Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
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Philip_Marlowe
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Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by Philip_Marlowe » Sat Oct 08, 2016 11:51 am

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by njboater74 » Sat Oct 08, 2016 12:00 pm

I understand what you're saying. Although I don't think your issue is really a 'keep up with the joneses' as much as it is a 'keep up appearances that are expected for you professsion'.

It's important for you to think pragmatically the way you are. You obviously don't like spending, and don't feel the need to own expensive purses and cars that have little utility value.

At the same time, you're an associate in a large law firm. The firm may expect you to dress and drive a certain way. I don't know the politics of the legal world, and whether this could legitimately jeopardize your chances for advancement. I work in sales, and it is expected that I show up in quality suits and a nice car. I've worked with people who didn't, and the whispering started.

I try and limit my luxury spending to just what will keep me from attracting the wrong sort of attention at work. It may sound superficial, but it's just the way it is. Sometimes you have to wear a uniform. Chalk it up to a business expense.
When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth and tell the whole world - 'No, YOU move'--Captain America, Boglehead

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by WhyNotUs » Sat Oct 08, 2016 12:06 pm

Asking someone what their net worth is often stops the queries.

I bought a new car a couple years ago and one of my occasional clients said that he was surprised and wanted to know what was going on. I explained my thinking in buying a Nissan Leaf and he shared that seeing me driving the same Toyota for years and bringing lunch to meetings had inspired he and his wife to start a conversation about their priorities that led to changes in their choices.

You might have an effect the other way before it is all over. Many people are finding the ornaments of income to be empty and are looking for more meaningful choices. For some that will mean creating an emergency fund, others increasing retirement savings, others will examine it all and decide they really do want a new BMW every three years. Conscious choice is a good thing, conspicuous consumption not so much.
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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by vitaflo » Sat Oct 08, 2016 12:09 pm

Philip_Marlowe wrote: How have others kept their eyes on the prize and resisted the urge to spend when surrounded by those who push spending?
I just assume the people who spend have a net worth much lower than mine. I realize that may not be true (I know nothing of other people's financials) but psychologically it helps me frame those conversations in my own mind.

In any case, there will come a time when those people go from asking "why do you drive a beater?" to "how did you retire so early?".

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by Pajamas » Sat Oct 08, 2016 12:10 pm

"A man who has at length found something to do will not need to get a new suit to do it in; for him the old will do, that has lain dusty in the garret for an indeterminate period. Old shoes will serve a hero longer than they have served his valet -- if a hero ever has a valet -- bare feet are older than shoes, and he can make them do. Only they who go to soires and legislative balls must have new coats, coats to change as often as the man changes in them. But if my jacket and trousers, my hat and shoes, are fit to worship God in, they will do; will they not? Who ever saw his old clothes -- his old coat, actually worn out, resolved into its primitive elements, so that it was not a deed of charity to bestow it on some poor boy, by him perchance to be bestowed on some poorer still, or shall we say richer, who could do with less? I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes. If there is not a new man, how can the new clothes be made to fit? If you have any enterprise before you, try it in your old clothes. All men want, not something to do with, but something to do, or rather something to be. Perhaps we should never procure a new suit, however ragged or dirty the old, until we have so conducted, so enterprised or sailed in some way, that we feel like new men in the old, and that to retain it would be like keeping new wine in old bottles. Our moulting season, like that of the fowls, must be a crisis in our lives. The loon retires to solitary ponds to spend it. Thus also the snake casts its slough, and the caterpillar its wormy coat, by an internal industry and expansion; for clothes are but our outmost cuticle and mortal coil. Otherwise we shall be found sailing under false colors, and be inevitably cashiered at last by our own opinion, as well as that of mankind."

-Henry David Thoreau
Walden, 1854

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by dodecahedron » Sat Oct 08, 2016 12:14 pm

More discreet/less confrontational approach than asking "What's your net worth?": maybe just anonymously leaving a copy of the Millionaire Next Door book in the employee lounge/breakroom? Or suggesting to your state bar association that they book the author as a speaker at their next meeting?

