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Why You Don’t Have to Keep Up with the Joneses!

“All that glitters is not gold,” in many cases, rings true.

We all have a natural tendency to compare ourselves to those around us … it’s the mentality of “they’re doing that, why can’t we?” 

That’s a dangerous trap! In observing the habits of the successful (and the not so successful), the difference is how people choose to spend the money they make, and where they rank themselves on their own payroll.

So what’s more important, the house you currently live in, or for that matter, the car you drive now, or taking steps to secure a comfortable retirement?

Many people think they need to live the life that someone else prescribes for them, caring more about image and the accumulation of “stuff.” A better approach would be to examine one’s own unique situation; evaluating goals and values and uncovering dreams.

Life shouldn’t be about trying to keep up with the Joneses – they’re broke anyway. The people who you think have money (based on the cars they drive, the clothes they wear, the homes they live in, the vacations they take, and the toys they have) may well be living paycheck-to-paycheck, accumulating very little to fund even a meager lifestyle in retirement. Sometimes, those who appear as “wealthy” are an illusion. They may make a lot of money and live extravagantly, but they are spending all of their effort and energy on today. They are saving nothing for the future.

To live the happy financial life, facilitate a process that helps you articulate and organize your most deeply held values – what is most important to you. Once your values are identified, you can align your goals and all future decisions with those values. This is the “why” behind the “what.”

Roy Disney said it best, “When your values are clear, your decisions are easy.”

Financial planning isn’t an event, it’s a journey. The big pieces go into place pretty easily, then it’s a matter of constant and vigilant monitoring. There are a lot of planners that can write the plan. Some may even get you started on the journey, but it’s the accountability, coaching and mentorship that lasts for years, sometimes decades, that really makes the difference. It’s far easier to make small course corrections along the way, than to have to revamp or overhaul the entire plan – that can be frustrating or even counterproductive.

If you wish to keep up with the Joneses, ask yourself whether you are being realistic. Is it something you are able to achieve? And even if it is, do you truly want to achieve it? Each decision should be run through the filter of your values.

About the Author: Brad Berger, CFP®, CLF® is managing partner and owner of Cornerstone Financial Strategies LLC ( and has more than 25 years in the financial services industry. He also is the author of the book “Stop Trying to Keep Up With the Joneses – They’re Broke Anyway: A Financial Planner’s Guide to Living Your Ideal Life.” 


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