For example, I find that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more empathetic and compassionate toward other people. Not that I wasn’t before (at least I hope not!), but it sometimes takes life experience to understand how we each take our own individual journey to get to where we are. Kindness and compassion trump judgment and generalization. It’s something I’m continually developing on.
Another example, almost counterintuitively, is that I’m caring less and less about what others think of me. Maybe better put, I’m not worrying about being judged by others as much as I might have in the past!
To the latter point, I’ll illustrate by briefly sharing my clothes shopping and haircut experiences and how they’ve changed.
For clothes, I would – in the past – only buy really good quality stuff from Nordstrom or small handful of other places in that category. Not only for work, but for cool casual things for going out on weekends. These days, I don’t do that at all. I’d be more likely to buy something very inexpensive (but nice) on sale from J.C. Penney.
That’s huge difference is “prestige”, and I’m fine with it.
For haircuts, in the past I would’ve spent a decent amount of money – to the tune of $40 for a men’s haircut. Now, I’ll drop $15 for a cut. I wrote about this before, in a post on how much to spend on a haircut. Clearly, I’m fine with it.
Frankly, I don’t see how those more expensive purchases in the past made that much difference in my life. Did paying 2 to 3 (or more) times more back then give me that much more for my money? Probably not. I simply felt good about it, and that I was keeping up with others that way. Maybe not consciously, but at least subconsciously.
I think that this type of spending behavior just might be one of the biggest obstacles to people reaching financial independence (a topic I was reminded of in a recent post on Messy Money). Or, at least it’s something that actually prevents them from even trying to achieve it – even if they know that it would be a great place to be!
Why wouldn’t someone want to be financially free?
I’m not, and have quite a ways to go. It’s not close.
But clearly, I value the concept of being financially responsible. And I don’t really care anymore how it might look to others if I don’t have the same material things.
Here is one way to look at it:
- Would it be worth it to you to have financial independence, but have a worse house, car, clothes, etc. than your friends and peer group? Keep in mind, they would all know that they had nicer things than you, and you would appear to be worse off to the untrained eye.
- Or, would you rather have equivalent house, car, clothes, etc. than these important people in your life – but have to work quite a few more years and not have financial independence? To know that you look good to them.
In other words, having low perceived status but totally quiet freedom you get no social credit for?
Or, having good perceived status (or maybe even “big hat, no cattle“), but keep on plugging away for many years like everyone else in your circle?
I think you know what I would choose. Here’s to actually living within one’s means!
My Questions for You
What about you? Which path sounds better, and more realistic to you?
Do you think keeping up appearances and worrying about what others think is a reason why many people don’t seriously pursue financial independence?