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by squirm » Sat Oct 08, 2016 12:15 pm

Spend money on things that matter in life, experiences like enjoying a nice vacation with your wife, doing good or spending money to help others etc. Nobody on their deathbed wished they bought better luxury cars.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by letsgobobby » Sat Oct 08, 2016 12:18 pm

Even in your rarified world, there must be a few financially responsible folks. I'm simply far more comfortable around them anyway and we end up socializing more and then I don't experience any peer pressure to change from people whose values are different than mine. So my best friend in residency was very interested in investing and saving and therefore I never felt any compunction about using a coupon when we went out to eat. I picked a place of employment with docs who mostly drive Subarus, Toyotas, old pick up trucks. We go camping with a friend who is a CFP and very committed saver and investor and planner. My first date with Mrs. letsgobobby was to a buffet and I picked her up in a Honda with 100,000 miles on it. If she was interested in fancy cars and fancy French dinners I wasn't the guy for her. No need to hide it or fake it. That would never be sustainable.

You surround yourself with people with similar values and you'll be fine.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by RadAudit » Sat Oct 08, 2016 12:37 pm

Philip_Marlowe wrote: How have others kept their eyes on the prize and resisted the urge to spend when surrounded by those who push spending?
Hang out with a different group of folks?

If you hang out on the forum long enough you'll pick up observations that may reinforce your decision. (And, I apologize in advance because this is from memory and I'm afflicted with CRS [stuff].)

There are more plumbers who are millionaires than lawyers who are millionaires because plumbers don't have to dress up and spend more to keep up with their associates (Millionaire Next Door?)

The most widely owned vehicle of millionaires is a pick-up truck. (Millionaire Next Door?)

Never make the mistake of judging how much a man is worth by looking at what you think he owns (My graduate school classmate - Class of 1971.)

Etc.
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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by sunnywindy » Sat Oct 08, 2016 12:48 pm

I used to get all sorts of friendly grief for riding my bike to work, not owning a car, and eating PB & J sandwiches for lunch most every day (I did splurge for Pho soup every once and awhile). I told people this is how I like to live my life and I was lucky because it was so inexpensive to do that I saved up lots of money. Well, when the Great Recession hit and half of us were laid off, no one was laughing then.
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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by retiredjg » Sat Oct 08, 2016 12:49 pm

You are wise. They probably are not.

There could be an exception. Would anyone who knows you well consider you a miser? Or just frugal?

If you are wearing frayed shirts and stained ties and your haircut looks like a bowl…you probably are not representing your firm well. If you use your car for business (clients or co-workers or the boss) and it is a beater, you are not driving something that represents your firm well.

I don't think that is what you are telling us, but do give yourself and your stuff a once over to be sure.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by daveydoo » Sat Oct 08, 2016 12:55 pm

Philip_Marlowe wrote: I'm a junior associate at a large law firm and my DW is a teacher at a (ritzy) private school. We're both pretty naturally frugal and are driven to be even more so at the moment as we push to pay off my law school loans and build up a nest egg.

...

Coworkers will often make comments about how we're making good money so we should just do x or buy y.
Wow, this is sad. What a terrible-sounding profession and what an uninspiring cohort! A relative often asks if he should pursue this trajectory (I know very little about it) -- sounds like it's for the shallow.
"I mean, it's one banana, Michael...what could it cost? Ten dollars?"

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by Go Blue 99 » Sat Oct 08, 2016 1:05 pm

daveydoo wrote:
Philip_Marlowe wrote: I'm a junior associate at a large law firm and my DW is a teacher at a (ritzy) private school. We're both pretty naturally frugal and are driven to be even more so at the moment as we push to pay off my law school loans and build up a nest egg.

...

Coworkers will often make comments about how we're making good money so we should just do x or buy y.
Wow, this is sad. What a terrible-sounding profession and what an uninspiring cohort! A relative often asks if he should pursue this trajectory (I know very little about it) -- sounds like it's for the shallow.
Are you really dismissing an entire profession because of OP's story? A lot of young doctors feel pressure to spend also- do you consider that job full of shallow people?

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by KlangFool » Sat Oct 08, 2016 1:10 pm

Philip_Marlowe wrote:
I'm wondering how others resist lifestyle creep when everyone around them is spending.
Philip_Marlowe,

Do not live around them. Do not live in the same neighborhood as they do. Then, you do not have to be around them after work.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by BrklynMike » Sat Oct 08, 2016 1:13 pm

