Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We’re asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.
Today: a clinical psychologist who makes $345,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on iced coffee.
Occupation: Clinical Psychologist
Industry: Mental Health Care
Location: New York, NY
Net Worth: ~$2.365 million (I own my apartment (valued at ~$1.8 M), $320,000 in a savings account, $245,000 in a SEP-IRA/retirement fund. Debt: ~$2,000. This is the balance I owe for my Peloton. I pay my credit cards in full every month, whenever possible. Regarding my annual salary noted above, $345,000 is what I grossed in 2020. I’m self-employed, so this fluctuates from year to year)
Debt: $2,000, which is the balance on my Peloton bike. I financed it through Affirm.
Paycheck Amount (I move earnings from my business to my personal bank accounts several times a month.): ~$28,500 gross per month (I’m self-employed so I don’t have a paycheck per se)
Housing: $2,620 ($1,320 for common charges, $1,300 for property taxes). My mortgage was paid off several years ago.
Cell Phone/Internet: $130
Health Insurance: $970
Disability Insurance: $770
Zipcar Membership: $76/year
Amazon Prime: $129/year
Thrive Market Membership: $65/year
Costco Membership: $65/year
Peloton Membership: $39
Peleton Payments: $74
Homeowners Insurance: $3,300/year
Housekeeper: $200 (every two weeks, $100 per visit)
Monthly Self-Employment Business Expenses: ~$4,300 (this includes office rent, electricity, internet, insurances, cleaning, supplies, technology, continuing education, etc)
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?
Yes, it was expected that I’d go to college but we never had any conversations about it. My parents immigrated to the U.S. in the mid-1970s. My parents were clueless about the U.S. education system, SATs, etc, and they had little time/interest/mental space to learn about it. I did my best to figure things out on my own. My father did not complete high school. After completing his military service, he worked in various labor roles. He was smart, but not formally educated. My mother was grad educated. When they got to the U.S., she immediately had me and my sibling. She simultaneously learned English and studied for her boards in the U.S. My father died when I was a teenager. He was no longer the main breadwinner by the time I became a preteen. I’ve never taken any student loans. My mother planned for and paid my tuition for undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral programs. She also paid my rent all of those years. I am well aware of my privilege, though it came at a price.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We did not really have conversations about money, or anything really. My parents were always working and stressed about money and a slew of other things. The list of things to worry about when you are immigrants is endless, made much more difficult when you try to navigate it all in your second language and a culture that is so different from your native one. I think my parents tried to keep financial stress from me and my sibling, but there really was no way that they could. My mother never sat me down to teach me anything really, I just picked things up and eventually built some sort of plan for my financial future that did not involve an inheritance or help from anyone at all.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was working for my mother’s business, which I’d do in the summers, mostly. I was about 14. I had short-term retail jobs here and there from my late teenage years through undergrad, but I wouldn’t last long in any of them. So I don’t even count these as jobs in my life narrative. My first long-term steady jobs were during graduate school, working in my intended field.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes and no. I worried more about the tension and instability in our home due to my parents’ troubled relationship, though finances were not that far behind. My parents were obsessive about saving every penny they could for a down payment for a house because that was part of their American dream. That meant that I had two outfits to wear every season. That was shameful because my school peers unrelentingly made fun of me for it. I experienced a great deal of shame for being poor and the child of immigrants. Even when things became much easier financially, I never felt like I belonged.
Do you worry about money now?
I do, occasionally. I’m a single woman and I earn a very good living, but you never know. I often worry that things could come crashing down at any moment. I’m certain that this is intergenerational trauma passed down through several generations. I try very hard to remember that I’ve got massive hustle in me and I will do whatever I have to do to take care of myself. No one can take away my education, intelligence, and talent. During COVID, I worked like crazy, around the clock, and it took a very big emotional toll on me. I’m very good at what I do but when you are the instrument and you feel like you’re slipping, it’s pretty scary. I check my accounts several times a week to remind myself that I’m okay and will be okay.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself at 34, which is not that long ago. After graduate school and working as a psychologist in a hospital system, I decided to complete a four-year postgraduate program to become a psychoanalyst. My mother helped me during those years too. It would have been impossible to financially manage it all without her help. This is not spoken about much, at least in my experience, but becoming a psychologist and psychoanalyst takes many, many years (as it should) and it feels impossible for someone without privilege to do this. It needs to be said that the knowledge and experience I gained from that last psychoanalytic training program stepped my game up by many levels and allowed me to earn the kind of living I do today. Because I had financial help, I was able to start a small private practice. If I needed money today I know that I could ask my mother but I wouldn’t. I’d likely ask friends first.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I was financially supported throughout my education and early career. Though it was not income, I did not earn that money. My sibling and I stand to inherit a fair amount of assets between us, but I do not think about this much. I plan to give whatever my entire share will be to my sibling. That’s important to me.
