The post that delves into the envy that can be provoked by the FIRE movement.
We are all susceptible to jealousy. It is triggered by different things in different people. I was speaking to a colleague the other day who lamented that a friend she knew had gotten married to someone after a whirlwind romance and had just had twins, all in the space of two years. To her that was something to be envious of. To me it sounded like a nightmarish recipe for disaster. Each to their own.
My own green-eyed monster tends to rear its ugly head when there are people who are more financially sorted than me.
“Next Tier Up” Jealousy
I work in an industry where we have a lot of super-rich clients. People who are from inherited wealth who have never had to lift a finger in their lives.
Yet it is not these people that really get my jealousy going (albeit their frequent lack of appreciation for their privilege drives me mad).
A recent case I was involved in involved a young woman a little younger than me. She was, by all accounts, as close to a “victim” as we get in my line of work. She was really being screwed over compared to other members of her family. But despite that, her situation was pretty cushy. She had a two bedroom flat in an expensive part of London with a comparatively tiny mortgage; the property having been paid for by her father. This sparked my envy far more than the multi-millionaires.
I think it is because a millionaire lifestyle has never been within my grasp; not even remotely. It is only something I can dream of, like winning the lottery.
But where someone’s financial position is “next tier up” (or in the case of the young woman with the two bedroom flat, probably two tiers up), it feels like something that, had circumstances been slightly different, it could have been in my grasp.
The jealousy virus hits closer to home too. I have a friend from what I’d call an upper-middle class background (my own is probably more lower-middle class). Her parents gave her a very healthy deposit for a flat in London, meaning she got on the property ladder almost ten years before I did. She also had the kind of expensive education that assists you into well-paid careers from the outset, rather than floundering around in badly paid jobs like I did (more on that later).
I hate that I feel (occasionally) jealous of a very good friend. It’s not a side of myself I like at all, but there it is.
The aggravating factor of the financial independence movement
I love the FIRE movement. I love hearing other people’s stories, including those that are further along the “journey” and can offer guidance and advice. It is generally a very supportive community and people will rally around you whatever stage you are at in the pursuit of financial independence. But it’s a bastard for provoking that next tier up jealousy.
You hear other people’s stories, and when you are very early in the journey like I am, you can’t help but think “what if”? What if I’d discovered the FIRE movement earlier? What if I hadn’t wasted the first four years of my full-time working life in crappily paid jobs?
The self-flagellating side of jealousy
I should point out that any jealousy I feel towards other personal finance bloggers is nothing about resenting their success. It is more about giving myself a hard time for not being as disciplined/ambitious/savvy as others. I’m about four or five years older than most people at my level in my job and I often feel the age gap.
As for the envy I feel towards those whose parents have given them a big leg up in life, I don’t for one minute regret my family background. My parents worked hard in worthwhile public sector careers. I admit I felt a small kernel of annoyance when my parents bought a second home with their surplus money and kept going on about how happy they were, when I wasn’t even close to buying a first home. Although I didn’t resent that they didn’t splash their cash on giving me a further boost on the housing ladder as other friends’ parents have done. My own life philosophy is that you should stand on your own two feet and your parents’ money is their own that they should be free to enjoy as they wish. Why should they curtail their enjoyment in life just because I’ve chosen to live in a super expensive city?
Getting over the jealousy
It is almost so obvious that it’s trite to say it, but jealousy doesn’t help anyone, least of all me. Wishing I’d gone straight into a well-paid job aged 21 will not change the past. So I know I need to stop giving myself a hard time about what could have been. Because it wasn’t. And I just need to work with what is.
Which brings me on to my next point. “What is” is still so much better than the position of others my age. Getting immersed in the FIRE movement makes you think six-figure investment accounts and saving over half your salary is standard. My “non-FIRE” acquaintances think I’m some sort of personal finance wizard who lives a remarkably frugal life (neither are even close to the truth).
I’m also from a comparatively privileged background compared to many. I’ve never known poverty and my parents were able to give me a contribution towards a house deposit (albeit 80% of it was my own savings). So there’s really no excuse for me being a self-pitying wretch.
I see the risk of veering towards ending on a cheesy message here, and I hate those refrigerator magnet inspirational quotes. So I’ll just keep it simple by saying that I try to tell myself the following: you’re doing fine and you’ll get there at the time it’s right for you.