Hi Phillip,

I too am in the legal profession and understand the desire for lifestyle creep. That is not an affliction I suffer from personally, but I cannot say the same for my wife. . . Allow me to share one anecdote with you that I hope you find helpful. A few short years after graduating from law school, I had lunch with a friend who landed a coveted spot in BigLaw in NYC. I was working for the federal government at the time. While we were eating I said something to the effect of "with that salary, you must be banking huge money right now." To which, he responded, "I haven't saved any money! Between my student loans and my two bedroom apartment I can't save any money. And I'm not working this hard to live like I'm poor. Work hard, play hard, you know?" I was floored to say the least. Not only that, but he hadn't bother contributing to his 401k because there was no company match. This poor sap was working 80 hours a week and, with bonuses, was making in excess of 200K a year. After three years of this lifestyle, he literally had nothing to show for it. In contrast, I worked for the federal government, maxed out my 401k, and lived like a student. In a few short years, I had saved up one year's salary. There are a number of sayings I could toss in here, the tortoise and the hair and all, but you get the point. Never let the financial lunacy of others, especially those who you respect professionally, sway you from the path to financial independence.
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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by daveydoo » Sat Oct 08, 2016 1:14 pm

Go Blue 99 wrote: Are you really dismissing an entire profession because of OP's story?
Kinda. Is that bad? It reinforces my implicit bias, as we now say.
Go Blue 99 wrote: A lot of young doctors feel pressure to spend also- do you consider that job full of shallow people?
I'm a little more familiar with this world -- seems to be way less of an issue. No one looks twice at a doc driving a 20-year-old car or wearing old shoes. On the other hand, if you're a downtown plastic surgeon, then I envision you'd need all the superficial trappings and have a pretty uninspiring cohort of colleagues and clients, in general.

Oh, and Go Blue!
"I mean, it's one banana, Michael...what could it cost? Ten dollars?"

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by blueman457 » Sat Oct 08, 2016 1:15 pm

I agree with NJboater - sometimes you gotta look the part in order to move ahead. I had the same issue when I started working.

Don't spend frivolously, but spend wisely. If you have to spend a few hundred dollars to get your suits tailored/resized, do it so it looks good. No frayed or stained shirts, get new ones on sale, etc... You can fudge it with a nice used luxury car, or a nicer mid-level. Sometimes you gotta go out to lunch with the firm even if you've brought something from home.

You'll find a balance, just gotta play the part for a little bit.

Good luck,

Blue man
njboater74 wrote:I understand what you're saying. Although I don't think your issue is really a 'keep up with the joneses' as much as it is a 'keep up appearances that are expected for you professsion'.

It's important for you to think pragmatically the way you are. You obviously don't like spending, and don't feel the need to own expensive purses and cars that have little utility value.

At the same time, you're an associate in a large law firm. The firm may expect you to dress and drive a certain way. I don't know the politics of the legal world, and whether this could legitimately jeopardize your chances for advancement. I work in sales, and it is expected that I show up in quality suits and a nice car. I've worked with people who didn't, and the whispering started.

I try and limit my luxury spending to just what will keep me from attracting the wrong sort of attention at work. It may sound superficial, but it's just the way it is. Sometimes you have to wear a uniform. Chalk it up to a business expense.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by jabberwockOG » Sat Oct 08, 2016 1:23 pm

Wherever you are in life, no matter what your job is, there are always folks that look like they have more and certainly seem to have way more to spend. Some have huge income and still save a lot but most can't help but spend every penny they have and more going into debt despite a helfty salary.

You have to be comfortable in your own life and your own skin. People at work that question or make suggestions about your spending should be taken in stride. As someone else posted, be honest, smile, and admit that you are just naturally frugal.

In terms of the rampant conspicuous consumption going on these days - it is difficult to tell, and a waste of energy (and bad karma) to attempt to judge other folk's spending habits or decisions. Some people that buy new BMW/Mercedes/etc every 3 years do so primarily to seek to impress others. Others do so because they have a life long love of well engineered performance luxury cars and they love BMW/Mercedes/etc. There is no sense in trying to figure it out.

I always valued creating financial security way over owning fancy toys and other expensive items, but I always drove a high end car because I have always loved great cars. Even at lower salary levels early in my career, my coworkers and neighbors always saw me driving a beautifully maintained, high end car. Maybe more than a few some thought I was looking to impress when in actuality the opposite is true, I have always preferred to move through life completely unnoticed.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by bigred77 » Sat Oct 08, 2016 1:41 pm

Its not a bad thing to spend some money on clothes. If your just starting out in your career you probably will need to drop some money to build a professional wardrobe. 4-5 nice suits (plus tailoring), 8 dress shirts, a couple of dress shoes, belts, slacks, ties, etc... It can easily creep over 5k+ for a man (this is all I have personal experience with). Just spend the money and then replace when things wear out. It's not lifestyle creep and its not that big of a deal.

