×
TAGS
Lifestyle
Personal Finance

Don’t Put Out the F.I.R.E with a Lifestyle Creep

February 7, 2019

Unless you’re on a desert island somewhere, it’s likely you’ve heard of the F.I.R.E movement. If you haven’t Gilligan, the F.I.R.E movement stands for “Financial Independence, Retire Early.” Basically, it’s a movement started in which many finance savvy people increase their savings in hopes of retiring early and living their best life. Sounds great right? It may sound great but there are really only two ways to participate in F.I.R.E and that is increasing your income level or increasing your savings. So, how does the Financial Independence Retire Early movement relate to lifestyle creep?

What is Lifestyle Creep?

Lifestyle creep might be a term you haven’t heard before, but you’ve probably experienced it or witnessed it. As your discretionary income goes up, your lifestyle becomes more expensive. It’s that train of thought that can really get you in trouble with your bank account. You know the thought, the good ole “I worked really hard this week I deserve a new purse.” That is where lifestyle creep really starts.

 

If you suffer from lifestyle creep you’ve probably also thought of things like. If you can afford a better car, why not drive a better car? If you can afford an apartment without roommates, why have roommates? So, what’s wrong with these thoughts, because if you can afford it, then you should do it, right?

 

Lifestyle Creep and Financial Independence Retire Early Movement

It’s a really delicate balance when income goes up and you feel entitled to nicer things. Suddenly the ability to afford something makes your current situation or current belongings seem like they are not enough, whereas they were just fine yesterday. This is a nightmare for most people involved in the F.I.R.E Movement. So when does it make sense to increase your budget based on higher income and when should you hold off? Here are some things to keep in mind that will keep you away from lifestyle creep and keeping you in the race of Financially Independent Retire Early movement.

 

Always “pay yourself” first.

To pay yourself means to invest in yourself—specifically, your future self (oh hey, F.I.R.E). Increase your contributions to your retirement when your income increases. If you get a raise every year, set a reminder or put your retirement contribution on autopilot to also increase by 1% (or whatever amount works for you). If aiming to be in the F.I.R.E movement you may want to contribute over 1%. This is how people end up “maxing out” retirement contributions, without ever feeling like they are taking a hit in the present to save up for the future. Just ask anyone who’s ever done so. They’ll tell you it may have been the hardest thing they have ever done at the time, but their future self was really grateful!

 

Look at the big picture.

If you get a job offer and will suddenly make 40% more, but your commute will be long, does it make sense to move closer to work if your residence will also cost more? That depends on the big picture. Maybe the amount of time you’ll lose to commuting is worth more than the higher rent or mortgage? Maybe, you will be able to get a house in a better school district, which fits with your long-term plans?  If the commute is farther with a lower mortgage, and you can pay down debt or increase your savings. You need to run the numbers. Check out our below examples of two different scenarios that we estimated. Please note that these are estimated costs.

 

Scenario #1

For example, let’s say that you work in Manhattan, New York…

You currently live in Blairstown, NJ and live rent-free thanks to Mom and Dad.

Your commute to NY takes 4 hours by bus and costs about $400 a month.

If you pay $400 x 12 months = $4,800 a year spent on commuting

In 2019 there are about 250 Business days (excluding public holidays and weekends)

250 business days x 4 hours = 1,000 hours a year you spend commuting.

 

Scenario #2

Let’s say that you move to Hoboken and have a roommate.

You pay $1,000 a month on rent.

Your commute is about 1 hour a day.

Let’s say it costs about $150 a month to commute.

$1,000 a month x 12 months = $12,000 a year on rent

$150 x 12months = $1,800 a year on commuting costs

$12,000 year rent + $1,800 year commuting = $13,800 a year on commuting and housing

1 hour x 250 business days = 250 hours a year spent commuting

 

Now, this example really gives insight into that big picture. Yes, it costs more to live in Hoboken and you have a roommate, but look at that time saved! If your time is of high value to you, Scenario #2 is likely the best choice for you. If you are participating in F.I.R.E and want to save money or pay down debt as much as possible, Scenario #1 is likely the right choice for you. Regardless, which option is personally best for you, understand these are the types of numbers to run when looking to make big decisions.

 

Do I need this or do I just want it? The treat yo’ self trap.

