Other People’s Money: Expect It Only if You Earn It

Don’t covet it, count it, or count on it

That’s our advice. As difficult as it is (because it’s just human nature to be curious), try not to focus on other people’s money.

Shows like MTV Cribs give us a better view into the private lives of celebrities than the public has ever had. We’ve seen Shaquille O’Neal’s bathroom. We know that Donald Trump has gold faucets in his multimillion-dollar condo. And we’ve gotten a peek into many celebrities’ garages and closets and seen their ridiculous collections of expensive cars and brand-name clothes.

Glimpsing how the super-rich live can be a fun diversion, but it can make many people jealous and unhappy.


The average American spends $69 a day, even though we only have an average of $34 in our wallets.

Money doesn’t equal happiness

A study on the link between money and happiness found something very interesting. Families earning $50,000 a year reported being happier, on average, than those earning less than $50,000. But above that $50,000 mark, no matter how much more money families earned, they didn’t report being any happier.

This makes sense.

Having too little money to meet your basic needs and the needs of your family—like food, clothing, shelter and medical care—can be very stressful. But once those needs are met, money doesn’t seem to make a difference. Happiness comes not from having more cash, but from good relationships, good friends, fulfilling hobbies, or even doing work you like.


Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
~Abraham Lincoln

Money can actually create problems

How many celebrities do we need to see on the news checking into rehab for drug addiction, or getting arrested for domestic violence, or owing huge amounts of money in unpaid taxes—before we realize that fame and money don’t always lead to happiness?

Fame and money even sometimes lead to misery, as people struggle with feelings of guilt, boredom, or frustration—and with the fact that they still aren’t always happy and still have problems.

Radio host Dennis Prager offers this great quote from his best friends’ mother: “The only happy people I know are people I don’t know well.”

We all feel pain and frustration and sadness—even rich people!


More money buys more happiness for the poor and more headaches for those who already have too much.
– Anonymous

Don’t count other people’s money

Maybe you have a friend who’s allowed to download anything she wants from iTunes. And maybe your parents have set a limit for you of only $10 worth of downloads per month.

Pretty frustrating, right?

But think about it. Were you happy when your parents first told you they’d pay for some iTunes downloads? Did you only become frustrated when you found out that your friend’s parents let her buy more music than you? What changed besides your feelings?

That’s right, nothing.

Other people might be counting yours

Now consider your other friend. You know his parents don’t have much money. He has to pay with his own money for anything he downloads. How do you think he feels when he finds out you have a $10 music download gift from your parents every month? How do you feel knowing that he might be jealous? Maybe when he tells his parents that you get $10 a month, they let him do the same. But what happens when he finds out about your other friend with unlimited downloads?

The less time you think about what others have and earn, the less frustrated you’re likely to be. Trust us, there will always be someone with more money than you have. (And if you end up being the one exception to that rule, we’d like to think that this course helped you get there!)

If somebody gives you an expensive gift, far more than you could afford to give them, what should you do?


Accept it if appropriate, but be grateful, and don’t come to expect that they’ll do it again.

Don’t count on other people’s money

We all have our own way of handling money. You might know some very wealthy people who are extremely generous. Or they might not be.

The point is, counting on the generosity of other people usually leads to resentment and disappointment. If you have rich friends or family members, and get an expensive gift, be grateful for that act of kindness and generosity—and don’t expect the next gift to be as expensive.

Try not to form expectations about how much people should give you—or worse, what you think they owe you. There may be things about their Whole Money Picture that you don’t know.

The cost of a gift is not a measure of how much a person cares about you.

If you catch yourself counting…

There are two things you should keep in mind when you hear yourself counting other people’s money.

First, do you really know their Whole Money Picture? Maybe they spend all their money to keep up, but have nothing in savings. Maybe their parents are so wealthy that your friend will never have a financial worry in his life. You don’t really know.

Which brings us to the second point. What difference does it make? Being bitter about the inequality isn’t going to change anything.

Worry about your own money, and let the other guy worry about his. You’ll save yourself a lot of frustration and wasted energy, and you’ll be a lot happier.

Another game nobody wins

We hope we’ve convinced you never to waste time feeling jealous about someone’s money—or feeling jealous about anything, for that matter.

Since you can’t know whether the person you’re jealous of is actually happy, whatever thoughts you have about how much better their lives are can come only from your own imagination. And you have many more productive and creative uses for your imagination than thinking about this.

Besides, in the irony of all ironies, you might spend your time feeling jealous of someone… who’s actually jealous of you!


Never spend your money before you have earned it.
-Thomas Jefferson


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