As for the cars, I personally think your fine for right now. Do I suggest a corporate attorney in your position insist on driving a 18 year old, 200k mile Honda Civic (like some here do)? Probably not. Can you replace your car in a few years with a reasonably new one? Of course.

Lastly, and I have to remember to keep telling myself this, your peers really aren't devoting all that much of their attention to you and your spending habits. Your fine. Its all in your head. And don't think you HAVE to save 60% of your income. You can enjoy some now and then too. You don't have to "live like a resident" until you die. It's just a good recommendation to give yourself the ability to get your financial feet under you when your income spikes for the first time in your life and allows you to get a really advantageous head start.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by bligh » Sat Oct 08, 2016 2:12 pm

Unfortunately you get judged by appearances, and in some professions you need to look and play the part society expects from you.

The other alternative is to get into a high status position / profession such that people automatically know you have a lot of "success" (AKA money) and are choosing not to spend your money. Kind of like a CEO showing up in a Prius or some beater car, and wearing a Casio watch. That person has nothing to prove, and everyone knows it. Society will not judge him poorly because he chooses to not indulge in conspicuous consumption, they will instead respect him more for it. You may need to fit in to become a Partner, but once you make partner, and have that on your business card.. you no longer have anything to prove.

I have actually noticed that some of the wealthiest people I know, go to some length to downplay their wealth.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by sambb » Sat Oct 08, 2016 2:16 pm

There can be myopic views here. Sometimes you have to look the part. Nice suits and a clean average car that is ok.

Looking the part is important in some jobs.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by Smorgasbord » Sat Oct 08, 2016 2:31 pm

Philip_Marlowe wrote:We know we need to keep spending down but it's difficult sometimes not to let the comments and the visual differences in lifestyle get to us. How have others kept their eyes on the prize and resisted the urge to spend when surrounded by those who push spending?
When I worked at a 400-something attorney firm, I found that counting the number of first year associates and then counting the number of people who made partner each year was quite helpful in resisting the urge to spend. Also, asking the old paralegals/secretaries about any layoffs in 2009/2010 might be useful in resisting the urge to spend.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by jodydavis » Sat Oct 08, 2016 2:38 pm

Philip_Marlowe wrote:Coworkers will often make comments about how we're making good money so we should just do x or buy y. When it comes to cars especially we've both gotten a bunch of comments asking why we drive "beaters" (we both drive 10+ year-old cars in excellent condition with barely 100k miles).
Why are they asking? Are they good friends, who are genuinely curious? In which case, just explain that you are paying off loans and focusing on saving, and that should be enough (and maybe even lead to an interesting discussion about spending priorities). If they aren't good friends, and are "asking" just to comment on your cars, then who cares what they think - life's too short.
Philip_Marlowe wrote:We know we need to keep spending down but it's difficult sometimes not to let the comments and the visual differences in lifestyle get to us. How have others kept their eyes on the prize and resisted the urge to spend when surrounded by those who push spending?
As a former biglaw associate, I would say that you should keep in mind that, by "living like a resident," you are essentially buying your freedom. Six or seven years from now, many/most of your peers will be looking for a way out of biglaw, but will be chained to a job they hate because of golden handcuffs (no savings, big mortgage, etc.). By avoiding lifestyle creep, you are buying yourself the flexibility to decide what you want to do.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by Tecktser » Sat Oct 08, 2016 2:40 pm

I'm wondering how others resist lifestyle creep when everyone around them is spending.
Easy. I don't care what anyone else buys,how much they spend or what they think of me or my lifestyle.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by snowshoes » Sat Oct 08, 2016 2:46 pm

Big hat no cattle comes to mind. https://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/s ... naire.html Good luck!

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by camillus » Sat Oct 08, 2016 2:53 pm

Philip_Marlowe wrote:I'm wondering how others resist lifestyle creep when everyone around them is spending.
To answer this question concretely, I have an audible (audiobook) account. I cultivate a small library of personal finance books. I listen to to The Millionaire Next Door at least once a year, doing dishes or while commuting. This provides a certain amount of mental/psychic protection.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by Atgard » Sat Oct 08, 2016 3:04 pm

Yes, as an attorney at a big law firm, you will need a decent suit or two (depending on your practice area & how often you go to court), and depending on your firm's dress code, some decent business casual attire. But come on. You can find deals at Macy's or whatever & fill out a decent wardrobe without breaking the bank, or even making a dent in your salary. Nobody is scrutinizing your $500 suit and expecting a $5,000 suit, nobody cares about the name on your shirts' labels, that's probably in your head -- that is not how promotion decisions get made. Heck, bring in a few million in business a year and you can wear a ratty t-shirt & jeans to the office.

