Before I’m accused of writing this lifestyle inflation post specifically to deliver you this celebrity pun – (I did) – I just want to say the timing of this post couldn’t have come at a better time anyway.
The markets are still hitting record highs and the U.S. housing market has recovered nicely from the 2008 housing bust.1 The official U.S. unemployment numbers are also at a decent historical low. As a result, here on the home front, our September income report revealed how we were edging towards the $1,000,000 net worth club at the tender age of 26 & 29.
What will be in store for us in 2018? A gallivanting trip to Northern Europe? A custom Swarovski crystal dog collar for Grace? Chipotle burritos with extra, extra avocado?!
Then I remembered the story of Nicolas Cage.
Oscar-winning actor Nicolas Cage has enjoyed a successful 40-year career on the silver screen. Everyone in an English-speaking country and beyond has at least heard of his name. Cage has starred in an impressive memorandum of Hollywood films. These films have generated both financial and historical significance in Tinseltown. Throughout his career, Cage has had a whopping total film gross of $4.7 trillion dollars. In the peak of his movie making career, his annual salary averaged $40 million alone!
Let’s face facts: most of our family’s hard work and hustling is total chump change compared to Mr. Cage. Hubby and I are barely worth 1/40th of what Cage made in 1999.
This guy had everything!
Everything except a budget.
Cage finally found his big break in 1996 and it didn’t take him long to fall into the abyss of lifestyle inflation. From the late 1990s to the peak of the housing bubble in 2007, Cage was on an endless spending spree as a by-product of his newfound success in Hollywood. The man purchased 15 high-end properties amidst the housing bubble climb, 2 European castles (that he never lived in or fixed up), a private island, 1 gulfstream jet, 4 yachts, 22 luxury automobiles, a pet crocodile and a $150,000 pet octopus 2. That’s just a small list of what he has squandered his money on.
Something about Cage just gives me the heebie jeebies. Anyone else?
Did I mention that one of his wild purchases was a haunted mansion in New Orléans once owned by a sadistic slave owner and murderer name Madame LaLaurie?
(The pet octopus is pretty cool though! ?)
In 2009, Cage filed for bankruptcy due to the credit crunch that took place post-bubble. He was also charged with $13 million dollars in unpaid taxes by the IRS. Then Cage sued his former business manager for sending him down a path of financial destruction.
Classic move. It’s never their own fault, huh?
Logistically if Cage had taken care of his personal finances, his net worth would be well over $150 million dollars today.
After almost a decade of exorbitant overspending, Cage noticeably had taken on numerous paid roles and appearances in order to repair the damage of his financial ignorance. He is currently set to work on 10 different films in 2017. Along with Johnny Depp and an extended list of other financially irresponsible celebrities3, Cage’s situation required a vigorous and high stress work schedule in order to keep pace with spending.
Sound familiar? See, celebrities are people too!
He ‘caged’ himself into a pattern of overspending and overworking. Despite his earning power, he may not be ready to FIRE just yet at the age of 53 with his eccentric lifestyle of which he has been accustomed. This is the guy that only eats the meat of animals that breed in a “dignified” way (meaning he only eats species of fish and fowl).
Again, creepy…but let’s move on…
Lifestyle Inflation Isn’t All Bad…
I gave the worst example first to instill fear in my pure and jubilee rainbow readers.
Lifestyle inflation is a good thing when accomplished in moderation. Can you imagine if a person never inflated their lifestyle? Living the college kid life until they’re 55? Are you me? Just like in a real economy, inflation plays a key role in the productivity of a country. Inflation keeps consumers spending on par instead of consumers holding out. Inflation in moderation boosts the economy. Lifestyle inflation works like that too. It’s natural to want the finer things in life. Lifestyle inflation is necessary.
There is a lot of analysis that you have to do beforehand though. Both of the internal self, the future and the budget’s bottom line. The rest of this post covers how I think a person should handle lifestyle creep after a promotion, a windfall or a better job. This is how I personally plan to go about it so I’ll take you through the general steps I’ve jotted down for myself.
