Advertisement

You’re budgeting wrong now — why the 50/30/20 method no longer works and how much you should save instead

Sen. Elizabeth Warren's 50/30/20 method was once touted as a gold standard for budgeting, but the 60/30/10 plan is gaining momentum amid inflation.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren's 50/30/20 method was once touted as a gold standard for budgeting, but the 60/30/10 plan is gaining momentum amid inflation.

This financial plan may no longer make cents.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s 50/30/20 method was once touted as a gold standard for budgeting, fortifying followers for a strong financial future while still allowing them to enjoy their day-to-day lives.

Under the system — popularized by the Massachusetts Democrat and her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi, in their 2006 book “All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan” — workers ideally spend 50% of their after-tax income on needs and 30% on wants while putting the remaining 20% into stocks, savings or a retirement fund.

But amid ongoing inflation, the 50/30/20 method no longer feels feasible for families who say they’re struggling to make ends meet.

Financial experts agree — and some say it may be time to adjust the percentages accordingly, to 60/30/10.

“If you’re taking someone that’s just starting or living paycheck-to-paycheck, it can be unrealistic or overly drastic, especially as they’re beginning to really get a handle on their finances,” Brian Walsh, ​​head of advice and planning at digital bank SoFi, told Time last week.

The 50/30/20 method has workers spending 50% of their income on needs and 30% on wants while putting the remaining 20% into stocks, savings or a retirement fund. Getty Images
The 50/30/20 method has workers spending 50% of their income on needs and 30% on wants while putting the remaining 20% into stocks, savings or a retirement fund. Getty Images
Amid ongoing inflation, the 50/30/20 method no longer feels feasible for families who say they’re struggling to make ends meet. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Amid ongoing inflation, the 50/30/20 method no longer feels feasible for families who say they’re struggling to make ends meet. Getty Images/iStockphoto

With housing costs mushrooming in recent years, some say they’re spending more than half of their after-tax income on rent or mortgage payments alone.

Then, there are the ballooning costs of other essentials, such as food, gas and utilities.

Being flexible with your finances in the face of such exorbitant expenses is okay, experts assert, as long as you’re still savvy with savings methods.

“It’s important to have rules of thumb and structures that can help guide us and get things organized, but there aren’t any rules that are written in stone, and that’s important to know,” Kevin L. Matthews II, founder of the financial education firm BuildingBread, declared to Time. “[But] it’s important to be flexible.”

“If you’re a young adult, 60/30/10 is just fine,” Michael Finke, professor of wealth management at the American College of Financial Services, chimed in. “Then you can gradually, as you reach middle age, increase that savings rate.”

Being flexible with your finances in the face of such exorbitant expenses is okay, experts assert, as long as you’re still being savvy with savings methods. Getty Images
Being flexible with your finances in the face of such exorbitant expenses is okay, experts assert, as long as you’re still being savvy with savings methods. Getty Images

While cutting the savings portion from 20% to 10% might feel drastic, Finke says in particularly tight circumstances it’s even okay to put away as little as 6% of your income if you have an employer who will match your 401(k).

“Make sure you get every single cent of the employer match,” he implores. “It’s a 100% return on your investment.”

Meanwhile, some budgeters have discovered the benefits of cutting down on the “wants” portion of their spending, meaning you may not have to spend 30% of your income keeping up with the Joneses.

Chrissie Milan, 25, says she’s set to save $8,000 this year by cutting out four simple things she was mindlessly spending her money on.

Some financial experts say it may be time to adjust the percentages accordingly, to 60/30/10. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Some financial experts say it may be time to adjust the percentages accordingly, to 60/30/10. Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Londoner has stopped spending $200 a month on clothes and has also opted not to buy daily coffees and lunch while working in the office. The latter tactic saves her $300 a month.

Finally, the spendthrift cut out fancy dinners with friends, choosing to make meals at home, something she says she actually enjoys.

“It is about getting to the root of what’s important,” Milan claimed to SWNS. “Stripping everything away and starting from zero helps you realize what you miss and what you don’t.”