Don't confuse what you have with who you are. There's a better way to measure financial success.
Question: I teach high school students and am doing all right financially but often feel insignificant when I get together with my old college friends. They are all making so much more money than I am and are able to do things that aren't monetarily possible for me, like go on exotic trips and eat out all the time. Even though I'm proud to be a teacher, the fact that I'm not earning as much money as my friends makes me feel like I'm not doing as well in life. I know it's not my friends' fault, but how can I stop being so angry about this?
Suze: It's important both financially and emotionally to deal with your anger, because if you don't, it will eventually rise to the surface. You'll begin to do things that are not in your best interest, such as taking Friday's paycheck and impulsively spending it on Saturday. Your anger will rob you of the time and energy that makes your life rich.
Keep in mind that your profession carries with it an awesome responsibility—teaching our children about hope, abundance, and possibility. Besides listening to your words, children detect and absorb what you are feeling - even your feelings about money. Think about it: By high school, most students are already very aware of money and how it defines them. If you are angry and constantly comparing yourself to your friends, then your students will see it. Whether you know it or not, you are passing along a message of powerlessness.
Try to focus on the joys and moments of triumph in your profession, and remember that some of the more financially rewarding jobs don't instill the same kind of pride or inspire the long-term satisfaction that teaching does. Don't forget what truly brings value to your life and to the lives of all those you teach.
Finally, remember that when it comes to our financial situations, the starting gate is a long way from the finish line. I've seen countless people who were making large sums of money take vacations all the time, go out to dinner often, and become the envy of their friends. But when it came time for them to retire, even though they had plenty of money in their retirement accounts and nice pension checks, they couldn't afford to do so. They couldn't maintain the lifestyle to which they had grown accustomed. On the other hand, the people who did not make nearly as much money during their working years—and so couldn't take frequent vacations or eat out often—experienced the opposite. They had created lives that were rich in other ways and faced the financial transition with greater ease than their higher-earning friends—just as you might.
From the September 2001 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine