What if our stuff told the truth?

Nick Foy, CFP®

Your stuff lies to you, and to me, and to everyone else.

We use our stuff to tell lies to others, and they believe them, because we typically don’t let people see our balance sheet or our cash flow.

Our houses tell lies, and so do our cars. Our clothes, our trips, even our Instagram accounts do too. We use them to tell the story of our own financial success, which we know gets translated into success in life (for some weird reason). Sometimes, the success is real, and sometimes it’s fake. But as long as it’s documented well for our neighbors and our family, it doesn’t really make a difference.

I’m in a position to get to peak behind the curtain a bit, and ascertain whether the perceived success has any underpinning in reality, or if it’s all a facade. I get to see the truth. I wish our stuff would tell the truth, too, so everyone could be more honest with themselves and others about their current financial status. It would probably help to provide some better perspective about how meaningless stuff can actually be. 

What if our houses told the truth, in big block letters, right on the front? What would it look like? Perhaps something like this:

What about our cars? What story would they tell if the truth was painted right on the hood?

Our accessories should tell the truth too. 

It’d be better for our stuff to tell good stories. Stories about the success we’re actually having, and how we’re prioritizing our most important goals while ignoring the supposed importance of peer-perception. Stories that tell people what really matters to us, and how we’d like to encourage them to think about what matters to them too, and then to act like it matters.

Our cars might tell stories like this:

And our houses might say things like this:

I like nice stuff as much as the next guy. I drive a perfectly decent car, live in a beautiful house, and get to travel multiple times annually with my family. I am blessed.

But when I hear people look at some stuff that someone has and say “Wow, check out Tony’s new ride. He must be doing really well,” I can’t help but shake my head. 

Just because a bank was willing to lend him some money in exchange for payments plus interest doesn’t mean anything about how Tony is doing. Tony could be struggling personally, professionally, financially, or all of the above. A new car and a remodeled house aren’t going to do anything to rectify that. In fact, they often make a bad situation worse, and they put him even more behind on saving for those things that might actually bring joy.

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