Comparisons

Before embracing it, I very nearly dismissed the whole FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early) concept.

The idea had piqued my interest immediately but at first glance, it seemed as if I did not fit into ‘the same mould’ as everyone pursuing FI (or having reached FI).

I looked on in dismay as I compared myself with the entrepreneurs, consultants, engineers, bankers, IT specialists and other high earners who were able to tuck away not just the equivalent of my entire salary year on year, but in some cases, multiples of my salary, for their financial freedom and early retirement. My initial thought was, ‘Crap, I can’t do this, I don’t earn enough and I’m in the wrong sort of job!’

Then I compared ages and everyone seemed so young – people in their 20s and 30s aiming (and on track) to be FI and to ‘retire early’ by 40 or by their early 40s. I was already in my mid-40s by the time I came across MMM – crap, was it all too late for an ‘old girl’ like me? (although it’s a good job I don’t look or act old 🙂 )

Another thing was that it appeared that you needed to make huge sacrifices to become FI. I mean I am and was able to cut back on my spending but I couldn’t see myself taking the extreme route and being a frugal recluse, living a cheap but not very cheerful (in my opinion) life or living like a student again.

More importantly, I didn’t want to be seen as tight-fisted by friends and family. Yeah, I know I shouldn’t care what anyone thinks.  While I don’t mind being a bit different, I do care about what the people I care about think, especially if it may affect my relationships.

So, it would have been no surprise if I had gone about my merry way, thinking FIRE was a nice idea but not for me.

Except that I continued to read about it with an open mind. Why? Because despite my initial misgivings, the whole concept really fascinated me and I couldn’t stop thinking about it!

I ran some basic numbers (on the proverbial back of a fag packet) and it dawned on me that I didn’t need to earn megabucks (no, I don’t need £1 million!) or do exactly what someone else was doing or did – I could just take certain (good) ideas and apply them to my own situation.  Yep, personal finance being what it says on the tin!

FIRE  comparisons are like comparing these two

More Comparisons

However, despite embarking on my FIRE journey, I couldn’t help but continue to compare myself to others.

People whose net worths were waaay bigger than mine after a shorter space of time, people achieving astronomically high savings rates, effortless side hustles and blogs earning income to die for. Some had already reached FI, or they were only X years away and they were only in their 30s etc.

Such comparisons were at times a little disheartening until I eventually realised that it was just  pointless comparing myself to others.  The only comparison worth taking note of is that of comparing my own progress over time.

These days, I can now look at other people’s very high net worths and mega savings rates and admire them and applaud them, without feeling bad about my own attempts and performance.

To say that I never feel any envy would be to lie, but hey, I’m only human – I just don’t dwell on the envy or allow it to become negative, I just focus on what I’m doing myself. Everyone’s situation and circumstances are different, whether it’s their background, age, stage in their lives, different countries, different jobs etc.

Numbers

Not everyone likes to share their actual numbers but I made the decision to do so when I started this blog – I just know that some readers like to see real figures (to compare with their own, I suppose, haha!).

Until around nine years ago, my net worth was a negative number due to my numerous credit card debts. I eventually paid these debts off and by the time I started my FI journey in 2014, my net worth was £74,596.

As at the end of August, it stood at £205,509.

STOP! Try not to compare my net worth with your own – we are different! 🙂

I didn’t even notice that I’d passed the £200k milestone because by itself, it doesn’t actually mean anything, it’s just a number since I’m not using it in any of my calculations. However, it’s good to compare how far I’ve come since those negative days!

[EDIT – I see from some of the comments that I need to make a clarification – my £200k race with John K is with my Future Fund, not my Net Worth. My Future Fund currently stands at £125,946]

Do you compare yourself or your savings/investments progress and how does it make you feel?

40 thoughts on “Comparisons

  1. Congrats on passing the £200k mark, that is definitely worthy of a victory dance!

    You’re absolutely right about the comparison game, especially comparing to the selectively presented, sanitised, often made up entirely numbers from the internet. Makes about as much sense as trying to run away from your own shadow.

    By all means study them, attempt to discern what others are doing differently, and whether those things could be feasibly applied to your own circumstances.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, sounds like it is working, without compromising on the happy all that much.

    • Thanks Slow Dad.

      Yes, I do try to see what others are doing differently and consider if that’s something I want to do too, just pick the best ideas which I can apply to my own situation.

      Thanks for your continued support!

