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Why I Feel Filthy Fucking Rich

I recently went adventuring with some friends. As we were sitting in a hot spring at the end of a long day spent rock climbing in a national park (because we’re like biscotti: glamorous and crunchy), we started talking about money. My favorite topic!

None of these particular friends know about this blog. They don’t know I research money stuff and answer questions about personal finance for fun. So, in the tradition of thirsty voyeurs everywhere, I sat back to listen as my friends talked about negotiating higher salaries and faking it till you make it and—wait, hiring a maid? Ok, so there were clearly some differences in perspective. We’ll come back to that.

One of my friends proudly revealed that she is now making $130k a year at her new job. Babies, I am thrilled for her. She works super damn hard and she’s gifted and brilliant. But what happened next gave me pause.

“Your husband’s an art director, right? So he must be making pretty good money too by now,” I asked.

“Oh no. He only makes $70k a year. And he has student loans,” she answered, sincerely.

That response really took me back for a moment. Because fam… she was describing me exactly. I also make about $70k a year (at two whole jobs). And I also started my career with student loans. Yet I don’t feel like what I have is an “only.”

As a matter of fact, I feel filthy fucking rich.

Times have changed, but the memories remain

I know my friend didn’t mean what she said dismissively. If anything, she may have been trying to downplay her immediate family’s good fortune out of a sense of decorum. But I think it’s an interesting perspective to examine.

We’ve talked about the subjectivity of wealth before. In that piece, I was writing about a time in my life when I made $30k and was still frantically paying off student loans while trying to beat my bills into submission through sheer force of will. And I resented anyone who shrugged off my money problems like there was a handy Get Out of Jail Free card at my disposal.

That was a different time. Since then I’ve paid off my student loans in half the scheduled time, fully funded my various retirement accounts, started investing outside of retirement, bought a home, and paid for a car.

The desperation and resentment I used to feel about reaching monetary goals—nay, just paying my bills—has been replaced by an all-encompassing sense of security.

But I remember how it used to be. With vivid clarity, I recall how utterly my life would have been changed, improved by an additional $5k a year. I remember how furious it made me when people ignorantly suggested that salaries twice as high as mine were poverty wages.

Because I was making it work. And I was making it work with the knowledge that there were those who make it work on even less than I had. It’s a humbling, sobering thing, the understanding of just how people make it work on significantly less money than I make every year.

It all came flooding back in a very visceral, emotional way when my friend said her husband “only” made $70k a year. Is what I have now an “only?”

Controlling my personal narrative

I’m now looking at the subjectivity of wealth from the other side. And I had to remind myself of this to avoid lashing out at my splendid, well-meaning, golden desert mermaid of a friend. Because it doesn’t matter what she or anyone else thinks! At this stage in my #personalfinancialjourney, all that matters is my mindset.

I try to control as much as I can about the amount of money I spend and the amount of money I make. And I train others to seek that greater level of control too, because I think it’s empowering and rewarding. As much as I wish I could, I’m never fully in control of that. However, I am capable of controlling the narrative for myself.

And my narrative dictates that I am not only not “only,” but I feel filthy fucking rich. Like… filthy fucking rich. Here’s why:

I have enough

I have all the money I need, plus some extra. Do you realize how freeing that is? I’ll say it again: I HAVE ALL THE MONEY I NEED PLUS SOME EXTRA.

What unbelievable luxury! What utter opulence! The treat-yo-selfness of this state of being fills me with delirious comfort and satisfaction. I’m basically the love child of Bruce Wayne and a Louis Vuitton dog camisole!

For I have enough.

I have an emergency fund

My emergency fund is nice and fat, which means that when an emergency rears its ugly head, I can handle it without going tits-up.

Remember that time last year when I burned the everloving shitfuck out of my hand and arm? BOOM: EMERGENCY FUNDED. My backyard fence blew down in a windstorm. EMERGENCY FUNDED. My dog needed urgent veterinary care. EMERGENCY FUNDED. I, uh, really wanted some bacon. EMERGENCY FUN-DED.

