Man Gets A 'Significant' Raise And Wonders What To Do With His Extra Money — 'I've Never Had This Level Of Income Before'

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A major part of fulfilling the American Dream narrative revolves around building individual wealth, owning property, and living a self-defined, autonomous life. This money-centric mindset affects all Americans, whether they have wealth or not. We’re plagued by the idea that there’s always a better option just around the corner, leaving us feeling perpetually unsatisfied with the lives we have.

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Yet aspects of making more money aren’t openly discussed, including the negative, destabilizing effects of an increased income. One man struggled with that issue and wrote to the r/Money subreddit to ask for advice.

The man received a ‘significant’ raise but wasn’t sure how to handle having extra money.

He explained that he just started “a big boy job” after finishing his PhD. He went from making $1,600 a month to $15,400 a month and was wondering how to manage such a big jump in income. 

He and his wife live in New York City and earn a combined monthly income of around $24,000 before taxes.

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“Our goal is to put away [a] minimum [of] 100K per year,” he said, asking if that was a feasible option. He also sought advice on where his money should go and who he should talk to before making financial decisions.

He qualified his inquiry by writing, “Sorry if this is kinda stupid and the questions are dumb; I’ve just never had this level of money before.”

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However, his questions weren’t dumb, at all — in fact, they were quite smart. By acknowledging what he didn’t know, he showed a level of self-awareness that isn’t necessarily common, especially during such a huge lifestyle shift.

Someone in the comments did the math and discovered the man would be making about $288,000 a year before taxes. They gave their perspective on how he should navigate having a high income, recommending a mixture of saving and spending.

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They touched on costs like having a 401K, medical insurance, rent, utilities, and taxes, estimating that the man will have “$120,000 in [his] hands” after everything is said and done.

Another person chimed in to recommend against spending just for spending’s sake, writing, “You don’t have to appear to be wealthy.” They advised him to pay down any debts as soon as possible while also saving as much money as he could.

Yet another person living in New York with a similar income had a differing opinion: He and his wife should spend what they want and enjoy life. “Make friends, buy expensive cocktails, eat expensive meals, go to the theater,” they said. “You’ll still have money left over to save, and the memories you make will be priceless.”

While their advice seems to prioritize spending over saving and isn’t a particularly careful perspective, they do have a point. Life is meant to be enjoyed, and exciting experiences are usually worth spending money on.

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The man came to the comments to agree with that assessment, saying, “We could live frugally … And save a bit more, but as you said, life should be lived.”

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Another person mentioned an important factor for the man to consider when thinking about spending: lifestyle creep. They praised the Reddit poster for “taking a pause here to strategize,” noting, “Most of us will get a raise and adjust our lifestyles accordingly.”

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They commented on the emotional aspect of spending, saying, “Those adjustments almost never provide sustained happiness. The ‘new car’ feeling doesn’t last, but your 401K will.”

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Lifestyle creep is common when someone starts making more money, as spending often increases with a higher paycheck. 

This phenomenon is also called lifestyle inflation: When you make more money but also spend more money, leaving little to no savings.

As personal finance expert Saprina Danise explained, one type of lifestyle inflation involves spending money on expensive things like “a fancy new car” or shopping only at Whole Foods after your income increases. However, that isn’t the only type of lifestyle inflation. 

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Danise discussed another type that occurs when you previously didn’t make enough money to adequately take care of yourself, and now you do. 

“So, you’re spending money on things you weren’t spending before, and these are things that you need, not luxury things,” she said. “I’m talking about going to the dentist, getting oil changes on your car, new tires, taking your dog to the vet — things like that that are not necessarily luxuries; they are things that we need, but when you don’t have enough money to make it paycheck to paycheck, you’re probably not doing those things.”

She explained the conundrum that accompanies this kind of lifestyle inflation, noting, “You make more money, and you feel broke.” 

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Danise explained that people in this situation might wonder what’s going on, but it’s “because you’re taking care of yourself.”

“You’re doing the things that you want to be doing that you should be doing, that, as adults we’re supposed to do,” she continued. “You’re doing the big-girl things that you should be doing, and you’re like, ‘Why do I feel broke?’”

“If that is you, I want you to give yourself some grace,” she advised. “You’re taking care of yourself now. Don’t beat yourself up over it.”

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No matter what side of the aisle you fall on when it comes to saving versus spending, money can be an emotionally charged issue, even when you have a lot of it. Learning how to allocate your income in a way that benefits you in the present and the future is an important skill to cultivate, which is why seeking outside opinions is always a smart choice. 

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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango’s news and entertainment team. She covers social issues, pop culture, and all things to do with the entertainment industry.