In this episode, Emily interviews Dr. Amanda, a tenure-track professor at a small college in the midwest. At the start graduate school, Amanda was disengaged from her finances and considered grad school to be a financial continuation of undergrad. She had resigned herself to being a “poor graduate student” until she read Ramit Sethi’s book, I Will Teach You to Be Rich. Slowly, the financial messages in that book replaced the limiting beliefs she had absorbed from academia. Amanda took small steps to improve her finances, starting with her bank accounts and opening a Roth IRA, and over time her strides with her finances became bigger and bigger. At the end of the episode, Amanda summarizes the financial success she is now experiences and connects it to the hard and slow work she did on her finances during grad school and her postdoc.
This is post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting PF for PhDs!
- Find Dr. Amanda on her website and on Twitter
- Listen to a previous episode with Dr. Amanda: “This Prof Used Geographic Arbitrage to Design Her Ideal Career and Personal Life”
- I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi
- This PhD Government Scientist Is Pursuing Financial Independence: Part 1
- Personal Finance for PhDs: Tax Center
- Personal Finance for PhDs: Podcast Hub
- Personal Finance for PhDs: Subscribe to the mailing list
00:00 Amanda: I was initially a little bit resistant and I had the, “Oh, I’m a poor grad student” identity, I definitely did. I thought of myself as a poor graduate student and thought, well, all grad students are poor, that’s what it’s supposed to be, and I hadn’t challenged that at all at that point.
00:19 Emily: Welcome to the Personal Finance for PhDs podcast, higher education in personal finance. I’m your host, Dr. Emily Roberts. This is season five, episode 15. And today, my guest is Dr. Amanda, a tenure track professor at a small college in the Midwest. When she started graduate school, Amanda was disengaged from her finances. She had resigned herself to being a poor graduate student, until she encountered Ramit Sethi’s book, I Will Teach You to Be Rich. Slowly, the financial messages in that book replaced the limiting beliefs she had absorbed from academia. Amanda took small steps to improve her finances starting with her bank accounts and over time, her strides with her finances became bigger and bigger. At the end of the episode, we get a glimpse at how the hard and slow work she did on her finances during grad school and her postdoc is now paying off in spades. Without further ado, here’s my interview with Dr. Amanda.
Will You Please Introduce Yourself Further?
01:16 Emily: I’m so glad to have Dr. Amanda joining me on the podcast again today. She was first on in season one, episode 11 talking about geographic arbitrage, and her career transition from her postdoc into her academic job. And anyway, if you didn’t listen to that episode, and you have time right now, go back and listen to it. But today we’re going to pick up and talk about something that she briefly mentioned in that first interview that I thought was fascinating enough that I wanted a whole interview devoted to it, which is her financial turnaround story. We would definitely say that Dr. Amanda is financially successful today, but she’s not always identify that way, so we’re gonna explore that story in a lot more depth. Amanda, thank you so much for coming back on the podcast and being willing to share this aspect of your story.
02:01 Amanda: Thanks for having me.
02:02 Emily: So would you please tell us a little bit more about yourself, maybe for those of you who didn’t listen to the first episode?
02:08 Amanda: Sure. I am an assistant professor in a college of education. And I work primarily with doctoral level students. I teach courses on research, writing, qualitative methods. And then I also teach a course on information and information literacy and innovation. My background is in digital media and learning, and specifically video games and learning. A lot of my research has been around the digital games industry, and then how people learn from playing video games, both games designed to be educational, but also commercial games and game communities.
Life Before the Financial Turnaround
02:45 Emily: Great. And tell us briefly about where you went to graduate school where you did your postdoc and about your family, how that formed along the way.
02:53 Amanda: Sure. I guess the first thing is, after I graduated from college, I moved out to the San Francisco Bay area for a short time, and worked as an editor in the games industry. And that’s how I developed an interest in video games and doing work on games. But I was always a school person and I had intended to go back to school to attend graduate school. And so I decided at that time that I wanted to do something with games. When I was looking for graduate programs, really my criteria was I want to work with people who are doing interesting things with video games. I felt like there was a lot of emphasis on games research, on games and obesity, games and violence, really negative things. And I thought, you know, there are a lot of great things happening in this industry. And I felt like there was a lot of potential for games to be used for a more positive impact. And so my search for graduate programs was really just who’s doing stuff around games in their potential.
