#FirstWorldFriday: My friends are buying second homes and I’m falling behind

first world problem tears

This is First World Fridays #FWF (check out the first FWF here – it was a wild success!) where I share the frivolous stuff that I allow to occupy my mind, and I turn it into an expression of gratitude. Please do it the same – in the comments, Facebook, Twitter, privately within yourself. Tag it #FWF (yes, I’m asking you to tag your silent prayers) and let’s start a revolution!

My First World Friday: A few of my friends have bought summer homes in the past couple years. It’s awesome, of course, to visit these friends at their beach/mountain/country places. But it makes me feel jealous and that I am a loser falling behind my peers financially and professionally. Which is oh-so First World Fridays it isn’t even funny.

On one hand I talk myself out of this envy by reminding myself of the realities of all three of these families – their second homes were afforded them by way of a) being 20-years older than me (and thus many more years of earning), b) inheritance, and c) one chooses not to have children (which, you know, are really freaking expensive). Also: all three are two-income families. I’m single. In other words, I talk myself down from the envy-ledge by justifying that they have more money than me thanks to factors beyond my control. It’s like being jealous of Cindy Crawford’s career, then reminding yourself that you’re not genetically stunningly gorgeous — so let it go.

But that isn’t the point at all. The POINT, Emma, is that IT DOESN’T MATTER! A second home is the consummate sign of wealth (which, admittedly, I covet) and not having one is far from a sign of failure or poverty.

If you’ve felt like me, here’s a little something to ease your self-beration for feeling jealous of your richer friends. Penn State researchers found that comparison of financial success with your peers is the second largest source of happiness or unhappiness (after physical health). In other words, if you live in the favelas of Rio and are just as filthy-poor as everyone else in the favela, you are likely to be quite happy. But if your hedge fund goes under and you’re the only one on the golf course now leasing opposed to owning your private jet, you are likely to be miserable.

GRATITUDE: But I won’t use that bit of pop psychology to justify wallowing in my covetous ways. Instead, I commit to being grateful for all I have. Keeping it totally real – I have a pretty nice home, a pretty big New York apartment that I own. No room to complain there, as I know in this regard I actually have a lot more than many of my peers. My closets are full of clothes I hardly wear. The cupboards brim with food to last a month or more. I am financially richer than 99% of the world’s population and I have zero to be want for, and more to be grateful for than my WordPress storage account can hold. Except, of course, a cute little bungalow in the country. Maybe painted yellow with a tire swing in the apple tree out back. And space to grow tomatoes. With nice neighbors and a fireplace …. 

Now your turn! Please share your #FWF, and also #Gratitude!About #FWF: Each week I will post here about the annoyingly frivolous thing I worried about the previous week. I also vow to devote that energy into an expression of gratitude. Two things are true: Sharing openly that which we are ashamed of (in this case devoting time and energy to silly stuff) frees you from that shame, and gives others the permission to do so. Also: The only way to be happy is to be grateful. So post here, on social media, or privately within your family, circle of friends, or even within yourself your own #FirstWorldFriday. Remember – In one breath purge your silly worries, in a second express gratitude.

Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.

Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.

A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.

23 thoughts on “#FirstWorldFriday: My friends are buying second homes and I’m falling behind

  1. I honestly do not get this sense of jealousy. Please don’t get me wrong, your feelings are legit, and it shows maturity that you can see it in yourself, accept it, and try to kick it in the butt. Even in the worse of times, when I had nothing, and my friends were getting married, had children, buying homes, I was happy of their achievements. We all start life from different advantages/disadvantages – keeping up with the Jones’ is totally unrealistic and unhealthy. When I hear a lot of people complain about others’ success I do not get it at all. Psychologically a person would be in a better place for themselves if they can find it in their heart to simply be happy for the other person’s good fortune/achievements etc.

  2. Hi Ana! I hope I didn’t come off as begrudging others’ success or real estate — that is now how I feel. I just a) wish I had a weekend home, b) worry that [as illogical as it may be] the fact I can’t afford one means that I am doing something wrong. You can covet others’ things without feeling ill will towards them.

