That Sinking Feeling Of Falling Further Behind

Sinking in sand

Have you ever had the sinking feeling of falling further behind? Your peers keep charging ahead, but no matter what you do, you can't keep up. I've felt this way before and many are feeling this way no during the pandemic.

During my days off from consulting work I tend to schedule other work to help me stay in touch with reality. I love teaching people who want to learn, but not so much those who are forced to learn.

Teaching Tennis

My tennis student is that ideal client who enthusiastically listens when I instruct her to step into her ground strokes or stiffen her wrist for a more impactful volley.

Before each lesson she politely hands me a check her mother writes for $80 dollars. I thank her without opening up the folded check and quickly place it into one of my tennis bag's many pockets to not make things awkward. We warm up from the service line and gradually work up a sweat until the sun goes down at 6pm.

I often wonder whether she feels $80 for 1.5 hours is a lot of money as a high schooler. To me $80 feels like a healthy sum, even though I've been working since 1994. Perhaps it's exactly because she appreciates her parent's support that she's so enthusiastic about her lessons. I remember telling myself there was no way I would do poorly in college since my parents insisted on paying.

At the end of each lesson I always feel a sense of satisfaction to have put in the effort to make a little more money and help someone get better. Often times I don't even want to cash the check because it's a physical reminder of accomplishment. Little wins are savored until bigger bills come due.

Surprising Financial Bills

Moose's gas light lit up on the way home so I decided to fill him up with some premium fuel. By the time the gas tank was full the meter flashed $79.55. It is as if the gods were mocking me.

Oh, how nice it is to walk away from an evening of hard work with a net profit of 45 cents. I laughed the spite off and stopped by the grocery store for a freshly squeezed container of orange juice for $6. There goes all my earnings and then some. 

The Feeling Of Running In Place

“Progress” is my one word definition for happiness. When your daily expenses take up such a large portion of your income, there is no progress to be had. I compartmentalize my money to prevent me from cheating and taking life for granted. The money I'm earning teaching tennis and providing personal finance consulting is not enough if that's all I have to survive. I've since paused my consulting practice due to the pandemic and homeschooling two little ones.

The only way I can feel like I'm making progress is to hustle, find more clients, cut expenses further, and stay optimistic that things will get better. I clearly understand why many Americans would opt out of healthcare because spending $200 can easily be two days of work or more since you've got to pay with after tax dollars.

It's no wonder why people feel disgusted when the rich complain about paying more in taxes when they earn in one year what many of us take a lifetime to earn.

One fella I know literally made $12 million the other year because his $2 billion dollar fund was up 10%. 10% is not exactly amazing performance, but when your firm earns a 2% management fee ($40 million) and takes 20% of profits ($200 million X 20% = $40 million), it's easy to see why he can earn his eight figure salary. How sick is that?

The only way I think most Americans can get ahead is through education. Be the most educated person possible in order to land those coveted roles where you use your mind to earn money, not your body.

Eventually my knees will break and my hands will fossilize. Hopefully by then, engineers will have invented a smart microphone so I can just speak my writing.

Just Got To Keep On Going

Although the pandemic has thrown so many of us for a loop, we've got to focus on the journey. We must believe that the longer we stay consistent at our craft, good things will eventually happen.

I'm sure with the vaccine, low interest rates, and an accommodative Fed, tings will get better! Don't let that sinking feeling get the best of you.

Related: The Secret To Your Success: 10 Years Of Unwavering Commitment 

34 thoughts on “That Sinking Feeling Of Falling Further Behind”

  1. Hey Sam,

    Great read, and I love the site. I just found it a few days ago and I find myself going through all of your old posts to try and learn as much as possible.

    I have a question for you. I’m a 20 year old college student (studying finance – paying my way through debt free!) and have a $25,000 net worth ($17,000 of that is cash). Currently I have $12,000 in a High Interest E-Savings account, which is earning 1.1% a year.

    I’m not sure if this is the right move or not. Would I be better off putting money into an RRSP for the future, instead of the savings account? I have also been considering purchasing a rental property, homes are roughly $250,000 and are within 20 minutes (walking) of a large University. I am currently unemployed (I work summers, when I’m out of school), but my main income would be rental income – which would be about $500 per tenant, per month (I could get 4-5 tenants in the house, without a problem).

    What do you think would be a good move?

    1. Hi Kyle,

      Welcome to my site! If you are serious about buying a home soon, then I would continue to keep your money in a relatively low risk account. You’d hate to swing for the fences and miss if a home is what you really want.


      1. Thanks Sam,

        I guess I am a little confused about how I should be investing my money right now. I know starting an RRSP as early as possible is a huge benefit in the long run. I’m on the fence about purchasing a home now, and building equity that way, I would have the potential make $1,000 a month (roughly) off the income from tenants, after paying the mortgage.

  2. Ryan @ Impersonal Finance

    I will definitely check out those other articles Sam. I do think you’re right in regard to education being the way to advance and succeed. What I think is shifting though is that specific education and knowledge are becoming much more important, while a formal education is more background now. You might need it to get a foot in the door, but you need that specific knowledge and experience to get your whole body in. That’s why the internet is amazing, because anyone can learn about literally anything from the comfort of their own couch.