How to Fight Lifestyle Inflation
Budget is Buddy
My husband Hubby and I will continue budgeting bi-monthly the same way we’ve been doing for years. We will also keep track of our net worth at the beginning of every month. There will be no changes to our budgeting routine after we cross that million mark. If you’re not keeping a budget or tracking your finance, now is a critical time to start. This is one of those things that will either make you or break you. Watch for the bottom line and have a general idea of what you want to strive for in the long-term.
Related: Is budgeting depressing you?
Delay Any Changes in Lifestyle
When Hubby received his official acceptance for his new job at a 40% increase in compensation, I took the happy initiative and began looking at rental properties. By the time Hubby started work, we were already in the middle of closing. His sign up bonus barely made it into the bank account before it was sent to escrow.
Do you know how absolutely reckless I was? That was quite possibly one of the top 3 stupidest moves of my life.
In my haste, I incurred a responsibility (land-lording) that either of us thought would be as stressful as it is. Although the current housing market and our Airbnbs are doing reasonably fine, the added stress made me question why I was so mercurial. It could have been much worse too. Hubby just landed a new job. Would he even like it? What if the offer fell through? What if it made him miserable enough to quit?
I’ve grown up a lot since then. Please learn from my lesson. Delay any sudden changes in lifestyle and review large purchases when you’re in anticipation of something like a raise or windfall. Always leave breathing room to analyzed any uses for the surplus before making sudden movements. Consult spouse, professional, support system, Reddit, the cool people over at Rockstar Finance Forums – just don’t Nicolas Cage yourself!
Mind Your Misery
Despite my lightweight 26 years on this planet, I’ve learned misery can come pretty quickly. For the past few weeks now, I’ve had one sentence echoing in my head:
Sam from Financial Samurai did a podcast with Noa Kagan a couple of months ago and I haven’t been able to stop hearing the echoes:
People can’t foresee their own misery. – Financial Samurai
I’ve encountered this a lot myself. It’s part of the mental framing process: when you’re having a bad day, all you can remember are bad things. When you’re having a good day, positive memories floods in a lot easier. A lot of things may be grand today but there’s no surefire way that tomorrow would be like the present. You love your career now but work, politics and players can wane your passion quickly. The past does not predict the future. Carrying around an aura of invincibility is the most dangerous thing you could do.
Extra Money WILL Be Put to Work
The entire time I’ve been writing this post I’ve been humming the “we’re in the money, we’re in the money” song in my head.
The mint is seductive. It brainwashes even the brightest people among us.
Those highly billed A-list celebrities can’t be dumb-dumbs. Acting is a talent but so is having the grace to maneuver successfully in a cut-throat Hollywood environment. I bet if you put me and Cage in a chess play off, I would probably lose…
Financial sense ≠ common sense.
Put your money to work because if you don’t then you’re doomed to work for money forever. Kill any outstanding debt you have (student loans, car loans, any consumer debt). Invest the remains by maxing out all retirement accounts. After a period of zen like meditation (which you will do because I just cautioned you to), your new funds will be put to work in a high interest saving account or invested properly in low cost bond funds and/or mutual funds.
My husband and I will continue investing and reinvesting all our dividends and income just like before. We will not be withdrawing any funds for the bathroom remodel idea I was toying with in my head. There’s nothing wrong with the bathtub we have now and a french door shower seems too pretentious anyway.
Automate Your Finances
Curb any temptation by automating your finance to pay your dues first. I’m not sure if this is surprising but I was initially very much against payment automation. I told my husband I didn’t want any charges going through without us manually reviewing them first. For the first few months we were budgeting, we kept track of our expenses manually without auto-pay. Eventually the workload became too much and I caved into auto-pay (and paperless too.) I’m still not comfortable with charges going through without prior inspection but the advantages of auto-pay has largely destroyed most of my opposition. Automating finances cuts back on overhead and leaves an organized and accessible “paper trail” to follow.
Incremental Change (& Congratulations!)
