In this episode, Emily interviews Janelle Coleen Dela Cueva, a rising second year graduate student in structural engineering at UCSD. Janelle breaks down her budget, including her largest four expenses and aggressive investing goals. Janelle’s gross stipend is approximately $2,500 per month, and she is able to save almost 40% of it due to subsidized university housing and strong habits that minimize her variable expenses. She still lives a comfortable life with weekly eating out, frequent international travel, and car ownership.
Links Mentioned in this Episode
- Set Yourself Up for Financial Success in Graduate School (PF for PhDs Workshop)
- PF for PhDs S13E3 Show Notes
- PF for PhDs S11E1: This Grad Student’s Defensive Financial Planning Paid Off During the Pandemic (Money Story with Maya Gosztyla)
- PF for PhDs Speaking Engagements
- Emily’s E-mail
- PF for PhDs S2E9: How to Make Money without Working: Credit Card Rewards and 529s (Money Story with Seonwoo Lee)
- PF for PhDs S7E8: This Grad Student Travels for Free by Churning Credit Cards (Money Story with Julie Chang)
- PF for PhDs Subscribe to Mailing List (Access Advice Document)
- PF for PhDs Podcast Hub (Show Notes)
00:00 Janelle: I have a week off this summer. So, I want to spend that in Costa Rica around August. And then in December, I hope to visit family in the Philippines and Thailand. So, I will be traveling there for December.
00:26 Emily: Welcome to the Personal Finance for PhDs Podcast: A Higher Education in Personal Finance. I’m your host, Dr. Emily Roberts, a financial educator specializing in early-career PhDs and founder of Personal Finance for PhDs. This podcast is for PhDs and PhDs-to-be who want to explore the hidden curriculum of finances to learn the best practices for money management, career advancement, and advocacy for yourself and others. This is Season 13, Episode 3, and today my guest is Janelle Coleen Dela Cueva, a rising second-year graduate student in structural engineering at UCSD. Janelle breaks down her budget, including her largest four expenses and aggressive investing goals. Janelle’s gross stipend is approximately $2,500 per month, and she is able to save almost 40% of it due to subsidized university housing and strong habits that minimize her variable expenses. She still lives a comfortable life with weekly eating out, frequent international travel, and car ownership.
01:35 Emily: I have a new workshop available exclusively for prospective graduate students! It’s called Set Yourself Up for Financial Success in Graduate School, and it comprises twelve modules that I will release throughout the 2023 application and admissions season. The modules that are available to join right now are:
- Funding Models for Graduate School
- Why and How to Apply for Fellowships
- Your Financial Vision for Graduate School, and
- Stipends vs. Cost of Living
Each module comes with a video on the subject matter, a private homework exercise to further explore the material, a reflection exercise that you share with me, and invitations to upcoming live discussion and Q&A calls with me. To read more about and purchase any of the currently available Set Yourself Up for Financial Success in Graduate School modules, go to PFforPhDs.com/setyourselfup/. I know that this material is invaluable for prospective graduate students, so if you are in contact with any, please share the link with them! You can find the show notes for this episode at PFforPhDs.com/s13e3/. Without further ado, here’s my interview with Janelle Coleen Dela Cueva.
Will You Please Introduce Yourself Further?
03:02 Emily: I am delighted to have joining me on the podcast today. Janelle Coleen Dela Cueva. She is a rising second-year graduate student in structural engineering at the University of California in San Diego. I also live in the San Diego area, North County. So, this is a local conversation for me. And today we are doing a Budget Breakdown, which we have not done in a while. So, Janelle will share with us her top five expenses as well as her financial goals and so forth. So, I’m really going to enjoy this conversation. Janelle, will you please introduce yourself a little bit further for the audience?
03:31 Janelle: Okay. So again, you know, my name is Janelle. I’m a rising second-year PhD student. I’m going to be doing that in the fall. Currently, my major is structural engineering with a focus on aerospace structures. I live in the San Diego La Jolla area in grad housing, and I have a roommate in my household. My income on a monthly basis is $2,510. And my position would be a GSR, so graduate student researcher.
