Money Talk with Nimi: The Jones’ are Broke!

“If it gives you any comfort, the Jones’ are broke. If you are busy trying to keep up with them, please stop. The Jones’ are probably trying to keep up with you!”

We live in a very materialistic world and sadly Nigerian society is one that increasingly seems to favor instant gratification over hard work. With a growing number of people living well above their means and images of beautiful people living extravagant lifestyles, decked in expensive designer clothing, and driving state of the art cars, it is no wonder that these images are affecting a young and vulnerable generation.

For young Nigerians, from the minute they graduate from college or university, the pressure is on. This segment of the population are sometimes obsessed with the need to have an attractive car, designer clothes, a job with a prestigious firm, and if they don’t have the money to live “the” lifestyle, they are increasingly prepared to lease, borrow and in some cases will even consider doing unscrupulous things to maintain a certain standard of living. Without having worked a day, some of our youth feel that they are nothing and will not be accepted unless their appearance fits the bill; they are tying outer image to personal value and self worth.

Where does the pressure come from?
There are a variety of factors that drive this mindset. Parents are a major influence on a young person’s attitude to money as they are natural role models for their children. As money management is not routinely taught in school, if their parents are poor money managers or exhibit an extravagant lifestyle of over-indulgence their children are likely to imitate them. The media and advertising naturally have a huge influence on spending patterns. Prolific advertising and product placements are so sophisticated that you are convinced that you must acquire the product.

Many young people interviewed however, say the greatest influence on their excessive spending was their friends who put pressure on them to keep spending even when they have run out of money. It is true that our friends do have some influence on all of us in what we do, but it is of grave concern if young people are being persuaded by their peers to spend money they simply don’t have. The trappings of success are becoming more demanding and expensive each day. “Necessities” now include designer handbags and shoes, trainers, the most expensive Brazilian hair, the latest smart phone or BlackBerry, or the largest flat screen television; and now the I-pad 2 has come unto the necessity list.

Who is paying for the shopping sprees?
This “must-have” culture is putting pressure on parents. Who is paying for the $1,000 handbags and the first or business class tickets for a young 21 year-old youth corper? As they strive to impress their peers with expensive clothing, jewelry and cars, parents are footing the bill to help their children keep up with the “popularity contest”. Whilst the children are still living at home, the problem can be papered over and ignored, but when they move out into the “real world” they often feel a sense of entitlement and try to keep up a lifestyle that took their parents decades to build.

Sadly many parents may unknowingly be jeopardizing their children’s ability to succeed, by over-funding them through young adult hood, and making it difficult for them to fend for themselves in later life. Overspending by this generation has damaging implications both for consumer debt and future savings habits and threatens their long-term financial health. As they build up debt from overspending when they are young, it could be a challenge for them to build wealth for their future. At such a young age, when they are just beginning to earn a salary and manage finances, it is vital to start to establish a good savings habit and enjoy the advantage that time brings to investing.

Who are the Jones’?
But who are the Joneses and why do so many people live their lives in fear of what they think and do? No one really knows who they are but they always seem to set the pace for so many of us. The expression “keeping up with the Jones’” is used widely today and dates back to 1913. The name “Jones” was chosen by the artist Arthur Momand as it was a common surname that highlighted the common nature of social rivalry and image consciousness. It makes reference to the desire to keep up appearances of affluence and wealth as others around us.

The problem of excessive spending is not limited to the younger generation; indeed they learnt it from us. We often equate the worth of a person with what they have acquired by way of money and material possessions, such as a house, a car, jewelry, how often they take vacations, where their children go to school and so on. If we are not able to keep up we then feel inferior on a socio-economic level. It has become a sorry way of life as it puts us in a precarious position as we fail to recognize that there is so much about the Jones’ that we cannot see; we are thus influenced by perceptions or what we “think” that they might have.

Keeping up with the Jones’ can creep into your life and you may have fallen prey to spending patterns that have increased your debt. Whilst debt can be an excellent tool when applied to acquire certain assets that are likely to appreciate in value, funding luxuries with debt limits your choices because you are constantly caught up paying for yesterday’s shopping instead of securing tomorrow.

If portraying an image of luxury is more important to you than acquiring long term financial freedom and security, there will eventually be consequences. Stop comparing yourself to others. There will always be people that simply have much, more than you do. If you constantly try to outdo them, you put yourself under overwhelming pressure and undermine your own future financial security. Particularly for young people who with focus and discipline have the potential to create lasting wealth over a long time frame with focus and discipline, it is such a waste to be distracted by the trappings of success; they are only trappings.

