When it comes to financial planning, you are best served to stop chasing stuff and cap your lifestyle. While this idea sounds simple, it can be difficult to implement. In order to be successful, follow these three important steps:
1. Know the difference between investments and stuff. If someone suggests you “invest” in a new house, that’s stuff. How about a car? Nope, stuff! Clothing, electronic gear? How about that vacation home? All stuff. By definition, these items are “personal use” assets and cannot be considered investments. Instead they are disposable things. The latest Consumer Expenditures report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that on average, consumers spend $2,505 on food away from home, $1,700 on apparel and services and $2,504 on entertainment annually. While no one wants to go through life with only the shirt on your back, it is much more satisfying in the long run to live below your means.
2. Cap your lifestyle. Instead of collecting stuff, determine your lifestyle early and stay there. For instance, I knew quickly in my career what type house I wanted and the kind of car I would drive. I made it a priority to travel and wear nice clothing. Basically, I knew the lifestyle I wanted to have. So I worked until I achieved that lifestyle and then stopped adding stuff, releasing myself from chronic money woes and freeing my future earnings for when I transition into retirement.
3. Stop the vicious cycle. It’s easier said than done, but do your best to avoid the empty earn/spend cycle. Remember that it is impossible to build real net worth if you just keep adding stuff to your financial life.
They say that money can’t buy you happiness, so figure out the lifestyle you want and then work toward it. Once you get there, stop the “stuff”! You’ll be happy and satisfied that you did.