My Personal Finance Journey

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Can You Help Jay?

Contributed by mm | August 6, 2005 6:17 AM PST

One of the most meaningful tasks I am doing at PFBlog is to reply emails. Whenever someone sends me an email, I feel trusted and oftentimes, I'm glad to offer some suggestions from my personal experience.

Now, one of our readers is asking all PFBlog visitors for advice. With his permission, I'm publishing his mail and financial plan online. Can you show Jay the warmth? Leave a comment and give Jay (and the rest of those who just started their careers) one advice or two. Can you help Jay?

Sent: Tuesday, July 26, 2005 2:41 PM
Subject: Young Pfblog reader seeking advice and assistance


My name is Jay and i have been following your site for a few months. You have some great information that is very useful. I am a 22 year old recent graduate from college and will be relocating to a major southern city where I will be working for an accounting firm. I have be trying to come up with some type of financial management plan, but it seems that my $46K salary will not leave me with as much at the end of the month as I would like. I have attached a detailed monthly expense plan and would like you and your readers to review and make suggestions. My goal is to start my life off on the right financial foot so it will be easier down the road. If you and your readers could help guide me or refer me to some who could, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks


Attachment: Anticipated Monthly Expenses.rtf

More PFBlog Articles You Might Find Interesting ...

This Post Has Received 31 Comments. Share Your Opinions Too.

Jose Commented on August 6, 2005

I would increase the IRA contributions even if I had to reduce the "Fun Money". Try something closer to $300 a month into an IRA (as close as possible). Your "downpayment" fund is a very good idea.

Why the Term Life Insurance? Do you have kids?

My suggestion to most people is:
10% in retirement accounts. (or better, max them out)
10% in long term savings (house or early retirement)
10% in short term savings (to buy a car, or do a vacation - debt avoidance).

Retirement is a priority that most people in the US underestimate.

As for the salary... that is a VERY good salary. It is higher than the average american FAMILY income. It is also higher than my sister in law that earns 38,000 in Boston and has similar fixed expenses than yours. But follows the 10/10/10 suggestion.

Once you increase your salary you can increase savings rates.

I save into investment and retirement accounts around 40% of my pre-tax income.

Ed Commented on August 6, 2005

This may not be what you're expecting...
I've always believed that tithing should be done by using your salary before taxes. That's just my take on that....

Cell phone is pretty high. Can you try an get something like Metro PCS which could bring that down.

I also agree that you should kick more $ into the Roth because when you start contributing to the 401k you will want to do the whole 6% to not leave money on the table, by having invested more in the Roth you'll be used to a budget without that money.

I would cancel the term life insurance unless you have dependents.

As far as where to put your savings... I would put like 1 or 2 thousand in a savings account, then the rest of my emergency fund in something like a Vanguard GNMA. It pays a good div. and is quite liquid.

I also think you should drive the honda to the ground! It may last more than 2 year more.

Hope that helps

a Commented on August 6, 2005

I am in a very similar situation (one year out of college and living in a major Southern city) but I make $16,000 less than you. Here's my take:

Rent/utilities: I think you may have underestimated this. Electricity (air conditioning) in my apartment has doubled in cost the past couple of months, so make sure you have enough to cover this.

Cell: Def see if you can get a lower rate. I found that once I started working, I hardly ever used my 450 daytime minutes that I used to come close to going over so much in college.

Gas: If you haven't already gotten your apartment, see if you can find a place somewhat close to your office. I only use about $125/month, and that's with traveling from Austin to Dallas every so often. I live about five miles from work.

Food: Definitely bring your lunch to work as much as you can. If people at the office are going out, you don't want to miss out on a social opportunity, but that adds up real fast. Also, don't eat out every night. I think you could probably get by with less than $250, at least if you're not including eating out.

I agree to drop the term life insurance.

Roth IRA: I would max this out. If you look online and see the difference in saving for retirement seriously at 22 vs. 32, it's staggering. Max this out by cutting down on food/fun money or taking it out of savings. It'll be worth it.

Fun money: I think you can cut this down by spending wisely. I go to lots of happy hours with food and drink specials, and can usually get pretty happy for $10 or less. I also find free things to do. Lots of museums have fun things for young people to do at night, and cities sponsor festivals, etc., for free.

