Two Cents: Q&A with Helen

Welcome back to Two Cents, a Q&A series that reveals how individuals of different ages, cities, and professions feel about their current financial situation.

Hey everyone, meet Helen! She’s a good friend from college who now lives many states away 😭. Like me, Helen had the huge advantage of starting out at a company that forced financial learning, and that’s definitely reflected in the way she thinks about her finances. Yes, she has credit card debt, but she’s also handling it expertly! Read on to find out more.


Two Cents

Hi, I’m Helen. I am 25 years old, and I work as a software developer for a financial technology company in North Carolina. I have the cutest dog in the world, but he also takes up a decent chunk of my budget every month, not that I’m great at even keeping a budget! My rent and cost of living are relatively cheap, but I spend way too much money buying useless things on Amazon, eating and going out, and taking as many vacations as I can. I delude myself into believing that I’m just enjoying financial independence at this point in my life, although I have grown more motivated to save the more I check my bank statements. 

How would you describe your current financial situation?

My rent and utilities combined are only about 20% of my monthly post-tax income, which isn’t bad at all. With every paycheck, I put 7% into my 401k because that’s how much my company matches, and I also put $100 into a Roth IRA and $100 into a savings account. Slowly but surely?! Every month, I’m currently also paying off a big chunk of credit card debt accumulated from big vacations and this past holiday season, so whatever’s left over goes to food, shopping, gym, or my dog. I don’t have any interest on the CC debt, and I can definitely pay it off before the 0% interest period expires, so I’m not worried about it. However, I have no idea what the percentage breakdown of my expenses are. I basically have like <10% of every paycheck left after all that. That sounds pretty low. Holy shit, that’s pretty low. 

Do you consider yourself to be money-savvy?

Nope. I generally stop spending whenever I feel like I’ve spent too much, but that gauge is (obviously) wildly inconsistent. I’m good about not making huge purchases or going too crazy, but I could totally be better. 

What financial advice would you have wished to hear when you started working?

Honestly, because I started at a financial company, they gave us a ton of good financial advice when we joined. I just didn’t listen to them very well because I was enjoying all this new spending power and reveling in the glories of consumerism. So I guess I just needed to hear some common sense: don’t buy so many things! Just because 2-day free shipping is totally amazeballs doesn’t mean you have to use it as often as you did! 

What financial achievement are you most proud of?

I have positive net worth! Luckily, I’ve learned to cut down on the frivolous spending and try to place more value on every dollar I spend. Also, having consistently put money away into retirement funds over the last year has really helped. Even adjusted for inflation, I’m well on my way to being able to retire comfortably.

What expense can you not live without?

Dining out, gym membership, dog expenses. I love good food, I have to work out to eat all this good food, and also my dog is cute. What can I do?

What expense could you potentially cut down on?

SHOPPING. I don’t need another phone case whenever I get bored of the color, I can just deal with it. I don’t need another cool kitchen gadget, it won’t make my cooking taste any better. I don’t need another cute sundress, I can just tell myself I’m adorable.

What are your long-term financial goals?

Be financially independent enough to take a year off work. Then I can walk away from any job or situation that I don’t feel is good for me anymore, or I can just take a sabbatical and travel the world eating good food.

What are your short-term financial goals?

Pay off the last of my debt! That’ll happen in the next few months for sure, but it’ll feel so sweet when I’m all in the positive. 🙂

Closing thoughts?

I grew up with very restricted financial means, whether it was because my family was poor when we first moved to America, or because my parents were just insanely stringent with their spending even when we were better off. I never owned anything that wasn’t absolutely essential, so I always wanted to enjoy the feeling of even the smallest luxuries. I probably went a bit too crazy with the money from my first job out of college, but now that I’m 2 years into the workforce, I feel like I’ve gotten it out of my system. I’ve started to become more of a real, fiscally responsible adult in the last half year, and I hope I continue that path.

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