Jealousy – And What You Can’t See

One of the nicest houses in our town recently went into foreclosure. The family that lived there seemed to have “everything” on the surface – a gorgeous house, nice cars, nice clothing, expensive cell phones, and so on.

In truth, though, they were in debt up to their eyeballs. Now that house that they had sunk so much money into is gone, as is the family. They’re living in an apartment, one of the two parents is jobless, and they’re likely facing bankruptcy.

There was a time in my life where I felt really jealous of people who had some of the things that I wanted in life. As time has gone on, I’ve found that all of these people really do fall into one of two categories.

1. They can’t really afford it. They’re piling up debt accumulating things and doing things that are simply beyond their means. Yes, sometimes people get into this situation unknowingly (like people who were scammed into bad mortgages), but most people often start down this path with some student loans partnered with a bit of credit card debt. Then they “buy” a house with a mortgage, toss on some more credit card debt, have a car loan or two, and find themselves really struggling.

They appear to have everything, but the financial and personal stress that you don’t see can be very, very intense.

The “can’t really afford it” group includes those who are living on the money of others. Why? When the money of others runs out, those people are quickly going to be fully in the “can’t really afford it” situation.

2. They can really afford it – and usually deserve it. This includes the people who have worked very, very hard to get what they have. Entrepreneurs who have worked countless hours to build a business. Very bright people who have capitalized on a great idea. People who spent most of their twenties going to school to earn a doctorate in a lucrative field. People who have lived very lean for a while in order to build up a bankroll for themselves.

To get to this point, you either had to make some tremendous sacrifices along the way – often damaging relationships and missing out on life-affirming experiences and going through painful “salad years” without much at all – or simply have had the ability and opportunity to be in the right place at the right time to take advantage of it – to which I say “good for them” instead of really being jealous of them.

When I look at people who have the things that I want, I recognize that they’re in one of those groups. Either they’re struggling deeply to handle what they have (which is making other aspects of their lives miserable) or they’ve worked very hard to get what they’ve got (which means they had challenging experiences in the past and often sacrificed a lot to get where they are).

If I’m dissatisfied, the dissatisfaction is really with my own life. Usually, it means I’m unhappy with some aspect of the choices I’ve made in my life and it’s a sign that I need to sit down and take a look at where I’m at. Should I be doing something different?

I don’t ever want to be the person who can’t really afford it. I’ve been there; it’s scary. Do I want to be the person who can afford it? Sure, but when I step back and look at my life, I recognize that it’s not really the priority.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

Loading Disqus Comments ...