The Powder Keg of Comparison

Jim Gaffigan has an interesting back story on becoming a comedian.

He graduated from college with a finance degree and got a job in advertising in NYC. At nights he would take acting classes and work on his stand-up routine. This would often lead to sleeping on the job.

The story goes that his boss had to wake him up at his desk to fire him. His big break came from an appearance on Letterman in the 1990s and the rest is history.

Gaffigan is now one of the most popular stand-up acts in the business.1

On a recent episode of the Life is Short podcast with Justin Long, Gaffigan discussed some of the reasons he chooses to live in NYC instead of LA. One of the reasons came down to the financial peer pressure he received from friends in the entertainment business after some experiences in Hollywood.

Gaffigan said of living in Hollywood, “I can’t be in this powder keg of comparison. And that’s more a commentary on me than Los Angeles. Like am I doing well enough?”

After getting some steady gigs on TV shows, friends would tell Gaffigan he needed to get a better car because he could afford it. He shared how this dialogue went with Long:

Dude, you have to get a better car. You can afford a better car.

And I’m like, do I need another car? I’m not getting another car.

Get another car. Your car is embarrassing.

No one should shed any tears for uber successful people who make tons of money when it comes to their financial situation but this is a nice illustration of how even those with high incomes often struggle to get ahead financially.

Personal finance people love to espouse the life of frugality and saving but the easiest way to get ahead with your finances is by making more money.2 The problem is once you do begin making more money the pressure to spend more kicks in with abandon.

According to a Nielsen study, almost 25% of families making $150,000 a year or more are living paycheck-to-paycheck.3

People worry about the effects monetary policy will have on inflation but lifestyle inflation is typically the biggest problem most people deal with when moving up the income scale.

Friends, co-workers, and even family members can pressure you into spending more than you should on things you don’t need or even want. Of course, much of this peer pressure is mostly in our own heads. People don’t care nearly as much about your lifestyle as you think. Financial peer pressure mostly comes from our own fears and insecurities.

Not everyone has the ability to simply move to another city to avoid those fears like Gaffigan did. In the absence of taking yourself out of the situation entirely, the next best step is getting to a place where you’re content with what you have and don’t care what other people think.

Easier said than done but the upside of not keeping up with the Joneses offers you less anxiety and a more secure financial future.

Further Reading:
What Do I Want My Money to Do For Me?

Now here’s what I’ve been reading lately:

1I watched Gaffigan’s latest special on Amazon Prime. It was good, not great. He got paid $30 million by Amazon for the show so I’m guessing he doesn’t care what my opinion is on the special.

2This is a captain obvious statement but some people seem to overlook this simple idea.

3I’m anti-survey but this one seems relatively accurate.