When a friend posted a photo of his top end car…another friend asked him (yes openly, on FB)..’How did Subra..allow this to happen’. Thankfully, I did not have to reply. The guy who had the car clarified how a 60% jump in his esop valuation HAD forced him to sell off some of his holding (rebalancing), and suddenly there was a nice surplus without any goal. So we did discuss the ‘unnecessary but affordable luxury’ and he bought it, cash down, and after collecting 5 other friends and negotiating a good ‘corporate’ price for an individual buy!!

However, this article is about people with other problems. LIFESTYLE creep.

As a person earns well he keeps increasing his standard of living. So yes you were starting your career. Then you got your bike. Then marriage happened. The Zen came. Then you upgraded to an Indigo. After 7 years, you got a Honda City. Now of course thanks to some innovative financing scheme you have a BMW.

Your vacations went from Lonavala to Goa to Shimla. Then there was peer pressure and life style creep. The inevitable Far East trip happened. Then of course one trip to Europe. Nowadays of course you want more esoteric vacations. A walk in the Coffee gardens of Coorg. Or buying that Rs. 1200 a kg. tea during your North East vacation.

Nothing too wrong with lifestyle creep. It happens to everybody. You went to restaurants once a week. Then it became 8 times a month. Saturday nights MEANT eating out. Your wife announced ‘I will not cook Sat nights’. You and your kids will look lost in the kitchen. Tea making is what your mother taught you. So if there is no cook, or wife is not willing to cook, it is the eatery nearby. Last time the four of you ate a full proper meal there the bill was Rs. 6000. Hmm..you cannot really do much, right dude?

What has really happened now is that you need about Rs. 125,000 a month to run your family. You have just paid Rs. 32 lakhs for his pilot training fees – and you are not sure of him getting a job. Your daughter is doing an engineering course and is planning to go abroad for her education (of course!) and that will set you back by Rs. 86 lakhs.

Well. It is a bad time to lose your job, right? 

Sadly, on your 47th birthday your boss delivered the punch in your solar plexus. You just lost your Rs. 74 lakhs ctc job. One nice way to look at it is to say ‘I do not have MUCH debt left’. The other question to ask is ‘do you have any asset that will generate Rs. 125,000 a month’. Kids not earning, parents – both sets requiring some monthly support, EMI on house and car, how will your manage?

What about your neighbor who splurged Rs. 42 lakhs on his daughter’s wedding? Did your family not LOVE the arrangements? The Rs. 225,000 for the photography? the Rs. 4 lakhs of ‘lighting expenses’ at the open garden reception?

Oops. I know the neighbor too. He was not keen at all to spend SO MUCH AT THE WEDDING. This literally ripped his retirement plans apart. He had no intentions to buy that six figure dress. He had no intention to buy his daughter a new wardrobe for the wedding. His wife (and others perhaps) kept telling him ‘you have only one daughter’.

Knowing him, he would have been happy giving her a Rs. 10L in equity funds instead of an European honeymoon. His son in law earns well as does the daughter. However, his ego (and in this case his wife) made him spend about Rs. 20L more than what he intended spending at the wedding. Right from the hall, caterer, dresses, to return gifts – the poor man had no say. Except over a single malt and the only shoulder he got was mine.

Hello men, be men.

Increase your lifestyle, but be ready for the downside. Jobs are routinely lost. You owe your kids some basic education. Higher education has to come through a loan OR NOT AT ALL. I see men give ‘guarantees’ of Rs. 100 lakhs for educational loans – if the kid will not (or cannot) repay, remember, your HOUSE is on mortgage. It can feel stupid to be ‘stuff rich’ but ‘cash poor’. Your employer may soon make you ‘Time Rich and Cash Poor’.

When your main source of income is threatened, wake up to the cash flow evaporation. Find the easy things to cut down. Air travel, eating out, expensive dresses, electronic toys aka phones, cars.

You may have to be blunt with your spouse and kids. Vacations, eating out – frequency and places to choose both may have to be sacrificed / compromised.

See if you are saving enough to pay for all this – kids EMI on educational loans, your simpler vacations..etc. It is not enough to think of your retirement corpus which should be ready at age 60. If you are a all providing alpha male with a housewife and 2 money guzzling kids, ask yourself – CAN YOU AFFORD IT.

If you cannot answer that question honestly, it means you cannot. And by the way, retirement in India just got advanced to age 50.

 

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  1. Recently read a study by an eminent prof.. He says between 2030-35 75% of the jobs as we know them today will be non existent.
    So that has advanced the retirement for most if we don’t upskill or move into different fields..

  2. As somebody in late 30s who lost a job recently and found that the job market is not exactly welcoming people like me I understand this too well. When you see that your savings will not beat the inflation to sustain you for next 50-60 years (without even considering the kids expenses for the next 15 years assuming they settle well then) it was slightly helpless situation for a month or so. Only saving grace for me was I never upgraded my lifestyle and my family grudgingly accepts it. Thankfully I could move to some other team in my present company but the notice period before that came was an interesting time.

  3. how true!!!
    5 yrs back, a 2g plan for 99 rs/mo was adequate. now anything less than 750 rs/mo for 4G is a joke. smart phones are engineered to become dumb within 2-3 yrs to ensure next model is bought with more features & higher price. cars are expected to be replaced within 5 yrs instead of 25 yrs with an upgrade assumed for sure.
    the lifestyle creep is here to stay…

  4. Great article sir..It is very important to maintain an adequate lifestyle, keeping in mind the future needs..It can feel stupid to be ‘stuff rich’ but ‘cash poor’…Well said..

  5. Superb post from Subra sir. tight slaps and the appeal for men to be men!!

    @KKK kindly share more of your exp.

  6. I agree. The article matches my life like most of the readers; rise from humble beginning in school days with minimum to holidays in Switzerland while earning Petro-dollar and now back in India after loosing the job in this oil price crash. Presently no job is on the horizon! I have to believe and make my family believe I am retired and change the lifestyle!

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