Let’s say your discretionary income goes up, should you get that household repair or a non-urgent medical procedure? By all means, this is not an example of lifestyle creep and you should use your higher income to make it happen. Now, if you find yourself flush with cash and jealous of your neighbor’s new car, you should pause.  If you believe that you have worked hard enough to deserve a big trip. Planning a vacation just because you can, is an example of lifestyle creep. We aren’t saying you don’t deserve a vacation, but that vacation should be planned on a responsible budget.

 

When making any purchasing decisions ask yourself, “Are these wants more important than other needs?” We’d recommend thinking long-term when it comes to making purchasing decisions. What’s more responsible, paying off debt and continue reaping the reward of not having high payments or added interest or making a purchase like a car that you don’t “need”? Maybe there is a compromise like paying off your current car and setting a goal to upgrade next year, or maybe you can plan a trip for next year and save for it while you are concurrently paying down debt.

 

It’s dangerous to deserve better. We are constantly bombarded with flashy advertising, slick marketing, and more choices than ever before. It can be really easy to think that you deserve something better, but in reality, is that new item really going to bring you long term happiness and security? Many participating in the F.I.R.E movement will say items are just items and that real happiness comes from relationships and memories.

 

The F.I.R.E mindset can get even tougher when many of us have had parents who treated us like the most special people ever who gave us what we wanted. That’s not a bad thing until you start making decisions based on what you think you deserve, instead of what you can practically achieve. Thanks, Mom and Dad, but I don’t mind having roommates for another year, or it’s not a big deal to keep driving a car that’s older but works fine.

 

Check those budget boxes.

If your discretionary income has gone up either because you got a raise or other costs went down, you need to do some budgeting. Typical steps that personal finance experts advise working on include getting up-to-date on all of your bills if you aren’t already. Second, have a $1,000 emergency fund. Lastly, experts advise people to focus on high-interest debts before building a savings account with 3–6 months of expenses in it. Then look into things like investing, saving for your children’s college or paying off your house!

 

Achieving a higher income is great! It’s a wonderful feeling when you see your hard work paying off and making life easier. Don’t end up being someone who makes more than enough to live comfortably but you’re still living paycheck to paycheck. Lifestyle creep is so important to recognize and avoid. Keep your financial goals in order and continue to work towards them. Whether your goal is to be Financially Independent and Retire Early or to pay off your debt, you got this!

 

Click for Cards and Accounts That Pay You

 

NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites
Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2020-02-25
7 Great Things to Spend Your Tax Refund On

By Kat Tretina   While tax season fills most people with dread, there’s one thing everyone looks forward to — tax refunds. According to the IRS, approximately 71% of American tax filers receive a tax refund. In 2019, the average tax refund was a whopping $2,869. If you’re like many people, that may be the biggest lump sum you’ll see all year – so it’s important to use it wisely.   

7 Best things to spend your tax refund on

During tax season, retailers compete for your business. You’re bombarded with advertisements and sales trying to get you to spend your newfound money. But before parting with your hard-earned funds – it is money you worked for, after all – focus on using your tax refund on things that will improve your finances, your future financial prospects, and overall well-being.    Need inspiration? Here are seven smart ways to use your tax refund.   

1. Student loan lump sum payments

Student loan debt can be a substantial burden, causing you to put off other goals like saving for retirement, relocating to a new city, buying a home, or even getting married.    Using your tax refund to make a lump sum payment on your debt could allow you to save money on interest fees and help you pay off your loans ahead of schedule.    For example, let’s say you had $30,000 in student loan debt at 6% APR. With a minimum monthly payment, it would take you 10 years to repay your loans. And, you’d repay a total of $39,970; interest charges would cost you $9,970.    But let’s say you received $2,869 as a tax refund. If you applied the entire amount to your student loans as a lump sum payment, you’d pay off your loans 15 months early and you would repay just $37,801. By using your tax refund to make an extra payment on your debt, you would save $2,169 in interest charges.    You can make your tax refund work even harder for you by refinancing your student loans to possibly lower your interest rate. Use our Student Loan Refinance Calculator to see what you could save by refinancing your student loans.*   

2. Medical procedures

If you’re like many people, you may have put off going to the doctor or visiting a dentist because you simply couldn’t afford it. In fact, 25% of Americans reported putting off necessary medical procedures due to cost. However, skipping routine medical and dental care can cause more expensive issues later on, so it’s important to stick to a preventative care routine.    If you haven’t been to the doctor or dentist because you were short on cash, using your tax refund to take care of your health is a wise investment.   