Many households can’t cope easily with unexpected, large expenses. Lots of people could be financially crippled for months or even years by the wrong emergency at the wrong time. So the fact that I’m able to shrug them off makes me feel indisputably posh af.

I can afford to help

More than once now, I’ve loaned a friend an advance on her paycheck so she could pay her rent on time. I drove a friend to urgent care to get stitches after a terrifying breakfast smoothie accident, and when she didn’t have enough money in her account to cover the bill, I paid it.

Psychological studies demonstrate that wealthy people tend to be less generous with charitable donations than poorer people. The flip side of this is that most poor people probably want to give more than they already do.

I have achieved a level of financial security that allows me to help others without hurting myself. More than anything else on this list, that makes me feel rich.

I can afford most of the things that I want

As the great and glamorous Paula Pant says: “You can afford anything… just not everything.” And I feel that in the best possible way at this point in life.

When I want something, I can afford to buy it, often without the need to save up for very long.

Granted, I don’t think I want much. At least, I’m not one for stuff most of the time. I don’t have a passion for fast cars. Yet I will lustily imbibe the finest of low-range box wines. I don’t say that to virtue signal; one thing isn’t better that the other. There are some people whose fundamental driving passions are expensive. In many ways, I’m lucky that my passions are cheap—or that I’ve been able to successfully wrestle them into submissive cheapness.

But that rock climbing trip to a national park? It’s something I sure as hell wanted, despite being outside the scope of my basic necessities. And I could easily afford it.

Basically, somebody get me on Cribs because that’s the level of wealth I’m rolling in over here.

My bills are all on auto-pay

Once upon a time I had to carefully schedule my bills so that my account was never overdrawn. Now all of my bills are set up to be automatically paid. I don’t have to sweat buckets wondering if my insurance will lapse or my water will be shut off because of precarious bill-juggling.

When bills are forgotten or paid from the wrong account at the wrong time, fees accumulate. And fees make it that much harder to dig out of a financial hole—especially if those fees are from the state or a court. Plus, the act of actively shuffling and managing money is stressful and time-consuming. Calling someone to beg them not to cash the check you sent them is a formative humiliation for a lot of people. It ain’t fun.

Now the bills get paid and I go about my day without noticing. I don’t notice or care about the money leaving my account. How fucking decadent is that shit?! In comparison, that’s Scrooge McDuck levels of opulence!

I save steadily and easily

You know what else is automated? My savings and investments.

People often set aside saving and investing for “someday.” To actually start doing it, you need a confluence of stability, focus, and financial literacy.

And even if you have those three things, you also need a healthy period of good luck. If your apartment catches fire, or you get sick, or you break up with your live-in romantic partner, you could be back to square one despite the best intentions.

I have multiple savings, investment, and retirement accounts, all with different purposes. Just the very fact of having enough money socked away to warrant multiple accounts speaks of absurd levels of wealth. Guys, that’s so much money.

I own my car outright

I don’t have a car payment! Do you realize how fucking liberating that shit is? I bought the damn thing cheap and had it paid off in two fucking years. I’m rolling around town in a vehicle I fully own like

Oh yeah, and if you want to know how I pulled off that action, I wrote all about it here:

The personal finance mediasphere loves to shit on cars. And not needing a car is awesome. But we don’t talk enough about how controlling your own reliable method of transportation is an under-appreciated major life stabilizer. When you’re at the mercy of Lyfting through traffic, bikes that drench you in bad weather, and bus schedules that STRAIGHT UP LIE—it becomes a lot harder to be the reliable person you want to be.

Student loans: managed

I don’t need to tell y’all that student loans are a crushing millstone around the neck of every single generation in America right now. Student loan debt is among the few kinds of debt that can’t easily be discharged (or “got the fuck rid of”) in bankruptcy.

Despite the absurd costs, a four-year degree requirement guards the gates of most stable career paths like a monstrous, classist Cerberus. Nine out of every ten new jobs are going to someone with a college degree. The debt crisis grows on and on.

