Peer pressure or the pressure to conform is ever present in our lives, particularly more so in the military. For those of us in the military, society places a great degree of peer pressure on us to conform to military standards. Although this type of peer pressure is for a good reason, the defense of our nation, it shows you the power of peer pressure. Of course the pressure to conform does not always result in outcomes that are positive. One instance of conformity which has caused an endless list of detrimental effects in our society is the mentality of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. This mentality is part of our human character and all of us can come up with examples in our lives when we were beset by this urge to conform. You probably remember a time in elementary or middle school when everyone else seemed to be getting a new pair of shoes and you felt left out and left behind. So you asked your parents to buy you the same pair of shoes so you could fit in and keep up with the rest of your classmates. Some of your parents may have bought you the shoes and some of your parents may have told the very lesson I am covering now. Nonetheless, ‘keeping up the Joneses’ is an urge we have all felt and succumb to in our lives.
Today, I write to you to say NO MORE! I have seen far too many of my fellow service members from junior enlisted and officers to senior enlisted and officers surrender to rat race of keeping up with everyone else at the cost of their financial health. The prime example I have often seen is cadets and midshipmen who get their Career Starter Loan from NFCU or USAA and then proceed to blow between $25,000 and $35,000 on a shiny new car and various other trinkets and stuff they do not need. These habits continue after graduation for many of these individuals as I personally know full lieutenants that are pilots, which means they receive extra flight pay, living paycheck-to-paycheck.
The first step in fixing this mentality is to recognize that we are all fallible. Next you must accept that habits are hard to break, like spending money on things you love. Finally, you should commit to building a new habit and this habit is as simple as logging into MyPay (or if you are a civilian going to your HR department or website) and setting up an allotment to go to savings or retirement account or designating a percentage of your pay to deposited into your TSP (hopefully somewhere in the realm of 25-35%). By paying yourself first you admit that it is tough to save and by taking it out of your own hands you need neither the discipline nor patience required to do it on your own. Paying yourself first also imposes a certain level of fiscal austerity or discipline upon your finances. By doing this I can assure you that your future-self will most definitely thank you when you are sitting and drinking mojitos from your butler on your own private island.