Why the wealthy spend less on luxury: the 70/30 rule in finance

Last year I started to take fitness and lifestyle more seriously.  Quite a few experts I know talked about diet being more important than exercise.  As exercise makes us feel hungrier, and it isn’t realistic to sustainably try to starve yourself, I was told most fitness coaches tell their clients they need to change eating habits.  

Therefore, 70%-75% of the progress people make in terms of their weight will be down to diet, and only 25%-30% relates to exercise.  This surprised me a bit, and I am sure surprises many people.

It got me thinking.  One of the things I have noticed since being in the finance industry is that many high-income individuals aren’t wealthy.  

I know numerous people who are worth $2M on an income of $50,000 and others have close to zero wealth but are on huge expat packages.

One person I know has consistently made $15,000 per month after tax for about 20 years in South East Asia, and yet has only about $100,000 to his name.

How can this be true?  Well, the truth is good spending habits are actually the biggest source of wealth, compared to earning more.  Michael Jackson was close to bankrupt despite earning around a billion dollars in his careers.

That is not to mention the effect of compounding.  Even though markets historically go up and down, on the whole, they tend to increase over time.  The US Stock Market, the S&P, has averaged a return of 10% before inflation and around 6.5% after inflation.  This benefits people who are consistently disciplined and start investing at a young age.

Take a simple example of somebody who starts investing at age 22 for 40 years. Let’s say they save on average $100. If they get average historical returns, their account will be worth about $264,000 in today’s money when they are 62.  

If they save $500, the account will be worth $1.3M and $1,000 would lead to $2.6M in today’s money at the age of 62.  In reality, even a very well-paid person who has had bad spending habits will struggle to accumulate $1M-$3M if they start investing in their 50s.

Consider an even more startling statistic.  Let’s compare two people who are investing $500 a month and they both get an unexpected lump sum of $100,000 due to inheritance.  

Person 1 invests only $500 per month but spends the 100K, whilst person 2 invests the 100K and the $500 monthly.  In 30 years, person 1 would have around $588,000 in today’s money.  Person two would have $1,350,000 in today’s money…..a difference of $750,000 in real terms by delaying consumption and well over $1M if you don’t factor in inflation!

Perhaps it is unsurprising that many reports suggest that the rich are less likely to buy luxury goods.

The above is a sample from the 6 steps to financial freedom book.

Extra reading 

  1. How to get rich investing

72 Replies to “Why the wealthy spend less on luxury: the 70/30 rule in finance”

  1. Adam,

    I am a recent grad about 4.5 months into a new, real world, job. I want to begin investing in small amounts but don’t know where to start but love the idea of putting money away now and letting it compound greatly.

    Thanks!

    James

    1. Hi James

      Sure, where are you based by the way? I did a post on online brokers you may find interesting. Your location will determine which brokers can accept.

      Adam

    2. Start by calling vanguard or fidelity or another company of your choice. Tell them what you’d like to do and they will help you set it up. Start with something like an s &p index fund and do automatic monthly deposits. You’re on your way.

  2. Denying yourself and possibly a young family the luxuries while you are fit and in good health to build up a nest egg for an unpredictable future might be reflected on with regret in time to come.

    Sadly some even find the need to save becomes compulsive and never get to enjoy spending their nest egg and end up passing it on as an inheritance.

    I feel there is a balance that has to be reached. Scrimping and sacrificing to make savings can come at a cost. Moderation and not obsession is key.

    1. Sure a balance is needed. Something too extreme isn’t good. But most kids are just as happy with a toy train as a $1,000 toy car, so beyond a certain level of comfort, it doesn’t seem to make a difference to happiness.

  3. I am 23 years old and I am working as an IT professional for about more than a year , and I can’t increase my savings or don’t know how to invest my earnings for the future.
    Can anyone guide me ?

    1. Hi Nishul

      I would recommend:
      1. Reading and listening to the evidence
      2. Personalizing it for yourself
      3. Implementing it.

      Thanks
      Adam

  4. Hi adam,
    I am 28, working professional in INDIA, I still don’t believe in investing in stock market. But I want to start saving early (preferably not in banks). Can you please guide me, so I can start investing at the right place.

