Let’s talk about money.
Most of us have some sort of financial concern. Some estimates show that nearly 80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and 61% can’t cover a $1,000 emergency. Wages have stagnated, but the cost of everything else has continued to rise meaning that purchasing power hasn’t really moved in four decades.
It takes an annual income of one-third of a million dollars to buy a home in San Francisco, which is fascinating considering the median household income there is about $83,000. It’s not just the coasts, either. Real median household income in New York City is just under $51,000 but in the entire country it’s $59,000. Considering how expensive everything — housing, food, transportation — is, that’s not very much.
Have you ever felt like if you had just a little bit more money it would make an enormous difference? The problem with that thought — one that I’ve had many times — is that the goalposts continue to move.
If only I had a little more money for a pair of Jordans or a nice suit…
If only I had a little more money for a new car…
If only I had a little more money for vacation…
If only I had a little more money for a house…
If only I had a little more money to put towards retirement or my kids’ 529 accounts…
Where does it end? Does it even end?
This is considered lifestyle inflation, something that most financial expertswarn against, but I’d argue that it’s reality. Sometimes life dictates that you need to spend money. I’m still paying off loans from both undergrad and business school, the former of which I graduated from more than a decade-and-a-half ago. The paradox, of course, is that I probably wouldn’t have the career — and salary — I have now had I not gone to those schools. So the money I make goes to pay off the bills I incurred so that I could eventually make the money I make.
Life is a flat circle, but it’s also about trade-offs.
I could’ve remained in my rowhome in the city and my mortgage would’ve continued to be one-fifth of what it is now, but the difference would not have all been savings. I would have had to begin paying for private school for my children and incur other costs that are already factored in with my mortgage (and taxes).
More importantly, there are the things that cannot be quantified, like the value of your own backyard, living in a safer neighborhood, or even the happiness and freedom that a larger home provides.
If life were just about the numbers on a bank account, we’d all live with our parents paying little to no rent for our entire lives and watch our account balances grow.
Studies have shown that the ideal income for happiness is far less than most may believe because, for most of us, a dollar only stretches so far, so our happiness depends on how how we balance everything.
Saving for retirement is wonderful, but if you save every dollar for the future, can you enjoy the present? What if you die before you retire because you’re so stressed out about saving for retirement? What if you spend all of your money on a house but the market tanks just as you were planning on downsizing?
Even if you do everything right, there’s always another hurdle, another place to put your money. Do you own a home? Do you own additional real estate or rental property? Are your retirement accounts maxed out? Do you have offshore tax shelters? Are you liquid?
I always find it funny that there is a disclaimer on my kid’s 529 college savings plan that says, Investments in 529 accounts cannot exceed $305,000 per beneficiary, as if I’m constantly in danger of exceeding that threshold. I’m sure there are people that need to be reminded of that, but I’m not one of them.
For most of us, we could always use a little bit more money. There is always something more you can buy, save, invest in, pay off, or remodel.
Enough may never be enough. But it may be sufficient.
Christopher Pierznik’s nine books are available in paperback and Kindle. Check out more of his writing at Medium. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Medium, Fatherly, Hip Hop Golden Age, and many more. Subscribe to his monthly newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.