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Your Financial Comfort Zone:
Do you need to break out?
In what kind of neighborhood did you grow up? A suburb? An exclusive gated community? A high-rise apartment in an area marked by poverty? A culturally diverse middle-class city neighborhood? A small town? A farm? A ranch community?
Whatever your circumstances, you probably grew up in a neighborhood where the majority of the inhabitants were in many ways a lot like you. Just imagine one such neighborhood: a stereotypical suburb. Everyone who lives there pretty much knows everyone else—not necessarily intimately, but by reputation, occupation, and observation. The houses were built at about the same time, and most of them tend to be a similar style and in the same general price range.
There are a few places that stand out, however. There's Jodine's house at the end of the block—the one with the Mercedes and the Cadillac SUV parked in the driveway. Jodine and her husband have built an addition and put in a swimming pool. Then there is Alecia's house, down the street, the one that hasn't been painted in a number of years, where the lawn has a generous sprinkling of dandelions and the car in the driveway is a ten-year-old minivan with a crumpled front fender.
Jodine and Alecia's houses represent the extremes of this particular neighborhood. Jodine and her family, with their Mercedes and their swimming pool, appear to be wealthier than anyone else, but they aren't wealthy enough to move to the gated community north of town. Other families still run into them at the grocery store, work with them in PTA projects, eat in the same restaurants, and get together with them at neighborhood barbecues. Alecia, in the neglected house and driving the old minivan, appears to be poorer than anyone else, but she isn't poor enough to have to move to a less expensive community. Her family might get some of their clothes at the wealthier families' garage sales, but their children still go to the same schools and play together, and they still socialize with their neighbors. Alecia and Jodine might not be the best of friends, but they know each other and have overlapping circles of friends and acquaintances.
Your Financial Neighborhood
Just as each of us lives in a physical neighborhood, each of us also inhabits a particular "financial neighborhood." On the high end are what appear to be the wealthiest people we know. On the low end are what we assume to be the poorest people we know. Of course, since talking about one's income and financial net worth is such a taboo in our society, we don't really know how rich or poor other people are. We judge them to be higher or lower than ourselves based on what we can see of their lifestyles: the houses they live in, the cars they drive, the clothes they wear, whether they have someone come in to clean their houses or do it themselves, what they talk about, their education, their jobs, and whether their family vacations tend to be camping trips or Mediterranean cruises.
Within a given financial neighborhood, there is a significant overlap of certain attitudes, beliefs, and definitions about money, such as the following:
• The definition of what it means to be financially rich and poor
• The relative importance and priority of saving, investing, budgeting, and planning for the future
• Charitable giving
• One's financial duty to others: family, friends, neighbors, strangers
• Financial priorities: what is more important and what is less important
• What it means to be financially responsible
• How money works: earning, spending, saving, borrowing
• The appropriate financial roles for parents, siblings, children, grandparents, neighbors, church members, and citizens
• Estate planning
• Financially giving to or sharing with friends and family members who are less well off or in a financial crisis
• The relationship between money and government
• The relationship between money and religion
• The relationship between money and happiness
Obviously, a financial neighborhood will include many individual differences and various beliefs based on each person's specific circumstances. Overall, however, its occupants will tend to have similar money scripts, and their lives will reflect similar financial behaviors. The high and low boundaries of your particular financial neighborhood are anchored by your money scripts. The neighborhood represents a financial comfort zone where you generally know what to expect, where you fit in, and how you should behave.
©2008. Ted Klontz, Brad Klontz, Rick Kahler. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Wired for Wealth. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442