Defense before offense

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According to a survey from, 78% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Even worse, a Forbes survey found that 29% of people can't cover their standard expenses.

When you're in a financial bind, you have two options: control your expenses or boost your income. From my point of view, controlling spending is a form of financial defense while making more money is a form of financial offense. Some of the financial advice out there encourages you to ravenously focus on playing offense because the limit to how much you can make it is nearly unbounded while you can only control expenses so much. However, this advice is misguided. If you're not good at being disciplined with your spending, making more money is not going to help - in fact, it may make things worse. That's why you need to have a strong defense before you can focus on playing offense.

If you're undisciplined with your spending, boosting your income is most likely going to result in lifestyle creep. For example, let's say that you're living paycheck-to-paycheck with an income of $75,000. This means that your spending is around $75,000 as well. Now, let's say you get a promotion and your income jumps to $100,000. Without having a system in place, you're spending is likely to rise near $100,000 as well. What's worse, spending more will make it tougher and tougher for you reign in your expenses when you've finally realized that you need to make a financial change. (Assuming the realization happens at some point.) This is why playing offense without having a strong defense is problematic.

Playing defense is more than just responsible spending. At its core, playing defense is having a financial system in place that allows you to seamlessly save money and control expenses in a way that's easy for you to stick with and can adapt based on financial change. (For the personalized systems I set up for clients, there are several components that happen automatically so the effort to maintain the system is nearly 0.) Only once you feel good with the system you've settled with does it make sense for you to dedicate most of your time to playing offense.

By ensuring that you have a strong defense, when you're income jumps from $75,000 to $100,000, you're able to responsibly adjust your savings and spending levels.

You may be wondering, what about playing defense and offense at the same time? It's a good question. If you're looking to make more money, then by all means go for it! However, if you haven't ironed out your financial system, I'd encourage you to take the extra money you make and use it towards paying down debt, then building savings to prevent yourself from falling victim to lifestyle creep. This guidance is very general so if you're looking for more a tailored solution, consider setting up a consultation.

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