If you look around your circle of friends, neighbors, and co-workers, you may sometimes have a tendency to compare yourself to their circumstances and try to keep up. If you expand that circle to a broader population – maybe metro Atlanta or the state of Georgia, you will likely begin to realize your circumstances are better than most, especially here in north Atlanta. If your circle includes the entire country, we bet you’ll recognize you’re doing just fine. And if your circle includes the big circle - the entire world - well, we’re sure you’ll agree that we all have it pretty good living here in America. The wider we look outside our immediate circumstances, the more we become grateful for what we have.
So what does this have to do with money and personal finance? We all have a tendency to play the comparison game. We live in a society where the expectation is always for more, more, more. We want things to be bigger, faster, better…you name it. We can become jealous of someone’s new car or truck, a trip they took, a 2nd home they purchased, or the clothes they wear. Is this a healthy way to live life?
The concept of “wanting” something new, is at times, a difficult emotion to overcome. You want that new car, or that new house, or even the new gizmo the Jones’ down the street have. But are these things really important to the long-term goals you have in life? Could that money be better used to fund your retirement account? To protect your family from financial disaster? To help fund your kid’s college education?
Sometimes we forget that the many small things in life are the most important. Time spent with your kids or grandkids, a warm sunny day in the middle of winter or perhaps a nice snowfall (when school is cancelled). We write this column to remind you to avoid the comparison game, and instead to focus on what is most important to you; your family, values, career, beliefs, and goals. When in doubt, stop and look around at the broader circle that includes the sick, poor, hungry, and homeless. Then ask yourself – how big is my circle of gratitude?
2015 is just beginning, so take some time to appreciate what you have. In our humble opinion, gratitude can lead to better financial habits and give you the tools to enjoy all the meaningful things life has to offer.