Welcome to Pretend to Be Poor
Why would anyone pretend to be poor? The idea sounds no fun, miserly, and decidedly un-American. But I would ask, “Why pretend to be rich?” if in fact you are not. This is the lifestyle of many today, and it’s making them poor.
An ancient proverb addressed two common financial paths:
“There is one who pretends to be rich, but has nothing; Another pretends to be poor, and has great wealth” (Proverbs 13:7).
In our culture the standard of living has risen to an expensive lifestyle that just two generations ago would’ve been considered lavish. People aren’t setting out to be extravagant, but the new “normal” calls people to live beyond their means. Meanwhile the burden of debt and the never-enough nature of materialism have left people stressed, depressed, and confused. We want to dismantle some of the lies we’ve been sold and help people return to a path of reasonable living and real wealth (which of course isn’t just about money).
One way to explain the idea is to introduce ourselves. We are Neil and Kalie, an engineer and a stay-at-home mom with two young children. Right now we are easily and comfortably allocating over 60% of our income to:
2. Paying down our debts (all we have is a mortgage)
3. Charitable giving
Vision. A decade after graduating from college, we are seeing the “American dream” for the nightmare it really is. Many of our friends are swimming in student loans and consumer debt, and our parents’ generation isn’t doing much better. We’re not sure many people can see their financial situation for what it is. Almost everyone feels stuck in their circumstances, running like a rat on a wheel to keep up but never getting anywhere. Our peers often ask us for financial advice, wanting to know how but not understanding why. In this blog we hope to share both with a wider audience.
Action. We genuinely enjoy our lifestyle of pretending to be poor. In fact, it feels wrong to call it that, because we aren’t suffering or deprived at all. We realize we are rich by any standard. But Proverbs uses the phrase, so we will, too. Practically, it means we buy used cars (and clothes), shop at discount grocery stores, and favor fixing things over replacing them. Simple steps like these can propel you from financial bondage to flexibility. More on these in future posts.
Flexibility. Many people are writing and talking about financial freedom or security, but these concepts are at best misnomers and at worst myths. We’ll never be completely in control of the cost of living or our circumstances. So instead we’re seeking financial flexibility, or an ability to make life choices without being so limited by expenses (and therefore income). Financial flexibility is an accounting term that describes “a company’s ability to react to unexpected expenses and investment opportunities.” We find this concept useful for personal finance as well. What options would open up if you could live on half your current income? If this sounds unrealistic, know that financial flexibility is actually a bit relative–picture a continuum ranging from “I have no options because of my overwhelming debt” to, at the other extreme, “I can choose how to spend my time & money because of my low cost of living.”
Purpose. One way of understanding this proverb is to suggest that those pretending to be poor are the rich trying to get out of paying their share. That’s not what we’re talking about. This pursuit isn’t whiny like Occupy, miserly like Scrooge, or self-focused like the early-retirement scene. Our goal of flexibility has a clear and better purpose of helping others with our time and money. Can you imagine how much good you could do if over half your income (or time) went to support your church, missionaries, your favorite charities, or other noble causes? Of course we believe in being generous along the way, too. More on that soon.
And here’s our dirty little secret: we don’t even follow a monthly budget. Join us as we share many more secrets and journey toward financial flexibility.
 “Financial Flexibility.” Money-Zine. http://www.money-zine.com/definitions/investing-dictionary/financial-flexibility/