Welcome to the Racket’s Money Journal series, where you get to snoop into the finances of an anonymous Twin Cities neighbor. Interested in submitting your own? Email [email protected] for guidance on over-sharing critical details of your life! H/T to Refinery29 for pioneering a massive concept that we are excited to localize.
profession: College professor (I’m part time at two different schools) and freelance musician
Neighborhood: Standish Erickson
education: DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts, or doesn’t mean anything, is the final degree for musical performance)
salary: Roughly $45,000, varies
Partner salary: I am a child-free cat lady, and my cat does not pull on her weight.
Estimated net worth: Roughly $162,000 at the beginning of October (I update about once a month). This has taken a total dump since the beginning of the year – did you hear the stock market sucks now??? Incidentally, I am not expecting to retire; I started saving late, and generally had less income than I have now.
Total non-retirement savings: About $15,000 in money market and other bank accounts. Other years I’ve been 100% independent and it’s still important to me to have savings and access to cash.
Nothing, although I put everything on credit cards that I pay off in full each month for points/cashback, so any snapshot of my finances would show credit card “debt” of $1,000-$1,000. These idiots probably once got a fee out of me in the 15+ years of doing this.
Salary amount: Currently $2,742/month net from college jobs (this fluctuates through the year depending on percentage of hire), and averages $1,800/month (before taxes) so far this year from doing and teaching tutoring.
Family help: There is no financial aid, but it provides tremendous resources in other ways and I think it’s very important to talk about non-financial resources when we talk about what constitutes wealth. For example, if my car is in the shop and I still need to get to Northfield, I can borrow a family car for several days at a time. How much would it cost me if I had to rent? Or miss work and reschedule lessons?
Leasing: $1,155 for a one-bedroom, three-story owner-occupied apartment that I’ve lived in for 11 years. My landlord pays for all utilities except electricity, and that costs me about $45 a month. It’s a very good deal for a site I love.
cat: About $75 – I feed her fresh meat, but if I don’t, the litter box will be a nightmare and her asthma is noticeably worse.
- Health and teeth: $182.70 (or local currency equivalent) before tax. One of my employers pays the rest, and also puts $100 a month into my health savings account to help cover the deductible. This is a great deal for a part time job. I also put $100 a month into an HSA, pre-tax from my paycheck.
- life: $20
- Sentences: $85. My catalytic converter was stolen in March and my insurance went up.
- Tenant: About $10, but I pay that amount once a year.
the retirement: $375 for Roth IRAs I opened myself up. Sometimes I invest an extra lump sum if I get an unplanned payment. 3% of my academic salary goes to mandatory retirement plans, and each employer contributes 9%. I also recently bought I bonds because the interest rate is very high right now.
Internet: $60 for fiber
Sentences: I drive a 2012 Kia Soul that has paid off for a long time but has gotten to the point where it needs a fair amount of maintenance, and I spend a lot of time on gas because I teach at Northfield four days a week. Carlton reimburses college music mileage part-time, St. Olaf’s does not. I plan to use the electrics as soon as possible and the mileage payment should cover a lot of the monthly payment nine months out of the year.
Subscriptions: Netflix, Spotify (included with free Hulu for some reason?), NYT (still on the intro price), Racket of course [Editor’s note: hell yeah], a few sponsors. I also pay monthly to a few nonprofits and to schedule online lessons.
Question and answer about money
Did your family talk about money growing up? Somewhat? I would say we were lower middle class, and I think my parents protected us a lot from their financial worries. Straight talk about money was rare, and I really could use more of it. My parents showed their feelings about sufficiency, overindulgence, and budget in how we lived in general. For example, if we were in Lake Josephine and all the kids were running across the street to a Dairy Queen, we generally didn’t join in, or sometimes we could get something from a less than $1 portion of the menu. Peanut Buster Parfaits, which I coveted, had to be on my own two cents.
The four of us kids could choose like one activity per season (sports, music lessons, etc.) and my parents figured out how to fund it. I certainly had good opportunities, but childhood was also unscheduled and free-range, for the most part. At a certain age, we got a small allowance (I’m talking about an ’80s-style allowance, so maybe $3 a week to start?), and we all contributed to the household in the form of chores. We all babysat or did other paid work when we were old enough, and had to take summer jobs.
Between my parents, it really seemed like they could make or do almost anything, which was cool, because I don’t think any other method was affordable. (There was literally a cookbook in the house called live more with less.) The idea that you’d just pay someone else to do something for you, or that you’d buy something you could make yourself – well, that wasn’t just how we did things. On the one hand, because of the way my family operates, I feel very empowered to try and fix my own toilet; On the other hand, it took adulthood for me to realize time It’s worth a lot of money, and sometimes the best value is paying someone else or spending more to get what you need.
Have you been worried about money growing? I guess I just wished for more semblance of bullishness sometimes — all the bullshit the commercials tell me. I didn’t get my Guess jeans until they hit Marshall’s clearance rack and I could catch them with my babysitting money, you know?