Stay focused on your goals and objectives
We live in a society where so many people appear to be competing instead of focusing on their own goals and objectives. The good news is that, thankfully, there are many young hard working, successful men and women who are aggressively seeking a healthy and prosperous future through discipline and hard work. Acquiring and maintaining long-term wealth is a process that usually comes without short cuts.

Look critically at your own particular situation, set your own priorities, and try to improve yourself, through self-development and education. Focus on what is really important to you and stop worrying about the distraction of what the Jones’ are doing. It takes courage and a lot of self-confidence to cope with peer pressure. Too many people learn this lesson the hard way by ending up in debt and with no savings. If it gives you any comfort, the Jones’ are broke. If you are busy trying to keep up with them, please stop. The Jones’ are probably trying to keep up with you!

Photo Credit:
Nimi Akinkugbe has extensive experience in private banking and wealth management. She is passionate about encouraging financial independence and offers frank, practical insights to create a greater awareness and understanding of personal finance and wealth management issues. She is married with 3 children. Find out more via

26 Comments on Money Talk with Nimi: The Jones’ are Broke!
  • Real talk July 2, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Been a long time I heard a word so true. Reality check. Thanks Aunty Nimi.

  • Africhic July 2, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    I need this talk…..i have obviously overspent my salary this month. as a result i have to dig into my savings which is being depleted on a month by month basis. Do i need a better paying job, or do i need to live within my means.

    • Mz Socially Awkward… July 2, 2012 at 1:57 pm

      You need to live below your means, no matter what kind of salary that you’re getting paid. Living below your means translates to always having something extra in the bank so that God forbid something happened to your job, you’ll have a cushion ready. Free advice from a wise man that I’m still trying hard to follow…

      • damojo July 2, 2012 at 3:06 pm

        Mz Socially Awkward, God bless U for this. I always tell people, ”if u cant save when u earn 50k per month, u wont be able to save when u start making 500k/month. I see alot of people buying what they don’t need just so they may appear rich. What happened to living within ur income, saving a reasonable amount every month and still appearing okay? A lot of my colleagues buy things and pay instalmentally. Now i have issues with this; 1)They end up paying about 30% more and 2)They probably buy these things to appear LARGE. I have been a victime for over 2yrs but thank God for God, now my eyes are opened to know u can type faster on an HP mini than on an ipad 3!

  • efe July 2, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    This is what our children and youths need to be taught right from their homes and schools because we are all just being carried away by Distractions,trying to out do one another,with no rewards or gains for the waste that we are acquiring.
    People need to start cutting their coat according to the ir fabric.Saving is a culture that one needs to imbibe and start teaching our children the TRUTH,and not trying to make up ,where we have missed it,by stealing monies,trying to bring another down and the list is endless to make ends meet with the standards set by the is time we all be realistic and save the up coming generations from destruction and let them know that doing something good with your head and hand pays with hard work,prayer and for one to be diligent.And to start saving no matter how little ones income is……………Thanks Nimi

  • MAMA PUT July 2, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Yes ma’am. You speak the truth. We need to calm down on this obsession with materialism, which I too have fallen victim to, if I be honest. Stop comparing ourselves to others, no two fingers are equal. Let’s strive for what’s important. Spiritual maturity, making our nation a better place and giving to the less privileged. Your wealth means nothing if it isn’t touching lives. God bless you all.

  • licia July 2, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Thanks Nimi …i needed this wakeup call. As much as i tell myself i don’t care what my compares have, i still find myself drifting away every once in a while.

  • cathy July 2, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Putting it plain and blunt. cool

  • Dee July 2, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Thought-provoking! Well-said Nimi.

  • Nok10 July 2, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Yeah Nigerians need to read this – designer bags/shoes, over-the-top weddings etc. Back in the 80s it was all about dressing nice, now if its not a name brand, it ain’t good enough. Regular folks trying to live like Western celebs. I’ve said if I ever move back to naija, I’m going to find down to earth friends that dont judge me by the value of my clothes/car etc. I don’t want some fake ass friends to pressure me into debt! Plus I’ll be living a low profile life, don’t have to be at every party – so no constant pressure.

    • TobechiD July 2, 2012 at 3:46 pm

      It’s always very easy to point a finger at another. Don’t talk about Nigerians- start from you.

