Nowadays less Americans are practicing a “Keeping up with the Joneses” kind of lifestyle. Back in the day, purchasing brand name goods and showing off your wealth to your neighbors was the norm. It isn’t any longer. Personal finance today is notably different than it was just 10 or 15 years ago. Today, personal finance, is well…personal.
A Turn Towards Experience
When it comes to spending discretionary income, there’s clear a trend towards spending more on experiences and less on things. In a recent Fortune article about the turn towards paying for “experience” founder and president of Seattle-based travel company Experi, Rob Rector says people “want wine tastings and cooking classes in Provence, or boar-hunting excursions in Tuscany.”
In fact, consumer spending on travel, recreation, and dining out has been on the rise for more than a decade. According to the same aforementioned Fortune article, over the past 15 years “discretionary spending on cars and home furnishings as a percentage of total spending has decreased, while purchases of food, accommodations and recreation services have steadily increased.”
And recreation spending isn’t just a night out at the movies. Hyper-experiential entertainment has come to big cities like Los Angeles and New York. Shows like Hopscotch Opera give audience members the ride of their lives as they get into cars and are escorted on a “disorienting ride through the streets of Los Angeles” while actors in the opera perform directly to them in the cars. But the turn towards “having an experience” isn’t limited to date night or vacation. One can always eat.
The experience of eating is something for which today’s younger Americans are gladly willing to pay. Farm to table, artisanal, fast-casual, food trucks and pop-up restaurants, all are part of the cultural turn towards more interesting and oftentimes better, higher-quality food. Making great memories need not happen in Nepal or Venice, they can be made over tapas and a glass of wine or handmade pasta topped with shaved truffles. The thrill of novelty has even found it’s way into home cooking. Home meal delivery services like Blue Apron, Chef’d, and Purple Carrot, are making cooking something new, transforming the once-time-consuming task into something more manageable, making “eating in” a sort of journey of its own. Carrot Masala with Red Quinoa and Toasted Coconut, anyone?
And Amidst All This Living, Spending is Easy
Wherever and however you want to spend money, it’s easy to do. With just a few swipes, you can pay back a friend for dinner, order a car to pick you up, or pay for a flight to Paris, and do it all on your phone! The ease today’s tech provides us has undoubtedly made spending money something most of us can do in mere seconds. When it comes to personal finance, this can take its toll. Managing one’s money and making sound important financial decisions requires foresight, discipline, and planning. Getting a little too “click happy” is definitely a possibility for anyone making their way in today’s world. So what is one to do?
Look into the “Mirror” of Your Bank Account
If someone who didn’t know you were to take a look at your checking account, what would your purchases tell them about who you are as a person? If you feel like your spending doesn’t adequately reflect what you care about, you can do something about it. Perhaps you’d like to make a monthly donation to a charity whose cause you support. Perhaps a portion of your “foodie” budget could go toward feeding those less fortunate. You can even set up automated donations so that giving can be just something you regularly do.
Younger Americans are Future-Oriented
Although it’s true that 20 and 30-somethings tend to spend more on experiences and dining out, they’re also gaining traction when it comes to saving for retirement. Time magazine reports that millennials have stepped up their retirement contributions and “shown the greatest increase in their savings rate compared with any other generation.”
With numerous savings and investment opportunities at your fingertips, personal finance has never been easier. Once you’ve saved the recommended 3-6 months of expenses and have that in reserve in a savings account, you can be super-smart and get on track with saving for retirement! The sooner you open up an IRA or join your company’s 401k program, the longer your dollars have to earn you a nice return.
What is Personal Finance? It’s Personal.
Personal finance of today is markedly different than that of yesteryear. Never before have so many options on how to spend, save, and manage finances been so readily available to all of us. Take a little time to get “personal” with your personal finance. Align your spending and your values, save for the future, and save for the fun you plan on having, next week and next year.
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