Making comparisons with people is a common thing. We all do it to some extent, but some people find themselves not only consumed with wanting to see what other people own and do but trying to keep up with this self-imposed standard of what is ‘crucial’ to have for themselves – also known as ‘keeping up with the Joneses‘
‘Too many people spend money they earned..to buy things they don’t want..to impress people that they don’t like’. –Will Rogers
In our material world, success and wealth are so often confused with what we own.
Two fictional examples
Your friends, Mr & Mrs Jones have a brand new luxury car, they take two luxury holidays overseas each year and their home is like something from an interior design magazine.
Your other friends, Mr & Mrs Smith have driven the same car that was already a few years old when they bought it eight years ago. They go camping in the UK for a long weekend each year and stay with family occasionally, but hardly ever seem to go abroad. Their house is clean and tidy, but it’s filled with second-hand, mismatched furniture and their kitchen and bathroom are both a little dated.
So which couple is ‘successful’? Who is earning a good salary? Which couple is struggling with debt and arguing about money when nobody can hear? Which couple has a greater than average net worth for their age? Who has the most in savings and which couple have their retirement investments on track? Who has the highest Credit Score?
The answer is, we just don’t know.
Just because it looks like money, doesn’t mean it is
Mr and Mrs Jones may have worked their arses off to pay cash for those expensive holidays, or that brand new car, or they may have an expensive car payment each month and they may still be paying off a holiday taken five years ago as they sun themselves on their latest dream destination.
Mr and Mrs Smith could be raking in fantastic salaries and investing 70% of their incomes each month so that they can retire really early and travel the world or they may be paying off crippling debts and about to split up due to one of them having a secret gambling habit.
There are so many variables to each situation in this fictional set-up and so too are there when observing the lives of others around us or on social media. Unless a person chooses to tell us how their personal financial situation is, we’ll never truly understand the real picture and frankly, it’s none of our business.
Finally, not everybody measures success by material, financial, educational or vocational factors. For some people, a contented marriage or happy and well-adjusted, kind children are much more of sign that their hard work (in spending quality time with loved ones) has paid them dividends. To them, these are the only dividends they’re concerned with.