When I was a young lad, I did lots of odd jobs around my Dad’s accounting practice – shredding old documents by hand, copying and collating (my personal favorite!) and other similar mind-numbing tasks.
One day, in a rare break from the monotony, my Dad called me into his office and said he wanted to show me something. After making me promise that the information he was about to reveal wouldn't leave that room, he asked me a question.
Who do you think makes more money?
My two choices were family friends. One family had a big house, fancy cars, and nice clothes. The other family had a house similar to ours (nice but not huge), drove old Volvos, and couldn’t really give two hoots when it came to what they wore.
Care to guess which family I – naive, overconfident teenager Brian – picked?
“Of course it’s the big house, fancy car, nice clothes family,” I remember telling my Dad. He smiled as he then showed me the two different income numbers on their tax returns. I was floored (still am!) at how wrong I was.
My Dad taught me an important lesson that day that’s stuck with me ever since.
True wealth is what you don’t see.
Yes, your neighbors might have an 8-seat luxury SUV. That won’t help them pay for Junior’s college tuition. Your decision to get a minivan instead and save for college expenses ahead of time will though.
That $2 million home in your neighborhood? It isn’t worth much if the family that owns it has a $1.8M mortgage balance. They could have decided to do one house project at a time like you have instead.
Don’t let outward displays of wealth deceive you. Remember that “rich” neighbor that you not-so-secretly envy might be living paycheck to paycheck.
Instead, let your personal values define how you save and spend your money.
It’s much better to be the actual millionaire next door than to spend all your money trying to impress folks who might be better off - financially & emotionally - than you are.
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