Though I am unsure of where I first heard the financial advice “It’s not what you earn, it’s what you keep”, every time it pops into my head I am in awe of its simplicity and truth. It is also slightly intoxicating for an entry level person in the workforce who is years away from banking good money—perhaps a large salary is currently out of my reach as I work through the ranks, but what actually counts is how much of that salary I am keeping. It puts us all on a level playing field.
A shift to this sort of thinking would radically change things. The best example I can come up with to illustrate the difference this shift in thinking would make is in the dating world. Imagine how different dating would become if the financial metric of interest changed from how much money people make to how much money people put into savings. Suddenly Mr. $150,000-per-year-VP-Match.com-Hotshot who only banked $1,000 in the whole of 2010 would be picked over for Mr. $30,000-per-year-Nonprofit man who manages to bank $400 of his income per month.
Don’t get me wrong; the VP who makes $150,000 has the potential to offer financial security, material comfort, and savings because of his/her large income. But potential and behavior are two different things. The person who only makes $30,000 per year has a pattern of saving behavior that, in my opinion, offers much less of a financial risk.