Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Day 205 - Keeping Up With The Joneses (Guest Post)

May 4, 2011

Day 205 - Keeping up with the Joneses
(Guest Post via @flipside_down)
)
Image: M - Pics / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Mike eagerly anticipates the day when he can stop shaking his head at the financial mess this country, and many of its citizens, has become. In his spare time, he is the mastermind behind The Real Estate Newsletters, a simple and cost effective online solution for real estate agents who want an easy way to keep in touch with clients. Follow Mike on Twitter @flipside_down.

I’m going to start off with two numbers. Two very big numbers.

16,139,094,832,234 and 311,235,445.

Let’s just say 16 trillion and 311 million to make it easy– but let’s put these aside for a moment.

Our nation is inundated with the consumer culture . Turn on the TV and you’re bombarded by commercials. Driving or walking it’s impossible to avoid the billboards. On airplanes and buses, in taxis, malls and restaurants and even bathrooms, there’s one consistent message – buy, buy, buy. Even worse, a psychological element of keeping up with your neighbors has been added into the marketing arsenal. When you’re neighbor buys a new BMW, you want, no, you need one too.  Of course, you don’t want to be the only one of your friends without the latest phone, sunglasses, or Ed Hardy tshirt.

This is what is commonly called Keeping up with the Joneses. We want to own the same things as our friends to seem as ‘good’ or as ‘cool’ as them. We want to buy the new gadget to avoid looking poor or old fashioned.

I’ll be the first to admit, it’s near impossible not to compare ourselves to others. That’s what we, as people, do – it’s how we measure our own personal success and failure.  I do this all the time.  If a stranger walks up to you and hands you $30 (no strings attached), what’s your reaction? But what if they hand the person next to you $100?  It’s amazing how a point of comparison can mess with your mind.

Over time, I’ve tried to ignore these comparisons. But I’ve found that I have had better luck learning to make sure I follow the comparison all the way through – I do the full analysis.

Let’s return to those numbers - 16 trillion and 311 million. One of these is the current projected population of the United States. The other is the amount of total personal debt in the United States. (These numbers were accurate as of the end of April, although they are both constantly moving).

Considering the forum, I’ll let you guess which is which. According to my math, this puts the average person in the US in $51,000 of debt. Plus, since this population includes children, the average adult is probably in a lot more debt.

So when you watch the Joneses pull up in their shiny new car and stop by to talk about their new kitchen and their upcoming vacation - guess what they’re not talking about? They can’t afford it –  the Joneses are broke.

Sure, they might think they look good in their new car (you might too), but I can guarantee you’ll feel a lot better when you go to bed at night without debts hanging over your head and without counting the days until your next paycheck hoping you can scrape by. I consider both of those comparisons; once I do that, I’m happy to let the Joneses pass me by.
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