As for the car, unless you're driving clients around often (I never did), it shouldn't matter. Even then, something clean & well-maintained will do the job.

Story time: when I was a summer associate at a big law firm in 2001, I went to test-drive (just test-drive, I swear) a Corvette Z06. Somehow I signed a piece of paper and drove it home. It made a bit of a splash, but a big partner (after a few drinks) told me he thought it was great, I had the golden handcuffs now and would be stuck with the firm for a while. So that's the real reason they might pressure you to get a more expensive house, car, etc. -- many BigLaw lawyers would love to leave but are stuck needing such a high salary just to tread water.

Fast forward to now -- I paid off the car in 3 years, quit the firm, and still drive my 15-year-old Corvette every day. I turned a terrible financial decision into a pretty good one. (Oh, and yes it was worth every penny.) :D

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by Dottie57 » Sat Oct 08, 2016 3:48 pm

The key for me in spending has been a small home. It is filled with lovely and fairly expensive furniture. However the space is limited and It is full. I have never been a fashonista -it is not in my genes. Neither is wanting a new car every couple of years.

My parents didn't keep up with the neighbors. My friends make less than I do so I have more than others I know.

I would tell OP to move into a lower cost neighborhood so you see you have more than most. It is easier if you live in a neighborhood where you do not feel pressure to keep up.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by wolf359 » Sat Oct 08, 2016 6:08 pm

dodecahedron wrote:More discreet/less confrontational approach than asking "What's your net worth?": maybe just anonymously leaving a copy of the Millionaire Next Door book in the employee lounge/breakroom? Or suggesting to your state bar association that they book the author as a speaker at their next meeting?
Unfortunately, Dr. Thomas Stanley, the author of "The Millionaire Next Door," passed away in 2015 in a car accident.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by climber2020 » Sat Oct 08, 2016 6:17 pm

Philip_Marlowe wrote: I'm wondering how others resist lifestyle creep when everyone around them is spending.
I'm in medicine but generally don't hang out with other doctors and have very few close friends who are also physicians. Having a financially modest social circle helps tremendously.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by Christine_NM » Sat Oct 08, 2016 6:20 pm

Say that if Lands End suits are good enough for David Boies, they are good enough for you. Even he takes a lot of flak for those suits so do not feel singled out.

Set a schedule for new car purchases (10 years or whatever) so you don't go overboard on transportation.

I found that if you have a few witty answers when co-workers ask these things it does not become a serious issue to them or to you. A little humor saves a lot of money.
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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by bsteiner » Sat Oct 08, 2016 6:30 pm

Atgard wrote:Yes, as an attorney at a big law firm, you will need a decent suit or two (depending on your practice area & how often you go to court), and depending on your firm's dress code, some decent business casual attire. But come on. You can find deals at Macy's or whatever & fill out a decent wardrobe without breaking the bank, or even making a dent in your salary. Nobody is scrutinizing your $500 suit and expecting a $5,000 suit, nobody cares about the name on your shirts' labels...
I'm also a lawyer. My colleagues don't know whether I have a car or what kind of car I have, and I don't know which of them have cars or what kinds of cars they have.

You can get very nice (more than $500 but less than $5,000 at the original price) suits, shirts and ties at the last markdown at the semi-annual sales at stores like Saks. They're often 60% or 70% off. Better clothing tends to hold up better, so in the end it may not cost much more than what you can get at stores like Macy's, especially if you get it at a good sale.

You can get very nice shirts and ties at substantial discounts all year round on eBay.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by ClevrChico » Sat Oct 08, 2016 6:35 pm

The peer pressure will eventually stop. They'll give up. Enjoy being an adult and guiding your own future.

As other posters have mentioned, you'll meet your own kind. My boss and I both lament car expenses and have regular conversations on the topic.

Family and friends persistently tried to talk us into large houses, expensive school districts, and fancy cars. They were not successful.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by Isabelle77 » Sat Oct 08, 2016 6:47 pm

My parents and my in laws are the perfect examples of what to do and not do with this stuff.

