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Is Keeping Up Getting You Down?

Have you scrolled through your favorite social media app lately, only to see photos of your friends sipping umbrella drinks on a beach in Hawaii? Or smiling in the middle of Times Square? Or posing on a snow-covered slope of Breckenridge?

You may ask yourself, “How can they afford that?”

That question may then trigger an internal dialogue. I work hard and make decent money. Why shouldn’t I get to enjoy life, just like my friends? I deserve a break too.

That’s where trouble starts.

It’s certainly possible your friends have lucrative careers and are fortunate enough to pay their bills, save for retirement, and afford wonderful vacations. But it could also be that those beach photos are backed by a pile of debt, used to fund a lifestyle your friends cannot afford. Of course, they are not going to openly share their struggles to pay bills or disclose their dearth of retirement savings. They may simply be living a borrowed lifestyle.

Like many of us, they may be trying to keep up with the Joneses.

That same phenomena rears its ugly head in other ways, too, which can be just as financially destructive. Take investing, for example.

When was the last time you heard a friend or family member gleefully boast how they made a small fortune on an obscure stock last year? You may think, “If they can do it, why can’t I?”

Perhaps your friend or family member is the next Warren Buffett. Or, much more likely, that individual just so happened to cherry-pick one successful investment, failing to mention the dozens of money-losing trades prior to it.

More than likely, they just got lucky. As the saying goes, even a broken watch is right twice a day.

Whether splurging on a vacation you cannot afford or investing in the next hot stock, it is tempting for all of us to hop on the bandwagon. In many cases, however, the bandwagon is on fire and headed straight for a cliff. You just don’t know it.

While the rest of the world is seemingly on a permanent vacation – funded by their hot stock investments, no doubt – most of us should focus on following solid, time-tested financial advice. And to be honest, the best advice is boring.

Pay your bills. Avoid credit card debt. Save 15% of your compensation for retirement. Invest in a diversified portfolio and rebalance once a year. Take a dream vacation only if you can afford it.

It’s not exciting, we know.

Just remember. When you retire one day and happen to be on a beach in Hawaii, you can snap a selfie and make your 60-something, still-working friends wish they had jumped on your bandwagon all those years ago.

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