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Why High-Income Earners Are Living Paycheck to Paycheck

A six-figure income can go a long way in easing financial stress. But unfortunately, it doesn’t eliminate the risk of living paycheck to paycheck.

It’s easy to associate those who make a modest salary or work in a low-paying job with a “paycheck to paycheck” lifestyle. But, a study from Nielsen Global Consumer Insights is changing the game. The study found that one in four families making $150,000 or more are living a similar lifestyle.

Lifestyle Inflation: The Rich Man’s Kryptonite

There’s a concept that even some wealthy people have trouble understanding – it’s not how much you make that matters, but how much you spend that matters.

If you make $500,000 a year, but your annual expenses total $450,000, you’re completely maxing out your lifestyle. Doing this means that you will never reach your full financial potential. That’s because you’re eroding 90% of your money just as fast as you’re making it.

High-income earners routinely suffer from lifestyle inflation. I’ve seen it happen more times than I can count – people start earning more money, and in turn, slowly start upgrading their lifestyle. Before they know it, lifestyle “creep” has sprinted out of control and has them completely handcuffed.

Lifestyle inflation generally goes toward things that don’t bring much value to your family’s financial life, either. This means things like expensive homes, cars, traveling, and just plain old foolish spending. It’s great to have and do all these things, but what’s not great is winding up house poor and car poor.

A better use for that excess money would be to invest in yourself, or in your most important financial goals.

Related: The 12 Boring Secrets to Getting – and Staying – Rich That Millionaires Won’t Tell You

Wealth Erosion Overload

Buying “things” are only the start of lifestyle inflation. They’re the roots that sprout all the other eroding factors.

For example, say you buy a home worth $1.2 million. Pile on top of just that the mortgage, property taxes, utilities, and general upkeep, and you could easily add another $50,000 to your annual expenses. Expensive items aren’t only expensive to buy, they’re expensive to own.

Owning expensive things is an easy way to erode your income. Then, consider all the other eroding factors on top of this that you’ll encounter – economic inflation, taxes, lost opportunity cost, planned obsolescence, and more.

Related: 3 Dangers of Ignoring Your True Cost of Living

Be Reasonable, Not Lavish

So, how can you avoid finding yourself in this very situation?

Simple – live reasonably, not lavishly.

This is something that I try to instill in all my clients, even the wealthy entrepreneurs that I work with. Actually, this mantra is probably more important for them than anyone, because they have the most to lose.

Now, I’m not saying that I expect you to live in a tiny home, drive an old, beat-up car, never take a vacation, and never purchase something that you want. There’s absolutely no shame in indulging – I’m all about working hard, playing hard, and being able to enjoy the finer things in life.

After all, the goal is to be able to live the life you want.

But to do that, you have to abide by some simple rules to ensure that happens. These include spending less than you make, paying for things in cash rather than financing everything you own to make a purchase, not racking up high-interest debt, saving at least 15% of your income, protecting yourself and your assets, and remembering that slow and steady wins the race.

Related: 15 Common Sense Money Principles That Will Change Your Life

There’s something very important that I’ve learned from coaching clients over the last 14 years – the ones who understand that it’s the simple, boring disciplines that hold the secrets for getting and staying wealthy, are the ones who reach their full financial potential.

Why Does It Matter to You?

Living paycheck to paycheck is a possibility for anyone – whether you make $50,000 or $5 million. That’s why, as your income grows, you have to control lifestyle inflation before it controls you.

Living the life you want requires a balancing act between growing your wealth and smart wealth management. You should always be thinking with an abundance mindset, but in the right way. It’s not about how you can use your money to buy lots of things. It’s about how you can use your money to create opportunities that allow you to grow, to help you live intentionally with your money, and that put your resources to work for you. That’s how you reach your full financial potential.


There are many other areas to consider but most people ignore these. If you need help designing your plan for retirement or just a second look, we’re happy to help.

Jumpstart YOUR knowledge of all the major wealth eroding factors by downloading our FREE e-book today:

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