Green With Envy: A Whole New Way to Look at Financial (un)Happiness. Why Keeping up with the Joneses Is Keeping Us in Debt

Green With EnvyShira Boss

Not to flog a dead horse or anything…    Green with Envy was quoted in House Lust, so I couldn’t resist reading this book too. Boss starts her book with her personal story. She and her unemployed husband worry over bills and try to subsist in New York on her single income. New neighbors move in and the apartment scuttlebutt tells them they paid cash for their new digs. Boss jealously eyes her new neighbors’ piles of deliveries from Barneys and seethes with envy as they mention they are heading upstate to “antique” for the weekend.

However, once Boss’s writing project on money is underway, she asks her neighbors if she can interview them. What seems like a perfect, wealthy life quickly fades. By the end of the project Boss has gone from envying her neighbors to deep relief her problems are so small in compare.

This, she concludes, is the way the majority of Americans live today. Rich, flashy and expensive facades backed by styrofoam peanuts and credit card debt. Money, the “last taboo” is simply not spoken of. To admit being broke, not being able to afford a trip, needing to borrow money or going into bankruptcy are simply too embarrassing to discuss, even with the closest friends and family members.

Boss interviews families who go into hundreds of thousands of debt without one partner knowing. Others are nearing retirement age and either have nothing in their savings or have no idea what their spouse has saved. The median most retirees have in their 401(k)s or IRAs is around $16,000-20,000. Over a lifetime of work, this is all many people have managed to sock away.

This book is a definite wake-up call, a scary and gripping look at American debt and, like House Lust, has its moments of smug satisfaction for the average reader. We could NEVER let things get that bad, right?… Right? When you are done with Green With Envy, grab your Suze Orman books and go to your happy place.