Amanda: I found a group of people at the University of Wisconsin, Madison called the games learning society group, and they were a group of scholars doing really fascinating work from games and learning perspective. These were people looking at games like Civilization and World of Warcraft and how are students learning about history from a systemic point of view from Civilization, and how are high school boys, who are really disengaged with school, acquiring literacy skills and critical thinking skills and math skills from playing World of Warcraft. That was graduate school. And then following, that I did a postdoc at USC, the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where I worked on a project where we were looking at using a game to teach first generation, low-income students about the process of applying for college.
04:43 Emily: Wow, that is so fascinating. And I think along the way you met your husband, is that right?
04:48 Amanda: I did. So I met my husband Dennis in graduate school. His advisor was actually married to my advisor.
04:55 Emily: Oh, wow. Incestuous relationship.
04:58 Amanda: Yeah, and I was I think resistant to dating him for a little while because of that, but he just turned out to be too awesome of a person, and so we started dating in grad school. Then we ended up getting married during the postdoc, and he went out to Los Angeles with me.
05:14 Emily: Was he doing a postdoc during that time as well? Or did he have a different type of job?
05:16 Amanda: He was working for the University. I’m blanking on his job title. But he was working with the USC games group, teaching courses, and then also helping manage their tech program. So he was working more with students who are learning to be game developers. And then I was in the College of Education, doing work – it was a large grant with the US Department of Education is what I was working on.
05:38 Emily: Okay, yeah. And going back to that first interview, the transition out of your postdoc, deciding where to apply for academic jobs, all that we covered in the previous interview. So if people are interested in your subsequent career path, they can go back and listen to that. But today we’re going to be talking about your financial journey during that whole time. Can you start with kind of the before, when you weren’t feeling so financially successful? What was your financial life like at that time and what were your financial attitudes?
06:11 Amanda: I think it wasn’t even that I wasn’t feeling financially successful. I wasn’t financially engaged. I had this narrative in my head, you know what, I’m good at school, as long as I do well in school, and I work hard, I will be successful and that is something that I worry about when I’m done with school. Later on, when I’m an adult, even though of course, if you get a PhD you end up spending a good amount of time in school as an adult. But I had this attitude that money was something that I would worry about later.
06:40 Emily: I’m curious how that actually plays in because you had work experience prior to starting your PhD. Is that the same attitude you had at that time? Or did it actually switch when you entered graduate school?
06:51 Amanda: Yeah, so I was working. I did work full time as an editor after my undergrad, and so I started paying off my student loans. I didn’t have a huge number of student loans, but I had taken out some loans, particularly I took two classes abroad when I was an undergrad, and so I had borrowed some money beyond scholarships for that. So I started making the payments, and I just sent in whatever the minimum expected payment amount was, and wasn’t really thinking about it. I mean, I did pretty well in that I was an English major, who at least managed to pay my rent and make a living in San Francisco. And this was right around the time of the beginning of the financial crisis, too, so there was a lot of anxiety and I knew a lot of people who are laid off at that time. I kind of felt like, “Oh, well, I have a job and I’m paying the rent and it’s San Francisco, so I must be doing just fine or even really great.” Things like investing for the long term or bigger goals weren’t really on my radar. I was just sort of paying the rent and paying the student loans.
07:57 Emily: Yeah, well, given the the time and the place that you were in I actually think you probably were doing very well. But in graduate school, you had that same attitude of just kind of going along and school is your primary focus. Is that right?
08:10 Amanda: Yeah. I hadn’t really had a good understanding of how graduate school was different from undergraduate, and so I borrowed money my first year of grad school. I took out whatever loans were offered as a part of the FAFSA, even though I had a project assistantship that year. And it wasn’t until I was kind of well into that first year that I understood, “Oh, you can work as a project assistant or research assistant, a teaching assistant and throughout grad school, I had each of those roles. And that can be enough to live on.” It’s not an exciting lifestyle, but I hadn’t realized at first that I didn’t need to be taking out those loans. So I took them out, and then I just didn’t do anything mindful with them. I probably did a little bit of travel, I ate out probably more than I needed to, and just that money sort of trickled through. I didn’t blow through it right away or anything like that, or need to take out additional loans, but I just didn’t understand the ways that you could avoid taking on additional debt in grad school. I sort of treated it like undergrad, just not knowing how that system worked until I was further along.
