On a message board that I routinely hang out on, there was recently a discussion of people’s finances and whether or not they could afford certain items. As with all discussions of this type, there were some people who stated that they would have huge trouble affording these things and other people said that they would be able to afford almost anything. As the discussion got more heated, two posters who had mentioned their financial success and ability to afford most things were called “lucky” and “fortunate” by other posters.
The first poster responded by hemming and hawing and saying that yes, they had been lucky and that yes, things had kind of always gone their way and that sure, they were better off that most, but only because they’d gotten some bonuses and profits from the sale of a business. The second poster came right out and said that they were not fortunate at all, but that they had worked their butts off in school and at work, sacrificed, never taken on debt, and had educated themselves about money and made it a priority to manage their funds well. Despite obstacles such as medical problems and layoffs, this person had done well because they worked at it.
The first poster seemed as though they were ashamed of their financial success. The second poster attributed it all to hard work. My question was, “What on Earth did the first poster have to be ashamed of?” Obviously the first poster was a hard worker. If most of their money came from the same of a business, they must have worked hard to build that business to the level where it could be sold for a great profit. There’s nothing to be ashamed of in that.
This attitude of shame is common. Many people who are successful financially seem ashamed of the fact. When other people mention their success, they back away from the subject, preferring to hide behind “luck.” In most cases, though, their success is the result of some serious hard work, not anything lucky like winning the lottery or stumbling over $10,000 cash in the parking lot. I think people are ashamed of their success because it’s not socially acceptable to be proud of it, especially these days. When so many people are struggling, admitting that you are not seems uncaring. We’re also taught never to brag. There is a difference, however in bragging (going around saying, “I have a $500,000 house, and a Mercedes and am going on a first-class world cruise) and simply attributing your success to your own hard work and effort. It’s not bragging to tell someone who asks or comments on your “good luck” to say, “Hey, I worked a lot of overtime for that money and then made it a priority to study investing so I could use it well.” When you work hard at something it’s a cause for pride, not shame.
Some people also think that not being ashamed of their success smacks of pride. And in some religions, pride is a sin. I’m no theologian, but I think the pride that is discouraged by religion is the sort of pride where you lord it over other people and say, “I’m better than you because I’m successful financially.” There’s nothing wrong or sinful about healthy self-esteem or taking pride in your hard work as long as you aren’t using it to prove your superiority. Simply saying (when someone mentions your luck), “It wasn’t luck, at all. I built a business and then sold it,” isn’t being prideful. It’s clarifying the subject of where your money came from.
Unless you’ve come by your money through illegal or illicit means, I think it’s fine to be proud of your efforts. You put in the time, did the work, got educated about money, and it’s paid off. That others have not chosen to do so and instead choose to believe in luck is not your fault. You have no reason to be ashamed of your accomplishments and every right to correct those who say you’re lucky. There’s no shame in hard work, effort, and education. There is shame, however, in constantly denigrating your accomplishments to fit some societal notion of propriety. You do yourself and others no favors by making it seem easier than it really is.