Adjusting Your Financial Focus
Some people like knowing what their friend’s financial numbers are, other’s don’t. Comparing what you don’t have to what they do have could hurt you in the long run if you don’t view it from a positive angle. People will complain, moan and groan about what they have or don’t have and why they deserve more or how they worked hard but life crumbled on top of them. Sure everyone has a story and likely a story worth listening to but will anyone really care about what you didn’t do in order to be happy with your life? Note I said happy, not rich and famous.
I’ve talked about it before how both my wife and I never did use a budget when we first got married. We simply spent less than we earned and packed away money when we could after our everyday expenses were paid. That seemed like the common sense approach to personal finance and how people would amass their net worth.
We knew that it didn’t matter how much money we earned it was how we were saving it that mattered. You can make $1000 a week but if you blow $950 you only have $50 left to put away for a rainy day. If you make $500 a week but only spend $400 you have $100 left for the future. Hopefully you can see my point here. If not, re-read it again until you get it.
Money and relationships
Talking about money while we were friends seemed to make things a bit easier even though we knew something special was developing. It was likely the smartest first step in our relationship in that we did talk about money and its importance in our lives.
We were both frugal in our own ways but complimented one another enough to the point where one didn’t want to spend money on a pair of jeans and the other would say, “We have the money, come on, live a little would you” and so the jeans were purchased. That’s just a small example but money was important to us as a couple as was making sure that our path in life started off on the right foot.
Life was far from easy for us and we earned every penny we have ever made. I think coming to a new country not knowing where to begin and only having the help of my wife and the school system was a difficult task for me. I had given up everything to move to marry the woman of my dreams and to a new country. I had to work bloody hard to fit into a culture that was unknown to me, where people would laugh at my accent or what I said likely not understanding a bloody thing.
Renting vs. buying
Since we practically lived in run down shack for the first 2 years of my new life in Canada it allowed us to save money. It was a crappy circumstance but without me having a job we had many reasons to worry about whether we would have money coming in or not to pay the bills.
The decision to rent vs. buy was something that was easily made because we simply weren’t ready with us both back in school even though we had money for a down payment. There was no sense committing to a mortgage when we didn’t have a steady income. Renting allowed us to save more money and to give us the freedom by having less responsibilities. We didn’t have to pay for any utilities as they were all included in our rent. (I know lucky us).
During our first few months together we found ourselves dreaming about what type of home we wanted to purchase and where we wanted to live. We often found ourselves comparing our life to those our age and at times it seemed depressing that others were so far ahead of us. In all honesty looking back it wasn’t that they were ahead of us, heck I bought my first home at 21 and my wife had her first house at age 30. It was that we gave it all up to be together and we were living a new life starting from scratch.
Jealousy and envy
During our renting years we would get invited to our friend’s beautiful homes for backyard barbeques and we would be envious of what they would have. Many would have large homes, pools, double or triple car garages and a mortgage to go with the couple of kids they had. We had each other and our small suitcases of belongings.
Every time someone would ask what we did for a living we would practically sink in our seats. It was as if we were embarrassed that we were so far behind in our careers and they were off making near 6 figure incomes or more. We didn’t want to tell them that we were back in school for a second time hoping for a new career. Thing is, many people are doing it and by no choice of their own or because they want a career change. It wasn’t a bad place to be but it’s also not the place you dream of being just turning 30 years old.
I struggled mostly for people to understand me when I spoke because of my heavy accent and I would find that I didn’t open my mouth unless I needed to. I’ve obviously adjusted my speech over the time I’ve been here, mainly the speed and words for items.
We realized as a couple that even though our friends seemed to have it all we had to stop comparing financial numbers. The only cure for jealousy is to stop being jealous although it seemed more like envy than anything else. Are jealousy and envy the same though? Seems to be although one may assume that envy may be more of a positive than jealousy which may breed evil thoughts of others. Even though we really didn’t talk about how much money we earned we were more focused on the “stuff” they had rather than our own success.
It took a bit of time to realize that success is in the eye of the beholder. Just because we didn’t have kids or we didn’t have a big house, fancy cars and the career to go along with it that we weren’t just as successful as the next person. We were successful and we were only going to become even more successful when we stopped worrying about what others had.
When you focus too much on what you don’t have you will continue not having anything at all or that you desire from life. Granted that some people are lucky and win the lottery, have their educatioin paid for and others get an inheritance but for the most part success comes from hard work and a motivation to succeed.
