In this episode, Emily interviews Dr. Judy Chan, a PhD and staff member at the University of British Columbia. As a child of immigrants to Canada, Judy learned early on the virtues of hard work, saving, and the value of a dollar. She applied these principles consistently while she earned her PhD, started her business, and became a parent—to great effect.
Links Mentioned in This Episode
- Dr. Chan’s Twitter (@judycchan)
- Dr. Chan’s LinkedIn
- PF for PhDs: Wealthy PhD Workshop Registration
- Get Good with Money (Book by Tiffany ‘The Budgetnista’ Aliche)
- E-mail Emily (for Book Giveaway)
- PF for PhDs: Podcast Hub
- PhD Posters
- The Academic Society (Emily’s Affiliate Link)
- The House Hacking Strategy (Book by Craig Curelop)
- Reading Town (Franchise)
- PF for PhDs: Subscribe to Mailing List
00:00 Judy: And it was hard. I do feel that I have more advanced knowledge than my average colleague or my friend, and even going to the bank, they didn’t really take me seriously when I asked them questions. Or they assigned a very junior financial advisor to me when I actually knew all the answers myself. But I didn’t have enough money to get more experience. I don’t know. Is it just my money, my net worth, or my look, or my age, but I was never able to talk to someone who’s more experienced. So I had to do a lot of my own learning.
00:49 Emily: Welcome to the Personal Finance for PhDs Podcast: A Higher Education in Personal Finance. I’m your host, Dr. Emily Roberts. This is Season 9, Episode 5, and today my guest is Dr. Judy Chan, a PhD and staff member at the University of British Columbia. As a child of immigrants to Canada, Judy learned early on the virtues of hard work, saving, and the value of a dollar. She applied these principles consistently while she earned her PhD, started her business, and became a parent—to great effect. We have a special event coming up on Sunday, July 18, 2021! It’s the second installment of my Wealthy PhD Workshop series, and it’s on everyone’s favorite subject: investing! This workshop is for you if you want to learn how to start investing, particularly if you are a grad student or postdoc who is not covered by a workplace-based retirement plan like a 401(k) or 403(b). I will also teach you about passive investing, which is the most effective, least expensive, and most time-efficient manner of investing. Even if you’re not a novice investor, you can use this workshop to double-check that your current investing strategy is appropriate for your goals. Furthermore, we will discuss the relative merits of discount brokerage firms, roboadvisors, and microinvesting platforms. This is going to be a value-packed session, so please join us on July 18th. You can register at PFforPhDs.com/WPhDinvest/. That’s PF for PhDs dot com slash W for Wealthy P H D I N V E S T. By the way, after you register, you’ll be asked if you want to upgrade into a membership in the Personal Finance for PhDs Community. I do recommend this upgrade because you will have access to the recording of the previous workshop in the Wealthy PhD series, among other things. That workshop on financial goals will help you figure out if now is the right time to start investing or whether you should instead be focusing on saving up cash or paying down debt. Again, please go to PFforPhDs.com/WPhDinvest to register for the workshop this coming Sunday.
Book Giveaway Contest
03:19 Emily: Now onto the book giveaway contest! In July 2021 I’m giving away one copy of Get Good with Money: Ten Simple Steps to Becoming Financially Whole by Tiffany ‘The Budgetnista’ Aliche, which is the Personal Finance for PhDs Community Book Club selection for September 2021. Everyone who enters the contest during July will have a chance to win a copy of this book. Over the last year or so, I’ve become quite a fan of Tiffany’s. I am a loyal listener of her podcast, Brown Ambition, which she co-hosts with Mandi Woodruff, and we read one of her self-published books last September in the Book Club. I was thrilled when her first traditionally published book became a runaway bestseller this past spring, and I knew I had to schedule it into the Book Club. I hope you will join us inside the Community in September to follow The Budgetnista’s plan to become financially whole. If you would like to enter the giveaway contest, please rate AND REVIEW this podcast on Apple Podcasts, take a screenshot of your review, and email it to me at emily at PFforPhDs dot com. I’ll choose a winner at the end of July from all the entries. You can find full instructions at PFforPhDs.com/podcast. Without further ado, here’s my interview with Dr. Judy Chan.
