Dreaming of the Future

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.

15 Responses to Dreaming of the Future

  • Catherine says:

    Great post Jason! We're all human and will find ourselves from time-to-time comparing ourselves to those around us but it's so important to not let it get to you. We have friends (married couple) who seem to have everything; beautiful house, new care, booming careers and enough disposable income to take a decent vacation every year but none of this matters to them…all they want is a baby and they're not able to. From an outsider they seem so perfectly content with their lives but they're emotionally broken struggling with the realization that for various reasons they will never have a (biological) child. So to them, our debt ridden lives with our beautiful daughter is probably more than they'd ever ask for. Perspective.

  • I definitely get affected by the whole "competing" aspect of wealth. Mainly I feel I am capable of building a small biz or doing some big things, so it's also competing with my own expectations.
    My recent post Strategies for Introverts to Avoid Becoming Drained

  • I've been working to help my girlfriend get out of debt for the last year I'd say… it isn't fun but it'll totally be worth it when all of her debt is gone!

    I understand the Joneses effect all too well. I always see nice houses and want them but then realize they wouldn't make me any happier. That is the key, will it make you happier.
    My recent post Personal Finance Round Up, Mentions and Carnivals #37

  • therandompath says:

    It is hard to delay gratification when paying off debt, but I just keep pushing through. The Joneses are usually in debt like me, and I try to ignore it when someone takes an awesome vacation or buys something awesome. But it is hard to do that and I don't always succeed. One day at a time, I guess…
    My recent post Money, Medicine and Some Link Love!

  • krantcents says:

    My past history has been mostly mortgage debt, although it was sizable! I owned a lot of income property (44 units & a shopping center) and had to rely on tenants to pay for it. It helped me reach financial freedom at an early age (38 y.o.). I think you need to focus on your accomplishments vs. thinking about others. My daughter last year earned more in bonus than I earn from teacher job, but I know what she has to do for it. I have a friend who has a nicer home, car and spends like there is no tomorrow. I also know she is in debt. I never let that affect me.
    My recent post My 2013 New Year’s Resolutions

  • Michelle says:

    The Joneses are such a pain in the neck! I just had a conversation the other day with a friend and was telling her how one of my friends was in Bali for New Year's Eve, another had posted pictures of her trip to the Antarctic, and a guy friend quit his job and went to Sydney. Yes, the conversation involved some whining too. But, I would say that financially it is not the moment for me to do these things. And who knows, maybe it wasn't the financial moment for some of my friends (though I am sure they're doing ok!) When it's the time to do the things that I want to do in a financially healthy way, the moment will present itself.

  • I wondered over after you commented on my blog, and I have to say, I think I'll stay awhile. It seems we share some passions: crushing debt, online business, and sailing as a way of life! In any case, thanks for alerting me to your blog.
    My recent post Voice of Reason

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm hesitant and sorry to say this but you do not sound like a good financial adviser. I'd be leary of hiring someone like you. To think, that if I went to an adviser and he/she was envious or jealous of my wealth would make me ponder. People like that oftentimes steal from their clients. I know. It almost happened to me. So, I wouldn't devulge this envy quirk you have. Just a thought.

    There will always be someone better than you. There will always be someone worse off than you. You need to get your own life under control before embarking on this career path. Sorry, but you are not there yet. I don't envy a single person in this world. If someone is doing better than me, I congratulate them, wish them well and learn from them. If someone is worse off than me, I help them pleasantly and without reimbursement. Your attitude is just not there.

  • Budget & the Beach says:

    I could not agree more! I would say I've been in the journey my entire adult life. I've had to many ups and down, which is part of life of course. To get into all the details would take forever…let's just say I'm trying to do a better job, each and every day to learn from my money mistakes and grow as a person. And to compare yourself…even thought it's hard not do to sometimes with someone else just makes it harder. I have to admit, one thing I do is hide friends on FB who always seem to have everything going for them finance wise. It make sound terrible, but I'm saving myself a lot of grief.
    My recent post Link Love/Week in Review 1/4/13

  • studentdebtsurvivor says:

    I don't really feel like I need to compete the the "Jones" but I definitely do sometimes catch myself thinking things like, "Really they have that?" or "Why couldn't I…" Comparing yourself to others is natural and sometimes healthy if it propels you forward, but I think a lot of people use comparisons to justify things they buy or decisions they make "Everyone has debt it's normal". I paid of my student loans in full in 2011 now I'm working on building a solid financial foundation.
    My recent post Survivor’s Standouts-1/5/13

  • I've been improving my finances for years, and I find great motivation in setting tangible, realistic goals. I find less pull from the "Jones'" since clearing out my credit card debt–over $14K gone in one year!
    My recent post Funny Shit My Cats Do

  • wmwo says:

    Absolutely! The fight to avoid keeping up with the Jones' is a daily struggle. We're surrounded not only by people we want to keep up with, but constant marketing from businesses (and scams) that want our money. You've hit on a a really important topic: contentment. The further in debt I was, the less content I was. It took a long time to realize that, and it's still a work in progress, but it's been worth working towards.
    My recent post Dumb Little Things I Do That Waste Utilities

  • Glen @ MPB says:

    I think everyone struggles to maintain focus on paying off debt all the time. It is a balancing act and you need to splash out every once in a while, otherwise what is the fun in living life?

    Nice post by the way Jason.
    My recent post Using Coupons to Save Money

  • Liquid says:

    Great vacation pictures, and looks like you are off to a good start this year :) It's sometimes hard to stay in shape but I'm doing this diet right now where I have mostly fruit in the fridge and I make smoothies everyday to substitute a meal. It saves money, is easier than cooking, and is pretty healthy.

  • worksavelive says:

    Thanks for the great comments everybody! Sorry…I've been quite busy lately and was out of town when this article was posted. Contentment is certainly a thing most people struggle with and unless you're financially independent you probably relate to what I talked about here. I think the biggest thing for us (personally) is that we had TONS of debt and have been working our way out for 6 years now, so it's been a long journey. These sorts of moments didn't happen early on when we first started paying off debt, but when you've sacrificed (in addition to taking a $70,000 pay cut) for as long as we have it's hard to stay content. It's a battle I'm continually working with though and only by His grace can I get things back in the proper perspective.

    In regards to Mr. Anonymous: I really don't have much to to say to your comment but I do appreciate you voicing your opinion. All I really have to say is that thinking financial advisors are perfect is like me believing my pastor doesn't sin. Reality is that we're all sinners and none of us are without flaw. You may have the financial luxuries of the world that allow you not to have feelings such as the ones I've described, but I'm sure you lack in many other areas in life.

    My recent post What to Do About Medical Debt

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