What Sparked the Financial Turnaround
09:16 Emily: I see. Yeah, that kind of makes sense, actually, because you were thinking about yourself as a student again. I guess that’s part of what this podcast is about, right? Making a wider awareness known that graduate school should be handled financially completely differently than you’ve handled your undergraduate degree. So when did this start to change? When did you start to have a greater degree of engagement or awareness around your finances?
09:40 Amanda: Sure. So my boyfriend at the time, now husband, had started reading, I Will Teach You to Be Rich, a book by Ramit Sethi. And if you’re not familiar with it, it’s really a book that just sort of walks you through how to set up a financial framework tohelp you be successful. He talks about how to use credit cards strategically how to set up the right sorts of bank accounts — checking savings, how to get started investing. He was reading that book and we just decided to read it together. We worked through it chapter by chapter. And from there, we started feeling really motivated by by that book, in particular.
10:23 Emily: This is really interesting to me, because this may be a better question for your husband, but the title of Ramit’s book, I Will Teach You to Be Rich — how did you even have the idea that that book was for you, because rich was nowhere near what was going on for you at that time?
10:40 Amanda: Not even close.
10:41 Emily: Maybe it was the teach you, like you were a learner, you wanted to be taught?
10:45 Amanda: I remember being really resistant to the book because I hated the title. I remember actually making fun of it or just saying, wow, it seems really cocky. And there were parts of the writing style where I felt like it was a little more aggressive than really appealed to me. But I also found I was just kind of drawn in by some of the message. I was initially a little bit resistant. And I had the, “Oh, I’m a poor grad student” identity I definitely did. I thought of myself as a poor graduate student and thought, “well, all grad students are poor. That’s what it’s supposed to be.” And I hadn’t challenged that at all at that point. But I do remember being actually turned off by the title of the book, so it’s funny that you mentioned that. But he was reading it and it was fun to be reading a book together too, and having that partner to talk things through and bounce ideas off of, and then we were able to hold each other accountable to actually doing something once we had read through the book.
11:42 Emily: Yeah. So did you encounter any other resistance to that identity as a poor graduate student? Was that pushing back at all against the messaging you’re receiving from the book?
11:55 Amanda: Yeah. I came up against some limiting beliefs at that point. As I was reading the book, I started having these feelings that “oh, well, I feel like I’m starting too late” or “as a graduate student, I don’t make enough money for financial planning to be worthwhile, that that’s still not something I can do.” I was simultaneously feeling like I had waited too long and like I still needed to wait longer. And that was really frustrating for me, because I have the type of personality where once I decide I want to do something, I want to act on it right now, or yesterday. It was frustrating to me to start learning about all these things, but not really feel like I had the means to put everything that I wanted to into place right away.
12:38 Emily: Yeah, I can imagine that a lot of people starting to learn about personal finance in graduate school, from whatever source, can feel that way. And it’s to your credit that you kept engaging with the material, instead of just totally turning off and say, “Oh, I have to pick up this book again in a few years later on.” I can definitely understand why hearing the message, while maybe this is not what he intended, but to you interpreting as I’m already starting too late when you were probably in what your mid-20s or so?
13:07 Amanda: Yeah.
13:09 Emily: Yeah, it’s not like objectively actually that late, but when you understand that people who did not go to graduate school route can be working on this right away when they finish their bachelor’s or even potentially earlier, that can be really frustrating. And like you said, you have all these great ideas once you start accepting the messages, but still, nothing has really changed in terms of your means and ability to work on them.But still, you were able to start making some changes. Once you started accepting the messages, what did you do right away even while you were still in graduate school?
