been trying to not pay attention to the market because we recently started to invest a lot post tax and it sucks knowing you’re losing money temporarily.
Out of the blue, she comes back with, “How much do you invest each month, WAIT… that was rude.” I literally laughed out loud and said, “No, no it’s ok… I actually love talking about this stuff”.
I informed her that we invest 60% of our take home pay each month and we’re maxing out our 401k’s. Her jaw hit the floor and she just said, “Oh my gosh, how do you do that?!”
This led to a really, really fun and enlightening conversation about keeping up with the Joneses.
I told her that we paid off $109,000 of debt, switched to a very frugal life, religiously budget, and are hoping to reach financial independence in about 5 years.
She was baffled, and she began to pepper me with questions as if I was on the stand being deposed!
I. Loved. It!
We’ll call her “Jackie”. Jackie is an incredibly intelligent lady. She’s working on her doctorate and holds an advanced nursing degree. She’s no slouch, but Jackie and her family are buried in debt…
She was incredibly embarrassed to even give up the number. She later admitted that she didn’t even know how much, but it was much, much more than $100,000.
After a few minutes the root cause of her debt became apparent. She feels the need to keep up with the “Joneses”. Not because she likes nice things, but because she grew up incredibly poor and wants to fit in and be accepted now.
She vividly remembers being so poor that she felt people judged her. That she wasn’t given opportunities because of her families perceived inability to cover the cost. For this reason, living a frugal life was a real struggle for her.
Her need to feel like she fits in is destroying her financial future, and she knows it…
The Need to Fit In With The Joneses
There’s a reason that the saying “Keeping up with the Joneses” exists… because it’s so damn common.
The fabricated belief that we need to fit in destroys our lives. Buying shit to impress people we don’t like, or even know is incredibly common.
Jackie had an interesting take on this desire. Her desire wasn’t based solely around vanity. There was a level of mental torment that follows her because of a poor childhood.
That’s some deep shit, and I’m not here to say she needs to just get over it. I know about a rough childhood, but she does need to begin to deal with the demons. She knows this too…
The average American carries about $38,000 in personal debt, not including a mortgage! Why do you think this is? Does the average Joe just like to buy random shit?
Or do we all walk around with an inferiority complex the size of Trumps ego? (shrug)
The fact is, we’re all pretty insecure. Our insecurities vary, but they’re there. To help hide these insecurities, we buy shit to fit in with the proverbial pack.
Oh, the neighbor bought a new car? Shit, now your 1 year old Ford looks like garbage… You know you’ve got 4 years left to pay on it, but if you trade it in now you’re sure you’ll get a great deal on a new one!
Hell, you might even rationalize how you’re saving money!
The need to fit in with a crowd of people who really aren’t paying attention to each other causes Americans to spend thousands of dollars every year.
Keeping Up With The Joneses Never Ends
The crowd we perceive as normal, is most likely buried in debt with stress pouring out of their ears. Knowing that the average American carried nearly $40,000 in debt proves this point rather easily.
Trying to fit into a crowd is an endless cycle. The crowd will evolve every year and companies will continue to make billions off of our insecurities.
We judge ourselves (and sometimes others) based on physical appearances and possessions. Not wanting to be looked upon in a negative light causes us to constantly update our perfectly good possessions.
Companies are going to continually produce new and cool stuff. The new shi… stuff is going to be marketed as the next best thing. Hell, they might even make their own item look outdated just to get you to upgrade!
There isn’t an end to this. Every year there will be a new, shiny something that’ll cause you to conjure up a reason to buy it.
That new and shiny item will again be old the following year, and the desire to keep up with the Joneses will be reborn.
This endless loop of perceived need is bleeding you dry. Preventing you from paying off debt, preventing you from saving money, and preventing you from achieving your financial dreams.
Break. The. Cycle!
The Joneses Don’t Care What You’re Doing
This was a point I drove home to Jackie. The desire to fit in is one-sided. She’s in a beauty contest that lacks judges.
She’s trying to keep up with the Joneses, but the Joneses aren’t even paying attention to what she’s doing, what she’s buying, or what she’s driving.
NO. ONE. CARES.
We’re all so deeply entrenched in our own lives, and battling our own insecurities that we don’t really have time to evaluate why someone is driving a 2015 F-150 and not a 2018.
If someone is judging you… they’re an asshole and don’t deserve anything more than a throat punch. (pow POW)
We. Just. Aren’t. That. Important.
This is a hard pill to swallow, but it’s an important lesson to learn. There are very few individuals that are important enough that complete strangers spend time deeply evaluating them.
I’m not talking about making a passing observation, but really scrutinizing their lives.
Sure, someone might look at my dirty truck with a rusty bumper and scoff…but I’m out of their head faster than a politicians promise after Election Day.
Understand that a passing glance doesn’t change who you are as a person. Don’t spend thousands to impress someone who already forgot they noticed you.
You’re Going To Get Old… Hopefully
At some point, the cycle will end because you’re going to get old. It happens to everyone lucky enough to live a long life.
As we get older, the money we spent on arbitrary items could have grown to millions. Allowing us to live a life we dream of.
Consider this, the average monthly car payment in America is $523… $523!! Holy hell!!
If you invest $523 a month for 10 years and get an average return of 9%, you’ll have $321,080.91. You would have only paid in $125,520.
Compound interest will earn you $195,560.91. Wowza!!
You could either earn $195,000… or have owned 2 vehicles that are probably worth about $20,000 combined!! That’s madness.
If you’re reading this and you’re only living for today, or this year… remember, you’re going to get old.
Don’t allow yourself to get trapped in the rat race that is working till you die. As a Registered Nurse, I’ve taken care of thousands of people. I’ve watched many of them die much younger than 65.
We’re programmed to work until 65 and retire. Is this really the best we can do? I don’t believe it is. Instead of chasing meaningless approval, chase financial independence.
Work to get yourself in a position of financial freedom before you’re 65. Living beyond that, or even getting to that isn’t a given. Many years in the ICU hammered that point home for me…
If you’re lucky enough to live a long healthy life, you’ll wish that you strayed from the pack years ago. The money you spend now will matter. It may not feel that way, but I promise you… It. Will. Matter.
Do you find yourself trying to keep up with the Joneses? If so, why and how are you going to break the cycle? Let us know in the comments!!