This aint no competition

March 8, 2010 · 19 comments

debt pwned

Achieving financial freedom should not, I repeat SHOULD NOT, be a competition. Unfortunately, I often find myself making it one. Sure, financial stability/freedom/security is important, but shame on me if I lose sight of my journey and become distracted by jealousy, envy, or excuses.

Have you ever thought something like “If only I had a larger income I’d be financially happy” or “Bob is putting 5% in to his 401K, so I should too”? There is nothing wrong with earning a larger income or contributing to retirement, but if you are only doing it for bragging rights or to “keep up with the Joneses” then you are…how shall I put this nicely… an IDIOT!

You shouldn’t be comparing your financial situation to mine, or anyone elses for that matter. Yes, I post all of my financial stats (income, expenses, net worth) on this blog, but let me be clear. I do not do this so you can compare yourself to me. I do it for one reason and one reason only: To share my journey. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. Usually I talk finance, sometimes I talk wedding, and occasionally I just talk life.

PDITF is not a pulpit from which I preach great wisdom. I’m probably stupider (err more stupid?) than you anyway. Please don’t let my blog (or any other PF blog) become a crutch for you. Maybe my monthly expenses are lower or income higher than yours, but don’t you dare begin saying “If only I had Ninja’s income, life would be so much easier.” You have to make due with what you got and play the cards you were dealt.

It took me about two years to go from the red to the black. FB at FabulouslyBroke fought her way out of $50k of debt in one year. Maybe you won’t be able to get out of debt for another 5 or even 10 years. Guess what? That’s okay! It’s not a race. There is no prize if you pay off your debt before me (at least I don’t think there is).

Don’t be confused, I’m not saying you shouldn’t attack your debt and get rid of it quickly. I want you to get out of debt, but I want you to do it at your own pace. Much like I want you to save for retirement, but only when you think you are ready and at whatever rate you want.

While I want to be an example of how a little financial insight can drastically change one’s life, I NEVER want this blog to become something you use as a metric to measure your financial success. I’m not really interested in how fast (or slow) you can turn your financial life around. All I care is that you turn it around. I’m pretty frustrated right now because I have so much I want to say, but for some reason can not communicate my thoughts. Instead of rambling on, let’s get some dialouge going.

Did this post make any sense to you? Have you found yourself focusing on “the competition” only to lose sight of “the journey”? At what point does comparing your situation to your peers go from healthy to crazy? Have you ever felt like someone else was competing with you (i.e. rubbing their xmas bonus in your face, etc)? And most importantly, Did you have a good weekend?

1 afamilyofgeeks

I hate when people get into financial pissing contests. Not all methods of debt reduction/savings are viable for all households. If I were single with the debt load Mr and I carry, I would have a tiny emergency fund and pay down the debt like my life depends on it. However, we have a mortgage and a (soon-to-be) child to worry about, so we need a hefty emergency cushion and consequently pay down debt slower.

I think that the obsession with comparing ourselves to others goes too far when we forget that there are differences. FB's journey out of debt was inspiring, but comparing myself to her would be useless because of our vastly different degrees/careers and life situations.

And my weekend was pretty good. Would have been better if I'd had the baby, but I can't really complain. How was yours?

2 Investing Newbie

Because lists are my friend:

1) I don't think I've found myself focusing on the competition so much because I'm ahead of the pack! LOL. NO, but honestly, I'm really happy with where I am financially. Of course more money wouldn't hurt, but I know that I am doing the best I can with what I have today.

2) and 3) The point at which "peer situation comparisons" turns for the worse is when you begin to feel jealousy rather than sincere admiration for the peer in question. The green headed monster has reared itself several times, but I've kept it under control with some pills. LOL. I do have a friend that LOVES LOVES LOVES talking about what she has and how much she can spend. I just nod my head, but never let myself live "vicariously" through her. It's great that she can do those things, but I should also never forget to appreciate that its great that I'm doing what I do.

3) OMG was this weekend great! I saw Couples' Retreat and Paranormal Activity, hung out with a great friend from college, and ran into an old friend from High School (NYC is not as small as you think!). The down point was watching the Hurt Locker steal all those awards from Avatar, but I'm recouping nicely. Yours?

3 Ronnie

Most important question first: weekend was awesome! My and boyfriend had a marvelous time; it was the first full weekend we'd had together in over a month, and we savored it.

Second, I find myself struggling with jealousy, because I am on a stricter budget in my goal to pay off non-student loan debt this year, so I can't do some of the things I'd ordinarily like to do. When I see frivolous spending (e.g. from someone who can't afford to keep the heat on at her house but buys a new bed instead of flipping the old one over), I want to go out and blow cash. But that'd be stupid, and my boyfriend reminds me of this, and then I move on.

4 Larry

There are always people better off than you and people worse off than you. On the other hand, I think there are general guidelines as to how much debt one should carry, how much to keep in liquid savings, how much to invest. It can't just be an arbitrary "do whatever you want whenever you want," because a lot of the time that's the excuse people give themselves for not getting out of debt. A lot depends on your income, your other expenses, the interest rates you're paying, whether any of your debt is deductible (obviously this mainly means mortgage interest), your age, your total net worth, etc.

As for my weekend, first weekend in March is when New York City sees most of the major art shows, and so there is where I spent much of my time.

5 Ted @broketofree

Thanks for the post. I feel ashamed so much being in debt (when in reality, everyone around me is too). I think the day that we become debt free will be such a relief AND I find that I value the money we have so much more than before. I just hate the unsolicited advice from know-it-alls that end up making me feel bad. "lower your expenses" Umm… we did. "Get another job" umm… at the expense of my family? etc etc. Unless you are a close friend, shut up! hah.