Small Steps Make a Difference
13:47 Amanda: The book actually had really specific instructions about how to set up — I don’t think he frames it this way, but it’s essentially setting up a framework for yourself. One of the things that Sethi talks about is getting away from high-fee brick and mortar banks. A lot of banks charge to have a checking account if you don’t have a certain amount of money in it. And for most graduate graduate students, those minimums aren’t necessarily realistic. ATM fees are things that just can kind of bleed through. He had recommended switching to an online bank, and at the time, he had specifically, I think, recommended the Charles Schwab high yield investor checking. And so we both switched over our banks, because I think one of us was with Wells Fargo at the time, the other was with Bank of America. We were with exactly those banks that he was saying, “you know what, these are just set up to make you fail. They’re never going to do you any favors, get out.”
14:42 Emily: I don’t think anything has changed in the 10 or so years since that point. I would still say anyone who’s a Bank of America and Wells Fargo, get out of that relationship ASAP.
14:53 Amanda: Exactly. And one of the things that I love about the Charles Schwab account and that I think is really good for grad students, especially if you’re presenting research, is you get reimbursed ATM fees from anywhere in the world. Any ATM fees that you end up paying while you’re at a conference, it can even be an international conference where those can be really steep fees, at the end of the month, you will get a deposit in your checking account that reimburses you for all of those fees. That’s a feature that I just really like, and it’s not a lot of money, but over you know, several years that does start to add up.
15:25 Emily: And I think that on a graduate students stipend, those $3 or $5 here and there — it’s a higher percentage of the money that you’re working with as a graduate student that it would be for Ramit’s general audience. Like maybe that tip is “okay, it’s a good thing for them to do, but it doesn’t make that big of an impact,” but for graduate students, coming up at the end of month with 20 extra dollars or so like that can make a decent difference in your life, especially if your savings goal starts out at that $10, $20, $50 level. That can really help you meet that
15:58 Amanda: Yeah and it’s okay if that’s where you’re starting. Another thing that we did is we set up higher interest savings accounts. This was when interest rates were really low. Right now it’s realistic to maybe get, at the time of this recording anyway, 2% or a little over 2% on a savings account. At that time, I believe 1% was the absolute most you’re going to get, and so we weren’t talking a lot of money, but it was the same principle. I was with one of those banks where I think the interest was under 0.5%, so even with a lot of money, you’re not going to be earning anything. And so, you know, with the amount of money that I that we had in savings at that time, 1% was still only earning us, maybe pennies, but a few more pennies. But over time, as we started saving more and built up an emergency fund, those pennies became a latte every month. Now it looks a little bit more like a dinner out, maybe a modest dinner out, but it’s something. I think it’s important if you can aggregate those kinds of small gains across a bunch of areas, then they do start to make a difference. It’s changing your attitude from I don’t care that I’m bleeding money a little bit here and there on fees and interests that I could be earning. It’s saying, I’m taking control of this and I am mindful of where all of those dollars go and how I can now be in control of my financial situation.
17:26 Emily: Yeah, I can see how this example of changing where you bank can be a really impactful psychological when at the start of a financial journey, like what you’re talking about, because it’s not like you’ve set a savings goal and that you’re feeling discouraged about that, because you know, you only make X amount of money. It’s something that you do have complete control over and it doesn’t cost you any money. In fact, it’s going to be bringing money back into your account, a few dollars at a time. I can definitely see how this can be a wonderful first step to take when you’re starting to take in your financial life. You actually just mentioned a term I wonder, based on our last interview, if you also listen to the Choose FI podcast?
18:07 Amanda: Definitely. What was the term that I used?
18:08 Emily: You didn’t quite say it the way they did — aggregation of marginal gains. I’ll explain that for the audience. This Choose FI podcast is about the financial independence movement. We’ve had a pair of interviews on that with Gov Worker in season three, so if you want to learn more about the FIRE movement, financial independence and retire early, you can listen that one. We also touched on it in Amanda’s first interview. But anyway, on this Choose FI podcast, they have this term that they’ve come up with throughout their episodes, the aggregation of marginal gains, which is when you just make a tiny little change in your financial life, like the one that Amanda just mentioned, of stopping to pay ATM fees or stopping to pay fees just to hold a small balance in a checking or savings account. Those are very, very small things to do. But once you add up ten small things or hundred small things, that aggregation becomes really significant in your finances. This can be that step one for your aggregation of marginal gains. So yeah, thank you so much that example Amanda.