I’m lucky. I graduated with $28,000 in loans, which is below the current average of $38,000. My industry wasn’t exactly tiptoeing through the daffodils during the Great Recession, but we also weren’t as pummeled as others. The result is that I paid my student loans off years ago. This one event, more than anything else, changed my financial life.

It was like suddenly getting a massive raise without having to ask for it—without the negotiating, justifying, pleading, and awkward boss confrontations! I just sent in that last payment and suddenly more of my money was truly mine again.

Coins may jingle, children, but paper folds soooo nicely.

I feel rich af…

For all of these reasons, I am filthy fucking rich. And I “only” make $70,000 a year at two jobs.

I’m a fucking baller, you guys! Watch me pay my bills like it ain’t no thang! You need $20 for gas this week? I got you, friend! Fender bender? Check out how I pay that shit from my thicc emergency fund! (Is this proper use of “thicc”? Because in addition to being rich I am also deeply, deeply old.)

“Rich” is not a dollar amount to me. It’s a practical function. I have enough and then some. Therefore, I’m rich. And admitting that, embracing that, has opened me up to both satisfaction and generosity in a way I couldn’t before I was rich.

Taking stock of my advantages, assessing how my personal finances have improved over the years has done wonders for my outlook on the present and the future. My friend’s perspective on her husband’s income definitely shook me for a hot second! But other people’s subjective idea of wealth doesn’t have to have any bearing whatsoever on me.

After all, what do I care? I’m hella rich, bitches!

… but maybe what I really am is “middle class”?

The middle class! I have heard the Mystics speak of it! It was in the Before Times: before the coming of the Skeksis and the sundering of the Crystal.

Looking back on all the benchmarks that make me feel rich, I’m struck by how eminently reasonable they are. Humane, even.

How low have my expectations fallen that a comfortable, modest lifestyle feels so decadent? That visiting national parks (A THING I PARTIALLY OWN, AS A TAX-PAYING CITIZEN, BALD EAGLE SCREEEEECH) feels luxurious? That having a lifestyle that can withstand an injury, or a major repair bill, feels downright elite?

My state of richness is entirely internal, rather than based on social comparison. I’m not rich in comparison to Beyoncé, hallowed be her name. I’m not rich next to Warren Buffett, though I have mad respect for his game. I certainly do not have Jeff Bezos money, an amount so bloated and disgusting it manifests pitchforks and torches into my hands. And though I may not even be rich compared to my friend who makes $130k a year, both of us can meet all of our needs and wants.

I’ve been dancing around a point, but here it is: listening to rich people refer to themselves as “middle class” makes my skin crawl. I once nannied for a millionaire with a heated koi pond in his house’s courtyard who told my husband, “Not bad for a middle class family, eh?” It made me want to break things.

Yet I cannot deny that everything that makes me feel rich, all the comfort and security I have achieved at my level of wealth… doesn’t seem unreasonable. I don’t actually believe that an emergency fund and the ability to automate one’s bills denotes staggering luxury. These things are normal. Or they damn well should be, anyway.

I feel rich, but I wish I felt middle class. I wish my lifestyle were more common, that none of what makes me feel rich were out of the ordinary for ordinary people. Yet it is.

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34 thoughts to “Why I Feel Filthy Fucking Rich”

  1. Wow, someone needs to slap the privilege out of that woman. $70k is a number that most Americans won’t see in their entire 40 years in the workforce, and it’s not enough for her?!

      1. Also, she could have just said “only” as a relative comparison to her own (nearly double his) salary–you said he must “also” be making pretty good money. Relatively speaking to America, yeah he is because he’s above the median. Relatively speaking to her? Peanuts–he’s literally making half what she is.

        1. I’ve never wanted to be rich. I wouldn’t want one of those huge mansions with no one to fill it up. All I want is to pay off all my debt, be able to live where ever I want, and not need to worry about money. The bar is so low.

  2. Our generation of privileged kids was told that if we went to college we would graduate and instantly have a job that paid at least 100k a year. I have also felt like I am under-earning because I haven’t reached the wage I thought I would enter the working world at. Our expectations were woefully incorrect.

