Don’t have piles of money to invest? Lacking the time to constantly scan the stock exchange? Just want to be able to afford to live? This is the finance guide for you, fellow regular human.
Devin Feldman, Los Angeles, CA
Occupation: Digital Marketer
Goal: To pay off his debts while still saving up to travel
The Money Situation: “Money is limited, but I’m not living paycheck to paycheck,” Devin tells us. “I believe my rent lands somewhere in the 33-percent-of-income range, which the L.A. Times tells me is good. I’m able to eat out and make small purchases without too much consideration. I haven’t had any emergencies pop up to ruin my finances, but I do love bicycles and probably spend $2,000 a year on that hobby alone.
“I’m also still on my parents’ health care and phone plans and don’t have a car payment since I have an old, used car. If I didn’t, I’d be pinching the pennies much harder. I have a 401k, and I make the maximum contribution every paycheck. Beyond that, I haven’t given retirement much thought besides some anxious consideration.”
The Debt: “My largest financial burdens are my student loans. I have about $30,000 remaining and am chipping away at a rate of about $450 a month — sometimes more, sometimes less.”
The Goal: “My main goal right now is to travel, so I’ve been dumping around $500 a month into my savings since late 2016. My goal is to have about $10,000 saved up by August, so I can comfortably leave my job, go abroad for at least two months (unsure of where right now) and return to the U.S. with enough left over to find a new place and job in L.A. or New York.”
The Limitations: “I hate having debt, but not as much as I enjoy being 24. Other than that, I prefer eating lunch that wasn’t also dinner yesterday. I could probably double my savings every month by forfeiting this simple pleasure, but I’d rather not.
“I’m also unsure of the best way to look after my money. I’ve been told by at least four people wearing a metal watch that I should be investing my savings rather than letting it sit in the bank (.03 percent interest, what up!), but I’m unsure of where to start, or if this is really even the best option for my whopping $7,500 in savings…”
Don’t Immediately Ditch the Job for the Vacation: “Congrats on having your act together — smart financial decisions make it much easier to enjoy life and travel,” says Certified Financial Planner David Rae. “I love the idea of traveling for a few months. Depending on your employer, you may be able to work out some type of ‘leave of absence.’ It never hurts to ask — having a job when you came back could mean potentially traveling a bit longer, and running your savings a little lower.
“One of my clients, a burned-out attorney, was ready to give it up her job to explore the world. Instead, she ended up negotiating an annual three-month sabbatical, where she could continue to work and earn money, but scratch her itch to travel. Live for today, plan for today is my motto: Take the trip and keep maxing your 401(K), you’ll be happy and so will your finances.”
Invest in Your Trip for Now: “Just because someone has an expensive watch doesn’t mean they know a thing about investing! That said, I personally hate leaving a large amount of money in the bank, especially with interest rates as low as they are today. Don’t forget, you’re buying investments in your 401(K) (at least you should be…), so it’s not the end of the world if you aren’t investing elsewhere at this time. It sounds like most of the money you have saved is going to be used on your big trip, though, so really, investing it now wouldn’t be the wise thing to do anyway.”
Put a Lock on that Bike Spending: “I love cycling as well; I’ve ridden my bike from San Fran to L.A. seven times in all, and I get how quickly cycling expenses can add up. But fight the temptation to get too crazy on new gear and instead make sure to keep your bike in top shape to keep you safe and enjoying all the great cycling here in Southern California.”
Don’t Sweat the Debt: “Don’t ignore your student loans, but don’t let them weigh you down too much, either. If you keep making the payments at the current level, they’ll pay themselves off eventually. If this was credit card debt, I would say absolutely you need to pay it down faster, but while student loans can be annoying, you can pay them off more slowly while still enjoying your life.”
Do You Think You Have a Shot at Convincing Your Boss to Let You Walk Away for Three Months? “This trip is happening at something of a natural transition in my life. My ideal situation is staying on with my current employer as a project-based freelance employee while traveling.”
Would You Even Want to Come Back to Your Current Job After Jetting Off to See the World? “Nope! I’ve been at this agency since my junior year in college (currently about three and a half years), which is like a decade in agency years. The reason I’m planning this trip now is because of a few factors, but a large motivator is how burned out I am at work.”
How Do You Feel About Cutting Down the Bike Expenses? “I can and will be doing that! I’m working on slowly piecing together a new road bike and will be selling my current road bike once that’s finished. This will be my final large purchase for quite some time, and all money from the sale of my current bike will go straight into the ol’ savings account.”