As a personal finance blogger and a financial advisor, I’m constantly surrounded by people that either (1) have a lot of money and get to do a lot of fun things with it, (2) talk about doing a lot of fun things with money they’re eventually going to have, or (3) talk about what they’re currently doing to accomplish those lofty hopes and dreams.
Unfortunately, my surroundings have become a constant reminder that I’m not doing well enough…in life and with our finances.
Chase Other Peoples’ Dreams
There is nothing wrong with dreaming, having long-term goals, or having a bucket list. However, I’ve noticed that the more I surround myself with successful people and finance bloggers, the more their goals and dreams find their ways into my dreams.
Just yesterday I found myself getting jealous of a friend that was able to buy a $3,000 camera. What the heck do I need a $3,000 camera for?
Do I even want a $3,000 camera? Hell no!
But I certainly was annoyed that he was able to buy that expensive of a camera!
Just last week I met with a client and we were able to divide up a $275,000 (after tax) bonus he received. $100k went to his children’s college, $15k was going to charity, $15k was going to vacation, $40k was going to pay off a 401(k) loan they took out to make a down payment on their new ($400,000 home – which buys quite a bit here in Kansas City), and he was going to invest the rest – a mere $105,000.
All of which I was envious of. But do I even have children or want a $400,000 home? No…
So why do I become so jealous and twist things around to make it feel like I’m not doing well enough in life?
Taking a Step Back
We all know what our world has become: a spotlight for the “It’s all about me” show. The consistent barrage of other peoples’ successes (or appearance of) through outlets such as Twitter or Facebook - which you should follow me on by the way by clicking on those links – serve as a great reminder of what you’re missing out on.
Despite understanding that those “showy” people likely used their FlexPerks visa card to go on their vacation and went into debt to finance their lifestyle, one can’t help but envy living the lifestyle of the Joneses.
After taking some time to reflect on my life and my new desire/goals, I remembered one of my original keys to financial peace: contentment.
The primary reason my wife and I have been able to pay down $60,000 of debt over the past 5 is because we’ve learned to be content and satisfied with what we have in life. We’ve found great success by running away from the Joneses and avoiding living the way they live.
Because the reality is that the Joneses (most Americans) are broke! They may live a life of glitz-and-glamor on the outside, but their net worth statement reveals that a life dependent on social security and working until age 75 is in their future.
One Step at a Time
While contentment is the cure for overcoming the consistent desire for stuff and status, setting goals – both short and long-term – is integral in making sure your true plans in life don’t get derailed.
Over the last few months I’ve desired nothing more than taking a European vacation, buying a new home (we recently had ours on the market), and buying new furniture (namely a 60” flat screen, LED, Samsung TV). While I’m learning to be content with my life all over again, I found that reviewing the goals we set last year (and the year before) have helped me to realize what was/is truly important to me.
Without short-term (often small) goals, there is no possibility of accomplishing long-term (typically large) goals.
There is no 3-week trip to Fiji if we can’t build our emergency fund or get out of debt.
There is no early retirement without learning to live on less than we make while saving and investing on a monthly basis.
There is no 3,000 square foot cabin in the Rockies without first being content with what I have, making the most of blessing we’ve been given today, and taking our goals one step at a time.
Readers: how long have you been on your journey out of debt or building wealth? Have you struggled to maintain focus at times or have you been derailed because the stuff/status of the Joneses clouded your vision?
Jason is a financial advisor and Dave Ramsey-trained counselor that founded WorkSaveLive.com. He aims to educate his readers on a variety of financial topics while sharing his family’s journey out of debt.