Matt Bell on The Freedom of Living in Financial Honesty

When I began serving in stewardship ministry, I frequently met with individuals and couples to review their financial situation. I was constantly amazed at the disconnect between how people looked like they were doing financially and how they were actually doing. Very often, they were driving nice cars and wearing nice clothes. They looked just fine, but they weren’t fine. Most were deeply in debt.

In just about every case, I was the first person they had shared the details of their financial life with. Few of us share the true details of our finances with anyone other than our spouse (and in some cases, people don’t even do that!).

However, in one important sense, we all share financial information all the time. The choices we make — the home we live in, the car we drive, the vacations we take, and all the rest — gives people a sense of how we’re doing financially. And all of us constantly take in this type of information from others.

The problem is, that type of information is often at odds with a person’s true financial condition. You might think of it as fake financial news, and it swirls around us every day, impacting us in ways we don’t even recognize.

It’s a dangerous mistake to assume that people are doing as well as they appear to be doing. We don’t really know how they paid for that vacation, whether they can actually afford the car they’re driving, or how often they argue about money behind the closed doors of their beautiful home.

If we assume we’re making about as much as our friends or neighbors and that it’s normal for someone with that income to drive the sort of car they drive, it can tempt us to try to keep up, even if that means living beyond our means. Sociologist Juliet Schor wrote about this in her book, The Overworked American:

It may be as simple as the fact that exposure to their latest “lifestyle upgrade” plants the seed in our own mind that we must have it, too — whether it be a European vacation, this year’s fashion statement, or piano lessons for the children.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Matt Bell