A startup founder in San Francisco — Money Diary

Occupation: Startup founder
Industry: AI
Age: 31
Location: San Francisco
Salary: $60,000
Net Worth: $953,500 ($291,000 RSUs [the stock price went down 25% since my last Money Diary ☹️]; $144,000 in a brokerage account; $80,000 in crypto; $14,000 in my HSA; $385,000 for the value of my New York City co-op apartment; $285,000 in my 401(k); $6,500 in my Roth IRA; $1,500 in Robinhood; $2,500 in savings; minus debt)
Debt: $256,000 ($248,000 left on the mortgage for my NYC co-op; $4,000 on a 21-month 0% APR credit card; ~$4,000 on another charge card)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,961
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $0 (I live with my partner in SF and I don’t pay rent.)
Apartment Mortgage: $1,032 (This is for my co-op apartment in NYC. A friend who is staying there very nicely offered to start paying me next year, so that will help.)
Apartment Maintenance Fee: $598
Apartment Utilities: $78.02
Credit Card: ~$110 (minimum payment)
Phone: $91.24 (for the family)
Health Insurance: $0 (I’m not paying for this right now but I’m looking into it ASAP.)
Netflix Share: $5
iCloud Storage: $16
Parents’ Internet: $79.49
Web Hosting & Domains: $30.98 (One of my domains is for an ex-landlord who hasn’t returned my security deposit, even though I took him to court and won. I took out a domain in his name and have factual and non-libelous content on there.)
Amazon Prime: $12.35 (for the family)
Donations: $100

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, attending higher education was a non-negotiable. We were taught that it was the only way to achieve social mobility, and my parents didn’t want us to struggle as much as they did. The school I attended gave generous financial aid, so other than a $20,000 federal Perkins loan, I was able to get a free ride. I also did a master’s degree, which I funded by working for the university. I was actually prepared to take out a loan, but my university offered me the job three days before tuition was due — phew!

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents sheltered me from money talk because they wanted me to focus on my studies. Growing up, my family was neither rich nor poor. We got WIC [the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children] when my siblings and I were young, but my parents eventually got stable jobs as public school teachers, which paid for most of our needs. They were lucky to have bought our family house in the ’90s, before the housing boom. If my parents had waited another five years to buy a house, they wouldn’t have been able to afford one. Actually, that was the only financial “education” they gave me: Unlike other assets in which you begin life with nothing, you start life with a deficit of one house. So your first financial priority should be investing in a house whenever you can afford it (how Boomer of them). Since they grew up in poverty, my parents were against almost any kind of discretionary spending. My siblings became very frugal and anxious around spending, but I went about it the opposite way: When I got my first bank account, I became addicted to what felt like consequence-free shopping. It’s something that I’m still working on.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got my first summer internship in a science lab at $9.25/hour. It was the summer of my freshman year at university. I needed it to pay bills and rent. I ended up doing very poorly at that job due to a lack of interest and low executive function/ADHD. I’m also autistic and hadn’t fully learned how to mask at work yet, which affected my relationships with my managers. Halfway through, my boss fired me because I regularly showed up late to our meetings. I didn’t know how to respond to being fired, so instead of going home, I just washed the dishes and cleaned up. After that, I finished my internship without any more drama, and we never spoke of it again. I learned two lessons that summer: 1) don’t be afraid to apply for the jobs you actually want, and 2) there is a chasm of a difference between one minute early and one minute late.

Did you worry about money growing up?
No, I never thought about money growing up. I never worried about feeding myself, having a roof over my head, or keeping the lights on. I recognize that this is a huge privilege compared to many of my college classmates who had to balance work and family with school. I had a close friend who got into an Ivy League school, but her parents wanted her to stay close to home to take care of her baby sister. Her situation was unfathomable to me because education was always my only priority. I was able to grow up in a safe environment and focus on my studies during my formative years. I continue to reap compound interest from this early privilege on a daily basis.

Do you worry about money now?
Financial security is one of the last things I worry about, but I do think about money constantly. I like to think I’m slowly dealing with my lifestyle inflation, but I still took out a 21-month interest-free credit card for bigger purchases, like skincare procedures (I recently paid $1,700 for six sessions of Evoke), and to pay off a tax bill. I stacked these 0% APR cards all throughout college, so I’m pretty used to them. I’m giving myself a raise soon, because we hit some revenue targets, so hopefully that will help pay off my credit card.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
When I got my first tech internship during my sophomore summer. I had never coded before, but I went to a career fair and got an internship on the spot because I had computer science classes on my résumé. I was able to subsist on the $12,000 I made that summer — alongside 0% interest credit cards — for the next school year. It was raining internships and job offers in the early 2010s for anyone with a CS degree. It isn’t remotely like that anymore. I was so lucky to have studied the right thing at the right time in the right place. I feel for this year’s CS grads, who are having a much tougher time on the job market. My financial safety nets are: 1) getting a job, 2) boyfriend, 3) savings, and 4) parents.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My parents opened a savings account with $6,000 for expenses when I left for college. Between paying off student loans and credit cards, it took me 10 years to have that much money to my name again. Once, my ex gifted me $5,000 to pay off credit card debt before the 0% interest rate ended. I also make ~$500 to $1,000 a month on passive income streams (this has been dwindling a bit because I haven’t touched it in years).

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