Rich Is Relative

Dennis Friedman

THE OTHER DAY, I did something I probably shouldn’t have done. I checked Zillow to see the current estimated value for the condo I sold last year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I knew real estate prices had gone up quite a bit since I sold in June 2020. But when I looked at Zillow’s price, I was still surprised to see my old home had risen 19% during that short period of time. It’s hard to imagine, even in California, that a 789-square-foot one bedroom, one bathroom condo built in 1968 can have an estimated value of $453,500.

Do I have seller’s remorse? No. I was glad to get rid of it and start a new life somewhere else.

That said, my new home does feel different. I don’t feel as rich as I did living in my old condo. Where I used to live, a lot of my neighbors were first-time buyers and renters. You didn’t have the sense people were flush with money. It made me feel wealthier as a retiree who’d done well saving and investing over many years.

Where I live now, homes, restaurants and even car washes are more expensive. Most of my neighbors are at an age where they’re entering—or are in—their peak earning years. Even though the value of my investment portfolio hasn’t changed much, I feel poorer. I don’t feel I’m doing as well as I did in my old neighborhood.

For most people, rich is a relative term. How rich you feel isn’t solely based on the size of your portfolio or how much you make. It has a lot to do with who you associate with and where you live. You also don’t have to move to a different state or country to feel richer or poorer. I only had to move 25 miles south.

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