I’VE WORKED AS a financial advisor for 25 years and yet I’m still struck by how many people fall for one of the oldest cons in the book: keeping up with the Joneses.
Being ostentatious is no longer seen as déclassé, at least in America. Instead, it’s a requirement for reality TV, the currency of Instagram Influencers and a proxy for achievement on Facebook. Why be rich when we can appear rich?
We’re hardwired to act this way.
WE INCREASINGLY DO business with gigantic impersonal companies: banks, insurers, credit card issuers, cable and phone companies, utilities, and huge retailers like Amazon, Home Depot and Walmart. Often, we deal with them at a distance—by phone, mail, and especially online or via email.
When disputes or problems arise, we’re typically forced to contact their so-called customer service departments, which are often sorely lacking in service. Even before getting to a human, we have to run the gauntlet of an annoying robot,
I GREW UP IN a middle-class family in Kolkata, India. Like most folks, my relationship with money was shaped by my parents’ financial habits. They were on different sides of the saver-spender continuum. My homemaking mother strove to live beneath our family’s means and never seemed to feel deprived. By contrast, my father—even with a modest salary from his government job—was focused on the art of spending.
At my mother’s insistence, my father bought most of our household supplies from wholesalers and cooperative stores,
WE ARE STARTING from scratch. After living in Spain for three years, Jiab and I have returned to Dallas to be closer to family. We still have a home here, but—when we left three years ago—we sold all our furniture, cars and many other possessions to reduce storage costs. Now we have to reacquire those things that make living possible.
Fortunately, Jiab and I share a similar outlook as we reaccumulate. That outlook is inspired by Thorstein Veblen,
MY WIFE AND I usually finish dinner by 6:30 pm. She then heads upstairs, while I stay downstairs until 7:30. You can find me walking around in circles in the living room and dining room during that time. I like to think I’m walking off my meal or regenerating new brain cells. You see, I’ve been reading a book by Sanjay Gupta, Keep Sharp, where he points out that moving is good for the brain.
IT BEGAN AS A trickle. Now, it’s a flood—and my family’s been swept up in it. For the past decade, we’ve streamed on-demand movies and Netflix shows, but we also continued to pay far too much for live TV using either cable or satellite services. No longer.
As Jannette Collins noted in a recent article, there are now numerous internet streaming services, including some free options. Our family has used some of these, but we still kept costly TV service for live broadcasts of news,
IN SEPTEMBER 2017, my wife and I sold our home, our car and almost all of our earthly possessions. What remained fit in a storage pod measuring 12 feet by eight feet by eight feet. We then spent the next three years traveling across four continents and staying in more than 200 rooms. Along the way, I learned a few things about booking lodgings that could make your travels a little cheaper.
We used Airbnb 40% of the time and Booking 35%.
BEFORE THE PANDEMIC, my father and I would go out for coffee every Saturday morning. I would order a venti mocha Frappuccino with soymilk, which would cost $6, while he would opt for a tall dark roast, black, price $2.50.
As I ordered, my dad would joke, “You millennials and your avocado toast.” In fact, my dad had the same reaction to many of my spending habits. “You spent $50 on a shirt?” he’d ask me,
IF YOU’RE ONE of the lucky ones in this COVID-19 economy, with a job and the wherewithal to buy holiday gifts for friends or family, here are five eclectic tech gift ideas for budgets small, large and XXL:
1. Ergonomic Desk. The pandemic has many of us working from home. After a couple months of this, my back, neck and forearms cried out for the ergonomic desk I had at the office.
WHEN I NOTICED my iPhone 3—that’s not a typo—had a small black spot on its screen, I started thinking that maybe I needed to replace it. Maybe. It was a difficult decision. It was the first smartphone I’d ever owned and, since 2010, it had served me well.
I liked it because it was small. It had a cool retro steampunk vibe that occasionally turned heads. “Is that an iPhone? That’s the smallest phone I….” Best of all,
I STREAM, you stream, we all stream. Okay, not all of us. But 74% of U.S. homes had a video streaming service in 2019, up from 52% in 2015. Odds are you live in one of those homes. At the beginning of the pandemic, as Americans sheltered in place, consumption of all forms of in-home media shot up.
For a long time, the streaming choices were fairly limited, but not anymore. Giants such as Amazon Prime,
THE HOLIDAY SEASON is here—and retailers will be looking to make up for the sales they lost during the pandemic. Let me offer some advice you won’t hear elsewhere: Go ahead and splurge.
What do I want for Christmas? To be honest, not much. But then again, my wife and I have been spending money in 2020 as if Christmas were a year-long event. We remodeled the house, filled it with new furniture and bought a new car.
I WOKE UP ONE morning, looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the person looking back at me. Who is this person? It can’t be me. I’m not the same person I was five or six months ago. I don’t know if it’s the pandemic that caused me to behave differently or if I’m going through some kind of midlife crisis.
No, it can’t be a midlife crisis. I’m almost 70 years old, plus I don’t feel my life is boring,
SENTENCES THAT begin with “I can’t” drive me nuts—and I especially dislike the sentence, “I can’t save.”
“Pish-tosh,” I say. Every household in America earning at least the median income can save for the future. If they try hard, many lower-income Americans could also save.
Of course, the amount saved will vary, but even small amounts can help over the long haul. If a household earning $40,000 a year can sock away enough to generate $300 or $400 in monthly retirement income to supplement whatever they get from Social Security,
BACK IN APRIL, I wrote the last in a series of articles about my ill-fated cruise around South America, the last few weeks of which were spent in quarantine. In that article, I mentioned efforts to obtain a refund for airline tickets we bought to fly home but couldn’t use, because the ship was refused permission to dock in Punta Arenas, Chile.
For several weeks after our return home, I attempted to get the refund.