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For today’s Money Snapshot, we’re talking salary, net worth, debt, and more with reader Evie in San Francisco, who works as a tech marketer. She noted, “I grew up with a lot of financial anxiety. … I have dreams about winning the lottery and truly believe that more money will solve 99% of my life’s problems. It’s something I’ve discussed with my therapist, and however I feel about money now, it’s 200% healthier than how I felt 5 or 10 years ago.”
Note: Evie wrote her original Money Snapshot back in 2020 and decided to share this update! (If we published yours and it’s been a few years or more, you’re welcome to submit a follow-up, too!)
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: San Francisco
Occupation: Tech marketer
Income: $280,000 (80% is base, the rest are bonus and RSUs)
Partner: Spouse, age 37
Household income: $485,000 (W2 income; if you add back the 401(k) contributions, I think we’re at $525,000)
Household net worth: $2.1M
Net worth when started working: $9,000 in undergrad loans at age 22
Living situation: Own a home
What does your debt picture look like?
No debt other than mortgage ($625,000). Spouse and I are both quite debt-averse.
How much money are you spending each month to pay down debt?
We only have mortgage debt.
How did you pay for school?
Between us, we have two bachelor’s and two master’s. Undergrad was a mix of grants, loans, and family contribution. My master’s was from my savings, grants, and a $50,000 inheritance from my grandparent. I paid for all $70,000 of partner’s master’s with my earnings. We made it through $220,000 worth of tuition debt-free and I’m very grateful we were able to do so.
Do you own or rent? How much do you pay monthly?
$3,500 a month for mortgage and HOA
If you have children, how much do/did you spend for childcare and/or education?
No children. We do have a fur baby that we pay ~$7,000 a year for in food/toys, vet expenses, and doggie daycare.
If you have any other large expenses each month, please list them here.
No other big monthly expenses. We do allocate over $1,000 a month for property taxes and $400 a month for insurance that includes auto, homeowner, and umbrella, but these expenses are paid twice a year.
Home debt: Share your theories and strategies with us (including any that lead you to rent rather than own).
We have a 30-year mortgage at 2.75% due to refinancing a couple years ago. I used to pay ahead of schedule when we were at 4%, and in retrospect that was the WRONG decision. Now with inflation 5%+ and our low rate, I don’t pay ahead anymore.
Have you ever done anything noteworthy to avoid or lessen debt?
We’ve rented out a person’s illegally converted garage-to-studio with a painted concrete floor and lived with a roommate in our 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom, sub-1,000 sq. ft. condo.
Savings, Investments & Retirement
How much do you save each month or year in retirement vehicles like 401Ks, Roth IRAs, and others?
For the past 2–3 years we’ve saved $100,000–$200,000 a year in 401(k), mega backdoor Roth IRA, and brokerage accounts.
How much money do you allocate to other tax-savvy investments/accounts like HSAs, 529s, FSAs, and others?
Not as much as we should, probably, I think we have a total of $5,000 in HSAs and I save around $1,000 a year in a limited dental FSA.
How much do you save outside of retirement accounts?
I do save in a brokerage account and in T-bills (our emergency fund). I have an automatic deposit set up for $1,000 a month, but mostly I look at the money we have coming in and I make $1,000–$5,000 transfers a few times a quarter.
Talk to us about investments. Do you have a financial adviser or planner?
No financial advisor today, although we do have a tax accountant whom we pay $1,000+ a year. I hate doing taxes.
Do you have an end goal for saving or are you just saving for a rainy day?
I want a single-family home in San Francisco or another equally expensive part of California, but I don’t know how realistic it is if we ALSO want to retire early.
When did you start saving seriously? How has your savings strategy changed over the years?
I’ve pretty much been a saver, but it’s in the last 2–3 years when I’ve really kicked retirement savings into high gear. I’ve always thought if I just maxed out my 401(k), we’d be fine, but I realized that wasn’t enough. I’ve also been much more conservative in the past — for example. I had 30% bonds allocation in my 20s/early 30s!! I could kick myself.
What’s the #1 thing you’re doing to save money, limit spending, or live frugally?
We bought a home that’s probably a bit below what we can afford, especially with our current income, so our housing costs are manageable. On the more day-to-day front, I try to cook more at home both for health and cost reasons. Lastly, we do not have kids. That decision is not purely financial, but it does bring with it financial benefits. Although we would need to save more for retirement given that we won’t have a child to help with some of the things that I find myself helping my parents with.
Have you ever made a big money move or investment with savings in mind, such as rolling over an older IRA into a Roth IRA or superfunding a 529?
We convert after-tax 401(k) to Roth IRA… does that count?
Do you have an estate plan in place? A trust?
We do not… but we should. It’s on the list of things that I know are important but not urgent…
How much do you have in cash that’s available today?