04:11 Emily: I was so impressed when you wrote in that you have major investment goals going on, as well as just managing your expenses, you know, in a high cost of living area on not the biggest stipend. Tell us about these investment goals that you have.
04:27 Janelle: Yes. Okay. So, for my investment goals, I have multiple goals, one of which is retirement. And that, you know, includes a Roth IRA and contributions to that monthly. And then a second goal would be to buy a house or maybe start a business. And so, I keep a separate investment fund for that specific goal.
04:51 Emily: Okay. So, you sort of have two locations for your assets. One is inside a Roth IRA, and one is in a taxable type investment account, just a normal investment account.
04:59 Janelle: Yes. A brokerage.
05:01 Emily: Yes. Let’s talk more about both of those. How much money are you putting towards that Roth IRA on a monthly or yearly basis?
05:08 Janelle: I am maxing out my Roth IRA at a $500 contribution every month.
05:14 Emily: Wow. So impressive. Something I never managed to do when I was in graduate school, even though the maximum was lower at that time, I was never able to max out. So, that is awesome. What inspired you to reach for that goal so early in life?
05:28 Janelle: I don’t know. I think I felt that everybody was working, and outside of a PhD, everybody was working in industry and I just felt this need to catch up as like a little bit of pressure to catch up with everybody. And so, I started saving a lot more money.
05:47 Emily: Okay. So, you’re kind of looking at your peers who didn’t take the grad school route and saying to yourself, okay, what can I do to sort of keep on track with what they’re doing?
05:56 Janelle: Yes.
05:56 Emily: Okay. That makes sense. And what about this other brokerage account? How much money are you contributing there? What are you investing in?
06:04 Janelle: For this other brokerage account, I invest around $423. It’s a very specific number, and the brokerage includes you know, dividend stocks and crypto.
06:19 Emily: Alright. What’s with the specific number? Is that just based on what you had in your budget, or is that tied to some other larger goal?
06:27 Janelle: This number is just what works in the budget. I just had some extra cash when I, you know, subtracted everything out.
Short-Term Financial Goals
06:35 Emily: Yeah. Well, that’s incredible. I mean, investing, going on, you know, close to a thousand dollars a month on a grad student stipend. Wow. We are going to find out in a moment how you’re doing that. Are there any other financial goals that you’re working on right now, or maybe financial goals that you’re not working on so that you can do these investment goals?
06:52 Janelle: I have two other financial goals that are short-term. So, I have an emergency fund, and I also have a vacation fund. And the vacation fund is about $200 a month. And the emergency fund, I stopped contributing because I reached my goal, but it was about three month’s worth of living expenses.
07:19 Emily: Yeah. Perfect. I know you’ve had some exposure in the past to my like eight-step like financial plan. It sounds like you’re working at least a few of those steps. I don’t know if you had that idea beforehand or you got it from me, but either way, I’m really happy that you are working that plan. So yeah, for now your emergency fund is full. If you have an emergency and have to deplete it a bit, that’ll become a goal again, it sounds like to, you know, contribute until it’s back up to that three-month level.
07:43 Janelle: Yes. And then once that occurs, it will eat away at the vacation fund. So, it’s either/or.
#1 Largest Expense: Rent
07:50 Emily: Gotcha. Okay. Well, I think we’re ready to talk about your top five largest expenses every month. So, let’s start with the largest one, the number one largest expense. What is that?
08:01 Janelle: My largest expense is rent.
08:03 Emily: Yeah, no surprise there.
08:05 Janelle: It’s really high <Laugh>.
08:06 Emily: How much are you spending on rent?
08:09 Janelle: The rent bill for my apartment is $1380, but I pay half of that at $690, because I found a roommate.
08:23 Emily: So, when you say roommate, like how big is your apartment? Is it a one-bedroom studio? Is it two bedrooms? How large are we talking?
08:30 Janelle: It’s a two-bedroom apartment with one restroom, but the restroom is in two rooms. So, one for showering and one for using the restroom.
08:40 Emily: Gotcha. Okay. So like a two-bedroom, one-bath situation. So, a pretty normal kind of thing to share with a single roommate. So, the way you phrased that, it sounded like this apartment is yours, but you have found someone to share it with, is that right?