Lifestyle inflation is better when it’s subtle. If and when we do cross over to the double comma club there would *foreshadows* be very little difference in our monthly family income report. The only thing I was going to add was an additional $50 dollars per month to our dining out budget. We currently have our grocery budget combined together with eating out and I’ve been meaning to separate the two. Dining out vs eating at home are drastically different. We don’t mix personal care with home maintenance so in a way, I’m arguing eating out vs eating in should also be segregated as well. But that’s the only change we see ourselves implementing.
Well, I’m almost done here. I wanted to get my soapbox rants out-of-the-way before my last point:
Congratulations little noodle!
If you’re worrying about lifestyle inflation then you’ve probably got a well-deserved little love $$$ coming your way! And having read this post, you’re now on a better page than Mr. Nicolas Cage himself, pre-2009. Go forth, dictate your money and find your wealth!
Have you heard of the financial woes of Nicolas Cage before this post? What is more surprising: Cage’s 10 year spending saga or his near lifetime of financial ignorance (particularly for such a wealthy man)? What are your tips on combating lifestyle inflation?
Budget on a Stick says
My first thought when reading all the crap he bought was, “who needs 4 yachts?!”
It doesn’t surprise me because you can find this behavior everywhere. The way we fight lifestyle inflation is by having yearly, 5 year and bucket list goals. Our financial goals are all premeditated so we just need to act on them. The last few pay increases, bonuses, and tax returns have all gone to 401k, Roth’s and mortgage payments. ?
Yup, checks out, just saw your Q3 report!!
Budget on a Stick says
Glad you are doing your due diligence but it’s time to go to bed ?
Neverrrrrrr! Ohhh…chicken strips. LOL!
Budget on a Stick says
It’s a thing now
Chris (Debt Free Geek) says
I loved reading about Nick Cage’s wild adventures. I didn’t know most of it.
You guys super impress me with what you’ve done with your money. You know I’m trying to get started in real estate. Hopefully I can get my first property this quarter.
Nah Chris, we’re bums. Can’t wait to get some news on the RE front!
Ms. Frugal Asian Finance says
So I have to be honest to say that I had never heard of Nicholas Cage before reading your post. It’s probably bc I came to the US later in life. It’s amazing to see how much wealth you can generate from acting!
Mr. FAF and I almost fell into the lifestyle inflation trap. We bought a bunch of electronics after he got his first paycheck. But we’ve scaled back and are more calm now hehe.
I know, best career to strike it rich yikes! We’re in the wrong biz sister!
Ms. Raggedly Rich says
I love you and you’re hilarious. And also 100% on the ball about this – I did love Cage in National Treasure, but then he was forced to just take a string of crappy movies because he needed the money… (or so I’ve heard through the grapevine). It’s really too bad that stuff like this happens. Everyone should be forced to take a high school class about finances featuring personal finance blogs!!
I love you too smooshy <3 - yeah those 10 films hes doing in 2017 are all crappy gigs. He just really need the money I think. I took a screenshot of them but darn the devil computer misplaced it..
Dave @ Married with Money says
Okay I’ll be totally honest, the headline made me chuckle. 🙂 Then it made me roll my eyes, hahha
But you do bring up good points. Gradual lifestyle inflation isn’t horrible, so long as you keep things in check. What I’ve found has worked well for us in the past few years has been focusing on increasing our income and slowly increasing our spending to match, at a rate about 15-25% of our income growth. That lets us enjoy the money, but our savings rate keeps going up.
If your lifestyle inflates at 100%+ the rate of your income, you’re going to have a bad time.
Now to focus on increasing Kristin’s income 🙂 🙂 Since we’re living off mine only right now, that’s when the good stuff happens!
Haha this reminded me of South Park, “you’re going to have a bad time.” 15%-25% sounds reasonable!
Mrs. Adventure Rich says
It always amazes me how celebs can blow through money… but I honestly feel bad for them. They are hit with the biggest expectations to inflate their lifestyle (because they just HAVE TO HAVE that Beverly mansion, the yacht, the vacation villa in Italy and the fancy-pants car). Oi. Finance 101, let’s get it out there!
