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The Lifestyle Mirage

The Lifestyle Mirage

March 30, 2024


I have a painful confession to make. Almost 25 years ago, I leased a BWM 530. It was a beautiful car, quick and agile. I was young and single. For the first time in my life, I was making enough money that I had some savings.

Some of the people I worked with were getting flashy cars and everyone seemed impressed by them. I know I was. I assumed that is what you did if you could afford to.

It is mortifying to admit, but I can remember imagining that I would feel differently and become instantly famous with the ladies. I did not have a clear image of how this newfound popularity would manifest itself in the world. I just felt sure that more women would be around. They were not. And I felt exactly the same as I had before.

But having committed to being a BMW guy, I leased another when the term of the first was up. After all, I could not downgrade to a less expensive but perfectly decent model like a Chevy or Volkswagen. What would people think? So, I persisted. In fact, my foolishness was only beginning.

Having not achieved the desired result with a luxury car, I must have decided I was not spending hard enough. So obviously, I bought a Rolex. Surely this would elevate me to the exalted status I had been expecting, right?

Not really. In fact, I began having misgivings. At this point I was in my third luxury car, an Audi. Beautiful as it was, after a few months it was just my car. There were wrappers on the floor and scratches and dings on the bumpers and doors from parking lots. 

I swear that crows in my neighborhood took particular delight in mocking me. They frequently used the hood as their bathroom.  Perhaps Audi is German for bird laxative.

The Rolex? It was beautifully designed, exceptionally well crafted, and utterly irrelevant. With the grace of a cape buffalo, I smashed, gouged, scraped, and collided it with everything in the room. Worse, no one noticed it.

It had become clear to me that luxury cars and watches were not all they were cracked up to be. So, I learned my lesson, right? Kind of.

The next car purchase was a Honda Pilot. High quality, sensible and safe. Even better, my cousin ran the local Honda dealership, so I got a great deal. The Pilot was well suited for the northeast’s harsh winters and there was plenty of room for the kids.

After a few years of sensible purchasing, but lots of foolish purchasing fantasies, I bought another Rolex. Surely this time, I would feel the way I had been led to expect, and the change would be lasting. But as a character in a movie once said, “Illusions are, by their nature, sweet.”

This instance was notably different from the others, however. The realization that I made a mistake was almost instant.

Only a month or so later I felt a deep and abiding regret. Why should this feeling be so intense? I could “afford” it. I paid cash and do not carry credit card debt. I am a saver.

The reason it felt so foul was that I finally internalized the truth, that had been becoming clearer to me over the years. I had been conned.

I prided myself on being tough minded and street savvy. I grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey. A working-class neighborhood across the river from New York City. I told myself I could smell a con coming from hell to breakfast, as Steinbeck put it. I was wrong.

Where did I get the idea that buying this stuff would create the life I thought I wanted? From the people selling it, of course. I had been sold this idea through years of advertisements designed to do precisely that. To my sorrow and shame, I bought it.

I realize now that my first foolish purchase was not the BMW or the Rolex. My first mistake was buying the idea that these things would make me happy. They have not.

What makes me truly happy is spending time with my family, my friends, and my books. Having great conversations over a good cup of coffee and laughing with my wife and children. No book was ever made better because its cover was gold.

What brings me joy and fulfillment is working closely with my clients to help make their financial lives better. By doing this, I can aid them in achieving the freedom peace of mind that comes with abundance.

I am sharing the embarrassing details of my personal journey with that in mind. I hope that you can extract value from my errors and your own experiences.

This is no finger wag or scold. If you can afford it, buy whatever you want. It is your money, after all.

But I beseech you, pay attention. After purchasing some luxury/status item did your life truly change? Are you and those you love better off or are you only poorer for it?

We have been sold a lifestyle mirage. And just like a mirage in the desert, you cannot drink it or gain shelter from the elements. And when you try to touch it, the oasis, like our money, disappears in a mist. 

From time to time we all need help, in a variety of areas of our lives. If you want to get on a financial path leading to true happiness, rather than the mirage of hapless spending and roll-of-the-dice investing, please give me a call at (732) 844-3000.

I will be happy to help you avoid some of the errors I have made when it comes to wealth building. Act now. You will feel better for it.


Scott R. McGimpsey March 30th , 2024


This material was prepared by Scott McGimpsey and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Neither Cetera Advisor Networks LLC nor Scott McGimpsey is engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional services. If such assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal, state, or municipal tax penalty. Moreover, a diversified portfolio does not assure a profit or assure protection against loss in a declining market. UNIFIED PLANNING GROUP is an independent firm.