Everyone has looked at their neighbor’s new car, tech gadgets, home renovations, or vacation pictures and wished they had a better job, owned a business, had a side income, and generally made more money. Money envy is an age old emotion.
The Old Testament of the Bible, written in antiquity, tells us that the “love of money is the root of all evil”, which is a significantly different notion than the misquoted version “money is the root of all evil”.
Although most of us have been jealous of others’ money and possessions at one time or another, that jealousy can either lead to destructive financial behavior or the motivation to work hard and achieve goals.
The debt of the average household in the U.S. is about $16,000.
The interest on credit cards and bank loans eats up your savings that could be used to meet long term goals, like buying a home or fully funding your retirement accounts. While living within your income may not allow you to buy all the things you might like in the short-term, it will lead to financial security in the long run.
Set Goals and Keep Your Eyes on The Prize
Decide on future financial goals, set time lines and make a budget that will allow you to meet those goals. When you friend is showing off their brand new convertible, keep in mind that the money you could have spent on the convertible is going toward the down payment on a home. While the convertible will depreciate in value over the next several years, the home you buy will most likely appreciate and help you establish financial stability and wealth over time.
When friends show off their new cars, I keep in mind that I do not have a car payment or the additional cost of collision or GAP insurance. I can put this extra money in the bank, the stock market, or my business and grow it. The S&P returned 16% last year, so a family with $100,000 invested in an index fund tracking the S&P would have earned an extra $16,000, enough to pay off the average household debt for one American family or the equivalent of a part-time job.
However, why consider just one year of returns? Over the last 100 years, including up and down years, the stock market has averaged a return of 9%. Imagine a 5-year period with the historical average, and you get a $54,000 return.
Money in the bank may not make me look cool or rich, but it gives me peace of mind. Each expenditure I do not have to make puts me closer to my goal of early retirement.
Retail Therapy Will Not Cure What Ails You
Shopping with friends is a fun way to spend a Saturday, but shopping does not have to mean buying. If you cannot resist temptation, it is wise to avoid these shopping trips and find other ways to relax. Yard sales, flea markets and thrift shops can provide a fun shopping experience with smaller dollar amounts, but the temptation to buy unnecessary items because they are cheap is still a threat. If you can browse a flea market or thrift shop and buy only items that you are actually going to use, this can be a great way to save money on clothes, accessories, tools and household items while enjoying a fun shopping experience.
If your friends pressure you to spend, it may be smart to find new friends or different activities that do not involve running up credit card bills. When friends show off their latest designer purchase, you can show off your great deal from a thrift store, consignment shop, or outlet store. Sometimes these friends end up envying the smart shopping skills that allows you to be free from the stress of monthly credit card bills.
Everybody Has More Money Than I Do
While that may be your perception, keep in mind that just because your friends are spending money does not mean they have money. Buy now, pay later is a dangerous trap, and when you are ready to buy your new home or investment property, your friends may be envious of you because they can’t get a mortgage due to a high income-to-debt ratio. If you would like to retire before age 65 or at all, you have to start saving early and avoid crippling debt that will take years to pay off. When you have to skip vacations now, think about sipping Mai Tais on a beach when you are 60 and your friends are still working to pay off their first mortgage.
Things Are Not Always What They Seem
Have you ever been shocked to learn that the couple you thought had everything is now bankrupt or involved in a contentious divorce? Or that the successful young executive with the Corvette and designer suits just had a heart attack? Living with unmanageable debt creates stress which can damage relationships and even a person’s physical and mental health.
While you believe that these people are living a fairy tale life, they may actually be struggling every day to keep up appearances and stay one step ahead of bill collectors.
Developing and maintaining a financial plan that includes a minimum amount of debt is the best way to live a happy, productive life and to achieve the goals and dreams you have for your family’s future. Living within your means may include making sacrifices, but consider whether you really need something or if you just want it. The best way I have found to overcome jealousy about money is to use other people’s success as a motivator for you to work hard and achieve in your own life. With the same dedication, hard work, and persistence, anyone can become an entrepreneur or executive.
Volunteer For Charity
If you really think that the things your neighbors have are important, try volunteering in a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Working with people and families who have nothing may help you appreciate all the good things in your life. In the end, it is not what someone owns that defines them; it is who they are and what they have accomplished with the tools that have been given to them. There is an old proverb that states
“I was sad because I had no shoes, then I met a man with no feet”.
Happiness and attitude are internal concepts, not external ones. Remember that and you will live the greatest life.
Check out www.Gajizmo.com to find more of Gary’s writing.