“Judgment by Your Peers Sucks”. This phrase comes from The Feel Rich Project,by Michael F. Kay, CFP. And it could apply to so many things. Michael talks about how this fear of being judged drives what we eat, what we wear, what we own. And let’s face it, most of us have it to some degree – but does it fuel your need to spend to keep up a façade?
I’ve been in financial services for almost 30 years. I have friends who see a big house with new cars outside, and think Wow! Those people are wealthy. They have everything. But often that’s not true. I see a huge mortgage, leased cars, credit cards with balances on them – and wishful thinking that someday things will work out.
The Pretty Façade of Debt
When I worked at a brokerage company we were interested in issuing a credit card to customers in Connecticut. Connecticut used to be the wealthiest state in the nation, and indeed they had great credit scores. But many of them had no ability to take on any more debt. They were leveraged to the hilt! This is a common situation for many people. They have lots of cash flow in from big salaries, and lots of cash flow out to cover debt and life expenses. But almost zero net worth at the end of the day. So when the money flow stops, they lose everything.
Misery Loves Company?
Do you really want to keep up with people who are living behind a facade? Do you want to worry that much about losing your job because you’re walking a money tightrope to avoid judgment, with no safety cushion? The constant hum of anxiety is debilitating. The fear can be paralyzing – hanging over your head every single minute of every day. This kind of stress could kill you. Is this how you want your life to be?
If you think about it, Nancy is keeping up with Sara, who is keeping up with Janine, who is keeping up with Nancy. And none of them have any real money even though they think the others do. It’s a house of cards.
Don’t Get Sucked In to the Illusion
Today I encourage you to take a stand. Stop the downward spiral of spending to impress out of fear of judgment. Nobody wins. Here is how to start: Define your True Values.
For argument’s sake, let’s say “family time” is an important value.
- The “need” is to spend time together, showing love and nurturing your kids so they learn good values, build self-esteem, and feel grounded.
- The “reality” may be that you’re spending time on family entertainment events and extravagant birthdays. Are you confusing giving gifts to show love, with family time?
- The “ask” – do you need to spend so much to achieve genuine family time? Are there less expensive alternatives that could be as much as, or more fun?
Related Topic: Enough Money: A State of Mind or Fact?
I believe strongly in defining your own happiness – not what marketers, or the finance industry, or neighbors are telling you it should be, but what you truly want. If you direct your life based on what others appear to have, and what they think you should have, you may just spiral downward with them.
There is never the perfect day to start change. You just have to do it. Those of us who value people for whom they are, not what they own, will be waiting to support you when you decide to fight back.
Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment, legal or tax planning advice. Please consult a financial adviser, attorney or tax specialist for advice specific to your financial situation. Behavioral Cents, LLC and any third parties listed, linked to or otherwise appearing in this message are separate and unaffiliated and are not responsible for each other’s products, services or policies.
Carrie Rattle is Founder of Behavioral Cents and a 30-year veteran executive of financial services. Behavioral Cents helps women build money confidence, gain control of their finances, and feel comfortable making their money decisions. We work one on one in a private, non-judgmental atmosphere with a program tailored to the individual. We help women assess their financial situation and change their money behaviors for the better – without deprivation. Thoughts always welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org.