Skip to main content

Lottery Losers - The Perils of Envy

red sports car on gray surface near building

$10K is the median household income worldwide, the US does much better with $40K annually. Lawyers earn over $150K a year, while doctors earn over $250K. CEOs average $15M, while Lebron James makes more than double without even counting endorsements.

Moral of the story, wealth is relative. It's not hard to find someone who has more. It's natural to be envious of those wealthier, but envy is useless. It's bad for decision making and just plain bad for life.

“Envy is a really stupid sin because it's the only one you could never possibly have any fun at." - Charlie Munger

It's prevalent in investing. Everyone is comparing their performance to everyone else's. Seeing others get stronger returns is understandably difficult. It's even more difficult when you are financially more responsible than those who outperform you.

You save diligently and invest regularly into a risk-appropriate portfolio, but your co-worker YOLO'd into Telsa in 2010, now he's retired and touted as an investment genius. Jealously bubbles up and you start questioning your investment strategy.

Envy leads to destructive behaviour. This is especially true when you're comparing yourself with people who were effectively lucky.

A 2016 study found that neighbours of lottery winners had a greater risk for bankruptcy. Neighbours showed increased borrowing and consumption, spending on visible assets (i.e. cars, housing) to close the perceived wealth gap (keeping up with the Jones). Neighbours also took on more risk in investing, theory being they'll catch up to lottery winners by doing well in the markets.

Successful investing is about defining your goals and implementing a rational plan to achieve them. Ultimately it's about you and what you want to accomplish. Performance is best measured against your goals, not against other people. Envy will only push you to deviate from your strategy, make emotional decisions and take on unnecessary risks.

There will always be those who have more, in the same vein, there will always be those who have less. Be grateful for what you have, ignore the noise and focus on your goals. 


Popular posts from this blog

The Art of Giving Feedback

Constructive feedback is an awkward affair. You don't want hurt feelings, but recognize the importance of honesty. You've tried the classic "hoping things will get better on its own" and unfortunately it hasn't played out. When giving feedback, here are a few things that I try to keep it mind. Start with empathy. Step into their shoes and understand their story. If you don't know, ask. Be genuinely curious. Feedback is a dynamic affair. Shared communication with a shared goal towards progress. Take the emotion out of it. Focus on the situation, not the person. Focusing on the person adds unnecessary weight to an already emotionally-bloated event.  Be specific. Give clear examples. Vague feedback equals dismissed feedback.  Doing above won't de-awkward things fully, but it will dampen it and increase the chance of better outcomes. 

Bias For Clarity

Bias for action. Gets things done. Go-getter. Traits companies big and small look for. And for good reason, you're being hired to do things! However, action is a secondary step that often overshadows the primary step, direction.   Clear direction is the foundation that enables our actions to takeoff. Without it, we're stuck in the mud.  Striving for clarity is an underrated skill. Having the courage to ask ( seemingly ) obvious questions, and to check in, making sure we're all on the same page. "O bvious " questions are a low risk, high reward way to add value. At worst, you'll add confidence to our actions. At best, you discover a misalignment that saves us from a dead-end.  The more people, the more clear we need to be. The bigger the initiative, the bigger the risk of reaching the finish line, only to realize expectations were off.  Success is always uncertain. But we can be certain about what we want and what everyone's job is. Things that can be clea

Negative Feedback, Positive Lessons

In the battle against plastic bags, a five-cent tax was shown to be much more successful at deterring usage than a five-cent credit for bringing your own bags. Carrots satisfy but sticks sting, and they sting hard. So we default to the less painful choice of avoiding loss. Loss aversion impacts the way we process information. A 2019 study  invited participants to learn through a series of multiple choice questions. Each question only had two options to choose from. Whether guessing correctly or not, they would still learn the right answer.  Despite the identical learning opportunity, participants were much more successful at recalling the answers they guessed correctly than those they got wrong.  "You're right!" feels good. We savour the moment, analyzing every detail.  "You're wrong!" stings. We want to quickly forget, dismiss, and move on.  When we succumb to loss aversion, we miss opportunities to learn. Failure is part of the process. We'll experie