Keeping Up With The Joneses

11:51 AM, Jul 31, 2007   |    comments
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(KSDK) -- Have you ever felt a twinge of anxiety, seeing someone else driving an expensive car or wearing designer clothing? Do you ask yourself, "How did they afford that?" and "What am I doing wrong that I can't?" Comparing our financial lives to others is common. It's also common to wonder where you stack up with your neighbors. "Keeping up with the Joneses" has practically become an American pastime. It's created a nation of spenders who want the right house, the right car, the right tv and the right mobile phone. We want it right now. Katie and Andy Boyer have been "keeping up" since they got married two years ago. "I don't feel like I'm in competition with anybody, but sometimes you wonder, ‘How can they do that?’ when we know our situation, and I don't think we have a bad situation," Andy said. "Keeping up" keeps us wondering how the other guy or gal is doing financially. How much does he make? How much does she owe? We've got lots of questions. Now it's time for some answers. When it comes to income, payscale.com reports Missouri residents make a median income of nearly $47,000 a year, compared to Illinois residents at just under $40,000. Break it down further and we find St. Louis ($47,611), St. Louis County ($45,627) and Edwardsville residents ($41,660) earn more then their neighbors in Belleville ($39,676), Chesterfield ($39,676) and St. Charles ($39,676). When you look at our income by gender, St. Louis men make a whopping $11,000 more a year then St. Louis area women. To find out how we stack up against the rest of the country, we used A.G. Edwards' “Nest Egg Index.’ It compares communities based on statistical factors, such as participation in retirement plans, personal debt levels and home ownership, and gauges how well Americans save money. "St. Louis ended up at number 100 out of the top 500, so they are above the national average which is good. However, you have to keep in mind that that's relative because the national average isn't that good," said Sophie Beckmann, financial strategist for A.G. Edwards and Sons. St. Louisans ranked better then the national average in home ownership, first mortgage value, household income, net worth, cost of living, 401(k) plan participation, pension participation, investing propensity, and savings propensity. But we ranked below average in housing values and personal debt. "In regard to debt, we're a little worse off then the national average. Our debt is a little bit higher, and I'm speaking specifically about credit card debt," said Beckmann. So what can you do to make sure you're better prepared then your neighbors and 80 percent of the country? Make a plan. The Boyers found Jennifer Hill, a financial adviser with Edward Jones, to conduct a financial assessment. "You might want to know, ‘Do I have enough for retirement? Now I'm a retired, do I have enough to make it through retirement. What about long term care? Do I need it? Am I a good candidate? I have young children, what about life insurance? How much do I need? What more should I buy? I have a lot of debt. How can I get out of debt?’" Assessing where you are financially allows you to create financial plan tailored to your needs, goals and life plans. Katie Boyer is currently in school for her Masters degree. That expense is the couple's biggest debt. Spilling your financial guts, so to speak, can be humbling. But if it opens your eyes to the real life situation you're in. When you understand the boundaries you must live within, you'll already be ahead of many Americans, including people who drive expensive cars. "My boundaries are what are going to keep me going for a long period of time," said Katie Boyer. "I know that if I just go crazy now, I'm really going to pay for it later, and that's not worth it to me. So I look at him in his nice car and say, ‘That's great, but not for me right now, it's just not.’ It's a good feeling to know where your boundaries are." To contact a financial adviser with Edward Jones call 1800-EDJONES or online at www.edwardjones.com. To contact a financial adviser with A.G. Edwards call (877) 835-7877 or online at www.agedwards.com. To read more on the Nest Egg Index, or to get your Nest Egg Score visit www.nesteggindex.com.

KSDK

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