It’s Not How Much You Make – It’s How Much You Keep

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Conor McGregor, one week after receiving $30 million in winnings from his very lucrative loss to Floyd Mayweather, bought a super yacht reportedly worth $12 million. That’s on top of the multiple Lamborghinis, BMWs, Rolls-Royces and Range Rovers he owns. I’m not done. He also owns a 12,000 square foot home in Las Vegas worth $20 million and a mansion in Dublin, Ireland worth in excess of $2 million. Still not done. He has a luxury watch collection worth over $300,000. And, unless he finds some financial religion, his want spending will continue to get worse, until he finds himself one day sharing a room with M.C. Hammer.

The tabloids are replete with stories of prodigious earners who had nothing left after years of excessive spending:

  • According to The Daily Telegraph, the forensic accountant at Michael Jackson’s 2005 child sexual abuse trial stated that Jackson had been spending $20 to $30 million more than his earnings per year.
  • In 2012, the financial advisors of the former NBA champion Dennis Rodman reported that he was broke. Years of extravagances, wild spending was the reason given.
  • Courtney Love, wife of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, squandered over $27 million of Nirvana earnings on years of hard partying and wild spending.
  • Thomas Jefferson, founding father, author of the Declaration of Independence and America’s third president, had a half a million dollar a year (in current dollars) wine spending habit that left him penniless when he died.
  • Famed actor, Nicolas Cage, who made $150 million in his acting career, at one time owned a haunted mansion, a private island, a collection of shrunken heads and spent $276,000 on a skull of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. His reckless, excessive spending forced him into bankruptcy in 2009.
  • Johnny Carson sidekick, Ed McMahon, who made millions during his fifty year career, was forced to sell his home, or face foreclosure by his bank. In a 2008 Larry King interview,  McMahon told King, “Well, if you spend more than you make, you know what happens.”
  • Johnny Depp, according to Court documents obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, spends $2 million a month. His reckless spending over the years included $75 million on fourteen homes, an $18 million luxury yacht and $30,000 a month on wine.
  • Then there are the stories of the extravagant spending habits of Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, Toni Braxton, M.C. Hammer and many, many others.

This excessive spending is also known as

Lifestyle CreepIncreasing your standard of living in order to match your increased income. Lifestyle Creep is driven by want spending – spending your money on things you want but do not need. Left unchecked, want spending can become an addiction.

And it’s one of those Poor Habits I like to write about.

At its very core, being wealthy comes down to two things:

  1. Making It and
  2. Keeping It

Many ordinary individuals, like our celebrity friends above, are very good at creating wealth but terrible at keeping it.

You see it every day all around you. A friend, colleague or neighbor suddenly comes into money – a large bonus, a big promotion, stock vesting or an inheritance. Suddenly, they are finding novel ways to spend their newfound wealth: super sizing their home, new expensive cars, a vacation home or that boat they’ve always dreamed of.  Or, far more common, you probably know individuals who live beyond their means, relying on credit cards in order to fund their lifestyle.

Sometimes, lifestyle creep can get out of hand. How many of you know someone who has filed for personal bankruptcy? I know a few. Barring outlier causes (failed business, divorce, disease, or chronic disability), excessive spending is usually the main culprit for the vast majority of those who eventually find themselves broke.

According to Census Bureau data, there are approximately 30 million people who make more than they need but who are, nonetheless, one paycheck away from poverty. Far too many regular, ordinary individuals take a page out of the celebrity money mismanagement playbook, spending excessively and living beyond their means for too many years, one job loss away from being homeless.

Being rich is not always about how much you make, but it is always about how much you keep.

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Thomas C. Corley About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley is a bestselling author, speaker, and media contributor for Business Insider, CNBC and a few other national media outlets.

His Rich Habits research has been read, viewed or heard by over 50 million people in 25 countries around the world.

Besides being an author, Tom is also a CPA, CFP, holds a master’s degree in taxation and is President of Cerefice and Company, a CPA firm in New Jersey.
Phone Number: 732-382-3800 Ext. 103.
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  1. L. Moultrie says:

    M. C. Hammer is often mentioned when giving examples of people who have lost their fortunes. You may find it interesting to see what he is doing now. Apparently he has learned from his mistakes.

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