Keeping Up with the Joneses

Most everyone can relate to some level of envy or longing for the things you don’t have.  It’s a struggle for anyone, but in the Financial Independence community I think its at another level.  Don’t get me wrong, we have nice things.  Nicer than we need in many cases.

Mrs. Exityoung and I have made a decent living for a while now.  We know that we have made more than most of our friends.  Yet we envy some of the spending we see around us.  Who doesn’t want the finer things in life?  Who doesn’t want five star vacations, a condo in the heart of the city, luxury cars, boats, country club memberships? You could go on and on.

Inherent in saving a large portion of your earnings is untapped purchasing power.  It can be really tough to see friends and neighbors with all this great stuff that you don’t have.  Meanwhile, you know you can afford it and struggle with whether or not to “keep up”.

Keep up with the Jonses….. or not

photomania-f4bfa5a08fe94167bb2deb8f7ae13d21 The only way our plan works is to spend less than we make.  Far less.  If we can’t hold our spending down while working, how can we hope to be happy on some small percentage of preretirement income when we have much more time on our hands?

When it’s time to make spending decisions we sometimes talk in terms of Utils.  What the heck is a Util?  Great question.  As close as I can remember from economics (or at least as we like to think about it), it is happiness return on investment.  Said differently, we ask ourselves if spending this dollar on this use is what will make us happiest.  Everyone has different interests and loves in their life.  So it makes sense that everyone would spend differently.  But just from a logical, captain obvious point of view, why would you spend money on something that doesn’t make you as happy as somewhere else you could spend your money?  For us, that means being a little envious at times, but we know financial independence equals happiness to us.

Friends and Rivals

Thinking about it, we have friends in very different stages of life with very different ways of spending.  They are all like us in certain ways. Mostly college educated professionals that make a household income in excess of $100k.  But very different in other ways.

Its interesting what these differences do to a friendship and how spending can feel like a rivalry at times.  Sad really, but it does.  Who has the nicer this, that, or the other thing.  It’s also sad that those differences tend to drive people apart.  Friends with less will pull back feeling like they can’t keep up.  We’ve been on both sides of that.  I’m curious and a little concerned how the next few years of paring back our spending and lifestyle will impact our existing friendships.

Retirement Friends

Then there is the bigger ball of wax, retirement and how that will impact our friendships.  What will friends say when we tell them we’re quitting.  If we decide to move away this impact is obvious.  But what if we stay?  We’ll have more time and less budget.  I’m guessing we’ll make new (probably older) friends in a similar situation, but I’m hoping we’ll keep the old ones as well.  More on how and when we’ll tell family and friends in the future, for now we’re hush hush.
Post your keeping up with the joneses thoughts in the comments.

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