  3. Not recalling where you may be located, but loving your take on how almost guilt inducing it is to fall under the old definition of middle class.
    This is a terrible article (wtf is “other expenditures”?), but speaks to how 100K can suddenly NOT be a lot of money.
    https://www.kiro7.com/news/local/study-bellevue-seattle-make-list-of-cities-where-youre-broke-earning-100k-/997316018?fbclid=IwAR3QA7NcQB8g2VEN1sp8oERXarh7q8yeWl0Z9nPLzQjAsekRMEwiIeN7Rxw

  4. I feel this deeply. This year I’m on track to make $75-77k and the most I’ve ever made before that was $61k. I feel like I am Balling So Hard. And giving considerably more than ever before, and it FEELS SO GOOD!
    But I also do understand your friend’s comment. Since she’s making 130k, her hubby’s $70k feels puny. Barely more than half of her income…

    1. Right? I’m considering installing a whole entire money vault with my next COL raise. 😉
      I’m definitely trying to be compassionate of my friend’s perspective. But it’s hard. She really put her foot in her mouth.

  5. I see no problem with making around 70k with some loans. I never had any, but my husband did, and we worked it out together. I think 70k per year is a pretty sweet gig. It’s plenty of money to live on. In fact, there’s so much extra that I don’t even know what to do with it. My husband and I both make around 150k combined. Almost all of my income goes into retirement and investment accounts, so we live on his income only. I personally think I’m a baller too.

    1. Sounds like we’re in similar situations! My husband makes almost exactly the same amount I do, and yeah we ballers! But I will say that we should all be a little compassionate toward different medical backgrounds and cost of living areas, which might change the real value of $70k. But in this context, when their total household income was $200k……… yeeeah.

  6. I have a lot of experiences and views on this topic.

    I know one guy who cried because he “only got a $5 million bonus”. At first, I thought that the guy was joking. But then I saw all of his rich friends comforting him and realized that the guy isn’t kidding. He was genuinely upset about it.

    I also know one guy who talked about how he used to make only a million a year. The way that he said it, though, made me think of him as being incredibly attractive. I kind of had the opposite reaction of what you had in that regard. (I’m not proud of this and I didn’t act on my desires. And it was more his attitude towards it then the number itself. But it was almost like I couldn’t help it but find him attractive).

    On the other side of the spectrum, I have a friend who comes from a country, with very low standards of living. When I told her that I was making $10/hour working a retail job (my first job in college), her reaction was “Wow. That must be a very important job. You must be so successful”. Like she thought that I was the manager of the store because to her $10/hour sounded like an incredibly unbelievable high number. (I decided not to tell her how there is a movement in the US about making the minimum wage $15/hour because $10 to her sounded incredibly high as is).

    So, yeah, I think wealth is extremely relative.

    When it comes to having enough, though, I personally don’t think I will ever have enough. And I would feel terrified to feel like I have enough. Because for me, when it comes to anything that matters to me in my life, I always want more of it, to be better at it, etc…. I always want to be a bit discontent with what I have when it comes to those types of things, because the second I become comfortable and “have enough”, I stop growing, improving, and becoming better at whatever it is that I care about. And not growing/improving/becoming better makes me feel incredibly miserable.

    1. This is absolutely my favorite comment on the article so far. Because you end by examining your own feelings and motivations without comparison to anyone or anything else. This is exactly the kind of personal reflection that inspired the article, and it’s ok that we both came to different conclusions from our self-reflection. Thanks for sharing!

      1. There’s a children’s book called “Two Islands” by Ivan Gantschev from the early 80s – this reminds me of that story. Basically, you’re only as happy as you allow yourself to be. It’s also terrifying in its relevance to certain current events.

        On another note (because it’s what I do) I would say that getting rid of student loans in bk is more than challenging. It’s nearly impossible because of a case called Brunner. In some circuits, the standard of living to get rid of student loans is “certainty of hopelessness.”

