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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?
One hundred percent. My parents both believed strongly in the value of a college education, and I never considered not going to college. They also encouraged me to go to grad school. They told us that they had been saving for my sibling and I to go to college for our whole lives, so we just needed to focus on getting into good schools. My parents paid for most of my college tuition and living expenses, with the exception of $10,000 that I won in a scholarship competition, plus the small amount I was able to earn through jobs and internships. I graduated early to help reduce the cost. For grad school, my dad gave me a loan of $50,000 at a low interest rate, and I took out $66,000 in federal loans. I covered the rest of my tuition and living expenses with my savings and by working two or three jobs at a time. I paid my dad back about $34,000, and he forgave the remainder of my loan on my 32nd birthday. I have three more years until my federal loan balance will be forgiven with PSLF (Public Service Loan Forgiveness).
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We almost never discussed money. I didn’t know how much my parents made until I filled out federal student aid forms in high school. In terms of financial education, my parents helped me to open a checking account when I got my first job. My mom is very frugal and demonstrated the importance of only buying things you really like and using coupons and discounts as much as possible.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first real job was babysitting when I was 13. I did it for extra spending money.
Did you worry about money growing up?
No. I understood that we weren’t wealthy, and our house was noticeably smaller and less nice than some of my friends’ houses, but we had all our necessities covered and were able to go on annual family vacations.
Do you worry about money now?
Somewhat. I left a lucrative career to go to grad school in a nonprofit industry, which set me back substantially in salary and net worth. Now I’m finally making a salary that allows me to indulge on occasion and not have to agonize over every purchase. It’s hard to not compare myself to some of my high-earning friends who are way ahead of me financially, but I have to remind myself why I made these choices. N. is also in the nonprofit sector (he makes less than me), so I worry that our combined salaries will never be enough to save for a child’s education or buy a home.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
Around age 22 when I finally made enough to cover my own living expenses. My family is my safety net. I would never want to ask anyone for money, but I know I could live with my parents if I needed to, and they could probably give me a small loan if I was desperate.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I received a small allowance in middle/high school and my parents supported me while I was in college. When I graduated, my parents gave me the remainder of my college savings (about $15,000), which I mostly kept in savings and used to support myself through grad school. My dad forgave about $23,000 in a personal loan.