We are excited to feature a guest post from Donna Skeels Cygan!
One of many financial strategies mentioned in The Joy of Financial Security is to avoid the pressure of “keeping up with the Joneses.” This dynamic is very pervasive in our society, and it is toxic to attaining financial security. I encourage readers to make a very deliberate commitment to avoid keeping up with the Joneses. Without a deliberate commitment, we tend to measure our lives relative to those around us, and this is a slippery slope.
Decide that you don’t need another big-screen TV. Maybe you decide not to buy any clothes for the next month. Avoid buying junk food (sodas, chips, cookies) at the grocery store. Decide that your holiday gifts to loved ones this year will focus more on giving experiences rather than spending money on “things.” The money you save can be directed to increasing your savings percentage or your investments.
The commitment to stop keeping up with the Joneses leads to two huge rewards. One is that you will be happier. Deciding to focus on relationships and experiences rather than on materialistic things increases our happiness.
Another huge reward is the opportunity to have rich conversations over the holidays with your children or grandchildren about the way you are handling your finances. Start the conversation by saying that you have committed to stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. (“It doesn’t matter that our neighbor Joe has a new car in the driveway. We have a perfectly good car that is six years old and we are going to try to make it last ten or twelve years.”) Explain to your loved ones that you are proud that you are living within your means, you are saving for their college, or for retirement, or for a rainy day. These are powerful messages. You will become a positive financial role model for your children or grandchildren. Your actions and your words help to pass down your values while teaching the next generation how to have a healthy relationship with money.
If you have not always handled money wisely it doesn’t matter. Perhaps you were living beyond your means with credit card debt and no savings. You can decide to make small changes in your behavior that lead to big rewards. Telling your family that you have made a commitment to improve your finances is a big step forward. Money is a topic that is rarely discussed in families. Discussing it honestly is a much better approach.
This conversation can lead to other conversations about the money messages you learned as you were growing up, family stories from the depression, and stories about your ancestors. Passing down these stories will make for a wonderful holiday, full of experiences and rich conversations.
About the Author: Donna Skeels Cygan has been recognized as one of the top financial advisers in the U.S., and has been quoted in many publications, including The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Forbes, Kiplingers, Newsweek, and Investment News. She is the president of Sage Future Financial, LLC in Albuquerque, NM, serving clients across the U.S., and is the author of The Joy of Financial Security. www.joyoffinancialsecurity.com.