For today’s Money Snapshot, we’re talking salary, net worth, debt, and more with reader Jane, who lives in a MCOL city in the Northeast and works as a data analyst. She noted, “My husband and I are both savers by nature, and I try to resist lifestyle creep!”
We got a few requests from readers to launch our own “money diary” series, so we’ve asked willing readers to fill out a form with lots of details about debt, spending, saving, and more! If you’d like to fill out the form and be considered for a future personal money snapshot, please click here to submit your response! You can see a PDF of the questions if you want to review them ahead of time. See others in the Personal Money Snapshot series here.
Please remember that this is is a real person who has feelings and isn’t gaining anything from this, unlike your usual friendly (soul-deadened, thick-skinned, cold-hearted, money-grubbing) blogger — so please be kind with any comments. Thank you! — Kat
Location: MCOL city in the Northeast
Occupation: Data analyst
Partner: Professor, 36 years old
Household income: $200,000
Net worth: My husband’s and my net worth is $850,000.
Net worth when started working: I worked part-time jobs in undergrad and grad school, but I started my first full-time job at 24 with a net worth of $0.
Living situation: We own; our mortgage (plus taxes & insurance & an extra payment to the principal) is $2,850.
What does your debt picture look like?
Just our mortgage: $243,000
How much money are you spending each month to pay down debt?
Just the mortgage payment above.
How did you pay for school?
I got scholarships, worked a couple part-time jobs, and my parents paid for the rest. They were both the first in their families to go to college and therefore really prioritized saving for my education. It is incredible privilege. My husband had a small student loan that he paid off while he was in grad school.
Home debt: Share your theories and strategies with us.
We wanted to purchase a home because it makes sense financially in our area, we have no plans to move anytime soon, and it was personally important to us. We prioritized our neighborhood above all else (for the sustaining home value) and bought our home for $410,000 in 2015. We qualified for more, but that was the absolute max we were willing to pay (and we even went a little over budget because we love this house!). We put down 25% as a down payment and got a 30-year mortgage, although we pay it off like a 15-year (an additional $800 to the principal each month). With the extra, the mortgage is $2,850. Since rates are so low we’re thinking of refinancing, but that seems daunting!
Savings, Investments & Retirement
How much do you save for retirement?
I contribute 12% of my salary each month (so $9,000 per year), and my husband maxes his out. We both get an 8% contribution from work.
How much money do you allocate to other tax-savvy investments/accounts?
How much do you save outside of retirement accounts?
We automatically save 50% of our take-home pay. For each of us, 50% of our paycheck goes into our joint checking account, while 50% goes into savings. When we have vacations or make bigger purchases, we move some money over, but in general we live on 50% of our income.
We asked Jane about her impressive saving habits, and she said this:
Aiming to save 50% of our take-home pay has been our goal for the past few years. We don’t fully live on just that 50% (we pull out of our savings for big purchases), but it’s a good goal. I expect this to change the second we decide to have kids. :)
Talk to us about investments.
This is anonymous, so I can admit: We spent WAY too long leaving our money in savings accounts and not investing (outside of our 401Ks). We are finally in the process of moving $100,000 into the market. I’ve been trying to examine my psychological blocks around this. Some is security — especially during “these uncertain times,” it feels comforting to have easy access to my money. And partly, though this is probably dumb, I feel guilty that we have so much money and am hesitant to make even more money in the market.
We asked Jane to elaborate on her feelings about her financial situation:
I assume I’ll always feel some level of guilt around my/our wealth. I’m always trying to find more ways to donate but often feel pressure as to what’s the “best” way. I’ve been looking into getting involved with Resource Generation, which is a committee of young people committed to the redistribution of wealth.
Do you have an end goal for saving or are you just saving for a rainy day?
Our parents are comfortable, but I want to have enough to support them if we need to. And we’re planning to have a kid soon, and apparently they take all your money!
When did you start saving seriously? How has your savings strategy changed over the years?
We have always been savers and thankfully have really similar attitudes toward money. Neither of us spend frivolously at all, and it’s really just luck that we’re wired that way.
What’s the #1 thing you’re doing to save money, limit spending, or live frugally?
Automatically saving 50% of our paychecks.
Do you have an estate plan in place? A trust?
No, but it’s on the to-do list to get our wills done, just in case!
How much do you have in cash that’s available in a week?
How much is in your “emergency fund,” and did you include it in the previous question?
Yes, in a couple savings accounts. I count it all as an emergency fund.
How much do you have in retirement savings?
My husband and I have $324,000 combined.
How much do you have in long-term investments and savings (CDs, index funds, stocks) that are not behind a retirement wall?
If property values (home, car) are included in your net worth, how much are those worth?
Car is $20,000; home was recently appraised at $465,000.
How much do you spend on the following categories on a monthly basis?
Restaurants, bars, takeout, and delivery: $100
Clothing and accessories: $50
Rent/living expenses: Mortgage (plus taxes & insurance & an extra payment to the principal) is $2,850.
Entertainment: $75 for various streaming services
Health care – premiums and other costs: Don’t really spend anything outside of premiums, which are pre-tax so I don’t really think about them! About $150/month for each of us.
What’s your spending range for these things? What’s your average?
Vacations – Range: $500–$8,000
Vacations – Average: $1,000
Charity – Average donation or giving amount: $5,000 per year, and I want to increase this.
Car or other vehicle – Current main vehicle: We purchased our car for $26,000 earlier this year.
Fill in the blank on this question: I could save _____ if I stopped ______, but I don’t because _______.
I could save $200 a month if I got rid of my housekeeper, but I don’t because I love her so much!
If you’re married: When was your wedding, how much did it cost (total), and how much did YOU pay?
We didn’t have a wedding! Wasn’t important to us. Our only real wedding expense was $2,500 for our wedding bands.
If you own, how much did your home (permanent residence) cost?
Does your family provide any non-financial support?
My parents paid for college, but nothing since then.
Do you have a general money strategy?
I’m a saver but have to be careful not to save too much. I’m happy to spend on vacations and experiences, but I need to take the plunge for other things, particularly around our home. (Example: We have plenty of money for an important renovation, but I just haven’t gotten around to it.) We donate a fair bit of money, and I want to increase this.
What are your favorite resources for personal finance?
I enjoy the r/MoneyDiariesACTIVE subreddit. Also, Ramit Sethi’s book I Will Teach You To Be Rich (terrible title) was very helpful for me to read as a young adult.
What advice would you give your younger self about personal finance?
My aversion to investing money is not great! I really need to get over it, and I’m working on it.
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