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.
We still compare ourselves.
I’m guilty of it. I bet you are too.
Looking 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.”
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:
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?
Vivek @ LifeAfterFI says
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
J. Money says
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!
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!
Vivek @ LifeAfterFI says
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!
Elle @ New Graduate Finance says
Great post! This is definitely something I suffer with. Need to get better at only comparing myself to myself.
Fervent Finance says
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!
Anna Alapatt says
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,
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.