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When Competition Obscures Financial Goals

072814bucks-carl-sketch-master675Years ago, a friend with an incredibly successful career as a sales representative shared a story about what she and her brother called their W-2 Derby. It’s exactly what it sounds like. At the end of each year, they’d pull out their W-2s and compare who had the higher income. There were even rules for what really counted as income, and there was a prize for the winner.

When she first told me about it, I was impressed. I like a good competition as much as anyone. After all, I played high school football 20 years ago, and I used to do CrossFit. I’ve even found a way to turn yoga into a competition to see who can stretch the farthest before something tears.

But the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. The W-2 Derby had turned income, something that’s a means to an end, into the end itself. I wonder how many fewer vacation days they took or what other sacrifices they’d made to push their numbers higher for this competition. And for what? The prestige of winning a competition that doesn’t really matter?

Read the rest of the article on The New York Times.

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