Laura covers eight truths that have the power to transform your financial life. Use them to make better decisions, set the right priorities, and build more wealth.
The answer to many questions about personal finances isn’t black or white. There are so many variables, choices, and potential outcomes for most situations that, in many cases, the best answer is simply: it depends.
But you won’t hear any uncertain or unsatisfying financial advice in this episode. I’m going to cover eight financial truths that apply to everyone in every situation. They have the power to transform your financial life—if you let them.
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Financial Truth #1: Money doesn’t buy happiness
Researchers have shattered the illusion that having more money makes you happier.
They say earning about $75,000 a year is the sweet spot. That’s a national average that varies depending on where you live. Happiness costs more in big, expensive cities like New York and San Francisco.
Earning $75,000 allows the average American to pay for comfortable housing, have reliable transportation, eat well, take an occasional vacation, and save for the future.
If you earn 20% more, that’s fantastic, but it’s not likely to make you 20% happier.
In other words, money definitely can buy comfort and security. But once you have a moderate amount of stability and income, having more doesn’t make you incrementally happy.
My level of happiness has generally been about the same throughout my entire life, no matter my level of wealth. I think most people are born with a happy thermostat or set point that doesn’t change drastically, no matter how much they have in the bank.
Financial Truth #2: Your earning power is your most valuable asset
While your home or retirement account may hold a lot of value, your ability to earn money is ultimately what allows you to build wealth. Your financial life will completely stall out if you can’t earn income.
Since your earning power trumps everything, you need to protect it like a junkyard dog. Disability insurance was designed to replace a percentage of your income if you get into a debilitating accident or get sick during your working years.
You may have the option to buy short- or long-term disability coverage through work. If not, or if the coverage isn’t enough, you can buy a policy on your own through many of the big-name insurance companies.
And being in good shape, both physically and mentally, allows you to perform at the top of your game and earn what you’re worth.
So take your health just as seriously as your wealth, by eating more nutritious foods, cutting sugary snacks, working up a sweat every day, and going to bed earlier so you get plenty of sleep and feel as rested as possible every morning.
Financial Truth #3: The cost of your time should guide you
Many times we spend money frivolously or overspend because we don’t focus enough on the cost of our time.
For instance, let’s say you earn $20 per hour as a graphic designer and you see a beautiful pair of shoes online that cost $300. Before you reach for your credit card, do some quick math and divide your after-tax hourly wage into the price of the shoes.
For the sake of this example, assume that your average tax rate is 25%. That means your take-home pay would be $15 ($20 x 0.75) per hour. If you divide $300 by $15 per hour you see that you’d have to work 20 hours to pay for those shoes. If that idea doesn’t thrill you or feel completely worth it, forget about the shoes.
Calculating the value of your time is a powerful way to really understand what something costs. If you’re paid a salary, here’s a quick way to figure your pre-tax hourly rate: Take off the last 3 zeros from your annual salary and divide that number in half.
For example, if you earn $60,000 a year, strip off the last 3 zeros, which gives you $60, and divide by 2. You earn about $30 an hour. Then to get an after-tax ballpark, take about 20% to 25% off that number, which leaves you with approximately $23 an hour.
Not only can figuring the value of your time help you rein in spending, but it’s also a guide for when to hire people. If you need help with chores like yard work, house cleaning, or running errands, and can afford to pay someone less than you earn to do them, it makes sense to hire the help.