3. Car repairs

Cars are often money pits, causing many people to skimp on routine repairs because of the expense. AAA reported that the average car repair is $500 to $600, but can often cost much more. Keeping up with your car’s maintenance and making necessary repairs can improve your car’s lifespan and fuel efficiency, helping you avoid more costly issues later on.    If you’ve been putting off any repairs or need to replace your tires, use your tax refund to finance that purchase so you can get to and from work safely.   

4. Professional development

With technology changing so quickly, it’s essential that you keep on top of the latest trends in your field so that you remain competitive in the job market. If you want to take your career to the next level, consider using your tax refund to invest in your professional development. You can attend a conference, take a class, or hire a career coach.   

5. Investments

If your finances are in otherwise good shape – meaning you don’t have high-interest debt or a pressing immediate expense – you can use your tax refund to build long-term wealth. Consider using your refund to invest your money by making contributions to your retirement accounts or an individual taxable account.    Don’t think your tax refund can make that much of a difference? Think again. Over time, your money can grow significantly.    For example, let’s say you’re 30 years old and deposit your $2,869 into an individual taxable account. If you don’t deposit another cent and your money earns an average annual return of 8%, that account will have grown to $31,374 by the time you’re 60.    If you’re not sure where to start, check out robo advisors like Betterment® or WealthFront®. They automatically invest your money based on your goals and risk tolerance, so you don’t have to be an investment expert to reap the rewards.   

6. Exercise equipment

Investing in your health and wellness is a good use for your money. Over time, it can help you save on health insurance and medical bills, too.    Consider using some or all of your tax refund to purchase exercise equipment you’ll actually use. Or, sign up for a gym membership or take a few sessions with a personal trainer to ensure you’re using the equipment correctly.   

7. A new computer

If you freelance or are thinking of starting a new side hustle, you may want to use your tax refund to purchase a new computer or software so that you can work more efficiently. With better tools, you may be able to improve your earning potential. And, you may be able to deduct the cost of a new computer or software on next year’s taxes (talk to a tax professional about your unique situation).   

How not to spend your refund

There are a lot of bad ways to spend a tax refund. But one of the worst is using it to purchase a car you can’t really afford. Unfortunately, using a tax refund to buy a new car is incredibly common.    Using your tax refund as a down payment can help you qualify for a car loan. But car values depreciate rapidly, and you could end up with a car that is too costly for your budget, or you could end up owing more than the car is worth. That issue can put you in a precarious financial position, and it’s hard to dig yourself out of debt.    If you need reliable transportation, use your tax refund to purchase an inexpensive, used car that you can comfortably afford. If you need to take out a loan, financial experts recommend that you choose a loan term no longer than 36 months; if you need a longer loan term than that to manage the loan payments, the car is likely more than you can truly afford.    There’s seven things that you should spend your tax refund on, along with one that you shouldn’t! Regardless of your situation, focus on spending your refund responsibly.    For more information, learn how to create a monthly budget.  
  *Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.    Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
2020-02-21
5 Great Investing Apps for Beginners

This blog has been prepared for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial or investing advice. You should always use caution when making investing decisions. Rates and fees for the apps listed were obtained as of February 21, 2020 and are subject to change.   There are several ways to go about building wealth – some focus on building their career and earning more, putting their money into traditional savings accounts, 401ks, and IRAs, while others may focus on putting their money to work for them through investing in stocks, bonds, and ETFs. While many young adults have previously shied away from the stock market and investing in the past, a recent study showed that seven in ten millennials are financially investing in some way, and that 85% of millennials do not feel too young to invest.    Why the change? From national student loan debt reaching record highs, to the housing market being generally more expensive for buyers, there are certainly enough reasons for millennials to focus on finding new ways to build their wealth, rather than just using traditional savings.    If you’re a believer that history repeats itself, you may find the stock market to be a good opportunity to grow your wealth. Since its inception in 1896, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has delivered an average return of 5.42% per year, and the S&P 500 index has delivered an average return of 7.96% from 1957 to 2018.    For the new investor, however, getting started can be a bit overwhelming. Some questions beginners might ask: What should I invest in? Should I invest in stocks, bonds, or ETFs? Should I manage my portfolio or allow a robo-investor to manage it? What about cryptocurrency? Which is going to get me the best return? Which strategy is the safest? Should I be thinking long-term or short term?   Luckily, there are a variety of applications that serve well for individuals that are just getting started on their investment journey. Here are five great apps that all have unique benefits for individuals looking to start investing.  

