8.19.2013

Victims of Number Psychology

I'm always interested in hearing about people's salaries. "How much does that person make?" is a question I always wonder. I'm just curious when it comes to how much a person makes doing a certain job or in a certain industry. News articles like to flaunt headlines about the best jobs with the highest paying salaries, the highest-paying internships, or the easiest jobs that pay the most. Things like that.

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What is actually more important is your overall net worth, because it takes into account your income, your debts, and your assets. Now that's what is more accurate than a person's salary.

The funny thing is, salary is something of a psychological number to me. I've always been rooting for the BF to get a higher paying job, and now that he's making a lot more than he used to, the psychological effect is that he feels richer. That would definitely be the case if everything else in our financial world stayed stagnant.

However, that's where my life comes into play.

The BF and I knew that I would be quitting my job. That meant losing $45,000 (pre-tax) a year. In addition, I tacked on some debt (currently at $31,000) and by the time I graduate, that number will triple. The BF's salary is definitely a lot more than what he was making before, but with me not working and adding debt, we realized that we were just as poor as we were when we were both working full-time and I had zero debt. Yet, we were scrimping and saving like no other back then! We should be doing the same instead of splurging a lot more these days.

Talk about a rude awakening!

I'm pretty sure we were both not feeling well after that conversation. Of course, the BF is definitely entitled to spend more since he has been paying down his debt and his income did increase. I like how he thinks about the both of us as one whole and how our finances are practically one but at the same time I'd rather not think of it that way since it makes me feel bummed out about our finances.

I don't know what it is but I still want to look at our net worth as individuals rather than combined because psychologically, it makes me feel better to know that he is making a lot more as one person (even if I have no income and a lot more debt now) vs. our past scenario which was two people making less money each and me not having any debt. Isn't that weird? I'm sure I feel that way because this situation is temporary and I'll eventually have to start working after I graduate. Also, once your salary goes up it can't go too far down....can it?

For now I am definitely enlightened by our reactions and will get back to saving like a poor person again, i.e. not splurging. We've definitely been eating out a lot more freely than before and getting useless stuff that seems necessary but really isn't (like a humidifier and laptop speakers).

Do you ever wonder about people's salaries? If so, do you end up realizing that they may have just as much debt and could have a lower net worth? Or are we too focused on salaries and income these days?

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