5 Ways to Stop Lifestyle Creep From Stealing Your Retirement

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Have you ever been tempted to trade up to a slightly fancier home? Do you feel the urge to sell your perfectly serviceable car so you can buy something newer and flashier?

If so, you’ve been a victim of lifestyle creep.

This malady strikes when an increase in income causes you to ratchet up your lifestyle and spend more simply because you can. Lifestyle creep might feel like fun in the short run, but it’s one of the deadliest destroyers of long-term wealth.

If you let lifestyle creep run wild for years — or even decades — you can jeopardize any hope of a comfortable retirement. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to stop lifestyle creep in its tracks.

Following are five ways to keep the creep at bay.

Spend some — but not all — of your raise or bonus

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Every time you get a raise or bonus, you probably want to spend it. After all, you worked hard for the money — shouldn’t you enjoy it a little?

Maybe not. Each dollar you spend today kills off several dollars that you could depend on tomorrow.

And that’s no exaggeration: Each $1 invested at a 7 percent annual return becomes more than $7.50 over 30 years.

So, rather than spending a windfall, simply earmark a portion for fun now, and the rest for retirement later. For example, if you get a $3,000 bonus, take $500 and live it up. Then, invest the rest.

Choose this path, and chances are good that you will be handsomely rewarded for resisting lifestyle creep. A 7 percent annual return on $2,500 over 30 years gives you some $19,000 extra to spend in retirement.

Value experiences over things

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Science has shown us that enjoying experiences brings people more joy than accumulating possessions.

So, say “so long” to dreams of a fancy home makeover or a ginormous home entertainment system. Instead, plan experiences with beloved family members and friends that will create memories that last a lifetime.

Of course, staying in the most expensive hotels during a trip to Paris with your best buds is the very definition of “lifestyle creep.” So, look for experiences that are meaningful, but that won’t drain your bank account.

For help with that, check out the latest travel deals from Money Talks News partner ShermansTravel.

Cut back on social media use

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We’ve known for quite some time that too much social media can leave you feeling emotionally bankrupt. But Facebook, Instagram and other social networks also can take a toll on your finances.

A team of U.S. and Canadian researchers recently released a study that links increased use of social media to higher patterns of consumption.

For example, read about an acquaintance’s latest exotic vacation, and you may begin to feel the urge to spend. As the study authors lament, “a posting about a consumption event triggers a notification to friends; a non-posting about not engaging in a consumption event does not.”

So, to avoid this negative influence, you might want to unplug more often.

Take on a side gig

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Perhaps you just can’t stand seeing the Joneses get so far ahead of you. Or, maybe you believe that a life without splurges is no life at all.

If you can’t — or won’t — stop lifestyle creep from invading your life, at least neutralize its effect by taking on a part-time job or developing a side hustle. Doing so can help you maintain a better balance between money going out and cash coming in.

As we note in “12 Money-Making Side Gigs You Probably Haven’t Considered“:

“There are all sorts of other gigs with money-making potential emerging — strange tasks that may never have crossed your mind.”

Keep your eyes fixed on Father Time

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When you’re 18, old age is never going to arrive. When you’re 30, you realize it might — but not for a long, long time.

But get a little north of 35, and your AARP years suddenly don’t seem so far away.

Yes, Virginia, you will retire someday soon. Remembering that fact is one of the best ways to stay focused on the need to save for your golden years.

A 2018 survey by investment management firm Capital Group found that people who took the time to envision life in their 60s, 70s and 80s recommended earmarking 31 percent more per paycheck for retirement than people who didn’t picture their future in detail.

So, be brave and mature enough to look your future squarely in the eye. Retirement is coming, and lifestyle creep wants to make sure it eats you alive before you reach those golden years.

Fortunately, you have the power to tame the beast, starting now. Let the battle be joined.

How do you keep lifestyle creep at bay? Share your tips in comments below, or on our Facebook page.

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