The other night, I was flipping channels and came across Dave Ramsey’s show on the Fox Business channel. I had seen it once or twice before, and figured it was a good way to spend an extra hour. That night, Chris Gardner was on the show, pushing his book Start Where You Are (which I’ll be reviewing soon). I found Chris’s segment to be really inspiring and of course bought his book after that. At the end of the show, Dave has this saying he always closes with: “live like no one else, so later you can live like no one else”. And then he used this huge pair of scissors to cut up a credit card.
That saying really struck a chord with me.
So very often, we set goals, we have intentions of doing better, working harder and reaching higher heights. But then, the going gets tough, we miss our creature comforts like TV, sleeping late, eating cookies in bed (ok maybe thats just my secret vice *looks sheepish*) or our shoe fetish, and we end up right where we started from. And sometimes thats even worse on our self-esteem because we feel like we’re wasting our time and should be further along than we are.
Living Like Everyone Else
I think there are three reasons why financial gurus like Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman are so successful. One, because they distill advice that we pretty much already know: pay your bills on time and aim to get out of debt; credit cards are pretty much a no-no; curb your urge to spend on non-essentials like luxury cars, vacation properties and clothes; pay yourself first and save up an emergency fund. This is not earth-shattering advice, but it is life-changing if you follow it. Two, they are the type of people who give you tough love. I’ve laughed at many a caller that Suze has yelled “NOOO!!!” at, or shook my head at some of the questions that people ask Dave, such as whether to buy an Infiniti when their business is just turning a profit. We tend to like tough love because its straightforward and authoritative, like a strict parent.
Third, we gravitate toward these types of gurus because we all tend to follow the same patterns. How many people are struggling with credit card debt, student loans and car payments, yet eye designer clothes, can’t wait to go on vacation or feel the supple leather in their new cars? We live in a society that promotes conspicious consumption, and we are now paying for it with this recession (well, its one of the reasons for the recession). I may laugh at the 20-something woman who wants to buy a Prada bag with her tax return, but honestly I’ve felt the urge to throw caution to the wind and ‘treat’ myself to ‘something nice’ too. Its a part of who we’ve become as Americans.
Further, we gauge how successul a person is by their financial worth. We vet men who are interested in us by their job title and earning potential. We even size up their wardrobe and vehicles. We as women hesitate to entertain a suitor who doesn’t bring as much to the table financially, yet we’ll give a pass to more important things like refusal to commit to a long-term relationship and promiscuity. I’m not saying finances aren’t a huge issue – its one of the main reasons for divorce – but we’ve placed money on a pedestal that’s keeping us overworked and beyond our budgets. Its not just myself or you that I’m talking about here; look around you, we’re all in the same boat.
Living Like No One Else
The way I see it, this problem boils down to instant gratification. We want what we want, exactly when we want it. We’ve become a fast-food nation, a nation that lives off money we haven’t received yet, a nation working harder and longer to get more ‘stuff’. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with wanting nice things. But at the same time, what quality of life are we living? How are we caring for the things that matter more than possessions – our bodies, minds, spirits, families and friends? Sometimes we’d rather send a quick text message instead of having a conversation; we’ll send pics via email, chat via Skype and send e-greetings and e-vites. We’re in a race to go faster and faster, and collectively it shows.
Somehow we all get swept into this fervor and don’t stop and question why. Why do we measure success in financial terms? Why are we in such a race to spend and consume? Why are we on this hamster wheel that keeps us broke, stressed, unhappy and unhealthy?
I pledge to get off that wheel in 2010. I want to live like no one else – sacrifice my leisure time to improve my mind and body, deny my urges to buy in order to save and pay down debt, treat my body like the precious vessel it is by feeding and exercising it properly, nourish my spirit by getting adequate rest and meditation, and grinding as much as I can on my dreams – in order to later live like no one else.
Will you step off that hamster wheel with me? Will you also sacrifice the notions we’ve readily accepted, of frivolous spending, mindless entertainment and unhealthy living, and adopt better habits of saving, healthy eating and exercise, spiritual growth and fiscal planning? Its not going to be easy, but I guarantee that later living like no one else will be worth every nanosecond of effort you put into it. We only have one life, my friend. Lets live it in the best way we can, on our own terms.