  • HAPPY CHIC July 2, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    OMGGG my bf gave me this same lecture yesterday after i complained about where he lives and his car, he told me that he would rather use the miney to build a house than buy a new car jst to keep up appearances coz the house would generate income from rent while the car is kinda a liability, wen the lecture on how we shoould focus on building our future was over I was thankful to God for such a fucused man with a PLAN, did I mention that he is quite young, I looked back at all the guys I have met and mehnnnn all they were interested in building was their image, this article says it all, al though i made him promise me that i would get my designer bags and trips to the spa and other treats once in a while o….

    • Biodun July 2, 2012 at 3:19 pm

      Right…perhaps it’s people like you that put undue pressure on the men?

  • HAPPY CHIC July 2, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    start building a house*

  • TobechiD July 2, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    We all fall prey to this one in a while. Understand that there is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with wanting to look good, dress well and afford some luxuries of life. But all these have to be done within what you’re comfortable spending. Once, you start competing with another, pause and reevaluate, because you’ve taken a wrong.
    I would totally encourage every person to work hand, pray hard and play hard, enjoy what you have worked for, but always remember to use you as a standard to better living. Be better than you were yesterday, thus avoiding the need to be competitive with your neighbor. And remember, quality(class) is better than flamboyance anyday.

  • konnie July 2, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    True true. The Jones have been broke fro a long time. Be yourself. They are probably envying you for what God has done for you

  • Nok July 2, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    @ Tobichid: Trust me I do not live above my means. I’m always looking for a bargain when I shop and put things together so I look classy. However, I’ve found living in the suburbs and going to fewer naija parties in the city works better for our family finances. The few naija friends I have are like me and most of my friends are not naija (so no pressure)We have a house and set up trust funds for the kids education. Please stop wasting money on items that depreciate in value quickly eg cars, clothes etc Invest in things that appreciate in values. I studied Marketing during my MBA program, and its down to lifestyle marketing. So its not only naijas that are guilty, however you all know we take things to the extreme. I used to rack up debts to look good and impress when I was younger but now I’m older, wiser and debt free. Changed my circle of friends and now realize I don’t have to be at every party.

  • Nok July 2, 2012 at 5:39 pm


  • newbie July 2, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Best quote I’ve heard in ages, “The Jones’ are broke”. This is a message worth spreading…our society is so materialistic, we don’t even acknowledge it anymore! Our government officials are busy robbing us blind any which way they can, and flaunting the stolen wealth in our faces to boot. We try to escape from it all by drowning our sorrows in music and what happens? You listen to music and all the artistes have to tell you is how much money they have, now they have ‘hammered’ they don ‘blow’, etc. You go to church to escape all that materialism and you get hit with an even bigger dose – ‘holy materialism’. How you wan take argue with that one? Pastor has private jet, his kids are all in school abroad, and you are being exhorted to ‘sow’ your seeds with the specific expectation of material reward?

  • marvel July 2, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    Some years back, an acquaintance with that die-hard, if there is a will there is a way mentality came into my life. One day, while advising her about some marital issues she was having, she let it slip that she has NEVER borrowed money, bought anything on a credit card etc. I believed her as she is a lady of her words but since that day, I also decided to try it out. A day turned into a week, a month, a year and much more. I have not looked back! I still have my indulges and blow outs but I have never bought a single thing on credit nor borrowed money ever since. God bless those who bring positive changes to us…

  • Nok10 July 2, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    Yeah newie, spot on!

    Bella naija: You didn’t post my second comment and posted my correction on the comment (*value*). Please delete it cos it doesn’t make any sense without the comment I was correcting.

  • pynk July 3, 2012 at 9:03 am

    Folks need to teach their children budgeting and money management. When u give a child an allowance, u stick to the plan and dont give extra.
    For me i learned to identify myself early. The bags and shoes dont particularly make me tick, and so i try to make friends with like minded people who have a sense of direction instead of hiding behind $2000 shoes they can ill afford.
    Women need to be progressive, we are the owners of the home – there are many young girls walking around with stds, not because they need money for tangible things, but because they want to wear $3000 loubs and co. Fingers arent equal, if you have to put ur future at risk to gain trivial things in the present, the question is whether it is worth it or not.

  • pssssst! July 4, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Yes oooooo! Thank God the Jones are BROKE! This is like MAJOR EARTH SHATTERING news to me o! (No sarcasm intended!) I promise to change my ways from now on…

  • faith July 8, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    wen i was working, my bf was always giving me money so i was able to save d whole of my salary evry month…

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