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A Week In Indiana On A $120,000 Salary

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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: An advisor working in finance who makes $120,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on cough syrup.
Occupation: Financial advisor
Industry: Finance
Age: 36
Location: Indiana
Salary: $120,000
Net Worth: $700,000 (401(k): $344,000; Roth IRA: $21,000; taxable investment account: $29,000; employee stock plan: $15,000; checking: $5,000; emergency HYSA: $15,000; wedding savings: $10,000; value of primary residence: $500,000; value of rental properties (seven units): $560,000 minus mortgages).
Debt: $799,000 (primary mortgage: $329,000; mortgages on rentals: $470,000); my car is paid off.
Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $5,000
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Primary Mortgage: $1,750 (includes escrow for property tax and insurance).
Rental Mortgages: I don’t count these as monthly expenses because they are cash-flow neutral. The rent covers the mortgage payments, property tax, and insurance.
Water, Gas & Electricity: $150–$250
Phone & Internet: $60
Gym Membership: $30
Hulu: $7
Sirius Radio: $7.78
Wall Street Journal Digital: $6
Health, Dental & Vision Insurance: $100
Employee Stock Purchase: $200
401(k): 10% and employer match 5%

Annual Expenses
Amazon Prime: $139
Sapphire Preferred: $95
Life Insurance: $120
Supplemental Disability Insurance: $600
Car Insurance: $900

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, my parents were big proponents of college. My dad, in particular, expected us to go to college because he thought that was the best choice for us in the long run. My parents didn’t have the means to help us with the burden of education costs, but they did the best they could by allowing us to live with them after college, helping with insurance, gas money, et cetera. Their help was greatly appreciated by all of us! I paid for my undergrad degree with student loans and working part time all through college. There were times I had two or three jobs during school, but I still had a blast.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents didn’t have the greatest track record financially when I was growing up. I didn’t realize it until I was a teenager, but my dad liked to spend money that we didn’t have, and my mom didn’t know how to handle it. My dad didn’t have bad intentions; he just didn’t have a clue about how much he made versus how much he spent. As a result, we didn’t have money conversations until I was working my first W-2 job. I listened to what my grandparents taught me: Save first and spend what’s left. My parents’ relationship with money impacted how I view money as both a teenager and an adult. As a result, I always strive to have emergency funds and keep my debt in check. I’ve never carried a balance on a credit card because I saw what it was like for my parents, who were always fighting to get their cards paid off. When I was in my early 20s, my mom asked me to step in and help manage their finances. Fortunately, we were able to get them on the same page and, as a result, they are now debt free and have a savings cushion.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked at a local fast food joint when I was 16. I was thrilled to be making $5 an hour starting out and even more excited that I didn’t have to ask my parents for gas money. As a youngster, I worked on my grandparents’ farm, but I was so excited to get my fast food job and start to build my own working reputation outside of my family. I learned so much working this job, including patience, teamwork, and communication.

Did you worry about money growing up?
I started worrying about money when I was 13, but I wasn’t concerned about having a roof over our heads or food on the table. I knew if the worst-case scenario happened, my grandparents had the means to step in and help us. However, I did worry about long-term things like college and my parents’ retirement.

Do you worry about money now?
Yes and no. My fiancé and I are getting married later this year. It’s always been on me to take care of myself financially so it will be interesting to have a partner to count on. We don’t live together currently and do not manage our finances together, but we plan on merging finances over time after we get married. I also took a significant pay cut to get into a career I absolutely love about three years ago, so I’m still recovering from the pay cut. Over the last year, I have started seeing my pay increase again. I planned for the pay cut by saving up significant cash reserves ($150,000), but that has been depleted over the last couple of years due to purchasing my home, fully furnishing my house, starting a business, and paying for at least half of our upcoming wedding. I’m looking forward to getting the wedding paid for so that I can increase my monthly savings and 401(k) contributions.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
When I graduated college, I moved home for about a year after graduation. My parents didn’t charge me rent because they wanted me to focus on paying off my nearly six-figure student loan debt.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I have seven rental properties that I co-own with my business partner and cousin. Right now, they are cash-flow neutral because we’re reinvesting any returns back into the business after paying the mortgages and other expenses, but our plan is for this to turn into a passive income stream for us in the next five to 10 years. This is a long-term venture to help us have passive income in retirement.