My dad was a c-level executive at a Fortune 500 company. He drove a company car but my mom drove the same Volvo for most of my childhood. We went on nice vacations, I went to an expensive boarding school and a liberal arts college. That said I had to work a part time job for any spending money. I also mowed our lawn, helped with chores, and my mom almost died when I told her I spent $90 on a prom dress. My parents retired at 50, live on an island, and travel extensively. My mom called me this morning because she's on my cell phone plan and the data was over for the month. She's aghast that I would spend $15 extra on something so stupid.

My father in law was a partner in a law firm. My mother in law runs a large division of a regional sales company. New luxury cars every two years since I've known them, vacation homes, a boat, wine clubs, and constant home remodeling. My father in law died this past summer at 64. My mother in law is left with about 2mil in retirement and life insurance, but has a 600k mortgage, a heloc of unknown amount, a 30k (at least) car loan, and expensive taste. She's only 61 and will have to work for a long time to come.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by Leemiller » Sat Oct 08, 2016 7:00 pm

My husband works in Biglaw, and I used to work in Biglaw, now I work for the federal government. We drive a late 90s car and have never had one comment about it. I find it somewhat bizarre that you get comments? Do you drive clients around? We do both spend money on our clothing, my husband more than I at this point. Sure when you are a rainmaker (or Boies) wear what you want, until then, look like you're worth what you're billing at (even if junior associates aren't).

How much are your student loans? I find the live like a resident vs. keeping up with the joneses to be a false dichotomy. We lived well while we save a good amount and paid down debt. I think housing and transportation are what get most people. Buying a nice handbag isn't a big deal if you aren't paying the big money on housing, transportation, etc. Its pretty short-sighted in my opinion to not spend the money to present the right image. If your wife feels out of place, just get her a nice bag and go to nicer stores when they have sales.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by dodecahedron » Sat Oct 08, 2016 7:50 pm

wolf359 wrote:
dodecahedron wrote:More discreet/less confrontational approach than asking "What's your net worth?": maybe just anonymously leaving a copy of the Millionaire Next Door book in the employee lounge/breakroom? Or suggesting to your state bar association that they book the author as a speaker at their next meeting?
Unfortunately, Dr. Thomas Stanley, the author of "The Millionaire Next Door," passed away in 2015 in a car accident.
The book had two co-authors, Dr. Thomas Stanley and Dr. William Danko. The co-author whose bio I linked above, Dr. William Danko, is still very much alive. I have never met Dr. Danko myself, but we have many mutual acquaintances in common (including my late husband) and I am very impressed with what I have heard from them about the way he has continued to live very modestly, according to the principles espoused in the book, despite the considerable financial success of the book. He is available for booking as a speaker and represented by a major speaker agency. (See the link above.)

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by randomguy » Sat Oct 08, 2016 8:38 pm

Tecktser wrote:
I'm wondering how others resist lifestyle creep when everyone around them is spending.
Easy. I don't care what anyone else buys,how much they spend or what they think of me or my lifestyle.
Yep but very people are that way. Look at how much people in this thread are projecting various motives and assumptions of what other people drive. People love saying stuff like "big hat, no cattle" while ignoring the just as common case of "big hat, tons of cattle". The only place I every really see people stretching is for the bottom of the barrel luxury cars (i.e. people buying 3 series type cars) Everyone I know who gets the true high end luxury cars (s classes, 7 series, Teslas,...) and sports cars (911s, Lambos, R8s, Ferraris) can easily afford them and are spending less of their income on them than most people who are buying accords by percentage.

Figure out what your goals are and how to get to them and ignore how other people choose to live. You might not agree with their choices and they might not agree with yours but it doesn't matter. You have to live your life and they have to live theirs.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by GoldenFinch » Sat Oct 08, 2016 9:03 pm

Age. When you get older, you won't care about this stuff. And when you look way back, you will wish you didn't care way back when. Best of luck.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by 6miths » Sat Oct 08, 2016 9:09 pm

jodydavis wrote:By avoiding lifestyle creep, you are buying yourself the flexibility to decide what you want to do.
I think this is the key in helping keep things under control. One has choices and in my mind the short term gains from spending now are not compensation enough for the cost of removing the aforementioned flexibility. Last night I was was driving DW and DDs to the airport on a route that takes me past the hospital where I most recently worked. I commented to DW that I sometimes feel badly to think that one of my colleagues always has to be there in the middle of the night. I never felt deprived of anything but by not spending the way some of my colleagues did, I had the option to retire at 52 and start doing things that I found more fulfilling.

