Money in my 20’s
When I was 20, I was working as a waitress while going to college. I had a moderate amount of student loans. I could pull in ~$100 on a weekend night, and that was a lot to me. I would collect twenties in a checkbook box in my bedroom, and once I had a big stack, I’d bring them into the bank. I only worked a few nights a week and school was always my priority… but the cash was nice and necessary. My boyfriend at the time had a “real” internship and would get jealous when my hourly waitress rate exceeded his rate.
When I was 21, I lived outside my hometown for the first time. I got paid $12/hr or something for a 6 month internship, and they paid for housing. At that point, I quit waitressing and never went back. The only jobs I picked up after that were on campus jobs in my major (lab TA). I fell in love with my (now) husband. I saved what I could for the next semester. I regularly drove 8 hours each way on a weekend to visit my now husband once the internship ended.
When I was 23, I started my first professional job (not counting co-ops/internships). My net worth was approximately negative $30k. I had just returned from a semester abroad, studying and traveling. My salary was more than I knew what to do with. I rented an apartment by myself for about $500 a month, and dumped thousands of dollars at a time into my higher interest student loans. I saved 8-10% in my 401k. I thought an emergency fund of $10k was going to be tough.
When I was 24, I had a positive net worth for the first time! Also, I started a blog! (This one!)
When I was 25, I moved to California. My new salary didn’t initially cover the increase in the cost of living, but it was sunny every single day. I figure that made it about even. Plus, my husband was now a short 8 miles away. (In L.A. geography, that is borderline long-distance!) A few months after I started my new job, layoffs were announced. This happened the next year, and maybe the year after that too. I breathed a sigh of relief I hadn’t waited any longer to move – there would have been no jobs for me. I kept a tight budget and saved what I could in my retirement. Then I waited impatiently for T to be ready to get a place with me!
At 26, my financial life got a lot better. I moved in with T and our budgets both looked better. I started maxing out my 401k! I got my master’s degree. Shortly after, we got engaged. We paid for (most of) a wedding and had a party back in the Midwest. We got a new car. Money ceased to be a source of anxiety for me. We started traveling more. We went to Europe 2 years in a row.
Now I am 29. My salary has increased by about $40k over the past several years. Some of that was because I moved to a higher cost of living place, but it still has increased ~$25k in the past 4 years, despite the bad economy. I worked really hard and I was good at my job. I increased my value by getting a M.S. degree. I impressed my coworkers enough to get the highest ratings on my performance assessment. I pushed for more responsibility. I got impatient with the raise/promotion process, but it eventually did get settled and my manager tried to make it up to me. (I still think my market rate is a bit higher than I’m actually making, but it is close enough that it doesn’t make me angry any more.) My networth reached a new milestone.
That’s how my money in my 20s went. It was a lot of hard work to get from where I was at 20 to where I am when I’m (almost) 30. But it was also a lot of fun. I can’t wait to see what the next decade holds!