Could Facebook and other popular forms of social media actually ruin your retirement? It’s possible – and it’s something online seniors increasingly have to guard against.
That’s the fascinating conclusion from this very recent article in USA Today. If you’re a fan of social media – and odds are you are, since two-thirds of American adults now use Facebook – this article points out the very real danger that spending too much time keeping up vicariously with the lives your friends are living (or say they’re living) can make you dissatisfied and cause you to make some pretty unwise financial decisions. In these days of Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, the idea of “keeping up with the Joneses” takes on a whole new meaning.
The USA Today article was written by Robert Powell, editor of Retirement Weekly. Powell warns about the dangers of letting your friends’ postings on social media color your decisions. He writes, “If it hasn’t happened yet, it likely will at some point in your online life. Fellow retirees and pre-retirees will post pictures of their travels and adventures to exotic places…and you, not wanting to miss out on all the fun, might want to do the very same and then some.” After all, your camping trip to the Oregon Coast doesn’t sound so exciting (or look so good online) compared to your friends’ trip to Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands, or Bali. This idea of social media triggering feelings of envy is hardly unusual: a recent Harris survey reported that at least one-quarter of adults on social media admit to feeling jealous when they see postings of the fancy vacations or pricey purchases of their friends. But it’s especially bad for retirees.
The problem, experts agree, is not with social media per se. Instead, the problem comes down to our own self-image and our level of discipline when it comes to money. According to financial author Sarah Newcomb, most of our money decisions have an emotional basis. “Underneath every financial decision, there is a story we are telling ourselves,” Newcomb writes. “Each of us has come to believe certain stories based on our upbringing and our experiences with money; stories about who we are and who we are not, stories about what we can and cannot do in the world.” It’s these “stories” that can get us into trouble when we make financial decisions based on other people’s experiences. Human beings are “highly sensitive to relative comparisons,” says USA Today, a sensitivity that can make us unhappy unless we begin to place our attention on other, more positive, more affirming things.
The experts quoted in USA Today have some solid advice for seniors – and all adults, for that matter – when it comes to keeping what we see on social media in proper perspective. First, the article states, you must remember that the image our friends present on social media can be a façade – or at least it’s never the entire story. Social media makes it easier than ever before to convey a picture of one’s life that is simply untrue, or at best partly true. Author Sarah Newcomb says, “When we see a social media thread or post, we are seeing a ‘story’ that someone else is telling about their lives.” That story is heavily edited, like a highlight reel. “We do not see their debt or savings, or the sleepless nights. We don’t see the pit in their stomach when they open their credit card bill, but we see the smiling faces when they treat their kids to a beach vacation. We see a photo and tell ourselves the story of their amazing lives, and then we compare it to our own personal story, and we decide that we fall short.” The comparison game can be insidious. “We see ‘priceless memories’ and suddenly we are willing to throw away our own security in an attempt to get the emotional bliss we think our friends have achieved,” says Newcomb.
So we encourage you to read the USA Today piece – again, the link is here – and see if it helps you change your thinking. And we also invite you to contact us here at AgingOptions and let us help you. In our many years of experience with thousands of clients, seminar attendees and radio listeners, we have helped many discover that one of the best defenses against unwise financial decisions is your commitment to a well thought-out, personalized retirement plan. People who go into retirement “flying blind” are far more likely to succumb to unwise spending habits from which they may never recover. By contrast, with an AgingOptions LifePlan in place, you’ll be better equipped to stay the course, because you’ll enjoy the confidence that comes from knowing your well-planned retirement future is exciting, fruitful and secure.
Your LifePlan not only protects you financially. It also provides legal protection, ensuring that your affairs are completely in order. It provides for your housing by guiding you into the living choices that are best for your circumstances. It ensures that your medical insurance needs, both immediate and long-term, will be met. It even guides you as you share your plans and dreams with those closest to you. Your LifePlan truly is your plan for living a fuller, richer life. To find out more, why not invest just a few hours and attend a free LifePlanning Seminar? You’ll find all the pertinent information about upcoming seminars on our Upcoming Events tab, where you can register online – or contact us during the week and we’ll happily assist you.
(originally reported at www.usatoday.com)