Money Talk with a Female PhD Turned Startup Founder Who Has a Balanced View of Money and What it Means
Who are you and how old are you?
I’m a female bootstrapping entrepreneur in my early forties.
Tell me about your background.
I have two advanced degrees (a PhD and MBA) from top ten schools and have spent the last ten years of my life working in four different companies (fortune 500 companies and startups) before deciding to venture out on my own.
What does your financial situation look like? If you don’t earn money through a “normal job”, how do you support yourself?
I have been self-funding my startup company for the last 18 months. I haven’t had stable income during this period of time and have instead been relying on my saving to fill in the gaps.
How do you define rich?
Money in both cash and assets is obviously a tangible indicator of wealth. However I also feel strongly that achieving your own interpretation of what the meaning of life is (money, family, or your religious/ personal beliefs) should also be an indicator of being “rich."
Did you grow up with money? How did your childhood conditions about money affect how you behave?
No, I didn't really grow up with money. I grew up in an intellectual family in China during the 1970s and 1980s. Nobody had money back then in China, not even the government. After living through that period of time and then through the 1990s and 2000s in the US, I now understand the importance and non-importance of money.
There are material desires that money can buy, and the spiritual/emotional desires that are not necessarily related to money. I personally feel that I have a balanced desire of money. If I am ever lucky enough to have a large fortune, I will do what Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are doing and give away most of my fortune during my life span.
Did your parents give you money when you were growing up? What about for school?
Yes and no. I didn’t have regular pocket money when I was a child. If I wanted anything, I always asked my parents to get it for me. Of course this means I didn’t get everything I wanted which turns out to be a good way to educate children. Although my parents would say no to my requests for toys, they rarely said no if I wanted to buy books or any educational products (paints and brushes for my artwork, piano lessons when I showed a slight interest in music, etc).
My parents also never cultivated a rule of paying me to do house chores like many other Chinese families did back then. They considered helping out in the house to be a duty of every member of the family.
Do you still have school loans?
No , I do not.
Where did you learn about investing?
I learn about investing from reading about it. I don't invest regularly on my own or think too much about it.
What does your family situation look like?
I am a living in a single person household.
Do you feel like you are living paycheck to paycheck? If so, do you feel that way due to your lifestyle?
I am living off my savings right now and feel the financial pressure as many bootstrapping startup founders do.
What was your most regrettable purchase?
I actually don’t have many. If I do, they're on trivial purchases such as a piece of clothing that I bought because it was on sale but at the end of the day, realize that it doesn’t fit well or that I don’t actually like it. But even those cases are rare.
What was your best purchase?
Probably my condo that I bought at almost the lowest end of the market. I live in an extremely expensive city and this condo has definitely increased in value substantially.
Do you feel like you have a financial habit that’s out of the norm (or at least something that others have commented on)?
Yes, I have much less fear than other people on spending money on things or experiences that I feel would be valuable for my own growth or career. For example, when I was a graduate student with a $1000/month stipend, I would spend money traveling overseas whenever I got the chance. I have been doing adventure travel once a year for most of the last decade and spend $5000 on average for each trip. However, I have never had any desires to spend money on buying a fancy car or other material things as I get a lot more out of traveling and exploring the world .
Do you feel like your success now has anything to do with luck or being in the right place at the right time?
I am not sure if I can call myself "a success" but I have had several successes in my life. I don’t think that timing or luck necessarily played a key role in these successes. It was more about my own determination and effort to succeed. If there was any luck or being in the right place at the right time, that was all built up through my own hard work. I think this is pretty much true for all successful people even if others may view them as only being successful because they were in the right place at the right time.
Do you actively contribute to a retirement account of any sort?
When I worked at a regular company, I would max out my 401k account each year no matter how big or small my paycheck was.
Do you feel like your lifestyle reflects your income bracket?
Yes and no. As mentioned earlier, I have a different spending mentality than most people.
For the day-to-day life, I think I am on par or probably even lower than the other people in my income bracket. For instance, I don’t mind eating out from time to time at fancy places, but I don’t own much furniture and I still use the same set of furniture that I bought from IKEA when I was in my graduate school.
Have you ever jumped income brackets (either going from low to high or vice versa) and how did your lifestyle change?
There have been no major jumps but continued progress over the years. However, I did downgrade to a much lower income bracket when I started my company.
Do you talk to your peers and family about money?
I don’t talk with people about money very often. It’s just not a topic of interest with me.
Do you splurge on anything? If so, what was the last splurge and how much was it?
I will usually treat myself something when I achieve a major goal or if it's for a special occasion. For example, I would go to a spa for my birthday.
Do you have a plan to make more money?
I guess I can call my startup a of plan for making more money but in reality, it’s not the only goal I have for my company. And yes, I am fully aware that working on my startup is an extremely risky way to make more money.
What would it take for you to feel like you are completely rich?
Achieving my goals and having enough money so that it’s no longer a daily life concern for me.
In terms of money, what was something you did in the past that you could do differently?
I actually don’t have many regrets on how I spent money in the past. But if I did have to say something, it's to not spend compulsively on trivial things I don't need.
What is your strategy for moving forward now in regards to your big goals in life?
Trying to make my startup a success!
What is this?
An anthropological look at how people think about money. Created and edited by Star Li.