6 Key Signs You Can’t Afford Your Lifestyle

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oatawa / Getty Images

As inflation continues to rise, so does the cost of living -- and wages can't seem to keep up.

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Take, for example, being able to pay your monthly utility bills. GOBankingRates surveyed 1,091 Americans aged 18 and older from across the country between August 14 and August 16, 2023, asking, "Have you had trouble paying your utility (gas, electric, heat, internet, etc.) bills in the last 6-12 months?" and 43.72% responded "Yes" they did have difficulty.

Do you also have trouble keeping up with payments and your bank account in the black? Here are six signs you can't afford your lifestyle, according to financial experts.

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Yuri Arcurs / Getty Images

1. You're Living Paycheck to Paycheck

If you have little to no money left over after paying your bills, you're not alone. Around 12.37% of respondents are living paycheck to paycheck, making less than $10,000 annually, according to our GOBankingRates survey.


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The same survey found that 25.21% of those surveyed are currently on or have been on food stamps in the last year. If you can't afford to put any money toward food, let alone savings or retirement, you may not be able to afford your lifestyle.


2. You Can't Afford an Emergency Expense

One side effect of living paycheck to paycheck is that it's difficult to build an emergency fund. Things only get more dire with age. Unfortunately, many people don't realize this is a problem for them until an emergency occurs.

"We usually see this in times of emergencies when something happens to a car or some mishap causes unforeseen expenses-like a basement flooding or a pipe leaking," said Clinton Smith, CEO of the retirement and benefits services company Government & Civil Employee Services.

"Being prepared for the unexpected is a great way to break that cycle. Always keep a reserve fund of money just in case you need it."

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Pormezz /

3. Your Credit Card Debt Is Increasing

Life happens, and big expenses like medical bills and appliance repairs sometimes have to go on the credit card. The problem is, not paying off your credit cards causes their interest to kick in, which can quickly balloon your debt.

Jason Noble, a financial advisor with Prime Capital Investment Advisors, sees this issue all too often.

"As inflation continues to go up, we have seen credit card debt surge as a way to keep up with the higher costs," he said.

If you can't seem to keep up with your credit card payments, you may need to see what expenses you can do without.

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LightFieldStudios /

4. Your Income Decreases but Your Spending Doesn't

An emergency fund is a helpful way to pay your bills if your income decreases due to a job loss. But your savings can't sustain you long term if your expenses continue to surpass your income.

Charisse Mackenzie, a financial advisor and president of Saturn Wealth, recalls one couple she worked with who faced this issue. Both worked in the medical field and were used to earning a high income. When one of them retired, they didn't want to give up their lifestyle.

"They started withdrawing $12,000 a month from their investment accounts to maintain the lifestyle they were used to," Mackenzie said. "We ran the numbers for them with our income report and determined they would be out of money in less than 10 years at this rate of spending."

Mackenzie explained to the couple that either they needed to reduce their spending or the retired partner had to go back to work.

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DragonImages / Getty Images/iStockphoto

5. You're Hiding Your Spending Habits

If you find yourself hiding your purchases from a loved one or significant other, ask yourself why. Could it be a sign you feel guilty about spending more than you can afford?

Noble recalls one couple he worked with who had a combined yearly income of $175,000. He said they also had a reasonable mortgage, typical car payments and $5,000 in credit card debt. But something was off with the numbers -- and he couldn't figure it out.

Noble recounted his meeting with the couple: "Finally, the husband said, 'I have a secret credit card that has $35,000 of debt on it.' As tears welled up in his eyes, his wife responded, 'I, too, have a credit card that I've kept from you, and it has $25,000 on it.' This is an extreme example, but it shows how keeping your spending in the dark is easier than bringing it to the light."

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fizkes /

6. You Can't Keep Up With Multiple Lifestyle Debts

Is your home or car bigger or more luxurious than you need? Spending too much in these areas is a tell-tale sign you can't afford your lifestyle.

"Home and car payments shouldn't make up over 50% of a person's income," Noble said. "This is a general rule, but the lower the monthly percentage of your income that goes toward home and auto, the better off you'll be financially."

Jake Arky contributed to the reporting for this article.

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This article originally appeared on 6 Key Signs You Can’t Afford Your Lifestyle