'The Millionaire Next Door' and 'Stop Acting RIch: And Start Living Like a Real Millionaire' are both great books to read.
'It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so!' Mark Twain

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by dodecahedron » Sat Oct 08, 2016 9:14 pm

Leemiller wrote:I find the live like a resident vs. keeping up with the joneses to be a false dichotomy. We lived well while we save a good amount and paid down debt. I think housing and transportation are what get most people. Buying a nice handbag isn't a big deal if you aren't paying the big money on housing, transportation, etc. Its pretty short-sighted in my opinion to not spend the money to present the right image. If your wife feels out of place, just get her a nice bag and go to nicer stores when they have sales.
As far as clothes go, there are budget-friendly ways to present "the right image," if that is expected in your profession. My late husband loved the bargains available on brand names at out of the way factory outlet stores. Scoring very nice clothes and accessories for very little cost was sort of a "thrill of the hunt" thing for him. (Fortunately, I didn't need to worry about such image things myself since I really dislike shopping, though he did occasionally bring nice things home for me. I still treasure the Coach briefcase he bought me for a song many years ago.)

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by Philip_Marlowe » Sat Oct 08, 2016 9:59 pm

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by miamivice » Sat Oct 08, 2016 10:04 pm

As a comment, both my wife and I don't have the keep up with the jonses issue for ourselves. It's relatively easy to sacrifice something we want because we know we can buy it / do it later.

When we had kids, though, is where it is hard to not fall into the trap. It's hard to tell yourself that your kids can do with xyz because sooner or later they'll outgrow the age that they enjoy xyz and then you're driving their childhood of something.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by Philip_Marlowe » Sat Oct 08, 2016 10:13 pm

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by daveydoo » Sat Oct 08, 2016 10:26 pm

It wasn't this that led to my impression and my comment:
Philip_Marlowe wrote:I don't think that just because my colleagues choose to spend more of their money than I do they are somehow shallow
It was this:
Philip_Marlowe wrote:
...we're starting to get questions and comments on the fact that our spending is different. Coworkers will often make comments about how we're making good money so we should just do x or buy y. When it comes to cars especially we've both gotten a bunch of comments asking why we drive "beaters" (we both drive 10+ year-old cars in excellent condition with barely 100k miles).
Big difference. Sorry to offend.
"I mean, it's one banana, Michael...what could it cost? Ten dollars?"

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by ram » Sat Oct 08, 2016 10:37 pm

Philip_Marlowe wrote:I'm wondering how others resist lifestyle creep when everyone around them is spending.

I'm a junior associate at a large law firm and my DW is a teacher at a (ritzy) private school. We're both pretty naturally frugal and are driven to be even more so at the moment as we push to pay off my law school loans and build up a nest egg.

We have been doing really well at keeping costs down and not growing our spending to match our income but I've noticed that we are getting more and more peer pressure to spend.

My work especially (and my DW's to a lesser extent) is a hotbed of conspicuous consumption (the majority drive luxury cars, many of the women have purses that cost near what my wife's entire wardrobe costs, men wear expensive watches, etc) and as we've been in this world long enough now we're starting to get questions and comments on the fact that our spending is different. Coworkers will often make comments about how we're making good money so we should just do x or buy y. When it comes to cars especially we've both gotten a bunch of comments asking why we drive "beaters" (we both drive 10+ year-old cars in excellent condition with barely 100k miles).

We know we need to keep spending down but it's difficult sometimes not to let the comments and the visual differences in lifestyle get to us. How have others kept their eyes on the prize and resisted the urge to spend when surrounded by those who push spending?
Live like a resident Vs Keeping up with the Joneses- I say split the difference.

"Why are you driving a beater" - Because you wont exchange your car with me. :)

It is reasonable to spend some money to keep appearances especially where the job situation demands it.
My wife's job essentially consists of 2 parts, one as a regular doctor seeing patients and the second as a 'medical director'. For the second part she mixes with people who dress and drive like your partners. She normally drives a 10 yr old honda odyssey, which she purchased when she was a soccer mom. But when she has to go to meetings and conferences as the medical director she borrows my lexus.(a CPO) Whereas other ladies at the table may be having a Louis Vuitton purse she gets away with a Michael Kors. The fraying purse that she takes to the saturday morning farmer's market would not be appropriate for these meetings.

I work at a fairly large group practice. One day in the physician's lounge a young associate was excitedly telling another physician about the million dollar house that he purchased. A boglehead type older physician walked in, overheard the conversation and said "Ah, you are not going anywhere now. They got you by your bxxxs".
Ram

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by beardsworth » Sun Oct 09, 2016 7:54 am

The Joneses are not automatically admirable.