08:55 Janelle: Yes. So, the entire lease is under my name and I got a two-bedroom because it had a lot of space, but I really looked for a roommate to cover the second or like half the rent.
09:10 Emily: Yeah, absolutely. And is your roommate another graduate student or someone else?
09:15 Janelle: My roommate is somebody else. She went to undergrad with me, so I knew her, but she doesn’t go to UCSD.
09:23 Emily: I always find it like, sort of interesting to investigate for me, like how graduate student housing works. Like who’s allowed to live there and so forth. It sounds like you, as the graduate student, then the lease is under your name, but you can, you know, sublease to whoever you like. Is that right?
09:38 Janelle: Yes.
60% Rent Hike at UCSD
09:38 Emily: Okay. Well, honestly though, a two-bedroom place for, I think you said $1380 a month is really not that bad. Like, I mean, how do you feel about that price?
09:50 Janelle: I feel that it’s not bad given the rising cost of rent in the area and just in California in general. I got really lucky with this rent because I signed up for it before UCSD got the 60% hike in rent.
10:12 Emily: Yes. We heard about this actually back in season 11, episode one with Maya Gosztyla, who is another UCSD graduate student. She also was saying that she had graduate student housing at a relatively low price, but she sort of told us as part of that interview, actually, I think, as a follow-up from the interview that this price hike was coming. So, can you give us an update on that? It sounds like you said you got in before the price hike, but what’s going on for other students?
10:38 Janelle: For other students, the price hiked a month after I signed my lease. So, I signed the lease for August, and the month after, September, the price hiked 50%. And it was because San Diego passed a rent control law, and that law went into effect this year in 2022. So, UCSD increased the rent by 60% just in time before this law went into effect.
11:08 Emily: I see. So, kind of on their side as the landlord, they’re seeing that in the future, their rent hikes are going to be limited. So they got all the rents up to market rate or closer to market rate in advance of that. So, sort of a perverse effect of that law, I would imagine.
11:23 Janelle: Yes. I wouldn’t say it was market rate for the apartments that they’re renting out, but on top of that, they are also increasing the rent to 3% every year, which is the maximum that they can increase rent every year from now on. And for my rent, it’s not into effect yet, but next month it will be going up to $1450, I think.
11:51 Emily: Gotcha. But you expect your rent, it sounds like is locked in with that 3% annual increase for as long as you stay in this current lease, right? As long as you stay with the apartment.
12:01 Janelle: Yes.
12:02 Emily: Okay. And do you have any plans? Like, do you, as of now plan to stay there for the rest of your PhD?
12:07 Janelle: Yes. I plan to stay here for the rest of my PhD, because the apartments outside of UCSD are much more expensive.
12:16 Emily: Yeah. So, I understand you have experience with this, right? Because you also went to undergrad at UCSD and you were not living in graduate housing as an undergraduate student. So, can you talk about what you were paying even, you know, a year or so ago?
12:28 Janelle: Yes. It’s less than, but the living situation is better. I paid $400 a month for my last apartment as an undergrad, but I shared the room with two other people, so it was a triple and then there was another room in that apartment with one person. So four of us lived in that apartment. One room was a triple, one was a single.
12:55 Emily: Wow. Okay. So, inexpensive, but definitely a trade-off there in terms of privacy and ability to concentrate and all of that stuff. So, yes. A better living situation for you now. Alright. So, it doesn’t sound like the strategy of getting in before price hike is replicable at this point. Unless you find, like your roommate has with you, a roommate who is locked in under this lower, like prior agreement. Other than that, all these new leases are going to be quite a bit more expensive.
13:23 Janelle: Yes. It was incredibly lucky.
#2 Largest Expense: Food
13:26 Emily: Yeah. Alright. What is your number two expense?
13:31 Janelle: My number two expense would be food. I aim to do $200 a month on food, groceries, and meal prepping, but I always go over that from eating out.
13:46 Emily: Okay. So $200 per month is like approximately your grocery cost. And then you have some additional costs for eating out on top of that.
13:54 Janelle: Yes.
13:54 Emily: Well, still, you know, that’s not terribly a lot of money for a single person. Can you tell us some of the strategies that you’re using around keeping that cost down?
