Comparison: The Killer of Contentment

I think that wealth, much like temperature, is relative. One person might feel wealthy making a certain amount of money while another person, making the same amount of money, might feel like they’ve only got pennies to their name. Some of us might scoff when a doctor or lawyer says they don’t make enough money and are living paycheck to paycheck. When this happens, we wonder how someone making six figures can spend so much money.

But if you look at where they live, who they hang out with, and what type of persona they project to others, you can begin to identify how this can happen. A successful professional living in a high end neighborhood, surrounded by other successful professionals, is probably going to feel like they need a ton of stuff in order to keep up with everyone around them. You can’t drive an old car when everyone else around you drives a new one. And you can’t live in a modest house when everyone else has a giant house. Keep adding all that stuff up and suddenly, you might make six figures and just not feel all that wealthy, though in the traditional sense, you are.

Since we know that wealth is relative, we can all take steps to make ourselves feel wealthier. All we need to do is make sure that we’re living in the right places and comparing ourselves to the right people. If we remember that important fact – that wealth is relative – we can make ourselves feel a lot happier and content with what we have.

Where You Choose to Live Matters

I’ve come to the conclusion that where you choose to live has a huge impact on how wealthy you feel. If you live in a wealthy neighborhood, there’s pressure to keep up with your neighbors. You’ll need that perfectly manicured lawn and nice car in the driveway. If you’re not the richest person in your neighborhood, you’ll feel less wealthy, even if your income is higher than most. It’s hard to be satisfied with what you have when the neighbor next door to you has the fancier house and the nicer car.

One solution is to be the big fish in the small pond when it comes to your neighborhood choice. Wealth is relative, right? You’ll feel much wealthier when you’re not surrounding yourself with wealthy people.

Who You Compare Yourself to Also Matters

A new professional snags their big paycheck and feels inclined to get themselves a high end, luxury apartment instead of sticking with a normal apartment. After a few years, this person then goes out and gets themselves a huge house. Maybe they buy a luxury car. They go on fancy vacations. And suddenly, all of that income doesn’t feel like very much. The problem is that these people are comparing themselves to other people who are also making (or at least spending) a ton of money.

If you remember to keep your wealth in perspective, you can be much happier with the stuff you have. I feel pretty wealthy. How wealthy do you feel?

The opinions expressed in this article are those of author and should not be construed as specific investment advice.
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