Many a retiree, or near-retiree, has overspent on cars, boats, homes, and a surgically enhanced trophy wife or two. We also all have friends who’ve fallen into the “toy trap” of buying things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, to impress people they don’t particularly like, in the mistaken belief that “He who dies with the most toys wins.” That being said, is there room in 2016 for a return to financial modesty—room to reject the toy trap? I say yes! Here’s our five-step guide to doing just that.
So says Dennis Miller (millersmoney.com) in edited excerpts from his original article* entitled Escape the Toy Trap.
Miller goes on to say in further extensively edited, and in some places paraphrased, excerpts:
Here’s the 5-step guide to avoiding the toy trap:
1. Someone always has a bigger, faster boat
Playing the game is futile, because no matter how much wealth you have, you can’t win. Someone will always have more. I won’t begrudge a man any toy he can truly afford, but...the sooner you get a handle on needs versus wants, the better off you and your family will be.
Owning cool stuff is fun. Most real people, however, have to choose between the neat toys they’d like and saving enough to retire comfortably so until those lottery wins come in, I’ll continue flying commercial with the other mere mortals. If you want to treat yourself, pay a little extra to upgrade your seat.
2. Don’t misunderstand status
In dictionary terms, status means:
- rank: the relative position or standing of somebody or something in a society or other group
- prestige: high rank or standing, especially in a community, work force, or organization
- condition: a condition that is subject to change
In my terms, there are least two different types of status:
- pseudo-status: spendaholics who spend a good portion of their adult life trying – unsuccessfully – to impress others and move up in the pecking order and
- earned status: Each major professional sport has a hall of fame. The players enshrined in them stood out among their peers and earned their status in those communities.
Earned status is a laudable aspiration. A mentor of mine once said: “Real status does not come from telling people how important you are, but rather from others recognizing your achievements above the rest. Accomplish something, and they will know you are good. You won’t have to say a word.”
3. You don’t have to be a scrooge
Owning nice things can make life more enjoyable. There is nothing wrong with buying cool stuff that makes you happy. Enjoying an expensive glass of wine at dinner does not make you an alcoholic or a spendaholic but buying stuff you don’t need with money you don’t have will eventually affect your family, your retirement, and your health.
4. Short-term gratification is just that: short term
I had a friend who had a great business, employed many people, earned a good income, and was an asset to the community but he fell prey to his desire to constantly feel important. He seemed to think the only way he could satisfy that hunger was to constantly buy clothes and toys but, had he focused on long-term goals rather than indulging short-term emotional needs, he would have achieved the status he so desperately wanted. Unfortunately, that addiction is what kept him from his goal. He died bankrupt, and everyone in town knew it.
5. Remember the lessons your grandparents taught you
You can’t buy real friends, nor can you maintain a friendship, by constantly flaunting your wealth. True friendship has nothing to do with money. It comes from who you are, and how you behave….
Toys are not the measure of a man. The true captain of his own ship looks after his crew and their welfare until his dying day. The folks I know who are truly happy have done just that. A man who doesn’t fixate on toys he neither needs nor can afford has a much better chance at finding lasting happiness.