I Don’t Care How Much Money I Make. Here’s Why.

What these writers call sacrifice, I call luxury. What they consider an accomplishment, I consider an obvious consequence.


Therin Alrik

3 years ago | 3 min read

Because I believe in an economy that works for all and not just those at the top, it only makes sense to feel the same way about personal finance.

But consideration for the realities facing millions of middle and working-class people seems to be missing from personal finance writers who continually publish articles with headlines like “I Saved $300,000 by 26 — doing these 5 unusual things helped me save like crazy” (spoiler alert: None of the five things are “unusual” to those of us in the bottom 50%).

What these writers call sacrifice, I call luxury. What they consider an accomplishment, I consider an obvious consequence.

When the vast majority of personal advice is being doled out by people making six figures, it leaves little to relate to for those of us making much less.

What these writers call sacrifice, I call luxury. What they consider an accomplishment, I consider an obvious consequence. You paid off $200,000 in two years? I could also do that if I, too, were an attorney.

While I don’t mean to be rude or invalidating of these writers’ lives and experiences, after being inundated by so many of these self-congratulatory columns written from highly privileged positions, needless to say, I’m frustrated.

To be clear, it’s not that I don’t care about my household income at all. I’m a numbers person, and I understand the mathematical reality that those who make more are better suited to achieve their financial goals, often faster and with heightened results.

In the last two months alone, my wife fought for a raise at her job (and got it), and we’ve each launched our own side hustles (hers in photography, mine in online tutoring). I keep a detailed spreadsheet tracking our income, and we’re always looking for ways to improve.

And, yet, one of the most common pieces of feedback I receive on my personal finance articles is that I focus too much on saving and investing and not enough on raising income.

But how could I dare to suggest to someone that the secret to their financial success lies in raising their income when so many people don’t have the time to start a side hustle, nor the start-up capital if often requires;

when many live in towns or work in industries that give them little bargaining power with their employer; and when none can control the macro-economic forces that seem to be continually working against lower and middle-class Americans.

For that reason, I’m concerned not with how much I have, but how I use what I do have.

This year, for instance, my wife and I expect to make almost $50,000, which is a bit below the median household income of $55,000 where we live in Las Vegas and well below the national median of $62,000.

And, yet, by building an emergency fund, strategically paying down debt, and investing in various retirement accounts, we’re on track to raise our net worth this year by over $12,000.

We’ve also developed habits for frugal and efficient living, from eating outless to living a zero-waste lifestyle (which includes making our own soaps, detergents, and cleaners from common household items), all of which saves us hundreds of dollars each month.

That way, we’re actively improving our financial picture without depending on raises or side hustles. Additionally, as our income (hopefully) increases, we’ll also have the benefit of having integrated these strategies so firmly into our lives that we avoid the lifestyle inflation that typically accompanies a pay increase.

My concern is that when people who make what I do (or less) read articles likes the ones mentioned above, I can’t imagine they’ll find them encouraging.

I can’t imagine that reading about a person who makes $100,000/year achieving great financial success will be particularly inspiring to someone who makes half.

Personal finance writers need to broaden their audience beyond the top 20% of earners and consider the perspectives of middle and working-class Americans when crafting their articles and offering financial advice — because, more often than not, we’re the ones who need it most.


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Therin Alrik







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