19:09 Emily: Emily here for a brief interlude. Tax season is upon us and while no one loves this time of year, it’s particularly difficult for post-bac fellows, funded grad students, and postdoc fellows. Even professional tax preparers are often thrown for a loop by our unique tax situation. And don’t get me started on tax software. I provide tons of support at this time of year for PhD trainees preparing their tax returns. From free articles and videos, to paid at-your-own-pace workshops, to live seminars and webinars for universities and research institutes. The best place to go to check out all of this material is pfforphds.com/tax that’s P F F O R P H D dot com slash T A X. Don’t struggle through tax season on your own. Visit my website for the exact information you need in the most efficient form available. Now back to the interview.
20:17 Emily: Anything else structurally that you changed around your finances at that time when you first started following the I Will Teach You to Be Rich framework?
20:24 Amanda: One other account that I got set up, which I think in the long run is going to have been really important, is taking control of getting started with retirement savings. Because I had opened the checking account with Charles Schwab, which is an investment firm, I also then opened a Roth IRA and I forced myself to remember that I had had some 401k savings from that editorial job that I had had before, but I wasn’t paying any attention to it. I couldn’t have told you how much I had saved. I sort of knew where it was. I still to this day today do not know how I had had that money invested at that time. So what I did is I opened up an IRA and I rolled that 401k over. And it was not much money, because I had not been — at the time I had been in San Francisco, I was proud to be paying my rent, I wasn’t worried about saving for decades out in the future. But what I did is I got that money to where now I knew where it was and then I had it on my radar to when I had windfall money from contract work or side projects that I was doing, I was like, “You know what, I can start to invest in a Roth IRA.” And that’s something that, sure, it would have been great to start at 18, but I can start right now and that’s still going to be really good for me over time.
21:41 Emily: Yeah, that’s amazing. I love that you specifically tied any windfall money or any extra side hustle money or whatever it was, you then had a place to put it. There wasn’t the extra hurdle of, “Oh, I have an extra $50 in my account right now. What do I do with it? I’m not sure” and it ends up just floating away somewhere you don’t even know where it went. You had then a place to put it. This is another great first step to take, is just to open an account, just to set it up, as long as there’s no minimum, or you can meet the minimum required to open it, just so you have a place about money to go. I think it makes such a huge difference that once you have that goal in mind, okay, any money extra money that comes in, this is where it goes. And it’s really easy to follow through on that once you’ve gotten over the activation barrier of setting up setting up the account.
22:31 Amanda: And both my husband and I, throughout the years have split that money between Roth IRAs and then that’s how we made substantial payments to our student loans. Both of us have done side projects where we might get a couple thousand dollars here and there, for consulting work or book projects or other things. We were very mindful that 100% of that money, we would just take it and allocate it toward one of those two goals. We had actually paid off a good chunk of student loans while we were still in school or within that first year, just because we were really consistent about taking that extra money and putting all of it towards either long term investments or towards the student loans with the highest interest rates, because at that point, we had pooled together all of those loans and actually started tracking, “Okay, what are the interest rates on each of these and which do we need to tackle first?”
23:28 Emily: Is that something else you learned from I Will Teach You to Be Rich, how to handle the debt? Were you following that part of earnings plan as well?
23:37 Amanda: Yes. And we were big fans. It was it was obvious for us that we wanted to tackle highest interest rate first. I know some people will start with the smallest loans, just to get those those wins, that sort of dopamine hit from getting a loan paid off. But for us even if the higher interest rate loans were bigger, we started with those.
23:57 Emily: So you’re going through the remainder of your graduate degree and you had this system for living off of your stipend for your budget and then pushing forward your finances with the extra money that was coming in. That’s how you finished out graduate school. Was there anything you did to keep yourself on this path of sticking to your goals and sticking to this idea of financial improvement through that time?