Robinhood®

Robinhood ® launched in 2013 and took the digital investing world by storm by offering commission-free trading along with a free trading account and providing users with a free stock for just signing up. Its simplified user experience may not suit the seasoned investor, however it’s a great starting point for individuals interested in investing in stocks, ETFs, and even select cryptocurrencies. You can search for stocks, add them to your watchlist, get some general information about the company, such as analyst ratings on the stock (buy, sell, hold), their earnings data from previous quarters, their dividend yield, among other useful numbers to guide your investing decisions. Upgrading to Robinhood Gold for $5 a month gives you access to extending trading hours, real-time market data on order volume, among other features.   Robinhood recently released fractional shares allowing you to invest in any company with as little as $1. Overall, Robinhood is a user-friendly app for those who want to be in full control of their investment strategy.   

Acorns®

If managing your portfolio isn’t for you, Acorns ® may be a more suitable option. Acorns is an app primarily focused on helping you save and grow wealth by investing your spare change. Once you link your bank account, Acorns will track your purchases and round them up to the nearest dollar, depositing $5 worth of spare change at a time. You can set the round up to double, multiply by five, or multiply by ten if you’re interested in stepping up the amount you invest. When you first begin, the app provides you with a questionnaire that helps determine your investment goals and strategy, allowing you to choose a more moderate or aggressive strategy.    In addition, the app gives you small rewards for making purchases with specific companies, like Walmart, Chevron, Uber, and more. Acorns is a great way to passively invest your spare change.  

Stash®

Allowing you to invest with as little as $5, Stash ® is a great app for learning how to invest effectively. Like Robinhood, it allows you to be in control of your investments, however it provides a bit more guidance as you move along by helping you pick your investments based on your goals. The app is filled with articles and tips that help strengthen your investment decisions, also providing themed categories of investments, such as innovation or environment.   

Betterment®

Betterment ® is a leader among robo-advisors, providing value to hands-off investors. The app charges just 0.25% for asset management annually, with no minimum amount to start investing. Betterment takes a traditional approach to investing by diversifying your portfolio based on your decided level of risk tolerance and your goals. They offer more portfolio options than some of the simpler applications, making it a strong tool for individuals who know what they want out of a robo-advisor. It’s generally less expensive than other robo-advisors and uses strong algorithms to manage assets effectively and provide strong returns.   

TD Ameritrade®

If you’re interested in doing more than getting your feet wet, TD Ameritrade ® is an app that borders between being suited for the beginner and intermediate-level investor. The app, offered by one of top US brokerage firms, offers a powerful trading experience, allowing you to customize dashboards and screens, access research and advice, receive market news and alerts, and watch educational videos on investing. It’s definitely more suited for the active investor who wants to make adjustments to their portfolio on a daily or weekly basis. While they previously charged $6.95 per online equity trade, they recently released commission-free trading as well. While it may not be the best place for everyone to start, it’s a great place to consider moving to once you’ve established your investment strategy and are working with a larger portfolio.    With these apps, investing doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You can invest passively, schedule deposits, invest spare change, or dive in and control your investing destiny – whichever feels right for you. You should always use caution when investing your hard-earned money, however, getting started with a few dollars now and learning the ropes could be worth something to you in the future. We hope that at least one of these apps provides you with value and helps you get started in your investment journey.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
2020-02-19
High Income, High Debt: How to Stop the Spiral

By Caroline Farhat  

A lot of people think if you are earning a high income you must have lots of wealth and no debt. However, that is not always reality. In fact, for some people, earning a high income can mean higher amounts of debt. If you are in these circumstances, read on to find out how to stop the spiral.

 

High Income, High Debt

There are many reasons that higher-income households can have higher debt. One reason is higher earners like doctors and lawyers may have higher debt due to the amount of student loans needed to obtain their education.

