Most days, I’m happy when I can pay my San Francisco rent, meet my savings goals, and have some money leftover to travel at the end of the month. That changed a few days ago when I heard some great news from a friend: He had just bought a condo in downtown San Francisco!
Truthfully, I was happy for him. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that hearing the news also made me feel financially inadequate. This person was only 7 years older than me, and he was buying real estate in one of the most insane markets in the country. Meanwhile, I’m renting a studio and forking out a ton of money for my student loans every month.
As you can imagine, I had a few hours of a nasty, downward cycle of negative thoughts. It took a few days, but eventually, I came to a resolution.
What I was doing to myself was hurtful, silly, and not even accurate! I think most “keeping up with the Joneses” scenarios tend to be; here’s why.
We All Have Different Paths
Does this sound like new age self-help advice? Yes. But is it totally true? You bet.
You can’t accurately compare yourself to other people—financially or otherwise. That’s because we’re all such amalgamations of different choices, life situations, backgrounds, and circumstances that you’d never get a fair apples-to-apples comparison between you and somebody else.
Take my friend, for example. He never went to college, which means he has literally never even touched a student loan. He was fortunate enough to get into the tech industry solely based on his skills as a brilliant designer. That’s totally different than somebody like me, who got into the same field much earlier but is swimming in student loans. We had very different paths to get where we are.
Am I jealous or envious that my friend did it all debt free? No. In talking to him, I know it was not easy for him to get to where he is today: His career was full of hard learnings and struggle along the way. A college degree probably bypassed a lot of that for me, but it saddled me with debt.
There’s a cost and benefit to every choice, and yours will never be the same as somebody else’s. In the end, I think most of those choices tend to even out: There’s rarely a “right” or “wrong” choice—only different choices.
Lifestyle Inflation And Ungratefulness Are Very Real
In retrospect, my bit of self-loathing was ungrateful. I was essentially saying to myself, poor me, ONLY renting a studio in San Francisco and not buying a house there instead! A year ago, I was living with my parents and had a goal to rent an apartment in a major city on my own.
Was I serious with myself? Apparently, yes. The second I got my “goal” of living alone, I immediately invented a new goal for myself (home ownership in a major city) and was upset that I hadn’t achieved it after 4 months.
This kind of thinking is dangerous because some people act on it! If I didn’t check my own illogical thought process, and if I had anywhere close to the means to be able to do it, I may have strolled over to a realtor that day to start looking for houses. My friend has one, so clearly I need one too!
This kind of thinking can not only be a disaster for your finances, but it is also a moving target. You can never be happy and enjoy the things you do have if you’re constantly focused on what comes next.
Have you gotten over a similar situation recently? Login or sign up to let me know in the comments!