Synopses & Reviews
A silent struggle with our money is raging across America, each of us is harboring secret financial desires and discontents, but few dare confess. No matter how much we refuse to admit it, our contentment is based not on the size of our bank account but on how we measure up to those around us. Everyone, regardless of income, occupation, or net worth, wants to keep up with the Joneses, even when it means making financial messes and covering them up.
In this myth-shattering tour of America's mind-set about money, Shira Boss offers a tantalizing mix of hard facts and juicy gossip as she peers into the lives and checkbooks of our neighbors...and exposes the shocking gap between public image and what's really going on behind closed doors. Meet:
- The young couple who move in next door. They pay cash for their apartment, go on shopping sprees, and the wife quits her job to start having babies. You wonder how they can afford it all...
- The up-and-coming manager and his family who move into a gated community. Within five years their savings are gone, their credit-card debt is over $100,000, and they are still spending.
- The newly elected U.S. congressman who wants everyone to think he's arrived. Meanwhile, he has to sleep on a cot in his office for the next fifteen years!
- The baby boomer at fifty. Some of his old classmates are lawyers and doctors with safety nets, but he's got kids in college and no retirement fund and the clock is ticking.
These financially stressed Americans are the rule, not the exception. And with more of our nation's families going through bankruptcy than divorce, it's time to bring the problem out into the open and tackle it head-on. A compelling tell-all about what's really going on with the Joneses, Green With Envy
offers a whole new perspective on financial well-being and simple, practical steps for how we can stop trying to keep up once and for all.
"Freelance journalist Boss performs a real service by putting some of America's financial hangups on trial, charging that 'the money taboo' our good-manners reluctance to discuss what we earn and spend is 'destructive nonsense' that leads to debt and despair. Boss argues that envy ('the only vice warned against in both the Ten Commandments and the Seven Deadly Sins') can be good for the economy, but our drive to keep up with our neighbors can be unhealthy. In five case studies, she shows the consequences of maintaining appearances when we can't afford it; the highlight is a chapter in which Boss lives a fantasy by interrogating her seemingly well-off next-door neighbors and getting the real scoop on their savings, income and credit card bills. The scope of the author's reporting is a bit limited except for one billionaire, her subjects aren't especially socioeconomically diverse and we never learn whether non-U.S. cultures suffer the same pangs of envy. Worse, her soft concluding chapter tacks toward self-help, offering counsel that's surprisingly platitudinous ('The universe will provide'). Even so, Boss's case for candor is valuable." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] fascinating morality play about what can happen to those naive about the dangers of trying to 'keep up...'" The Houston Chronicle
In this myth-shattering book, a leading business journalist exposes the shocking gap between personal finance and public image, and reveals how Americans are caught in the trap of living beyond their means.
Everyone wants to keep up with the Joneses, regardless of income, occupation, or net worth. Our contentment is based on how we measure up to those around us, how close we come to the image we feel compelled to live up to, even when it means putting up a front. But how can anyone make realistic comparisons to others when everyone's personal finances are shrouded in secrecy and shame? We're living in the dark, and it's turning the American dream into an anxiety attack. A tantalizing mix of hard facts and delicious gossip, GREEN WITH ENVY peers into the lives and checkbooks of our neighbors--from a national politician to a New York City couple to a suburban family--and gives readers what they need to improve their financial well being without touching their bank accounts.
About the Author
A graduate of Columbia University, Shira Boss has been a fulltime freelance journalist writing mostly on personal finance and business. She has been a regular contributor to Forbes.com, Good Housekeeping, Christian Science Monitor, Crain's New York Business, and NPR's "Marketplace." She and her husband live in Manhattan.
Table of Contents
Green with Envy
The Money Next Door
Keeping Up with the Joneses
Baby Boomers Beware
Behind the Hedges