 

But the big problem lies with the high earners who have high levels of debt and no assets to show for their income. A 2015 Nielsen study found 25% of American households earning $150,000 or more were living paycheck to paycheck. These are the earners who may be going down a spiral. There are reasons for this spiral that can be addressed to stop it. Some reasons include:

  • Desire to spend - A person earning a high income feels like they have a lot of money they can spend and deserve to spend. However, this can cause some to spend up to the total amount they bring home or worse exceed the amount, causing credit card debt or the need for personal loans.
  • Keeping up with the Joneses - Always trying to keep up with your group and show “wealth” you may not really have. This can be seen in the form of always buying the latest gadget, flashiest car or taking a trip to the latest popular destination. Even if you can afford some of these items now, feeling the need to keep up can be dangerous because you never know when a time may come that you may not be able to afford your lifestyle due to sudden job loss or a change in financial circumstances. 
  • Lifestyle creep - Increasing your expenses when your income increases because of your wants or perceived new needs. For example, the thought that now you need a more expensive and larger house because you can afford it with your higher income.
 

How to Stop the Spiral

Did any of this resonate with you? If so, don’t panic. You can always stop the spiral of high income and high debt. Below are some actionable steps you can start today.

 

1. Determine your fixed expenses

Fixed expenses are the expenses that are mostly out of your control and remain constant every month. They include your rent or mortgage, car insurance, internet bill, cell phone bill, utility expenses (although these may not be the same each month you can figure out the average), and loan payments. Knowing these expenses will help you complete the next step.  

2. Create a budget

You knew this was coming! Now that you know your fixed expenses you can create a budget. There are different methods you can use to create a budget. One budget that many people find easy to follow is the
50/20/30 rule. The basic principle is subtract your fixed expenses from your take-home pay. Then put money in savings for your emergency fund, retirement, or whatever you determine is most important to you. The rest of your income is used to pay your variable expenses. These are the expenses you have the most control over, like your food budget, restaurants, and clothing shopping.   

3. Try to reduce your expenses.

The easiest expenses to try to reduce will be the ones completely in your control, like eating out less. But there are some ways to reduce your fixed expenses.  

Refinance student loans - Have a high monthly payment? Refinancing may be a good option. Refinancing student loans can reduce your monthly payment and save you in interest costs over the life of your loan(s). You can refinance private student loans and federal student loans. Check out our student loan refinance calculator to determine what your potential savings could be.*

 

Negotiate your bills - Have a high internet bill? Or maybe you are still paying for cable. Check for any deals with your provider and compare with competitors. Better yet, think about whether you really need the service. If you are a die-hard Netflix fan, it may be time to cut the cable cord.

 

4. Pick a method to attack your debt.

There are two methods financial experts recommend to pay off debt: the snowball method and the avalanche method.  

Snowball method - Use any extra money to pay off your lowest loan first. Once the lowest loan is paid off you take the payment you were making to that loan and apply it to the second-lowest loan. Here is an example of how it works:

  • If you have a student loan of $25,000 with a payment of $290 and an auto loan of $15,000 with a payment of $275 you would focus on paying the auto loan off first. You would make both minimum payments but if you have an extra $25 per month to apply to a loan you would apply it to the auto loan. Once the auto loan is paid off you would apply the payments of $275 and $25 to your regular minimum student loan payment of $290 and now be paying $590 per month to your student loan ($275+25+290 = $590). You would continue this until all debts are paid off.
 

Avalanche method - List your debts in order of interest rates and start paying off the debt with the highest interest rate first. Add any additional payments to the loan with the highest interest rate. Continue paying the minimum on all other loans. Once the highest interest rate loan is paid off you apply that minimum payment to the next highest interest rate loan. 

 

5. Put salary increases into savings

Don’t give into the lifestyle creep. If you were able to pay all your expenses before your salary increase, you can continue to live off your old income amount and save the increased amount. The difference can be put into a retirement account or savings account, thereby increasing your wealth. The best way to do this is to set up an automatic transfer so that the extra money never hits your bank account. If you can’t see it, you can’t spend it!  

Bottom Line

If you have realized you are in a high income, high debt spiral, there is hope of stopping it. With some work, you can get your finances in order and begin to see your savings grow.

 
 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.