    I agree ‘keeping up with the joneses’ is not where one should put there energy. At the same time, their is value in comparing yourself to your peers when it comes to work and money. For example, if I were a lazy bum and only worked five hours per week and my kids were starving as a result, comparing myself to hard-working people with well-fed children might kick my ass into gear to meet a valuable societal norm. On the other end of the spectrum, if I felt jealous because someone has giant house and luxury cars, I might also see that that person works 80 hours per week and rarely sees their kids. A healthy society and healthy people benefit from comparing ourselves to others. It’s human, normal and necessary.

    1. The couple friends I have that have a “weekend home” only appear wealthy. In reality they are deep in debt, and should they lose one of their jobs (both are married), their finances will tumble like so many dominoes. When I compare myself to that I don’t feel jealous at all. I’m quite glad.

      I recently started making a pretty darn good living, and am aiming to be in a pretty good position in a couple years. I’ll still be plenty satisfied with my small house, old – but paid for – truck, and lack of a “weekend home”.

      That extra home just brings more housework, yardwork, and financial issues. Blech.

      When I’ve gone to financial consultants for my savings they always comment how have only a page, or so, of financial history to review. The consultants tell me they often have stacks of old debt, new debt, and bankruptcy records to review with most clients, so my financial history is nice and easy to figure out. I’m not a penny pincher by any means, but I don’t go out and purchase that weekend home, or overpriced Mercedes to keep up with the Jones.

      1. This so resonates with me – I do dream of that weekend home, but the balloon pops for all the reasons you sited. There is no substitute for peace of mind, financial security and simple living. You can always take a vacation, rent a summer house, and otherwise indulge and have fun. The goal for me is to do with as little stress and work as possible :)

  3. Oh I agree, I see peer pressure as a totally positive drive to keep people on the success track, especially at a young age, as we get older, bcs of multiple variables the paths to success are not very comparable. I generally am amazed at some people, how they thrive and work hard to achieve their dreams, look at you, how hard you work at being a great mom and running a business, being successful all while you are making a great life for your small family. I admire you for all you do, you make it look easy, but I do know, that I could not possibly be able to do what you do, therefore knowing my limitations, stops me getting into envious territory. I hear people all the time moan about other people’s success, or jump on the passive wagon and complain about their fate..its a very first world ailment :-). I am a true believer that we achieve only the level of success that we can handle. Jealousy toward others is not just a first world phenomena, I come from the second world, and its live and well there too :-)

  4. :) Thanks for the kind words. I disagree, though: Each of us can do far more than they think they can. I know that just a few years ago I was unable to even DREAM I could handle what I have. I was just remembering being in a lawyer’s office when I was going through my divorce and he said: “You never know, in a few years you may not want your husband to know what you earn [meaning – I might be earning so much more than him]” I gafawed. That seemed impossible! Now … well ….

    But I agree that we set our own limitations and complain about fate. I also believe that success is all relative. Money alone is not success and can come with so many negatives. So, too, in other areas of life. We’re all on our own journeys, that is for sure!!!

  5. oh, and I did not read it as you begrudging others real estate or success :-) just trying to compare angles. I also think bcs I grew up in a society where there was zero competition, everyone was pretty much the very same, I am more geared to living say in Sweden then here :-)

  6. Yes, I also agree with your disagreement – I should have said that we have limitations based on the stage of life we are. When I first came to this country, if one would have told me that in 10 years I would be where I am, I would have laughed. But life has a way to prepare us, or throw us in situations that we would have never thought possible, and then we either rise to the occassion, or we can’t make it.
    To throw you another counterargument to the second home argument, we own two homes now, and I would give an arm and a leg not to :-) the time drain on having to handle two properties is way too much. Instead the way I see it, I would love to have liquid cash flow, so I could travel the world and have every vacation in a different place, open my eyes to the beauties of the world and expose my child to the world at large. I can dream :-)