    Regards

    1. Hi Pankaj

      I would do the reading first as per the reading list and you will see the benefits of long-term investing but I would keep your exposure to the Indian markets are 5%-10% of your total portfolio.

      Adam

  5. Hi
    I think that many people are unaware of the investing in the stock market, especially Asians. As a Sri Lankan, I think that many people are unaware of or unsure about the stock market.they just put their money in the banks.

  6. Hi Adam
    Hope you are well! I am 58 years old and need some pointers regarding investing having just inherited £90000 A lot of the commentators say invest for 30 years plus, but what if you are my age what then?

      1. Hi I owe my property. I am 52yrs old with no savings an have two kids under 12yrs old. I have no other debts except my family. Any suggestions.

        Thx
        Jeremy

    1. I just turned 50 years old. I’m in a similar situation as Rich. Can you please send me the advice? Also, once you reach retirement age, what is the percentage of your investment should you rely on for living?

      1. Hi Lisa sure. In retirement, 4% of your pot is safe for withdrawal. So $500,0000 = $20,000 a year. $1M = 40k a year and so on.

  7. I began saving at around 30 yo after divorce. I didn’t make much then and saved what I could, and I knew nothing about the stock market. The company matched up to 6% and in time I increased it from a mere 2% to 10%. I saved $500 in bank IRAs when I could and some cash in credit unions, but nothing could compare to the company’s match, and Fidelity did the investing in stocks, bonds, etc. I am comfortably retired and still remind myself to control my spending by habit. My sister-in-law swears by Vanguard and states she pays low fees and her earnings are great. I told my grandchildren, if you don’t save it when you’re younger and able, you won’t have it when you’re older or possibly disabled; with social security, you won’t get it out if you don’t put it in; and lastly, the more you make the more you’ll get from social security and company retirement funds (depending on which type and what percentage is deducted). Many companies have 401Ks, 403Bs, etc., types of retirement plans. The best advice is don’t wait until you have more money, do it NOW, make a free appointment with Fidelity or Vanguard, etc., and figure out where you’re going to be when you retire. It’s all common sense, right? And Good Luck!!

  8. One last comment. There were times I saw thousands of dollars disappear and I just closed my eyes and said ‘let it ride’ because that’s the advice I was given. There were days I wanted to take all the remaining money out before there was nothing left, but I’m so glad I never did. The stock market has ups and downs. I stopped looking at it for a while and when I went back to see if all was lost, I was pleasantly surprised to find it was all back… and then some! Money really needs to be in long term to realize the best gains. Just my opinion.

      1. Hello, I do realize that it’s been quite sometime since this post. I happen to find myself in similar circumstances as described above. Are you able to write me the advice the others in this situation have received from you? Many thanks!

  9. Only thing to remember is, compounding formula has (number of years) in power position and principal amount in Multiplication. Now just calculate who is contributor.

  10. Hello, I will be 26 this year from Lagos Nigeria. I want to know great Investment options I can take. I am an executive trainee in a Commercial Bank

  11. So you $$ave / Invest all your life, not buying luxury stuff etc. As a result, at 65 you’re a millionaire and die the next day: what’s the point??

    1. Well nobody knows when they will die. The 65 year old will probably die at 78-80 statistically. Besides if somebody starts early enough, they can get wealthy at 40-50, and luxury beyond a certain point doesn’t make people any happier. Try it. Tomorrow buy a $10 bottle of wine and the day after try a $50 bottle of wine. Won’t make any difference to your happiness.

  12. Hey Adam, I’m a 16 year old living in California looking to invest long term for my future. Where should I start, or do you have any particular low risk stocks you could recommend? Or maybe some good books? Thank you !

  13. I am 64. Have about $75K in an IRA and want to retire at 66. My FRA. i will get about $2500 in Social Security. I have two pension. One for $168 a month and the other $148 dollars a montjh.How do I do that without running out of money in less than 10 years?

  14. Hi Adam,
    A student learning and preparing for exams. My mom is about to retire and will get lump-sum money. Could you please tell me, where can I invest the money so that it gets multiplied quickly?

    1. Start budgeting. Use cash more. Right down a budget with pen and paper. Then once you have better cashflow, invest the surplus.

      1. Thanks! Would you suggest a monthly/yearly amount invested in something that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance, like the S&P 500?