The Joneses don't care about you. People who do care about you want you to be what works for you, not what suits them and their judgments.

The Joneses won't have to live with the outcome of your personal and financial decisions.

You can't eat, or cuddle, status. People who value other people for their status are not admirable.

Not many people lie on their deathbed wishing they'd just had a more expensive wardrobe or a car with leather upholstery.

Keep your own compass.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by staythecourse » Sun Oct 09, 2016 8:34 am

I once read a short book that really changed how I viewed spending. It said folks make decisions based on one of three reasons: Utilitarian, expressive, and emotional. Utilitarian decisions are like, "I need a new pair of shoes since mine are worn out" or "I need a new house because don't have enough room in the current". Expressive decisions are like, "I want the rolex for others to know I am doing well" or "I want the beemer so folks I work with think I am successful". Emotional decisions are like, "I don't want to get rid of my car as I have had that since college and through law school" or "Don't want to buy a new house even though I need it because we started our family in the current one".

What is important is figuring out WHY you make the decisions in life you do up to this point AND reflecting back and seeing if they added to your happiness or not. For me, I don't remember EVER buying one thing out of expressive reasons that brought me extended happiness (out of the usual 2 weeks of happiness). If they do no big deal go for it.

For me the things that have brought be the MOST happiness have to do with spending time with wife and children. So every decision I make is really based on maximizing that time. The only true answer is life is short and one day you will be dead so figure out what makes you happy and start doing it. One should not be saving "x" amount for no reason. That money is for future spending and happiness so the question is "What makes you happy?".

Good luck.
"The stock market [fluctuation], therefore, is noise. A giant distraction from the business of investing.” | -Jack Bogle

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by dm200 » Sun Oct 09, 2016 9:10 am

Depending on the entire set of circumstances, perhaps condidering a change of law firms (or similar), where appearances of "keeping up with the Joness" may not be as important.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by lernd » Sun Oct 09, 2016 9:18 am

I know what you are talking about. When I finished my residency and took my first attending physician job, it was in a wealthy town. I parked my Civic in the physicians' lot and it was hard not to notice that is was one of the few non-luxury cars (though my favorite car in the lot was a 20+ year old Volvo wagon that reminded me of my childhood - driven by a 70 year old neurologist). That said, I never felt a strong urge to go out and buy Luxury Car X. My wife and I lived (and continue to live) our lives with the financial discipline that has given us much more freedom than perhaps many of the luxury car owners in that lot. Some things to keep in mind:

1. Work colleagues aren't necessarily your friends. They're often times more like frenemies - trying in a passive aggressive way to compete with you to make themselves feel better or you feel worse. Don't get caught up in the rat race. Real friends (and certainly they can be colleagues at work too) don't make fun of you for the things you have, or the things you "should have." People critiquing your car are doing so not to "help you" but to justify their own financial decision to buy a luxury vehicle instead.

2. Demonstrations of wealth do not equal wealth. Those cars may be leased at ridiculous cost, colleagues may be mortgaged to the hilt and up to their eye balls in debt. What you think people own may actually be rented. You don't know the arguments they've had at home about bills, or the stress finances have placed on their family relationships. Be happy you and your spouse see eye to eye on financial matters and consider yourself fortunate that instead of adding debt, you are trying to pay it down (student loans). My wife and I love to collectively roll our eyes at conspicuous displays of wealth, it's a running inside joke between us. If anything, it helps to validate our choices - flip the script on those expensive watch wearers around you (who the heck needs an expensive watch - don't cell phones tell time?)

3. Do not discount the benefit of financial independence on happiness in life. Stress associated with financial instability is real. Freedom is inversely related to debt.

4. Studies demonstrate that happiness is more about experiences than things. An expensive watch will probably make you less happy than a vacation of a lifetime. Money spent on things that make you happy is well spent. Money spent on trying to show off is pretty much wasted. Hey, if a fancy watch or car floats your boat (another expensive item!), more power to you. But it sounds like you aren't interested in that stuff.

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Re: Struggling with "Live like a Resident" versus "Keeping up with the Joneses"

Post by student » Sun Oct 09, 2016 9:36 am

Great thread to read. This is very interesting because in my line of work (college), almost everybody I know LBYM. In fact, a couple of them are at a level that I would never achieve even if I want to.

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