Money at 30: Life-Changing Money

The term “life-changing money” is one that gets used fairly frequently but has only recently caused me to perk up my ears. It occurs to me that, perhaps, the expression is limiting in its scope. Oftentimes, the phrase is used on game shows when contestants win five or maybe even six figures in prize money.

Ironically, while the celebrities they may be playing with are used to seeing such sums on a regular basis, everyone realizes that the cash coming the contestant’s way could make a huge impact on their circumstances going forward. And while that’s likely true, what often goes overlooked is how life-changing money can come not in a single shot but slowly over time. In fact, some have been dismissed the idea that smaller amounts of money could really be “life-changing.”

Earlier in the pandemic, famed financial “guru” Dave Ramsey caused controversy when speaking out against the idea of stimulus checks. As Ramsey said, “If $600 or $1,400 changes your life, you’re pretty much screwed already. You’ve got other issues going on.”

Not surprisingly, Ramsey is absolutely wrong here — and for a few reasons. For one, of course $600 could be life-changing for someone if it means that they can cover an expense without having to put it on a credit card, take out a loan, or make a late payment on another bill (setting aside the fact that these stimulus checks were being sent at a time when many Americans were out of work).

Furthermore, that cash could make the difference between living paycheck to paycheck and having an emergency cushion — is that not life-changing? Plus, that $1,400 could well grow and multiply through investments, savings, etc.

Over the past few years, my wife and I have come into “life-changing money” not through winning a lottery or receiving large bonuses. Instead, we’ve seen our cash on hand grow as we’ve made efforts to save, including relocating to Missouri in order to lower our cost of living.

On top of that, we’ve also tried to turn our small wins (such as rebates, credit card rewards, etc.) into larger ones through investing. As a result, we are now able to live far more comfortably than we were when we first got married without any traditional windfall.

Going back to Ramsey’s stimulus quote, another example of life-changing money arriving over time is the idea of universal basic income (UBI). Popularized by the likes of Andrew Yang among others, the purest version of a UBI calls for everyone to receive a set sum of money every month with no strings attached.

If you’ll recall, Yang’s plan suggested a $1,000 payment for everyone over 18 — up to and including the Elon Musks of the world, who are unlikely to even notice the extra monthly payments in their accounts. According to Ramsey, these $1,000 payments shouldn’t mean much. And yet, having an extra $12,000 a year, $120,000 over 10 years, and an extra $564,000 between the ages of 18 and 65 sounds pretty darn life-changing to me.

Understandably, it can be easy to ignore changes when they happen slowly over time instead of arriving all at once. Sure enough, that’s why the “life-changing” tag is typically reserved for payouts that arrive in one fell swoop, beating immediate and measurable resorts. Alas, few may ever experience these types of moments.

Still, that doesn’t mean that the rest of us can’t come across life-changing money — it just means we might need to be a bit more patient and methodical about it. What may seem small now could look far larger when we change our perspective. Perhaps, a concept like UBI might one day become a reality, likely bringing life-changing money to millions. In the meantime, it may be worth taking a look at what we consider “life-changing money” to be and how we can all encounter it.


Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site and has recently starting publsihing his own personal finance blog at

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