I’ve heard the phrase, “keeping up with the Jones” my whole life. As a kid, I would see my neighbors and friends and some of the “stuff” they had. Their toys were better, their parents’ cars were nicer, their houses were cleaner and had better food than I had. While none of that was true, that was my perception. That’s what I saw from the outside looking in.
We grow up believing that what we have isn’t good enough and that belief carries on into adulthood. Most people are living paycheck to paycheck and are barely getting by. Yet, it seems that “the good life” just comes so easy to some people. “Those damn Joneses”, we say. “I hate them, but I want to be them”. We want the money, the vacations, the prettier spouse and all the “stuff” that makes us believe that someone else has life figured out better than we do.
The fact of the matter is that the Joneses are probably trying to keep up with you. The perception that we have of ourselves and the the perspective that others hold of us are teo entirely different things. Here are a few realities about the Joneses that we need to realize.
They Are Probably Faking It
Did you know that sixty percent of Americans do not have $1,000 saved up at this moment if they had an emergency such as an unexpected medical expense? The majority of us would have to put it on a credit card with a high interest rate just to get by.
Speaking of credit cards, the total credit card debt in the U.S. has reached an all-time high at the average credit card debt, the average household has two credit cards and carry a combined balance of about $5,331. That may not sound like a lot, but we have to remember that many people do not carry ANY credit card debt. To be precise, 43.9% of all Americans carry this debt. What this means it, the real credit card debt carried by individuals month to month is closer to $10,000. There is a strong likelihood that the Joneses fall in the above categories: cash poor and revolving credit lines with interest rates averaging 16% or so.
The truly wealthy are not flaunting it. Billionaires like Warren Buffet and Richard Branson live surprisingly frugal lives. Frugality is one of the key characteristics of wealth according to a study of more than 600 millionaires.
They Are Living For The Moment
One thing that is true about the Joneses is that they probably don’t have much more than you do. Many of them are “house rich and cash poor”, meaning that they are putting almost everything they make into maintaining their material assests with little regard for saving for their future. The attitudes that come with this vary. One way the Joneses think is that they must floss in the moment because tomorrow isn’t promised. They are going to enjoy life today. Spend what they earn because they can’t take it with them. They are going to live lavishly today and be the envy of the neighborhood.
One major flaw with this thinking…what if they end up living for the 30 or 40 years? No planning and nothing saved. All of the excess that was spent years earlier would have been better serve by investing in their future and building a nest egg. Years later, the same people that you wanted to emulate are still working well into their golden years. People who are committed to saving, sticking to a budget, and generally spending less are more likely to become millionaires,
You Will Never Keep Up With Those Who Are Richer Than You
No matter how much you chase after the Joneses’ lifestyle, you can never achieve it unless you carry the same poor financial habits or you are wealthy yourself. If the Joneses aren’t faking it, or they aren’t simply living in the moment, then perhaps they are actually wealthy and it makes no sense trying to keep up. For every Benz yoy buy, they will buy a Lambo. For every weekend condo you Air BnB in the Dominican Republic, they will summer in the Vineyard. You take a second mortgage out on your house to send your kids to the most exclusive private school and they donate a new wing with their name on it. It doesn’t pay for us to go broke just trying to keep up. It is better for us to work to achieve our dreams, competing only with ourselves and not be concerned with what others may think of us.
F*** The Joneses. I Ain’t Living Like That.