Turning 30 is a milestone worth celebrating. For many of my peers and friends who were born in 1987, this is our year. I reckon that at some point during the year, we've spent some time doing some self-reflection, and maybe give ourselves a pat on the back for what we've accomplished thus far.
We've all moved on in life and pursued different career paths since we graduated, but thanks to social media, we could easily keep up with (stalk) the lives of friends from the old school/college days. Looking around my peers, majority of us are married or are at least in a relationship, some might even have a baby or two.
As we enter our 30s, most of us would have been working for about 6-7 years and have climbed the ranks to hold managerial roles or ventured out as entrepreneurs. We continue to see our income grow and are rewarded with more perks and higher bonuses.
The combo of higher disposable income and a routine settled-down life are what make life in our 30s 'creepily' good. In order to keep our routine life interesting in our 30s, our goals begin to shift towards upgrading our lifestyles and spending more money on material possesions. After all, we earned it, we deserve it, we can afford it, right?
This is called lifestyle creep and here are some examples of how lifestyle creep enters into our lives:
That sedan you've been driving since college is still working perfectly fine, but it doesn't fit your 'managerial' status anymore, you need something new and nicer. Besides, you make more now so you can afford the higher monthly installments for a nicer car. Or maybe the monthly payments stay the same after the 'discount' you get for trading in your old car so you think you're getting a good deal.
The Volvo probably looks more 'managerly' but I'd rather keep my Mazda 3 with no car payments.
The first house you bought with 3-bedrooms is too small to raise a family. Your kid(s) need more space (to play on the iPad?) so you need a bigger house, preferably a house with a backyard. You are eligible to obtain a bigger loan with your higher income, so why not max it out.
This is probably too small, 'cheap', and old for what we could afford, but it's big enough for us. We don't even use our backyard.
Hiring domestic helper/maid services
You realized that you need to spend more time doing chores with a bigger house, but you're too busy at work and don't want to spend your weekends doing these. You think it's worth spending the money hiring someone to mow your lawn and clean the house, because your weekend time is worth more.
Benefit of a smaller house is that it takes less time to clean, and we do all the chores ourselves. It may not seem a lot to pay someone to do these on a monthly basis but you'd be surprised how much they add up to over the years.
You start to eat out more frequently at higher end restaurants because a good expensive meal is a good way to reward yourself for your hard work. Besides, you need to 'check in' at the restaurant, take photos of the nicely presented food, and share it on your IG stories. Sharing is caring right?
My cooking skill is decent enough to make a good and tasty meal, and we save our eat-out budgets for when we travel.
Apple just launched a new iPhone, making that fully functional iPhone you bought last year out of date. You feel the need to upgrade to the newest phone so that you can use the newest features. That Fossil watch you were once proud of is getting old and you don't want to replace the battery, it's time to upgrade to a TAGHeuer or an Apple watch. That old couch you had doesn't match the rest of your furnitures, you need a new one that matches. I can go on and on with this but I shall stop here. =P
I probably wouldn't have gotten an iPhone if I hadn't gotten it free from work.
In your 20s, you were fine with 'roughing it out' by staying in hostels, take public transportation, and travel on budget airlines to cut down on costs. You used to look at these as part of the experience. In your 30s, you would rather pay more in exchange for more comfort because you are getting old and can afford to travel better.
I don't disagree with this, I've just found ways to stay in nicer places for free thanks to travel hacking.
Overspending on baby/kids stuffs
I know I'm not qualified to discuss this topic so I won't ramble too much on this. My point is, baby/kids grow out of things so fast that there's really no point buying a lot of things brand new. Your baby won't know the difference between a non-branded onesie or a Ralph Lauren onesie, they slobber all over them anyway.
Useful life for these stuffs is less than a year. Unless you get them as a gift, there's really no reason to buy them new.
What's your take on all the things mentioned above? Some will say that you've worked hard and earned this privilege. As long as you could afford it, there is no problem rewarding yourselves with a better lifestyle.
The big assumptions with this spending habit is that you are able to keep your job and income level for the long term, and that you will continue spinning your wheels to pay for all these debt/expenses over the next few decades. You may look rich on the outside but the truth is you haven't built any wealth.
"Do you know how our culture brainwash people? They repeat something over and over. Owning things is good. More money is good. More property is good. More commercialism is good. More is good. More is good. We repeat it – and have it repeated to us – over and over until nobody bothers to even think otherwise. The average person is so fogged up by all this; he has no perspective on what’s really important anymore." - Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom
The creepy part is, all the things above seem so normal to middle-class people like us, and we'd be foolish to not realize how incredibly privileged we are to be able to do all these without even thinking much about it, while some people are struggling just to put food on the table.
Our 30s is the best and most important time to accumulate wealth and prioritize our financial goals. However, if we are not mindful and thoughtful about our spending behaviors now and allow lifestyle inflation to creep up on us, we will look back one day on our 40th birthday and wonder where all our money went. At that point, we've already wasted another 10 years of saving/investing potential and compounding interest.
Money can not only buy material possessions, it can also buy us TIME and FREEDOM if we 'spend' it wisely. Remember, every dollar we spend today inflating our lifestyle and buying things we really don't need (especially those big ticket items) will put additional working years on our limited lifespan.
The choice is in our hands. Once we get used to the 'upgraded' lifestyle, it will be difficult to turn back. So let's make our 30s less creepy by staying grounded, humble, content, and thankful for what we already have.
January 2021 December 2019