Executive Summary: I work out at a gym whose motto painted on the wall is “Stronger Than Yesterday.” This motto has nothing to do with anyone else. It’s solely about being better than you were the day before. It’s about constantly improving and doing the right things each day to continue moving in the right direction. Focus on the process. Enjoy the journey. It’s the same when it comes to your finances. Don’t worry about anyone else. What they are doing is irrelevant. Get your plan in place and then do the right things everyday to keep marching towards the goal of true financial independence…financial freedom…whatever that may mean for you.
I recently came across this quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It’s a quote from President Roosevelt. I can’t believe I hadn’t heard it before. Although, even if you, like I, have never heard the quote before you know it to be true.
Even though we all know it to be true, most of us can’t help but compare ourselves to others, whether it’s our looks, houses, cars, vacations, money, etc…
It’s natural to want to know how we stack up to our peers. Comparing is a method of measuring. Comparison can be a tool for improving ourselves or our situations as we strive for something better. It can also be a great motivator. Comparing can give us a target to shoot for. Comparing has also probably served to keep humans alive throughout time so it’s likely a genetically-embedded survival tool as well. But, as with anything, too much can actually have the opposite effect…
It seems that constantly measuring ourselves against others can make us very unhappy as well. There will always be someone with more. Comparison can breed envy. And there are very good reasons envy is a vice. Envy can rob a person of joy. Envy breeds anger / resentment / jealousy. So it’s important to keep it in check and to acknowledge the uniqueness of our own circumstances.
Certainly, social media has magnified the problem with comparisons over the last decade as well. Elon Musk and Joe Rogan discussed this recently on Joe Rogan’s podcast episode #1169. Elon opined, uncontroversially, that social media is really just a distillation of our lives. Much like an action movie is a 2-hour distillation of a very boring, 1-year filming and editing process. Social media is the same in that people post only the best pictures of themselves in the best light at the best angle on the best vacations, in the best clothes, when they’re the happiest, etc… So that other social media users are constantly bombarded with only the best distillation of their friends, family and acquaintances.
The reason I bring this up here is because comparing finances is very common and finance is the world in which I live. People often compare money, or at least some derivative of money, to what they perceive others have and then derive their mood from those comparisons.
In fact, I sometimes get asked by clients, “How do we stack up against other people.” Of course, all the folks I work with stack up very well with the rest of the world and even the nation. So that’s always an easy answer. I completely understand the genesis of the question. People want to know how they’re doing and one way to figure that out is to compare, but it’s the wrong question. It’s quite irrelevant actually.
When it comes to finances what matters more than how you stack up against others is the following:
- Are you on the right track for YOUR goals?
- Are you well on your way to being financially independent? I mean, are you truly free or are you a slave to debt, the things you own or market performance? Or, conversely, do you have true freedom, which means being free from any financial anxiety for the rest of your life, being able to do whatever you want and not having to do one thing or another?
These questions are far more important and don’t have anything to do with how much someone else has in terms of a bank account, house size, luxury cars, etc… These questions also have an important impact on how the portfolio is managed. It is completely irrelevant how someone else is investing their portfolio. Your strategy must align with your unique circumstances and help you answer “YES” to the questions above.
You can be independently wealthy with a million bucks in the bank or you can feel like a slave with $10 million in the bank. It’s all a matter of how you live and what’s important to you. What values do you hold highest and have you achieved those values in your life?
I briefly discuss this in a recent podcast I was interviewed for. If you haven’t yet listened to that podcast, I strongly suggest you do. I’ve received a lot of very positive feedback on it.
Let me know if you need help building a blueprint for financial independence and an independent, objective expert to guide you along the way