  15. Hi Adam,
    Found your suggest concise and apt. I’m 37y old and I couldnt save much earlier due to some family issues. Right now in a good career and professionally doing a lot better than I was in my 20s. Whats your suggestion for people like me who are starting so late? Would love to hear back

    1. Hi Seema – everything starts somewhere. You will never be younger than today. So start investing even small amounts of money. Write down a budget and keep to it. find some ways to earn more – like freelancer or upwork.com

  16. Hi Adam,

    I am 38 years old. I started investing in stocks and mutual funds since past 3 years or so. I invest about 30% of my income into mutual funds keeping a horizon of about 20 years and expect somewhere around 12% per annum return over a period of ~10 years on an average of investing.. do you think it is sufficient in terms of building enough wealth for my retirement?? I plan to retire by say 60 years age.. I don’t have kids, but just me and my wife.. do you think I need to invest in other options as well to keep my hard earned money safe? Additionally, I don’t have any real estate as an asset as of now… what do you recommend for me??

  17. Would you try to include payment periods next time? 15000 after tax isn’t a lot if we are talking annually. If we are talking monthly, that is a different story, but you don’t ever clarify. Same as the savings rate for a 22 yr. Old for 40 yrs. Best

  18. It is important to find a balance.

    It makes no sense working so hard, and living so frugally, for a future you’re not so sure of…(vice versa).

    I think you should ensure you’re saving enough to maintain your current lifestyle (in retirement for instance), and about 13-20% of your income is enough for this. Then live your life.

    I also believe expanding one’s means is very important – this allows you to save more. (Side hustles and High income skills are necessary for this).

  19. I am a Nigerian. Live in Lagos Nigeria. I am 52 years if age. What type of investment risk is adequate for me to guaranteed my financial independence at old age.

    I have investment in stocks in Nigeria but mostly penny stocks.

  20. Forgive me for my comments which may not be of your liking.
    I am 67, still working for living. I have no savings, no investment or any other security. But i am a happy man because i enjoyed every second of my life with pleasure and happiness.
    Whatever i earned in my life, i spend to make myself and my family members and others happy. I gave them best education and best environment to live and they are all settled and happy.
    I think, there is a big difference in having 1M at old age and having 1M at young age. At young age i can use every part of the money but at old age i can’t. We have only one life. Why should i spoil my whole life happiness just to save for old days? Biggest charming of life is when we are young and we should enjoy every part of it. I don’t know how much time is left for me but i want to be happy all the time. I will work till i die and i will enjoy my life till the last moment of my life.

    1. Sure I understand your comment. And your comment works in 1 situation well and 1 situation only – if and only if you like/love your job and you maintain your health until a decent age. In that case, people have no regrets.

      However, if you had lost your health at 52, I am sure you would have a different mentality. I have met countless 50, 60, and 70+ year olds who haven’t invested for retirement who regret it fantastically. I do agree with your comment about age though. If somebody is lucky enough to build up a $1m-$2m-$3m portfolio in their 30s or 40s, they can use the money to do things that most 75 year olds can’t do, like semi-retire or retire early.

      Or volunteer, or travel the world. Not everybody can do that, but one reason the fire movement is getting big is people want choices. Everybody in an ideal world wants to be able to retire. Even yourself, I am sure you wouldn’t mind having the ability to retire tomorrow if your health goes or you stop enjoying your job.

      I guess for me, I always wanted `f you money` – the ability to tell people where to go if I hate doing something. Older people who still need to work don’t have that luxury.

  21. I have 10.000 pounds to invest but have no idea where to invest this. I don’t want to loose any of the money, how is the best way to make money on this for my future. I am 54 years old. Can you advise me please, thanks

  22. Hi Adam, Could you send me the advice you’ve given for someone starting investing in their mid 40’s? UK based though.
    Thanks

    1. Hi Adam.
      I am a 27year old Nigerian, I dropped out of the university years back due to family and drug-related problems. Now I am finally sober and I enrolled for Bsc in a totally new place (starting a new and independent life).
      Knowing that most of my peers are now ahead of me academically and socially.
      In order to catch up with my peers do I need to work twice as hard as they are working and save twice as much too?
      I know it’s not going to be easy so please advise me on steps I could take to help improve my financial status in a long run.

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