A phenomenon that is often less obvious to most people is lifestyle inflation, otherwise known as “lifestyle creep”. It occurs when a rise in discretionary income, the amount available to an individual after making essential expenses, prompts an increase in living standards as luxuries become new necessities.
Financial literacy is an important aspect of learning what strongly impacts your quality of life. It affects your ability to navigate through economic downturns and your response to unexpected financial windfalls. Changes in financial fortunes happen to us in varying measures, influencing how we save, spend and invest. Without a plan, it becomes more difficult to resist increased spending: the urge to upgrade your cable subscription, enjoy fine dining, add more items to your cart, and add a few more luxuries to your travel experience. The list of possibilities is endless when you have more money to spend on optional items. It all adds up quickly and when you adapt to your new lifestyle, it becomes more challenging to give up former luxuries that now feel like necessities.
It’s not all bad though. A measure of lifestyle inflation is unavoidable and not entirely unacceptable. It is okay to reward yourself, however you must avoid situations where subtle increases in your expenses become obstacles on your path to achieving your financial goals.
The younger population, in particular, should pay more attention to lifestyle inflation given its potential long-term impact on investment goals. Research in the United States indicates that most inflation-adjusted wage growth occurs in the early working years of the population. It is likely that a similar pattern occurs in Nigeria. This implies that failure to keep lifestyle inflation under control in your early working life may cost you the opportunity to make investments that will be more valuable later in your career.
Lifestyle inflation can be best managed by creating a system that makes it easy to save and invest your money. Here are two simple recommendations that could help you build habits to limit the impact on your financial goals.
1. Create a reverse budget that treats your goals as bills: This is a simple spending plan where your primary focus is on saving and investing first, before taking care of any other expense.
2. Automate your finances, especially your savings and investments: Few people find a way to increase their savings over time, however, modern technology has provided platforms that make it easy to escalate savings and investments routinely. The great thing about automating your finances is that it offers an opportunity to seamlessly create a new habit. Research shows that you are more likely to succeed at things that become habits than at things that require change because we are wired as humans to resist change.
FBNQuest Asset Management offers you the opportunity to automate investments in one of a series of products that best fit your financial goal. If you are a conservative investor, you may consider making regular investments in the FBNQuest Money Market Fund. If you are more risk-tolerant, you may decide to seek higher returns by investing in the FBNQuest Equity Fund. Automatic debits could be made monthly from your bank account.
Creating a system for financial success is all about making intentional choices with our money. A good system will direct your money to the things that matter most and keep you on track to handling lifestyle inflation.