Suze’s Question: Could you live on half your income?
The question that Suze put to Oprah’s audience is: Could you live on half your income?
“If all of a sudden you find yourself without a job—or your partner finds themselves without a job—you are now going to have your income cut by 50 percent almost immediately,” Suze says.
And Suze is telling you to take those money-saving steps BEFORE the income drops.
Jennifer Derrick at Personal Finance Advice explains some of the reactions:
Predictably, everyone in the audience gasped and shook their heads as if to say, “Lady, you’re crazy. There’s no way I could do that.” Right after the show aired a spirited discussion broke out on one of the financial message boards that I read. The consensus seemed to be that Suze was out of her mind; that since she now has so much money she’s forgotten what it’s like to get by on less. It’s fine, the discussion went, for someone so wealthy to suggest that people cut their incomes in half, but the reality for “regular” people is that it’s impossible. The majority of the discussion participants simply dismissed her idea out of hand as impossible.
and Jennifer hits on what she thinks is the real problem:
The problem many people run into when trying to live on half or any other income reduction is that they believe too many things are needs rather than wants or conveniences. They aren’t willing to try living with some inconvenience or discomfort in order to bank extra income. But that’s exactly what’s required if you lose a job or have your pay reduced. It sounds harsh, but too many people simply aren’t willing to give up their conveniences or toys.
The underlying theme for Monroe on a Budget is on how to get by in Monroe, Mich., on a downsized income. A couple of months ago, I wrote a Downsized Budget series based on that premise.
Because I am blogging publicly, with my real photo, under the newspaper byline that I have used at newspapers in Michigan and Ohio, I don’t get into as many specifics about my personal finances as some of the other financial bloggers do. But I will tell you that my husband and I had a significant drop in household income in 2008 as compared to 2007. It’s not a 50 percent income drop, as Suze’s example was, but our income took more than 10 percent drop in 2008 for multiple reasons and our 2009 income also might fall year-to-year when it all shakes out.
If you have noticed the references I have made here and there about my family’s lifestyle, you’ll realize we were not swimming in money to begin with.
Now, one of the discussion threads on the Oprah site says Suze’s advice makes sense, but isn’t relevant “for those on benefits.”
Fair enough. Suze writes and talks about what she knows. I write about what I know. There are thousands of financial authors and bloggers you could read, and they will all write about what they know – or have taken the time to research.
For example, if you want to see of living expenses in Monroe County, Mich., in proportion to typical income, go to a post I wrote a year ago called Monroe County median income: What can I spend on what?
And it should be obvious to any financially independent adult that house + car eats up most of your fixed expenses. If you are living in a home you can no longer afford based on a downsized income, there are no grocery coupons that can fix that problem.
But if you want tips and instructions on how to live really, really, cheaply, even if you think you barely receive enough income to get by, I have a site to recommend: the Frugal Village Forums. That site is hosted by Sara Noel, who is from Michigan and writes the Frugal Village column that appears in the Sunday edition of The Monroe Evening News and many other newspapers across the country.
The FV forum members have taken frugal living concepts and applied their collective wisdom and experience to a variety of circumstances – no matter where you live, no matter how much money you make, no matter how many people are in your household.
There may be money-saving tactics and techniques you’ll hear about that you really don’t want to do, find inconvenient or frustrating, or realize will be very time-consuming. We’ve had to take some of those steps in my home too.
But my husband and I are relying on frugal living concepts to help stretch our funds so we have as many long-range options as possible. We had already been doing many things at home that are considered “frugal”, so it was not hard for us to ramp up our efforts in recent years.
There really is no other alternative in a recession economy such as this. Many of the long-popular tactics that work for families who have an individual financial crisis during an otherwise robust economy will not work right now for my core audience in southeast Michigan. Find a second job or ask for overtime hours? Yeah, right. Sell the home and downsize or move to another city? Yeah, right. Etc.
So if you are bringing home less money now, or can see that possibility in the months ahead, you do have to put the time and effort into finding ways to spend less money. I can assure you that many of the details will be inconvenient.
But the sooner you join the frugal living club, the longer your money will last.
Maybe you’ll get through the recession with less pain than you thought.