KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES…AND THE WORLD OWES ME THIS

Perhaps my father is smarter than I ever thought.  When I was growing up, he was always the guy who wouldn’t go out and buy whatever I wanted.  He didn’t buy a brand new car.  He didn’t cook steak very often.  I suppose at times I envied other children for the newest and coolest tennis shoes or for having all of the neatest pencils. (Yes, I said pencils. I never had Hello Kitty pencils.)   He never owned a credit card.  He never bought anything besides a house that he had to make payments on. Now that I’m older, I realize, this was not because he couldn’t afford a little more.  He was actually way ahead of the race.

When I joined the working force, at the ripe old age of 17, I thought I was on my way to being rich and successful…on minimum wage.  I took my paycheck and I bought my car, clothes, cds, and take out.  Give me a break, it was the 90s.  I basically blew all of my money.  I was making the money, and though he suggested I save money, my father didn’t enforce any rules on how I spent my money.  I’m glad he didn’t, so that I could learn the hard way that money is easy come, easy go.

I’ve always worked with the exception of a couple of years when my kids were very young. I have always worked long hours.  I caught on to this thing, the more you work, the more you get paid.  One thing I  have always had is a strong work ethic.  So, this brings me to my point…or rant, whatever you want to call it.

First of all, why does everyone keep up with the Joneses?  I don’t see why anyone else would even care if my car is brand new and cost me $70,000.  Yes, I work really hard, and yes, I enjoy buying myself and my family nice things.  I could care less about a new, expensive car.  For one thing, it’s not that enjoyable to me.  I like my car.  It’s not new, but it’s clean and it holds my entire family.  It’s pleasing to my eyes, and it does it’s job of getting me there…most of the time.  I don’t need other people to drool over it. If I went out and bought a brand new $70,000 car…I’d be broke.  I wouldn’t be able to get out and do things I enjoy or buy things that I need because I’d be making a huge monthly payment for a car that isn’t that important to me.

I have a home with enough bedrooms and bathrooms to accommodate my family.  It’s not huge, but it’s large enough.  There are several improvements I’d like to make.  Why would I want to go out and buy a bigger house, putting myself in a financial hole if I don’t need to.  I plan on retiring someday.  If I spend all my money on things that I do not need and I’m only doing it so other people will envy me, then I’m not really doing myself or my family any good.  Why do my neighbors care that I don’t have 3 bathrooms?

Anyway, my point is that if I spend all of my money on stuff to make my friends and family jealous, then I won’t have the money to meet my family’s needs and wants.  Not sure why people do that.  My true friends and family shouldn’t care what I own as long as we are happy.  Do my children get everything they want? Nope. Will this harm them? Nope. Do they have everything they need? Yes.  Am I able to give them more than they need? Yes.  I can do this because I don’t skip over needs to buy wants.

Now, let’s talk about credit. As I mentioned, my father never had a credit card. Still doesn’t. The reason… it would mean he was buying something he didn’t have the money for. What I didn’t realize as a child…the parents buying all of these things I really wanted as a child using credit cards were way worse off than I ever was. I couldn’t see they were way more poor than I was because they owed money they didn’t have while my father had no debt.  I finally get it!

I know a woman. When her children were younger, she bought them cute shoes and clothes and she drove a nice car.  She and her husband had a nice house, it was filled with really nice things.  I remember wishing I had a nice house like that.  That’s how I remembered it as a child. Now let’s move to present day.  She still has a nice car…and she also still borrows money from her mother to make the monthly bills.  She had to ask her church for the money to go to a funeral out of town because she didn’t have the money for that last minute expense.  Also, though it’s been 20 years, she still owes as much on that house as she did then.  She’s getting old enough to retire, but she won’t be able to because she will need to keep her income to support her lifestyle.  Her children are on the same path.

Let’s look at my father. Owns a home and two vehicles.  He still makes quite a bit less than this woman.  He still has a smaller income than the woman I mentioned.  This is no accident.  He has always lived within his means.  Actually, he’s lived below his means.  The only way to save money is to live below your means.  I cannot say that I was always that smart. I cannot say my father was always that smart. Perhaps, like myself, his wisdom took a while.  I didn’t really know him before my birth.  However, in another 30 years, I’d like to think that I’ll be on the path he has taken.  I’d like to think my children will be.  The best thing that I can show them for their financial future is that they do not have to have everything they want as long as they are getting everything they need.

This brings me to my next point…ENTITLEMENT!  The world doesn’t owe a person anything. Life is not fair.  There is no rhyme or reason to it. I’m not sure what happened but somewhere between my childhood and my adulthood, people started to think the world owed them everything they could possibly want.  Perhaps some people get everything they want.  Unless you are the person you envy for getting everything they want in life, you have no clue if they really have everything they want in life.  The richest person in the world can be the saddest. Perhaps they measure their sadness in not having the mother they lost to breast cancer or having no true love of their life.  Being happy cannot be measured in “things”.

I have worked with people in the past who don’t think they should work hard because the money they make does not buy them enough to make themselves happy.  I would think this would be incentive to work harder.  Apparently not in some cases.  Entitlement seems more like a poison to me.  One that is making people so sick that they can’t see the good that is right in front of their face.  I feel sorry for these people. If you can’t enjoy the good that you have because you are always chasing what you think will make you happy, then you are missing out. That’s just sad.

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