Over at Grumpy Rumblings, NicoleandMaggie posed the question of what readers would do if their incomes doubled. This is, obviously, a nice question to be able to ask. The one who’s the econ prof recently faced this question because her husband got a new job. They’re pre-paying the mortgage, beefing up contributions to retirement accounts, taking on deferred home renovation projects, and eating better cheese.
It got me thinking about what changes I have made over time as my income has changed. When I was in my early 20s, I doubled my income twice year over year — it helps to be starting from a low spot! But the biggest change I made was that I saved more. Income from self-employment never seems particularly stable, so I wasn’t really willing to take on any financial commitments other than a lease. As my income grew, I felt more relaxed about that lease. I’d have enough in the bank to pay for the full year if I earned nothing. I could cover a month when my second roommate lost her job and couldn’t pay the rent (she paid me back later). But I still shopped pretty carefully for groceries, clothes, etc.
So what would I do now if my income doubled? As I thought about this, I realized that my answer was kind of revealing: I think it depends who was the source of that doubling.
My husband has been working longer than I have in a better-paying field and our standard of living generally owes more to him than me. If the doubling were due to my husband, I’m guessing we wouldn’t do anything all that different. We already live on less than we make, and we invest the rest. There’s nothing wrong with that — there’s nothing we particularly need that we don’t have. This is a very fortunate place to be in, and I am well aware of that.
But what if I were the one who doubled our household income? This would mean the writing career had taken off quite a bit! I don’t quite see What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast being turned into a television series and movie franchise starring Sarah Jessica Parker, but I guess we never know. In this mental game, when the money was somehow “mine,” I thought of plenty of things I’d like to do financially. I’d structure our lives so I could go off sometimes and write for longer periods of time. I’d like to invest in start-ups. I have way more ambitious charitable goals.
Anyway, reflecting on this, I think it’s interesting what this may say about me and my mindset about money, which seems a bit more retro than I like (and, I’d point out, doesn’t reflect my husband’s mindset — he has certainly not claimed that because he out-earns me, his preferences outweigh mine. I seem to be assuming this all on my own).
What would you do if your income doubled? Would it matter if it were you or your partner (if you have one) who was the source of that doubling?
Photo courtesy flickr user uyht