My No. 1 piece of advice is to avoid giving into pressures to spend a lot. You can't compare yourself to others that seem to be in a similar situation, because you never know what they're going through. Maybe they're in debt or their parents still pay for lots of things. Drive that Honda as long as you can, even if all the other cars in the parking garage are BMW and Mercedes. Just because you can afford those things doesn't mean you should. You'll be happier with that $ in the bank than with a massive car note, and you won't have to deprive yourself of things that really matter.

I think you're on the right track. Good luck!

Greg Commented on August 6, 2005

Your situation is pretty good at your stage. If you want more income, try a second income stream, as a entry-level college job usually won't provide large amounts of disposable income.

Ye Commented on August 6, 2005

The advices given above covered most of the things I wanted to point out. But I'll reiterate anyway just so you know what I think.

1. Rent and Utilities: "A" is right. You've underestimated this. I'd probably add another $100 depending on where you stay.

2. Cell Phone: Too expensive. You can get a decent plan for less than $50/month. Get a plan with unlimited nights and weekends so if you need to talk a lot, you can do that at night. ING offers discounted plans to its customers through Sprint. You should check that out.

3. Gas for Auto: Too high. Assuming $30 per full tank, you only need $120. Honda is known for its fuel efficiency.

4. Auto Insurance: Insurance is always prepaid. You need to start allocating funds for this now. Don't wait until 1/06. This way you can make the full payment for six months and avoid interests on monthly payments. Shop around. If you have a stellar driving record, check out GEICO.

5. Auto Maintenance: I don't see a reserve for auto maintenance. Yes, Honda is reliable but you still need oil changes and the occassional fluid and belt changes.

6. Term Life Insurance: You don't need one unless you have dependents.

7. Roth IRA: I think everyone's on the same page here. Max out your Roth. What the rest failed to mention is that you can withdraw your principal with no penalties. It gets better, if you waited 5 years or more, you can withdraw both your contribution and earnings tax-free (up to $10,000) to purchase your house assuming you're a first-time homebuyer. In the meantime, you can earn tax-free returns. You can read up more about Saving for Home through Roth IRA at and

8. Savings: One of the best advices around about this is to pay yourself first. In other words, lump your savings together with your other bills. Treat it just like any other bills and you're less likely to miss paying yourself. 20% is not bad. In fact after adjusting your Roth IRA contributions you may have less. But Roth IRA is still an asset. So don't feel bad if you save less than 20% of your net pay.

9. I like eating out at fancy restaurants. Lots of people may think this is just a waste of money. But that's what I like to do. It makes me happy. I save on other things like clothes, going to cinemas, gambling at casinos, etc. $462 is a little too much. I think it's just because you based your allocation on percentages instead of actual amounts needed. I would try between $75 - $100 a week, which brings the total to $300 - $400 a month.

10. Stocks: You are young and have plenty of time ahead of you. You did not mention what you plan to do with your $10,000 in your savings account now. If you need this to buy a house, then leave it there or put it in a short-term CD. If not, you should consider buying some stocks. Take some risks to learn now before you get too old to take risks.

Finally, if you're still not sure what to do with the $10,000 in your savings, you can write a check to me thanking me for my advices. :)

mbk Commented on August 6, 2005

I wish I had looked at finances in such a thoughtful and pragmatic way when I was 22 and fresh out of College! I have a 25 year head-start on you, and if I could go back and change anything, it would be to save even more money than you think you can from your budget analysis.

I would max out the Roth today @ $4000 per year - for this year as soon as possible, and in subsequent years. This will help you ease into your 401K without as much pain. Saving doesn't hurt if you focus on what you are doing for your self - planning your financial security by exercising good judgement on you routine expenditures. You should decide to make a goal of incrementally increasing your savings each year, especially when you get a raise, but even if you do not. I would plan to incrementally raise participation into the 401K even beyond the 6% matching figure, as long as you have several reasonably good choices of no/low load funds from which to select.

Finding a good place to live that is convenient to work and not too expensive can be a challenge depending upon the city where you will live. But it could be pretty easy. If you could find a good room-mate through work or church, you can save even more money on those living expenses. I believe that your monthly rent and utilities budget might be low, because those summer A/C bills can scare you.

I agree that you should opt to live closer to work, if possible, and this would reduce your monthly gasoline/maintenance expenses for your paid-off Honda. You can keep taking care of that paid-off Honda and plan to push the odometer well beyond 150,000 miles or possibly to 200,000 miles - those cars are built to last. As long as you don't have a major unexpected car repair, just treat that car like a member of the family. You can save money for when you finally need to buy another car - and don't buy a new car; get a car 1-3 years old with low mileage, so someone else can pay the initial depreciation.

