How to Stop Envying Your Friends’ Finances and Find Your Own Success
Comparing yourself to a billionaire might seem more absurd and whimsical than anything else — that’s like winning the lottery, and then some. But when friends, family members, and colleagues can go on luxury vacations and never seem to worry about how much groceries cost, that’s close enough to home to spur money jealousy.
Even if it’s not the most appealing trait, being jealous or envious of people who appear to have more money is natural. How you respond to these feelings can be important for understanding your relationship with money and what you should do next.
What is wealth envy and what causes it?
Money envy comes from comparing your income and savings to others’ perceived wealth and feeling that different levels of income and wealth are unfair.
First, let’s acknowledge that there are societal, economic, social, and familial factors that you can’t control. You might be able to overcome some of these barriers, but you could also find yourself working harder and earning less than someone else. It stinks, but this isn’t a reflection of your value as an individual.
It’s also important to acknowledge that wanting more for yourself and your family isn’t bad. And it’s okay to admit that more money might make you happier.
In fact, some of the latest research found that a higher income makes most people happier. Except if you already have a high income and aren’t happy. In that case, making more money won’t necessarily help.
But money envy is less about what you have and more about how you compare yourself to others.
Are you jealous of wealth or spending?
If you're feeling jealous of wealthy people and rich friends, one thing to consider is whether you’re actually jealous of their wealth or their spending. Because they’re not the same — the more you spend, the less wealthy you become.
In most cases, you only see what others buy. But you might not know if they maxed out their credit card, took out a loan, or spent the last decade living frugally and saving. Or whether their purchases made them happier.
Also, consider the stories of the unassuming millionaires whose wealth isn’t shared until they die. Such as the government worker who left $13 million to charities, or the janitor who left most of his $8 million to a library and hospital.
You might be more jealous of the “rich people” next door who just bought a new car (and secretly fight about money) than the neighbor who has a lot of money and doesn't show it off.
What can you do to deal with money jealousy?
Taking control of your money and increasing your income can be important for improving your personal finances. But jealousy and envy relate to the emotional aspects of finances, status, and self-worth, which don’t necessarily correspond with a specific income or wealth.
If you want to work on being less jealous of others’ spending, here are a few ways to start:
- Define your values: Don’t let others define what you value and want to achieve. Defining these for yourself is an essential step in determining how much money you need to earn and what you’ll see as financial success.
- Rethink what status means: Americans often equate wealth with societal status and self-worth. But that’s not a universally held view, and it’s something you can change. Try to tie this in with the first point. If you find that you value spending time with your family, having a family dinner every night could become your ultimate status symbol. And it has nothing to do with income or wealth.
- Spend based on your values: It’s easier to feel satisfied and happy with your choices if you can also align your spending with your values. You might still feel envious of some people who are better off but also might recognize that a lot of people spend money in ways that won’t make you happy.
- Practice gratitude: Reflecting on your life, what you’ve accomplished, and what you can be proud of could help you feel more satisfied with what you already have.
- Don’t fall into the over-work trap: Explore ways to break away from workaholism and find value and joy that’s not tied to your income or job. Try reading books like Do Nothing, to explore this concept further.
If money envy is hurting your self-esteem, the answer isn’t necessarily to work harder and make more money. There are countless examples of people who are happy, depressed, anxious, or satisfied regardless of whether they’re part of a rich family, the middle class, or struggle to make ends meet.
Take control of your finances and future
Working through envy, practicing gratitude, and recognizing your own self-worth are all beneficial goals on their own. But improving your financial situation can also be worthwhile, especially if you can do so while achieving your goals.
We don’t have all the answers, but we do know that access to credit can be an important part of managing your finances.
Poor credit can make getting a loan or credit card more difficult and expensive, and it can keep you from renting an apartment or getting a job that helps you get ahead. A bad credit history could even increase your insurance premiums and security deposit requirements.
Unlike credit-building products that make money from interest and fees, Ava created a subscription service that’s easy to understand and use. Members get the Ava Card, a high-limit credit card with no fees or interest, and the Ava Credit Builder loan to build their savings and credit history. When combined, this could be a simple and effective way to improve your credit.