Stop Lying to Yourself About What You Spend

//Stop Lying to Yourself About What You Spend

Stop Lying to Yourself About What You Spend

I don’t care if you decide to lie to me about your personal finances but I am shocked how many people lie to themselves about the very basics that make up their personal finance world.  I understand that not everyone knows their monthly nut, but I was floored the other day by someone so clueless about their own situation.  I am not sure what is worse not knowing some simple answers about your situation or lying to a financial advisor you hired to help you.

As explained in the past, I am back office support for financial planners and part of my responsibilities include discussing a case to determine some basics regarding strategy and materials produced.  It was during one of these meetings I received the following information:

  • Both spouses make $225,000 gross
  • Both spouses fully fund their 401(k)
  • Allegedly spend $14,000/month

As soon as I saw the balance sheet I knew something was wrong.  The investments that they had were a lot more than most people (including yours truly) have but there is no way they were “only” spending $168,000/yr when their income was $450,000 combined.  So I started doing some math with the financial planner:

  • $225,000 x 2 = $450,000/yr Salary
  • Minus $34,000 ($17k X 2) for 401(k) contributions
  • Leaves us with $416,000
  • Assuming a 40% an effective tax rate (purposefully ignoring the effective vs marginal tax rate just to further simplify things) = $166,400 to various government bodies
  • Leaves us with $249,600/yr or $20,800/month spending
  • A difference of almost $7,000 PER MONTH

The client basically shrugged the information off and said maybe he and his wife spend another couple grand! Wow.

By |2016-03-07T23:33:26+00:00January 10th, 2013|Personal Finance|30 Comments

About the Author:

Evan is the owner of My Journey to Millions which was started to track his journey from a broke debt ridden law school graduate to building a positive balance. Need more Evan? Follow him on Twitter, Contact him or get new posts directly to your email


  1. JC January 10, 2013 at 9:43 am - Reply

    Wow! That’s just amazing! This is why your income is only so important. If you spend more than you bring it doesn’t matter what your salary is.

    • Evan January 23, 2013 at 10:44 pm - Reply

      Incredible, right? I think that is why I find it so refreshing when I read bloggers that accomplish a TON more on a tenth of the income

  2. Brian January 10, 2013 at 11:56 am - Reply

    That drives me nuts, although at that level I suppose you can have some leeway. But seriously, they’re lucky they haven’t gotten themselves into more trouble. Just making that much money doesn’t mean you can’t run into money (aka spending) problems.

    • Evan January 23, 2013 at 10:46 pm - Reply

      The normal course of events that I see is people like this will continue to tread water and live large until retirement creeps in their mind and they’ll scramble to save

  3. Grayson January 10, 2013 at 1:56 pm - Reply

    Dang. I wish I could be off by $7k and not know it. I know it when I am off by $20. It must be nice to not have to think about your money and where it is going.

    • Evan January 23, 2013 at 10:48 pm - Reply

      It is all relative. When I first started this blog I would notice $5! and then as I got more established with debt (and LAX) I stopped noticing as much. I could use a good kick in the ass. Not to the tune of $7k lol

  4. Miiockm January 10, 2013 at 9:24 pm - Reply

    Holy crap, I couldn’t even spend that much if I had that kind of money. Ridiculous.

    • Evan January 23, 2013 at 10:49 pm - Reply

      Everyone says that, but I feel like once a luxury now a necessity!

  5. Sarah Park January 10, 2013 at 9:56 pm - Reply

    I’ve known also quite a number of friends who don’t admit all their spending expenses. This is due to the fact that they cannot even accept with themselves that they are spending more than what they earn. And this is the very reason why they end up getting into a lot of debts.

    • Evan January 23, 2013 at 10:49 pm - Reply

      If they don’t admit their spending, how do you know about their debt situation?

  6. Midlife Finance January 11, 2013 at 12:18 pm - Reply

    That’s the mentality of most people who are making a lot of money. They focus more on making money and shrug off the spending side. That’s why I keep track of every dollar I spend. Why lie to yourself?

