"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." - Proverbs 16:18 (NIV)
Act 1: Pride - a high opinion of your own importance
Jonathan, a 34-year-old accountant, makes an average income and lives in an affordable rented one-bedroom midtown flat. He inherited a 2001 Toyota from his father, which performs reliably without needing major repairs. However, despite his reasonably comfortable existence, Jonathan is very dissatisfied with his present position.
Many of Jonathan's former schoolmates have advanced rapidly up the corporate ladder, and now hold major positions in banking and product distribution companies. As the valedictorian for his graduating year at high school, Jonathan is painfully aware that most of his high-income colleagues were less-than-stellar achievers in school.
Every time they get together, Jonathan compares himself with his friends and thinks that he comes up short in every area. As they discuss the latest high-tech features of their high-end SUVs and share details of their recent jaunts to luxury resorts, he resents the fact that his income does not allow him to live the lifestyle that he thinks he really deserves.
Act 2: Conceit - an exaggerated view of your own attainments
Although he owns a credit card, Jonathan rarely uses it; and if he does, he pays off his balance before the due date. After a particularly frustrating night with his friends, he remembers that his bank recently sent him a letter advising him that he had been pre-approved for a loan. He decides to figure out how access to credit could help him to create a major lifestyle change.
Before long, Jonathan is smiling contentedly, having received 100 per cent financing to buy a new car. Feeling on top of the world, he walks into a boutique to purchase some trendy clothes to match his fancy ride. That weekend, he scans the real estate classifieds to find a new apartment in a more socially acceptable area. "Why did I wait so long to upgrade my life?" he thinks happily.
Jonathan is only too eager to display the trappings of his newfound 'wealth' to all his friends. "Drinks are on me," is his favourite line at the nightclubs, and he soon becomes very popular with members of the in-crowd. He is not too concerned with the cost of keeping up his standard of living, as fortunately, he has a large spending limit on his credit card.
Act 3: Shame - a painful feeling caused by injury to your pride
Things have been progressing rapidly in Jonathan's social life. He is dating a beautiful young socialite, and proudly takes her on shopping trips to Florida and romantic getaways to the north coast. His girlfriend's parents are very impressed with Jonathan, and they are already hinting that it would be nice to see them get engaged soon.
"Sorry, your card has been declined," the cashier at the movie theatre smirks as she returns Jonathan's credit card. "Do you have another method of payment?" He argues with the ticket lady, declaring that something must be wrong with her machine. Finally, he tells his girlfriend that they should leave, defensively stating that the movie probably wouldn't have been that good anyway.
Very soon, Jonathan starts receiving some persistent phone calls. The car loan, which is taken straight from his salary, has seriously diminished his ability to keep up with his rent and other basic expenses. Jonathan has been unable to make even the minimum payment on his credit card bill, and he owes money to his mother, co-workers and close friends.
Act 4: Humiliation - a state of distress at being disgraced
Jonathan believes that he needs to get a quick loan to ease the pressure of his outstanding debt. He uses a salary advance to clear up the overdue rent, utilities and pay back the cash he borrowed from friends. The following payday, he receives a nasty shock when he looks at the figure on his salary cheque. "How am I going to pay my bills this month?" he wonders frantically.
His once-pleasant landlady has become quite vicious, threatening Jonathan with court action if he doesn't vacate the premises immediately. His colleagues avoid him at work, as they are disgusted with his constant requests to borrow money. Jonathan's lady love, recognising that the pampered lifestyle is over, has started dating one of his bank executive friends.
Jonathan has become desperate as he doesn't know how to resolve his money problems. He goes to a financial institution and explains his situation to the advisor. She recommends that he cut his costs by selling the expensive car and moving to a cheaper home. To clear up the credit card debt, she suggests that he should try to earn part-time income from various sources.
Act 5: Finale - financial ruin or restoration?
If Jonathan's story sounds too close for comfort, you're not alone. If you have chosen to live a lifestyle that can't be supported by your income, eventually your life's script will become as financially distressed as that of our protagonist. Don't let pride negatively influence your spending habits; take pride instead in your ability to live within your means.
Cherryl is a money coach, business mentor, and founder of Financially S.M.A.R.T. Services. Her upcoming book, "The 3 Ms of Money" will reveal all the secrets she learned about financial success. Get more advice on money and business matters at www.financiallysmart.org and www.entrepreneursinjamaica.com. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.