Your Measuring Stick for Financial Success

When I look around at the people in my life, I see some that are in very good financial shape and I see others that are in poor shape. I see some that live an affluent lifestyle, with annual international trips and new cars. I see others that live a much more stoic lifestyle as well, whether it’s by choice or by need.

Depending on who I choose to compare myself to, I might feel really good about my financial situation – or I might not feel quite so proud.

It’s something that I think all of us do. We overhear someone talking about how they’re struggling to make ends meet and we feel pretty good about our situation. We see someone else we know walking in the front door of their amazing house and we feel pretty bad about our situation.

Both of these attitudes are a mistake.

The financial troubles and financial success of a person are built heavily upon the specifics of that person’s life – their psychological makeup, the choices they make, the opportunities they’ve had, their health, the people in their life. Those elements create a unique fingerprint for each person’s life.

Your life – your opportunities, your relationships, your mindset, your health – is unique to you. No one else has had that same set of elements.

Some people have more opportunities, while others simply find fewer chances in life. Some people have stronger relationships in their life, while others have people who have let them down. Some people are incredibly healthy, while others find health to be a constant struggle. Some people are born with a stronger sense of self-control, while others struggle to master their emotional responses. The differences between people are endless.

There is only one person in the entire world that can match up to your psychology, your health, your opportunities, and your relationships.


No one else should ever be your measuring stick for financial success – or any other type of success in life. No one else has had your opportunities – or lack thereof. No one else has your mental and physical health – or lack thereof. No one else has had your strong relationships – or lack thereof.

Most important, you are the only person in the world that is an open book. You know more about you than you know about anyone else, by far.

How do you do this, though? How do you use yourself as a measuring stick?

First, seek out a way to measure exactly what kind of change you’re striving to achieve in your life. For finance, maybe it’s net worth or the size of your retirement savings or the amount of your debt. For fitness, maybe it’s the number of burpees you can do in a row without having to stop.

What you need is something that you can easily and precisely track, ideally something that can be boiled down to a single number or two.

After that, calculate that number as it exists in your life today. What is your net worth today? What is your total debt today? Whatever you’re focusing on, calculate that number and record it.

Each month or quarter, calculate that number again, then compare it to your previous numbers. Those numbers don’t lie. They sum up all of the elements in your life that contribute to the progress that you want to achieve. If you are making positive progress, then the numbers will improve. If you are not making progress, then the numbers will stay the same or get worse.

You are the only yardstick that matters, because your attributes and resources are unique to you. Use that yardstick. Make it into a tool that pushes you to improve the things in your life that bother you.

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.

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