When you’ve got friends who live like the Rich Kids of Instagram, life can feel distorted. Especially if you’ve talked about money with these friends and you know they don’t make more than you do.
How can they afford dinners out, travel, and designer clothes? Where did they get the money for that $500,000 condo?
And why are you stuck being the broke-yet-responsible one who lives with three roommates and brown-bags your lunches each day?
You’re missing a piece of the puzzle.
You don’t know how much debt they’re taking on, or how much financial help they’re getting from their families, to project the illusion of wealth and success.
(This isn’t to say that zero Millennials can afford a little luxury. Some of you have been working for a while and saving up to afford the big-ticket items you dream of — not to mention funding your retirement accounts in the process! Go you!)
Because of my work, I’m quick to pinpoint the story-behind-the-story of people’s’ spending and saving habits. And many people in our generation just haven’t been working long enough to accumulate that much money yet. When you shortchange your future to look rich right now, there will come a time when money will become a serious problem for you. Let me give you a peek into what I see … if anything, just to make you feel better about being the thrifty Millennial that you are!
You See: A Sexy New Sports Car
I See: A Money Pit
What you drive says a lot about you, so it’s only natural to want a nice, safe, reliable car. Thanks to financing, it’s really easy to buy WAY more car than you can afford.
So when I spy a cutie in a BMW … all I can really see is $1,000 per month in car or lease payments, gas, maintenance, and insurance. With so many Millennials struggling to pay down debt while trying to save up for emergencies and retirement, spending this much on a car is irresponsible unless you have saved significantly for this purchase. Give me a cutie in a pre-owned Honda any day!
If you’re shopping for a car, be realistic about what you can afford. Consider pre-owned cars that you can pay for in cash, and evaluate if you even need a car in the first place. If you live in a city with good public transit, a car might be optional.
You See: A Prestigious Professional
I See: Debt, Debt, Debt
Many of us have been taught that being a doctor or lawyer is the ultimate in career goals. Don’t get me wrong — these are extremely important jobs.
No one goes through life without needing a few doctors and lawyers (shout out to my new lawyer, Lem!). But know what you’re getting into with these careers: six-figure student loans, long hours after you graduate, and a lower-than-expected salary when you start.
A young doctor or lawyer spends some of their prime earning years funneling their income right back into their loans. If this is your dream job, it’s important to get a financial plan in place that will allow you to pay down your debt while still saving up money for the future.
If you want to be a doctor or lawyer just for the prestige, think again! There are much more lucrative career paths that don’t saddle you with debt.
You See: An Investment in a Beautiful Condo
I See: A Huge Mortgage + Family Help
You should never, ever feel bad if you can’t afford to buy your home yet (or ever). Society places a high value on home buying as the ultimate goal, but it’s not for everyone in every stage of their lives.
So if you’re wondering how your just-out-of-college friend could afford to buy a two-bedroom in a Manhattan co-op while bringing in a $35,000 income, the answer is often: their parents paid for it. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing — families help each other out financially all the time.
A home is a huge expense, which goes beyond the cost of the home itself to include new furniture, renovations, and repairs. Many Millennials who are just starting out have no way of affording all this on their own.
If you’re feeling the pressure to become a homeowner and you’re jealous of your friends who’ve already made it happen, just remember that you don’t know the whole story. Make decisions that work for your financial situation right now.
You See: A Pinterest-Worthy Dream Wedding
I See: A Whole Lot of Pressure to be Perfect
Social media increases the pressure to have a picture-perfect wedding. From ring selfies of two-carat solitaires to photos of glamorous receptions, it’s easy to feel less-than if you can’t afford to celebrate as lavishly.
Once you help a friend or relative plan their wedding, or plan your own, you will be shocked at how much all things wedding-related cost. Add in family expectations for a “traditional” wedding with a large guest list, open bar, and plated dinner, and you’re looking at a $50,000 price tag.
If you and your fiance, and possibly one or both sets of parents, are funding a wedding, it’s so important to communicate about what everyone can afford. Don’t start your life together with credit card debt, and don’t let your parents withdraw from their retirement savings to give you a dream wedding.
So much of wedding-planning stress comes from pleasing others — trying to impress your friends or your parents’ friends while shortchanging your own joy. But if a large wedding just isn’t affordable to you, don’t give in to the pressure to spend a lot. You can have a beautiful and meaningful wedding that won’t break the bank.
You Do You
It takes confidence to live within your means. Temptation to overspend comes from everywhere — your friends, your family, advertising. But the next time you see someone with a $1,000 purse or $40,000 car, think critically about how they were able to afford it. Going into debt just to impress other people isn’t worth it.