Comparing or Competing?

The jour­ney to Finan­cial Inde­pen­dence is very much a soli­tary one. Every­one has dif­fer­ent vari­ables that impact the jour­ney: in debt or debt free, with kids or kid free, with a spouse (on board with FI or no) or a sin­gle­ton, home own­ers or renters. The list is end­less.

And yet.

We still com­pare our­selves.

I’m guilty of it. I bet you are too.

comparisonLook­ing at oth­er people’s jour­ney to FI can do one of two things: inspire a com­pet­i­tive fire (FIRE? ha) in you or give up, say­ing “I’ll nev­er be able to get there.”

5k yay

On my trip to Oma­ha, I had sev­er­al great chats with Mr. 1500. We were both run­ning in the “Invest in Your­self” 5k that Sun­day, and were trash talk­ing each oth­er before the race. Me jok­ing about him being a slow old man, and him ask­ing me how my knee (in a sup­port­ing brace) was feel­ing and if I thought I was going to be able to fin­ish the race. I didn’t get bummed out about the race. Instead, I used his teas­ing as fuel to run a bet­ter race. I had two goals- beat him and the pack of Girl Scouts I passed right at the start line. Hap­pi­ly, I accom­plished both.

But you know what we both didn’t do? We both didn’t com­pare our­selves to Mrs. PoP, who beat the pants off both of us. Mr. 1500 and I knew there was no use even try­ing to com­pete with her, because nei­ther of us love run­ning like she does, nor do we run as often as we should to be com­pet­i­tive in a 5k.

The les­son I took away from this race was “It’s ok to com­pare [to peo­ple in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions as you].”

It would be fool­ish to com­pare my finan­cial sit­u­a­tion with the big name blog­gers out there, who are either incred­i­bly close to FI or have been FI for a num­ber of years. They’re sig­nif­i­cant­ly old­er than me (sor­ry guys, it’s true) and have a decade or more than me to accu­mu­late their stash. I can, and do, con­grat­u­late them on big mile­stones or when they accom­plish their goals. I found this real­ly cool quote online that I real­ly like that I think was made for this sit­u­a­tion:

compare 20

Com­pared to the upper ech­e­lon of the FI world, I am a raw begin­ner. I am very much in my Chap­ter One. How­ev­er, com­pared to most of the rest of the world, I very much have my “shit” togeth­er and am doing very well for myself.

Although I shouldn’t (and try not to) to com­pare myself to the old­er more estab­lished blog­gers, I can and do com­pare myself to peo­ple who are in a sim­i­lar stage as me. I have a bet with one of the sub­scribers to the finan­cial inde­pen­dence sub­red­dit on who will get to the $100k mile­stone first. That kind of friend­ly com­pe­ti­tion real­ly helps me when I might oth­er­wise slack off on my goals. I feel com­fort­able com­par­ing myself to him because we earn rough­ly the same amount and are in rough­ly the same stage in life.

Anoth­er real­ly great point of com­par­i­son is the Guinea Pig exper­i­ment run by Bran­don over at Mad Fien­tist. We “start­ed” our jour­neys at rough­ly the same point. While I had a few more months under my belt with a few more $$$ in the bank, the Guinea Pig earns a slight­ly high­er salary. I earn $5810 a month while he earns $6384. How­ev­er, I get bonus­es and rais­es more often than him, which accounts for some of the fluc­tu­a­tion in my net worth num­bers. It’s been a fun rule of thumb to look at every month. Cur­rent­ly, we’re in a race for $100k, but I think he might get there just before me at this rate (stu­pid trav­el spend­ing last month!!!)


Rock­star Finance has a list of blog­gers who’ve sub­mit­ted their net worth. There’s two sides to this coin: 1) holy crap, I’m 140th on the list. That means there are at least 139 peo­ple out there doing bet­ter than me, how will I ever go up the list, I should give up right now. OR. 2) hey, look at that! I’m beat­ing 80ish peo­ple on the list AND I have a pos­i­tive net worth! I’m doing great!

I choose the lat­ter view­point.

At this point, I’m doing my best to jump as many spots on the list as pos­si­ble. I rec­og­nize the num­bers don’t get updat­ed fre­quent­ly, so I might be com­par­ing my new num­bers to someone’s old num­bers, but it’s fun to cel­e­brate every time I “pass” some­one on the list 😀


How do you deal with com­par­ing? Do you have a com­pet­i­tive nature?

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9 thoughts on “Comparing or Competing?

  1. I real­ly liked the quote — Don’t com­pare your chap­ter 1 with.… . Most of us miss this aspect while com­par­ing our self with oth­ers.

    Com­pet­ing with oth­ers nev­er worked for us. As men­tioned in your post, there are too many exter­nal attrib­ut­es to be con­sid­ered to do an apple to apple com­par­i­son!

    We did a much bet­ter job com­pet­ing with our self. Every month we used to set up a chal­lenge big­ger than last month. Say — If last month we saved $2k (mak­ing up the num­ber), this month we would decide to save $2,200 and next month still a high­er num­ber. This approach was very effec­tive for us

  2. Thanks for spread­ing the word on our net worth track­er!

    Glad you’re focus­ing on the more pos­i­tive angle of your posi­tion on it 🙂 Always good to remem­ber we’re in dif­fer­ent phas­es with this stuff! Keep hus­tling!

  3. I haven’t share our net worth… at least not yet, but I have been track­ing our net worth on the web­site Net­Wor­thIQ since 2008. They rank all the users on the site, and yeah, I def­i­nite­ly check out where we stand every time I update it!

    • I just now glanced the Net­Wor­thIQ web­site — Looks inter­est­ing and promis­ing. Odd that it is not very famous among per­son­al finance blog­ger com­mu­ni­ty — I don’t remem­ber any­body else men­tion­ing about this web­site!

  4. I total­ly under­stand what you’re talk­ing about. Com­pet­i­tive­ness can make this jour­ney tough at times. I have a friend who isn’t even into FIRE who is putting more mon­ey than me away this year due to his work sit­u­a­tion. That’s def­i­nite­ly frus­trat­ing, but then again as his friend I’m super pumped for him. Also I start­ed this jour­ney at 26 years old, when I see kids grad­u­at­ing at 21 already max­ing out their 401k and IRAs, I’m like “damn — why didn’t I do that?” But at the end of the day, this is a race against myself. I’ve set per­son­al goals, and as long as I reach them and some­times get to them ear­ly, that’s the com­pe­ti­tion I’m real­ly about.

    • Yeah that can be frus­trat­ing. I start­ed ear­ly, but my income is low­er than IT peo­ple in SF or finance guys in NY, so I’m ham­pered with how much I can save. I had a good head­start but am being rapid­ly eclipsed. And you know what, that’s ok, because I’m also beat­ing my past self’s goals! Keep on truckin!

  5. Won­der­ful post 🙂 I love that say­ing about not com­par­ing your chap­ter 1 to some­one else’s chap­ter 20. Going to be my mantra today 🙂 I wrote a blog post about not com­par­ing our­self to oth­ers a while back. It’s such an impor­tant top­ic! Thanks for shar­ing your love­ly thoughts 😀

    All the best,


  6. Great stuff and very cool you were able to run with Mr. 1500. 🙂

    The less you com­pare your­self with oth­er peo­ple, the bet­ter off you will be. I’ve learned this les­son a few years ago. That’s one of the rea­sons why I haven’t shared our net worth on my blog.

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