How much do you earn in a year? [Calculator]

Our tendency to fall victim to Lifestyle Inflation – spending more than we earn and taking up huge loans without really understanding what we’re signing up for – lies in the gross misconception that money and time are limitless.

While we all know we won’t live forever, we somehow seem to assume that our monthly wages are guaranteed for the rest of our careers. How long is that? Twenty years? Thirty? Forty? Who knows! Basically just a really, really long time. Such a inconceivably long time, in fact, that there’s no point really thinking about it right now.

We have a word for that, you know.

It’s called Myopia.

myopia
Myopia is the fancy word for YOU NEED GLASSES YOU BLIND BAT

(Fun fact: Like many others, I happen to suffer from clinical short-sightedness (Myopia) myself. And trust me, if I didn’t have a pair of glasses resting on my face I’d be tripping over my own feet and bouncing off the walls until it killed me.)

The fundamental problem behind our financial short-sightedness which tends to completely blur our long-term vision is that we receive our life’s earnings in conveniently bite-sized monthly portions. This routine and regularity of receiving the same little lump of cash, on the same day, every single month of the year, lulls us into a dangerously false sense of comfort: We begin to believe that this stream of money will never end.

It’s okay, you think to yourself. I’ll get a fresh batch of money next month anyway. 

And what’s the point of saving, right? When you know for a fact you’ll get more money next month. Might as well just put it off, I’ll save when I’m older.

To add insult to injury, our everyday brains are generally only equipped with basic arithmetic skills despite all those long years of advanced mathematics in school. When we see something we like, and it’s big, and it’s expensive, the clever businessmen on the other side of the cashier will act like any clever businessman would and kindly chop up the very expensive item into bite-sized mouthfuls – so it’s easier to swallow.

like babyfood heh heh

How much is this car?

Only $550 a month!!

And then click-clack-clickety-clack the rusty gears in your skull start to turn, and the wonderfully convenient realization dawns on you: Oh! That’s okay. That’s only a quarter of my monthly salary.

Seven years, interest payments, bla bla not important – what’s important is that the car is only 25% of my monthly salary and that’s a-okay.

But that’s very misleading.

Can you imagine if you bought a little chunk of the car at a time? This month you get a steering wheel. Next month the left side mirror. And the month after that, you’ll luck out and get yourself your first door. And after seven years of painstakingly assembling your car, you get your car key.

But that’s ridiculous.

That’s not how it works, right? You get the entire car upfront, of course! The clever businessman will give you the whole car but allow you to pay him back in little chunks, in return for something called interest.

And at the end of the loan period, you’ve coughed up the price of the car and all the interest payments in return for the clever businessman’s “kindness” without even flinching – and without even realising, truly realising just how much money and time toiling away at your work desk that you’d actually spent on your car – because you hadn’t thought about it or bothered looking back over the last seven years to reflect.

That’s how short-sightedness works. And the clever businessman is certainly not going to hand you a pair of glasses, he makes money off your disability, after all.

You need to know, how much does the car cost? No little sliced-up chunks, no sugarcoating, no fancy candy wrappers.

Chances are.. You have a car. And I’m willing to bet that you’re still paying for it. If you don’t have a car, I bet you’re thinking of getting one.

Although betting probably isn’t the wisest financial thing to do.

Before you sign up for any big purchase or loan, even if it’s 0% interest, even if you intend to pay cash in full for it, you need to ask yourself two questions:

  1. How much total money does the car cost you?
  2. How much total time does the car cost you?

The second question might seem confusing at first, but in fact it’s the more important one. Way back when we met Mamat, we saw how he got a job and traded in his time for money. So how much time do you have to trade in, in order to pay for your car?

First task: Think about or, even better, write down the full cost of your car – both the principal (cost price of the car) and the interest (a percentage, over the length of your loan). If you don’t have the exact number and can’t be bothered to dig it up, that’s fine – just a rough ballpark figure will do.

Second task: How much do you earn in a year?

