Friday, March 21, 2008

The Money Charade

This week MP Dunleavy wrote about "Are you afraid to look poor?" Another interesting article. She says that keeping up with the Joneses is wanting to look rich, but afraid of looking poor is entirely different. I have to say I actually agree with her two definitions. One is rooted in pride and the other fear. And yes neither is good, but there is a difference.

Basically it's being afraid to use coupons, get a better deal, or basically seeming cheap, is what MP calls "afraid to look poor." Of course in both cases you are putting up a facade of you think the world needs to see.

Some psychologist call it the fear of looking like you don't fit in. It's not a self assurance thing like the Joneses, it's more a fear I think of being looked upon with pity. That you can't afford anything better and hence must "settle" for your lifestyle. And MP writes she's made her own mistakes with such behavior. But she's accepted it for what it is.

I wonder if both KUWJ and afraid of being poor aren't symptoms of our society being ashamed and embarrassed about money? That we aren't pushed into such behaviors because we are supposed to NEVER talk about money. It's passe and eye-brow raising to ever discuss any type of finances in real life. I mean to ask someone about their salary is a NO-NO. Nor should we discuss debt, credit, mortgage, etc. Even among close friends and family to talk about money is TABOO!

I wonder if this isn't the reason people are driven into these behaviors? Maybe the lack of reason and accountability that would be there if we were open with others would help. We would feel less inclined to spend money we didn't have if others helped us accept our own financial statement? Or if we knew their financial statement, and realized we weren't alone?

I don't know what the answer is. But I hope one day we can end this money charade. That perhaps we can start to civilly discuss finances. Where we can talk about money more comfortably than we talk about sex. Truth is we are more likely to admit anything about sex than about money because of the shame.

But would it solve the problems? Maybe not, but it would help.


johnstonteam said...

I believe there's one part of the equation you're leaving out. Not only is there the fear of being poor and keeping up with the Jones', there is also the fact that in our society, money is the scorecard of success. So the facade of having money allows you to cheat on the appearance of your success scorecard.

Having money and KUWJ are first cousins, yet different. There are a lot of people who have money yet don't KUWJ. But the money is an important benchmark in their world.

Also the fear of no money probably goes back to our parents and grandparents experience in life during the depression. Both of my parents experienced it although my father to a greater degree than my mother. My father's family lost their home during the depression. He came from a large family and the children were then farmed out to other relatives who could assist in raising them. So the fear of the lack of money was deeply routed in his value system.

Also since we are a society that no longer lives off the land, the flow of money is important for us to be able to sustain ourselves. Most no longer have gardens or even live in an area with a large enough plot of ground to raise animals or even chickens. Since I was raised on a small farm and now live in the city, that has often beens something that is in the back of my mind in the event tough times should hit.

Living Almost Large said...

Great post and excellent points.

savvy said...

Great post. I think there may be more pressure to KUWJ when you don't actually have the money. For those who DO have money, they're often secure in that fact and don't feel the need to prove it.

maxile said...

Really I love not spending money but I cant stand my kids looking bad in terms of clothes- so I splurge on them but for me, I dont spend. I like not spending.

I like looking poor- or poorer than I really am. I save money that way. But I can understand what you are talking about. There is a lot of that in New York. But NYC is bigger and I never feel pressured to keep up because people come from all walks of life here and noone can keep track of everyone else.
Everyone is different. So I dont think I have ever kept up with the Jones.