More on keeping up with the Joneses

I can’t say I love CNN’s Money “Millionaires in the Making” series. Most generally they have people earning well above 100K/year profiled and not too many “Jane’s and Joe’s”. So it almost makes it seem that there’s no hope for middle class America. So is not surprising that in this week’s profile the feature a couple in their early 40’s with already 750K in net worth. However, this couple thinks that they are doing something wrong because it seems that “everyone is passing them by.” Clearly the measuring stick they are using for their success is the apparent success of their neighbor. Like I mentioned in my previous entry, this is wrong approach because they don’t know the real details of how those people are affording the lifestyle they are leading.

I have also fallen into this trap. I have this very close friend whose husband works with my husband (different department) and makes more money than he does. He just got a new car, she talks about buying an investment property, their family room is loaded with new toys for their children and it seems that every weekend they are adding to the stack. So, very easy to feel jealous, no? Not really, as it is, she has asked me for financial advice, mostly instruction since her husband has no interest in handling their personal finances and she wants to learn more in order to do a better job. So, of course I don’t know the specific details but like for everyone else who lives off a paycheck there’s only so much where that came from. In other words, no matter how much money you make, there’s only so much you can spend without going into debt.

So everytime I feel the jealous itch, I remind myself of our own personal situation: no credit card debt, living below our means, saving for our retirement and children’s college fund. The measure of our success is not about how much we spend but how much wealth we accumulate.