Keeping up with the Jones’ has taken on a new sense of urgency in today’s society with our daily inundation of reality TV, Instagram feeds, and even apps designed to broadcast our affluence to our friends. Every day, we are trained by society to compare our lives, in particular our financial ones, to others. We look around us at our family and friends, even people on TV and social media, and often come to the conclusion that our own financial lives are sorely lacking. However, this tendency is only self-destructive and leads us to a failure to appreciate what we already have and even the financial goals we have worked so hard to achieve. In short, it is time to stop comparing your personal finances to that of others around you.
Appreciate your own financial goals.
Each of us have our own financial goals, and hopefully you have taken the time to put pen to paper and write yours down. Envying the financial lives of others make us less appreciative of our own, even if what we have accomplished is substantial. Comparing what others do with their money tells us nothing about what we do with ours. Why would you care what your neighbor drives or eats, much less what the Kardashians do? If they aren’t in the same personal and financial situations as you, then so be it, and it behooves you to focus inward on your own financial growth and journey.
Affluence can be easily faked – and often is.
Remember the “Bow Wow Challenge?” In May 2017, professional rapper Bow Wow posted a picture on his Instagram feed of a private jet and indicated he was about to take it to fly to New York City. That impression unraveled when one of his Instagram followers noticed Bow Wow sitting next to him on a commercial flight just hours later that same day and posted THAT picture to Instagram. From there, the Bow Wow Challenge swept social media, prompting everyone and their grandmother to find crafty and ingenious ways to take a photograph that implied they had achieved some sort of personal, financial, or relationship goal alongside a picture exposing the lie. Recognize that this happens all of the time, both on and off social media. Are you jealous of your neighbor’s degree from that special Ivy League college? It sounds pretty affluent, but your neighbor isn’t talking about all that student loan debt that came with.
By focusing outward, we forget to focus inward.
Maintaining your personal finances responsibly is important – but it isn’t the be-all, end-all of everything. By spending too much time and energy focusing outward on appearances and what you have versus what others have, you can forget to focus on your more important needs, such as your physical health and mental clarity. As most self-help experts claim, you really will be happier when you learn not to focus on the external. In fact, in some of the more extreme cases, an obsession with what others have achieved can be a source of crippling anxiety and feelings of worthlessness.
Slow and steady wins the financial race.
No matter what your financial situation is, you will be able to improve it with time and dedication. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was that McMansion down the road. Financial experts agree that slow and steady is the path to a solid financial situation, and that takes time. Unfortunately, we often forget that when we’re making comparisons between the haves and the have-nots, especially when we place ourselves into the latter category. Instead of focusing on what others have, redirect those thoughts to what your current situation is versus where you would like your finances to be in five, ten, or twenty years. It’s a much healthier line of thinking, and, unlike the other, can actually do you some long-term good.