Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • December 2017
Written by 

How much money will pass through your hands?

How much will you spend on gifts during the holidays? In 2016, the average American family spent more than $900 on gifts. Most families also spent money on special food, decorations and eating out.

How much money will pass through your hands during the 2017 holiday season? Or, consider this much bigger question: how much money will pass through your hands during your lifetime?

It might be a lot more than you think. Take for example, a 22-year-old woman earning $15 per hour. She gets 3 percent raises in many years. By the time she retires more than forty years later, she may have grossed more than $1,800,000.

Projecting your lifetime earnings is a great exercise to do in your 20s and 30s. Take your current income, assume 2-3 percent wage increases in many years and project your income through age 65. The total amount is often an eye-opening surprise.

What about you? Have you added up how much money will pass through your hands in your lifetime? Projecting your lifetime earnings can be an exciting, thought-provoking exercise.

If you’re going to earn that much during your lifetime, what will you do with that money? How much will you save and invest? Are you taking advantage of all the tax breaks you can legitimately use?

It is easy to get in a financial rut and not pause to ask big picture questions. Sadly, surveys have shown that many Americans spend more time planning for a vacation or buying gifts for the holidays than they spend planning for their retirement.

Without a plan, many people spend and save haphazardly. With a plan, people often can save consistently for their dreams and goals. They enjoy the deep satisfaction of having money for goals like a better home, car, education or retirement. Even modest savings can add up to be significant amounts.

During the holidays, do you prepare special seasonal meals, cookies or desserts? Do you follow recipes closely, using quality ingredients so that your food will be delightful?

There’s a recipe for long-term financial success too. Spend less than what you earn, save consistently and invest for your long-term goals.

To increase your joy this holiday season and beyond, think about how much money is passing through your hands. Have a thoughtful plan for spending, sharing and saving your money.

Alan Prahl

Alan Prahl is the Education Leader with FISC, the Financial Information & Service Center. He has an undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and law degree from Hamline University. A nonprofit program of Goodwill NCW, FISC provides financial counseling and coaching, including a no-cost, no obligation 30-minute consultation with the “counselor on call.” To learn more, call 920-886-1000 or visit

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