You may be asking, "How can I save for another car, when I need to save all this other money for retirement and a house?" The important thing to do, is to simply start immediately. Even if you are only saving $150 each month for another car, the sooner you start, the better off you will be. Time is the most powerful investment variable and at age 22, time is on your side!

I would not be in a hurry to buy a house - you need to save your money, and you will have more personal and professional options, as well as money to save, by renting a place to live and establishing your life in a new city with a new job. The tax deduction for interest on a home mortgage may not help you, if you must pay significantly more to own and maintain a home - with less money left over to save. Enjoy your life as a young person for a few years, before you take on the personal and financial responsibility of home ownership.

I would reconsider the need for life insurance, unless you have concerns that your health might preclude buying it at a later date. When you get married and have kids, you will certainly need life insurance, but probably not now.

Work hard, make goals for yourself, and don't get caught up in comparing yourself to all those immediate creature comforts (luxury/sports cars, pleasure boats, big screen HD TVs, Cruise Vacations, etc.) that our society shakes in our faces on a daily basis.

You should be able to work hard for 30-35 years with aggressive goals, and then you will have more options to choose from than most people at that time in their lives.

Congratulations; you are off to a great start!

1stMill Commented on August 6, 2005

Hats off to you Jay. Youíre off to an excellent start!

I am among the older readers of this blog (age 49), so my comments come from a somewhat different perspective. Anyway, hereís my two cents...

Live Like a College Student Until Youíre 30
If you put off the luxuries afforded a working professional until age 30, you will be miles down the road toward creating significant wealth (I call this Priming the Pump). Thanks to the magic of compound interest, nickels and dimes you save today will turn into dollars in the future.

Specific Suggestions (I know that some of the suggestions below are painful, but this is how I got started, and I hit $1M before age 40)
- Unless you have dependents, you can probably drop the term life.
- Keep the Honda as long as you can. When it comes time to replace it, until you have at least $100K in net worth, stick with used cars (I prefer Hondas or Toyotas for lowest total cost of ownership).
- Today you invest in a Roth IRA. Switching your retirement invest into a traditional 401(k) will yield a first-year return of 33% (simply due to tax saving). Unless Iím missing something here, I would think that youíd want to fully fund the 401(k) prior to funding the Roth.
- Consider taking a part time (weekend) job for the first couple of years. I did, and it made a big difference on my ability to save.
- Look for a circle of friends that allow you to have fun on the cheap. Getting together at a friendís house or picnic at the park is far less costly than a night on the town.
- Unless you need to lunch with coworkers to stay ahead in the workplace, try to bring a lunch. I still brownbag pretty much every day.
- Avoid eating out for dinner.
- Buy a small spiral notebook and keep track of every dollar you spend. Knowing where your money goes makes it much easier to decide what you can, can not afford in the future.
- Take a very close look at your decision to buy a house. With a house purchase comes added monthly expenses like taxes and upkeep. (Tax savings alone are not a good reason to buy a house. You will spend 67 cents for every 33 cents you save in taxes.) If you do buy a house, consider getting a roommate. Or hold off the purchase until you have a significant other / spouse that can help with payments and upkeep (homes are also very time consuming).
- Buy used and scratch and dent furniture.
- Get a room mate, or become someone elseís roommate. I did this my first few years out of college, and again it made a huge difference.
- Assuming you decide to hold off a few years on the purchase of a home, you will want to seek investments that promise a higher return than does ING.
- Subscribe to Kiplingerís and Smart Money and begin a lifetime of learning about the world of investing and personal finance.
- Donít invest in anything you donít understand.
- Be very wary of investment advice from anyone who stands to make a commission from the products they recommend you to buy.
- Do you need $80 worth of cell phone? On a related topic: Do everything you can to avoid recurring costs (premium cable, etc.).

Again, you are already ahead of 95% of your peers. You have a good paying job. You have no debt. The Southeast has lower cost of living compared to either coast. And so far youíve avoided the temptation to buy all the luxuries young people feel are must-haves (new car, wide screen plasma TV, etc.).

If you can continue to delay the gratification of living the highlife until age 30, and make prudent investment decisions, you should have an excellent start toward a very secure retirement.

Good luck, 1stMill

Please also visit my blog (My First Million, in the Gold Channels)

Jamie Commented on August 6, 2005

I have a 2000 Honda and make a little more than twice as much. Now, I have a family and live in one of the more expensive places in the US. But regardless, I would still be planning to drive my 2000 Honda as long as I could. I'm aiming for 2010 to replace it, but saving so that I can do so earlier IF I HAVE TO.

