Look Back: You Might Have Spent $1,000,000

Look Back: you might have spent one million dollars

The best way to change your spending habits is to look at what you’ve spent over your life and ask yourself if you’re happy with how you’ve spent your hard-earned money.

“You might have already spent $1,000,000.”

I can guarantee you've spent more than you think. In fact, you might have spent a million dollars already. If you’ve been using a personal money managing app, you can easily look at your transactions for all time, income, and net income. I’ve been using Mint since 2008 and I can’t recommend it enough.

If you haven’t been tracking it (start after you read this post), you can still do this exercise, and probably need to do this exercise. Think back to your very first job and add up how much you’ve earned each year of your life. Then subtract your current assets (cash, percentage home ownership, stocks etc.) and that is how much you’ve spent in your lifetime.


For example, my timeline of earnings:

14 years old: summer job at snack shack $5.25/hour for 25 hours a week for 3 months = $1,705

15 years old: hostess, busser at a downtown restaurant: $6/hour + tips ~$12/hour. 25 hours a week during the summer, 10 hours per week during the school year = $8,573

16-18 years old (2 years): waitress at a nicer restaurant ~$20/hour with tips. 30 hours a week in the summer, 12 hours per week during the school year: $17,146

19 years old (1 year): waitress during the summer and some weekends during college. $2,598 + $4,676 = $7,274

20 years old: waitress during the summer + Resident Advisor sophomore year (free room + board). $2,598 + $13,000 value = $15,598

21 years old (1 year): internship as an accountant, $14/hour 20 hours per week, rolled right into a full time job when I graduated = $10,911 + $7,274 = $18,185

22-25 years old (3 years): fund accountant and portfolio analyst starting at $38,500 per year moving my way up to a whopping $41,500 per year. $119,000

25 years old (1 year): finance and operations manager at a tech startup. $60,000

26 years old (1 year): finance and operations manager, this time with negotiating. $85,000

27-30 years old (3 years): marketing manager, over $100k per year (forgive me for being vague, but it’d be unwise for me to share specifics.) >$300K

At 30 years old, I’ve earned over $630,000 in my lifetime. Add my husband’s income and we’ve earned well over $1,000,000. Subtract taxes (30%) since those are unavoidable. Also subtract student loan repayment ($108k), and we’ve spent over $700,000.



Does it feel like your old self stole from you?


So now that you’ve done the addition, time for a few more calculations:

  • What percentage of your earnings have you not spent (assets and cash)?

    • (savings + assets) / all time earnings after income tax = % of earnings saved


  • If you had saved just one more percent of your earnings, how much more money would you have now?

    • all time earnings after income tax * (% of earnings saved + 1 %) = cash you could have


  • What percentage of your earnings did you spend on things that you’re happy about?

    • hint: smart investments, giving, mind-expanding/soul-filling experiences…


  • What percentage of your earnings did you spend on things that you expected would make you happy but didn’t?

    • hint: alcohol, coffee, fast fashion, cars more expensive than Toyota Civics…


That was the bad news. Here’s the good news:

Reality is your friend.

You can improve.

You can improve right now.

Your future self deserves it.


Come to terms 

Coming to terms with your finances can be overwhelming—but the sooner you make friends with your reality, the sooner you can change it. This blog is full of specific tactics to manage your money while living well.

Next, I recommend outlining your goals to understand what you want from your money so you can start making progress right now.