5 Numbers More Important Than Your Income

by Jackie Lam | May 14, 2019

As my friend Mel says, “Numbers are sexy.” We love talking about numbers, and tend to fixate on them — particularly when it comes to how much we earn. “I’m a six-figure freelance designer,” or, “If I take this job, I’ll earn $10,000 more.”

We oftentimes measure our worth based on how much money we rake in. It can be easy to feel like you’re behind, or a grade-A underachiever when your cousin or bestie or partner makes more than you. Sure, your income is important, but there are other numbers that deserve a closer look than how much cash you earn. When it comes to financial wellness, here are five metrics that trump your income.

1. Cost of Living Index

Bottom line: the salary you earn living in one part of the county might not stretch as far living in another part of the country. Say you earn $80,000 in Los Angeles. If you move to Nashville, Tennessee, you’d only need $45,269 to enjoy the same comforts, according to Sperling’s Cost of Living calculator. Expect to spend 26.1% less in health and 39.2% less in transportation. And if you were to buy a home, you’d be spending 62.6% less in housing.

How much you make is relative to a number of things — one being the cost of living in your stomping grounds. So the next time someone says they’re making $120,000 but live in Silicon Valley, chances are they aren’t enjoying the same standard of living, than those in less-expensive parts of the country.

2. Compensation Package

When it comes to your work salary, it’s also important to look at the entire kit-and-caboodle for your benefits package. Your employee benefits can make up to one-third of total compensation costs. That includes health benefits (which alone can cost employers $15,000 per worker) and an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan.

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