Originally posted on Money with Merne’s Facebook Page on June 5, 2017:
I grew up in a very affluent town in South Jersey, but on the “poorer” side of town. As I got older and went to the schools that served broader districts in the town, I met friends who lived in much bigger houses and had cars as soon as they could drive. I had no problem with my family’s house and lifestyle until I saw how these other kids lived. As time went by, I wasn’t jealous so much as annoyed. And it wasn’t until my mid to late 20s that I realized just because these people had big houses and gifted their children new cars on their 17th birthdays doesn’t mean they were rich and secure. Most of them were probably house-poor and in debt, living on credit cards and consumerism. Whereas I realized living on the “poorer” side of the town meant my family was living within our means and had money in the bank, and luckily those were the habits I learned!
I remember one of my long-time school acquaintances who lived in what I thought was a fancy house. I recently just saw this person posting on facebook about the mass of student loan debt she had and how she was counting on federal loan forgiveness programs to save her. If her parents were really as rich as it seemed, would they have let her get into that much debt? Maybe, but I doubt it. My guess is they just didn’t have the money.
Recently it has annoyed me to hear people with young kids talk about how they’re so happy they moved into that town for the great school district, but are living on the more cost-effective side of town, just like my parents did. I don’t think they realize the situation they’re putting their kids in! When they’re in middle school or high school, those kids will come home wanting fancy expensive clothes and sneakers or to go on expensive vacations just because their friends in that “great school district” are, too. I purposely chose to live in a different town where the schools were just fine, but the distribution of wealth was a little more even. But I will also make sure my child knows that looks can be deceiving and it’s about what’s in your bank account that matters, not what you spend it on!