6 Sandy L

I love talking about money as it's so closely tied with certain goals I want to achieve. For me, it's never about bragging or any of that, I just like to share my journey with others. My open ness may actually be misconstrued by some folks now that you mention it.

Keeping money in the forefront keeps my mind acutely aware of spending. Also, doing a job that's either a) not fun and/or b) not stable also makes me think even more about cash flow.

Sure, I dream about having extra retirement income someday from making maple syrup..(it's sugaring season).. That means I have to first 1. paying off house, 2. save for retirement, 3. saving for kid's college first… before I think about forking over a bunch of dough on land and taps and sugar house plans.

This is very rambly, so i'll end there.

7 Ken

You are so right about everyone's plan being different. I do see a lot of young couples playing the "impress you" game. It's so sad. If only folks would do what's best for their finances and not 'follow the herd.' Good post.

8 Trina

I gotta admit, when I first found your blog and read that you were 24 and had maxed your Roth for the last couple of years I thought, "Ack, how is this young ninja doing this and me and hubby aren't?" I totally got competitive and we have since made adjustments to our contributions to max out this year. Sure, it sounds silly. But you, just by sharing your story, motivated us and I thank you for that!
At what point does comparing your situation to your peers go from healthy to crazy? I think that if the comparing starts to make you feel bad about your situation is when it becomes crazy. In the above mentioned situation I never felt bad about not maxing out the roth, just after I read about it I wanted to do it. I guess competition is a motivational tool for me…must be my college volleyball experiences coming back to haunt me:) And you and I both know I played for the best team in the Pac 10…Go Cougs!
Trina

9 MoneyHoneySF

I actually don't agree with your point, sorry.

I agree that you should not put purchasing or any expense that you cannot afford as a way to keep up with your friends, coworkers, family member, relatives or "the Joneses".

But making saving money and anything related to increasing your financial accounts or reducing debt as a contest MIGHT just be healthy and what that person really needs.

Afterall, we financial bloggers are there to encourage one another to better our own finance. And if the only way for us to reach our goal is to make it a friendly competition or contest, then be it. :)

Do you not agree? MoneyHoneySF come visit my site.

10 PunchDebt

I agree with you, so forgive me if I wasn't clear (i said I was pretty frustrated cause I couldn't communicate my thoughts). What I was ultimately saying is that we should not "compete" in our finances simply for the purpose of boasting. I may save $1,000 a month and Bob might save $1,400 a month, but that doesn't make him a better "saver" than me.

I guess it's when the competition becomes unhealthy or for purposes other than self improvement that I begin to become concerned.

Great points though and thanks for bringing that to light.

11 Single Guy Money

I had a friend tell me the same thing one time. If I made what you made, I would be able to save money. I told him that it doesn't matter what you make, it's what you keep. The bad thing is that he didn't even know how much I earned.

12 me in millions

It's my type-A personality that makes me feel so competitive with others. I try not to compare, but especially online when all you see is what people put out there, it's tough!

13 Chad Arnold

I was just thinking this evening "I wish I had Ninja's salary". Thanks for setting me straight. :) Good post. The tortoise always wins.

14 Bytta@151DaysOff

Ninja, jealousy is part of our DNA. So deal with it and move on. Anyone who said they have NO jealousy over others' better income or net worth at all (not even a tiny bit)… is: a. a liar; b. a person who speaks lie; or c. Dalai Lama :)

When you see other people's financial position posted publicly (even though you have no way to verify its accuracy), immediately you compare it to your own, mixed into the equation your age, education level and currency exchange. You then either feel better (i got more) or worse (i can't believe he's only 24 and make twice as much as I do).

I don't think you should doom competition to the same level as sloth or greed. Competition is neither inherently good or bad.

People who read or/and write PF blogs have this notion that their financial position defines who they are (to some level) and how well they perform as human being (again, to some level). How well do you save, use coupons, contribute to your retirement fund, etc, etc?

It's an acquired skill. With that comes competition. Anyway, I wrote about this in my blog last year http://151daysoff.com/2009/12/16/is-frugality-the
Cheers.

Ps. What is "pwned"?

15 PunchDebt

Good point, I think we all do have some sense of jealousy in a lot of situations, but it's important to control that jealousy and temper it. There is a healthy level of competition and an unhealthy amount. I'm just trying to figure out the balance.

16 gijanefinances

I just wrote about this the other day. I am a competitive person by nature. And my job totally sucks eggs right now…so yes, I want bostongal's savings…lol. I definitely do not obsess. It helps me not be complacent. Also, when someone is impressed by my networth, I know that there are others that far ahead of me.

17 Bucksome Boomer

Despite the rain in SD, this past weekend was great! I got to spend time with the most adorable baby in the world, my grandson.

I don't think of myself as competing financially with you (or other PF bloggers) but rather as inspiration. It's good to hear confirmation of what I'm doing right and ideas how to improve.

18 FabulouslyBroke.com

It definitely isn't a race.

I mean, sometimes you can get caught up in the comparison of yourself to others in the same age group, but then you think: I don't live there, I don't have their job and my lifestyle is different.

And it was actually 18 months :) Not one year, for $60,000… Thank you for the mention/link :D

19 paranoidasteroid

Well, I agree that it's not a contest. However, sometimes seeing someone else who is doing better can be just the motivation you need.

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