A Strategy Manager In Los Angeles — Money Diary

Occupation: Strategy manager
Industry: Tech
Age: 28
Location: Los Angeles
Salary: $150,000, plus $3,000-$6,000 per year for dog-sitting
Net Worth: ~$460,000 (~$2,000 for the value of my car, which is paid off; $9,500 in my checking account; $50,000 in my HYSA; $10,000 in an I bond; $116,000 in my 401(k); $52,000 in my Roth IRA; $101,500 a personal brokerage; and $119,000 in home equity. My partner, J., and I own a home worth $990,000, so the equity is that minus our mortgage divided by two. Although our finances are separate, we share the mortgage and other home expenses. We have the same base salary, but he makes anywhere from zero to 50% more than I do in total compensation, depending on the variable bonus he gets paid that year.)
Debt: ~$376,000 (This is half of our $752,000 mortgage. J. and I put the same amount down and split the mortgage equally.)
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $3,279
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $2,775 (This is my half of the mortgage, and it includes property taxes and home insurance.)
Utilities & Internet: ~$90 (This is for my half. It’s on the low side because most of our electricity is covered by our solar panels.)
Phone: $0 (still on a family plan)
Gardener: $55 (my half)
Pet Insurance: $12 (my half)
Spotify & Hulu: $11
iCloud Storage: $1
401(k): $1,833
FSA: $33 (This will be going up to $304 a month for an HSA next year.)
Investments: $1,000 (automatically transferred into personal brokerage each month)
Savings: $1,000 (I’m saving and holding more cash than usual in anticipation of making real estate investments in the next three to six months.)

Annual Expenses
Roth IRA: $6,500 (I put in the full amount in January of every year.)
Credit Card Fees: $1,290 (This is an aggressive fee, but I get ~$1,000 back in travel and food credits and use CC points to pay for a lot of my travel.)
Car Insurance: $1,110
Car Registration: $150

Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
My parents immigrated to the US in their early 20s, having only finished high school. They ultimately went to community college and got their associate degrees when I was in elementary school (I remember helping proofread my mom’s papers). My parents saw a college education as a key part of the “American Dream” and expected my brother and I to attend college. I went to a private university, and more than half of the cost was covered by financial aid and scholarships. The rest was covered by my parents, federal student loans, work study, and working part-time during school. I also graduated early to save on tuition.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents only talked about money if they thought something was too expensive. Both my parents grew up poor and they had a practical approach to money: Spend money where you need to, don’t overspend where you don’t need to. My parents always emphasized the importance of saving money because you never know what might happen. The scarcity mindset they had around money from their childhoods and early years in the US was very much ingrained in me.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got my first job at 14, working as an assistant in an after-school program so that I could earn spending money because I didn’t have an allowance.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Even when they weren’t making much, my parents did a good job of carrying any anxiety or worries about money themselves. They felt that was a burden they should carry as parents and that, as children, my brother and I should only have to focus on doing well in school. I didn’t learn about how much my family’s financial situation had changed over time until I was an adult.

Do you worry about money now?
I don’t necessarily worry, but I still hold a scarcity mindset. My parents were financially manipulative when I was in college, using the threat of stopping tuition payments to ensure that I made life choices that were aligned with what they wanted (my major, who I dated, et cetera). As a result, financial independence became a huge motivation in my life. I never again want to be in a position where I feel like I have to make life decisions because of my financial dependence on anyone.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself when I started my first job after college. I moved back home and lived with my parents at their insistence because New York City rent is insane. I paid off my $20,000 student loans the first year and also paid my parents “rent” of roughly $1,000 a month for the 20 months I lived at home. My parents and J. would be a financial safety net, although I would go through all my savings before asking them.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My parents gave/loaned me $50,000 to put toward the down payment of my house. I didn’t have the full amount in cash and was debating borrowing from my 401(k) or selling stocks, although that felt bad because the market was down when I was looking at buying late last year. My parents had recently sold our childhood home and gave me some of the proceeds after I told them I was looking to buy. I’ve offered to pay them back, but they have said they don’t currently need the money and it’s better for me to invest it until they need it. The money that I would’ve used to pay them back this year has either been put into my 401(k) or invested in an S&P 500 ETF in my personal brokerage.

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