You’re in luck – I’ve built you a handy-dandy calculator 😀 All you need to do is click the yellow boxes, plug in your details, and everything else will automatically generate. (And don’t worry, this is just a basic calculator like one of those conversion things you get online – it won’t save or keep any of your data, and I certainly won’t be able to know who uses it and how much their salaries are hahaha):

 

Now that you know how much take-home pay you rake in every month and every year (with all the TAP, SCP business deducted already), how does this number fare compared to your car?

If you’re a mid-twenty millenial with a bachelor’s degree and only a few years of work experience on your back, an educated guess tells me your annual income is somewhere between the wide range of $30,000 and $50,000. If your number is higher, great! If it’s lower, don’t fret – remember, income isn’t everything.

And how much is the car you currently have, or are planning to get? Would you work an entire year with zero salary in order to be presented with that car (for free) at the end? Is your car even more expensive — does it require 1.5 years, maybe even 2 years of your timeThat’s eight hours a day, five days a week, fifty two weeks in a year.

Tink about dat.

 


 

Note: Btw, I don’t have anything against buying cars per se. Like I said earlier, this applies to all spending: Think about your expenditures, especially the larger ones, in terms of how much time it’ll cost you, and don’t cut up the full cost into small pieces so it’s more palatable. You’d just be fooling yourself. And I picked cars as an example because in Brunei they’re the most common massive purchase, and they’re commonly purchased via a car loan (7 years, 4.5-5% interest I think). The worst part is these purchases (or “commitments”) are often signed up to without much thought.

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Myn’s Deets: Q1 2016 Expenses round-up

Some quick Wally observations for the first three months (Jan-Mar) of the year:

  • Food & Drink is by far the bulk of my expenses – 56%.
  • In that segment, roughly $200 a month is on lunch (which is about the same as last year)
  • Caffeine addition is kinda out of control; I’ve spent an average of $92.18 per month on coffee – which is almost one cup a day… Oops.
  • On average, I’ve spent $15 per month on my phone -YEAY! I topped up $100 of prepaid phone credit on the 3rd of January, and I still have a balance of $49.90 left, plus $3.18 worth of bonus, so that means I’ve only spent $50 in total heheh. I’m still on Easi and with $100 top-up, you get a bonus of $32 which can be spent on calls, texts, and data. When my bonus is running low, I sign up for the DST MBB (mobile broadband) plans. In January I spent $10 on 1gb for 30 days, and in Feb and March  I bumped that up to $20 for 3gb for 30 days. Anyone else want to ask me why I haven’t signed up for Prima post-paid yet (which is $35 per month for the cheapest plan)? Didn’t think so!
  • A total of $60 on my fuzzy little buddies- that’s two rabbits and a guinea pig – which is roughly $20 per month on my pets. They haven’t had any vet visits, so that’s just food and hay. And Petlink still hasn’t restocked litter (paper and wood pellets) so my stockpile at home is dwindling fast and needs to be replenished soon -_-
  • $60 renewing my passport.
  • So far, 25% of my expenses has been the Misc (gift box) category – which is basically “money that went to others” (gifts, sedekah, lanja, charity). In terms of percentage of total expenses, this is a bigger chunk than expected but the actual cash value is quite close to my 2015 average. Took my family out to eat (and this is a table of almost fifteen people), chipped in for a parent’s holiday flight ticket, our domestic helper went home for a month so she got a small bonus, etc.
  • I haven’t gone shopping at all yet this year, woah. I spent $49 on Bare Minerals powder (make-up) but that’s literally it. This incredible feat is mainly due to the fact that I haven’t traveled this quarter, nor have I felt the need to do any online shopping. I anticipate some shopping in the next few months though; I’m planning a short trip potentially in May and chances are I’ll have some time to shop.

Click here for my full 2015 expenses report.

All in all, my average monthly expenses (total spent/no. of months) have still sort of stayed on track. But on a year-over-year basis, I spent much more between January-March 2015 mainly because I was in Bangkok this time last year. So if I did plot a graph of expenses across all months for 2015, I spent quite a bit in the early part of the year and then it drops and flattens out in the middle, before spiking upwards again around August (when I had my big Eurotrip).