14:05 Janelle: Yes. So, on a, you know, 2000 adult calorie diet, I try to shop, you know, as healthy as possible. So, produce is actually not that expensive. And then on Sundays, I meal prep enough meals for the entire week, and that level of like planning obviously helps me save a lot of money.
Meal Prepping Helps Save Money
14:34 Emily: Mm-Hmm <Affirmative>. How does it do that?
14:37 Janelle: So, when I meal prep ahead of time, it stops me from eating out all of a sudden, and eating out because I’m hungry and I don’t have food. So, it takes the convenience out of eating out. Or, you know, post-meeting or, you know, going to a restaurant near me. And this also helps with, you know, nutrition goals.
15:04 Emily: Yeah. Tell us a little bit more about like what you’re eating when you do these meal preps.
15:08 Janelle: I eat pasta and, you know, side of vegetables with some sort of protein, sometimes beef or chicken that I prepared in bulk.
15:23 Emily: Yeah. So, that’s like a lunch or a dinner. Do you take this food, I presume, you take this food to campus for lunches? What’s your like sort of rhythm of eating?
15:34 Janelle: Yeah. So, in the morning, I eat a bagel, so that’s breakfast, and I take a packed lunch to school and that’s lunch. And then in the evening, I do another packed meal prep at home. So, I can eat three meals a day. But this level of planning, it gets old when you eat the same thing over and over again. But what helps is that I try to plan out three different types of recipes on a Sunday and then just cook them all in bulk and then eat them throughout the week.
16:12 Emily: I see. So, like, even for instance, for your dinners, you have like, like three different dinners that you’re sort of rotating through? Or are you saying three different meals, like breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
16:22 Janelle: Yeah, for dinner, I have three different types of food that I cycle through. And then for lunch, I do the same thing just based on what I’m feeling. I have three different meals to choose from.
16:33 Emily: Gotcha. I’m always fascinated by this like meal prep process, which I’ve never like, sort of examined it, but I’ve never like fully devoted myself to it. So, I’m always really curious when other people are doing it successfully. So, thanks for those details.
16:49 Emily: Emily here for a brief interlude. Would you like to learn directly from me on a personal finance topic, such as goal-setting, investing, frugality, increasing income, or student loans, each tailored specifically for graduate students and postdocs? I offer seminars and workshops on these topics and more in a variety of formats, and I’m now booking for the 2022-2023 academic year. If you would like to bring my content to your institution, would you please recommend me as a speaker to your university, graduate school, graduate student association, or postdoc office? My seminars are usually slated as professional development or personal wellness. Ask the potential host to go to PFforPhDs.com/speaking/ or simply email me at emily@PFforPhDs.com to start the process. I really appreciate these recommendations, which are the best way for me to start a conversation with a potential host. The paid work I do with universities and institutions enables me to keep producing this podcast and all my other free resources. Thank you in advance if you decide to issue a recommendation! Now back to our interview.
#3 Largest Expense: Car
18:11 Emily: Okay. What is your number three expense?
18:15 Janelle: My third expense would probably be gas.
18:19 Emily: Yeah. So, let’s talk about your transportation situation. So, it sounds like you own a car.
18:23 Janelle: Yes.
18:24 Emily: Is it paid off?
18:25 Janelle: The car is paid off, so paying off the car is no longer an issue. So, this gas expense is $150 a month, or I guess not just gas, but car expenses is $150 a month. $70 goes towards the insurance, and the rest of it goes towards gas, but gas prices have been increasing a lot. So, I’ve been opting for you know, walking and taking the bus.
Why Own a Car?
19:00 Emily: Okay. But you do own a car. So like, let’s talk about that decision, like in the first place. Is it an option for you at all to not own a car, like maybe some of your peers do? Or like, why do you own a car?
19:13 Janelle: I own a car because my family lives in Los Angeles, and I think it’s really important for me to visit them, you know once every two weeks. Genuinely, I don’t need a car. And over time, I’ve really reflected on, maybe this is not a good expense to have because I can take the bus everywhere here in San Diego, and I can walk to school.
19:43 Emily: Hmm. Okay. So, it’s really just those trips to LA that are like the reason that you still own the car.
