Have you heard these?
“Isn’t the average credit card debt something like $15,000? My $12,000 isn’t all that bad, is it?”
“Yes, I pay $600 monthly on car payments, but everyone has car payments.”
I have — in fact I heard these two statements in the past two weeks: people justifying their dismal financial standing by believing they are normal. It reminds me of what my mother used to tell me, “Joey, if everyone jumps off a bridge, does it make it right for you to do the same thing?”
Few of us want to be thought of as weird, but following the crowd financially, especially in 21st Century America, is not a good plan. These stats make my point:
- According to the Wall Street Journal, nearly 70% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.
- According to the US Census Bureau, 62% of Americans retire with incomes less than $10,000.
- 49% of Americans could cover less than one month’s expenses if they lost their jobs.
You get my drift…personal finance in America is not a pretty picture. If we are normal Americans, we will succumb to what our friends, neighbors and acquaintances do. We will drive cars we can’t afford with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t know. We will spend hundreds of dollars eating out each month while our savings and our retirement accounts are under funded. We will buy our furniture and our vacations with borrowed money. And we will justify our immaturity by telling ourselves, “Everyone I know is doing this. It can’t be all THAT wrong.”
Newsflash: Normal is broke in America. If you really want to succeed, you need to strive for weirdness. Weird people save up and pay cash. Weird people aren’t lured by instant gratification purchases. Weird people prepare and live on budgets. Weird people avoid debt like a plague. Weird people aren’t hounded by bill collectors. Weird people, by avoiding financial stress, have solid marriages and can sleep at night.
I think I am going to resolve to be weird in 2012. How about you?