At what age did you become financially independent? This is a bit mushy. I think I stopped asking my parents for money (for books, snacks, and clothes) my sophomore year of college, but they contributed to my education all the way. I got huge scholarships and grants as well as loans to go to a private college, which was great, but there was also a bit of family responsibility, and that was a stretch. Once I was such a great jerk about how much my parents paid each month that they had to sit down with me and say “This is a big, hard deal for us.” I never forgot her.
After I graduated, I lived at home for two years (that was legit fun!) and paid $100 a month in rent to people with me while I worked temp jobs and did auditions and gigs. I would say that by the time I moved into an apartment and started grad school at 24, I had really started. I paid for graduate school (and the rest of my life in that era) myself with fellowships, assistantships, and winnings in competition and performance.
Even without a lot of actual cash assistance, my post-college transition to fully adult independence was facilitated by having a nice place to land with the family.
How did you learn how to budget for your life? I honestly have no idea, but I sure do! It’s intuitive and not strict, but I keep track of a lot of financial stuff (I’ve been at least partially self-employed for 20+ years, so there are things you have to really track in terms of taxes), and my budgeting strategies are, as it is, just routine at this point. It helps that I inherited a self-sufficiency spirit, that I’m pretty moderate in my tastes, and that I love to spreadsheets (LOL). It is fundamental that I do not need a predictable income to function well. I also think the financial information is interesting (and kept on purpose and complex and jargon, so that most people give up).
Have you ever received inherited income, large financial gifts, or large insurance payments? no.
Do you worry about money now? I don’t think I worry about money per se, it’s more like I worry about the collapse of our financial system (conveniently!), which feels like a house of cards based on the emotions of the wealthy. Much financial planning advice is built on a long stretch of the relative prosperity of white men in the 20th century, and doesn’t take into account things like, say, rising authoritarianism, climate catastrophe, systemic racism, income inequality, a global pandemic, and surging health care. education costs, etc. And yet here I am, doggedly putting money into retirement accounts, following a systematic investment plan as you’re supposed to do, keeping your cool, feeling ambivalent about the whole existence of “the markets”, and hoping that when I need my retirement money, we won’t be In another financial crisis where I’m 25% worse than I was the year before.
I also worry about storing resources when there are people in this city sleeping in tents (people whose homes and belongings are routinely destroyed by cops). And of course, given how health care works in this country, most of us are a major health event away from difficult financial circumstances.
Despite these underground fears, one of my personal mottos is “I find money around me,” which is no nonsense. It is about seeing and appreciating the abundance of resources I have access to beyond actual money.
In your opinion, how much money does an individual or family need to live comfortably in the Twin Cities?
See, I live pretty well on less than most people need. This is not Flex. I’m really lucky. If I had student debt, chronic health stuff, and/or large car payments, things would be tighter if not impossible on income. I think $75k for a single person living alone is probably more realistic.
8:30 a.m.: I suddenly remember I can use credit card points to erase travel purchases, so I’m redeeming 15,800 points to cover half of my hotel stay from a September trip. I guess that means I started this day at +$158.
2 p.m.: I buy coffee at the coffee shop in my building, but it’s already prepaid: You load your ID in college currency, and then the lattes are discounted.
the total: + $158.
the second day
7:15 p.m.: I find myself imagining baking products at the end of my teaching day, buying bread and some other groceries at the co-op before training. $16.
8:30 p.m.: Someone shares a bushel of apples at rehearsal. Free apples! I find money around me!
the total: $16.
1 p.m.: One of my private students, a former professional baker, brings me cookies; I’m in the black on the cookies for about half an hour until I eat them all.
3:30 p.m.: I buy my sister a New Kids on the Block tote bag from a consignment store as a joke gift/not a joke, but I use a credit from the stuff I sold there to cover the $8 fee, which makes it a free gift.
7:30 PM: It’s Mutual Aid Friday, a project I’ve been doing since 2020 where I collect a few hundred dollars from my network and redistribute to people who need it. I’m Venmo order this week for $25.
the total: $25
the fourth day
7:30 p.m.: Volunteer at an amazing opera show at Indigenous Roots. Tea / tipping at the coffee shop: $5.
the total: $5
10:30 a.m. Groceries at Seward Co-op, including face-size pastries and coffee: $55.
10:30 p.m.: On my way home from a party, I remember refueling my car. I wish there was a way to capture the financial value of Future Me’s work this strong now instead of waiting until Monday morning: $36.90
the total: $91.90.
the sixth day
1 pm midday coffee on campus (different campuses): $4.03.
5:45 p.m.: I stop by a Mississippi market for dinner and some snacks for a singer’s event I co-host: $23.
6:15 p.m.: Lowertown meter parking: $3.02.
8:30 p.m. I leave the event with more snacks than I arrived with (galore!), Venmo and some extra gas for our pianist: $10.
the total: $40.05.
the seventh day
6 p.m. Vietnamese food at a friend’s house; She picked up our takeaway (invaluable after a day’s work). I tried to return Venmo to her which more than cost, and she gave me my money back: $13.
Not Captured on Dollars: Access to free group gyms with my work; Social events with family and/or friends where I was fed and drinks to the fullest.
the total: $13.