Who are you and how old are you?
I am a 28 year old currently working as an assistant to the showrunner of a well-cast TV show that will be airing next year.
Tell me about your background.
I grew up on the East Coast and stayed in the area to go to college. Since college, I've worked as an Executive Assistant at various show business companies and as a Production Assistant on both the set and in the office. I've also been an assistant to various movie/TV directors, producers, and writers (some of whom you've definitely heard of).
What does your financial situation look like? If you don’t earn money through a “normal job”, how do you support yourself?
I've been working in the showbiz industry for the last six years. I still haven't gotten my "big break" but have been steadily employed since college. At the moment, I am working as an assistant to the showrunner of a TV show that will be airing next year. Even though I don’t feel like I’m making that much, my costs are paid for during the week - my meals are paid for and I received a rental car that I drive to and from work.
Even though I'm not making huge amounts of money, I'm lucky in that I have a lot of money saved up. When I had my Bar Mitzvah back in 2000, I received some money which has been since sitting in an investment account and has compounded over time. I don't touch that money. Also, when I was 25, I got some inheritance money from mom’s parents who passed away. During my first two jobs out of college as an executive assistant, I lived at home with my parents but commuted to my job, and so I was able to save up quite a bit of money that way.
By the time I moved out and to the city, I had a considerable amount saved up. During short stretches of time when I wasn't employed, I received unemployment insurance money.
How do you define rich?
This is very subjective to me - rich and poor people define this in different ways. I'd say that it’s when you don't have to worry about everyday things.
Did you grow up with money? How did your childhood conditions about money affect how you behave?
I had a very comfortable upbringing in an upper/middle class family. My dad is a doctor and my mom is a homemaker. My mom previously worked an electrical engineer but stopped working when she had me (and my two siblings) and hasn’t worked since. When I was growing up, my dad worked 6 days a week and it wasn't until I was around 13 that he cut down to only working 5 days/week.
I've never felt poor. We always went on family vacations, and I got toys that I wanted. I really never thought about money but then again, I’ve always been a low-maintenance guy. When I was growing up, I didn't really want anything. You know how when you're young, you come up with huge lists of what you want for your birthday? The older I got, the harder it was for me to think about things because I just didn't want anything.
Did your parents give you money when you were growing up? What about for school?
I got weekly allowance of around $5 - $10 at one point for doing chores. My parents paid my entire college tuition and room/board. I didn't take out any financial aid.
Do you still have school loans?
Where did you learn about investing?
I don’t know very much about investing. I defer to my dad and his accountant to deal with this. His accountant just asks me what my risk tolerance level is, and invests money accordingly. My risk tolerance level is very low! I always ask him to put things in low-risk accounts. I am okay with not touching money for many years.
What does your family situation look like?
I am currently single, living in the city.
Do you and your spouse/partner have similar financial habits?
I have been dating someone new for a few months. She and I have very similar financial habits in the sense that she is not a big spender and also very low maintenance. On date night, we are fine staying in watching a Netflix movie and eating takeout. We're certainly not going to fancy steakhouses during the week. The net worth of my girlfriend doesn't matter to me. If I were looking to get married, I would want my wife to have similar financial habits and be in a good financial position.
When/if you have children, will you put money away for their college tuition?
It's not something I've something I’ve thought about. But yes, at the point when I have children, I'd hope that I'd have a more financially stable life and and pay for their entire undergraduate education.
Do you feel like you are living paycheck to paycheck? If so, do you feel that way due to your lifestyle?
No, absolutely not, even though I don't make huge amounts in my job. I don't feel that way simply because I have a lot of money saved up and live way below my means. For example, I could live in a much nicer apartment than I do now and not have roommates, but I really don't mind my current living situation.
What was your most regrettable purchase?
I can't really think of anything since I don't buy much! It would be really small things like I bought a gift for a girlfriend but we broke up before we could use it together, or I lost my umbrella and then bought another one but then I found that first umbrella, small things like that.
What was your best purchase?
I believe it's better to spend money on experiences than on things. My best "experiential" purchase probably has to be a cruise I went on with my girlfriend a few years ago on the west coast. We justified it by saying that we were already out on the west coast for a wedding and why don't we just go on the cruise since we're already in the area.
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 spend a lot less than people in my age group even though I have a lot saved up. I live below my means - I'll always buy a $5 burger than a $15 burger and get mad if I have to pay more for something than necessary.
Do you feel like your success now has anything to do with luck or being in the right place at the right time?
Yes and no. My philosophy is that luck is nothing more than what happens when preparation meets opportunity. One example I can give you of being in the right place at the right time is that once, I was an office Production Assistant for a TA show. I overheard that the director (he is very famous and you've definitely heard of him) was looking for an assistant and I immediately volunteered to do the job. I got it, and ended up working as his assistant. I liked him a lot and it was a great experience.
I’m successful in the sense that I’m working in the industry that I want to be in, but I'm worried that I won’t get to where I want to be because of how competitive this industry is.
Do you actively contribute to a retirement account of any sort?
No, not at the moment. Retirement seems so far away that I haven't given it much thought.
Do you talk to your peers and family about money?
I don’t talk to my peers. I talk to my parents, mainly my dad, since he's the one in charge of money in the household. I don’t really talk to my siblings about money other asking them what they're paying for rent.
Do you worry about money?
I think everyone does, even the richest people. My personal worries are very trivial, such as "How much money should I spend on dinner tonight."
Do you splurge on anything? If so, what was the last splurge and how much was it?
I rarely splurge on anything. My last splurge was a 2-week trip to Europe over the summer. I spent the first week with my siblings and we had a great time - we explored major cities (Oslo, Norway was so expensive!), stayed in hostels, and were very reasonable about our costs. I probably spent around $1000 that first week. During the second week, my parents came out to travel with us and pretty much paid for everything.
Do you have a plan to make more money?
Not explicitly. I really hope that I will continue to move up to better positions and make more money through work.
What would it take for you to feel like you are completely rich?
It’s all relative. I reading reading that once you make $70,000/year, everything after that is gravy. I would like to make enough at a point where I just don't have to worry about money. And hey, I could always marry into money! That goes both ways. Have you ever seen that Stanley Kubrick movie Barry Lyndon? The main character marries into wealth and takes his wife's last name. He's a really terrible guy, though, so obviously not someone to look up to.
In terms of money, what was something you did in the past that you could do differently?
I don’t have any regrets - I've always been careful about how I spent my money.
What is your strategy for moving forward now in regards to your big goals in life?
I want to keep working, be proactive in my work, volunteer for assignments that come up, and demonstrate my value as a worker and as a thinker.
What is this?
An anthropological look at how people think about money. Created and edited by Star Li.