Keeping Up with the Joneses

Ah the Joneses, how we all hate them.  Smug bastards with their 6 bedroom house, BMW, Gucci sunglasses and sit on lawn mower.

Mr Jones on his ‘mower

In truth, I’ve never had much of an issue with the Joneses.  I let them do their (incorrect) thing and I carry on with mine.  Having never been particularly worried about fashion, what car I drive or particularly what other people are up to this lets me crack on with trying to enjoy life.

My 15 year old car gets me from A to B just fine.  It also manages to sit in traffic jams exactly the same as your new BMW.  And I hate sitting in traffic jams, it makes me feel all Falling Down.  So my car does about 500 miles a year.

I’ve never been particularly bothered with getting a promotion at work, being seen to climb to corporate ladder, being seen to do the right things at work or just generally be seen in the office doing more hours than I need to.  Not that I don’t work hard but I have refused to ‘play the game’.  This has cost me a few promotions, so I’ve been told, but I’m happy clinging onto what little soul I have left, I work in finance don’t you know.

All this success at work seems to translate into being seen to buy nice things.  Cars and watches and shoes and fancy meals.  I’m not into fancy.  I have a watch.  I wear shoes.  And I eat meals.  I don’t compare them to the Joneses though.

Ahhh, the FI Joneses
I may try to keep up with the FI Joneses though.  Perhaps it comes with reading around the subject a fair amount and being generally interested in what others are achieving in the Personal Finance blogging world.  This can lead to trying to keep up with the savings rates that others are achieving (trying to keep up with FFBF Jones and NMW Jones for example) or trying to save the same absolute amounts as others.  Worrying about doing things the ‘right way’.

This is probably a positive thing, after all it should help me to achieve Financial Independence quicker.  But it should be an individual thing, there isn’t a simple template that we can all just copy.  Spend less and save more, then after that you are on your own.  You’ve got to apply what others are doing to your own life.

Just because someone else is capable of saving 75% of their income month on month without going batshit crazy doesn’t mean it’s right for the next person.

Equally active investing might work for some (you loose cannons you) but it won’t work for others.  Perhaps they don’t have the right mind set to select the right investments, the wrong temperament to avoid constant trading or waking up sweating in the night with worry or they just don’t have the time or the want to invest that much time into portfolio management.

Chasing a higher income might be interesting to others.  And if that keeps them focused, then go for it.  Cutting costs might work for others, if revelling in their frugal wizardry and sleeping on a pile of hay to save cash keeps them going then that’s all good.

Each to their own
Many of us suffer from wanting to work towards financial independence the ‘right way’, myself included, trying to follow the paths that were set out by the front runners.  Blindly following what MMM did isn’t going to work for us all.  A good starting point, perhaps, but something that needs to be tweaked to our own lives and tolerances.

It’s a weird thing, to be in a situation where you are approaching saving and spending so differently to those immediately around you yet still able to compare yourself to a multitude of people looking to achieve a similar thing through the internet.  Not caring what the vast majority think about your approach to finances but able to compare your approach to the relatively few FI seeking rebels, whose opinion does mean something on the matter.

I’m enjoy the journey immensely but have to remind myself it’s not a competition or a race.  Lest I turn the FI status into the personal finance equivalent of the BMW.

Enjoy the sweltering heat in the UK.

Mr Z

16 thoughts on “Keeping Up with the Joneses

  1. EarlyRetirementGuy

    I remember following a (now closed) FI blog years ago which was written by an american lady originally from the UK. She was in the amazing situation to be earning well into 6 figures and still have all expenses covered by work. She lived in a hotel and rented out her house back home for extra profit. When reading this through, I did have to continually remind myself that it wasn't a fair comparison and that there was no way I could achieve her savings percentages.

    As more and more UK FI blogs spring up, it does give more comparison opportunities. The good thing about this though is that it's easier to find someone with relatively similar levels of income/expenditure as you from which you can benchmark and share inspiration.

    Ultimately though it is an individual race and the only winner can be yourself when you achieve your own goals.

  2. sparklebeeblog

    Inspiration is the view when looking for FI. I don't try to keep up with the Jones, I do look at activities that other FI bloggers have done and see if they would work for me. I have never earned a 6 figure salary but that doesn't stop me trying to find things that fit my lifestyle and apply them where I thing they would be useful and allow me to increase income/reduce expenses and reach the goal – Financial Freedom.
    Enjoy the journey!

  3. Anonymous

    Its useful to compare and challenge yourself asking could i do that? If the answer is yes then i have learnt something new, if the answer is no i am ok with that too

    so thanks to you all for the the inspiration and challenges keep them coming


  4. Neverland

    Its human nature to compare yourselves to a peer group and want to be the ape at the top of the tree

    "It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail." Gore Vidal

  5. Dividend Drive

    Good post, Mr Z. It is not something I had really thought of. But I think you're right. It is easy to lose a little sight of your own wants and needs under the pressure of seeing what others are doing.