24:20 Amanda: Yeah. I mentioned that I have an “I want to do things now, now, now” sort of personality. As we transitioned from graduate school to the postdoc phase, we were in a higher cost of living area, but we are making more money. I felt like “okay, now we can start to do some more things.” There are things that we couldn’t do as students that now we can really tackle. One of the things we did, we were in Los Angeles, which means we spent a good amount of time in traffic. We were fortunate enough that we both were working at USC, at the same university. That meant we had a good chunk of time every day in the car and so we started listening to podcasts at that time.
Amanda: Really there’s a handful of podcasts that we had started listening to. We started listening to Afford Anything, Paula Pant’s podcast. We listened to The Mad Fientist, which is another financial independence podcast. We started listening to some entrepreneurial and side hustle podcasts. We were really just looking for ideas for things we could do and those podcasts really kind of helped keep us looking for new improvements that we could make and kept us motivated too. Sometimes the smart thing is not to change your goals, but just keep doing what you’re doing, but for me, I needed that motivation. I needed to be constantly learning new things and assimilating new information, and then making little tweaks along the way.
25:55 Emily: Yeah, I think those are all fantastic suggestions. I also love listening to podcasts. Not surprising, having my own podcast, I love the medium and listen to a lot of different ones. All the ones that you mentioned are excellent. We’ve already mentioned Choose FI, that could be another one to throw into the mix for the listener. Of course mine has a completely different audience than many of these other ones. If you’re already a listener, please stick with it, because I think this will help motivate you as well. And then the other one that I really like for motivation is Dave Ramsey’s podcast/radio show. You probably have to be in a debt repayment phase of life to really appreciate it, but he is very motivational, I will say that. That’s another idea if you’re looking for motivational podcasts.
Life after a Financial Turnaround
Emily: Let’s take the last couple minutes here, Amanda, and just give us some highlights of what’s been going on. What did you hit? You eventually paid off your student loans. What would have been the financial highlights of years, finishing out your postdoc, and then since then?
26:54 Amanda: We were fortunate enough to really get our loans paid off within a couple years of us graduating. That was a huge win for us. But of course, I wanted to keep that momentum going. Every time we complete a goal, I say, “okay, but we can’t lose momentum. So what are we going to do next?” And so we, we paid off the student loans and then we were kind of in that transition to a lower cost of living area, which I covered in that other podcasts, so I won’t talk about it. But that was another thing we wanted to do. My family’s in the Midwest, I had wanted to get back to the Midwest. That was something that we felt was important before we started a family.
Amanda: We started transitioning from high cost of living area to a lower cost of living area and that made home-ownership really feasible for us. We saved up and at the end of the last year — we weren’t planning to buy a house until this year, but we just ended up finding the right house in the right neighborhood, and we we had enough saved where we were able to make that happen. That was one of the latest things we did and now we just had our first child. I had a daughter in June, and so we’re wanting to get a little bit put away for her college already, too. We’re working on that and we’re kind of hoping to make a purchase of a rental property in the next couple years, so that’s another goal that we’re working on right now.
28:14 Emily: I think this is an amazing example of how much your financial progress accelerates once you have the higher income to be working with, and you can’t expect that to necessarily happen if you haven’t laid the groundwork earlier. If you do have the attitude of, “well, I’m still in graduate school, I’m still in my postdoc, I just have to worry about money later,” It’s not necessarily all going to turn on a dime for you when your income changes. But for you, Amanda, because you guys have been working so diligently on these various goals with whatever means you had for all those years, once you had the higher incomes, it was just like, boom, you knew exactly what to do with it. You knew where to funnel your money. You could make really, really quick progress and that’s the same thing that happened my finances as well — laying the groundwork during graduate school, once the income changed, the winds just come faster and faster and faster, even though they were really slow and hard fought in the beginning years. I really appreciate hearing this more about that “after” aspect of your story, after the financial transformation.
29:17 Amanda: I’ve heard that the first $100,000 is the hardest, for net worth. And I do believe that that’s probably true. I don’t know how well documented that is, but that’s something that I’ve heard before on podcasts and on blogs. It does seem like, it doesn’t really matter if it’s $100,000 or whatever it is, the beginning is the hardest to make progress because your money isn’t making much money, you probably aren’t making much money, because otherwise you could be making things move a lot faster. But it is true that if you’re just consistent about it, and have a framework set up and have goals that you’re working towards, it does really feel like your ability to do things does you know pick up pace a little bit.
