Sunday, January 26, 2014

Manners over Money

I think it’s fair to say that the topic of Money is a rather touchy subject for most people. Unless, of course you are one of the lucky few that are born into an endless pool of wealth.
Regardless of our age, education or career path, we all work hard for the money we make. The value of a dollar doesn’t always seem to be 100 cents. Meaning, we work our tails off just to earn a few dollars to buy groceries or pay a bill, but the value behind those expenses is far more important. We work to provide shelter, clothing and food to put on the table for ourselves and our families. To me, that’s worth a lot more than 100 cents. Survival is priceless.
However, earning the salary doesn’t always come easy. A small task to earn $20 for you may be an arduous task for me, but only to earn the same $20. A project that one person has to complete to earn $100 may be difficult to commute to, involve challenging people to work with, little to no recognition, or could entail 10-12 hours of labor. That same $100 another person earns can fall into their lap in minutes with little to no hassle.
My point is that no matter how we earn our wages we all have to be cognizant of others around us. People work extremely hard and overcome difficult obstacles to achieve a level of comfort with their finances. The path to “Financial success” is not an easy road, and people can feel rather defensive speaking about it. (Click: Personal Finance Cheat Sheet)
When you are in a setting with a person or group of people, try to watch what you say about how you personally spend your money. Not that we need to babysit other people’s feelings, but by speaking about all the money you spent on a shopping spree or the amazing 7 course dinner you had at a Fine Dining Restaurant could potentially offend someone around you. We love hearing your stories, and happy that you are enjoying the finer things in life but the level of detail isn’t always necessary to share.
Yes, you worked hard to earn the $200 you just spent on your new wardrobe and the mouthwatering meal you had, but did it ever occur to you that some people cover up their expenses by their physical interactions? John Doe could be wearing new shoes and a nice sweater from Armani Exchange (little do you know he scored them on clearance), but aside from taking pride in his appearance he could be putting on a “show” to not allow others to see his financial hardship.
However, that same $200 you spent at the mall may have been the most crucial $200 John Doe had to spend that week, on numerous things. He may have had to decide between paying his cell phone bill before it got shut off and putting gas into his car to meet you for coffee or to spend that $200 on his mother’s monthly prescription who is battling cancer. Extreme examples these may be, but I know people that have been in these situations.
We most certainly can’t make assumptions about the size of a person’s wallet based on the lifestyle they live. Even celebrities, top executives or successful individuals in the work force have their own financial battles. Now to be realistic, when we see someone decked out in high-end labels who drives a nice car or goes on lavish vacations we clearly see and can ponder that they are financially “healthy.” However, since when did it become ok to comment on their spending decisions? We can’t assume that person “has it made” just by the lifestyle they live.
How we spend our money these days is a very personal and selective decision for many people. Let’s bring it a little closer to home. We can’t assume that someone who drives a new car or who dresses properly or someone who buys a daily Starbucks Coffee has a “healthy” bank account. We all work hard for the money we make, but the expenses we endure and how we spend our earnings can be even more difficult to accept.
Work hard and Play hard:
·         Be proud of the work you put in to earn your money
·         Be humble when you speak of your spending and the level of detail
·         Consider other’s before making assumptions on their situation
·         Earn & Spend as you wish

Whether they are single or married, no dependents to support or family of 5, if they are healthy or battling an illness, work a corporate job or if they have 2-3 jobs we cannot assume that a person is or is not in a position to spend their money the way you do. Staying cooped up in the house because you’re in over your ears in debt is not easy or fun to deal with. People need human interaction, support from others and we all deserve to enjoy the little and big things in life. 
Next time you offer to meet a friend for lunch, or suggest a group outing to Six Flags with the neighbors and their kids, or even to meet for a Sunday cup of coffee try to remember that the idea seems appealing to most everyone, but the reality behind how to fund those expenses may be a little more difficult for some to execute.