Day One

8 a.m. — I get a slow start to my morning. Ever since I got back from visiting my fiancé’s (G.) family out of state I haven’t been feeling the best. After I shower, I make coffee, sit on the couch with my laptop, check emails, and then prep for the three client meetings scheduled for today. About 30 minutes before I need to leave, I start getting dressed. I’m typically pretty simple with both my attire and makeup. I brush my teeth, put on Olay skin moisturizer, and use Maybelline mascara and eyeshadow. Since it’s Friday, and I have a low-key day ahead of me, I opt for dark jeans, brown boots, and a white button-up dress shirt, all from Macy’s. I put a red Tommy Hilfiger sweater over my dress shirt.
10:30 a.m. — Everything is packed in my car for work, lunch, and to go to G.’s house after work. We live about an hour and a half apart, so we mostly see each other on the weekends. We make an effort to spend every Friday evening through Monday morning together, but I do miss him during the week. I can’t wait until after we get married later this year and eventually will be able to live together! I make sure my house is locked, set the alarm, and jump in my car to head to the office. While I’m driving, I call one of my favorite uncles because we haven’t talked in over two weeks. We catch up on how everything went over Christmas and discuss a trip our family is taking in a few months.
11:15 a.m. — I take about 10 minutes to catch up with a work friend and then I finish prepping for my meetings. My typical day consists of meeting with clients (both prospective clients and clients that I already manage assets for), calling clients and prospective clients to follow up or offer market/economic insights, creating and updating financial plans, and creating proposals to earn business. I have been in this position for about three years, after a decade of sales and leadership roles in banking. I absolutely love helping clients and I consider my job to be a privilege. I’m still working very diligently to build my practice so my income is increasing year over year.
2:45 p.m. — On the road, heading to my last meeting of the day. My cousin and I started working on a residential rental property business several years ago. My cousin is working on a few things and sent me a text during my last client meeting. I have a 25-minute drive to the next office so I eat my packed lunch (turkey and honey mustard on an Xtreme tortilla, blueberries, and two mozzarella cheese sticks) and call my cousin to talk through the logistics of the properties and a couple of ideas we’ve been thinking about.
5:30 p.m. — It’s time to head to G.’s house. He is such a sweetheart. On the Fridays that I come to him, he typically has dinner prepared by the time I arrive. I stop and fill up my gas tank. Gas prices in G.’s town are usually lower than prices in my town and that’s true again today — I saved about 10 cents a gallon! $42.75
9 p.m. — G. and I have had a delicious dinner (BBQ pork, mashed potatoes, and salad) with water and Coke Zero. I do the dishes afterward. On the drive up, I started to cough. Could be from talking all day, being extremely tired, the temperature dropping, who knows? G. is concerned enough that he makes us both a hot tea with Theraflu to have while we watch an episode of Reacher and work on putting together save the dates to send out this weekend. I appreciate how involved he has been in the wedding planning process. He’s truly a blessing to me for so many reasons. The episode of Reacher is so good. If you haven’t watched this series on Amazon Prime, I highly recommend you do! After we finish the episode, we go to bed early.
Daily Total: $42.75

Day Two

6 a.m. — G.’s alarm goes off. I scheduled an oil change and the appointment is at 8 a.m. G. brings me coffee in bed. Then we get up and G. follows me to the dealer to pick me up.
8 a.m. — Car dropped off, G. and I head to the gym. After we finish, G. makes a quick stop at the grocery store to get a few odds and ends for this weekend. I wait in the car, again feeling lethargic. While G. is in the grocery, I get a notification that my car is finished.
9:30 a.m. — I pick up my car from the dealer. I head back to his house, while G. runs a couple of errands. We both shower and because I’m not feeling the best, we lay down to snuggle and take a nap. I wake up three hours later! G. is doing some work on his computer and I’m feeling so much better. I head downstairs to study. I’m taking Certified Financial Planner courses to be better able to support my clients. This is my first course for this certification, and I’m hoping I can start studying more during the week so I can spend the weekends enjoying my time with G. $73.25
2:30 p.m. — G. makes us smoothies (peanut butter, banana, and blueberries) and tea.
4 p.m. — We’re on the road to see a college basketball game. Before leaving town, we drop the save the dates at the post office.
6 p.m. — We get dinner on the way at a sushi spot. We order calamari as an appetizer, miso soup, and four different rolls to share. I pick up the tab on this one ($67.66 plus $14 tip). G. pays the $15 parking fee at the game. We brave the cold and head in to find our seats for the game. $81.66
8 p.m. — On the way to our seats I buy two bottles of water. The game is great and our team wins! We head out to meet up with my brother and sister-in-law who were also at the game. It’s nice to catch up with them for 15 minutes or so while we’re in the same spot. $10
12 a.m. — On the way home we talk about some marriage logistics. G. and I decided very early in our relationship that we would have a prenup. We both have assets and while we’re going into this marriage with the intent for it to be forever, we like the idea of having this pre-determined to protect both of our interests. I’m compiling attorneys to talk to about it. We plan on merging finances once we are married and possibly starting a family. Once we get home, I take a quick shower, and then we had to bed around 1 a.m.
Daily Total: $164.91

