David Szeremet, October 19, 2017
I recently consulted on a financial planning case involving a 28-year-old pharmaceutical sales rep. She is doing well, earning six figures. Recently married, she is considering the purchase of a cash value life insurance policy for income protection ($1 million death benefit) and to accumulate a rainy day fund (potentially $250,000 by age 55). The annual premium is $5,000.
I was surprised to find out she can’t afford the premium. She makes a good living, is healthy, lives in an affordable area, has no student loans, and drives a Honda Accord. She appears to be living well within her means. Something did not compute.
Here’s what we were missing. A classic millennial, she values being socially connected, informed, and meeting up with her (large) social network. Her phone gets a workout with Evites, tweets, posts, and rally texts. On average, she goes out three nights a week, consumes a great deal of media content, and is an avid reader.
It’s all good. However, an analysis of her monthly budget revealed a continuous outflow of unnecessary fees, up-charges, and nickel-dime expenditures.
We identified seven financial fixes to free up at least $5,000. The fixes will not impact her lifestyle (other than simplifying it).
- Cut the cord. Yes, she has cable TV. On average, cable runs $105 a month (source: Fortune magazine). It’s only getting worse because the cable TV inflation rate is up to EIGHT times the consumer inflation rate (source: Leichtman Research Group). It’s a racket. Other than live sports, I can’t remember the last time I looked forward to watching anything on cable TV.* Face it, cable TV is for suckers and procrastinators. I’m not asking anyone to revert to rabbit ears (comment if you do not understand). There are dozens of affordable internet-based options saving you at least $50 a month (that’s $600 annually – the miracle of math!)
- Ditch the crumb scraper. Go ahead and eat out – I’m fine with it. You can save a boatload of cash by following one simple rule: never eat at a tablecloth restaurant.** Over a three month period, I conducted a survey of the Cincinnati area. My taste buds enjoyed it. Dinner at tablecloth restaurants, not counting booze, averaged $50 a meal (appetizer, entrée and dessert). For “naked table” joints, it’s $25 on average. Skip the tablecloth once a week for a year and you will save $1,300. It’s real!
- Buy a growler. Craft breweries are printing money – one pint at a time. I love visiting local breweries and based on the number of millennials I see, they do too. A typical pint runs $7 ($6 plus $1 tip). “Bankruptcy by a thousand pints” is a serious risk. Instead, once a week, buy a four pint growler for $16 ($14 plus $2 tip). And like M&M’s, growlers make friends! One growler per week saves you $624 a year. Drink (financially) responsibly.
- Stay put. Nightclub cover charges are wallet killers. Consider a modest $5 cover charge. If you pay one cover charge instead of three, you save $10. Do this just once a week and save yourself $520 over the course of a year. You do not have to be a party chaser to have a good time. Hook up with your crew at a pre-designated locale and stay there – even if Skylar shows up and proclaims that DJ Skin-E-Jeenz is working his MacBook over at Club Elev8.
- Become a card carrying member… Pick up a library card. Your local library can score nearly every book, eBook, movie, or ‘zine. You simply need to organize your priorities and be willing to wait a few days – don’t worry, the words will still be there when your book arrives. If you borrow only one book a week (@ $20 per book on Amazon), it’s $1,040 annually ($260 @$5 each for eBooks).
- Ironic/vintage t-shirt limit: 1. Nobody loves an ironic t-shirt more than a millennial. But today’s satirical t-shirt is tomorrow’s oil rag. Ask any Gen Xer who coveted a Spuds MacKenzie or Where’s The Beef? shirt. Same goes for that “vintage” t-shirt depicting your school’s olde tyme logo. You have my permission to own one, but honestly, it’s one too many if you plan on dating. Take a pass on ten of these $35 shirts (they are so overpriced) and save $350.
- Live to ride – ride to save. Skip one Uber/Lyft a week. Just one. Most metropolitan areas have bike share programs with well-maintained bikes ready for you 24/7/365. And it’s good for you! I live in Cincinnati and we have a thriving bike share program. I’m confident your area does too (or will soon). An annual bike share license runs $100, or less. At an average fare of $15, skipping Uber/Lyft once a week saves you a net of $680 annually.***
So there you have it. Over $5,000**** in “found” money and your life is simplified.
*Cable TV reached its nadir in 2017. Sports talk “game shows.” Political rant panels. Endless loops of home flipping reruns. State Fair fried food close-ups. “Dump-and-stir” cooking shows. Bigfoot vs. Goat Boy. Hitler’s Secret Vacation Home. Anything on the Weather Channel. Planet of the Apes marathons. Are we really this bored?
**Unless someone else is paying.
***I’m not being a tightwad. I’m only asking you to add one bike ride a week (twice a week during good weather if you live in a city that experiences winter). We need exercise – let’s kill two birds with one stone.
****And I didn’t admonish you to clip coupons, become an Uber driver, live in your parents’ basement, join loyalty programs, enter drug trials, or “stop going to Starbucks” – those tips are played out.