  2. Hi Weenie,

    Firstly congratulations on the 200k milestone – I’ve been following your blog for a while now and I’m cheering you on! Sometimes I think It’s a bit like watching a TV series where you start to root for the main character, except in this case you and other bloggers are real people on your quest for FI which makes it all the more meaningful.

    I guess it’s human nature to compare yourself to others – I know I’m guilty of it. But ultimately it’s futile – I read an article not too long ago about how people on high incomes are usually unhappy because they tend to be rubbing shoulders with people on even higher salaries. Which is ridiculous when you think about it!

    There is definitely a snowball effect as well. When I look at how much I’m saving now compared to how much I was saving five years ago, or even two years ago, the difference is amazing. So again I don’t think it’s fair to compare yourself to someone who is almost FIREd or already there.

    One last thing – I read somewhere the average pension pot in the UK for those aged between 55-65 (ie people who are approaching retirement age) is about £100k. Which makes you think really – we in the FIRE community are probably in the top 10% when it comes to our net worths – so maybe we should give ourselves a pat on the back!

    Wephway

    • Thanks Wephway.

      Some of those on high incomes are just trying to keep up with the Joneses so yes, ultimately will never be happy as there’s always going to be someone earning more than they are!

      Hard to not compare, though isn’t it? But like I said, I no longer let it get to me, I’m just happy with my own progress.

      Interesting, I’ve never really thought about being in the top 10% but I guess us folk aiming for FIRE are in the minority.

      I’ve not had a chance to check out your blog or your progress so I shall wander over at some point!

  3. Nice work on passing the £200k mark weenie. Next stop £250k!

    A thoughtful post also. One that nicely reinforces that FIRE is not a competition. Instead it’s a very personal journey that is different for everyone yet at the same time provides opportunity for us all to learn something from each other to maximise our own pace to that final FIRE destination.
    Retirement Investing Today recently posted…Improving the Safe Withdrawal Rate for UK Retirees StoryMy Profile

    • Thanks RIT.

      Yes, the personal journey has got to be at the right pace so that we can enjoy the ‘scenery’ along the way, as it were! I continue to enjoy reading other people’s blogs as there is always something to learn or if not, just some reassurance that I’m on the right path!

  4. Very wise words Weenie!

    I too came to FI late, and have been focussing on becoming mortgage free, I’ve beem debt free otherwise for years. I like follwing your blog because it feels more real, I’m not a financial adviser, thechie or entrepeneur like some of those younger people on their way to FI or already there! I’d like to achieve FIRE, but would be happy to achieve a more comfortable lifestyle either working less or doingd a job I enjoy more, even if its not full FI or FIRE.

    I’ve never thought about my net worth before. Is there a simple method for calculating it?

    • Hi Richard

      There’s always the chance that I may not achieve full FI but I will certainly have a more comfortable lifestyle than if I had never gotten started on this path.

      At its simplest, Net worth is:

      Total Assets minus total liabilities

      So in the Assets, you could have your pension pots, ISAs, other investments, value of your house, cash etc.

      In the Liabilities, any credit card debts, loans, mortgage etc.

      Some people argue that you shouldn’t include the house that you live in but as long as you’re consistent with how you’re measuring your own net worth, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to calculate it.

      Good luck with your FIRE goals!

  5. Thank you for posting this. I can relate. I’m in my 40’s and dream of FI/RE, but I’m not even on the road yet. I’m still back in the parking lot climbing out of a ton of debt.

    Unless there is a serious increase in my income, the best I can do is reach FI, not RE. That’s a little sad, but I focus on the fact things could be way worse for me if I hadn’t learned the hard way about personal finance and the evil damage that debt does to our futures. I haven’t given up hope. In the meantime, I just need to find a side-business that will boost my income.

    I enjoy reading your blog. Congrats on the milestone. 200K is a big deal! Keep it up. 🙂
    Denise @ Double Debt Single Woman recently posted…[-$65,348] Data Breach EditionMy Profile

    • Thanks Denise.

      Although it sounds like you have a hill to climb to pay off your debt, the good news is that you are climbing and not continuing downwards into more debt!

      Reaching FI is still a massive goal on its own no matter what the age. Even to retire at normal age to know that you don’t have to worry about your finances would be a great comfort to many!

      Thanks for reading and all the best with clearing your debt!

