Dealing With Envy

Envy is an easy emotion to feel.  Depending on the person all sorts of things can cause it: a nice house, a good meal, that perfect coat or a nicer piece of technology that you want to have.  So while I’m used to feeling it at times, but I have to admit I’m not that used to causing others to feel it.  I live a fairly frugal life, so I don’t usually have much that would cause others to feel it.  Well at least that is what I thought.

Until the other day when I realized I caused it for entirely different reasons: my financial situation.  I think the problem has been that while I’m open about talking about money with people, some people that I know obviously thought this entire early retirement plans was a vague dream or something.  Then to hear I’ve paid off the mortgage and have nearly a quarter of a million in investments by the time I’m 35 sends some people around the bend and they just look at me with envy written all over their face.

I started being open with how I deal with money in order to help others along the way, but it didn’t occur to me that I would also cause envy in some people.  I have to admit I don’t know how to deal with causing envy in others.  I suppose the fact is I can’t control what others feel, but never the less I feel bad for causing it.  Mainly I suppose since it really didn’t occur to me before.

In the end, I decided I can’t really do anything to help others not feel envy.  Either you do feel it or you don’t and I can’t really stop another person from feeling an emotion.  It’s a bit of hard realization to come to, but I have to forgive others for feeling that way and myself for causing it.  That is really my only option for dealing with the emotion that I’ve come up with.

How about you?  How do you deal with causing envy with others?

11 thoughts on “Dealing With Envy”

  1. This is something I was discussing with my wife the other day. We’re both 34, paid off the mortgage a few months ago, and have roughly $170k in retirement savings. I don’t really discuss finances in detail with friends or coworkers as I am afraid attitudes toward us will change. Envy and jealousy can be ugly feelings. In this world of get now, pay later, and work forever, most people don’t understand or can’t comprehend the sacrifices some of us make to become debt free or be responsible with our money.

    Some might just think we have rich parents or was given a large helping hand to get where we are, in order to justify their feelings.. which is not the case. Maybe I am just too paranoid about what others think?

  2. I guess the only way would be to talk less unless they nag / needle you into revealing info.

    I am very reluctant to share anything with anyone in real life. No one really knows my situation, and I’d rather keep it that way. Jealousy from other co-workers (even temporary project ones) is not a good emotion to have when you are a freelancer.

  3. Tim, if you think THAT is envy, wait until you actually retire at 45 like I did 5 years ago. Even if you are not open much about your finances, that laone will be big giveaway and will trigger more envy.

  4. I think what you’re calling envy is what I would call desire. To me it’s a good thing to feel it since it’s an easy way to pinpoint what you want out of too many choices.

    I used to read about people who had ER’d and were doing things like RVing in a warm climate while it was -30 or so at home but I couldn’t go do something similar because I was still in hyper-save mode. Felt a bit envious but also knew my time would come to be able to do that too if that’s what I wanted.

    Lately I’ve been admiring people who find it easier to spend than I do. Hope that’s not a bad sign… 😛

  5. I think the envy is not so much what you have, but the fortitude, discipline and intelligence to make it happen.

    So let it begin with envy. And follow with inspiration.

  6. This is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently as well – We just recently bought our dream home with cash at the age of 29, want to share and celebrate our accomplishment with everyone, but generally have kept quiet about it. We have told some people and some have had an envious reaction – but we have also produced inspiration for many other friends and have had many great conversations about personal finance because of it.

    For us, pretty quickly we realized which types of people would be envious versus which types will be inspired. We are only open about our finances to those who are genuinely happy for us and want to listen to our story. We’ll discuss other topics with those who would end up being envious. The ones who are envious usually are happy to change the subject anyways.

  7. I let it slip to a few people about me quitting work at 41 or 42 at a Christmas function last night. There were some uncomfortable moments. A certain amount of envy was on display, but more so flat out disbelief and no small amount of ridicule. *sigh*

  8. Oh, I did feel a bit of envy the other day when a friend my age was talking about her defined benefit pension. She’ll be making a guaranteed $60k/year (COLA’d) in about 5 years or so just from keeping her butt in the chair at a couple of companies throughout her career. I felt a little twang of regret at the path not taken (it would be nice to not have to worry at all ever about the vagaries of Mr. Market) but still don’t think I would take that path – or indeed, could have taken that path given personality differences. I’m just happy for her.

    I suspect that envy is more common when you literally cannot replicate another’s results, especially through no fault/choices of your own. It could be something as simple as a chosen industry, profession, school or network, upbringing or personality type. Last year and some other years, I’ve hit the threshold of the top 1% of income earners in Canada – but a lot of luck was involved too. Sometimes we just need to be grateful – and humble. LBYM and not being status conscious comes easily to most of us and I don’t think it’s something we had to force or talk ourselves into (or at least not very hard). I feel that that’s a genetic gift of sorts and it’s silly to congratulate yourself for that – it would be like patting yourself on the back for having perfectly straight teeth or something.

  9. Interesting comments everyone. Thanks.

    @Steve – Yes there has to be a certain degree of not caring what others think to pull it off, but after that it is ok to care what others think in your close friends and family…otherwise I personally don’t care much myself.

    @deegee – Hah, your totally right. Thanks for the reminder. *grin*

    @Mike – Excellent insight…it makes me feel better about envy in others.

    @Jon_snow – Oh, the cat is out of the bag is it? Good luck!

    @Jacq – Oh good insight, I know personally type plays a good role in early retirees, but I didn’t consider that fact that perhaps that is a genetic quirk. I know for me LBYM was a taught behaviour but I picked it up easily. Yet not being status conscious came with again with very little teaching. I suppose it helps that my mother often said “Don’t worry what others think.” Must have stuck in my head.

  10. Dec 17, 2013 It can be envy not just of material things. Had a lady and her husband around on Sunday for our annual Christmas party. Everything went great.
    One thing though this lady was in a wheel chair and in her mid
    fifties the envy could show itself very easily.

    Point is all of us have, usualy something or some
    condition that would cause many people to be envious.
    What all of us have to do is to get a grip on ourselves and count our blessings. All of us could be richer
    or brighter, but also certainly all of us could be a whole lot poorer and be one of the bottom billion folks who live on a $1.50 U.S. a day!!! And so let each one of us give just a small prayer for having just what we have, right now!

  11. I feel envy at retired federal civil servants for their COLA’s. I’ve been retired for 9 years on a fixed company pension and I certainly noticed the slow erosion of my pension buying power. Thank god inflation has been low thus far. However even though I have envy for then, I don’t begrudge them for their good fortune though as a taxpayer,I think it is a perk that is too expensive.

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