Who are you and how old are you?
I am a female in my early 40s working as a writer.
Tell me about your background.
I grew up in the Southern/Western region of the US and went to a top university on the West Coast where I got a BA and Masters in the mental health field. I was accepted into a top PhD program in the field but wasn’t sure if that was the right path for me. I went to my college career services office asking for help and was able to get a job as a management consultant. This was my first and only exposure to the business world. I enjoyed the work and really liked my colleagues but decided to transition out of the consulting industry.
I was then approached by someone in the medical profession who asked me to write a book proposal for an upcoming book he wanted to publish. I didn’t know anything about the book writing industry but my proposal was bought by a major publishing house (which is quite rare for both new and experienced writers) and the next thing I knew, I began working as a writer focusing on ghostwriting and freelance editing. I never dreamed about becoming a writer in any shape or form and thus felt like this career path really chose me. It’s an incredible fit for my lifestyle in many ways - I use my background in mental health for many of my writing pieces, I have total freedom in where I live and where I work, and I truly feel like every book is like getting a mini master’s degree. In the last five years I’ve really dove into blogging and have worked on honing my craft. I feel very lucky to be able to make a living through writing.
What does your financial situation look like? If you don’t earn money through a “normal job”, how do you support yourself?
I make money through my writing. I have never been in a position where I’ve made a huge salary but I don’t care about having a lot of money. I care about living a joyful life with my husband and travel. Just to be clear, writing is definitely not the best life if you want to buy a house and put money in your 401K. There’s very little stability and it’s not for the faint of heart.
Did you grow up with money? How did your childhood conditions about money affect how you behave?
I grew up in a middle class family. My mom worked in nonprofits and my dad was a public servant. They stressed that we should make enough money to get by but that it was also really important to give back to the world through community service. My upbringing had a lot to do with how I behave now - I believe in living a joyful life and giving back. It’s probably also why money is not at the top of my list!
Did your parents give you money when you were growing up? What about for school?
I did chores but didn’t get paid for it - my parents expected it from my brother and I. I did get a weekly allowance, however. My parents contributed some money when I went off to college but because they had two kids who went to top universities, it was a bit of a strain for them and I took on some financial aid. I paid for extra expenses and worked two jobs the whole way through college.
Do you still have school loans?
No - I was very diligent about paying off my loans every month and paid my last one when I turned 35!
Do you invest money?
I don’t invest or save money now. My husband and I had twins a year ago and those expenses (in addition to our nanny) has put a temporary halt on that. I was married once before to someone else who was quite wealthy. During our divorce, I got a small settlement but lost half of it in the 2008 market crash.
What does your family situation look like?
I’m married to my husband and we have twin babies. My husband works in the entertainment industry and lucky enough, is also able to work from wherever. We recently moved back to my hometown to be closer to my family who can help us with raising our twins.
Do you and your spouse/partner have similar financial habits?
We have very similar financial habits in the sense that money is not at the top of our priority list but I sometimes wish one of us were more financially conservative. When we had our twins, everyone asked us how our children would fit with our lifestyle but we’ve made it work.
Have you started to put money away for their college tuition? If so, how much is it?
Not at the moment. We spent a lot of money on getting pregnant and unfortunately had to pay for all that out of pocket. I joke that we spent their college fund on getting them here into the world!
How did your financial lifestyle change when you had children?
We moved to back to my hometown to save money. The rent is cheaper, and we receive a lot of help from my parents. We’re consciously trying to cut back and live a simpler life.
What was your most regrettable purchase?
I don’t really have any regrettable purchases because I’m not a big shopper. If I had to give an answer, I’d say buying a piece of clothing that I never wore. I’m very much a minimalist and don’t like the accumulation of stuff. Every once in a while, I’ll look at what I have and if I haven’t worn it in a year, I’ll give it away to Goodwill.
What was your best purchase?
My twins, my college degree, and money spent on travel.
Do you feel like you have a financial habit that’s out of the norm (or at least something that others have commented on)?
99 out of 100, my husband and I will choose travel over possessions. We believe in great and joyful life experiences.
Do you talk to your peers and family about money?
I just talk to my family and to my best friend.
In terms of money, what was something you did in the past that you could do differently?
I would have been a lot more conscious about saving money!
What is this?
An anthropological look at how people think about money. Created and edited by Star Li.