From the Mental Health Field to the Tech World ... Money Talk with a Woman Who has a College Degree, Two Master Degrees, and a PhD
Who are you and how old are you?
I am a woman in my early 30s. I just finished an MBA program at a top school in the Midwest and have been working at a tech company on the West Coast for the past few months.
Tell me about your background.
I grew up on the southern Atlantic region to a very large family. I stayed in the area to go to college where I became interested in the mental health field. I then got a master’s degree and moved to the Midwest to complete my PhD in the field. After this, I worked as a professor and taught about research methods. However, after two years working as a professor, I got really bored and also wanted to earn more money. I realized there wasn’t much upward mobility in my field and thus decided to go to business school. I got into a top MBA program in the Midwest, just graduated in June, and am currently on the West Coast working at a tech company. I never would have thought I’d end up at a tech company on the West Coast and it’s been a completely new adventure! I really love my job and see myself here for a long time.
What does your financial situation look like? If you don’t earn money through a “normal job”, how do you support yourself?
I now earn money from my tech job. I’ve technically only worked two years of my life as a professor because I was in school for many years before. I got married a few years out of college and my husband has always financially supported me.
How do you define rich?
There are two kinds of rich. You have your standard wealth where you don’t have to worry about paying your mortgage or car payments and you can go on vacations frequently. Then there is the super wealthy, “private jet” kind of wealthy, where you have more money than you know what to do with.
Did you grow up with money? How did your childhood conditions about money affect how you behave?
Yes and no. When I was very little, my dad’s side of the family owned multiple businesses. We were fairly wealthy. I lived with my mom and dad until I was nine and basically grew up in one of the hotels we owned. Unfortunately, we lost many of our assets when I was a child.
My parents never went to college and my dad always told us that if we worked hard, we’d have nice stuff. He worked in construction all his life and says that he wished he had the opportunity to go to school. My parents saw education as a way to make money, which is perhaps why I got a college degree, two master’s degrees, and a PhD! They always thought that having as many degrees as possible was the best thing ever and that was the mentality I had as well. I now understand that this was not the best tactic to follow in order to become wealthy.
Did your parents give you money when you were growing up? What about for school?
They would do small things like give me $20 to go to the mall. I have actually been working since I was 9 years old. I would clean hotel rooms, answer phones at the front desk, and help with the family businesses. When I was a teenager, I worked a record store, a t-shirt store, and a coffee shop. During college, I spent my summers working at TJ Maxx and Barnes & Noble (I never knew there was such a thing as a summer internship at the time). I never got money from my parents for school.
Do you still have school loans?
Yes, I still have college and business school loans. My first master’s program and PhD program were paid for by the school. I don’t know the exact number of how much I owe, I just know that it’s a lot. I’ve been paying $1000/month for the past few months, and those payments will kick up to $1,500/month starting next year.
Where did you learn about investing?
I don’t know anything about investing at the moment. My husband deals with that.
What does your family situation look like?
I’ve been married to my husband and we don’t have any kids yet.
Do you and your spouse/partner have similar financial habits?
We definitely both like the nicer things in life. We like brand name items but not the super expensive ones. We like to go on vacations, concerts, and going out to eat. We both rarely cook at home! We are honestly not the best when it comes to saving but do save on a moderate level. We don’t argue about money much.
If you have children, will you put money away for their college tuition?
We will help out a little but I think that they should work hard to get scholarships or take out loans. I strongly believe that making my children pay for college themselves will make them take responsibility for their education and work harder than if I just paid for everything.
How do you think your financial lifestyle will change when you have children?
We’ll have to save more, eat out a lot less, and go on fewer vacations. Our discretionary spending fund will really have to change.
How would you teach your kids about money?
We will make them “earn” their money. They’d have to wash dishes, cut grass, do chores, etc. I don’t believe in giving money to my children just because they want it. I want them to develop a sense of responsibility.
Do you feel like you are living paycheck to paycheck? If so, do you feel that way due to your lifestyle?
No, because my husband and I always have money left over at the end of the month.
What was your most regrettable purchase?
My Ed Hardy $400 boots that went out of style. I thought they were the coolest things ever and used to wear them every day. However, once Ed Hardy became super popular and became associated with Jersey Shore, it just became really uncool to me. I ended up giving those boots away.
What was your best purchase?
A house my husband and I bought back in 2011. The value has appreciated since then and we will make a profit when we sell it soon.
Do you feel like you have a financial habit that’s out of the norm (or at least something that others have commented on)?
My husband and I like money for what it can do for us. We like to spend money and have a lot of fun although I know we should really save more.
Do you feel like your success now has anything to do with luck or being in the right place at the right time?
I think everything in life has some element of luck to it. My brother in law happened to be working at the technology company that I am now at and made the initial introductions, I was able to attend this top MBA program which launched my business career, etc.
Do you actively contribute to a retirement account of any sort?
Nothing except my 401K.
Do you feel like your lifestyle reflects your income bracket?
Yes. I live in a really nice apartment complex and buy whatever I want. To be fair, I just like makeup and not anything super expensive. Even if my income bracket jumped up, I really wouldn’t know what to spend my money on.
Have you ever jumped income brackets (either going from low to high or vice versa) and how did your lifestyle change?
I doubled my income after business school. However, my lifestyle hasn’t really changed because I owe so much more in student loans. But everything else has stayed the same - I still spend the same amount of money on makeup, and I love going out to eat!
Do you talk to your peers and family about money?
I only talk about money with my husband. It just doesn’t come up with anyone else.
Do you worry about money?
No, I’ve never been worried about money. My husband’s income has continually increased over the years and he has always advanced in his career. If I weren’t married, I would live more frugally but it wouldn’t be a huge shock to my system. I wouldn’t even worry if my husband and I got divorced because I have a huge support network and my husband is the kind of guy who would provide spousal support. He is a very good man and I know he would be there for me. Even if he got all of our assets, I know that my parents and friends would be there for me, and I’d always work to support myself.
Do you splurge on anything? If so, what was the last splurge and how much was it?
I splurge on makeup. I’ll buy things like a $50 mascara and $30 undereye concealer, when I know I can buy cheaper versions of these products. I am at this level above the VIB level at Sephora which means I spend at least $1500 a year there. That’s not even counting makeup that I buy at Macys, Ulta, Benefits, etc. I think makeup is fun and love putting it on.
Do you have a plan to make more money?
I will continue to work hard at my job and make more money through promotions. My husband and I actually have a travel startup idea where we provide tours of India to people who want to visit but really, it’s just an idea at this phase. My husband is actually involved in two entrepreneurial ventures outside of regular job and it looks like he is starting to make money off those.
What would it take for you to feel like you are completely rich?
If my husband and I each made $10 million a year. I just pulled number out of thin air and have no scientific explanation for this - it feels like a “rich” number.
In terms of money, what was something you did in the past that you could do differently?
I would have gone to a cheaper business school.
What is your strategy for moving forward now in regards to your big goals in life?
I will continue to work hard at my job and get promoted!
What is this?
An anthropological look at how people think about money. Created and edited by Star Li.