Some days I feel guilty

In so many ways, my life has been pretty fortunate:

My parents paid for my college education, so I didn’t take out any student loans and graduated with assets.

I didn’t even know what the word overdraft was until I was 21 and I still have never overdrafted.

I’ve never really been unemployed – I worked in the summer between high school and college starting and was either in school or working throughout college. I took a few months off between graduating from college and starting my full-time job, but I had a job lined up.

I had a job lined up when I graduated, at a company I had interned with.

I picked a career that I enjoy and happened to be quite lucrative at the time that I graduated from college. At many other points in the last decade, finding a job in this field wasn’t so easy, while right now, it’s not so easy to find jobs in other fields.

I have what is apparently really cheap health and dental insurance through my employer.

I haven’t had to pinch my pennies at any point in my life, even though I have tracked the pennies for a good portion of it.

I can spend $6,000 in a month and still see my net worth go up.

I bought a brand-new car in cash within a year of graduating from college, while still investing for retirement and having a good cash reserve.

I can afford whatever I want, without too much concern for the future or the present.

I have a really awesome and cushy job that I quite enjoy.

I’ve never really had to worry about money.

Despite all of the above, some days I forget that my life is awesome. I dig myself into a mental hole. I feel bad for the people who aren’t in a happy, similar situation to me. Coworkers guilt me that I’m watching my spending, when really they’re just suggesting that I spend money on something that I don’t value.

One of the biggest lessons that I’m learning as I grow into my post-college life is that everyone’s life sucks at different points in different ways. Finding zen in my finances and in my life has helped to deal with the ups and downs of life.

Living by myself and having a good routine is sort of like having cash reserves. Having cash reserves helps in stressful situations.

I let myself live by crafting a spending plan that reflects my financial priorities. Sure, I’m spending a lot of money, but I’m saving > 50% of it. Saving has a purpose, but I’m past the point of going all out and saving money to deprive myself of nice things that I can afford.

But I still feel guilty some days. That’s one of the hardest parts about blogging. I worry that other people will see what I earn and what I spend and be unhappy that they’re not doing that too and lash out at me. I guess that’s part of putting my life/financial situation out there on the internet and that’s part of what makes personal finance, well, personal. I didn’t even want to publish this post, for fear that someone might lash out at me for complaining.

Readers, do you ever feel guilty about your financial situation? What do you feel guilty about?

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20 thoughts on “Some days I feel guilty

  1. Well, I’m kind of a new reader, but you can count me among readers who are kind of envious but mostly admiring. I think you’ve got a very sane head on your shoulders about money. People can always be snarky on the internet (I excel at it!)… if it’s inevitable, you may as well write what makes you happy.

    That said, if you really feel guilty in a meaningful sense… maybe you should think about upping charity donations? Supposedly, spending money on others is one of the few ways to spend that is correlated with happiness.
    I don’t feel guilty about my financial situation, but I do feel guilty I’m not more generous right now (or saving for my kid’s college fund better). It’s just there’s so much instability right now…

    • I definitely spend more on my immediate family than I used to. For example, I pay for domain hosting and registration for my sister since that’s something she gets a lot of use out of, but can’t really afford herself. Or I will in a heartbeat lend money to my parents if they’re stuck in a situation, without worrying about whether they’ll pay me back or not. (But they always do, just like I always pay them back when I borrow money from them.) I’ve bought my parents some big presents. I also don’t hesitate to spend money on presents that close friends and significant others would really like, but won’t buy for themselves.

      Spending money on people I don’t know is harder though. Then I have to try to think about where I want to put my dollars and find charities that do what I want to spend money on. Maybe it’s because my parents instilled a money mindset of saving, but not of giving. That’s taking some time to develop better…

  2. Just the fact that you even think about this shows that you’re not taking it for granted, which to me would be the only thing to feel guilty about. Anyone who is born in a developed country is very lucky. Even the homeless in America have so many opportunities to pull themselves up, and access to clean water, that so many others in the world don’t have.

    You are very fortunate, even compared to most Americana, but you’ve earned most of your success with your own efforts. Your parents gave you a great head-start, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

    My mother tried preventing me from going to college, and even stole some of my money/possessions. Now THAT is something someone should feel guilty about!

    • I think I just have issues with anxiety sometimes – maybe guilt is the wrong word? I try to remember when I feel guilty that even though my parents gave me a great head-start, I still worked hard. I’m the one who graduated from high school and undergrad with honors and I’m the one who has saved such a high percentage of my income.

      Wow – your mother tried to prevent you from going to college? I am so sorry. It sounds like you have gone/did go anyways. That is amazing. I don’t know if I would have been strong enough to do that.

  3. I think the *best* think you can do about the guilt is think: how can I use my advantage to make the world a better place for others? What do you care about? Can you give time or money? Even a small part of your income or your skills could go a long way to making someone else’s life better.

    My big things are food, education, and pets. So we give money and food to food banks, we spend time and money helping those without advantages to get education, and we donate to no-kill shelters and programs that spay animals at low or no cost. I’m also a light touch for cancer organizations (whenever my sister asks me for money for a cancer charity in honor of our mother who is a breast cancer survivor, I give). We don’t give as much as we could, but we do give something.

    It’s great to have advantages, and it is great to use those advantages to help the less fortunate. And screw anybody who is jealous. But there’s a reason that Buffett and Gates are so admirable these days and some other rich folks seem more like robber barons. Some folks are trying to make the world a better place and others are trying to die with the most toys. Who’s really a winner?

