finance

'My sister earns four times more than me. I'm struggling to contain my jealousy.'

At 34, I’ve got enough life experience under my belt to believe success is not just about monetary milestones.

Watch 5 money lessons your parents told you, that you should probably forget... Post continues after video.


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Collectively, in the wake of COVID and on the other side of 24 months of heavily restricted living – society now rightly attributes value to time spent with family, to prioritising mental health, physical wellbeing and the ubiquitous work/ life balance: the life part being whatever you want and need to consider your time well-rounded and meaningful.

However, when filling in my application for mortgage pre-approval recently, I was reminded again that despite many, many elements going into the definition of success, your ability to prove in black and white that you’re able to hold down a mortgage, and then the size and location of the property that the computer deems you able to afford – really is a sobering levelling stick for how well you’re doing in life. 

Before I lose you, yes – I know that home ownership is largely an Australian dream. 

In Europe, families think nothing of renting their entire lives. In Paris – why would you ever dream of wanting a back yard? In Rome, whole generations live happily in centralised apartments. All true. However, it’s still a hard thing to shake off the ingrained perception that if you’re not living in your own home in a desirable suburb – are you really successful?

Which brings me to my sister. 

When asking my little sister for advice on mortgage brokers and the process – which is demeaning enough already given I should technically have my s**t more together as the older one – she sheepishly admitted that she was able to buy her Surry Hills terrace house two years ago with cash, and didn't need a mortgage. 

At the time, she was a single 28-year-old.

Oh. Right. Well then. 

It's a difficult thing to be both genuinely and sincerely impressed, proud and pleased for someone, while at the same time, combating severe and visceral flares of jealousy that borders on rage.

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The nature vs nurture debate is one of the oldest in psychology. Is it your environment that ultimately shapes your path – or your inherited genes and abilities? 

Somewhat reassuringly – the evidence seems to prove that at least in the case of how you might expect twins separated at birth to grow and excel differently, that it is your environment that has the greater hand in future expectations. 

Your genes are not your limiting or enabling factor. 

If you haven’t watched already, I highly recommend Three Identical Strangers as a documentary to demonstrate this point. 

My sister and I grew up in the same home, received the same education, were encouraged and provided with every avenue to pursue our dreams. Yet her career trajectory to ultimately own and run her own multinational company, and my choice to instead climb the ranks steadily but always under the safety of being someone’s employee and never the employer, has put a very sizable gap in our earnings and success.

When discussing my feelings of inadequacy with friends, they are quick to remind me of my successful relationships, loyal friends, skills and accomplishments in other areas – all true. But it’s hard to not feel like they’re placating me. And harder again, when none of these things are included on a mortgage application.

Much as we’re welcoming a new dawn of valuing our lives outside of the constraints of 9-5 corporate, there is still a lot of internal and external pressure to demonstrate our success with an address that doesn’t change every 12 months with the ending of a lease and a fresh mail redirection.

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While I wait for NAB to update their eligibility criteria, I try to remind myself of the counselling mantra – speak to yourself like you would a friend in need. 

Translated: you wouldn’t tell your closest friend that they're ailing in the shadows of their big wig sister.

Extend to yourself the same kindness and understanding. 

My efforts to produce feelings of genuine pleasure for my sister – without a side of jealousy – remains a work in progress. Hopefully, the horse float parked illegally in a suburban side-street that I’m conditionally approved to purchase provides the perfect place from which to further ponder.

Feature Image: Getty.