How much do you have in cash that’s available in a week?
$100,000 — can we take out T-bills?
How much is in your “emergency fund,” and did you include it in the previous question?
$80,000 in T-bills; yes, included in previous question
How much do you have in retirement savings?
$1,650,000 across 401(k), IRAs, and brokerage. This is joint.
How much do you have in long-term investments and savings (CDs, index funds, stocks) that are not behind a retirement wall?
$600,000, but this is included in the $1.65M retirement funds and $100,000 cash
If property values (home, car) are included in your net worth, how much are those worth?
How much do you spend on the following categories on a monthly basis?
Restaurants, bars, takeout, and delivery: $600
Clothing and accessories: $100
Rent/living expenses: $3,500
Health care – premiums and other costs: We both have high-deductible health plans. I don’t track my health spending too closely, but I recently paid $200 for prescription tretinoin. I’ve also spent around $600 on dental expenses so far in 2023, which will come out of my limited FSA.
Other major expenses:
The biggest expense we have outside of the mortgage is travel. I target $20,000–$25,000 a year in travel spending, which includes flights/trains and lodging. In 2022 we went on three big overseas trips to Southeast Asia, Europe, and Mexico, and 8–10 weekend getaways in California.
In terms of day-to-day life, I am upping my spend in fitness and exercise — increasing from ~$100 to $400 a month for Pilates, weight training, and dance. I also spend a bit on skincare. My favorite brand is SkinCeuticals: I use their eye cream, vitamin C serum, and Triple Lipid Restore moisturizer, which is $150 for 1.7 oz., and recently turned my spouse on it too. He almost had a heart attack once he found out how much it cost, but he loves the way it feels.
What’s your spending range for these things? What’s your average?
Vacations – Range: $2,000 weekend to $10,000 for a 2-week international vacation
Vacations – Average: $5,000
Charity – Range of donations: None. I don’t donate right now. I’ll probably get heat for this but… I just don’t right now.
Charity – Average donation or giving amount: $0
Individual items of clothing – Range: $40–$200
Individual items of clothing – Average: T-shirt, $30; cashmere sweater, max of $100; shoes, $150. I try to stick with brands I know and trust. I typically buy clothes from Banana Republic Factory, Quince, Boden, and Anthropologie.
Apartment or house – Range: $700–$4,000
Apartment or house – Current main residence: $1.1 million
Car or other vehicle – Range: $20,000
Car or other vehicle – Current main vehicle: $20,000
Any other large personal expenses?
The dog is a big personal expense (see above).
Fill in the blank on this question: I could save _____ if I stopped ______, but I don’t because _______.
I could save $25,000 a year if I cut back on vacations, but I don’t because the deal I made with myself is that as long as we work our corporate America jobs, we can travel wherever we want. Aside from truly big-ticket items like an Antarctica cruise, and as long as we stick to our current style of travel, we’re more limited by vacation days than money.
If you’re married: When was your wedding, how much did it cost (total), and how much did YOU pay?
Total cost: $7,000 in 2013. My parents gave me $10,000 no strings attached as a wedding gift. We put it in with general savings, but one could argue they paid for it, since money is fungible.
At any point in your life to date, has inheritance played a role in your money situation?
My grandma left me $50,000 which I used for grad school.
How has your family provided financial support in your adult life, if any? (Or, do you provide support to them?)
My parents have given me a lot of financial support. They paid for a big part of my undergrad degree, gave $10,000 for my wedding gift, and gave $100,000 so we could put down a bigger down payment. For a few years after I graduated college, they would give me $500–$1,000 for my birthday. When we go on family vacations, they often pay for lodging and flights.
Does your family provide any non-financial support?
Sometimes my mom will watch her dog grandchild.
Do you have a general money strategy?
It’s the same as it was in 2019: Try to work hard enough so I make enough money, but not so hard that I burn out and have to take extended time off. Try to stay as healthy as I can within my control. Invest in index funds. Enter retirement mortgage-free. Do things in the relationship that decreases risk of divorce. Try to be happy today while saving for tomorrow.
Time vs. money — do you spend money to save time (e.g., cleaning service)? Do you donate your time instead of money? What else does this phrase mean to you?
I prioritize flights that are nonstop and I never choose a basic economy fare. We STILL don’t have a cleaning service because I’m afraid once I start I’ll never be able to go back. I do really enjoy personal training and small group classes when it comes to fitness, so I suppose I see it as a better use of my time than larger settings or virtual classes even when those are cheaper.
What are your favorite resources for personal finance?
I said in 2019 I don’t read any personal finance blogs or books because they stress me out. That’s still overall true. FIRE still stresses me out. I hate the term “side hustle.”
What advice would you give your younger self about personal finance?
Do 90%+ stock allocation for your retirement savings.
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