For 2016 it’s been pretty steady and monotonous so far… But then again I haven’t traveled or gone shopping yet 😛

And if you’re wondering, yes I have also been

  1. Saving a chunk of my income
  2. Paying off debts – I have a credit card which I clear in full prior to the end of every month so I’ve literally never incurred an interest payment (and hopefully never have to)
  3. Spending less than I earn – when I go off on big holidays I sometimes do spend more than I make in that month; but as a guideline your annual expenses should never exceed your annual income. Or to be safe, you can even track it on a quarterly (3 months) or half-yearly (6 months) basis; that’s up to you. But if you blow through six months worth of salary in the first three months of the year, that’s definitely not a good start. 

Getting out of Broke: You sure you know how to drive a car?

So how’s life and money treating you, since we last talked?

When we’re first asked to think about where we are and where we want to be in terms of our personal finances… The first image that pops to mind is likely a long and bumpy road stretching between the two extremes of Brokeness and Richdom. And somewhere in between these two extremes is You – probably confused and unsure, and stumbling (hopefully) in the general intended direction of Richdom.

brokerich
Ya, that squiggly black line is a road.

Definition: By “Rich” I mean a comfortable place of financially stability and security – not specifically dolla dolla billz make it raiiin millionaire status.

What does this road to stability look like, exactly?

The conventional view is that it’s the long, upward climb of a stable career, with good prospects of salary increments, naik gaji, bonuses, benefits, and promotions. Every year you clock at work, your income bumps up a little bit… And eventually, maybe, you’ll get to Richdom — where the people with five-figure monthly salaries live a comfortable and worry-free life… ahh the ultimate dream.

brokerich2
Is this what the road looks like?

Oh if only it were that straightforward. Unfortunately, we already spoke about the plague of Lifestyle Inflation and how it can easily eat away at whatever extra earnings you rake in, inadvertently cancelling out all your efforts and keeping you closer to Broke.

LIeat

Remember, wealth is measured by what you have and KEEP, not by what you spend, and it is certainly not based on the size of your income alone! 

And when I say it’s measured by the stuff that you have, I mean true wealth assets – the most common in Brunei being ca$h and real estate properties (e.g. land, a house). So please don’t buy into the myth of “investing” through buying stuff, because I’m not talking about material pleasures like collector’s baubles, limited edition fashion goods, or suped-up steroid cars – these generally don’t count as assets and “investing” in these are usually just meek attempts at justifying expensive purchases.

To drill that point in a little deeper, the world’s richest people are measured according to their net worth – that’s how much they have (a.k.a. assets)  minus how much they owe (a.k.a. liabilities). You never see lists of people who’ve spent the most money, except in the pages of cheap tabloid magazines (“celebrity buys other celebrity XX million dollar diamond necklace!”) and that’s never written in a flattering light.

So we need to wake up and smell the freshly roasted coffee beans! In a world where we’re encouraged to spend, spend, spend, and throw our hard-earned work-money into the pockets of ingenious businessmen who sell you things and other things to put your things in…

Here’s a phone ($1000+), and some flimsy plastic screen protectors for the front and back ($30). Now here’s a phone casing ($60), and a zip-up pouch ($15 to $200++ if named after an Italian guy) to put your phone and phone casing into! Do you want a separate wristlet strap ($30) to go with it too??

So well-protected it would survive a nuclear fallout.

… how do we avoid falling into the rabbit hole and down the vortex of financial ruin?

Is there a yellow brick road which we can follow to the land of responsible spending? Are we able to walk the fine line of occasionally rewarding ourselves (for all your hard work, of course) or will we invariably plunge downwards into a crevasse of insatiable material cravings and completely pour our life’s earnings down the consumerist drain?

tight1
so many tightropes to balance on, wat am i duin wit my life

To achieve balanced financial habits, we need to mitigate against reckless Lifestyle Inflation and avoid becoming irresponsible shopaholics, while at the same time we shouldn’t mindlessly hoard money at the expense of our comfort and happiness, reluctant to spend even a single cent.

