By Christi Posner
Doesn’t it feel like your neighbours, your family, and your friends are always getting pretty, shiny new things? One day your co-worker has a new iPad, the next day your friend has bought a new car, and before you know it your kids are asking to go to Disneyworld because all of their friends got to go! All the while, you are sitting there on your couch from 1914 listening to radio broadcasts on your old phonograph because you can’t afford to do anything else. (Well, maybe it’s not THAT extreme but it can feel like that sometimes!)
Seriously, how are all of these people able to afford all of these expensive things!? It can easily make us feel defeated and unhappy with our lives. So naturally, we try to keep up with the Joneses!
I’m guilty of comparing my life to the life of my friends. “How can they afford such a huge house?” “Their house is always so clean.” “I wish we could afford an SUV”.
Feeling deflated and poor, I had a flashback to the age of 14 when I thought the exact same thing about our family. Why did my family argue so much and why did my friends have such awesome parents who let them do whatever they wanted? “You never know what happens behind closed doors,” my Mom would say. Man, I hate when she’s right…
We usually assume that the Joneses can afford that trip to Hawaii that they took, or that the brand new house they live in is a result of impeccable financial planning and great salaries. Behind closed doors, you may not know that the Joneses were given their first house by their deceased grandparents, which they later sold for an easy $200,000 in their bank account. You may not know that the trip the Joneses went on with their whole family was actually paid for with a credit card that they will be making payments on for the next ten years. You may not know that the shiny SUV the Joneses are driving pulls a $700 payment out of their bank account every month and puts them into the red. The truth is that you don’t know what is going on behind closed doors.
The average Canadian’s debt-to-income ratio has reached a new record high. This means that on average, for every $1 a Canadian earns, they are spending $1.50. So about those Joneses you exhaustedly try to keep up with? They’re broke! Heck, they may be trying to keep up with you!
If I could, I’d bring you into my office for a moment, and let you be a fly on the wall. Once, a couple with elementary-aged kids sat across from me, and cried out about how much it sucks that they’re in debt:
“Our friends down the street are the same age as us and they make about as much money as we do. How do they manage to have a boat and go on camping trips all the time!!”
Fast forward to a few weeks later, and another young couple sits across from me. “How did we get so behind the 8 ball? We work so hard! We have friends down the street who have such a big house and they’re always so well-dressed, and they make the same kind of money we do. I mean we have a boat, but that’s our only entertainment. And we can’t even afford to put gas in it to go very far!”
Oh yeah. That happened.
Neighbours. Friends. Comparing themselves to each other. Both couples severely in debt, and no one had the slightest idea.
I know you’re supposed to leave your work at work. But if there’s one thing I take home from work with me every day, it’s that I don’t want to keep up with the Joneses. Why should I set standards for myself based on someone else’s life? I have set my own goals in life. I want to go forwards, not backwards; stay in control of my money; not define the value of my life by what I have.
Have you caught yourself comparing your life to someone else’s? What do you think is really going on behind closed doors? You may be shocked to learn the real truth about the Joneses and realize that you’re not as poor as you may feel.
– Christi (@ChristiPosner)
Originally posted on gailvazoxlade.com
Christi Posner is a Credit Counsellor for the Credit Counselling Society, a non-profit, charitable organization. Born and raised in Winnipeg, Christi is a newlywed, a new homeowner, and with the exception of car loans and a mortgage, she is newly debt-free. Her goal is not merely to survive, but to financially thrive; and to do so with some passion, empathy, humour, and a smile.