Hondas are great cars. You shouldn't need to replace one in two years.

PS If you manage to save enough for a used car to replace your Honda shortly, I would also consider taking the replacement insurance off of your auto insurance policy. You'll have to pay for repairs in the event of an accident, but given how old your car is, this may be another source of moderate savings. At the very least, it's worth calling up and finding out how much it will save you.

Jay Commented on August 6, 2005

First off, I would like to thank all of you for your advice and input. It is comforting to get advice from those who have "walked in my shoes" already.

As for the rent/utilities. I will be living with 2 roommate who have already started working. My portion of the utilities is only 1/3, so I am hoping my estimates are accurate.

As for the gas, I will be working in Atlanta (horrible traffic during rush hour). Also, I like ride around and will want to see this new city and take in the sights and sounds.

As for the cell phone, I am currently with nextel and will be looking into reducing my monthly rate plan.

Now I have a few questions for everyone:

1) Why should I drop the term insurance policy? I thought the $33/month was a good deal compared to the $103/ month I was paying for my whole life policy throughout college (bad investment advice from someone who made commission off the deal). So you are saying term is only needed after I get a wife or kids? Right now my parents would get $250,000 should something happen to me. I was told that it is good to purchase insurance at a young age b/c as you get older you will still be paying the rate of a young person (22 yrs old in my case) and will be saving $. Is this not the truth?

2) As I stated earlier I had a whole life insurance policy that was $103/ month and paid $128,000. I am in the process of canceling this policy and will get a check for $2800 that I will put in an IRA Roth or a VERY liquid investment. Is it a good idea to cancel this and invest or should I keep this policy(i've had it since I was 19 yrs old)?

3) I want to start a Roth IRA, but don't know what fund to invest in. My finance teacher suggested that I invest in Vanguard's Mid Cap fund. Vanguard has a Mid Cap Growth and Mid Cap Index fund, which would be best for my situation? Also, are there any other good Roth IRA options out there?

4) I thought that the 3.15% ING is paying was a good rate, but some of you think otherwise. I would like to reduce my saving in the ING account to $3000 and move the additinal $7000 to a liquid investment with a greater return. What are some good options for this movement? Hopefully these funds can be used to purchase a house.

5) I wanted to purchase a house b/c I think renting is equivalent to putting money in a black hole once you are out of college. I had planned to purchase a $100K-$125K home and have a roomate that payed around $500/ month to help offset costs. At what point do you know you are ready to purchase a home? Someone told me you should have no less than 15K cash before you consider purchasing a home. What goal should I set for myself before I am ready to buy a home?

Lynn Commented on August 6, 2005

Regarding 1) it depends on whether your parents will rely on you for financial support in the future. For example, my mother probably will need some help during her retirement, and hence I would buy life insurance even if I was not married, to help her in the event of my death. Other people have parents who are well set for retirement and I would advise them not to buy life insurance until they have dependents.

I would also like to second tha advice to buy used (cars, furniture, appliances). I am a little older than you at 25 and it made a huge difference to my bottom line to furnish my apartment with quality used furniture. It was cheaper than Ikea and much higher quality.

Ye Commented on August 6, 2005


1) Are you supporting your parents financially? If so they are your dependents. Therefore you should get life insurance. If you are not supporting anyone financially, there is no point getting life insurance because everyone will do just fine with or without that insurance money.

2) Cancel and invest. You know why from #1.

3) If you know nothing about investing, put your money in an index fund (VFINX). At least you will get the market return. And you are not paying exorbitant mutual fund fees.

4) First you have to decide if you need the $10,000 in your savings to purchase a house. If you do, you cannot risk it. Hence, you cannot use it to buy stocks. You need money you don't need to touch for a while (usually 5 years) to invest in stocks because the longer you can wait the less risky it is with stocks. If you need it for the house, you're probably better off putting the money in short-term CDs or bonds depending on when you plan to buy the house.

5) Renting does not necessarily mean you're paying all that money for nothing. Buying a house is a very big decision. It involves a lot of commitment and a lot of money. You can use the Rent vs Buy calculator ( ) to help you decide. But it also helps if you understand what the housing market is like in your area. You don't want to buy at a time when prices are high. I do not own a house and is not qualified to give you much advice about this. My suggestion is to find out everything you can before you commit to buying a house. This site ( ) gives some very good reasons not to buy in a housing bubble.