    1. LOL – TOLD you – there is never winning :-) and my parents are here and helping us no end, and I still feel its too much. But my real FWF problem this was was this: I decided to make a garden table out of pipes – so a trip to HD was semi successful bcs I had misscalculated the length of the pipes so the table is short. The table needs chairs, so I have been tracking the stock at the IKEA brooklyn of a chair that is in high demand – yesterday they told me they will have it this morning. I called today at 10:50am, they tell me, they put 20 or more on the floor and someone bought them all…. AGH, so now I am left without outdoor chairs and I might have to go ALL THE WAY to Elizabeth, NJ, New Jersey, did you hear me? to buy them… there you have it.

  7. Serious first world Friday this week. 1st my housekeeper changed days so my house was dirty an extra day. Then my nanny needed to go to a doctors appointment so I had to miss my weekly riding lesson. I’ve wanted to get upset about the short notice but I realize I should be grateful and gracious, I am so lucky to have all the help I do.

  8. Youre so right when you say money is relative. I know someone who’s a millionaire and doesn’t work, but laments the fact that he’s not as wealthy as other people he knows. He and his wife are depressed because they lost some money recently and are only worth about 4 or 5 mill. It’s truly sad. We spent a few days with them recently and it’s very sad to see. What a waste!

    1. @Carmela – Perfect example. The recent trend of billionaires committing huge portions of their wealth to charity is really powerful in this regard: a la Gates, Branson, etc.

  9. I used to be afflicted with a similar type of envy. In the ’90s, I lived in a small condo in the city and drove an economy car while it seemed like everyone else had a SUV and a 2,500 sq ft house in the suburbs. Finally got the 2,500 sq ft house in the ‘burbs several years ago, though we opted for a minivan instead of a SUV.

    I actually kind of like the minivan. But I hate the house and the suburbs. If I moved out tomorrow, I doubt I’d miss it or ever come back.

    Part of it’s b/c I don’t dig the people here. But the bigger part is suburban life just isn’t for me. Once the kids are older, I’m going back to the city and into a townhouse or condo where I belong.

    Be careful what you wish for.

  10. I SO can relate!!!

    But, I want to thank y’all for helping me narrow down my goal.
    I am putting “money to rent a vacation home for 2 months over the summer and be able to work PT during that time remotely” on my GOAL list.


    I was reading this post and thinking – I want to have a summer home.
    But then it hit me – I don’t even WANT to have a first home, so … DUH! I wouldn’t want to have a second home EITHER!!!

    I rent and I like it.
    I don’t have a huge financial commitment that ties me down to the area and makes me super anxious about “what would happen if I loose my job”. So for now – I am happy and content.

    Also – I did some soul searching (as a result of an exercise) – essentially I want(ed) to travel the world and there was a lot of anxiety in me because I wasn’t traveling the world but I kept wanting it and wanting it. So one deep searching soul exercise later – I found/it hit me – that I LIKE COMFORT. And that’s why I wasn’t traveling the world.
    The idea of being in discomfort while traveling, staying in not very comfortable accommodations, being on a bus with smelly-scary people, not having a cup of coffee in the morning – just the way I like it, etc … all those little things were really the reason I wasn’t willing to travel the world and wasn’t doing it. I liked the idea of being a world traveler – on the cheap of course – cause I am not independently wealthy to stay at all the best accommodations and afford the “best” while traveling.

    Having come to that realization finally made sense to me and I do not have that anxiety anymore.
    Yes, I would like to travel – but now I know that I would like to travel in comfort, with planned itinerary and planning for things. And that is the kind of person that I am – and I am ok with that.

    So. Yay! :)
    Thank you for the blog/column. I am coming back to your blog more and more and I am loving your writing and your insights and your humor and help and support and feedback. I am grateful for your blog – to have it here on the nets – easily accessible for those times when I really need it.


    1. Awww… GG, thank you!! And yeah, on a practical note, home ownership is not for everyone! Check out Ana – she has two properties and fantasizes about ditching them both and traveling! Grass=always greener.

      So glad to have you back and part of the community here.

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