        Also thanks for not crapping on car ownership. I always feel like that’s an implicit endorsement of urban lifestyles and not realistic for a lot of people in many places. You want to hire me to try to get rid of your student loans? (Spoiler alert: if you can afford an attorney the answer is probably NO) That means I have to get my behind to court and in front of a judge at a specific time and “well I’m trying to save some $$$ so I’m driving this old beater that kinda usually works on even numbered days sorry for committing malpractice LOL” doesn’t cut it.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing! I’ve been trying to adjust my perspective and be more grateful and give myself props for how much my financial situation as changed (for the better) in the past 5 years. Thank you for touching on cost of living in your comments, I’m realizing how important cost of living is when it comes to whether one feels rich or not. I live in a high cost urban area and have always lived in expensive cities and I don’t think $70k would be enough considering how high rent/mortgages are in this area. I’m now realizing why so many friends have moved away. I had a friend whose combined income with her husband was pretty good but they felt like they were constantly failing cause they couldn’t do much with their income.

  8. FWIW, that bald eagle screech is actually a red-tailed hawk. Hollywood doesn’t like how cute actual bald eagles sound. (Alaskan/Bitches Fan/I feel rich too).

  9. This is awesome. Thanks for the reminder and for really putting it into perspective. I am rich, too. I don’t worry about things that I used to worry about. I couldn’t tell you the price of a gallon of gas, loaf of bread, or where to get the best deal on chicken breasts this week because I ALWAYS have more than enough to cover these things. I have student loan debt, but I am making payments and they’ll be paid off soon. I am educated. I am a first generation college grad and that’s pretty cool. I am credit card debt free and I own my car outright.

    Me: 26 year old female, $50k a year

  10. Enough is so relative. And I’ve been happy and content and had enough for a good many years, but looking back it has happened at so many different income levels. I felt like I had plenty when I was spending $65/month on groceries (adjusted for inflation lets say that’s $130/month now). I was vegan then and making all my food but still bought the occasional giant bottle of Chilean red wine and about once a month I went out for dinner with my roommate or got a bagel with hummus from the coffee shop. I felt like I had enough when I lived on a $1k/quarter internship stipend plus working nights at a coffee/ice cream shop because after paying rent and bills I could go to a Sunday matinee by myself each week and smuggle in my taco bell. I felt like I had more than plenty when I had 3 part time jobs but was bringing in more money than ever and I could afford to go out to lunch and get the $5 soup and bread (until I looked at my spending and realized I was spending $200/month on lunches and clearance blouse shopping and that didn’t fit my values anymore). When I had less money (but enough) I didn’t feel like I could spend more than I had available. So it’s almost harder to spend less when you have more. I know I have the money to spend on more things now, so I could, but I also want to keep shoveling money into my retirement accounts like a cartoon character shoveling coal into the steam locomotive engine. [that cartoon guy had to keep working constantly to keep the engine stoked but here I am (plink) twice a month as I transfer my dollars into an investment account.]
    I don’t make even $70k a year, and I never will, but yeah I feel rich. I don’t worry about paying my bills, I buy expensive wine once a year and even belong to a wine club at one winery, my house mortgage is paid off (as of last month), and I could wear custom-tailored silk blouses and wool slacks everyday (if i got around to finishing making them). And I’m going to feel really rich when before my 45th birthday I turn in my two weeks to spend my time doing volunteer work, advocating for my community, and knitting antique sweater patterns. T-5 years and counting.

  11. I adore this ten thousand times.

    I live in this uneasy in-between of knowing that like you, I am filthy flipflapping rich and knowing also that having come from having less than nothing, I might always struggle mightily to FEEL rich.

    We can’t quite as easily pay our bills with the same level of derring-do as you do, living where we are, and I do dole out wanted things like a miser BUT we ARE indeed so well off to be able to afford every single necessity and a few non-necessities every single month. Not just once a year! Not just for holidays! But every month, we could splurge on some food or books, or something and we are still ok.

