Earlier this week on Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter. In Phoenix, it was a gorgeous 80-degree day. It is hard to imagine six more weeks of winter when we’re wearing shorts. On the same day, many places in the US had snowstorms; our friends in places with blizzards this week probably expect six more weeks of winter weather. Our experiences give us such different perspective! Writer Salman Rushdie said, “Reality is a question of perspective.”
It can be hard to broaden our own perspective to see others’ views. I’ve learned by some embarrassing “foot in mouth” experiences that we can’t all make the same choices, and that “obvious” choices are not the best option for everyone. For most things, there is no one-size-fits-all.
A few months ago, I volunteered with another financial planner in a high school program where the students are assigned an occupation/salary and family situation and then make a budget. Daniel and I taught the Transportation section. He is young, married with no children, and recently moved to Phoenix from New York City. He biked or used public transportation in NYC; now he shares a car with his wife. Like many, he believes that buying a used car is better than buying new.
The purchase price and insurance tend to be less for used cars than new cars. Also, a new car depreciates in value the moment you drive it off the lot, meaning when you buy a new car, you can’t sell it for what you bought it for, even right away! Dave Ramsey, a popular finance advisor, says that the depreciation is around 10% of the purchase price and that “You’re always going to be better off buying used”.
I suggested to Daniel that buying a used car isn’t always the best option. Ramit Sethi writes that “the most important factor is how long you keep the car” and advocates calculating the total cost of ownership, and keeping a car at least 7-10 years.
I bought my first cars used, and quite cheaply. For a few years, I had a manual Toyota Corolla that leaked fluid onto the floorboard; the backs of all my shoes were black. After I was in a car accident that resulted in a fractured back, car safety was critical to me, and I bought my first new car. Later, when I commuted 30 miles each way to work (we lived close to my then-husband’s workplace), I worried about getting stuck broken down on the I-10 late at night. I bought a hybrid for the fuel efficiency to lessen the impact of my commute.
For my co-teacher, the financial value of the car is important. For me, the reliability and safety are more important. We have different perceptions of the value and role of transportation. When we could see each other’s experiences, our different perceptions make sense and help us to see that our way is not the only way.
Whether it’s how you spend your money or how you move and nourish your body, there are so many options because none is right for everyone. What’s the most recent whealthiness decision you made based on your priorities—your perspective—instead of the popular advice?
Virginia Asher, MSAFP, CFP®
My whealthiness journey has taught me that there is not one single way for us to live a prosperous life. I'll share what I've learned to help you find your way.