A Week In California On A $190,000 Salary

Occupation: Software engineer
Industry: IT
Age: 24
Location: California
Salary: $190,000
Assets: HYSA: $67,000; 401(k): $16,321; investments: $27,830; RSUs: $15,000
Debt: $40,000 (federal student loans)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $3,900
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: $1,750 (This is for my share of the rent. I live in a cozy 1BHK with my partner and we split the rent 50/50.)
Monthly Loan Payments: $500 (federal student loans)
All Other Monthly Expenses:
Utilities: $100 (my half)
Internet: $30 (my half)
Mobile Phone Bill: $28 (my share)
Netflix: $7 (my share)
Medical Insurance: $88
ASPP (Associate Stock Purchase Program): $140
Dental Insurance: $16
Vision: $5
401(k) Contribution: $331 (My company provides a 1:1 match on my contribution.)
Loan Payment To Parents: $600 (My parents gave me $40,000 to help me with the fee for my first semester during my master’s, so I started paying them back in December last year.)
Yearly Expenses:
HBO: $75
Peacock: $25

Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
One hundred percent, there was no question about it. I was raised in India in a very academically competitive environment. My parents encouraged me to take my studies seriously and through school, I was at the top of my class. My parents also attended higher education and are accomplished in their respective fields. When I decided to take up engineering in India, my parents were extremely supportive and funded my undergraduate expenses (roughly $25,000). We agreed that when I pursued a master’s, I would pay every penny of the fee myself. My parents have now set up a plan for the repayment, and I am so grateful to them for their support.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We did not talk a lot about money growing up. My parents ensured we were very comfortable and never let us see what they were going through. As I began high school, I started observing more and having candid conversations with my parents. I realized that since my brother and I were academically inclined, they wanted to ensure we did not compromise on choosing a university. We had a very transparent conversation about how much it would cost and it opened my eyes. My parents have always taught me to save money carefully and at the same time enjoy my life, and they would always say the best way to do this is by working hard. That is the principle I live by.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
During my master’s at Columbia I worked as a housing assistant, and a teaching assistant for two courses to cover some of the living expenses. Living in Manhattan as a student buried under loans and crushing academic pressure was hard. I made sure to work these on-campus jobs so I would never have to ask my parents for further help. After my first semester (which they paid for), I secured a summer internship — with that money, plus federal aid and part-time jobs, I managed the rest of my tuition fee and living expenses.

Did you worry about money growing up?
We grew up very comfortably. My parents spent carefully but never had to be frugal. They worked extremely hard to ensure that me and brother’s education expenses were secured, and we never felt any pressure for money. However, as I grew up, I realized the sacrifice it took on my parents’ behalf — my dad worked abroad and lived by himself for two years and my mom stayed back with us so he could earn more money to cover our tuition fees. As an adult, I understand how hard this must have been on them. They never let us know what they went through.

Do you worry about money now?
Occasionally, yes I do. I know I am comfortable now and my partner earns very well, but when we look at housing prices in the Bay Area it makes us so tense. Our parents do not live in the States and we know that we want to take care of them when they are older, so we need a big-enough house. Such discussions make me extremely anxious so I tell myself to work on saving as much as I can now.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible at 21. I started my master’s straight out of undergrad (which I completed in India), so my parents helped me initially. The shift from my city in India to Manhattan was crazy. For the first year, I would constantly convert everything from US dollars to Indian rupees and thought so much about spending every single dollar. This has changed recently, and I have grown more confident since I started my job and now earn a stable income. My partner earns more than I do and we both support each other in every way to help when needed. He is my safety net in the US. I know I can always turn to my parents but I hope that does not happen — I don’t want to burden them financially at this age.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My parents paid my entire fee for my undergraduate expenses ($25,000), which I am so grateful for. They also helped with $40,000 for my first semester at Columbia, and I am currently paying them back this amount in installments.

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