19:49 Janelle: Yes.
19:49 Emily: And the gas price, like the gas cost is like all for those trips.
19:53 Janelle: Yes. Yes. It’s all from those trips.
19:56 Emily: Yeah. I’m very familiar with this as well, because as I said, we live in North San Diego County and we have relatives in Orange County who we go to visit with some frequency. And we use our car for other things, but that’s one of the major reasons why we choose to have one. But like you, ours is paid off. The insurance cost is not very high. And so it’s like, oh, okay, well, yeah, you could, in your case, trade off the $150 per month car expense for maybe some increased costs of like public transit or however you’re going to be getting up to LA instead. Maybe that’s also public transit. But yeah, I don’t know. It seems like a small line item to me in the first place.
20:33 Janelle: Yes.
Alternatives to Car Ownership
20:33 Emily: Yeah. So, you feel good about the car ownership?
20:37 Janelle: Not necessarily. I think I could find a way to go to LA without the car. There’s a UCSD ride share Facebook group that I used to use in undergrad where it’s $20 a seat to LA and back to San Diego. And, you know, I feel that the car was a very frivolous expense.
21:00 Emily: Hmm. So, when did you acquire the car?
21:03 Janelle: I acquired it last year, around April.
21:10 Emily: So, April, 2021. So like, just before your graduation from college?
21:14 Janelle: Yes.
21:15 Emily: Okay. Interesting. Okay. Well, I’m glad it’s at least on your mind of like a debate, and good for other UCSD students or maybe other students in the San Diego area to know like, Hey, like you can set up your life. It’s okay to let go of a car if you really don’t need it. So, cool. Give us an update on whether you decide to keep it, or if you decide to sell it. I guess it’s a good time to be selling if you decide do that.
21:35 Janelle: It is. It is really good for a used car.
#4 Expense: Miscellaneous
21:37 Emily: Yeah. Okay. Well, what’s your number four expense?
21:42 Janelle: Yeah. My number four expense is just general necessities, clothing, and you know, recreation stuff. I put them all in the same line item, so clothing and going out to do activities are under the same item, which is $200.
22:04 Emily: So, that sort of general like spending money kind of line item, like as long as you keep, it’s all sort of discretionary in a sense that like you could spend it this month, you could spend it next month, but as long as you keep it within 200, like you’re good. You’re meeting your budget goals.
22:19 Janelle: Yes. That $200 encompasses like a lot of random things. As long as it’s like an item or it’s for recreation, for example, buying clothes or buying random medication at CVS. And it also includes, you know, let’s say I want to do a fun rec, going to the park to go rock climbing would probably also be in there.
22:46 Emily: Okay. Yeah. So, like pocket money sort of thing.
22:50 Janelle: Yes.
22:50 Emily: Yeah. That sounds great. And good on you for, you know, limiting yourself to this certain, I sort of think of it as like guilt-free money. Like as long as I stay within this boundary, I can spend it however I want. I don’t want to feel guilty about it at all. I like that, like budgeting sort of in that sense, when I first started doing that, giving myself permission to spend and not like overanalyze. Like, does this, you know, help me meet my goals or not, or whatever, whatever. I knew as long as I stayed within this boundary, I could like, feel good about any purchase that I wanted to make. So, I really like that kind of line item.
23:20 Janelle: Yes.
23:21 Emily: Alright. And your number five line item. What’s that?
23:24 Janelle: My number five line item, I think that’s it. I think it just goes savings, rent, vacation, groceries, transport, and recreation. There’s not a lot to fit in a $2,500 paycheck.
23:38 Emily: True. Because we already got down to the miscellaneous spending. Well, let’s talk a little bit more about like that vacation fund. I think you said it was $200 a month, is that right?
23:47 Janelle: Yes. Yes. It’s $200 a month. And in a given year, it goes to like $2,500, honestly. Sometimes, it eats away at the emergency fund, which is a trade-off, but that vacation fund has let me travel to 10-plus countries by myself. It doesn’t seem like a lot, the $200 a month, but it can buy so much outside of California.
24:14 Emily: Yeah. So, going to 10 countries. Over how many years did you do that?
