Many finance experts would like you to believe that the world is divided into those who know what compound interest is—and live off it—and those who think a 401(k) is a browser error message.
In reality, you can become financially secure without getting an advanced degree in economics, becoming a Wall Street trader, or landing a role in a Marvel movie.
Kiersten Saunders and her husband Julian take a much more approachable view of wealth. You may already know them as the couple behind the podcast, rich & REGULAR, produced in collaboration with SUCCESS. They have more refreshingly down-to-Earth financial planning resources on their blog.
Kiersten says that they want to create content that’s helpful for everyone, including people—like her—who have always thought they were bad with money.
“That’s why we started rich & REGULAR: to tell people like me or like [Julian], who’s naturally very good at money, that there’s this path to financial freedom, regardless of where you think you sit in the spectrum of being rich or not,” she says.
On this episode of SUCCESS Stories, Kiersten tells SUCCESS’s Madison Pieper about why everyone needs an “enough line,” how we’re all going to have to stop taking convenience for granted, and why understanding what really matters to you can be a more important financial tool than all your carefully arranged spreadsheets.
You don’t have to be famous to be rich.
A lot of conversations about wealth imply that the only people who can achieve lofty financial goals like early retirement are the 1% making multi-millions and billions every year. The truth, as Kiersten points out, is more nuanced.
First, you need to understand people with that much money have dedicated their entire lives to making it. Not everyone has the resources or time to do that—and not everyone wants to.
It’s not just that you’ll have to scrimp and save in the early days. Some financial advisers recommend ditching friends and family whose financial ambitions aren’t on the same level as yours.
At a certain point, you’re just earning money for the sake of earning money, rather than earning money with a goal of putting it toward something you really want or need.
To keep your goals on track, identify what Kiersten calls your enough line. How much money do you need to earn and save so that you can have a lifestyle that perfectly suits your needs?
For Kiersten, it’s about making enough money for her son to be financially stable—without reaching a point where she’s alienated from people she loves. “They may not have as much money, but they’re good people, and I don’t want to lose them,” she says.
Convenience is a luxury.
Many of us have gotten used to being able to afford certain goods and services that are being sold at an artificially low rate. Most of the time, the big selling point is convenience. We could do these things a different way, but paying a little bit of money saves us time.
Here’s the difficult truth: The prices we pay now for these conveniences are not sustainable, and will probably go up at some point. Then we’ll be forced to confront the fact that we can’t really afford them.
For example, rideshare apps. Although not everyone can afford these now, they represent an unrealistically low price for a service that is really a luxury. “The idea that you can use your phone to get a chauffeur to take you anywhere you want in town: That’s not something we should necessarily normalize as affordable or cheap,” Kiersten says.
Having worked in the service and hospitality industry, she’s more aware than some about the true cost of these conveniences. She can also see that workers are pushing back, demanding higher wages that will force more realistic prices—which will feel expensive.
“The idea that convenience is going to continue to exist as it is today, where it is already expensive, and not get even more expensive, is pretty short-sighted on our end,” Kiersten says.
Real life is about more than spreadsheets.
Even the most financially astute person can be hit with an expensive problem they couldn’t have planned for.
“We like to say that math has rules but life doesn’t care,” Kiersten says. “Because you can spreadsheet all you want, you can create these ambitious savings goals all you want. But if there’s another variant that comes and tanks the stock market, or there’s a housing crisis and your mortgage is now underwater, or your job lays you off suddenly, all of those plans go out the window.”
That’s why part of your financial approach has to be identifying what really matters to you, and anchoring to those values. Holding rigidly to the numbers in your spreadsheets is a risky move because your financial situation can change outside of your control. But your core values don’t.
“Outside of the spreadsheet, if you don’t know what your values truly are, and what actually matters, those situations hit you very differently than if you have this more holistic, balanced approach: You understand that, ‘This was the plan, but I can pivot and have different options based on what’s actually happening in my real life,’” Kiersten says.