Who are you and how old are you?
I am a male in my late 20s in my second year of business school.
Tell me about your background.
I grew up in the South, went to college in the area, and then moved to Los Angeles and began working in the entertainment industry. I worked at a digital media startup that was later bought by a really large entertainment company that you’ve definitely heard of. The digital media startup was founded by someone who had a lot of success making movies back in the day and wanted to get into the digital media space. He’s very well-connected and raised a lot of money for the startup. Unfortunately, the company really didn’t go anywhere - it didn't make much money and is what you would call a “zombie startup” - one where there’s no growth but it’s not dead either.
The company had plenty of cash but because it didn’t really show explosive growth, it didn’t make much sense to keep the startup going after a while. He ultimately got this large entertainment company to acquire the startup. I stayed on for about a year after that and then decided to go to business school in LA. I learned a lot from this experience and plan to continue working in the startup space after graduation. I interned at a very cool startup over the summer and plan to go back to this company after graduation.
What does your financial situation look like? If you don’t earn money through a “normal job”, how do you support yourself?
At the moment, I’m not making any money because I’m in business school. I wasn’t able to save a whole lot when I was working in the digital media startup so I have a lot of business school loans.
The startup that I plan to work at after graduation will pay me a decent amount but it won’t be as much as I would make if I became an investment banker or consultant. The overall salary is in the high five figures but I was given equity in the company. My fiance (who I met in business school!) will actually work as a consultant after we graduate and she said that she would be fine supporting me during the first few years.
How do you define rich?
I define rich as having $30 million in my bank account. I’ve lived in LA for a long time and there are a lot of trust fund kids running around. Some are very industrious - they use their trust fund money to fund various ventures and I’ve always thought that having $30 million would set me up for life. I’d have enough to live a really nice life but also enough to fund various startup ventures.
Did you grow up with money? How did your childhood conditions about money affect how you behave?
I grew up in a middle to upper income household. My dad was a lawyer and my mom was a high school teacher. They taught me the basics of money but never harped on it in any way. I think they thought I would just figure it all out on my own.
Did your parents give you money when you were growing up? What about for school?
My parents paid for my college so I am very lucky in that respect. That’s what gave me the confidence to move out to LA and work at a startup. My post-grad plans would have been a lot different if I had school loans to pay off. Unfortunately, they are not paying for my MBA.
Do you still have school loans?
I will have about $200K in business school loans when I graduate.
Where did you learn about investing?
I haven’t really looked into investing other than what I’ve read in random news articles. It looks like robo advisors are really popular so I’ll probably open up an account with one of these. I’d like to start investing but it doesn’t look like that will happen for a while because I have to pay off my business school loans!
What does your family situation look like?
I recently got engaged over winter break to my fiance. Other than that, I have an older sister who works as a lawyer back home in the South.
Do you and your spouse/partner have similar financial habits?
My fiance likes to spend a bit more than I do but it’s not out of control in any way. She just enjoys the finer things in life and given that she’s always had a high-paying job (and will continue to make lots of money as a consultant), these are things she can afford. I wouldn’t really call myself a frugal person (meaning I don’t use coupons or anything like that) but I’ve always made less than her so I can't spend as much.
What was your most regrettable purchase?
I don’t have a single regrettable purchase but I spend way too much on takeout. I really need to cook more at home. It’s just that with my work schedule before business school, I’d never have time to make lunch or dinner and so I was always eating out. I have more time in business school to cook in our apartment but I still spend too much on things like Starbucks coffee in the morning and expensive dinners. I recently created an account on mint.com and was really shocked by how much I spend every month on food.
What was your best purchase?
My plane ticket out to LA after college. I really wanted to leave the South and move to LA to work in entertainment. I don’t ever plan to leave and hope that I’ll have a great career in this town!
Do you feel like you have a financial habit that’s out of the norm (or at least something that others have commented on)?
I don’t think I have one. Maybe I spend a lot of money on takeout and that’s abnormal? I don’t think so though. Most of my friends spend just as much as I do if not more so I don’t think it’s weird.
Do you feel like your success now has anything to do with luck or being in the right place at the right time?
Yes, I think there was a lot of luck involved but also hard work. When I moved out to LA, I applied for a ton of different entertainment jobs. I got the digital media startup job relatively quickly because they had just started at the time and needed smart people to staff the office. I’ve stayed there for a few years, met some great people and enjoyed the work even though the startup wasn’t a massive success. When I look back, I realize how unusual my situation was - the only reason we were in business for so long was because the company had so much capital simply due to the founder’s name and reputation. Most startups in our situation would have gone under after 1-2 years because they would have run out of money. The founder wrote a recommendation for me for business school and I think that helped me get in. I also got my summer internship because one of the co-founders of this startup is an alum of my business school. He gave a presentation in one of my classes and we talked afterwards. He pretty much just offered me an internship right there and then.
Do you feel like your lifestyle reflects your income bracket?
Probably not. I’m not making any money now and I have a lot of school loans to pay off. Yet I’m still spending money like I have a high-paying job. I think it’s the business school culture - there’s a lot of pressure to go on ski trips and go out to dinner, all that stuff. A lot of students here are also very wealthy and that contributes to my spending habits.
Do you talk to your peers and family about money?
I talked with my fiance about it when we were deciding whether I should go back to this startup after graduation. Sometimes, I'll talk with my parents.
Do you worry about money?
Not really. I’ve never had money issues before and I think I’ll be okay in the future.
Do you splurge on anything? If so, what was the last splurge and how much was it?
There was a big ski trip over winter break and I spent about $2500 on that. It covered flights, our lodging, dinners, all that.
Do you have a plan to make more money?
I hope I’ll continue to do well with my job and make more money that way!
What is this?
An anthropological look at how people think about money. Created and edited by Star Li.