    I’m ok with this, though, because both things are true. With chronic health problems, my situation is of course more precarious than someone without. And it’s ok to acknowledge that means I’m going to be more nervy about our finances – I don’t have any assurances that any of us will be able to work until we’re 65 but I have a lot of twinges and twangs and weird health problems that assure me myself and I that I am unlikely to make it that long in the workforce. And yet I’m so unbelievably rich in the ability to afford health care now AND to save for that uncertain future, not just one or the other or neither. Ten years ago, I couldn’t afford either one! Now I can! So, rich! And nervous anyway! 🙂

    But also? Gratitude is free and I’m working that freebie every single day that I can.

  12. Fantastic post! I also like to consider myself “middle class” but the truth is my and my husband’s combined income is pretty good. We’re *at least* upper middle class! 😛
    Sometimes I find myself forgetting how lucky we are financially, as we stare down ridiculously high housing and daycare costs. But then I realize how fortunate we are that we can afford to live where we do, and send our kids to a good daycare. And that we don’t have to be too worried about a surprise expense.
    It’s funny, in personal finance, we have a need for bloggers/authors/etc to be both “relatable” (that is, “middle class”) but also extremely successful (to prove that they have good advice). People who are able to pay off debts and grow their wealth will inevitably become wealthy (assuming they don’t spend too much or run into any major life/health/etc issues).

  13. Awesome post, thanks. I grew up in a broken-down house complete with roaches and had intermittent meals when the parent remembered children are supposed to be fed. I now live in a house of my own where the shower works and no roaches and I get to eat whenever I want and often whatever I want. And contrary to what one sees on television, my past is not atypical for many folks across the planet (except they may not have clean air or potable water like I did and do) or even in the U.S. I’m hella rich! I don’t guilt-trip over the bounty I have compared to others in the world (nor get resentful that my house and clothes aren’t as grand as those on television) but I am grateful every day of my life that I’m this blessed with so much. My childhood may have sucked but boy did it teach me a lot I needed to know and wouldn’t have learned any other way. Namaste, bitches! 🙂

  14. I really like and relate to your thoughts on generosity making you feel rich. My first year in the work force I made a middle class salary and when I got the offer letter it sounded like so much money. I made giving a priority from my first paycheck. It wasn’t long before I had some envy of my more experienced co-workers things and vacations. However, when that crept up I reminded myself, “self you have so much that you can afford to give money away. If you want something figure out how to move to your budget around and stop being jealous.” That mental gymnastics seriously worked and made me happier/more content.

  15. My favorite quote is from Henry David Thoreau: “I make myself rich by making my wants few.”

    Thank you for putting things in perspective.

    I’m a single mom who has taught my kids the difference between wants and needs. My teens understand financial discipline and priorities. They’ve never complained about sharing a tiny bedroom, because they know that’s why they get to go on a cool vacation every year. They see their dad living beyond his means and always being broke. It makes me so proud to see my son transfer $8.40 to his savings account because he was paid $84 that week.

    1. That’s beautiful. I’m proud of your son (and you!) too.

      I felt rich making (much) less than $70k/yr until I started paying for daycare 🙁 Between that and medical/health stuff I started understanding the very real stretch that so many Americans have. The tension ended up pushing me to switch to a higher paying job, and I’m definitely lucky that I was able to do that. Yes, I work more hours now. Yes, lots of folks talk about how spending an extra 5 hrs/wk with the kid is worth so much $$. But I’m not sure it’s so simple. The tradeoff between money and fear is intense… I’m no less likely to die by being hit by a bus, but I’m much more likely to be able to weather a medical bankruptcy now. I feel a bit bad that I was motivated to switch jobs by fear. But it’s the plain truth. The kid changed my wants & fears more than I ever expected.

  16. I feel like you wrote this article while channeling my life. I too paid off student loans while making $25-$35k, and I just got a raise to $70k and feel SO RICH. Not directly from $35k to $70k, to clarify. Slow buildup over time. BUT THE POINT is that my neck hurts from nodding at every damn sentence in this article. Thank you for this amazing perspective, continue to preach more to my personal choir please and thank you.

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