1stMill Commented on August 6, 2005

More thoughts... (1) Take a closer look at your assumptions for taxes. While your marginal rate may hit 33%, your overall tax bill should be well short of 33% of your total income. (2) Don't look at insurance as a way to make money. Look at it as a way to cover a risk (Yeís comments are right on). (3) Any contribution made to your 401(k) will cut your taxable income by same amount. You would however still need to pay payroll taxes of 7.65% either way. (4) I don't have experience with Roth IRAs, so others are in a better position to offer advice in this area.


mbk Commented on August 7, 2005

Having one or more room mates is a great way to save money, as long as you respect each other. Renting room mates are like equal partners in an enterprise; a home owner with a room mate (non-spouse) is more like a landlord-tenant relationship. You seem like a bright guy, but I had to throw that in as I have had both good and not-so-good room mates before I got married.

To follow-up on your questions/comments -
1) Term Insurance is certainly a better way to insure than Whole Life Insurance in most (if not all...) cases. Yes; you can buy insurance at lower rates when you are young, but make sure that you have a good reason to have a $250K policy at age 22.
2) Cash out the Whole Life and invest those proceeds into a Roth immediately. Vanguard Mid Cap is a fine fund, and any broad index fund with a good name (and low expenses) would work too. If this money must be used to buy a house, then you will not want to put it at risk and simply stick with Money Market (like ING) funds, CDs and/or short term bonds.
3) A Roth IRA is a great way to begin saving and investing money that will be tax exempt upon withdrawal, as long as you leave it in the Roth for at least 5 years; better yet, don't touch it until you retire. This Roth money will give you an opportunity to have money that you can draw upon in the future without worrying about the additional tax consequences of taxable investments or income streams. I would focus on long term (stock-equity funds) investments for your Roth.
4) That ING Money Fund pays a pretty good rate at 3.15%. Usually, when you look to incrementally raise your rate of return, you must accept more risk of your principal. I would stick with a mix of Money Market funds and short term CDs for your "house down payment money." You might find some other investments that will increase that monthly/quarterly dividend (and even offer capital gains), but your short horizon for that money will be at ever increasing risk due to increased volatility of the investment versus fixed rate bonds or money market rates.
5) Renting is not a waste of money, any more than investing cash into a money market fund, versus stocks or index equity mutual funds. You simply need to be ready for a home and all the increased expenses and responsibilities associated with home ownership. I would consider owning a home as a place to live, versus a long term investment. Even though some real estate has seen incredible growth in some parts of the country in recent years, the long term trend of real estate returns has not been as favorable as the long term returns of equity stock/mutual fund investments. Remember that taxes will continue to increase when you buy any real estate, and it is almost as though you are perpetually paying rent to the local government for the right to own your home. If the home is comfortable to you (and your future family...), it means a whole lot more than just a good investment.

Atlanta is a great town, but the traffic is right up there with the worst of them. Stay hungry, stay smart, work hard and don't be impulsive. You sound like you are on the right path to be successful!

Steve Commented on August 7, 2005


Way to go, you are already ahead of many people comming out of college. Most of my friends went off to get new fancy cars right out of college. But congrads on making a prudent choice of financial freedom.

I think you already know what you are doing with your budget, but I used to work for one of the major accounting firms and I believe you can get some company subsidy on your cell phone charges. Also, they should provide you with some type of insurance plan. So I dont think at this stage in your life you will need any type of life insurance (unless you got kids or something). Also, when i was working at my company, they paid for public transportation, which was great, since it saved me on time and money.

As far as investing, take it one step at a time, read read read, and find a methodology that works for you and fits your schedule (working at those accounting firms are brutal). You can leave your money in autopilot or do some active investment, just find a method that works for you.

Best of luck to you..

Jay Commented on August 7, 2005

Thanks for all the advice and positive feedback. Please keep it coming, I am soaking all of this up like a dry spong :)

jp Commented on August 8, 2005

Roth vs 401k: For younger workers, the first priority is to contribute enough to the 401k plan to get all of your employer's matching dollars. Any amount above that should probably go to the Roth first. Here's a few reasons why...
1)Roths are better if your retirement tax rate will be above your current tax rate... it's just how the math works-out. You are young (means low tax) and well on your way to being a wealthy retiree (high tax)
2) Your option to invest in the Roth (unlike 401k) will be phased-out as your income reaches the statutory limit (110k for singles). Get in now, while you can.
3) The flexibility to withdraw principle & earnings for a first home are unavailable for the 401k.

savvy saver Commented on August 8, 2005

You are making slightly more than I was earning 4 years ago when I got out of college. You should be able to live quite easily on the amount, I was able to do it while maxing out my 401(k) (16%) and paying $550/month on a loan. One thing I did was put the full amount in my 401(k), even though I didn't get the match, because of the tax savings. When you are young with no deductions and a high salary, the best you can do is to minimize your taxable income and take the standard deduction.

