Q&A: When your friends seem to have more money than you: Getting over money envy

Dear Liz: I am a 41-year-old man who is married with small children. I have finally reached the point financially where I am meeting or exceeding personal goals for retirement, college savings and reduced monthly expenses. I have a high income. I drive a piece-of-crap car because it’s paid for, but I am still hemorrhaging cash! Yet my peers are buying second homes at the lake or in ski country. What am I doing wrong?

Answer: Congratulations! You’re doing a lot right with your money, and you may not be doing anything wrong. To borrow a phrase, you can’t judge your insides by other people’s outsides.

Some of your peers may have inherited money, or received infusions from generous parents. More likely, they’re not saving enough, or at all, for retirement or their children’s educations.

They also may be deeply in debt. Although their lives may look good on the outside now, their futures may be a lot less flush.

You can’t know how other households conduct their financial affairs, so keep focusing on your own situation and how you can make it better. If you feel like you’re hemorrhaging cash, track where the money is going for a while. If you discover as a family that you’re spending on things that aren’t important to you, you and your spouse can look for ways to redirect spending to better support your values.