  6. Congratulations on your great progress, and thank you for sharing a valuable perspective!

    Like you, I didn’t learn about FIRE until my mid-40s, so it can be a bit frustrating to think about what “might have been” if I had been more knowledgeable about and focused on the topic when I was younger. That said, we are in a good place, and I am hopeful we can achieve financial independence before turning 50.

    It’s interesting to follow other’s journeys, and I always learn something new when I read a post like yours, but I don’t get too caught up in comparing my progress. Thinking and blogging about FIRE keeps me headed in the right direction, and like you, as long as I am making progress, I am happy!
    Retiring On My Terms recently posted…Update: Chase Freedom Announces 5% Cash Back Categories For Q4 17My Profile

    • Thanks ROMT!

      There’s every chance that had I come across FIRE in my 20s and 30s, I’m not sure that I would have been mentally ready for it! I would have dismissed it outright as I was too busy spending money and living with debt (because I thought that was the norm).

      That’s great news that you only learned about FIRE in your mid-40s and yet you’re in a position to reach FI before you turn 50 – wow, well done!

  7. Congratulations Weenie! It seemed like only a few months ago you were posting about your race to 200K from a starting point of 100K – and I checked, and it was only June this year! (http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2017/06/16/race-to-200k/) I’m not trying to compare or being jealous 🙂 but is this measured differently, because doubling your money in three months is nothing short of amazing if you’ve managed it… 🙂

    I think the idea that you don’t have to go all-or-nothing on an idea like FI is great, but easier said than done, so kudos for managing it. I’m sure I’m guilty of dismissing all sorts of potentially useful ideas in all areas of life because I’m put off by other ideas they tend to get bundled together with.

    • Thanks Steve.

      And thanks for pointing out that doubling my money in 3 months is short of amazing (or rather, impossible!) I have now (hopefully) clarified in my post that my race to £200k is with my Future Fund, not my Net Worth. So I haven’t doubled my money!

      Some ideas sound great when someone else is doing them but not so great when you try to apply to your own situation! I’ve tried a few which didn’t work out but keep (or adapt) the ones which do.

  8. Does this mean you’ve won your bet with JK? If so, i hope you have included the winnings in your net worth figure!

    For me, the FIRE community is more about having the reassurance from a load of sensible like minded people, that we’re all heading in roughly the right direction, we’re all moving at our own pace, and there’s definitely no need to keep up with the Jones’s amongst us. And, based upon your performance over the past few months that i definitely don’t want to be the next victim of any milestone bet with you!

    Keep up the good work.

    • Hi KC

      Sorry for the confusion but no – my ‘bet’ with JK was with my Future Fund, not my Net Worth! (post edited now for clarification).

      Yes, I agree, reassurance as well as new ideas from like minded people is what the FIRE community is all about. We’re all heading in the same direction, doing similar (but not the same) things.

      Thanks for your continued support.

  9. Really interesting – I’m a bit older than you and started seriously saving/investing when I hit forty. Not quite achieved financial independence yet but have managed to generate the equivalent of 9 times gross salary in the past 11 years by just being sensible really and taking a couple of calculated risks that have paid off.
    Can’t retire yet but am coming down to 2 days a week.
    Keep up what you’re doing. The compounding will really kick in and with a bit of luck as well you’ll be set up before you know it

    • Hi Binoch

      Well done on your achievement over the past 11 years – yes, it is very much all about being sensible and taking some (investment, in my case) risks. Great to hear that you are down to 2 days a week – I think that’s what I’d like to do, rather than stop working altogether, I’d like to go part-time first and wind myself down.

      As I’ve only really been investing for 3 years, I’ve really yet to see the compounding but I look forward to it. And yes, I’m all too aware that I’ll need Lady Luck on my side too!

      Cheers for stopping by!