I also think you cell phone bill is VERY high, we have two phones and pay only $60/month for a nationwide no-roaming plan.

I would also skip the life insurance unless you have someone who is financially dependent on you.

Buy household items used when possible, especially when renting.

good luck!

Savvy Saver

Wes Commented on August 8, 2005

the above are great tactics. Here's one very important strategy that I have trouble with sometimes, myself. Put your "savings" money away FIRST. If you don't do that, it's very easy to have other "essential" things come up and take away the earmarked savings money.


Phillip Commented on August 8, 2005

As others have pointed out, you may not need Life Insurance if you do not have kids or other dependents.

If you do need it, re-shop. $35 a month for $250,000 is extremely high for a 22 year old. I pay $31 a month for a 20 year level term policy for $650,000.

Guest Commented on August 8, 2005


All of these suggestions are good but limited.
Clearly follow the "reduce your expenses" route (cut cell phone and get rid of term life unless you have dependents) but it's hard to change a lifestyle when your young and restless so here's what else to do:

1. Visit and check out all the ways to make some easy free money (usually by opening a bank account or credit card account).
I make about $1000/year opening accounts.

2. If (and only if) you have a good credit rating, take out a couple of credit cards, write yourself a check for $5000/$10000 (whatever you get approved for) and do a balance transfer (preferably with no balance transfer fee) and deposit the money into a high yield account (3.25% or better) - This will provide you with another $325. Slowly pay back the money over the year. *Note: If you don't have the discipline to never be late paying on time don't do this!

3. Never, Never ever pay retail for anything. Like Ralph Lauren shirts? I never pay more than $25 for a "$75" shirt. The deals are out there you just gotta search the web a little.

4. Learn, learn, learn a skill or trade. You can make extra money trading covered calls, trading currencies, options, equities or even playing p0ker online (you get free money for referring people). I've made $200 referring people over to party p0ker. And I make about $200 gambling/month. If you are completely new to trading anything go here: and learn everything (it's FREE). I also make about $500/month by trading currencies, options and equities. Sometimes more sometimes less. Don't get discouraged if you lose a little sometimes.
I highly recommend this book for starters: buy the book, skip the software.

Over the years, you'll get raises, promotions and bonuses but ONE SINGLE INCOME STREAM IS NEVER ENOUGH.

5. If you aren't avert to having a roomate, I suggest you buy a condo or small house and rent out some of the extra rooms - you'll get started in building equity, have a little extra income and offset some of your expenses (utilities, property taxes, etc). This is easier to do when young and single than latter on in life.

All these things will give you about $1000 - $5000 in extra income every year and you'll learn a great deal in the process (from real estate to trading).....

GK Commented on August 8, 2005

I'm was in close to the same situation about 3 years ago. I found that one of the best ways to save money and make what you have stretch is to find something to occupy your time. Join the gym. Not only do will you get in shape, make you less hungry (honestly) but it will also give you less time to go shopping for all those other "essentials". Just make sure you do go, otherwise it's a waste of money. Also check on a cancellation policy. If you join and it will not work out. Find out what it will cost to cancel.

MM Commented on August 8, 2005

Thank you for all the contributions. Just add mine. It was sent in email when this very post was published. Most has been covered by previous comments too.

From: Webmaster []
Sent: Saturday, August 06, 2005 6:46 AM
To: 'J B'
Subject: RE: Young Pfblog reader seeking advice and assistance

Hi Jay,

I just published your mail online, and hope it will invite a lot of feedback from the readers. Now let me throw in mine:

First, you are already on the right track for thinking ahead. "It's the attitude that counts." It's very important you start young and play it out, and time is your best advantage. You are already better than most of your peers with this attitude (and ten grand in the black vs red).

