The Futility of Comparing Yourself to Others

The Futility of Comparing Yourself to Others

Photo credit: Shelley_Shang, courtesy of

The surest way to destroy your peace of mind and distract yourself from the accomplishment of your financial goals is to compare yourself to another person.

Negative emotion from an unfavorable comparison prevents you from moving forward

If you feel that the other person is better off financially or professionally than you are, you see yourself as less than the other person. You wonder what is wrong with you. You may succumb to self-pity. Maybe you get angry at your situation; you feel it isn’t fair that the other person is better off than you are. You develop an attitude of entitlement: you should have what she has. You become envious and resentful. All of this negative emotion prevents you from moving forward. Your focus remains on that person and her achievements instead of on your goals and the plans you have to achieve them.

A favorable comparison may cause you to stagnate

If your comparison finds that you are better off than the other person, your ego is inflated; you feel superior. You become smug. You think you have made it.

You may find that you use the other person’s shortfall to deflect from your own deficiencies when you fail (At least you are still better off or have achieved more than person X.) instead of learning from the experience and growing. You stagnate. Rather than focus on the accomplishment of your goals, you settle for your current situation as long as that other person is in your rearview mirror.

Comparisons are based on incomplete information

The irony of it all is that comparing in this way is futile. You do not know the other person’s entire financial or professional situation, only that part of which you are aware. Even then, a person’s finances and professional life are only a part of the total picture. Your comparison is never a true one.

Comparisons are only valid for that particular moment in time

Any comparison takes place at a particular point in time. It is only valid at that moment. The same comparison a month, a year, or a decade later could render a completely different result. Where you are today is not necessarily where you will be in the future.

Another person’s situation has no effect on yours

What does another person’s success or failure relative to yours have anything to do with your situation, now or in the future? Does it affect, for better or for worse, your chances of success? If that person whom you feel is better off than you loses her job or suffers a financial setback, does that improve your professional or financial situation? If the person to whom you feel superior suddenly surpasses you in wealth or position, does that diminish your wealth or status?

Comparisons prove what you already believe about yourself

Comparing only affects your self-worth. You compare to see how well you are doing and usually to confirm what you already believe. The comparison provides the so-called proof. What proof? You can always find someone who is worse off or better off than you are. What does that prove? Nothing! So don’t waste your time.

Comparing your group to another group is worse than comparing yourself to another person

Worse than comparing yourself to another person is identifying with a particular group and then comparing your group to a different group. Michael Hobbes does this in the article Millennials Are Screwed  published in Highline magazine. Hobbes details how the Millennial generation, those born from 1982 through 2004, is worse off than the Baby Boom generation, those born from 1945 through 1964, and how it is the Baby Boom generation’s fault.

Okay, so one generation is better off than another. What has that got to do with an individual who is labeled as a member of the Millennial generation? Will all members of the Millennial generation be worse off than all of the members of the Baby Boom generation? Of course not. All generations have winners and losers.

Hobbes’ point is that Millennials will have a more difficult time achieving the standard of living that Baby Boomers have enjoyed. What has that got to do with an individual member of the Millennial generation whose only connection to the group is the year she was born? Nothing. The group cannot change the individual’s situation.  Her situation may be better or worse than the statistical average for the group, but only she can deal with it. The group cannot accomplish her goals. That is also her responsibility. She is not the group.

Compare where you are now to where you were in the past

Instead of comparing yourself to another person or your group to another group, compare where you are today to where you were a year ago or five years ago. Are you making progress? If you are not satisfied with where you are, identify what you need to do to improve your situation: set goals, make a plan, and act on it. Make it a point to learn from those who are succeeding instead of comparing yourself to them. Ask for help. Keep yourself open to change and the opportunities it brings so you can take advantage of them.

Be patient; it takes time for experience, knowledge, and skill to come together in a way that produces the kind of success for which you are striving. My financial and professional situation realized a complete reversal over a two-year period, but it was the result of the lessons I had learned and the growth I had attained over the previous seven years of financial and professional struggle. Give yourself time to learn from experience and grow.