Friends with goals
When I read personal finance blogs now and I see how well some of my fellow bloggers are doing I praise them because I know they work very hard because blogging is not easy and takes more time than I had ever anticipated but it’s a great hobby for me. Even in my life outside of the blog I have many friends with goals who are successful and happy with what they have acquired over the years even if it’s simply to own their own home or pay down their debts.
When I read Tony’s story a blogger at We Only Do This Once who got rid of $100,000 in debt it was a reminder that anything is possible. Other bloggers I know have a flourishing business like Michelle who blogs at Making Sense of Cents. Michelle works full-time and has a successful blog working from home earning her thousands of dollars each month. All of this has helped her to almost finish paying off her student loans. She works hard and plays equally as hard because she wants that success.
My friends, The Pops at Planting our Pennies share their monthly net worth with the world in hopes of motivating others and themselves to keep on working hard. There is also John and his lovely wife from Frugal Rules who both run a business from home or Holly from Club Thrifty who gave up her career to blog full-time. They all set goals and are giving it their 100% to see where it leads them in life.
Then there is my happy friend Pauline a young woman in her thirties who runs the blog Reach Financial Independence who gave up the corporate world for cows, chickens, land, coconut plantation and a little house in Guatamala with her boyfriend. They are thriving because they are taking charge of their lives and are waiting around for no one to hand it to them on a platter.
There are many more amazing blogs that I read and am proud to learn from each day. My point is that people can sit back and complain about not having what others have but it does no good. Not everyone gets the opportunities in life to do what they dreamed but the only way to be happy inside is be the best you can be with what you are given. The moment we think that others are better than us or are showing off because they have more is the time you might as well go hide under the sheets and sleep your life away.
Teachers are lazy
We had a conversation with our friend the other day who is a teacher and brought up a good point about how others are more concerned about others than themselves. She said that she’s been asked if she became a teacher just to get the summer off. She told me that she was made to feel lazy and not worthy of getting time away because everyone else has to work all year-long.
She said, “No, I love my job and the summer off is just a perk that comes with the teacher role”. She would be offended by those that think that she worked so hard in University and Teachers College just to score a job to get the summer off. It was an insult to her intelligence. She says if someone is jealous about what you have or what you did to get to where you are then walk away.
You will never change the way they look at you and you don’t want to be around people who are not motivated like you are to have a good life. They are too busy comparing their apparent miserable life with yours and pointing out all your faults instead of improving their own. You don’t owe them any explanations either and hopefully they get the hint when there is no more you in the picture.
You don’t have to make money to be successful because success is only what you believe. Our friends success was going into her classroom every morning even if she was having a miserable day only to see the kids smiling and saying, “Good morning Mrs. Teacher” to her face.
Some of the children would run up and hug her and others would bring her a treat to say good morning. That is her success, not the money, not the holidays, it’s the kids. All of that came with many years of studying, student loans and debt which she paid off with dedication to her role as a teacher. She told me that many of her friends have the big homes but they also have 6 figure OSAP loans and massive mortgages and are swimming in debt. She and her husband are in a happy place in their marriage even if their home isn’t massive.
How we quit comparing financial numbers
- We stopped thinking about others finances and what they have.
- We created a concrete plan with a set of achievable goals.
- We set a reasonable time frame to accomplish our long-term and short-term goals.
- Rewarding ourselves each time we achieved a goal became a challenge for us.
- Be positive. If we weren’t positive about where we were headed we would have failed before we began.
- The minute we stop educating ourselves is the minute where the story will end. We want to keep on learning so we can continue to battle our way to the top of our bucket list.
- Spending less than we earn is a forever clause in our marriage and we continue to use a budget because that’s what keeps our finances on track.
Once we got rid of the jealousy bug we were able to focus on us. We purchased our first home with a price tag of $265,000 when we could have spent much more on a bigger house. We chose not to do that. We realized that in order for us to become successful in our world of personal finances we wanted to become debt free and mortgage free before we were 40 years old. This is now a reality for us.
Not having all the “nice to haves” in our home doesn’t matter to us any longer. We are simple and we now know that our success is being able to wake up in the morning and not worry about bill collectors or owing money to anyone. We created this life for ourselves with hard work, frugal living and by forgetting about comparing our life with those of others.
In essence we started from nothing but some money in the bank and our suitcases to create the life we have now. So for anyone who thinks comparing our life and personal finances to your own, don’t. It was far from easy and I recommend you take a look at what’s in your own backyard before focusing on others yards. You might thank me one day for that one day.
Have you compared your life to others success which de-motivated you? What did you do to change that?
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