24:20 Janelle: Okay. So, I started at the end of my sophomore year. So, I guess from now maybe three, three and a half years.
24:29 Emily: Yeah. Okay. So, over three years, has the budget line item stayed at about $200 that whole time?
24:36 Janelle: Yes.
24:37 Emily: Okay, so we’re talking $7200, $7500 total, and you visited 10 countries.
24:44 Janelle: Yes.
24:45 Emily: How did you do that?
24:48 Janelle: Yeah, this is very difficult to say. I guess I plan it ahead of time with like a cost analysis, very comprehensive and all of the, you know, food every day, accommodation every night, and then plane tickets. But the cost of living outside of California, everywhere else in the world is a lot cheaper. So, if you think about it, if you’re spending $400 a month, you know, feeding yourself here in California. That goes a long way somewhere else. Where, for example, I stayed in Vietnam for I think two weeks, and per night, I stayed at a hostel. And even private rooms would be $10 a night, but a hostel where I shared the dorm with other people would be $3 a night. And then food every day was less than 10 bucks a day.
25:48 Emily: Yeah. Well, you still have the expense of getting there though. So like, are you doing travel hacking or are you paying cash for flights? How does that work?
25:56 Janelle: Oh, okay. I just started doing travel hacking. So, there’s this thing called credit training. If you keep up a good credit score, you can sign up for credit cards that give you cash rewards for traveling. And then once you obtain those rewards, you can cancel your credit card at the expense of your credit score. So, if you have any long-term goals like buying a house, obviously don’t credit churn your credit score. But given that credit churning that I started doing just this year to obtain a new credit card for traveling, after the period passed where the score deducted, I think around 20 to 30 points, I was still able to bring it up to 780 by keeping up monthly payments and being very responsible with that credit card and not, you know, spending credit that I don’t have in cash.
26:57 Emily: I love the strategy of travel hacking. We’ve had a couple of previous guests on the podcast, Seonwoo Lee and Julie Chang, and we’ll have those links in the show notes, who have talked about their systems in detail. Now, those were both pre-pandemic interviews, I think. Or I think Julie’s was like in the pandemic, but she was talking about like pre-pandemic strategies. I’m just like getting back into this myself, because we took a big pause from travel hacking. One, because the pandemic, and two, because we were buying a house and so we didn’t want to be messing around with our credit scores, but like since closing on the house, we’ve sort of been dipping our toe back into it. And it’s so fun. And I’m trying to think about like our, you know, 2023 and what trips we want to do then. Like, what’s coming up for you? Do you have any trips planned right now?
27:39 Janelle: Yes, I actually have, hopefully, I haven’t asked my boss yet <laugh> but my PI, I want to. I have a week off this summer, so I want to spend that in Costa Rica around August and then in December, I hope to visit family in the Philippines and Thailand. So, I will be traveling there for December. Another travel hack that I would like to add in. If you open Google incognito mode and then search up the flights through Skyscanner or the Skiplagged website or the Momondo website and compare all three, you can find generally the cheapest ticket. And so, the cheapest day to fly is Tuesday. It’s hundreds of dollars cheaper to fly on Tuesday than any other day. And then the cheapest day to buy the tickets are between 6:00 AM on Saturday to noon on Saturday.
28:42 Emily: Alright. I will be noting that and using that for my travel hacking endeavors going forward. It sounds like most of your travel is international, right? Because if your family is in like the LA area, it sounds like you’re probably not doing that much U.S. like travel, right?
28:57 Janelle: Oh yeah. It’s expensive to travel in the U.S. Whether it’s gas from driving to a road trip or whether it’s flying, the accommodation here is a hundred plus a night. It’s very difficult. I think it would be a lot cheaper to just go international.
Taxes and I Bonds
29:18 Emily: Hmm. Alright. Good to know. Yes. Okay. So, we’ve kind of come to the end of our like budget breakdown. It sounds like we covered your entire budget actually just with those top five plus the goals and so forth. But I wanted to ask you about one other thing, which was taxes. Because I think you mentioned when you said your income earlier, that’s like your gross income, like before taxes are taken out. So, how do you handle taxes on your stipend?
