As I was taking in the trash bins this morning, I noticed my neighbor pull out of his garage in a brand new, $48,000 Toyota 4Runner Limited Edition SUV. Before now, all I saw was a crappy 1996 Honda Civic with dings everywhere come and go.
The 4Runner has a special place in my heart because it was the car I most longed for in high school. All the rich kids had the Toyota 4Runner, and I had a bike. Shitake fudge mushroom! With a nice 4Runner, it was easier to get the girls, which was frankly my #1 priority in high school besides getting good grades of course!
So instead of relying on an expensive SUV to impress the ladies, I had to work on developing my personality, humor, charisma, leadership and fitness instead. Seriously, what a drag! Having money is so much easier, but it might leave us delusional and depressed when we realize all that we’ve gotten wasn’t because of who we are.
My 4Runner-driving neighbor is 33 years old, married, and has a kid. Given I’ve lived in my spot for almost eight years, and they’ve lived there for 30 years, I’ve known him since he was 26 years old. He’d disappear for years on end, but now he finally seems to have settled down.
You see, my neighbor has been living with his parents ever since college. Property is expensive in San Francisco with a similar two-unit building down the street selling for over $2.3 million dollars just the other month. How’s a normal person in his 20’s supposed to afford even one unit for $1.15 million?
I don’t blame him for living rent-free in his parents apartment for 10 years after college. He was jobless for several years and ended up traveling around the world with what I presume is his parent’s allowance money. I remember him throwing the occasional techno party when his parents were away, but he’s all grown up now and works as a restaurant manager.
What I do feel is a tinge of envy now that he’s driving one of my childhood dream vehicles I could never afford. $48,000 is a lot of money for a car, and I doubt he makes $480,000 a year as a restaurant manager based on my 1/10th rule for car buying.
I now admit to having the desire to purchase a new car because of the following thoughts:
* You only live once! I think #YOLO is a popular term for Gen Y nowadays. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t this term seem like it helps screw up your financial life?
* If a restaurant manager who makes less than $100,000 a year and can afford a $48,000 car, why can’t I?
* He lived at home with his parents and I went off on my own to build a career, save like crazy so I could retire early, and buy my own home. I think I deserve it.
These are truly “keeping up with the Joneses” type thoughts I have never experienced since coming to San Francisco! All this time, I felt a little sorry for my neighbor for not being able to launch. As a post college man living at home, it does a lot of damage to one’s confidence. His mother and I would talk at least once a month when we’d bump into each other and ask me for advice how to get her grown son out of the house!
Now all is good because he and his wife and child don’t have to pay rent or a mortgage thanks to his parents. They can spend freely on whatever desires they want.
* Know there is more wealth out there than you can imagine. The media loves to focus on the suffering of others to make themselves and their readers feel good. Pay no attention! Many of my friends and I have a pact never to let anybody know offline how much we have or fully make. W2 income is just one source of income for people. There’s bank of mom and dad income, passive income, hobby income, wealthy spouse income, government assistance income, etc.
* Ostentation is out, low key is in, especially in an Obama administration. You might encounter someone who loves to show off their wealth by sharing pictures of their big house, shiny new car, and how much they make, but they are the exception. Know they either come from new wealth or are suffering from insecurity. If you spend some time to look behind their show, you’ll find some less than impressive scenarios.
* Focus on what you can control. There will always be somebody with a lot more wealth than you. The only think you can do is focus on building more wealth for yourself. Use the Joneses as motivation!
Now that I’ve finished writing this post, I’m back to thinking like I normally do. I love Moose, and will never sell him because I don’t sell my children. I’m happy with Moose because he’s reliable, good looking, and gets me where I want to go. Besides, I just got him some new brakes and a nice battery in the past year.
For all I know, my neighbor is a multi-millionaire who invested early in Facebook. Maybe he has a nice inheritance from his grandparents? From his perspective, he must have been scratching his head when I bought a house right next door at the age of 28 when he was still living off his parents after college. He doesn’t know how much I make, and he’ll never know so long as I dress the way I do and drive Moose.
Readers, when was your first keeping up with the Joneses experience? How do you deal?