Exactly where and exactly how to achieve this elusive Golden balance differs from person to person, obviously – and it’s up to you to feel around and find out where your G-spot is.

Cough.

One thing I can tell you is that it lies somewhere in the general region of spending enough on what makes life better, happier, more comfortable, and more fulfilling while not spending more than you earn, and certainly not at the expense of your overall financial stability.

“Argh this sounds SO COMPLICATED, there are just too many variables and balances and ladders and tightropes and…. You’re not helping!!”

Does controlling your financial life feel like this?

Every self-proclaimed personal finance adviser, writer, blogger, aficionado will have their own quick-fix recipe of financial stability and success – their own versions and lists of the top “five habits that will make you rich” or “ten things that separates millionaires from everyone else”.

Lemme break it down for you in true Myn style.

It’s easy.

So simple.

Just listen to Mama Myn.

There are only THREE controls on your financial dashboard.

THREE pedals in your car.

Not five, not ten, not twenty five habits of financially effective people… Just THREE.

Imagine you’re in a car driving from Brokeness to Richdom. You’ve got your three pedals, right? Accelerator, brake, and clutch, which control the car and get you moving. (Let’s assume you’re driving a manual ok? C’mon, you’re broke you can’t afford an automatic yet.)

How do you get the car moving?

Slamming your foot on the brake, consistent pressure on the clutch, light tapping on the accelerator? What about consistent accelerator, slamming your foot on the clutch, but frequently tapping on the brake? Yes? No? You know how to drive a car or do you find yourself trying to restart a stalled engine every few seconds?

Does ur financial life feel like dis

Here are your controls:

carpedals
u know how to drive a car rite?

Your accelerator will get you to where you want to be. That’s your assets.

Your brake pedal will slow you down and stop you, but life is full of bumps and traffic – so sometimes you have to use it. But use it too much and you’ll never get to where you want to be. That’s your debt.

Your clutch is there when you need to adjust your speed. Speeding up, slowing down, you’ve got to shift gears and jiggle your foot around a bit. That’s your spending.

SO! Chances are you can drive, and how to get the car moving is a no-brainer, right? Foot pressed firmly downwards on the accelerator, brake only when necessary, control the clutch only when you’ve gotta change gears to adjust acceleration. Simple riiight?

drivecar

When you’re trying to accelerate and speed up (build assets), you’ll initially have to keep shifting gears and pressing on the clutch (adjust spending), but once you’re cruising down the highway, BAM you’re good to go – wind in your hair, sunshine in your face, life is good. But as soon as you start braking – and if you brake hard enough (big debt)– beep boop blumpa blumpa bump, you’ve got to shift your gears down and suddenly you’re back at Gear 1, crawling along the tarmac like a snail. And it’s going to take a lot of inertia and effort, shifting gears and jiggling your clutch, to get up to high speed again.

If you don’t know how to drive a car, let me illustrate this one other way JUST FOR YOU:

threecontrols
Here’s your control panel.

Now update yo’ settings!

Myn’s Three Golden Sliding Controls to fix your money woes:

RULE NUMBER ONE: ↑↑↑ Grow your assets ↑↑↑

bigthreeassets

RULE NUMBER TWO: ↓↓↓ Shrink your debts ↓↓↓

bigthreedebt

RULE NUMBER THREE: → Spend less than you earn 

bigthreespendless

And here are all three rules smacked together so you can print it out and stick it in your wallet so you don’t forget.

bigthree

U unnestan oredi? One final time:

  • Foot on the accelerator – GROW your assets.
  • Brake only when necessary and, if possible, not at all – SHRINK, minimize and aim to eliminate debt
  • Clutch to shift gears – ADJUST spending as needed; but always less than what you earn

 

Don’t mix it up or your car will stall.

 


 

[In the next episode of Myn Schools You, we can talk about how, on a practical level, to do it. How do you grow your assets? How do I get round to shrinking my massive debts, they’re insurmountable! What do you mean by adjusting spending?]

Ok bye