What is a soft life?
From boujie bubble baths to cozy candlelit dinners, the soft living trend has taken over social media — with over 10.5 billion views on TikTok. Younger millennials like Ladd and Gen Z have moved on from FIRE mania and the older millennial girl boss era. They’re choosing not to save their money as aggressively and to focus on the present.
“This is more about comfort, less stress, less pressure to save for the future and really balancing it out,” explains Brittney Castro, certified financial planner and consumer finance advocate at Intuit. “Gen Z is interested in living for now and having that better quality of life.”
According to Intuit, almost three in four young people say the current economic climate makes them hesitant to set up long-term goals, while two in three aren’t sure they’ll ever have enough money to retire in the first place.
It’s no secret that the rising cost of living is keeping younger generations on edge, however Castro says the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a shift in priorities. Instead of manically saving for a future that’s not promised, Gen Zers are investing their money into their personal growth and mental well-being.
Young Americans choosing to live their best soft life
Until last October, Ladd willingly participated in hustle culture — but the high-stress lifestyle of working in private equity was catching up to her. She was losing her voice, there was even a day where she couldn’t walk because she was completely exhausted.
It was then she realized she needed to make a change.
“I was like, ‘None of this matters if you're not here,’” she says. “I haven't looked back since.”
While she hasn’t left her high-pressure job, she reevaluated how she schedules her days and set firm boundaries to carve out time for herself and the things she enjoys. Now, she makes her mornings all about herself: a skincare routine, breakfast, Pilates class. She won’t schedule calls during her personal time, and she splurges on things that make her feel good, like working out or vegan meal subscriptions.
And then, when she’s at work, she’s able to give it her full attention.
She’s brought her TikTok followers along with her on her soft living journey, sharing things like her home office setup, hanging out with her dog and aesthetic montages of her day-to-day life.
“I want to romanticize these things that are important to me because for so many years, I was not taking care of myself. I was neglecting my mental health and my well-being.”
Read more: Here's how much money the average middle-class American household makes — how do you stack up?
How do you soft save with intention?
While it might sound like financial planners would worry about Ladd’s approach, Castro says soft saving isn’t a bad financial move at all — as long as it’s executed responsibly.
“It doesn't actually help anybody's health or mental well-being if there's so much stress or pressure to aggressively save, and you constantly feel behind on your financial goals.”
That said, Ladd’s luxurious lifestyle might not be for everyone — especially if you’re struggling to meet your basic needs. Castro warns not to go to an extreme and drain your savings entirely, and not to compare yourself to others, especially on social media.
“It's really about finding what prosperity means to you,” she explains. “It’s more about just managing the money in a simple way to reach what is most important to you. And I think that's really, really key because everybody's life goals are going to look different.”
To find that happy medium, Castro recommends reviewing your budget, and assessing your income and expenses to narrow down your top financial goals for the year. This can be as simple as jotting notes down with a pen and paper, or using a budgeting app.
“Do your best to say, ‘OK, even though maybe I'm not saving the full amount to build my cash cushion or home down payment or for retirement, I'm still going to put something over there. And then next year, work to increase it.”
Ladd puts 100% of her brand dealership revenue — which she estimates at roughly $4,000 to $5,000 a month — into her savings and is working on building an emergency fund to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses.
She plans to start investing to accumulate wealth, but hasn’t considered saving for her golden years just yet. “I’m not working to retire,” she says.
Ladd adds that you need to pick and choose what you want to spend your money on in order to make room for your financial goals. She doesn’t mind splurging on her apartment with its pricey rent, but she’ll opt out of taking a lavish vacation.
And she refuses to cut back on luxuries for Gus the mini goldendoodle, of course.
“He lives a soft life,” she admits.
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