I don't really see that she made wrong choices. She made choices that were important to her and her family and I'm really OK with that. Everyone is different. She has social capital that I don't have because I didn't spend the time or money to join the groups she joined. Choices matter.
I agree. She made her choices; you made yours. Most people on this board have a similar mindset when it comes to spending and saving, but we don't have a right to tell other people they're wrong because their choices don't mirror our own.
Read these sentences and try to put yourself in her shoes. They are true of course, but imagine how they sound to the other person. Ask yourself if these could be interpreted as condescending and judgemental.
Yeah, I can see how Kim could've taken these comments as condescending and judgemental. In the future, I'd suggest you talk ONLY about your choices -- don't say "you had a house first" or "we lived in places you consider slums". Her choices aren't connected to yours at all, so don't bring HER into it at all. Instead, say, "We rented for a long time, we camped instead of taking expensive vacations, we bought used household goods, we cooked at home, we made do with one car." Focus on we, we, we ... this is how WE did it.
Yeah, she'll mentally fill in the blanks, "I bought a big house, I flew to the islands -- sometimes twice a year, I have never been inside a Goodwill, I eat out several times a week, and I gave my kids cars for their 16th birthdays." But let her connect those dots. YOU don't need to say those things out loud. Nothing but praise for your accomplishment, but comparing yourself to her does make you look a bit petty -- and I don't think you meant it that way.
I casually throw in reading early retirement blogs
I think people KNOW where to find this information; I certainly knew about it before the internet and blogs were "a thing". Most people don't want to think about it TODAY because that'd mean taking action TODAY, and it's more comfortable to think there's time for all that later.
Kim is the one who couldn't deal; you did great.
I agree that she's the one who has a problem. Her problem is that she can't believe you did something she never considered.
I don't think you did "great". If you had, you wouldn't be feeling awkward about the conversation and wouldn't be bringing it up now. I think you did "okay", and I think next time such a topic comes up -- which will happen somewhere, sometime -- I think you'll be ready to handle it more gracefully, and you'll come away feeling better about it.
Financial literacy does seem to be a hard thing for many people, despite the fact that the mathematical part of it is easy. It is the psychological part that's difficult I think.
I think it's the self-discipline. Everyone knows that we should all save for our futures, but LOTS of people talk themselves into thinking that it's okay to wait a while: I can't save now because it's more important to get into a house ... to furnish the house ... the kids are only young once ... daycare eats up my whole salary ... braces, insurance, cars, college ... if you lack self-discipline, there's ALWAYS something that seems more important than saving. Yet I don't think that means people don't KNOW they should be saving.
My husband maintains that it is envy and a solid belief that we were the incompetent poor ones and having that turned around was what was upsetting to her.
I believe that. You said she's a social person, a member of all the right groups ... whether she consciously ranks people or not, she probably did think you were not doing as well as she was, and it's threatening to have her assumptions proven wrong.
Envy may be a predictable reaction to other's success. Hostility is not, nor should it be accepted.
I agree with that, but I'll throw in this thought in terms of the OP's original comments: Kim was shocked and blindsided by the news that someone her own age could
retire. Her response was foolish and a bit hostile. In this situation, I'd give her time to assimilate this information, to come to grips with the fact that the world isn't completely as she believed it to be, to accept that her assumptions about these "Lovable Losers" was wrong. I'd definitely wait to see how she behaves next time the group gets together.