    • I used to give my time by volunteering to help with kids’ sports, but getting there from work for 4 pm was really difficult. I definitely valued that more than going for happy hour with my coworkers. I also help run and organize STEM outreach events for girls. That’s not exactly charitable, but it is giving my time to support something that I believe in and value.

      I think you’re on the right train. I need to think about what I care about in other people’s lives. Some groups at my work do the “Adopt A Family” at Christmas time, which I always give money to. I care about kids’ stuff, but I am terrible with kids, so giving my money is better than giving my time. I would also prefer to donate my money somewhere local-ish since there are probably kids who don’t have enough food or learn to read or different things like that around here.

      I don’t want to die with the most toys. I would honestly like to recommend that my parents donate my entire estate to charity since they already have enough to live off of for the rest of their lives and my dad is still working, but I’m paralyzed by the choices of where to donate. Last year, one of my projects was understanding more about investing. Perhaps this year, I should spend the time to investigate good ways to donate my money that I would value.

  4. I don’t think you should feel guilt, but I definitely think that you are fortunate to have such a great, cushy job! I’m a little jealous, I’m not going to lie. But, you made good monetary decisions – even the highest of earners can end up in financial ruin, and the fact that you haven’t has shown that you are making good decisions (saving, etc).

    I’ve never felt guilty about my financial situation simply because I really don’t make much money, had to pay for school by myself, and have always struggled a bit financially – but I do feel guilty for some of the things I spend money on with that in mind. Guilt is a useless emotion :)

    • I watch how some of my friends and coworkers spend money… $2,300 per month on rent for a ONE bedroom apartment?! That is way too swanky for me. I doubt he will end up in financial ruin because of that though.

      Guilt is a useless emotion and I’m always having to remind myself of that – thank you :)

  5. the ‘ol “white guilt” or “young upper middle class guilt.” I never assume it will last forever. I’ve seen too many people go from boom to bust. and I’ve found a cause I believe in and invest my time (harder to part with) and my money.

    • I try not to assume that I won’t go to bust either – that’s why (partially…) why I save so much. At this point, if I moved to a lower cost of living area and didn’t travel, I could survive for probably 5-8 years. That makes me much less worried about things going from boom to bust.

  6. You’re doing great but I don’t think you should feel guilty. You made the best with what you have — you can’t fault yourself for just being lucky, it matters what you do with it. The people that should feel guilty are the ones given lots of opportunities that they don’t maximize. That’s a shame!

    • I guess I just see it as that I didn’t ask to be lucky in all these ways and then I feel bad for the people who weren’t lucky in these ways, but didn’t do anything in particular to put themselves into their situations. I have a friend who excelled at school, but just happened to be passionate about an industry that doesn’t pay nearly as well as mine. That was pure luck. Salary isn’t really always based off of hard work, I guess.

  7. I think guilt for many people is misplaced. Maybe you too? Those who know the pains others go through are able to sympathize with their situation. Not having gone through that hardship yourself means that when you feel their pains, it comes from empathy. Empathy that says “I can imagine what you are going through, but not really.”

    Interestingly, on the other hand, your other guilt comes from NOT spending your money on excess and self-pleasures. A complete opposite of the other. I personally feel your friends should listen to you (focus less on material things) and more on each other.

    Also you are in transition. You’ve lived all your childhood in a lower class and now you are adapting to a higher class. Just keep your head on your shoulders so you will avoid the demise it has caused others, I dare not name examples.

    I agree with becca, giving from yourself will make you feel proud and hopefully lessen your feelings of guilt.

    • I’m working on empathy. That’s something I’m having to work on as I consider a move into management… It’s hard!

      I wouldn’t really say I’m in transition from a lower class and adapting to a higher class. I grew up in a very nice house, went to public school, played plenty of sports, always had new clothes (no hand-me-downs), and my parents gave me a healthy allowance. My parents were also quite generous in paying for college and early inheritances afterwards. I certainly have a high income earlier than my dad did, but my parents do still have money now, just not when I was really little. I’m not confident either that I make more money than my parents do.

  8. If you feel guilty, write a letter to your Senator asking for higher tax rates (since clearly American rates are not high enough to truly improve quality of life for the poor) and write a cheque to charity that helps the downtrodden. Finally, when you’re old and gray, remember that society is, in large proportion, responsible for success (even if you’re a free market advocate, at the least the market endowed your work with a disproportionate purchasing power); if you’re a multi-millionaire, leave your kids enough money that they can do anything, but not enough that they can do *nothing* (as Warren Buffett says).

    • What if I don’t have kids? I do worry about what I would do if my parents were to die anytime soon… I probably wouldn’t have to work for the rest of my life. I’m way too young for that. I’m starting to hope that they give some of their estate to charity.

      My effective federal tax rate last year was around 20% and my gross income was over $100,000. I think that’s a tad ridiculous. (Ridiculously low.) I think the Social Security 2% cut is ridiculous – I’d rather pay that extra 2%. I would probably also be okay with continuing to pay Social Security Taxes even after I hit the income maximum of $110,000. I’m glad I keep paying Medicare no matter how high my income goes because I know that seniors’ healthcare is ridiculously expensive.

      I think that my chosen charities would make sure kids have clothes, food, can play sports, and read and do math, especially women. And maybe a bit for marriage equality and improving mat leave in the States…

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