Keeping Up With the Joneses (Or Not)

AuthorDan Pinnington
DateMay 08, 2017

This article is by Ian Hu, claims prevention & practicePRO counsel at LAWPRO.

Young lawyers often talk about the stress and burden of debt. If there is one piece of advice worth giving, it is a simple one: spend less than you earn.

As a new lawyer, I was excited when I received my first paycheque. I forget what I spent it on, but I remember it disappeared as soon as I received it. Soon I was living paycheque to paycheque. How could it be possible to live hand to mouth on Bay Street?

Turns out, it was easy. Perry Mason, L.A. Law, Ally McBeal, Boston Legal, Suits, my peers: what did they have in common? Nice things and unlimited fun: sailboats and golf courses, Cayman Island and Paris, Coach and Louis Vuitton, Benz and BMW. I wanted the same. And it was easy to rationalize. After all, how our clients and peers perceive us can play a big role in our success as lawyers. I felt compelled to cover myself with the trappings of success, whatever the cost.

With marriage and the birth of my first son I experienced a slow change in priorities. Erasing the financial burden of law school and consumer debt became paramount. Two years ago I read a book that has reset my outlook on life: The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy, by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko. For me, one of the key insights in the book is that lawyers (and doctors) accumulate very little wealth relative to their income. Who accumulates wealth the best? Those who save well, whatever their income. Even workers with modest incomes can and do manage to accumulate significant wealth. Outside of the extremes, there is no correlation between income and wealth. It’s all about how much you save.
In recent years I have made the move to a more frugal lifestyle. Other benefits have followed. As I now rarely think of what I should spend money on next, my thoughts can turn to more important issues, such as how I want to spend time with people and how to make it happen. It costs little to have a coffee with a friend, get together over a fire pit, or have a barbecue. Yet the dividends are far greater than any Zegna suit. And relationships – personally and in business – are built on shared experiences, not shared things.

Manage your money: Pay yourself first or budget
Whatever your income, young lawyers can consider the following two approaches to paying off debt and accumulating wealth. The first is known as the “pay yourself first” method. Whenever you get paid, take a little...

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