Let’s Talk About Envy

Let’s talk about envy.  I’m not talking the good kind that motivates you to save more like every time I read about someone maxing their 401k, Roth, and contributing to another traditional IRA or brokerage account.  I can do the first two, but the others elude due to unfortunate income constraints.  But, that kind of envy motivates me to do better – to save – to look for areas I can cut.  No, today I’m here to talk about the bad kind of envy.  I have to say I do a pretty good job of keeping it in check, but there’s one thing that whenever I see it, the envy slams into me like a….well like a 5 series BMW 🙂


I have never driven a BMW 5 series.  Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever even ridden in one.  In my mind it is pedestalized.  At my former company many of the higher level execs drove them.  In my head I would know I made it once I was driving one.  Yesterday, a brand new one parked next to me at Trader Joe’s.  The driver was about my age (and frugal enough to shop at Trader Joe’s).  Damn.  That always makes me feel like I’m falling farther behind.  The envy was strong.  I tried not to drool as I loaded my bags into my 15 year old (and paid off!) SUV.  The paid off part didn’t matter much at the time.  All I saw was sleek design and beautiful black leather seats.

The envy crept in, then the sadness that the likelihood of me ever having a 5 series is about as good as winning the lottery because that’s the only time I would ever have enough disposable income to throw money at that car.  This is not to say I could not walk out of my house to day, drive to the BMW dealer, and drive off with one before most of you have commented on this post to say NOOOOOO!  I could.  I have the salary.  I have the cash for a down payment.  I could do it.  I’m just not.  And, I know it.  So, I’m just left with the envy and the sadness.

However, I’m glad this happened yesterday though.  Why?  Because yesterday marks the moment each year where I reconcile my net worth against prior years.  This was the day that I saw that my net worth rose in an amount more than I make in entire year over the course of this year.  That’s right, my gain alone was more than I make in salary in a year.  I had to stop and let that sink in.  It was hard to believe.

Then I looked back over time, and the story was even more incredible.  From Dec. ’10 to Dec. ’11 my net worth rose 13%.  The next year it rose 25%.  And, this year it rose 44%.  That’s a higher percentage gain every year on top of an ever-growing base.  Probably unsustainable but damn it looks nice on paper.  In the course of 36 months net worth had doubled (during a recession).   That’s when I thought back to the BMW guy in the Trader Joe’s parking lot and wondered which one of us should really be envious.  It’s a bit harder to say now.

What about you?  Any material items bring the envy out in you?  How do you get past it?


Posted in All Other, Net Worth, Savings Tagged with:
  • It’s not material items so much as facebook photos that make me envious. The pictures of people’s vacations and food make me WANT!

    • Understandable, but the self-selection that goes into FB posts is ridiculous. On FB one is crafting a certain persona that may or may not be aligned to your true self. The tendency to only share the best most socially desirable pieces is strong. Still some of the sunny spots and delicious food posts leaving me drooling too!

  • Edward O Coambs

    Such a great point about net worth being so much more enviable. Sadly and rightly so we don’t wear a name badge saying my net worth is X. We judge people’s financial security by the possessions they own, not the investments they own.

    • slug

      Yes, it’s part of the reason I took down all my net worth posts. I still track it myself, but I no longer feel the need to share it to add credibility to my words or thinking.