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keeping down the Smiths

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Less worry about what other people are doing.

If there’s one thing that’s more foolish than attempting to keep up with the Joneses, it’s trying to make sure that the Smiths can’t keep up with you.

I was out at dinner last night, and the conversation turned to my least favourite subject - immigrants are stealing all our benefits money. My sole contribution was to point out that born and bred Brits also make false benefit claims, and given that they are the vast majority of the population, they probably form the bigger problem.

Everyone was excised that if they had savings, they wouldn’t be able to get government help. And that it wasn’t fair that some people got more money than them. Whilst I get the point and don’t like people committing fraud either, I wasn’t happy with the conversation at all.

Seriously folks, life isn’t fair. There will probably always be people richer than you, and poorer than you. Instead of wondering how Ms Jones manages to afford a Mercedes and a luxury holiday, or worse, how to stop Mr Smith’s kids from getting free lunches at school, why not just practice sensible personal finance?

Spend less than you earn, save and invest the difference. Do things that contribute to your own happiness. Look after your health. Spend time with friends and family. Exercise your mind.

Quit worrying that benefit thieves are making off with all the money unless you either (a) have specific examples in mind and are willing to shop them, or (b) are about to vote in an election and this is the most important issue in the world to you.

Worry is bad for you, limit your worry to things that will affect you that you can do something about, and leave the rest well alone.

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6 comments for “keeping down the Smiths”

  1. Great reminder post. It sucks when anyone takes money they shouldn’t…I think you make a good point. Unless we’re the ones who are supposed to be stopping this or we can make a difference in stopping it…then there’s really nothing we can do.

    It’s like worrying about shark attacks. We can’t keep the occasional person from being attacked by sharks unless we find ourselves in the right place at the right time. Or unless we want to pursue a career as a lifeguard.

    Btw, your point about non-immigrants being the bigger percentage made me think about a legislator opposing a law which gave benefits to registered domestic partners. He pointed out that people could pull a “Chuck and Larry” (from a movie) and pretend to be together, register, and get benefits. I sent him a note which reminded him that straights could also get legally married (and do) for various things like benefits, etc, and that preventing two straight men from registering as a couple was…well…not stopping the problem of straight people scamming the system. It was a bit surreal.

    Posted by Mrs. Micah | March 26, 2009, 8:48 pm
  2. @Mrs. Micah:
    Yes, what annoyed me the most was that people were moaning but would be unwilling to actually do anything.

    Just before we introduced civil partnerships (aka gay marriage with a stupider name) the same argument was made, and the government helpfully pointed out that registrars were used to checking different sex couples to see if they were defrauding the system by getting married, and would obviously do the same for same sex couples. Fortunately, Elton John got married almost immediately, and he’s so popular that it basically put paid to any more mutterings in the mainstream.

    Thinking about it further, preventing same sex couples from registering/marrying/whatevering, might actually lead to more people doing greencard marriages and the like. If you can’t marry the one you love, then why not marry purely as a business relationship.

    Posted by plonkee | March 27, 2009, 1:40 pm
  3. That’s an interesting point. Ang Lee made a film about that, actually. Since a guy’s family is pressuring him to get married and he can’t marry his partner, he decides to kill two birds with one stone by helping his neighbor get a green card and making his parents happy.

    Posted by Mrs. Micah | March 30, 2009, 12:17 am
  4. I seriously hate it when people here in the U.S. complain about illegal immigrants “stealing” benefits.

    I’m sure there are some who do. But, by and large, why would illegal immigrants call attention to themselves? Most of them toil away for a pittance and work all the crap jobs that we think we’re too good for.

    Even the legal immigrants just don’t seem to get many benefits as far as I’ve seen. I’ve been in the offices for social services programs. Most of the people there were pretty obviously American-born.

    And if they do get some benefits, who cares? They pay taxes like everyone else. So if they hit a rough patch while trying to make a life here, what’s the big deal? Ugh, soapbox lecture over.

    Posted by Abigail | March 30, 2009, 8:12 am
  5. Good post. My mom and I were just talking about how jealous people seem to be of what everyone has or how worried they are about keeping people from getting ahead. I agree that we should all worry about ourselves and quit fussing over everyone else.

    Posted by Kristen | March 30, 2009, 2:23 pm
  6. Xenophobia is a horrible thing. Someone should tell that to Lou Dobbs.

    First generation immigrant.

    Posted by Shadox | April 3, 2009, 11:15 am

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