For Generation X, I've noticed something over the past couple of years around money that seems to becoming a trend. Even though you are college educated (maybe an MBA), have a great job as a VP of company, and have traveled to several countries around the globe, you've reverted to the behavior you had when you were in college. The simple rule is this. If there is money in your pocket, then it's sure to catch fire sooner than later and burn a hole in your pocket. It doesn't matter if it is a new pair of boots you see in a magazine, a remodeling of your bathroom that could probably wait, or staying at the best hotels like a Ritz Carlton or the Four Seasons. Gen X'ers have seen a terrible recession over the past few years, but the trend is returning that spending money is a hard habit to break. Gen X'ers have that Cyndi Lauper slang in their minds and 'just wanna have fun'.
Clearly, this is isn't an intellectual thing. In fact, many of the Gen X'ers I talk with realize that they need to save more money. They realize that they need to pay less to the Government in taxes. They realize that they need to take control of their financial future. They are inundated watching commercials with fictitious characters that talk about how important planning for retirement will be for them. Yet, at the same time, it's almost like watching a person addicted to cigarettes that gently sneaks out the back door into the alley just to light up a smoke. What is the cause of this uncontrollable spending behavior? I've got three thoughts for you to consider around why people are going to be begging financial advisors to twist their arm and slap their hand to save money over the next 10 years since they will not have the will power in large part to do it themselves:
- Social Media Trap - We seem to be drifting more and more every day away from a reading society to one that learns and consumes information through pictures and videos. If you look at social media giants like Facebook and Pinterest we are often struck daily with pictures of images such as that new dining room you always wanted, that backyard patio and pool that would change your life or that brand new car that will make us look cooler than ever. Images are very powerful. We don't really learn from reading words, we learn from seeing pictures. Remember, the great quote that a picture is worth a thousand words. I believe these images in part continue to resonate in our subliminal minds which is in part why drives us to want to make those purchases when we get money in our hands.
- They Have It On TV - Reality TV has clearly become staged TV. The very first Survivor that came out 20 plus years ago is a far cry from shows like American Pickers and Storage Hunters. That American Picker guy does crack me up. These new reality TV programs like the Housewives Of Orange County depict (mostly not married women) staying in fancy vacation destinations, wearing all the latest fashions, and spending everything they can to make their bodies as perfect as they can be. All of these shows in some way, shape, or form, give us the visual image that fame and fortune are attainable for all of us. If we can't make it on TV, then the next best thing are to buy the things that will fill that void. Thus, it's almost like you will tell yourself, "I deserve this because if those people have it on TV, I should be able to have it as well. They are normal people just like me." We hardly ever spend the time to think about what is given to them for free or what the studios pay for that in all reality are not coming out of their pocket.
- Technology Is Addicting- Hey! I read the iPad 4 is going to be able to remote brush your teeth in the morning. Just kidding! We've talked a little bit about the visual nature of big purchases, but I think technology may be worse. As we get cooler and sleeker phones, you'll wonder to yourself if you'll be left off the in list if you don't have the latest and greatest mobile phone. When you are airplanes, almost every other row has someone watching a 'personal' movie on their tablet. Don't some of you want to play Trivia with me on the next Delta flight? Within a few years, we'll all want the tablet that controls everything in our house from the touch of the screen. Technology is moving so fast and we see it around us every day that it forces us into that uncontrollable spending patterns because we think we'll be left behind without it. Oh no, what will I do without that latest feed of seeing my kid's friend on Facebook winning their Cub Scout derby car race?
What's even more interesting is that the amount of marital mischief that goes on between couples in their financial life is increasing all the time. No longer do many couples carry all joint checking and savings accounts. In fact, for new marriages among Gen X'ers, it's lucky if I see one joint account almost as a joint emergency fund rather than some sort of working account between the couple. Some of the spouses hide purchases, get cash out of the bank so transactions are harder to follow, and in a study ( shown below from www.yahoo.com) 34% say they lied about finances, debt, or money earned to their spouse.
What does all of this mean? It means that if you recognize these problems are ones that you have when it comes to saving money, perhaps it's time to find some third party to hold you accountable to get your money put in place where you can't access it quickly so that pocket of yours goes up in flames. Get a plan where you have a cash reserve, but perhaps make it with an online bank or somewhere where it is one step removed before you make those impulse purchases. Make sure you have money systematically being saved out of your bank account each month so it feel like a purchase to build up a war chest of medium and long term assets. Most importantly, try to live off your salary and forget about bonus time. Put that money away like you never had it. If you aren't sure you can do it on your own, I'll be happy to slap your hand. You'll say it hurts now, but you'll thank me down the road!
Visit to www.oxygenfinancial.net to request a free consultation with the leading financial experts for people in their 20's, 30's, and 40's in the country.
Ted Jenkin, CFP®, AAMS®, AWMA®, CRPC®, CMFC®, CRPS®
Co-CEO and Founder of oXYGen Financial, Inc - The Leaders in Gen X & Y Financial Advice
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