I love the phrase "former poor kid" because I feel like it perfectly describes my state of mind upon entering the workforce in my early 20s. I grew up quite well off until late in middle school, when a family tragedy and lack of insurance pretty much knocked out my father's entire net worth and then some, so I have a somewhat unique perspective as someone who experienced being both wealthy and broke as a kid. It took a huge toll on my mental health, but also my sense of what I was capable of financially. Despite landing a good-paying job out of school in a good industry, I just felt like I was never going to have enough, and my only options were to be slave to the grind for 30+ years, or scrape up enough to move off grid in the middle of nowhere and live like a hermit.
It took years and a healthy dose of good luck to really break that line of thinking. I don't mean to brag, but I made an excellent choice when it came to my spouse
, who started off well below me in earnings but rapidly increased her income to the point that I'm pretty sure she beat me out over the past year, and her trajectory is looking much better than mine. On top of that, I made some classic dumb mistakes that ended up teaching the best lessons I could have learned, like buying a brand new car as soon as I had the money, paying way too much for car insurance, and letting all my cash sit in a brick-and-mortar bank account paying no interest. There I was, making 6 figures straight out of college, and thank goodness I tracked my net worth on mint.com despite not putting in the effort to create a detailed budget, because I noticed one month that my net worth actually went down because I spent more than I made. That immediately sent shivers down my spine, because I thought, "Why the heck would I spend all my time at this job I don't particularly love if my net worth is going to drop?" So I got my butt into gear, aggressively cut expenses, and started searching for information on how to invest. I discovered Bogleheads and Vanguard very early on.
Now, in our late 20s, we're approaching a net worth of $750k with a house we can comfortably afford and a baby on the way, as opposed to roughing it out in the wilderness like I legitimately thought I was going to end up doing. It sounds silly, but I really do believe the "former poor kid" in me was just extremely mentally unhealthy and overly pessimistic. Part of that was just lacking knowledge about how to invest, so like you, I felt like the housing market was always slipping farther beyond my grasp.
Now let's be real, everybody's path is very different and highly sensitive to timing, promotions, etc. My story is not to say you should try to replicate my numbers. You will likely be able to way overshoot mine in a similar time frame because of your higher income, but you may also fall short because of a market correction, a work accident, family health issues, or any number of other unfortunate circumstances. You should learn to not focus too much on where other people are at. I know people who live and breathe by exactly how their peers are doing financially, and I think they're driving themselves crazy, because people's situations, needs, and perhaps most importantly wants are highly variable. Just focus on what you can do, which is to cut expenses, determine an appropriate asset allocation, steadily invest your income, and give your investments time to compound. Eventually, you'll find yourself with enough money to not feel so down in the dumps.