Today, inspired by the viral post of Sarah Friedberg on Facebook about society’s expectations of working moms, I decided to do a fun post about all the things “personal finance” society says you’re supposed to be doing.
Like many moms, I related hard to Sarah’s list. I too have had the pleasure of going back to work six to eight weeks after having my boys, and felt the pressure to both “lean in” and be a picture perfect mom.
It got me thinking that the same pressure exists in the personal finance space. After all, if you’re not budgeting every penny, maxing out your 401k, totally debt free, financially independent by 29, eating dandelion salads for dinner, and side hustling 60 hours a week outside your day job – are you even trying?
So today, I’m going to go through all the things personal finance society says you’re supposed to be doing.
Budget Every Dollar
You have an annual budget, monthly budget, and weekly budget – right?
Obviously, you need to spend hours every year developing an annual budget, anticipating every expense from the fact that one of your kids is going to get sick in mid-October, to the fact that you’re going to need a haircut in July.
Then every month you need to create a monthly budget. Sure, this will take a few more hours, but what else do you have to do with your time?
Hope you didn’t miss an expense. Because if you did that’s your own fault.
And once you have that budget, you need to…
Track Every Penny
Make sure you spent time every single day recording your expenses – down to the penny. After all, how will you know how you’re doing each month if you don’t?
If a new expense tracking app comes out, make sure to give it a try. After all, it’ll save you time!
Just make sure to go into it every day to make sure things got categorized correctly. Nothing worse than your spending at Costco getting lumped together as “groceries” when you really bought some groceries, cleaning products, makeup, and 57 rolls of toilet paper. Oh, and a pack of gum, with your “fun” money.
After all, if you’re not tracking to the penny, are you even personal financing?
Max Out Your 401k
Sure, $19,000 per year is a lot of money. But if you’re not totally maxing it out, you’re jeopardizing your financial future!
Even if, you know, you make $50k per year. Somehow you always need to max out your 401k.
And if you’re over the age of fifty, better be maxing out that catch-up contribution! Twenty five thousand dollars a year is chump change, amIright?
And if you’re married, you better both be maxing that 401k, because every single person in the United States needs to be putting aside at least $40k per year for retirement.
Oh, the average household income is only $56k? Well, you better just live on that $16k left over. Because obviously everyone still needs to be maxing their 401k, no matter how much they already have saved, how much they earn, and their timeline to retirement.
Be Totally Debt Free
Now, what if you have debt?
Well, you shouldn’t have done that.
Get in a time machine and go back to before you got that car, took out that student loan, or bought that house. Tell yourself not to do those things.
Hmm, you say your student loan led to increased lifetime earnings? And that car loan ensured you could get back and forth to work, to earn a living? Your house provides a safe space for you to raise a family?
Doesn’t matter. Debt bad. Go back in time and make yourself smarter.
Learn To Invest
You say investing is confusing? All these acronyms, all these choices, different types of accounts, tax implications, options that vary between employer?
Well I know you have nothing better to do with your time than to educate yourself about investing.
Obviously, after spending the time to come up with a budget, spending hours each month tracking every penny, figuring out how to live on $16k per year, and securing a time machine – you need to read multiple investing books too.
Oh, they’re boring? Dull? Often assume a level of underlying knowledge that you don’t possess? Stop complaining! If you don’t learn how to invest by 25 you’re doing it wrong.
Just make sure you get the books from the library – don’t want the five bucks coming out of the $16k per year you’re living off of.
Oh, and you better have learned how to invest as a teenager. Because if you didn’t, compound interest won’t really worked well for you, and you’re doomed. Dust off that time machine again!
Never Buy Anything
If you buy stuff, you’re a consumerist! Stuff is evil! You should be living a totally minimalist life, with a single chair in the middle of your living room.
Better yet, why do you have a living room? You can live out of your van.
Wait! Vans are gas guzzlers. Live out of your 15 year old car instead. Just make sure your car has minimalist decor -perhaps a single flower (plucked from a field) in a vase (trash-picked, of course) kept in the cup holder of your dashboard.
Now sit in the dark, eating your ramen, and have fun sleeping in the car. When you wake up, gaze at that single flower and appreciate how minimalist your life is.
But Buy Local, Handcrafted, Sustainable, Organic, Non-GMO
When you do need to buy things (which you shouldn’t – see above!), you better make sure you’re buying the “right” things.
Don’t support big businesses like Amazon! That convenient two-day delivery with Prime is a scam. Instead, drive around to seven locally owned stores to find the things you need.
Handcrafted is the only way to go. Want a birdhouse? Don’t just pick one up at Home Depot. Call around to find a local artisan, two hours away, who makes them out of reclaimed wood from naturally fallen trees. Drive the four hours round trip and pay three times as much for it.
Psst – when you made your annual budget you knew you were going to want a handcrafted birdhouse in the spring, right? No? Well, even though you can afford it you shouldn’t get it! Better wait until next year.
All your groceries need to be organic, non-GMO, and bonus vegan and gluten free. Oh, but remember, don’t spend more than $50 per week on your grocery budget at the same time.
Seems impossible? Well, just go to any field and make yourself a dandelion salad! Free, organic, non-GMO, gluten free, soy free, and vegan right there baby!
Lower Your Grocery Budget – You’re Spending Too Much On Food
No matter what, you’re spending too much on food.
Feed a family of five on $200 per week – which is $40 per person per week? Too much!
What if you spend $150, or $30 per person per week? Extravagance!
Fifty dollars a week, or only $10 per person – forty-eight cents per meal? What are you, a billionaire?
First of all, you should never ever eat outside your home. If someone wants to go out to eat, just show up and drink water. Waiters and waitresses love that. And eat out, in any form, for any reason, is just a waste of money.
