How to Navigate the Messy Middle with Your Finances

September 5, 2023

Life can start pulling at you in many different ways during the “messy middle.” In this highlight, we give practical tips on how to make the most out of that season and set yourself up for financial success.


Let’s move on to Raymond’s question. He asks, “Can you expand on ratios for saving, investing, home (23.8%), all those things? All the rules and guidelines we talk about that provide a percentage of your gross income after taxes. It doesn’t seem to be enough to spread around and cover living expenses. My car is four percent, my home is twenty percent. With four kids, it’s getting hard to get all of that in. Any advice on how he should be thinking about this?”

Yeah, Raymond, it’s tough, especially with four kids. I’ll assume they’re young and still at home. You’re what we’d affectionately call in the messy middle. You’re in that life stage where your disposable time and income are down, and your obligations are way up. Many things are pulling you in different directions. Allocating your capital becomes a challenge, but I love that your car payment is only four percent, which I assume is on a three-year payoff, following the Money Guy rule. Similarly, housing at twenty percent of your total gross income is in line with the rule. So, you’re following good guidelines. If you’re saving around 25% (I’m assuming), or moving towards it, you’re doing what you’re supposed to, but it’s not easy.

It’s difficult, especially when you’re in the messy middle. It’s okay to cut yourself some slack during this period, as long as you’re not making rash financial decisions. It’s natural for things to be tight due to family circumstances. You can improve over time, but don’t stress too much about achieving perfection in every aspect of your financial journey.

I want to clarify a few things that might provide some relief. First, if you’re saving and investing, remember that if your household makes less than two hundred thousand dollars, you can count employer contributions, including matches and profit sharing, toward that 20-25%. Employer contributions can make a significant difference.

However, it’s essential to keep in mind that personal experience varies. I didn’t feel financially comfortable until I was in my early 40s. Prioritizing savings and investing while keeping a disciplined budget helped me build a foundation for future success. It’s part of the messy middle, and it won’t feel easy. But following actionable rules can guide you through, and when you’re in your 40s and beyond, you’ll realize it was worth the effort.

Creating abundance will not only allow you to enjoy your later years but also provide a great financial model for your kids as they grow up witnessing healthy financial behaviors. While it may seem challenging to squeeze expenses now, the long-term benefits are worth it. Lifestyle creep is real, and prioritizing savings and investments in your 20s and 30s can create a habit of disciplined financial management. We want you to make sound financial decision’s, thats why we have the Financial Order of Operations. It’s our nine tried-and-true steps that will help you secure your financial future.

Remember that it’s okay to bedazzle your basic life and make space for making memories with your family. Spending quality time together doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. The messy middle won’t last forever, and while it’s challenging, it’s a necessary phase to set yourself up for a comfortable and abundant future. Remember the quote from Jerry Rice: “Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can do what others can’t.” This mindset can guide you through the tough times to reap the rewards later on. For more information, check out our free resources.



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