Day Three

9 a.m. — We wake up, snuggle in bed, and talk about last night’s game and possible plans for today. I need to study and do a few things for the rental business, so we get up and get coffee going.
12:30 p.m. — We sit down for a delicious brunch. G. made scrambled eggs with green peppers and onions topped with shredded cheese and sausage. I clean up the dishes and start the dishwasher.
4:30 p.m. — G. and I head to a local brewery. We watch football, have a couple of beers, and just relax and talk about how great this weekend has been and how sad we are too see it end (the Sunday scaries are real, even when we both love what we do). G. picks up the tab for our beers, but I get two packs of beer for next Friday when my brother and SIL come to G.’s for dinner ($40.10). We say bye to our favorite bartender and head out. We stop by a grocery store for a few things for G.’s house: Kleenex, strawberries, various snacks, and a birthday cupcake for one of my clients tomorrow. I pay for this shop because G. got the groceries yesterday ($23.48). $63.58
8 p.m. — While I finish studying for the weekend, G. makes dinner. He found a new Cajun shrimp pasta recipe that we both like and there are leftovers for our lunches tomorrow. Afterward, I do the dishes and put another load of laundry in the washer. G. and I sit down to look at our wedding budget and make a plan for how much more money we need to save between now and April. It’s a tough conversation at times because I’m more type A in this area, but G. and I get each other’s perspectives and have a solid plan in place by the end of the conversation. We take care of a few more things for the wedding, then finally head to bed around 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $63.58

Day Four

5 a.m. — My alarm goes off, but G. and I both are on the struggle bus this morning. Neither one of us slept well, and I still feel a bit under the weather. We snuggle for another hour, G. gets up to get coffee going, and I get the laundry out of the dryer. After I pack and get ready for the day, I head downstairs, wash the slow cooker, and do a few other dishes. G. packed my lunch for me.
8 a.m. — G. and I both head to work. While I’m heading to my first office of the day, I call my cousin/business partner. We hash out a few things going on with the properties, upcoming expenses, and some long-term plans that we’d like to accomplish with the business. Ultimately, we want to get to 15 to 20 units in the next five to 10 years, with the ultimate goal of having pension-like income streams in 20 years or so. We have a great division of labor so far: I primarily handle the marketing and showing of our open units, updating leases and applications, et cetera, and my cousin handles coordinating with contractors to get work done on the units, monitoring the bank account daily, and being the primary contact for current tenants.
1 p.m. — Quick break to eat the leftover Cajun shrimp pasta and respond to a couple of messages for our open rental unit. Work today has been pretty smooth between running a client review meeting, responding to emails, and following up with clients. It looks like we have more requests coming through on the rental property that I’ll need to respond to tonight after work. I quickly wrap up lunch to get ready for my next couple of meetings.
5:30 p.m. — Heading home finally! Once I’m home, I call G. for a quick catch up on our days and then I heat up some of the salsa chicken he sent home with me. After dinner, I respond to some more messages for the rental property. I have at least four showings lined up over the next few days so I’m hoping we have a tenant in place soon.
9 p.m. — My mom and I text about meeting at the gym tomorrow to walk the track. My mom was sick right after the holidays, so I’m excited to get back on track tomorrow and catch up with her in person. I seem to be feeling normal again after feeling off the last couple of days — fingers crossed! After setting up plans for tomorrow morning, I read my next section for class, clean up the lunch and dinner dishes, and prep my salad for lunch tomorrow. After getting ready for bed, G. and I have a quick chat and say goodnight.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

4:45 a.m. — The alarm goes off. I slept in my gym clothes to make this morning as smooth as possible. However, I spent most of the night coughing and my mom isn’t feeling well either. We decide to skip the gym to try to get more sleep. I think I got my best sleep between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. this morning. I hate when that happens!
8 a.m. — I start my day from home. I don’t feel bad, but I have been coughing. I don’t have a fever or body aches. I just have a cough and occasional congestion, and I feel more lethargic than usual. I take more cough syrup and get logged in for work. I talk with a few clients and external partners, listen to some informational calls, eat lunch (kale salad, blueberries, and a banana), and then get ready to head into the office. I'm out of cough syrup and cough drops so I head to Walgreens first, then go into the office. $14.41
5:30 p.m. — Finished with work for the day. It was a smooth afternoon between client meetings, phone calls, and completing some tasks on my to-do list. I also scheduled an appointment for tomorrow evening to see a nurse practitioner. G. has been wanting me to go to the doctor so he’s happy that I finally scheduled an appointment. After I leave the office, I head to the rentals. I have three showings tonight for the open unit. I’m hoping we’re close to finding a tenant!
8 p.m. — I’m finally heading back home. I would definitely call tonight a success. Out of the three showings, I have two very strong possibilities. We have another unit that will be open at the end of February, so I may have even found a tenant ahead of time for that unit! Once I get home, I update some information for the business, heat up leftover salsa chicken, respond to a few messages regarding the open unit, and then continue working on CFP coursework. While I’m studying, I decide I need a snack and settle on some dark chocolate-covered almonds. So good!
10 p.m. — I’m so tired! I’m hoping I sleep better tonight. Prior to heading to bed, G. and I have a quick chat about what our days look like tomorrow.
Daily Total: $14.41

