Don’t get pressured into a poor decision, by trying to impress others. Most people are broke and they try to make it look like they are doing better than they actually are.

man with head in hands

Impressing others is never a good reason to make a poor decision

Not too long ago, I was speaking with someone about high schoolers and college selections. We were discussing how so many people look at college and think that the only way their child will be able to go to college is if they get a student loan. I told her that any child can go to college without a student loan provided they have a plan. They might be able to get scholarships, grants, a job, and pay for school themself. However, the biggest factor in going to college without student loan debt is school choice. She told me that parents like to be able to brag about where their child is going to school. I thought for a bit. She is right.

Don’t fund your desire to impress others with student loan debt

Parents do like to brag about where their children are going to school. They brag in the pickup line, they brag on social media. They brag to everyone they come in contact with. What a terrible motivation to pick a school that will drown your kid in debt. But this is the reality. I think a big piece of the student loan crisis issue is the parents. Either not properly guiding their child on how to afford college without student loans. Or putting them in a position by pressuring them to get into a “good” school so that they can brag about it. But they wouldn’t be bragging if they knew what type of student loan debt their child was going to be strapped with.

I see something similar with vehicles. It is amazing how many people will get a loan or a lease to drive a “nice” car to impress others when they really can’t afford it. I know they can’t afford it because they aren’t properly funding retirement, kids’ college, or other needed savings. But they want people to see their “nice” car. If we heard how much the monthly car payment is, we would probably not feel jealous. We get stuck in the age-old dilemma of keeping up with the Jones.

book with outline of man with cap on it

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

In my early banking days, there was a middle-aged fellow that pulled up to the branch in a very nice looking sports car. I am not a car guy, so the make and model escapes me, but it looked pretty cool. He walks into the branch and asks me to check his account to see if a certain check had been paid.

As I scrolled through his account activity, it blew my mind to see how much his direct deposit was. It was over $40,000 per month. But then as I kept scrolling I saw a $25,000 Amex bill. Over $10,000 in mortgage and home equity payments. I saw a $2,000 car payment and another one for $1,500. I also saw a few insufficient funds fees. His average balance in the account was less than $10,000. He had a savings account with a few hundred dollars and a credit card balance with over $8,000 on it. The check he was looking for had been returned for insufficient funds. He was furious and stormed out of the bank.

Not impressed

For as much money as this fellow was making, he was broke. My guess is that he was pressured into poor decisions by trying to impress others. This example stood out to me because the very next day a young woman came into the branch and asked me to update her passbook for her savings account. This was in 2006 and passbook savings had already fallen out of style and I remember thinking that this girl needs to get up to speed with technology.

Opening her passbook to update the account, I saw she had over $75,000 in savings. I took a look at her checking account and she had about $10,000 in there. Then I asked her what she did for a living. She told me she was a school teacher. She was two years out of school and she was living at home with her parents while she saved up for a house and a wedding one day. When I finished assisting her, I walked her to the door and looked to see what kind of car she drove. It looked like a 10-year-old Toyota. She was not pressured into poor decisions by others. 

A financial mess or a financial success

This girl, for as little money as she made, was lightyears better off than the first guy. He was a financial mess, she was a financial success. Clearly, she had made decisions and had a plan based on her goals rather than what others thought of her. She didn’t allow people’s opinions to negatively influence her and push her towards poor financial decisions. Too many times we can get caught up thinking that others may have something we want, but we don’t know the full story. We really don’t know their entire situation. To look at her car, you would have thought she was broke. To look at his, you would have thought he had money. However, the opposite was true.

college savings jar of coins

Many times our best plan, will not include the “best” school.

The same is true as we again look at these high schoolers and their parents as they select colleges. We should not be pressured into a poor decision because of what others are doing or what others think. We should have confidence in our plan and not feel that we have to make excuses because we aren’t going to the “best school”.  Many times our best plan, will not include the “best” school.

We should tell people the truth. It would sound something like this.

“My child is going to county college and working part-time so that in two years they will transfer to the state university and graduate with a four-year degree and no debt.”


“My child is going to Notre Dame and will graduate with a four-year degree and $265,000 in student loans”.

Let’s not stop with college choice, we can do the same with cars.

“I drive a 2021 Lexus with an $850 car payment”


“I drive a 2011 Chevy Malibu with no car payment”.

street sign with words success and failure

Don’t get pressured into making a poor decision.

We could do this with so many other things in life. Home buying, vacations, clothes, and the list is almost endless. Would you really want to go on a vacation that left you strapped with a $5,000 credit card bill? If we start getting the “full story” on other people’s decisions, we would not feel pressured into a poor decision and we could easily dismiss the idea that we think they have it better than us.

For some, they may be very wealthy and have their financial act together. They might be buying a $150,000 vehicle for cash, or going on $10,000 vacations that they are able to cash flow. There might be a child that gets a full-ride scholarship to a prestigious school or maybe they have been saving for their kid’s college since they were born and can pay cash for college. Don’t be jealous of them. For sure these are people that create a plan to hit their goals. Learn from them, don’t feel you have to compete with them. Determine your goals and your priorities and create a plan to achieve them.

Most people are broke and they try to make it look like they are doing better than they actually are. Create a plan that will help you achieve your goals. Be confident in your plan and don’t get distracted by the nonsense that others do. You can do it!

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