Entitlement Mentality Has Taken Over

Entitlement mentality for the “bling-bling” life style has taken over the entire USA, so it seems. Entitlement drives people to living outside of their means. Every time I pull up to a stop-light in my beat-up ten year old Honda Civic, I am certain to see a late model high-end luxury car or SUV next to me. Those things can easily cost between forty and sixty thousand dollars, or more. I can literally buy several houses for that kind of money. Before I knew anything about money (except for how to spend it), I incorrectly assumed that the owners of these fancy cars were high income earners. I know better now. Chances are, the driver of that Lexus parked next to you borrowed $50,000 from a bank at a payment of $900 per month for the privilege of looking fly. I remember reading in one of Dave Ramsey’s books that “…America is the only place where you can pull into a gas station in a Jaguar and not have any money to fill it up.”

I am 37 years old, and for the past ten years I’ve been blissfully married to the love of my life Patrisha, which is a testimony to both Patrisha’s capacity to set limits and my ability to stay within them. One such limit is the old adage “you can look – just don’t touch”.

From everything that I know about personal finance, and I know a few things, the same is applicable. It is not wrong to want things, but it is wrong to succumb to those wants if this requires that you go into debt, because it’s even worse than most people realize. Here is an excerpt from my e-book Money Fundamentals regarding this topic. Enjoy!

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”
~Helen Keller

I am impressed by the duality of our universe. The same paint on the wall looks a different shade from different angles; an identical sandwich seems to taste different from one day to the next depending on my mood; the same song evokes totally different filling in me depending on whether I am listening to it in the morning or the afternoon. Vision is the ability to interpret what you see, and that is a matter of perspective.

As you become more familiar with the world of money and finance you will begin to recognize the reality that most concepts exist in this state of duality. This is true of the concepts of income, credit, debt, and expenses. It would be nice if all things were what they appear to be. But this is simply not the case, and your financial success is directly proportional to your ability see that which is not obvious.

As you know, lack of knowledge in general can be very expensive. But in the context of expenses it is doubly so. For instance, there is a relationship between income and expenses which rarely receives any consideration. Did you know that when you spend money, it is after tax money you are spending, and as such your expenses are actually costing you considerably more than you think? Here is a good example of what I mean:

Suppose you decide that you need a new car, so you trade in the old car which you have already paid off for a newer model. Sounds great, right? You’re looking fine driving around town in your new wheels. Here’s the catch. Your beautiful new car comes with a $600 monthly payment. You have increased your annual expenses by $600 x 12 months = $7,200. But do you realize that this $7,200 is after-tax money, meaning that you will have had to earn money, and then pay taxes on it, and only then could you spend it on your car? If your effective tax rate is around 30% of your gross income (in other words, your total tax burden equals to 30% of your gross pay), then you will have had to earn $10,285.71 in order to pay the taxes and then have $7,200 left for your car payment. You might as well stop kidding yourself that your car only costs you $600 per month, because $10,285.71 per year is actually an $857.14 monthly car payment.

Does it seem logical that someone earning a pre-tax annual salary of $50,000, would spend $10,285.71 of it on a car? This person brings home a paycheck of about $3,000, and spends 20% of it on a car. That’s one fifth of his take-home pay. That’s one dollar out of five going for a car!!! Is this something you would do?
Not me! When our twins were born, Patrisha and I purchased a ten year-old minivan for $1,000. Believe me when I tell you that we could have afforded a $600 monthly payment. But then again, $600 per month for 60 months is $36,000, which invested at a compounded rate of return of 12% for 18 years would become roughly $275,000. Not to mention that $600/month is an interest payment on $120,000 mortgage at 6%, which buys a property capable of generating $500 to $900 per month of cash flow. Are you starting to see what I mean about financial literacy and about reading numbers?

© Copyright 2012 Ben Leybovich and Just Ask Ben Why. All Rights Reserved.

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