When you succeed, help others

When you begin to prosper financially and professionally, don’t compare, share. Share your experience, knowledge, and wisdom with others. Help them to succeed and you will be helping yourself.

K. C. Knouse is the author of True Prosperity: Your Guide to a Cash-Based LifestyleDouble-Dome Publications, 224 pages

Words for Improved Finances in the New Year

Words for Improved Finances in the New Year

Photo credit: Nattanan23 at Used with permission.

Here is a reality check to take with you into the new year: “wealth is not borrowed but saved.” This gem of a quotation comes from the article “You Should Be Very Afraid of Ballooning Consumer Debt” by Lance Roberts.

The illusion of prosperity

If you want to enjoy a measure of financial security and eventually financial independence, you will need to accumulate wealth; credit won’t cut it. All borrowing does is give you a temporary illusion of increased prosperity because you have additional money to spend. Later you will have less money to spend as you pay back the debt with interest. This should be obvious, but record consumer debt indicates that many do not understand the relationship between saving and true prosperity.

Earnings are not wealth

Earning a lot of money does not make you wealthy. No matter how much money you earn if you spend it all by the end of the pay period, you are broke. You may enjoy a higher standard of living than those who earn less, but that does not make you wealthier than they are. In fact, they may have accumulated more wealth than you if they have saved a portion of their earnings over time and you have not.

Wealth is not about how much money you earn or about how high a standard of living you enjoy, it is about your net worth, what is left after liabilities are deducted from assets. Debts are liabilities.

Spend less than you earn

You can live rich for a time on credit, but the only way to become rich is to spend less than you earn. You must save. If you are not saving, you are spending too much. It is as simple as that.

Simple does not mean easy, but just about anyone can save if saving is the top priority. Treat saving like a bill and pay it first each month. Trying to save what is left over at the end of the month is a losing proposition; there will be nothing left at the end of the month. Isn’t that why you are not able to save now? Put money into your savings account the first thing each month and you will be successful.

A New Year’s resolution

Make a New Year’s resolution to start now, even if you have a lot of debt. Save while you pay down your debt. Money in savings allows you to eventually get out of debt and stay out of debt because it eliminates the need to borrow. If you make regular payments on your current debt and add no new debt, you will eventually be debt-free.

Start small if necessary, but start saving consistently and your personal finances will improve dramatically.

K. C. Knouse is the author of True Prosperity: Your Guide to a Cash-Based LifestyleDouble-Dome Publications, 224 pages

Tool Helps Estimate Long Term Care Costs

Tool Helps Estimate Long Term Care Costs

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It is not easy to plan for the costs of long term care because it is difficult to know what those costs will be when the need arises. A recent Genworth Cost of Care Survey can help you get a handle on the costs of several long term care services: homemaker services, home health aide, adult day health care, assisted living facilities, and nursing home care (both private and semi-private rooms).

An interactive tool based on survey results for 440 regions gleaned from 15,000 completed surveys allows you to view median costs for the nation, a particular state, or region within a state. You can also compare costs between two states, or two regions located either within the same state or within different states. The survey provides median costs for 2017 and projects median costs based on 3% inflation along a timeline that extends to 2047. You can choose from daily, monthly, or annual median costs.

The tool initially provides national median costs, but costs can vary a great deal depending on the state and region. For example, the median annual cost in 2017 for a semi-private room at a nursing home in New York state is $ 140,525. In Arkansas, it is $ 62, 050. The 2017 national median annual cost is $ 85, 775.

There is a 50/50 chance you will need long term care

Your chances of needing some form of long term care are high: Insurance actuaries estimate that at age 60 the chances are 50% that you will need some form of long term care. A recent government study estimated that 52% of people turning 65 in 2015 would need long term care services of some kind.

You cannot afford to ignore the costs of long term care when planning for your future. The Genworth cost tool is a good place to begin gathering the information you need to make sound decisions.

K. C. Knouse is the author of True Prosperity: Your Guide to a Cash-Based LifestyleDouble-Dome Publications, 224 pages