Second, if I were you, i'll give it a couple of months before analyzing the results (during which you should still have "saver's mentality" to stay frugal). For example:

- I don't think the tax will take a 33% bite -- 33% is most likely your marginal rate instead of the average rate, and I myself am only paying about 21-22% of our total household income as income/SSN tax. Of course, i have family and house (for some deductions) and I don't have state income tax, but I highly doubt at your income level, you will have to pay 33% on average.
- I never lived in the southern before, but your gas budget is higher than what we pay every month for two cars (about 2,500 miles/month).
- Did you have full knowledge of your company's benefits? Aside from the 401(k), which you cannot take advantage of in the near future, I'll also explore other benefits you can take advantage of. On the flip side, I will expect some medical co-payment as well.
- The term life insurance policy seems very expensive for me. Check out if you will have a group policy at work or solicit some bids online.

Third, once you take several months to understand the real picture of your finance, invest your time at work. At some levels, it will be very painful to save another $50 from your monthly budget, and that's time when you need to think about raising your horizon and getting more income. Any extra dollar will flow to your bottom line (if you don't spend it), and that's a good way of "saving" too.

Hope this helps and let's see how many comments you can have. Feel free to jump in and leave your comments to.


Karteek Commented on August 8, 2005

There have been many great suggestions, so I'll try not to be repetitive. You're doing great compared to what I was - I'm 27, back in school, and discovered the many "necessities" I had out of college weren't as important (thank you, grad school poverty!)

I would second the earlier comment about maxing 401(k) till employer match, then maxing Roth before contributing any more to the 401(k). I do think you'd be better off trying to squeeze more into your retirement accounts (budget both vehicles since you will need to come Jan).

Regarding investments including a house, be sure to spend some time understanding risk/reward. I have several facts I gleamed from various sources about a housing bubble at my blog ( A burst, were it to happen, could have substantial short-term impact on your investments, so if you perceive a near-term (few years) need, avoid investing or pick defensive stocks (disclosure: I'm 100% invested right now, but I have no home-buying plans for years, since I'll be in grad school a loooong time!)

If I may say so, your savings are rather modest - I would try to be more aggressive. Again, I didn't do so after college, but now on a graduate school stipend of $18k a year, I manage to save just a touch under what you have budgeted a month (without the tithes or Roth contributions). I do think the "fun" money allocation is a tad too generous.

Besides that, I commend you for great foresight. Not being aggressive enough is my biggest regret from my early 20s.

Karthik (ya, I do go by a screen name of Karteek!)

Phil Commented on August 8, 2005

I would keep the term insurance or shop for a cheaper term policy. If you cancel it today, you may be uninsurable when you actually need it in the future. A friend of my is married with two young kids and is uninsurable due to cancer. His cancer is currently in remission, but is not yet insurable. He wishes he bought it when he was healthy.

S CPA Commented on August 8, 2005

Jay -

If you follow the other posts in the board you will be in great shape.

One thing no one has touched upon. Do not neglect your most important asset at this stage of your career - your earning potential. I have spent over 12 years in public accounting and am now approaching the coveted partnership - minimum pay is $200K - $300K per yr. If you concentrate on building your professional skills at that accounting firm, you should likely be able to double your annual salary every 5 years or so.

As your annual earnings grow be careful not to stray from the frugality path and you will likely accumulate a small fortune at a very young age.

Good Luck.

Hollywood Commented on August 8, 2005

Jay --

I'm a 28-year old with a wife and a kid, and I can remember back to when I started working fresh out of college making $30k per year, and I did ok for myself.

I like the advice about living as a college student. Save what you can, and I even like to be generous and donate all I can to church and other worthy causes.

Unlike most people here, I say buy the house if you can find a deal. I don't know what the Atlanta market is like, but you can look for foreclosures and get a real steal. Regardless, if you buy, make sure you have tenants to rent from you and share the burden. If you're smart about it, their rent can almost or totally take care of the mortgage payments for you, and if you find a true deal, you'll build equity and can sell a fwee years down the line for a nice profit.

Patrick Commented on August 8, 2005

Jay, buy a condo or house, find a couple of good BYU grads to rent out the extra rooms, let them pay the mortgage for you. The sooner you get into a home the better, you don't need a down payment, use an 80/20 loan product, the rate is a little higher, however not paying rent and deducting the interest will save you tax dollars and increase your disposable income. Also, you can always refi the notes and many lenders take into account the equity in determining the rate. In addition the rent you get from your good BYU grads should cover at least half the payment, also depending on the square footage you rent out, a bunch of stuff becomes tax deductable. A great way to minimize tax and increase bottom line net income.

Also - having worked in public accounting - not everybody is on the partner track, however many of those who leave, and belive me most do in less than 4 years, often take much higher paying jobs, with much better quality of life. However if you are one of the few who is on the partner track, earning potentially is certainly over 250k a year.

