My website is called The Broke and Beautiful Life, but some would argue that I am far from “broke”. Unlike many of my twenty something counterparts who are saddled with massive student loan bills or who have failed to start planning for retirement, at 27 years old, I have a net worth that surpasses 30k. I, however, still consider myself “broke” as my income is incredibly inconsistent and seriously limited.
Now, I’ve never been one for judging someone’s’ financial solvency based on income alone, surely living below your means and establishing patterns of saving and investing for the future are more important. However, there is a point where you max out that side of the equation. There are only so many ways to save, whereas potential for increased earnings are practically unlimited.
I, however, have remained stagnant on the income side of my equation. So while those around me continue to see more paychecks and raises, and hopefully a corresponding and exponential increase in their net worth with solid financial practices in place, I’m pretty much locked into where I’ve been for the past five years, able to cover my expenses, enjoy some travel, maintain an emergency fund, and max out my ROTH IRA, but not much else.
Now, you may be thinking, “What else could you possibly need?” Well, how about something beyond me, myself, and I?
While, at 27, I can survive and save off of my income, I have some bigger dreams too; namely, a home, a family, and the basic pursuit of “evolutionary happiness”. I don’t even know that I would call it lifestyle inflation so much as maturation. I guess I could always choose not to have children, but if I do make that choice, I don’t want it to be dictated by a lack of funds.
With those additional expenses and priorities, a mortgage, a car, a child, etc, needing to be funded from my income, I would no longer be able to contribute anything to my IRA or savings. In fact, I’d be at risk of needing to rely on debt. If my income doesn’t mature as I do, then I will go from being a fiscally responsible young adult to a downward debt spiraling middle-aged woman in no time.
I feel “broke” because I am limited in my life choices. Not the ones that involve buying designer wear or luxury automobiles, but in the ones that are far more basic. I can continue to cut back my expenses and find new ways to save, but on this income, even 100% savings won’t be enough to fund the pursuit of that basic happiness.
Now I’m not just gonna sit here complaining about my lack of funds, I’m working to do something about it – side hustling, freelancing, and developing more substantial and reliable sources of additional income. But until I find a way to increase those earnings in a way that I don’t feel totally limited in my fundamental life choices, I will forever feel broke.