I’m a big fan of automating finances and paying myself first (especially when I get a raise). Thanks for the tips and reminders!
The celebrities who are frugal (celebrity standards) are actually getting fame (the good kind) for their levelheadedness. Like Keanu Reeves! You have to escape the spending matrix!! x)
For years now, anytime I get an increase at work, I increase my “pay myself first ” amount and the amount I donate to charity. it has worked out great. Also since tracking all my expenses and net worth, it has help me stay focus a lot more.
Yes! It’s the same story here Caroline!
Gary @ Super Saving Tips says
I will admit I learned the hard way about lifestyle inflation, but then again, Nicolas Cage was just starting out around the time I was throwing my money around. These days I’m much more frugal, and the budget rules all. I think one of the best tips for avoiding lifestyle inflation is to delay any spending. Try living with the idea of it for awhile before you go ahead and commit to it. Evaluate what you already have or could get for less. You may find it’s not really worth it to you.
Yes! Thank you Gary!
Hahaha, great headline!!! I vaguely knew about Nick Cage’s money spree but it’s not really surprising that celebrities like him would run into financial trouble. He wanted to live to the celebrity lifestyle and went too far with the number of properties he purchased. Now, he’s paying the price by taking movie roles that might be B or even rated movies!
I agree that lifestyle inflation should be handled in moderation. I’m not going suddenly change my burger habits from going to In N Out to a gourmet burger restaurant but once in a while is okay.
Yes! I had a screenshot of all the B- movies he’s shooting in 2017 but my computer ate it. Important lesson: financial ignorance can be embarrassing if you end up blowing 150 million of it!!!
lily this was by far the best post I have read on your blog! So entertaining yet so educational. I had no idea that Nicholas cage had a pet octopus. The only thing missing is a MEME or image of Nicolas cages face with his eyes widened, that is so ubiquitous on the Internet haha.
I was going to say at least he has his wife he met who is a waitress and then I googled him and saw that they separated last year 🙁
You and your husband are doing great and so humble! But I guess a lot of people who cross the $1 million mark don’t change anything about their lifestyle, hence the millionaire next door moniker.
Thanks missy! Not that this is a gossip site, but they might be reconciling >_>
A million isn’t much anymore. If we wanted to be the millionaires next door, we need $3 mil after inflation.
Mrs. Kiwi @ KiwiAndKeweenaw.com says
Oh man, blowing through all that money sounds so stressful to me! It’s amazing how extravagant people can be!
Inflating your lifestyle slowly, steadily, and intentionally is a wise move! $50 extra for dining out sounds like a reasonable choice!
I know right! His expenses included even more ridiculous things.
Menard Solve says
Nicolas Cage is to acting what Chuck Norris is to martial arts. Except that Chuck Norris is much better at managing money– he was so good that he started his own hedge fund.
Wow he did?! That’s awesome especially for a celebrity!
Menard Solve says
Lol.. That was a Chuck Norris joke 🙂
Darren @ Learn to Be Great says
I really enjoyed reading this post. Didn’t know Nicolas was squandering away his money but these are the stories you hear about Hollywood and around professional sports. If he had only been exposed to the personal finance community before he got his big break in movies…even if only through books.
When were his parents with that personal finance 101, dang.
The Dead Speak Online says
And let’s not forget the Egyptian-style pyramid Cage had built for himself in a New Orleans cemetery!
Oh yeah…>_> seriously Hollywood nuts is a special kind of nut.
Hawaii Planner says
In the Bay Area, it is way too easy to fall into the crazy spending trap. I hear the “but, we earn a lot & work SO hard, we deserve it!” thing used to justify about everything. We have plenty of splurges, but track our money, know where it’s going, and try to save more (percentage wise) each year. We review our yearly expenses towards the end of each year & ensure all of our spending is still aligned with our priorities, & adjust as needed. Sometimes up, but often down as well.