Are you a HENRY?

When most people start their careers, they aspire to earn a base salary of six figures (or $100,000). That somehow became the barometer for professional success. Once you make that much, you can breathe or give yourself a nice pat on the back because your hard work has started to pay off. So you can only go up from there, right?

You’re climbing the “corporate ladder” or building a great business, but you don’t realize that as you earn more, that comes with more responsibility. The late Notorious B.I.G. sums it up nicely in his hit track, “Mo’ Money, Mo Problems.” You feel like earning more is the mountain top, but it’s only the start of this new journey, and most aren’t prepared for what’s to come. 

At this point, you’re probably still wondering, what is a H.E.N.R.Y.? Well, it’s an acronym coined by writer Shawn Tully back in 2003 that stands for High Earner Not Rich Yet. As a millennial, I’ve noticed that many of my clients and prospective clients tend to be HENRYs. They are highly educated, high-earning professionals whose expertise spans many industries. However, despite their advanced levels of education, many HENRYs struggle financially. It sounds crazy, right? People always talk about how different or awesome their lives would be if they made more money, yet they never or rarely prepare themselves for this new lifestyle. 

Luckily for the HENRY clients that I’ve had the pleasure to serve, they have all received (and continue to receive) incredible lessons on how to play the money game like the wealthy. If it weren’t for me, many of these HENRYs (millennials like myself) would have continued going through life thinking everything was good because they had a nice paycheck. So let me share some HENRY experiences I’ve encountered over the years and how I helped them move forward with their #buildwealth plan.

  • A millennial woman shared that she had $130,000 in debt, a combination of student loans and credit cards. Having such a high amount of debt was causing her a ton of stress. Oh yeah, she had over a half-million dollars of vested stock from her tech job. She told me she was afraid (more like terrified) of paying taxes on the liquidation of her stock. So I asked her two questions. How would it make you feel if all of your debt could be paid off tomorrow? What would you do with the money (the payments she was currently making on her debt) that would now be free to use at your discretion? After our meeting, it took her a week to make the liquation and pay off her debt. The money that became free was applied to beefing up her emergency fund, maxing out her 401k, and opening up a brokerage account so she could buy ETFs each month.
  • A millennial man was becoming obsessed with getting into crypto investing. He was an engineer and had been doing a ton of research about the crypto space. But, he wasn’t doing any investing outside of his 401k. He was an avid saver and shared that he wanted to drop $15,000 into a coin he’d been tracking and hearing a ton of buzz about on the internet. However, he shared his concerns about his tax situation with me, and he didn’t feel like he was on track with his retirement plans. So I asked him one question that I thought would be a layup which was the turning point in our meeting. I said, “You earn well over $150,000/year. Are you maxing out your 401k?” He responded by saying, “Yeah, I’m doing the company match, so I’m maxing that out.” I quickly responded by sharing the difference between the company match and the maximum amount allowable in his 401k by the IRS. Plus, I explained that the more he contributes to his 401k on a pre-tax basis (his employer also offered a Roth contribution option), his taxable income for the year would decrease. So, to move forward, I recommended he max out his 401k, which would assess his top two concerns. Then he should reassess how much to put into crypto. If he doesn’t have a conversation with me, he doesn’t tackle his top two financial priorities. And, because I know the crypto markets are incredibly volatile, there was a chance that the coin he was tracking wasn’t going to “do numbers.” I recommended he find a better place for that $15,000 or maybe only put $5,000 into the coin. He decided on $10,000 and swiftly lost it all in a few weeks. He learned a valuable lesson in investing, and I’m glad to know that no matter what else he decides to invest in during his lifetime, he’ll be maxing out his 401k every single year.
  • After a speaking engagement, a millennial couple came up to me and said they needed to get their #buildwealth plan on point. We set up a meeting the following week, and right off the bat, they said, “Collectively, we make over $400,000/year but feel like we are living check to check.” In my head, I’m thinking, how the **** is this possible? I’ve read stories about these people on the internet, but here they were, in the flesh. So I asked them to tell me about their lifestyle because it was evident that this was a lifestyle inflation issue (you spend more because you’re earning more). This couple was living so far beyond their means it was ridiculous. They had two brand new luxury cars with crazy high payments because their credit wasn’t great. They only needed one car, but the second luxury car was purchased during the pandemic because the husband said, “I was jealous my wife had her dream car, so I needed mine too!” But where exactly was he planning to go? This purchase was made in April 2020, the heart of the COVID pandemic. Both LOVED designer clothes, and even their two kids were always dressed to the nines when they were out in public. They loved going out to eat at fancy restaurants for family dinners or brunch events and posting photos from those restaurants on social media. They both had student loans from undergrad and a substantial amount of credit card debt. I could continue with this laundry list of things, but I simply asked the couple, “Do you want to do better?” They both said yes, and I shared some tools to assist them with getting started transforming their financial lives. Everything was going great for about two weeks, and then the husband texted me a photo of their new puppy with the caption, “We’ve made an addition to our family, but I know this might not have been the best use of our money.” I just laughed and responded, “I don’t expect y’all to become financial rockstars overnight. This is a lifelong journey, and I’ll be there to support and guide you the best I can. It’ll still be up to y’all to do the work.”

HENRYs have a unique opportunity to live an extremely prosperous life. All HENRYs must be willing to take some time out of their busy lives and give real attention to their #buildwealth plans. Financial success doesn’t just happen by chance, and you have to put in the work. If you’re a HENRY and haven’t built your Money team (check out my Money Team article), you should put that at the top of your to-do list. The sooner you build your Money Team (and get clarity on everything you’re doing financially), the quicker you will graduate from high earner, not rich yet status to high earner, finally doing what it takes to live and conduct themselves as rich people do.

The #BuildWealth Movement® works tirelessly to Disrupt Generational Poverty® for everyone so their kids, kids, kids can live a life of privilege.