    That being said, if you must try and "keep up with the Joneses" for your human nature/social animal fix then the FI ones are a vast improvement on the debt-laden, Dolce & Gabbana toothpick types.

    Keep up the good work!

  6. Anonymous

    My next door neighbours have his n her audi TTs with personalized number plates.

    But I grow better carrots. Or any veg for that matter.

    Each to his own – I'm happy.

  7. Retirement Investing Today

    Hi Mr Z

    "I've never been particularly bothered with getting a promotion at work." We're polar opposites here. My FIRE strategy has Earning More as a key enabler to help me Save Hard. Of course it's not guaranteed, where Spending Less is, but it's still worth pushing hard for.

    Personally I:
    – Ensure I stay in the top 10% of my peers in terms of delivery. Where I'm a little slower on some tasks I work harder and where I'm not as smart I'm self learning. The negative is of course longer hours than most of my peers.
    – I've never asked for a pay rise for something I am about to do. Instead I always do the job and then ask for the pay rise.
    – I'm prepared to commute to maximise earnings minus spending.
    – I'm very flexible. If the toilet needs cleaning to ensure that project succeeds then I clean the toilet.
    – I'm always on the lookout for that door that is partially open even if it means a bit of extra effort in the short term.
    – I definitely 'play the game' that is required and expected.

    The end result has been a doubling of my earnings, all of which after tax has been invested, over my FIRE journey to date. It's definitely accelerating my journey.


  8. Mr Zombie

    Sounds a bit like Alan Partridge 🙂

    It is good overall, especially with the idea gaining more traction in the UK. Your last point nailed it, all about your own individual goals 🙂 FI is a different thing to everyone.

    Mr Z

  9. Mr Zombie

    Thanks Sparklebee!

    You are right, reading all the other blogs pretty consistently keeps the journey to freedom fresh in the memory and provides new ideas. And a bit of competition can be good! 🙂

    Mr Z

  10. Mr Zombie

    Hi Jim,

    Very true. And without that I would have never challenged myself in the first place and started on the path to FI 🙂


    Mr Z

  11. Mr Zombie

    I guess so.

    Perhaps being a little jealous of the position that Mr Money Mustache or The Escape Artist are in, is no bad thing. (Obviously whilst being aware of the hard work and sacrifice that went into getting there! 🙂 )

    Thanks Neverland.

    Mr Z

  12. Mr Zombie

    Thanks DD 🙂

    Completely agree with your comment. Nothing necessarily wrong with trying to keep up with others, just got to keep your own goals in track with what you want to achieve yourself.

    Mr Z

  13. Mr Zombie

    Hi RIT,

    Not to say I haven't had a few promotions, but I am definitely behind where I could be. I moved jobs a little while back as I was interested in studying alongside work, and a large part of performance at work is driven by progress towards qualification. I find this easier to motivate myself for, with results being much tangible.

    I don't mind working hard or putting in long hours when they are needed, but I can't motivate myself to stay at work late every day as a matter of course. To just be seen at my desk!

    That said, as I now do have a focus and somewhere to put my money, perhaps that will change a bit. The benefits of acceleration towards FI (following an increase in earnings) are very real. Perhaps I have shot myself in the foot in regard to earnings, or at least grazed it, with my prior approach to working for promotions. A doubling of earnings is outstanding.

    And a few extra hours now, is nothing compared to the time saved once you've reached FI!

    "- I'm very flexible. If the toilet needs cleaning to ensure that project succeeds then I clean the toilet." – Admittedly I do take this same approach, I've never thought of myself as above (or below) a task 🙂

    Thanks for getting me thinking,

    Mr Z

  14. weenie

    Hi Mr Z

    You're kind of like me on the job front, although you have time on your side to amend your ways! I reckon I'm a little behind where I could be but when I look at the people who have gone past me in the promotion stakes (including close friends), they don't seem very happy, despite the shiny company car and the fat salary. I have no sympathy when they complain about the hours they have to work (although of course, I don't tell them this!)

    If I need to, I work extra hours but I don't do them as a matter of course – no one notices your extra hours (except you) and I don't get paid overtime.

    I had my usual 'job/career conversation' with my mum when I saw her recently, which was basically her telling me that I would earn pots more money if I changed my career and moved over to Hong Kong.

    True but would I be happy? Pretty unlikely, given the hours that I know HK people (eg my family) put in as a matter of course.

    As for the Joneses – I struggle more with the FI Joneses rather than the other Joneses these days and do need to remind myself that everyone is different, earning different amounts and are at different stages of their lives, although I always get Savings Rate envy whenever you post up your results!

  15. Mr Zombie

    Agreed – I have no sympathy either for others working long hours 🙂

    I have a few friends that are expats in the Middle and far East, they tell me similar things. That I could get paid more doing a similar job, which I don't doubt. But then rent or property is much more expensive and sometimes I think their lives revolve around eating out and boozing. Haha

    🙂 thanks. Although, my savings rate is helped by a very small mortgage!

    Mr Z


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