Sunday, April 22, 2007

Driving Carzilla

Some people can't keep two nickels in their hands. They've never met a mall they didn't like. The shopping channels on cable TV beckon. Collecting rebate points on their credit cards feels better than earning interest on savings. Having a big screen TV feels better than having a big net worth. And a backyard grill that can roast a steer is worth having even when they can't afford a steer.

Serial spending undermines your ability to build wealth. It robs your future of the dollars needed to make retirement comfortable. While everyone needs to spend to survive, and also to enjoy life, when the spending becomes pathological, dog food looms as part of your retirement diet. You have only a finite amount of lifetime income and if you spend it as you earn it, none will be left to supplement Social Security in your "golden" years.

Do you really think people admire you when you're driving Carzilla? Maybe they'll envy you if you have the loudest speakers, the baddest rims and a navigation system that will guide you to the Moon. But remember that envy is the first cousin of dislike.

Don't buy something simply because you can pay for it. If you use a credit card to buy a suit, and then make just the minimum monthly payments, you could be paying for that suit 10 years after you donate it to charity. Ask yourself whether something is really worth the money before buying it. Savings have value, too. So does sleep, which comes easier if you're not bouncing checks.

Spend sensibly. Save part of your income. Ignore people who measure you by how much stuff you have. They won't support you in your old age. If you have to supersize something, supersize your wealth.

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