7 a.m. — I get up and walk my dogs. We stop at Starbucks to pick up my almost daily four shots of espresso over ice ($3.54, and $1 tip). I adore this particular Starbucks location. I’ve known the people who work there for years and they make my day. We walk until everyone’s done their personal business and I’ve finished my coffee. We get home around 7:45 and I make breakfast — a bowl of Greek yogurt with some peanut butter granola and a banana. I had that in the fridge. I do some basic grooming and get dressed and am in front of my computer to start work at 8:14. I go nonstop until 12:15. $4.54
12:20 p.m. — I order in tacos to be delivered around 1. I’ll have those for lunch and dinner ($37.34, includes tip, delivery fees, and whatever else UberEats charges for). I walk my dogs again and time it so that I pick the delivery up in my building lobby as the dogs and I are returning from our walk. I have two tacos for lunch and then scroll Twitter for a bit. $37.34
1:40 p.m. — I suddenly remembered to go on Amazon to order a pet vacuum that removes stains and deep cleans rugs and fabrics, as well as extra bottles of the cleaning solution ($156.74). I’ve been meaning to buy this for a while and today was that day. I’m going to steam clean my mattress and a small runner in my bedroom. I go back to work until 6:30. $156.74
7:30 p.m. — For dinner, I eat another taco and some leftover roasted veggies I have in my fridge. For dessert, I have Hu Kitchen chocolate gems that I buy at Costco whenever I take a trip there. I feed and walk my dogs and am in bed by 9. Scroll Twitter until I fell asleep.
Daily Total: $198.62
7 a.m. — Get dressed and walk my dogs. Do the usual Starbucks run to get my usual espresso drink ($3.54, and $1 tip) except I don’t get it on ice this morning because it’s freezing out. I make breakfast at home — a cheddar and veggie omelet on two small coconut flour tortillas. I eat that and do some basic grooming before work. I work from 9 to 1. Friday is my lightest day. $4.54
1:30 p.m. — After walking my dogs again, I’m hungry. I eat the two leftover tacos from yesterday for lunch. Then, I take a long shower, scrub myself from head to toe with a Japanese scrub towel, wash my hair twice, and feel so good. I do my full skin regimen. On my face, I splash some SK-II Pitera Essence toner followed by a generous layer of LaMer concentrate on my face and neck. Once that absorbs, I usually follow that with a layer of SK-II RNA Power face cream, but don’t do that today. On my body, I use LeLabo’s body lotion in The Noir. I also use that perfume but not today since the lotion is more than enough. I towel dry my hair, comb it, and scrunch a few dabs of Oribe Supershine cream into it. I neither wear makeup nor blow dry my hair, so that’s that.
5:15 p.m. — I head to a friend’s house for dinner and bring a bottle of wine that came from my personal stash. I rarely drink wine because I don’t really like it and it makes me feel hungover the next day in a way that I can’t stand. I prefer simple drinks like vodka and gin with soda. But I always have several bottles of wine at home to offer guests or to bring with me if I’m the guest. I take the subway to my friend’s house ($2.75) and get there around 5:45. We’re all vaccinated now. We eat indoors together and hug for the first time in a long time. We also pop some edibles so within an hour I have my vibe right. That and a double vodka soda is perfect. So much fun. I take the train back around 10:30 ($2.75). Walk my dogs and go to bed. $5.50
Daily Total: $10.04
8 a.m. — Wake up, get dressed, and walk my dogs. We go to Starbucks for my usual espresso. Take a long walk around the nearby park and make some human friends who want to pet my dogs. They love the attention and are happy to make others happy. $4.54
9:45 a.m. — I get back in bed to start an Israeli show I’ve been meaning to watch called Valley of Tears. It’s on HBO Max. I then realize that I canceled my subscription many months ago because I wasn’t using it. So I resubscribe — $14.99 a month. I watch two episodes and it’s exceptional. I’ll probably cancel it before I get charged for another month because there’s nothing else I want to watch. I mostly watch Netflix and Amazon Prime. Netflix I don’t pay for because some years ago a friend gave me her username and password as one of the devices on her account. I’ll pay for dinner and/or Starbucks every now and then, so it all comes out in the wash. $14.99
2:15 p.m. — My sister-in-law calls and says she’s going to the park with her kids and invites me to join. I bring the more active of my dogs with me. We walk/hike for about two hours and it’s a lot of fun. I buy a bottle of water from a cart inside the park. $3
