Saturday, October 5, 2013

Birds of a Feather

I am settling into my new house and my new neighborhood. So far, I am happy with both. Our neighborhood is a nice healthy mix of retired professionals and young families on the way up. The cars tend to be nicer and newer than what could be found in my old neighborhood in Maryland. I see an unusual number of entry level BMWs. This might be related to the presence a nearby BMW factory. There seems to be a pretty good number of nice late model SUVs and new expensive pickup trucks. Our second car, a 2000 Nissan Altima looks a little out of place.

I was surprised to learn that three of my nearest neighbors are, like me, retired engineers. What are the odds of that happening in some random neighborhood? Something about these new houses in an underdeveloped but growing section of the ninth fastest growing city in the United States seemed attractive to retired engineers from several different areas of the country. Did they apply the same logic to the retirement problem or did subconscious expectations move them towards the same decision? I have observed that typically wives make the home buying decision. The husband can and does say, “No,” but it is the wife who actually makes the ultimate choice. This was certainly true in our case. However, after almost 39 years of marriage, how intertwined are the expectations of husband and wife?

Bottom line, for whatever reason, birds of a feather flock together. This is one more reason to examine your friends and their expectations and self image. It is probably a lot like your expectations and self image. This may be good or not so good.

Here is something else to think about. From a financial viewpoint your house, your car, your neighborhood will change your behavior.

Shortly after I graduated from college I replaced my cinderblock and scrap lumber book case with a screw together set of metal shelves such as is normally found in garages. These “bookcases” followed me around for the next 40 years. They were functional and the study in my old house was also a storage room, so who cared? However, it was my decision that they were not coming into my beautiful new home. Today they are holding tools in my garage.

I was fortunate. One of my new neighbors told me about a nearby vocational rehab place that made really nice custom bookcases and cabinets for a very reasonable price. Today the steel shelves have been replaced with two large custom made bookcases that were delivered and installed for a price that probably isn’t all that much higher than the retail cost of the materials. I was expecting to be visiting some place like IKEA and spending a whole lot more money to fulfill my subconscious vision of my new study.

Let’s say you can afford to pay cash for that new BMW. Cool! Unfortunately that is not the end of the story. Total cost of ownership of an entry level luxury sports car is going to be a good bit higher than the ten year old minivan it replaced. Those weird blue headlights might cost $600 apiece to replace if some teenager decides to steal them one night while you are peacefully asleep. High performance, low profile tires? Well, that could run anywhere from $600 to $1,000 for a set of four. No more $200 bargain tires from Costco, not for your BMW. Let’s not even think about the cost of genuine replacement parts for that BMW. Even if you can avoid the cost of dealership labor by finding a competent independent shop, we are talking serious money.

I am not telling you not to dream. You should have dreams. It is my prayer that you will see them come to pass. I am encouraging the application of mindfulness to your lifestyle and spending habits. It is too easy to go through life on autopilot, living the life dictated by our subconscious expectations and self image. Wake up! Look deeply into the world that surrounds you, examine your friendships, the expectations of your family, the vision of money that lives inside your soul. You can not really live the life you choose unless you bring awareness to the table.

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