29:42 Janelle: For taxes on my stipend, I take out $127 every month and I put it aside and do my taxes when it’s due, I think this April and then, so I have a cash fund for the taxes ready. And so, you could put that cash fund in a high-interest account, so you can earn interest on it. And it’s not just sitting and getting eaten away by inflation. But another thing is that I put it on Gemini, GUSD stablecoin, which is a crypto that is one-to-one with the U.S. dollar, but it’s a 6.9% APR. So, I earn interest on all of my funds from taxes, vacation, stuff like that.
30:31 Emily: Hmm. Interesting. Yeah, I’ve been hearing more and more about the strategy, not something I have started doing myself, but obviously very enticing with that kind of interest rate. Not guaranteed though.
30:42 Janelle: Oh, another thing I could add is there are also I bonds for the U.S. government. Right now, between I think April to July, I’m not sure about those months. Don’t quote me on that, but there is a 9.6% APR for putting in like cash deposits on I bonds at a $10,000 maximum. But the issue with that is that you have to keep it there at least five years or get a three-month penalty removed. Yes.
31:14 Emily: Exactly. One of the reasons I’ve been hearing about I bonds for, I don’t know, half a year or so now at least, but yeah, but I haven’t done it because I’m a little nervous about the like, ah, well, all this, you know, saving is saving to spend for me. Like my cash is because I intend to spend it. So, how comfortable am I, you know, tying it up somewhere else. So, anyway, it’s a good question for each individual when you’re thinking about where to house your savings and how to get it to work for you a little bit.
Best Financial Advice for Another Early-Career PhD
31:41 Emily: Alright, Janelle, thank you so much for this budget breakdown! It’s been really fascinating for me, especially being sort of close by. I want to conclude our interview with the same question that I ask of all my guests, which is what is your best financial advice for another early-career PhD? And it could be something that we’ve already talked about in the interview, or it could be something completely new.
32:00 Janelle: Yes. My biggest advice would be to save whatever you can, and to put those savings somewhere where the money works for you. Where it’s not just getting eaten away by inflation, whether that be stocks or crypto or, you know, bonds, but definitely save what you can because that money is going to be useful, whether it’s for an emergency or if you want to, you know, change your life.
32:32 Emily: I love it. And the other sort of flip side of like having saved money, like having savings is great for what you just mentioned. You want to make a change or, you know, you have an emergency, whatever. It’s awesome to draw on that money. But the other side of it is the act of saving forces you to create margin in your life, like you’ve done, right? So like, you’re saving almost a thousand dollars a month for the sort of more long-term things. And you also have some short-term savings going on. So like, if you needed to pivot in the short-term and something happened, like you have some margin there to be able to eat into if necessary, if something came up. And so that, like, I just love, just like we need like time margin in our life. We also need financial margin in our life and energy margin and all the rest of it, which is so hard to maintain, but you’re doing a great job with your budget and it’s been really fascinating to chat with you about it and just congratulations on all the success. And I hope that, you know, you have it continued going forward as well.
33:27 Janelle: Okay. Thank you! It’s been really nice talking to you and getting to meet you in person and I, you know, listen to you in the car, driving back here, driving to LA.
33:39 Emily: That’s good to hear. I <laugh>, I love to talk with people who have listened to the podcast before. It’s kind of a kick for me to know that we already have a relationship that’s been established a little bit. So like, we can have conversations like this, which is really fun. So, thank you so much for volunteering!
33:54 Janelle: Thank you!
33:59 Emily: Listeners, thank you for joining me for this episode! I have a gift for you! You know that final question I ask of all my guests regarding their best financial advice? My team has collected short summaries of all the answers ever given on the podcast into a document that is updated with each new episode release. You can gain access to it by registering for my mailing list at PFforPhDs.com/advice/. Would you like to access transcripts or videos of each episode? I link the show notes for each episode from PFforPhDs.com/podcast/. See you in the next episode, and remember: You don’t have to have a PhD to succeed with personal finance… but it helps! The music is “Stages of Awakening” by Podington Bear from the Free Music Archive and is shared under CC by NC. Podcast editing by Lourdes Bobbio and show notes creation by Meryem Ok.