Next, spend hours every week clipping coupons, tracking sales, and keeping a price book so you can get your groceries at rock-bottom prices.
Oh, you say that your locally made, handcrafted, organic, non-GMO shopping list doesn’t actually go on sale or have coupons? Too bad. Back to the dandelion field for you!
Increase Your Income
Now, I hope you didn’t think you were going to have time left over after doing your budget, tracking your spending, learning to invest, and shopping in fields for your groceries.
Because now you need to spend hours every week increasing your income.
Now, I know you want to make excuses like “I have a family that I like to see once in a while” and “occasionally I would like to take time to get a haircut”. Maybe your kids have things like days off from school, a million doctor appointments, and daycare you need to pick them up from.
No excuses!!! You better be leaning in hard here.
Take classes in the evenings and weekends, use your commute to learn new things, network, join Toastmasters, get another degree, join in on all the work happy hours, and don’t forget to use your weekends to learn new skills.
Oh, you say that you have to leave work at 5 to pick up the kids from daycare? And that there’s no childcare in the evenings for you to get another degree? You say you’re a single parent?
Or that you love the field you’re in and are happy with your fulfilling work, even though it doesn’t pay a lot?
Oh, you already make enough to cover all your expenses, save reasonably for the future, and still have fun today?
Excuses! All of them. Now go increase your income. This advice is applicable to everyone.
And Side Hustle Hard
Lets not forget that on top of all of this, you also need to be side hustling to bring in more income.
After all, we need to diversify! Create multiple income streams! Never mind that your evenings are already taken up with trying to increase your income, track your spending, and combing fields for that dandelion salad. Head back to that car with a flower in the vase, turn on your computer, and launch your side hustle.
Everyone has time to do this! Things like caring for kids, spending time on hobbies, taking care of elderly parents, and needing sleep are just excuses. If you’re not earning money every second of every day, you must be lazy and not want to be successful.
Be Beautiful – On A Budget
This ones for my female friends – although men are welcome too.
You know how society loves to tell you that you can’t let a grey hair show on your head (because you’ll look *old*), that you need to appear wrinkle-free into your 70’s, and that you need flawless skin and perfect makeup at all times?
Let’s not forget how we all need to be clothed in the latest fashion trends at all times, lest we be seen as out of date and….unfashionable (horrors!)
Well, I hope you weren’t planning on spending money on those things.
Women need to be flawless, fashionable, impeccably made-up beauties naturally, don’t you know. They don’t spend money on clothes or shoes – those just appear in the close for free. And they certainly don’t need hair dye to cover greys (even in their 50’s), nice hair cuts, make up, or skin care products!
You say that if you’re just sitting in the dark eating ramen and gazing at your single flower, no ones going to care what you’re wearing or that your hair cut is less than perfect?
Come on! How are you going to score that promotion with that kind of thinking. You need to be a flawless natural beauty clothed in the latest fashion trends while you sit in the dark, side hustling. Duh.
Make Every Moment Productive
I hope you already understand this, but you need to be productive every moment of every day.
Sleeping more than four hours per night? Waste of time! Sleep at midnight and wake at four AM. It’s the only way to be successful.
Brushing and flossing your teeth? Better be reading the news or listening to a podcast while you’re doing that.
Want to listen to music on a long car ride? How terribly unproductive! Audiobooks are the way to go.
Eating dinner? Well first of all, I hope you used a coupon and a sale on that non-GMO/sugar free/vegan/gluten free dinner of yours. And you should be productive while eating! Don’t talk to your family – read a book or something.
Oh wait, that makes you a bad parent….OK maybe you can talk to your family WHILE reading a book. Gotta master the multi-task!
Any downtime at all is terrible. Every moment of your day should be spent either making money or figuring out how to not spend it.
Travel! But Don’t Spend Money On It
Now, while you’re travelling you’re going to need to be side hustling and growing your income. But you get to do it in a new place! How exciting.
Sure, they say you need vacations to be a better person, and more effective at work. But you know that you don’t need a vacation. You need to hustle hard – and it starts with hustling to travel for free.
Spend hours researching rewards cards, and creating elaborate spending strategies to meet the minimums. Yeah, it’s tricky on your $16k annual budget, but you gotta do it anyway!
Then of course you need to research how to get the most out of your travel rewards. Spend some more hours there.
You say that you could just save a bit of money every month and pay for that vacation in cash? Nah! Where’s the fun in that? If you’re not traveling for free every single last time, you’re doing it wrong.
Be Retired By 30 – Or Sooner
I hope you kept that time machine from the debt free step, because you’re going to need it.
If you spent your twenties doing unproductive things like paying off student loans, or having fun – or starting a family – and don’t retire by 30, well then I feel sorry for you.
In order to be considered a financial success, you better be fully retired by thirty. Yeah, you graduated college only eight years before that – but what have you been doing with those eight years???
That should be long enough to amass a nest egg that will last you through age ninety.
Twenty-two years of being a child, teen, going to college – then eight years of work – sixty years of retirement – sounds right to me!
Don’t let the fact that you’re already thirty-five stop you. If you weren’t hustling hard since birth to invest those Benjamin’s, hop on into that time machine and go make it happen!
Judge Others – Hard
Look at those “other” people, wasting their money on things like food! Clothes! And sleeping when they should be hustling!
Come on now, time to get out our judgement hats and laugh at their “spendypants” behavior.
What’s the fun in living in your car in the dark, side hustling while eating your dandelion salad, if you can’t mock other people?
Be sure to post on multiple Facebook groups, forums, and on social media about the terrible wasteful behaviors you see others engaging in. That way, both you and others can have fun judging and mocking them, because you’re obviously so much better than they are.
When will they see the way?