5:30 p.m. — The four of us go to Eataly for dinner afterward — we split the bill (my portion is $44.10 and a $10 tip). We share two small pizzas, one pasta dish, and I have a warm spiced cocktail they make there that is out of this world. I get an espresso to go and two hazelnut chocolate bars at Eataly’s espresso bar afterward ($9.60, and $1 tip). $64.70
8:30 p.m. — Good friends I travel with call me tonight to say they found an incredible deal to the Maldives. After some deliberation and research, we decided to do it. I put the hotel booking on my credit card — $10,798. This is so extra. The booking is for five nights in two over-the-water bungalows, each with its own private pool. Everything is included, except for airfare. Half of this amount is my portion so I’ll pay that off by the credit card due date. The other half I’ll pay down as quickly as I can and my friends will pay me back by the end of this year plus whatever interest accrued on the amount. We’ve done this before and it works fine. I also get the rewards points for these charges, plus the 5X points bonus because Amex Platinum offers that for travel charges. We are on the phone until almost 10:30 talking about the trip, catching up, and planning the rest of the trip, which will include a few days in Singapore. Excited for this trip! $10,798
Daily Total: $10,885.23
11:30 a.m. — Very lazy this morning and eventually get out of the house. Even my dogs slept in for several extra hours. I must have been really tired. Take the dogs for a slow and leisurely walk for about an hour. We stop at our fave Starbucks for my usual espresso on ice before heading to a nearby park. I use Starbucks points to pay for my drink but leave a $1 tip. We walk the paths inside the park several times. We get home at 1 and I make breakfast. I warm up the remaining leftovers from a sliced steak and onions dish I forgot that I randomly made two days ago. I put that in a skillet and mix in three eggs. So good. $1
5:30 p.m. — Watch several more episodes of Valley of Tears. It’s incredible. I make myself dinner at home: chopped beets topped with herbed goat cheese and pan-toasted hazelnuts, then drizzled with some balsamic glaze and olive oil. So simple, so delicious, and filling. I have some leftover roasted shishito peppers too. I keep my fridge temperature pretty low so that leftovers last a few days. I feed and walk my dogs around 7:30 and watch another two episodes of the show before going to bed around 11:30.
Daily Total: $1
6:45 a.m. — Get up and walk dogs as usual. We go to Starbucks for my usual espresso over ice. We walk for about 30 minutes before returning home. I do a quick basic grooming and am ready to work at 8. I work nonstop until 1. $4.54
1:30 p.m. — Walk dogs then eat lunch at home. Last night I defrosted a chicken and veggie dish I had in the freezer so that I could have it for lunch today. I warm it up in the skillet. I work again from 3 to 6:30.
7 p.m. — Dinner is at home too. Warm up another defrosted chicken and veggie dish. Feed and walk the dogs and get to bed around 9. I’m physically and emotionally exhausted.
Daily Total: $4.54
645 a.m. — Walk dogs and get my usual Starbucks espresso. Very quick walk. Return home and do basic grooming and eat breakfast. I make a quick frittata with leftover herbed goat cheese and some chopped shallots I had in a container in the fridge. I start work today at 8:30 and go nonstop until 1. $4.54
1:30 p.m. — Walk the dogs again then have lunch at home. I defrost another dish I have in the freezer and warm it up on the skillet. Minced meat and veggies. I work again from 3 to 7 nonstop.
7:45 p.m. — Feed and walk dogs. Then come home and warm up the leftovers from lunch. I’m spent and get in bed by 9:30.
Daily Total: $4.54
6:30 a.m. — Wake up and walk the dogs. Usual Starbucks run for my espresso on ice. I needed this one this morning so badly! I start work at 8 so I’ve gotta hurry so that I can quickly shower and have breakfast. I make two soft-boiled eggs and have a slice of cheddar cheese. I work from 8 to 2 with one half-hour break in there. $4.54
2:30 p.m. — Walk dogs. Come home and make lunch. Defrost another meal from the freezer and warm it up in the skillet. I’m having a turkey burger, veggies, and some pasta. I do a Peloton class before eating. I eat afterward then quickly wash up and change. Got work again from 4:30 to 7.
7:45 p.m. — Not that hungry after a late lunch so I snack on some almonds and chocolate chips. I find some dried plums on my counter too. Good enough. Also make a hot chocolate with unsweetened chocolate, cream, and hot water. Yum. So tired. I go to bed at 10.
Daily Total: $4.54
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