  10. We are all very different! I nearly stopped my FI journey at the very start for reasons similar to your own. I was at work mid-career and beginning to be able to look beyond just covering my bills and mortgage. I’d been mulling over what my own FI target might be (in monthly terms) and at the end of a long day ended up in a conversation with someone very senior at work about how much he thought he needed to retire on. He reflected (as one of that generation with the last DB pensions) and came out with an astronomical figure and I asked him what he thought he’d be doing in his retirement (to burn through levels of money that I would never come close to). His answer was illuminating as he outlined a lifestyle of multiple homes, high-end travel with his family and playing top top end golf courses around the world (on his own implied). My own reference points included none of that and my own aspirations were and remain so much more modest (golf with mates at a local course). Thankfully the comparison rather than dissuading me from trying or recalibrating my aspirations to something I would never attain (and after the initial thrill probably wouldn’t enjoy in the long run), that conversation focused me on my on values and on recognizing just how different we all will be in terms of what we are planning for. In particular it made me quite disciplined in making sure I didn’t let my lifestyle inflate and I made sure any increases or windfalls were saved rather than frittered away. I respected his choices and was grateful that it’s high consumption such as his that fuels the economies that enable a few of us to choose to take it easier, earlier with enough to enjoy life.
    We’re 10 years on now and, but for having to build up a bit of a buffer in case Brexit really ruins things, I feel FI is close for me.
    Love your blog, respect your values and I’m sure you’re inspiring many others to think differently about what is possible – keep up the good work.

    • Thanks for sharing, Captain Sensible – great to hear that you weren’t put off by that conversation and were level-headed enough to make your own more achievable plans.

      Interesting that you mention that his high consumption is what fuels the economies that unable us few to choose to take it easier and earlier – I would love more people to learn about FIRE but you wouldn’t want it to go mainstream would you, or no one would be spending any money and the economy would go pear-shaped!

      Good luck with the rest of your FI journey and thanks for your kind words of support.

    • Thanks John.

      Do you mean the privacy and cookies policy tab? I have to have something like that on the blog according to EU rules.

      I’m sorry you find it irritating – I could find another similar widget but that could turn out to be just as irritating. I’ll have a look when I have some time to sort out my blog template.

  11. Hi Weenie,

    Congratulations on breaking the £200k net worth figure! As you say it is very personal journey, the most important thing is that you (and others, myself included) found the journey in the first place.
    You are right, it is human nature to compare (I know I do – to the extent I even have the MMM year on year values that they generated to compare myself against even though it is totally pointless!).
    More than anything, the main thing is to start saving but without affecting your current mental happiness.
    Keep up the good work and I can’t wait to see who hits the 200k future fund first!

    • Thanks FiL.

      Yes, starting the journey in the first place is the most important thing! If I hadn’t randomly come across MMM, I’d be obliviously on the road to a mediocre retirement, with no choice but to carry on working for as long as possible!

      Sometimes, I want to rant at my friends to start their journeys because I would love it if we could all retire early at the same time but they’re not ready – I hope I can open their eyes to it at some point!

      I think I will take the lead for a while in the £200k race and then the markets crashing will see JK overtake me, haha!

  12. Hi Weenie,

    Very wise words…

    Then we have family (in my case in law family) who keep constantly remind me (comparing me) that “you need a bigger car, you need to move into a house (I am very happy leaving in a flat)..”

    because they are making full usage of ” never never institution” …they think we should too….

    My biggest battle is to make people around me to understand, that i am fine with the lifestyle I chosen… I have a very modest car…because my passion in life is traveling (as well as working towards FI) and also be able to fly overseas every year to see my family and spend good quality time over there…

    To summarise, I don’t compare my situation against others as much, but I find myself being compared by others (family often), judged if you will, as to what I have/what I owned….just because I chosen a different pattern to deal with my financial affairs.

    All the very best

    Anete

    • Hi Anete

      Thanks for sharing, I really understand where you’re coming from. The person who has compared me the most in the past has been my own Mother (‘you need a new car’, ‘you need to get a better job’, ‘you need to get married…’etc. Compared to other members of the family, I think she feels that I am an ‘under achiever’. Fortunately, I don’t think I am!

      When I was younger, it bothered when she compared me (and I agree with your word, ‘judged’) but after a while, I stopped listening to her and felt a lot less pressure.

      These days, if she tries to compare me, I just shrug my shoulders which really annoys her and she says ‘You’re so like your dad!’ haha!

      My siblings lead very different lives from me and I’m happy for them and celebrate their successes with them. Like you, I own less than they do but it’s a different path we have chosen.

      All the best with your journey!

  13. Congratulations as passing the £200 NW milestone Weenie, it must feel amazing:) Great post! I often find myself comparing my own NW to others, but I am just starting out on my journey so have a very long way to go and therefore try to be kind to myself and enjoy the fact that I am progressing, month on month and I will get to where I want to be at some point – hopefully before standard retirement age. I have a plan and I am just going to keep implementing it:)

    Jamie

    • Thanks Jamie!

      Yes, the best idea is to just track your own month on month progress and then as time goes by, year on year. In the first year or so, it did feel as if I wasn’t making any headway at all with my goals but bit by bit, things just started to build upwards.

