What is the 80-15-5 Money Rule – A Simplified Guide to Personal Finance

What is the 80 15 5 Money Rule

In recent years, we’ve seen various money rules and budgeting techniques to help people gain control over their financial lives. For those over 40 who may be frustrated with their financial situation, finding an approach that works can be challenging. One such technique gaining traction is the 80/15/5 money rule of thumb.

This rule provides a simple and effective way to allocate our income, ensuring we cover essential expenses, save for retirement, and set aside funds for short-term goals. Following the 80/15/5 principle can create a more straightforward path toward financial stability and independence.

Key Takeaways:

  • The rule allocates 80% of income to essential expenses, 15% to savings and investments, and 5% to debt payments.
  • Essential expenses include housing, utilities, groceries, and transportation.
  • Savings and investments include emergency funds, retirement savings, and short-term savings.
  • Debt payments should be prioritized, and strategies like the Avalanche and Snowball methods can be employed.
  • Health, life, and disability insurance costs should also be incorporated into the 80-15-5 rule.
  • The 80-15-5 rule can also be adapted for late bloomers in investing, focusing on alternative investment strategies like real estate.
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Understanding the 80 15 5 Money Rule

Understanding the 80 15 5 Money Rule
Understanding the 80 15 5 Money Rule

As we navigate the financial world, we must understand valuable concepts and principles that can help us better manage our finances. One helpful principle is the 80 15 5 money rule. Here we’ll discuss the basic concept, and its application in personal finance, focusing on aspects such as rent, needs, budget, and debt payments.

Basic Concept

The 80 15 5 money rule is a simple principle that states that our finances can be allocated into three primary categories: 80% for our needs, 15% for savings and investments, and 5% for debt payments. Following this rule can balance our spending habits and achieve financial stability.

Application in Personal Finance

Rent: A significant part of our needs is housing costs, often including rent. Rent should be considered under the 80% category, as it is typically one of the most significant monthly expenses. When budgeting, ensure that rent takes up, at most, the recommended 80% allocation for needs.

Needs: As mentioned earlier, 80% of our budget should be allocated toward our essential needs. These needs include housing, utilities, groceries, and other necessities. By allocating this specific percentage of our income to our needs, we can maintain a comfortable and stable lifestyle while avoiding overspending.

Budget: Applying our budget’s 80 15 5 money rule can be quite helpful. First, list down all your sources of income and calculate the total monthly income. Next, allocate 80% of the total income towards your needs, 15% towards your savings and investments, and 5% towards debt payments. By doing so, we can ensure a more manageable and organized budget.

Debt Payments: The 5% category in the 80 15 5 money rule deals with debt payments. Allocating this percentage of our income towards paying off debts ensures we can actively work towards debt reduction and eventually become debt-free. This allocation can include payments for credit cards, student loans, car loans, or other personal loans.

Financial Rules Of Thumb

While this discusses our own experiences with the 80-15-5 rule, there are other financial rules of thumb to consider.  Make sure to check out our other articles on the 50-30-20 budget rule as well as the 10-20 rule.  Both offer similar personal financial frameworks, but differ a bit in their implementation.

80%: Essential Expenses

80% Essential Expenses
80% Essential Expenses

As part of the 80-15-5 rule, we allocate 80% of our budget toward essential expenses. These necessities keep our lives running smoothly and provide for our well-being. We have divided this section into three main categories: Housing and Utilities, Food and Groceries, and Transportation.

Housing and Utilities

Maintaining a roof over our heads is one of the most critical factors in our financial stability. The rent or mortgage payment costs, property taxes, and insurance should be factored into this category.

Utilities also form a significant part of essential expenses, including electricity, gas, water, and internet services. By monitoring and managing our utility usage wisely, we can save on these crucial expenses in the long run.

Food and Groceries

Food is essential aspect to our lives, and our budget needs to account for groceries and other food expenditures. Here, we should focus on maintaining a healthy and balanced diet while also trying to find ways to save on groceries through planning, couponing, or shopping at discount stores.


Getting to work, running errands, and caring for our other daily needs require reliable transportation. This category covers not only the costs of fuel and car maintenance but also any public transportation expenses, such as bus or train tickets.

If you have children, you need to consider childcare costs as an essential expense. This may include daycare fees, after-school programs, or even hiring a babysitter to ensure your children are looked after while you’re not at home.

By carefully planning and monitoring our budget, we can ensure that our essential expenses are covered, allowing us to focus on long-term financial goals.

15%: Savings and Investments

15% Savings and Investments
15% Savings and Investments

As we progress through life, putting aside money for various purposes is essential. Saving and investing 15% of our income can help us achieve our financial goals and have a worry-free future. This section will discuss three critical categories of savings and investments: emergency funds, retirement savings, and short-term savings.

Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is a vital component of our financial plan, and it is a safety net for unexpected expenses like medical bills, car repairs, or job loss. Setting aside money in an emergency fund can cover these essential expenses without derailing our financial progress or getting into debt.

We recommend accumulating three to six months’ living expenses in our emergency fund. This cushion can give us peace of mind and allow us to focus on other financial goals without worry.

Retirement Savings

Retirement is often viewed as a time when we can enjoy the hard work of our labor without the stress and responsibilities of the daily grind. We can work towards a comfortable and financially secure retirement by allocating 15% of our pretax income toward retirement savings.

Consider maxing out contributions to tax-advantaged retirement accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs. If our employer offers matching contributions, taking advantage of that benefit is crucial, as it’s essentially free money. The key is saving early, being consistent, and regularly checking our progress.

Short-term Savings

Finally, short-term savings should account for 5% of our take-home pay. Without dipping into our emergency fund or retirement savings, we can use this money for upcoming expenses, such as vacations or big-ticket purchases.

To establish the habit of saving, we can set up automatic transfers to a separate savings account. Doing so makes it easier to prioritize these goals and avoid the temptation of spending money on non-essential items.

By following this 15% rule for savings and investments, we can make strides toward financial stability and effectively navigate any unforeseen expenses that may arise.

5%: Debt Repayment

We understand the importance of managing debt, especially for those over 40 who may feel frustrated financially. This section will discuss dedicating 5% of your income to debt repayment and provide helpful strategies.

Prioritizing Debts

First, it’s crucial to prioritize our debts, as not all debts are created equal. We must focus on paying off high-interest debts, such as credit cards and personal loans, before moving on to lower-interest debts, like mortgages or student loans. This approach helps us save money in the long run, as it reduces the interest we pay over time.

  • Credit card debt
  • Personal loans
  • Student loans
  • Mortgages

Strategies for Debt Repayment

There are various strategies we can employ to tackle our debt efficiently. Two common methods people use include the Avalanche and Snowball methods.

The Avalanche method is about paying off debts with the highest interest rates first, minimizing the overall interest we pay in the long run. This method is best suited for disciplined people who can stick to a strict repayment plan.

On the other hand, the Snowball method focuses on paying off the smallest debts first, giving us a feeling of accomplishment and motivation to continue paying off the larger debts. This method is particularly effective for people who need a more substantial emotional boost to stay committed to their repayment plan.

Maintaining good financial habits is essential to avoiding the buildup of more debt. We can work towards a more secure financial future by budgeting responsibly and allocating 5% of our income towards debt repayment.

Incorporating Insurance and Health Expenses

This section will explore how the 80-15-5 money rule can be adapted to include health insurance, life insurance, and disability insurance costs. People over 40 often have greater financial responsibilities and health concerns, so addressing these expenses is crucial to achieving financial stability.

Health Insurance

Health insurance can be a significant financial burden but is essential for protecting our physical and financial well-being. The 80/20 rule states that insurance providers must spend at least 80% of premium costs on healthcare services and quality improvement efforts, and the remaining 20% can be spent on administrative and marketing costs.

To incorporate health insurance costs while following the 80-15-5 rule, make sure you:

  • Compare various insurance plans to choose the most appropriate one based on your budget.
  • Allocate a portion of your income (within the 50% that goes towards essential expenses) for health insurance premiums.
  • Consider switching to a lesser plan if you are overpaying-listing all sources ed or finding cost-saving alternatives such as generic prescriptions or in-network providers.

Life and Disability Insurance

Life and disability insurance are crucial to a solid financial plan, especially for those over 40. They provide financial support for your dependents in case of unforeseen events.

When incorporating these expenses into the 80-15-5 rule:

  • Consider purchasing term life insurance, which offers coverage for a specific term, usually 10, 20, or 30 years. This type of insurance is often more affordable than whole-life insurance policies, which can help you better allocate your income towards savings and essential expenses.
  • Investigate disability insurance policies, which can replace a portion of your income if you cannot work due to injury or illness. Dedicate a percentage of your income (within 50% for essential expenses) to premiums.
  • Regularly review your policies to ensure they stay relevant and adjust them as needed.

By integrating insurance and health expenses into the 80-15-5 rule, we can create a comprehensive financial plan that covers all aspects of our lives and offers peace of mind for the future.

Planning for Retirement

When planning for retirement, we must have a solid foundation. A combination of Social Security, pension plans, and retirement contributions can help us achieve a secure retirement, and let’s explore these components more in-depth.

Social Security

Social Security becomes an essential part of our financial planning as we approach retirement age. According to Forbes Advisor, we can expect Social Security to replace about 35% of income for someone earning $50,000 a year, with the rest coming from savings. It’s crucial for us to have a clear understanding of how much we’ll receive from Social Security benefits, which may require examining our earnings history and estimating our future earnings.

