No. 1252



Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “Any government, like any family, can for a year spend a little more than it earns. But you and I know the continuance of that habit means the poorhouse.” How many people do you know in today’s society who spend more than they earn? Our nation’s collective massive credit card debt, amassed by individuals, should give you a hint.
From my observation, I think one of the hardest lessons for many people to learn in today’s times is how to do without. It’s not easy to do without, especially when we see so many people around us who seem to get everything they want. However, this uniquely American penchant -- which is often referred to as “keeping up with the Joneses” -- has pushed many people so far into debt that bankruptcy and financial collapse is a real possibility. The real problem with trying to keep up with the Joneses is about the time we think we get there, they refinance!
I’m fairly conservative. I don’t believe in people over-extending themselves, buying things they cannot afford, and putting themselves and their family at risk for the future. On the other hand, if people have the means or the wherewithal, as we say, to have all the things they want and do all the things they want to do, I think it’s wonderful, because that’s the American dream. So long as their incomes are derived from legal means, I wish them continued success.
We see thousands, perhaps millions, of people who want to live this kind of lifestyle, but they simply cannot afford it because they don’t have any money. As a result, many of these people suffer from tension, stress, high blood pressure and finally, a stroke or heart attack or some other calamity. I’m not talking about the person who takes a calculated risk when it comes to getting ahead financially, because that’s what financial success is all about. I’m simply talking about those people who have formed the habit of spending more than they earn month after month, and there’s a big difference.
There are many reasons why we see people in our society who want to live “high on the hog” without having the income to support it. It really comes down to the fact that they have never learned the habit of doing without. If you or someone you love happens to fit in this category, here are a few thoughts that may help:
Fret not at small beginnings; the oak began as an acorn; the beautiful rainbow had its beginning in a drop of rain and a ray of light; the muscular athlete had trouble crawling; the university graduate started in first grade; the massive international oil industry began with a small shallow well.
In our country, it’s still possible for most of us to have the things we want, but it may require a change in our thinking and our attitudes. Instead of buy now, pay later, we must save and invest now and then buy later. Most people who have gotten ahead financially don’t ever have to touch the principal of their assets, because they meet their monthly obligations from the income derived from investments.
What this kind of thinking and the resulting actions really does is move our possessions from one side of the ledger to the other. It moves them from the things we can’t afford to the things we can afford. Doing without is a difficult lesson to learn, but when we do, our financial future will be much brighter. P.S. Is the money you have burning a hole in your pocket?
(Editor’s Note: JIM DAVIDSON is an author, public speaker, syndicated columnist and founder of the Bookcase for Every Child project. Since its inception in 1995, Jim’s column has been self-syndicated to over 375 newspapers in 35 states, making it one of the most successful in the history of American journalism.)