Will You Please Introduce Yourself Further?
04:43 Emily: I have joining me on the podcast today, Dr. Judy Chan. She’s a staff member at the University of British Columbia, and she is going to kind of tell us about her life through a financial lens. So we’re going to start with her childhood, we’re going to go all the way up to now. It’s a real pleasure for me to speak with Judy today because, you know, I interview a lot of grad students and recent PhDs on the podcast, and I love it, but I also love getting to hear from people who are more than a few years removed from that because they have a perspective on, you know, the post-PhD stages as well. So I’m really happy to welcome Judy to the podcast. Judy, will you please introduce yourself a little bit further for the audience?
05:20 Judy: So my name is Judy. I am a staff member at my university, UBC, and I have a side business and I am also a busy mom of two kids. Parents around in the city, so yes, busy, and that’s me.
05:38 Emily: Yeah. Great. Well, we’re going to hear your kind of whole life story coming up and we’re going to insert some financial advice for anyone, you know, coming up on that stage as we go through. So Judy, as everyone in therapy will do, let’s start with your childhood. You know, tell us about your childhood and how it, you know, helped you develop a money mindset.
06:00 Judy: I think I grew up in a very hardworking household. My dad was a restaurant owner back in Hong Kong and I remember him. We would hardly see him. He worked 18 hours a day. I remember him sleeping in the back storage area. But he worked really hard. And we didn’t see him. He doesn’t take days off. I remember we are the only business that opened on Chinese New Year day in the whole entire street. We can go in the middle of the road and play. So that’s how I grew up. I remember not spending any time off meaning that I was actually helping early in the restaurant throughout the Chinese New Year.
Childhood Memories and Life Lessons in Canada
06:45 Emily: Yeah. Tell us about what happened upon your parents immigrating to Canada.
06:49 Judy: I think I also learned big lessons because we are very fortunate that growing up, like we were able to move to Canada in a pretty good, solid financial stage. I remember we got a house. In Hong Kong, we lived in apartments, so we got a house here. Everything was good. My parents, my dad was telling us that he’s retired now. So looking back, it was like he worked really, really hard for 15, 20 years, and then he was able to enjoy his retirement in Canada. He also opened a restaurant for a very short amount of time. We helped out. But it was all very good and fun memories. It’s hardworking, but it was a really good memory for us. Every time when I see people who, other people who also grew up in the restaurant, I think we have some shared memory there.
07:41 Emily: I see. However, you did not take that route in your own life. So I’m wondering, you know, looking back on your childhood, I’m glad you have such positive memories, but what have you taken from that about how, you know, you’re raising your own children?
07:56 Judy: Raising my own children, we just have to work really hard and be very sensitive to money. I remember back then getting wholesale, on average, is actually more expensive than trying to get your cans of pops from the super market, from the big retail supermarket, where the retail price is lower than the wholesale price. So my dad would take us to the big supermarket and we would be loading, like hand carry, trays and trays of pops and juice to bring it back to the restaurant. So my dad got us helping all the time and he would tell us, this is how much we are buying. This is how much we are selling, and this is the price difference. And this is how we mark up, or he doesn’t say it, he just said, look, this is how people do business.
08:49 Judy: And people might pay $10 for a burger, but it may only cost us a dollar. But if we can find ways to cut the cost down to 80 cents, that’s an extra 20 cents for us, for the family. So when we go out, my kids are very lucky. They grew up, I think they are in a very privileged space, but we will continue to remind them that things that we get, there’s a huge markup out there. And we may be able to make it on our own, or like clothings or other things, at a lower cost. So telling them the value of the product that we are getting every day.
09:31 Emily: Yeah. So, it sounds like you had some real, you know, organic lessons around cost and value and the value of the dollar and what, you know, what you can add to the situation because you grew up in that entrepreneurial family, and that’s also something that you’re instilling in your children.
