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Investing 101

Keeping Up With the Joneses Is Costing You

Most parents have asked their kids this question at some point: “If so-and-so jumped off a bridge, would you follow?”

This is a facetious way of saying you don’t have to do everything your friends do. And somebody needs to be saying it to us in adulthood too.

More than half of Americans pay more attention to how their friends spend than to how their friends save.

In other words, you’re probably more likely to say, “Wow, look at Bob’s Maserati!” than “Wow, look at Bob’s 401(k)!”

Social media has only worsened this jealousy – also called fear of missing out, or FOMO. In this day and age, users are posting only the best versions of themselves, carefully curating what other people can see.

Put simply, it’s plain old peer pressure. And it’s likely costing you.

More than one-third of Americans (including nearly half of millennials) are spending more money than they can afford to in order to keep up with their friends.

Are You Trying to Keep Up chart

I’ve personally seen this play out to a fault in gift-giving. There’s a mentality that if Jack and Jill spent $100 on your wedding/birthday/holiday/baby gift, then you have to spend at least $100 on theirs.

But reciprocity isn’t black and white unless you live identical lives.

Ultimately, this is a toxic cycle. You’re trying to keep up with your friends, who are trying to keep up with their friends, who are trying to keep up with billionaires and celebrities. Everyone loses.

So if you’ve ever fallen victim to this monetary FOMO, it’s time to break the tit-for-tat spending habits. No one is keeping score but you.

This is more important than ever right now – in the first post-pandemic summer.

About 35% of people say their emergency savings are lower since the pandemic started. And the percentage of people who have any emergency funds at all is at a 10-year low.

Resist the urge to make up for lost time or splurge on a celebratory vacation you can’t afford.

At the end of the day, your financial order of operations should always be this: SAVE what you need… INVEST what you can… GIVE what you want.

If you spend wisely, the Joneses might be trying to keep up with you one day.

Good investing,


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