When Can You Buy Anything You Want? When You Reach Level 8

By Richard Reis

Hello dear,

Wow, we’ve come a long way!

It’s only been 4 letters, yet you’ve learned a lot! Including the 3 categories you must master, the top 5 resources to learn, why your net worth matters more than income, and how long you’ll take to retire.

This is a great start! Take this moment to appreciate how far you’ve come since New Year’s. I’ll wait while sipping my tea.

Done? I sincerely hope you took a second to appreciate. It’s important to celebrate small victories. This was out first month together!

Rest assured, we have much, much more to talk about (48 letters including this one). You can see how this series is organized in the Index.

Enough catching up, let’s get to today’s letter.

As I expected, when you write about personal finance you’ll encounter mixed emotions. Some people like what I say, others don’t. Thankfully the positive reactions far outweigh the negative ones. But I still can’t let anyone down!

I’ll write about why emotions are so mixed in a later letter. For now, I want to get one thing clear:


Someone told me she showed my last letter to a friend. The reaction was complaint along the lines of “sure I could pay my debt faster and remove my financial stress, but I enjoy eating at restaurants and going out for drinks every weekend.”

Someone else took offense to my last letter because I recommended people get a dog after they have no debt (this way not only can they afford it, they’ll enjoy it more and remove 23 YEARS from their work life).

I don’t think it’s such a crazy concept. Do you?

If you have any financial stress and still want to lease a car, travel, get a dog, or have other unnecessary expenses you’re hurting your future self.

This bears emphasis; if money brings you any worry and you’re still buying things you don’t really need because they make you “feel good for a bit”, you are committing self-sabotage. You will regret it.

If you’re happy and have no financial stress, no problem. In fact you don’t even have to keep reading since you’re a great saver!

However, if you have any worry about money and still buy unnecessary things, we need to talk.

What’s the point of doing the things you want just so you can regret them later? Sure you got to travel, eat at a restaurant, or buy an expensive gift, but at the end of the day you’ll return home, close your door and feel an eerie glare behind you. You’ll slowly look over your shoulder, only to find your scary debt staring at you whispering “pay meeeee.”

Doesn’t that ruin your fun? Statistically, yes it does.

“If no mistake have you made, yet losing you are… A different game you should play” — Yoda

Realize this; it’s much better to sacrifice the short term, live like a student, have no dogs, eat at home, drive an old car, and saving all those expensive shoes and bags for when you can afford them with no regrets.

“Very well,” you say. “I agree that money is stressing me out and I end up buying more things; which is an ugly downward spiral. But I do enjoy buying some of those things. Besides you said I can buy them at some point. So my question is, when can I finally buy what I want?”

Using inspiration from this post, I created a little diagram to help you know.

This is more than just a well colored diagram. It shows the different financial levels you can find yourself on.

Your goal is to move up those levels until you can reach the top. Anyone can do it.

Note: Yes, I know the diagram isn’t all-encompassing. For example, why did I write 401(k) when some people have a 403(b) plan? Well, I can’t write everything because it would make the diagram look ugly. So I just wrote the most common financial situations. You can simply fill the gaps with your own flavor and you’ll still find the levels don’t change.

Level 1 means you’re in emergency mode!!! No cellphone, no traveling, no Budweiser. You should stay at your parents house, walk or ride a bike to work, and live off of ramen noodles.

And you know what? Until you get to level 6 or 7 you should think thrice about any unnecessary purchases.

Level 8 means you have freedom from financial worries. Congrats! And the higher your net worth, the more you can buy. Enjoy!

I want you to know that every level is achievable (within 10 or so years even!). So be honest, what level are you on?

This will determine whether or not you’ll fully enjoy your purchases. Hence, it should be your blueprint when thinking about buying something you don’t really need. Print it, stick it on your fridge, look at it every day, and remember your goal; achieving it will feel light-years better than any trip or bag or car.

“Ok you’re right. But hey what about the expensive purchases I must make? Like a wedding?”

Who says a wedding must be expensive?

Especially when the average household with credit card debt owes $16,061, average student loan debt is $37,172, and still the average wedding in America costs $26,645!

Why? All you need to do is slap a collar on a priest, find a tree, two rings, a bouquet, a few chairs for guests, and you’re good to go.

“Hey but that is not the dream wedding I’ve always pictured!”

Relax, the photo above looks romantic to anyone. Remember, if done creatively and with a little imagination, cute beats expensive.

Besides, if you’re paying more money than you have for a wedding, how long do you think the marriage will last? When you learn 40–50% of marriages end in divorce, “finances” is one of the top 10 causes for divorce AND money is the leading cause of stress in relationships, my guess is not very long.

As John McDermott wrote in his post; The general consensus is the money talk should occur well before a couple gets married, and for good reason.“Money is the number-one source of conflict among couples, particularly early in marriage,” says Orbuch, who has studied the same 373 couples for 30 years as part of a long-term National Institutes of Health study on marriage. Orbuch finds that 7 out of 10 couples report money is a significant source of tension in their relationships.


Don’t put the odds against you!

It’s quite simple, if you don’t have money for an expensive wedding, have an inexpensive one. Or save the expensive wedding for when you can afford it (if you really really really want it).

Now you learned what to do. This might just save your marriage. And may the odds be ever in your favor. *cue the whistle*

But the same goes to other expensive moments in life. Including birthdays, christmases, valentine’s days, funerals, etc… etc…

Don’t let old societal norms influence how you spend. Don’t spend money if you don’t have it. The negatives far outweigh the positives. It’s not worth it.

If you’re still not fully convinced, I’ll leave with a quote from Kevin O’Leary from Shark Tank (who owns several wedding-related businesses).

“I love two industries. I love weddings and I love people dying. Because when both of those things happen people make stupid decisions. Emotional decisions. Not financial decisions. And because that is the case, there’s huge industries behind both of those.” — Kevin O’Leary

He’s right. But don’t let yourself be just another sucker.

Anyways! Today you learned when to buy the things you want. You also know what to do when life brings you those “must-have” expensive events.

See you next week (follow the series here to be notified).

Be well.


P.S.: Here’s a delightful treat. You can get the new Warren Buffett HBO documentary on-demand starting today! (I never watch HBO, so if you want to share your login with me for a day I will love you forever. You know, I don’t like spending money unnecessarily 😉).

Most importantly though, when you watch the director’s interview you’ll see Warren is a great example of someone who knows not to waste money. Have in mind Warren’s net worth is $73 Billion. According to our calculations he could easily spend $8 Million every day for the rest of his life! This means he could have a fleet of tanks drop him off at work everyday and own the entire empire state building as his private office. Yet he drives his own car and has a tiny office with no computer (This is a role model for someone who doesn’t spend money unnecessarily! It is no doubt that this mindset is part of what made him super-rich).

Thanks for reading! 😊 If you enjoyed it, test how many times can you hit 👏 in 5 seconds. It’s great cardio for your fingers AND will help other people see the story.


Since I write about finance, legal jargon is obligatory (because the guys in suits made me). Before following any of my advice, read this disclaimer.