Pension Plans

Having a pension plan can provide stability and predictability in our retirement income. Pensions typically pay out a fixed amount based on years of service, final salary, and other factors tied to our employment. It’s crucial for us to understand the details of our pension plans, such as vesting requirements, payout options, and any potential risks, to ensure that we can rely on this income stream during retirement.

Retirement Contributions

In addition to Social Security and pension plans, we must also consider our retirement contributions. Many people contribute to employer-sponsored retirement plans like 401(k) or individual retirement accounts (IRAs). The key is to save and invest consistently over time. To maintain our desired lifestyle in retirement, experts suggest following the 25x rule, which means we should have at least 25 times our desired annual retirement income saved by the time we retire. This rule can assist us in determining how much we should contribute to our retirement accounts.

As we plan for our financial future, staying informed and proactive with our retirement strategies is important. We should review our progress regularly and adjust to ensure our hard work pays off in a comfortable and secure retirement.

Mortgage and Housing Expenses

We understand that managing mortgage and housing expenses can be challenging, especially if you’re in your 40s and seeking a financially stable life. The 80-15-5 rule offers a useful framework to help manage these expenses efficiently.

Mortgage Payments

Under the 80-15-5 rule, 80% of the house’s purchase price is financed with a primary mortgage. Securing a primary mortgage at this level typically allows us to benefit from lower interest rates and avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI), often required when financing more than 80% of the home’s value. This approach helps reduce our monthly mortgage payments and maximize our available budget for other expenses.

Maintenance and Repairs

As homeowners, we must anticipate and budget maintenance and repair costs. Allocating 5% of the home’s value to these costs is a practical strategy. Regular maintenance can help prevent costly repairs, enhancing our property’s value over time.

Here are some key items to consider for maintenance and repairs:

  • Inspect the roof for leaks or damage
  • Check the plumbing and heating systems
  • Update and maintain appliances as needed
  • Repaint the exterior or interior of the house
  • Landscaping and lawn care tasks

Keeping our home well-maintained protects our investment and ensures a comfortable living environment. The 80-15-5 rule provides a sound framework for managing these expenses and working towards a more secure financial future.

Tailoring the 80-15-5 Rule for Late Bloomers in Investing

Whether you’ve been an investor for years or just getting started, it’s always possible to reassess your financial goals and strategies. In this section, we’ll focus on adapting the 80-15-5 rule for those in their later years and exploring alternative investment strategies like real estate.

It’s never too late to start investing

It’s easy to feel discouraged about your financial situation, especially if you’re a late bloomer in investing. However, it’s always a good time to start making smart decisions to secure your financial future. We often see success among our clients who begin investing later in life, as they generally have more financial stability and a clearer understanding of their financial goals. Don’t let age hold you back; use your life experience and wisdom to help shape your investment strategy.

Adapting the 80-15-5 rule for alternative investment strategies like real estate

While generally targeted at financial advisors, this rule can also be adapted as an investment strategy for late bloomers.

Instead of considering how this rule applies to time management, we can adjust it to fit our financial allocations. Here’s one potential for adapting the 80-15-5 rule:

  • 80% – Long-term, stable investments such as real estate
  • 15% – Medium-risk investments like mutual funds and ETFs
  • 5% – A higher risk or speculative investments

As for my wife and I, we push virtually all of our own investing capital into real estate. Specifically long-term single-family rental properties. You can read more about that strategy in our financial freedom plan.

By placing most of your resources into more stable investments like real estate, you can still secure a strong financial foundation while allocating a small portion to higher-risk and potentially higher-reward investments.

Ultimately, creating an investment strategy that works for you and your specific financial goals is the key. Adapting the 80-15-5 rule based on your comfort level with risk and your unique circumstances can help you achieve a diversified and balanced investment portfolio, even as a late bloomer in investing.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What is the 80 15 5 money rule, and how can it be applied in personal finance?

A: The 80 15 5 money rule is a financial principle that advises the allocation of finances into three main categories: 80% for needs, 15% for savings and investments, and 5% for debt payments. This rule can help balance spending habits and promote financial stability. In personal finance, this might mean allocating 80% of your total income towards essential needs like housing, utilities, and groceries, 15% towards savings and investments, and 5% towards debt payments.

Q: How does the 80-15-5 rule apply to retirement planning?

A: The 80-15-5 rule can help structure retirement planning. Specifically, the rule suggests allocating 15% of pretax income toward retirement savings. This could involve maxing out contributions to tax-advantaged retirement accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs, notably if the employer offers matching contributions. The aim is to start saving early and consistently, regularly monitoring progress to ensure a comfortable retirement.

Q: How can the 80-15-5 rule be adapted for those starting to invest later in life?

A: The 80-15-5 rule can still provide a solid investment guideline later in life. Regardless of age, it’s beneficial to start making wise financial decisions to secure the future. Late bloomers often have more financial stability and a clearer understanding of their financial goals. In this case, they could use the 80-15-5 rule as a framework for alternative investment strategies like real estate.