How a Woman Working for the New York City Government Does Money

Liann is 30, working for the government, in the City of New York.

So, Liann, tell us a bit about your finances.

I’m actually doing pretty well. I have no debt, paid off all my student loans, and have some savings. My background is in social work, but I’ve been working nontraditional social work jobs, so my salary is not bad.

How does your salary compare to your living expenses?

I’m not an extravagant person and definitely live within my means. I save close to 30 percent of my salary.

Does that include 401(k) or retirement contributions? Or just “bank account savings?”

It’s just bank account savings. I have my 401(k) automatically deducted, so it’s actually close to 40 percent.

Do you get a company match?

Unfortunately, no. My previous job offered a 10 percent match, but the city doesn’t offer anything.

So what are your living expenses like? Are you sharing a home with roommates? Do you have a car? How do you live your non-extravagant lifestyle?

I rent an apartment in South Brooklyn for about $1,100 a month.

I don’t have a car, since when you live in New York, public transportation is pretty convenient.

As for my non-extravagant lifestyle, I just don’t buy a lot of materialistic things. I don’t really like shopping. My biggest expenses are going out to eat and traveling.

Traveling can be very expensive, though! How do you cut costs? Or do you save up and travel in style?

Yes, traveling can be expensive. As a matter of fact, I just got back from Europe. I usually don’t travel in style. I pack light, stay in hostels instead of hotels, and eat local foods and don’t go to the tourist trap areas.

About how much did you spend on your European trip?

About $2,000 for two weeks, but the airfare alone cost $1,300.

Wow. So two weeks in Europe on $700. That’s great.

I know, right! I stayed with friends for five days out of the two weeks though.

What did you go see?

I saw a lot! I went to Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic. The good thing was that since it’s during the summer there were lots of free concerts and events that I took advantage of. Since the Euro is not doing so well, it’s a great time to go there.

So what are your goals for your money? Where would you like to be, financially, next year? Or in five years?

My short-term goal is to put some of my money into investment accounts. Hopefully within the next five years I will own property. I’m actually talking to real estate agents now to find something within my budget. I’m still at the very early stages of my search.

Oh, very cool! Property in NYC is also something that I think of as “very expensive.” Are you planning to do a non-extravagant search there too?

Of course! I definitely can’t afford anything in the hot neighborhoods.

What is your budget, do you think? What neighborhoods are you looking in?

Mostly still in Brooklyn, and hopefully I can find something under $500,000 — but if its a good deal, I would consider other neighborhoods.

Are you planning on taking out a loan?

I can pay 20 percent down and the rest would have to be in loans.

Excellent. What do you think you do well about your finances, and what do you wish you could do better?

I think I’m very good at controlling my spending and that helps a lot when budgeting. I should probably learn more about investment opportunities. Most of my money is just sitting in the bank so it’s not really growing.

That is a very true statement about banks. What kind of investment education did you receive? I feel like I barely got any investment education or advice, besides “investing is good” and “don’t pick individual stocks.”

I’ve spoken with financial planners through my company’s HR events, so I’ve been looking into different portfolios for my existing 401(k) and 403(b) plans.

And yes, don’t pick individual stocks, ha ha, but it’s hard to diversify if you really don’t know much about the market. I do have an investment account where I invested in a few individual stocks, and thank god I’ve made some money off of them.

Nice! Were you hoping you’d pick another Apple or something?

Yes, but that didn’t happen, ha ha.

What did you learn about money in your childhood, and how does that affect how you manage money now?

My parents were immigrants and they worked very hard, like 12+ hour days, on less than minimum wage, so I know first-hand how important the value of money is. That’s why I don’t live extravagantly and always live within my means. I mean, I treat myself to travel and good meals, but seriously, other than that, I don’t really buy expensive things.

What advice do you have for Billfold readers?

I hope the people who read this realize that paying for experiences is better than things.

Photo credit: emilydickinsonridesabmx

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