Law Student in New York City — Money Diary

Occupation: Law Student
Industry: Law
Age: 24
Location: New York, NY
Salary: $0
Net Worth: ~$20,300 (~$32,000 in cash savings, $800 in investments, and ~$,3500 in 401(k), minus $16,000 student loan debt (maybe soon to be $6,000 — thanks Biden!))
Debt: $16,000 in student loan debt
Paycheck Amount: $0
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,550 (I live with two random roommates in a two-bed flex apartment. I do miss having a living room/entertaining space (which currently serves as one of the bedrooms), but it is worth it for reasonable rent in a great location plus amenities. Rent includes water and gas.)
Loan Payments: $0 (my loans are deferred while I’m in graduate school)
Electricity/Wi-Fi: ~$75
iCloud Storage:$0 .99
Spotify: $4.99
Kindle Unlimited: $10.65
Streaming Services: $5 (I pay for Peacock and mooch off friends for others)
Cell Phone & Insurance: Very grateful to have these expenses covered by my parents. I was on my own health insurance while working, but given that I’m back near home and a student again, I’m taking full advantage of the family plan.

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, there was always an expectation I would attend college. Both of my parents have graduate degrees and I have always loved school. I paid for undergraduate with a combination of scholarships, jobs, loans, and some parental contributions. I am currently a law student. I have always wanted to be a lawyer, but took two years to work as a consultant between programs in order to make sure I really wanted it before making the time/money commitment. I’m financing my current program with savings from work and loans, and expect to have about $150,000 in student loans by the time I graduate. This is a really scary number, but actually pretty standard for law students, and the firm salary scale reflects this. I considered going to a less expensive program, but rank really matters for a lot of job opportunities. I ultimately decided to make the investment in my future, knowing that it will require a certain amount of time in the private sector to pay it off.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Yes, and I am grateful that they did! My parents live frugally and prioritize saving for retirement, etc. My mom grew up pretty poor and taught my sister and me about the importance of things like grocery budgets from a young age. My parents required us to split any birthday or holiday money 50/50 between spending and savings to get in the habit of saving. We were taught that things like manicures, takeout, etc. were for special occasions, not everyday occurrences.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was as a hostess at a local country club when I was 17. I got it for spending money in college. Once I got to college, I worked on campus all four years, then started full-time as a consultant after graduation.

Did you worry about money growing up?
No, I’m extremely privileged to have grown up without that burden. My parents were older when they had me, which meant they were very financially secure by the time I was born. They both stepped back from their high-intensity corporate jobs to raise us and so we certainly were not rich on their salaries, but we always were very comfortable and were never limited in terms of extracurriculars, etc.

Do you worry about money now?
Yes, constantly. It has been hard to go from having a lucrative consulting salary to having no income at all. I’ll have to start taking on debt in my second year of law school in order to pay for tuition and living expenses, so I worry about paying that off. I’ve run the models and know it’s possible to pay off all the debt after a few years in big law, but I will be stressed until that happens. Financial security has always been my employment priority, which has led t prioritizing jobs with high salaries. In the meantime, I am lucky to have plenty of savings to live on this year, and I try to remind myself that I need brain food and things that bring me joy in order to make it through law school and reap the rewards.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
My parents did contribute to part of my undergraduate expenses, but the vast majority was covered by a scholarship, RA housing, and student loans. Excepting these tuition contributions (a huge, privileged caveat), I have paid for all of my own living expenses since my sophomore year through a combination of jobs. Over the summers, I took part-time food service jobs in addition to unpaid internships to cover rent. After graduation, I was completely independent, including providing my own health insurance, etc. My parents do still pay for my cell phone bill and will treat me to dinner if they’re visiting. My parents very much believe in “pulling yourselves up by your bootstraps” and their children being financially independent. However, if I ever had a true emergency or got really stuck, my parents would be able to help me. They would also always let me move back in temporarily, but would likely be unwilling to pay rent for my apartment. I wouldn’t be comfortable taking the risk of a three-year (expensive!) graduate program without this safety net.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I received my parents’ support with some tuition for undergrad, for which I am very grateful.

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