    • Evan January 23, 2013 at 10:50 pm - Reply

      I think people do it because they think they are doing the right thing. Even this family is saving a TON of money, so they just assume all is good.

  7. Jeff January 11, 2013 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    this is probably the biggest problem when trying to get out of debt – not knowing how much you spend in the first place! it’s impossible to tell where you’re going if you dont know wtf you’re doing.
    This guy spends more in a month unknowingly than I make!

    • Evan January 23, 2013 at 10:51 pm - Reply

      I think that is EXACT THING that frustrates me! That kind of income being wasted lol

  8. CBB January 11, 2013 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    Sounds like they just pulled a number out of thin air and hoped for the best which is the WRONG way to tackle finances. Although they could honestly think that’s all they spend. Sometimes people just spend, spend, spend and have no clue as to what the price of anything is they just toss it in, charge it… and enjoy life. These are the people who go bankrupt OR blow so much money our heads spin. If I had that much cash you can bet I’d put it to work for me.

    • Evan January 23, 2013 at 10:52 pm - Reply

      I believe that these people *really* believed that they were spending less. Actually I have found that most people almost get sick to their stomach when we do these exercises with them.

  9. Financial Samurai January 12, 2013 at 12:38 am - Reply

    What’s $7k among two lovers? 🙂

    That is quite a discrepancy. What is their total 401k balances and do try have after tax trading accounts?


    • Evan January 23, 2013 at 10:54 pm - Reply

      Their combined 401(k) balances I believe were in the 300K range and I think they were in the early 40s. Not too bad! It was their Non-Qual accounts that I was shocked. Only $100K between savings and investments.

  10. Elizabeth January 12, 2013 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    WOW! I know sometimes I don’t count every penny in or out, but I can’t ever imagine being that far off – or even that much off “percentage” wise. I guess when you make that much money…?

    • Evan January 23, 2013 at 10:54 pm - Reply

      Ever try to back into it like I did? See how off you are?

  11. Paul N January 12, 2013 at 10:40 pm - Reply

    I continue to shake my head at how many well to do couples like this are out there. Once in a while you see those money makeover articles where Bob and Sally are making about this much but sinking in debt. These people live in a fantasy world sometimes. Do they ever also consider that something might occur where one of them will not be able to work one day or just make a measly 50 k (cough) and have some tough times? God forbid.

    Do some defensive moves people.

    • Evan January 23, 2013 at 10:57 pm - Reply

      It almost seems like human nature to put blinders up to that…Not everyone has the personal finance blog included in their morning read lol

  12. Blinkin January 13, 2013 at 10:03 am - Reply

    You nailed it. I can (kind of) understand why someone would lie to a loan officer about their financial situation. I can also see why someone would lie to a complete stranger. But to lie to a financial adviser doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

    It’s impossible to know for sure, but I’m curious how many of the lies are on purpose versus the individual being legitimately oblivious to their actual situation.

    • Evan January 23, 2013 at 10:58 pm - Reply

      I think the planner who is on the front line would have a better indication of the lies vs. oblivious, but I bet it would depend on where the client came from (referral, or known in real life)

  13. Jules January 13, 2013 at 10:56 am - Reply

    I can’t imagine having that kind of money. And I really can’t imagine being that far off with my spending. Sounds like denile or carelessness.

    • Evan January 23, 2013 at 10:59 pm - Reply

      I don’t think I’ll ever reach that kind income level…especially since The Wife doesn’t work full time, but if I did, hear me now I would do the right thing! lol

  14. eemusings January 13, 2013 at 10:00 pm - Reply

    Yikes. I wonder how much of that was actual ignorance vs shame at not wanting to admit the true extent of their overspending.

    • Evan January 23, 2013 at 11:00 pm - Reply

      We will never know! and how frustrating is that?

  15. Fred January 19, 2013 at 2:39 am - Reply

    Talk about being in denial, you can be sure that they had some loans elsewhere that were undisclosed if $84’000 a year went unaccounted for!

    • Evan January 23, 2013 at 11:00 pm - Reply

      We can only hope not lol

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