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Keeping Up with Keeping Up

Social media doesn’t show you the entire picture. 

Keeping up with Joneses – it’s human nature, right? Your neighbor brings home a brand-new Beamer, and your 10-year-old Honda looks a little dull in comparison. Everyone has felt this way at some point, and it doesn’t start in adulthood. We all remember the kid who got a new bike every Christmas, and a new sports car for their 16th birthday. Now, that has evolved into who has the bigger engagement ring, who had the most lavish wedding, and who buys the biggest first home. 

These days however, the images of bigger, better and more expensive don’t just come from those we know – we are all bombarded every day by shiny images from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. The opportunities to feel like we need to keep up and keep buying are endless, and are now coming from strangers we’ve never even met. As Will Rogers said, “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like.” 

I’m sure you like your Facebook friends, but it’s easy to look at all these posts and updates and wonder, how can these people afford all these things? The pull to go car shopping, spend your nest egg on a big wedding or eat out every night can wreak havoc on your budget – believe me, I know. But before swiping that card, let’s go back to that question of “how can they afford all that?” The answer in many cases is, simply, they can’t. Of course, there are those who work hard, save, land lucrative first jobs and have lots of nice things without going into debt.

But in my experience, many (if not most) of the people we feel compelled to keep up with can’t afford what they already have, and likely have little to no savings. 

Another possible answer to that question is that your buddy just got a raise and a hefty yearly bonus for hard work and good performance. That’s great, and some indulgence for a job well done is fine. However, many people fall into the trap of expanding their lifestyle with each raise, and spending entire bonuses on expensive vacations or unnecessary new cars. This is called lifestyle creep, and it’s incredibly easy to let it happen without even realizing it. It looks great on Instagram now, but what happens in 20 years when that person has no savings? 

Yet another possibility is that all of that stuff is on someone else’s dime. More and more in my generation, our parents aren’t cutting us off at 18, or even when we graduate from college. Many parents today are supporting their children into their late 20s, or even into their 30s. That wedding, car or vacation might not have been at your friend’s expense – even though it looks like it on social media. 

Is posting the good times on Facebook a bad thing? Of course not. We all want to share our lives with each other and talk about the fun we are having, but remember – no one posts how much they owe. Social media can paint a very pretty picture, but it’s never the whole picture. We all need to learn to be savvy social media consumers, and remember that the only thing we should be keeping up with is our own financial plan. 

Which brings me to why I am writing this article in the first place. With social media and the bombardment of information from it, I’m simply encouraging you to remember that things aren’t always as they appear, and that it’s important (and possible!) to enjoy life – while staying within your means. 

You don’t have to live in one-room basement apartments and drive rusty cars like your parents (tell you they) did, but you do need to avoid consumer debt and save for the future. The key is finding that happy medium. 

Review your financial situation now – our team can help you set up a budget that works for you. We will help you save for the future while still encouraging you to enjoy life today – especially when it’s 75 degrees in February! You might find that you really can afford to get the girl of your dreams that sparkling diamond, or even take that vacation to Hawaii – and then post it on Facebook of course!

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