In some ways, most of us lie about money. We create an appearance to others of having more than we do in order to build up a level of respect. We drive more expensive cars than we can afford, buy more expensive clothes than we can afford, and more expensive accessories than we can afford just to appear affluent to others. Even worse, we often directly lie to friends and family about our financial situation, telling them that money’s no problem as we spend money we don’t really have.
Creating an illusion What purpose does this serve? It creates an illusion about the real you, similar to an anorexic who wishes to create an illusion that (s)he is hyper-thin. Yet buying such items and throwing money around has the same long term effect as anorexia: it makes your finances very ill as you’re constantly purging money and feeling the ills of constant debt.
Believing in your own illusion Even worse, many people begin to believe in the illusion and live their lives completely as though they make much more than they do. The debt continues to build and build as they continue to appear completely affluent and together to others.
Breaking the lie It is my firm belief that this is the hardest part of fixing the problem. People become very attached to their affluent persona and their ability to buy things that others covet. Coupling egocentrism with relentless advertising is a powerful mix, the same mix that causes many young women to have a negative body image.
So how does one stop the lie? All you have to do is sit down and make a list of what in your life is valuable to you. How do you dress when no one is around? What do you enjoy when no one is around? Which people do you truly enjoy spending time with and you feel comfortable enough around to dress and act however you feel like? These are the things that have value to you; these things are the truth about your life. Everything else? It doesn’t matter in the least.
Turning it around I’m not advocating heading out on the street in your pajamas, but I am advocating asking yourself who exactly you are buying that sixth pair of shoes for. If it is for someone else, don’t buy it; it’s just a perpetuation of the lie.
People that matter love you, not your things If you stop hanging out at the mall and find that your “friends” stop hanging out with you, what are they actually friends with? It’s not people – they’re friends with a mythology that will cause them to be praying for Social Security to still be around when they’re eighty. Instead of heading out on the town, invite those people you care for over for a potluck supper and see how they react. Do they love you – or do they only like the lie?
What about the “real” lies? If you’ve been lying to your spouse or your other loved ones about money, there’s no better time than the present to sit down with them and open up all of the books. Tell them the truth: you’re worried and you want to fix things. You might find that the best support you have in fixing the problem has been right there all along, worrying about you.
In the long run, the truth always wins out. Need proof? One word: Enron.