  3. That gas bill is like a punch in the stomach! $80 for 1.5 hours not too shabby, I have been looking into personal training and that is about the average going rate at our gym. But like you said I get very irritated when I spend time with someone who doesn’t want to be there.

  4. Tried commenting over at your PC post bit out seems not to have stuck. I think that series is a great idea. I’m in that club now myself, and often wonder if/how/where it’s worth getting the story of how I got to FI and semi-retired at 40 into my dream profession. So those stories hit home with me, and as I’m sure you can relate, sometimes when you semi/early retire it’s tough to relate… period! :-)

  5. Your P/T jobs are not supposed to replace income! I see consulting as an investment or a way to add to your skills and tennis is pay for fun otherwise you come up short. Tennis lessons may eve add to your social life. Sounds like a win/win.

  6. Chaz@ChristianLifeHacker

    $80 for 1.5 hrs of one-on-one? That’s actually not too bad. If you’re any good, that is. JK! Having ‘privates’ (personal one-on-ones with a trainer or coach) is pretty much de riguer these days, and a phenomenon that’s created a whole cottage industry.

    I’ll trundle over and check out your PC posts!

  7. Romeo Jeremiah

    Recommend reaching out to Jaime Tardy, The Eventual Millionaire, for prospective clients to profile if you don’t have any takers from here.

    Second, love the direct Zig Ziglar approach to selling the Personal Capital blog. Invoke emotion and directly ask for help.

    I definitely don’t want you to get fired and am always glad to help others. Off to PC’s blog…

  8. I agree with your assessment of “progress” as a definition of happiness and am all too familiar with the “yeah, paycheck!” feeling, followed by the “gas is how much???” feeling. I’ve recently been reading and writing a lot about side hustling and am increasingly convinced it’s actually more fear than lack of ideas holding me back. Which is stupid. And going to be overcome.

  9. $80/hour is way more than the average American make. I wouldn’t even spend that now at 40. She must have some potential for her parents to pay for the lesson.
    I’ll drop by Daily Capital.

    1. It’s $80 for 1.5 hours, so $53.33 an hour basically. Still, that’s a pretty good amount to spend on lessons even if private lessons at private clubs are closer to $100 an hour.

      I was offered lessons growing up which cost about $20/hr then, but I felt bad. It was the same thing with going to private/public school. I just wanted to play w/ my father.

  10. Liked the gas price line.

    P.S. Personal Capital trips my bank (Frost Bank) account security and I have to routinely call and answer security questions to reset. So, I deactivated by checking and savings from PC resulting in a significant decrease in usability and will probably resulting in my abandoning usage. I am not upset, it’s just a flaw that hinders the value of the platform for me.

      1. Mister Mojo Risen

        I love Personal Capital too, but my Affinity FCU accounts get tripped up every time with the security authentication. I would like use it everyday like Mint, because it’s far more investor-oriented, but its a hassle to continually have to re-authenticate those accounts.

  11. Oh man what a burn on that gas bill! If you buy a new car at somepoint look for one with great gas mileage. It’s painful paying so much at the pump.

    Btw Apple’s talk to type features are pretty cool. I forget the exact name they call it but it lets you speak into your device’s built in microphone and will type your words automatically. So you don’t have to wait for the future for that feature :)

    Great job with your new venture. The millionaire series is a great idea and I enjoyed reading your first post. Thanks!

  12. Michael@Save-Invest-Grow

    I think it helps to remember that the journey isn’t always going to be perfect. Like you said Sam, “progress” is a great definition of happiness. Sometimes progress comes from being able to pause and reflect on where you’re at and all you’ve accomplished. I feel that while ambition can be our greatest ally, it can also drive us crazy at times too!

    I’m enjoying the new stuff over at the Personal Capital blog.

    1. Hi Michael,

      Appreciate your support on the PC blog. You know how P90X markets itself as agitating different muscle groups to grow? I feel like if we take different lines of work to make different amounts of money, it helps us grow in many aspects as well.


  13. I will check out those sites Sam. I never understood people complaining about having to pay a lot of taxes. I pay a lot of taxes and I think of it as a good thing because that means I made a lot of money. Yes, I try to pay as little as possible or defer taxes, but you still have to pay taxes if you make money. I even had someone comment the other day that they don’t want to make a lot of money because of al the taxes they would have to pay. Either they are delusional or the are justifying not making money.

    1. The First Million is the Hardest

      hah, it’s the old “You should buy a house because you’ll get a whole bunch of tax deductions” logic!

  14. Sam, it’s more than 2 days to earn healthare. At $7.50 an hour, it’s 26 hours! (before taxes!) at $10.10 an hour, it’s almost 19 hours!

    I was thinking of you as I heard on Marketplace Tech about $4 toast in San Fran. Maybe tennis isn’t right for you–you need to get in on the new gold rush!

  15. Sam, really like the how to become a millionaire article. You can always learn something (even if it is just the reminder that it can be done). Hope to read about people from all walks of life and from different locales.

  16. I agree Sam. Education is important for us all, but we also have to remember that not all education takes place in school/college. Many of the best lessons I’ve ever learned were assisting a knowledgeable mentor from a low (or no paid) job. There is no substitute for life experience. Have a great weekend. If you would, please remind me again what Moose is.


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