30:01 Emily: Yeah, I would agree with that. I can definitely attest in my own life, the first $100,000, which I documented, actually, it’s in season one, episode one, of how we got to our first $100,000 of net worth, that was a long journey and it’s the next iterations that have come a lot faster, obviously. Now, I didn’t start very much in debt, we had sort of a slightly negative net worth, not huge. But if you have like a very negative net worth, maybe you’re working on over $100,000 of student loan debt to pay off, there’s sort of two phases to that journey — there’s getting to zero and then there’s getting to the first $100,000, and your first $100,000 of positive net worth will be easier than when you’re working to get to zero. It’ll be easier than that, but it will not be totally as easy as someone who started at zero, if that makes sense, just because of the way compound interest work.
30:54 Amanda: When we first calculated our net worth it was negative. It wasn’t significantly negative. And I do agree that if you are one of those people who happens to have six figures of student loan debt, you’ve got a different process to go through. Hopefully a soon to be future income that will help you tackle that with pretty good pace. When we first calculated it, it was below zero, and that was frustrating. That was definitely something for us that didn’t feel good. But we knew that we couldn’t get to zero and above zero without just tackling it. We were fortunate enough, right around the time we got married, we calculated and we were at zero when we got married, and we had a very, very modest tiny family only wedding in order to keep it that way. We didn’t want the wedding to drag us further down, but I think when we got married we are right around zero. So that was kind of a neat place because symbolically It was like okay, you know, we’re married and now we have nowhere to go but up. Let’s get moving on that.
31:57 Emily: Yeah, that sounds amazing.
Final Words of Advice
32:00 Emily: Final question here, Amanda, which is one that I asked all of my guests. Now, we’ve already heard you say a lot of financial advice during this entire podcast, but it was mostly you following the advice of others. I’m curious now that you’ve been through this whole process, what you would turn around and say to another early career PhD, in terms of your best financial advice for that person?
32:18 Amanda: Sure. So something that we do, and I guess this applies for people who have a partner, something that my husband and I do is we do a monthly finance update. It’s really just a spreadsheet where we keep track of our debts, and our savings and investments. We just go through and update the balances of all of those accounts every month. It doesn’t really take long, but it’s something that I look forward to because it means that we have a conversation around money and it means that at least once a month, probably more often just because it’s become a hobby of mine. But you know, if it’s not something you’re that interested in scheduling a regular check in, like once a month, it’s just a good way to make sure that you’re communicating financially. And I feel like that’s been really good for us because it means we’re making sure we’re still on the same page about our goals. And if we are starting to have different ideas, then we have a conversation about Okay, do we want to prioritize this thing or this other thing first?
33:18 Emily: Yeah, that’s a fantastic suggestion. Again, for anyone who is in a relationship with another person, however you handle your finances, you know, joint separate or Yours, Mine and Ours. I think that monthly check in can serve any one of those models really well.
Emily: Amanda, it’s been an absolute delight to have you back on the podcast. I’m so glad that you made time for this. Congratulations on the new addition to your family, both the baby and the house and the potential next rental property, all of it. It sounds wonderful, and it was really great to catch up with you today.
33:47 Amanda: Yeah, you too. It was good to talk to you, Emily. And thanks for having me on.
33:51 Emily: Listeners, thank you for joining me for this episode. PFforPphDs.com/podcast is the hub for the Personal Finance for PhDs podcast. There, you can find links to all the episode show notes and a form to volunteer to be interviewed. I’d love for you to check it out and get more involved. If you’ve been enjoying the podcast, here are four ways you can help it grow. One, subscribe to the podcast and rate and review it on Apple podcast, Stitcher, or whatever platform you use. Two, share an episode you found particularly valuable on social media or with your PhD peers. Three, recommend me as a speaker to your university or association. My seminars covered the personal finance topics PhDs are most interested in, like investing, debt repayment, and taxes. Four, subscribe to my mailing list at PFforPhDs.com/subscribe. Through that list, you’ll keep up with all the new content and special opportunities for Personal Finance for PhDs. 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 and show notes creation by Lourdes Bobbio.