Day Six

4:45 a.m. — My alarm for the gym goes off. Setting it was wishful thinking because I’m still not feeling great and didn’t sleep well again. I read on my phone for a few minutes before finally drifting back to sleep. Again, I think I get the best sleep between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. This is not normal for me, and it’s starting to drive my crazy!
7:30 a.m. — Up for the day. I take a shower, start coffee, and log into work around 9 a.m. I check emails and start preparing for a Zoom meeting with a client for later this morning. I also follow up with some clients on a few action items and work on my to-do list for the day. I also talk to G. for a bit.
12:30 p.m. — Break for a quick lunch. While I’m heating up Progresso chicken noodle soup, one of my colleagues calls me to chat through a project. Then I plan out my week. I have a very hectic Thursday and Friday meeting schedule so I want to make sure I’m prepared. For the last five years or so of my career, I have worked quite a bit at night and on the weekends. I’m trying to do a better job of managing my days this year. Part of this is due to wanting better work-life integration, part of this is due to the business ramping up, and part is due to starting the CFP courses and knowing I’ll need nights and some weekends for coursework.
4:15 p.m. — I wrap up work for the afternoon and then head to my mom’s to see my niece and nephews. After visiting for a few minutes, I leave for my appointment. One $15 co-pay later, the verdict is allergies: Apparently, we’ve had excessive mold in the air over the last several weeks. Due to the length of time I’ve had symptoms, the nurse practitioner is giving me some medicine to help. Unfortunately, I think it will take the pharmacy until tomorrow to get the medicine ready. $15
6:30 p.m. — Before heading home, I stop at a local Chinese restaurant to pick up dinner. I get hot and sour soup, kung pao chicken, and white rice, which is enough for dinner tonight and tomorrow night. While I’m waiting for my order, I call G. After eating and cleaning the dishes, I sit down to do some more studying. After about an hour of studying, I take a break to put laundry in the wash. $20.62
9 p.m. — G. calls me while I’m wrapping up studying for the night. We catch each other up on a few things regarding the wedding. He has some details regarding shuttle transportation for our guests. I had over-budgeted, which is a good thing. I’m still working on getting pricing for hair and makeup for myself, my mom, my bridesmaids, and our nieces so that we can more accurately plan our budget. We discuss potentially checking with a few other people after we get this quote as well. I head to bed around 10 p.m., crossing my fingers for a better night’s sleep!
Daily Total: $35.62

Day Seven

6:30 a.m. — I didn’t even attempt the gym this morning, but I wake up more well-rested than I have felt in several weeks, which is exciting. I get ready for the day, pack my lunch (kale salad, blueberries, and a banana with a couple of cheese sticks for a snack), get my coffee and water, and head into the office, I want to be in by 8:30 a.m. or so. I immediately jump into prepping for a couple of my meetings this morning. I have to go back and forth between a couple of offices today so I want to be prepared for all of the meetings today.
11 a.m. — Since I have to run to another office for a midday appointment, I go past the pharmacy for my prescriptions. Only one prescription is ready, so I have to go back again after work. The prescription cost $0.93 out of pocket. I leave a little frustrated, but it could be worse. While I’m driving to the next office, I have a couple of cheese sticks as a snack to hold me over until I get a chance to eat lunch later. The meeting goes smoothly and I’m heading back to the original office by 1:30 p.m. to finish the day. $0.93
3 p.m. — I finally get a few minutes to eat my lunch at my desk. While I’m eating, I take a minute to text G. We’ve both had busy days and haven’t chatted all day. I let him know that I’m thinking about him and then jump back into trying to get the day wrapped up.
6 p.m. — I head back to the pharmacy. I still don’t get all the prescriptions I need, which is super frustrating, but I’ll have to deal with it tomorrow. While I’m at the pharmacy, I pick up batteries for my smoke detector and more cough syrup just in case. $42.24
8:30 p.m. — I take a quick work/study break to eat a late dinner of leftover Chinese food. It’s been a successful night. The open unit is now rented, and I may have a renter lined up for another unit coming open next month. Our ultimate goal is to have a property manager, but that will have to wait for at least a couple of more years. After I eat, I call my mom and we catch up for a few minutes. I miss walking with her, and we’re both hoping to get back on schedule next week. I realize it’s starting to get late, and I need to pack for this weekend at G.’s. I get ready for bed around 10 p.m. Fingers crossed I get another good night of sleep!
Daily Total: $43.17
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