Good Luck

Patrick BYU 2000

Evan Commented on August 9, 2005

There has been a lot of good advice given so far. Here is what I think can be done:

1.) Term Insurance - I pay $16 a month for $250,000, 20 year, level term with underwriting at age 26. There is no reason why you should be paying twice that for the same coverage at a younger age.

2.) Cell phone could easily be reduced by half.

3.) Unless you plan on eating out a lot, $250 a month for food is a lot for one person. My wife and I eat for less than that every month. Pick up a Sunday paper and cut coupons. Find a local store that doubles/triples coupons. I recently bought $60 worth for $19.50 after sale, coupons, etc

4.) Get yourself a Citi Dividend Card. I get about $20 a month back from just gas, food, and prescription purhases (5% of total).

5.) If you have roomates, is it possible for you to carpool? Even if it is just once or twice a week you will save quite a bit over a year.

6.) You wont need to spend $400+ on personal fun money. My wife and I easily live off $200-$300 each month and we go out, go on side-trip (couple hundred miles away), and meet up with friends once in a while for drinks, etc

7.) As someone else pointed out, even after you get your 401K match, only match until your company stops matching. The rest of your savings should go to a ROTH after that. Remember, a ROTH in 40 years will give you a lot of tax free money. We never know what the tax rates might be on 401k withdrawls in 40 years.

8.) I too think that getting a car in two years isnt necessary. I drove my 92 Accord until it had 185,000 miles without paying more than $1000 on any services. My rule of thumb is when you are paying at least half of what a car payment is on repairs then it is time to consider another car. Your older car wont need to be covered for collision either which will save you quite a bit on insurance premiums.

9.) I would save enough money to put 20% down on your house. That way you can save money by not paying PMI. I know you can do a piggy-back loan and get rid of PMI but it will cost you more interest too.

10.) Congrats on being done with school at age 22 and having a job that pays more than what I make at age 27. Stay out of credit card debt and you will be fine. You are doing great for yourself!

Joshua Ross Commented on August 9, 2005

After graduating from college at the ripe age of 21 and landing a job for about the same amount, I partied balls for about six months before I realized that I needed to settle down. If you worked hard during your four years in college, live a little bit. Here are my rules:

1) Never turn down a weekend with friends. Use some of that new hard earned cash to continue building your friendships from college and maybe rebuild those ones the died while you were away studying.

2) Go to see the cities you turned down. Visit friends that you graduated with that are working elsewhere. See how they live and compare it to your own. Good chance you might be changing companies in two to three years. You might not know where you will end up, but you can quickyly mark off the places you DON'T want to end up.

3) Spend little on housing and car payments. Those nights out with friends at restaurants will be remembered much more than the reason you decided to stash away that $40 and watch reruns of Friends on TBS.

4) Track your expenditures. Right down everything you spend. Keep an excel spreadsheet on your computer and every night or morning put it down. Organize it so you can track where your money is going.

5) Remember you have a long time to save. Have fun right now and build relationships. These relationships will blossum into contacts that will mean much more to you than a bank account.

6) Most of your salary growth is not attributed to pay adjustments within the same organization, but rather it is networking within your industry. Keep that in mind when you are trying to decide between Friends episodes or a night out.

Jay Commented on August 11, 2005

Well, after 29 posts I must say that you guys have offered some great advice. I now feel more comfortable and knowledgable about my financial situation and look forward to starting my career in a month. I will make sure to keep you guys posted on my success.

damian Commented on September 16, 2005

Can you take public transportation to work? With gas prices, it may be cheaper.

Also somebody suggested to learn a trade and do online gambling or trade options- this is ridiculous and the equivalent of buying lottery tickets each month. Don't do it.

If you're buying life insurance with your parents as the beneficiary, could you live with them for cheap rent too?

Also somebody suggested making money by opening a bunch of accounts and doing balance transfers etc... First of all remember that opening credit card accounts hurts your credit score, so that would impact the mortgage rate you get if you decide to buy a house.

Second of all, the spread isnt very high right now. 3.3% interest at ING isn't worth the hassle and risk of taking cash advances on multiple credit cards. You'll be working in accounting and will likely be working long hours and/or traveling. You dont want to have to worry about that many credit card payments during your limited free time.

The biggest key to your financial success will be how well you do at your job, and how hard you work. You can learn a lot and public accounting experience will open up many doors down the road.

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