      Good luck with the plan (and good luck with the matched betting!) and keep at it!

  14. Talking a lot of sense here as usual weenie!

    Yea it’s all very well people saying about don’t keep up with the Joneses but then you get thrown into the whole FI world and it’s just a different comparison game to play. Net Worth, Savings Rates etc rather than who’s got the latest BMW or the largest SUV.

    I think we’ve all done it in the past and no doubt will do in future, all you can do is try to not think about it too much I guess as it’s a pointless exercise!

    I like that blogs like yours and I also think mine are showing numbers even though they aren’t smashing it on either income or savings rates (the latter in particular mine recently… haha). It goes to show people on relatively average salaries can still make spending adjustments, save for FI and still actually have some fun (I mean fun that costs money). It may take us longer to get there but there is no one true path to FI, right? 🙂

    Cheers!

    • Cheers TFS

      Yep, it’s not a race to get to FI, as long as it fits in with your plans. And yes, I hope my numbers are useful to people, not to compare but to show what can be achieved.

  15. Thanks for an honest post, weenie – and congrats on reaching the 200K mark. Great job! 🙂

    I constantly compare myself to other FI bloggers, but I use it as a big source of inspiration for what I can do with my own life (and what I will not do). Also, looking at the FI bloggers that are already retired is one of my biggest motivations for getting there. However, I try not to compare other FI’ers savings rate to mine because I know I will never be able to achieve the really high ones with my preferred lifestyle.

    • Thanks Carl.

      Yes, there are many FI bloggers out there who inspired me to aim for FI and start my own blog, and who continue to motivate me with their efforts and determination. And it is all about lifestyle and situation – different lifestyles, different savings rates.

  16. Hi Weenie, great progress in 3 years. One of the first things I read in a blog was ‘don’t compare your start with somebody else’s end’, though it’s not always easy to remember this! On the one hand I’m inspired by others, then I also look at where I am and wish I’d taken action sooner, which doesn’t help at all. You’ve definitely got the right attitude, focused on your own progress. Keep up the good work!

    • Cheers Sarah!
      That’s a great saying, I’d not seen that before so thanks!

      I try not to think of what I could have done sooner – that way lies regrets, which I can’t do anything about. I’m just glad I’m on the path I’m on now as I am in control!

  17. I can definitely relate to all of this. Sometimes starting early-forties feels like I am all alone, surrounded by the Millennials. I like and admire the Millennials, but I just don’t have their energy or drive any more! And with the shorter time-frame, standard tactics won’t allow me to reach the same amazing results they are likely to get.

    Reading all of the comments on this post is inspirational to me as well. There are a lot of Gen X’s out there doing this. *Waves* Hi Everyone!
    Mrs. ETT recently posted…Life Insurance Isn’t Just About You – Or Is It?My Profile

    • Hey Mrs ETT
      Exactly – I enjoy reading about what the Millennials are doing but their paths (and timelines) are very different to us slightly-older folk and you’re right about the energy and drive they have!

      I was really pleased when I heard that I was ‘Gen X’, I always kinda wanted to be like, you know, in the ‘X-Men’, haha!

  18. Excellent job on reaching 200k and I echo alot of the comments from others around enjoying your blog because it seems more realistic/achievable than some of the others. I remember when I first started reading blogs back a few years ago I started following one from an American woman who was making 200k+ in salary and working abroad so had rented out her house for extra income. The figures she was floating around were totally out of reach to me and I did find myself trying to compare even though I could never come close to those.

    I think a big part of the issue is that most well known FI blogs are American and they seem to have much higher average salaries than ours. Part of this is offset against our better employment protection laws and state benefits/NHS etc so it’s not really a try comparison when we do US to UK.

    • Thanks Guy. Yes, some of those US salaries I read about too were just mind boggling but they were looking to retire with millions. I eventually calculated that I won’t need that much (even half that much), otherwise I would never have attempted going for FI.

      The well known US blogs rake in so much blog income that it can skew things I think – the odd £60 I get from Google Adsense and the OddsMonkey affiliate income is peanuts in comparison but I still document it all. Don’t some of these blogs bring in like over £50k – £100k a year?

      Yep, the medical thing is a big issue – although the NHS isn’t technically completely free (eg, prescriptions), all other treatment pretty much is, so I am thankful we’re different in that respect.

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