Disclaimer: Finances and money management are personal decisions, and this particular series is not meant to tell the reader what to do or how to live their lives. It’s meant to reflect on my own experiences, lessons about personal contentment and delayed gratification, and kick around some alternative ways of thinking about a fun topic which affects everyone; money.
“I never really worried their comments, because their words don’t have an effect on my life one way or the other,” said basketball legend Larry Bird in the late 1980s in response to controversial racial remarks by Dennis Rodman and Isiah Thomas.
“The only reason Larry Bird is a big deal is because he’s white. If Larry Bird was black, he would be just another basketball player,” were Rodman’s words which were affirmed by Thomas. Though Larry Bird wasn’t one of my favorite basketball players at that time, he has gained my respect 25 years later for shrugging off Rodman’s comments and continuing to work towards his goals.
Regarding feedback on my car situations, there was one really nasty mechanic who gave me a hard time about my Saturn before donating it. The rest of the feedback about my not having a car to be perfectly honest has been from the opposite gender, an anticipated outcome when all of this was planned out but painful nonetheless.
“You’re just better off getting a new car,” a belligerent auto mechanic sneered at me when picking my car up in Northern Virginia as he smoked his cigarette. He had just been paid a hefty sum of money to replace the radiator on my Saturn and roasted me about how it was “unacceptable,” for him to spend his time performing such a repair. That afternoon was during the season of my transition from being a renter to a home owner and there was a lot of financial pressure already in the air at that time.
“You need a car. You need a newer car. Well, if you buy the right car, you won’t have a lot of problems,” were all prescriptions and recommendations from various anonymous lady friends. Gentlemen, a word of advice, whenever a lady friend insists that you need something like a car (even when you don’t), the translation of what she’s telling you is that “I think you need a car, and whether or not you get one is impacting how I see you as a man, a provider and whether or not I want to keep talking to you.”At that point you have to make a choice; either you placate her if you want her approval and company that badly, or if you’re that convicted in what you’re doing you let her walk.
Its important to keep in mind that for most working-class Americans, wealth building is a long term process which involves some sacrifice. This wealth building mentality conflicts with our culture which tells us to consume and have things now, no matter what the long-term ramifications are.
Instead of following the sage wisdom prescribed to me in the previous paragraphs, my father’s words were once again followed instead. Throughout my life, my father has given me lots of advice, not all of it good, though this particular piece was right on point.
“You don’t let somebody tell you when you need to get a new car son,” Dad, a frugal man himself said in staunch protest to the barrage of comments. “You and only you will know when you need to get a vehicle.”
“I’m assuming you’re using Zipcars because you’re trying to save money right? That’s smart. If you live close to the city and can use the metro system, I don’t see why you would own a car with everything you have to deal with around here,” said a colleague involved in one of my community service activities. There have been some positive comments about my current circumstance, and most of them interestingly have from men.
“One key attribute to wealthy people is that they don’t have a fear of man (or woman),” Dave Ramsey cited in one of his Financial Peace University workshops about how truly wealthy people are impervious to the thoughts and opinions of others.
In his research, Dr. Thomas Stanley reports that the United States’ truly wealthy families don’t derive their personal happiness and sense of contentment from the acceptance of others and what they think about them. Likewise, one of the underlying themes of this series is personal contentment. Before donating my car and since then, there have been too many comments to name about what “I need,” what “I should do,” and what “I should have” from other people. Not listening to these kinds of comments from people has been key in this journey.
This series will be concluded in part five where my actual survival without car ownership will be discussed.