Pete the Planner: This Thanksgiving, target stability, not more stuff

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Peter DunnThere is no other time in a given year that I’m more introspective than in late November. I don’t think it’s a post-Election Day reckoning, and I’m not quite sure it’s the copious amount of tryptophan I consume on the third Thursday. Arguably, it could stem from my birthday late in the month, as facing mortality tends to turn one inward.

But no matter what it is, I walk around the back half of the month deep in thought, willing to explore my relationship with darn near everything, including money.

It’s possible I just spent 90 words describing gratitude, and if I did, I’m OK with that. On some level, it does feel like we’ve collectively agreed that Thanksgiving is a time for pause and reflection. Sure, we’ve done our best to ruin that with Black Friday through Cyber Monday. But on the surface, this time of year still offers us the opportunity to think a bit more deeply about both things and realities we possess.

This year, I’ve landed on a specific question to consider: Does our quest for more hinder our ability to experience equilibrium? Like I said, I get weird this time of year.

Wanting more, getting more—and then setting your lifestyle at that higher level—makes sustainability more difficult. This is not a novel concept; you have already lived it. In fact, if you’re like me, you’ve likely been intentional about this over the last couple of decades of your life and career. But at some point, wanting more is strategically a really bad idea. Determining when wanting more switches over from practical to impractical seems to prove quite difficult.

Everyone arrives at this idea on their own time, but the moment of clarity begins when a person starts to target more stability instead of more stuff.

If you really do use next Thursday as a moment to pause and give thanks, maybe take an extra day or two to consider how sustainable your lifestyle really is. Or simply put more details behind your gratitude and see if the ridiculousness shakes you.

“This year, I’m thankful for my luxury SUV, 42 dress shirts, 13 pairs of jeans, 81 pairs of shoes, my 80-inch TV, four watches, my Peloton, Netflix, Hulu, Peacock, Paramount Plus, Apple TV, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, Max, Spotify, Sirius XM, Pandora,” (takes bite of stuffing) “dining out three times a week, my bourbon collection, my country club membership, the lake house, the boat, the upstairs Roomba, the downstairs Roomba, the other nine TVs that don’t feel worth mentioning, and my family and friends.” Inhale.

Exhale.

I can’t imagine taking this gratitude list to my late grandfather. It actually makes me cringe. Not only because members of the Greatest Generation lived more humble and simple lives, but also because my favorite member of that generation was an accountant. He retired at 60 years old after raising eight kids and was retired for 32 years before he passed away.

Will my generation be able to pull that off? I really don’t think so. And you better believe I’ve been chicken-or-egging this scenario for that last week or so. Is it the attitude toward money and things that leads to the unsustainability? Or does the unsustainability lead to the attitude?

The stuff-accumulation trend does seem to be generational. The storage-unit industry didn’t exist until the late 1960s, and the early 2000s were the heyday of paying people to store stuff we don’t use. Today, it’s a $48 billion/year industry, and surprisingly, only about 10% of households rent some of the 1.7 billion square feet, which is roughly 91% occupied.

Don’t forget to mention the old desk, floor mats from a car you don’t own anymore and the four rakes in your storage unit when you go around the table to give thanks.

If you ever aspire to leave this dynamic, you will have to do so intentionally. Few people accidentally stop their accumulation (and eventual storage) of stuff. As you know, that’s where estate sales come into play, where you can buy other people’s stuff. You will always want more stuff unless you purposefully stop wanting more stuff.

Once you conquer your desire for more stuff, you can graduate to wanting more time.

Anyway, this is my brain in late November. You can see why I don’t get invited to many parties this time of year. Thanks for your time.•

__________

Dunn is CEO of Your Money Line powered by Pete the Planner, an employee-benefit organization focused on solving employees’ financial challenges. Email your financial questions to askpete@petetheplanner.com.

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