M.A.S.H. Calculator: How Much Will My Lifestyle Cost?


When it comes down to it, the way we spend our money is usually about the kind of lifestyle we want.

Some people, if they had an extra $1,000, would put it toward a future home, others a dream vacation, others charity, and still others a well-made handbag.

Each of these choices says something about how the respective chooser wants to live her life, but we have no judgment about any of the picks: Since we’re talking about an “extra” $1,000, we’re assuming she’s made her monthly contribution to the big three financial priorities — retirementsavings and debt payments — plus paid all her monthly essential expenses, like rent/mortgage, transportation, etc.

So, back to our original statement: If each shopping choice we make is a statement about the kind of lifestyle we want, what if we determined what lifestyle we want first, then tallied up its cost, and finally figured out how much money we would need to earn accomplish it?

While people often do this for individual items — i.e. their dream home or their next car — we’ve put together a calculator that will help do that for your whole life.

It’s like the M.A.S.H. game from your childhood — but instead of writing down the name of the person you want to someday marry, you’re telling us if you want a second home, how many kids you plan on having and what kind of vacations you dream of.

And, in turn, the calculator will tell you what kind of household income you may need to accomplish it.

Of course, the calculator can only give you a ballpark estimate. After all, you may end up with more (or fewer) kids than you had planned for, or when you retire, you may decide you miss working and want to go back part-time.

But it’s useful for testing your expectations. If you’re working a low-paying job but still expect to someday have a beachfront home, it’s better to find out now that you may need to make some extra income or nab that promotion in order to make that happen. On the other side of the coin, it can be a relief to see that you can work on achieving your ideal lifestyle on your current career track or that you have money to spare and can potentially retire earlier or increase your charitable giving.

You can take the M.A.S.H. quiz as many times as you need, tweaking the numbers to see how different lifestyle choices can make your number go up or down. And, if no matter how you slice it, you’re not on track to make enough, then consider negotiating for that raise, starting that side job you’ve been considering or finding out if grad school will get your salary up to the level you need.

A financial plan can also help you reach your goals faster.

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LearnVest Planning Services is a registered investment adviser and subsidiary of LearnVest, Inc. that provides financial plans for its clients. Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment, legal or tax planning advice. Please consult a financial adviser, attorney or tax specialist for advice specific to your financial situation. LearnVest Planning Services and any third parties listed in this message are separate and unaffiliated and are not responsible for each other’s products, services or policies. Please note that the figures quoted in the quiz are based on national averages and are for illustrative purposes only.