“Forget trying to keep up with the Joneses. The Joneses are broke!” I heard this quote recently on the news and wanted to say, “Amen, sister.” We are learning that the vast majority of Americans have been living beyond their means for some time.
It reminded me of an interview I had with a couple (happily married since 1967) who were imparting their best marriage advice. One of the earliest decisions they made in their marriage was to live debt-free and not to advance their lifestyle. That means when they have extra money, instead of buying a bigger house or a flat-screen TV, they give it away. Shocking in today’s culture, isn’t it?
With their high levels of academic achievement (a physician and master’s in Education) they could have sought out high-paying jobs, new furniture, nicer cars and a shinier lifestyle. Instead they chose jobs and volunteer roles for their real contributions. They have given significant sums to charities. They have also used their time and money on mission trips.
They still live a comfortable lifestyle and reared and educated two children. But they never let money take control of their life or their decisions. And they never argue about money. How many marriages today would benefit if financial stress was removed?
If you were handed a million dollars today, would it change your life? Would you buy a new house, put in the market, take a trip to Europe, plan for retirement, help your parents, give a little away or put it under your mattress (because you can’t trust today’s banks)?