Funding During Grad School
09:47 Emily: So let’s move on to your university days. You were at UBC for undergrad and grad school. Tell us about your funding situation during grad school.
09:56 Judy: Oh, grad school was amazing. I didn’t know that there’s so much funding available for grad students. There’s scholarship and fellowship and TA ship. There’s also a lots of smaller scholarship that I never realized. I think in the way, undergraduate in order to get scholarship and fellowship it’s very competitive. My experience is that grad school is so much easier. And so there’s funding and scholarship everywhere, just apply to them and start saving. So again, in my situation, I was lucky enough that I started as early as six years old, I was able to continue to see the numbers in my bank book, bank account, grow. But I do feel that for most grad students that, hopefully, you will get enough fellowship and scholarship for your basic needs. And there are other source of income around campus. Like I work at UBC now. So I see there’s actually a lots of employment opportunities out there and use them to start building your own wealth, your own saving. Those are extra income that you don’t need now. The basics should be covered by your fellowship, scholarship, and the extra money should go towards the savings, if possible.
11:24 Emily: Yeah, I totally agree that probably there’s going to be a lot of work in the life of a graduate student. You know, there’s going to be your work and your dissertation. There may be an assistantship that you’re performing. Hopefully you’re applying for fellowships and winning some of them on top of that. Maybe you have a side job. There’s a lot of different opportunities. Now, some of those opportunities might be restricted by the, you know, the rules of where you’re living. So one, you know, in the U.S., international students, they’re not going to be allowed to have those side jobs, right? It’s only the, you know, 20 hours per week on campus that they’ve been granted. That’s it. Another thing would be like, if your university, or rather your department, restricts outside work in some manner. So you of course have to check into your, you know, specific situation there. But yes, there are a lot of opportunities in theory for graduate students. I also want to ask you, so did you continue to live with your parents during graduate school, or did you get your own place?
12:16 Judy: I continue to live with my parents.
12:19 Emily: So I ask this because I know that Vancouver is an incredibly high cost-of-living city, and that a grad student stipend may not be enough to support someone if they are living independently. And so that’s a real boon to your finances that you stayed in the same city, I’m sure it was partially by design that you did that. Yes. And you had that opportunity. So that’s wonderful. So you were able to work and save and, you know, live with your parents and yeah. Any advice that you have for a current graduate student or an entering graduate student aside from just apply, apply, apply?
12:56 Judy: I also worked really hard. Like I did my research during the daytime, and then I definitely carved out time to do my teaching assistantship, of the fellowship. There are times that I was doing more hours than what my department allowed. But I did work six days a week, seven to seven sometimes or later into the evening. And I was very disciplined. Any money that I earned on the side, I would spend it, you know, let’s go out for a drink, but they would go straight into my savings account.
Side Business as a Franchisee
13:34 Emily: I also understand that, you know, you mentioned during your college years, you were doing a lot of tutoring as a side job, but you also started a business during graduate school as a tutor. Can you tell us about that and why you decided to take that on?
13:46 Judy: Everything is luck, but then it’s also an opportunity. Like I was doing a lot of tutoring, and I noticed there’s a gap and there’s something that is not available here. And a friend introduced me to a franchise, and I think my friend actually asked me, wanted me, was asking me to be a manager to help him out. But I looked at the franchise, I love it. I like it. I really, I really felt the gap that I noticed myself. So I started a franchise, and at that time with my boyfriend then, he always wanted his own business. It doesn’t matter what it is. That boyfriend is now my husband. So, it worked out quite well. And to be honest, now that I look back, I take risks, but it’s all very calculated risk. Running a tutoring center has minimal cost. There’s no inventory. You just need to rent a space, very minimal decoration and renovation. So, I started a tutoring center when I was in the middle of my PhD.
15:00 Emily: Wow. And, you know, you said that a friend initially approached you about this opportunity. Was that a friend who was also in grad school or somebody from another, oh, wow. Okay. So, did he also have a tutoring center locally?
15:12 Judy: So he started, he looked into the franchise and then he started, he became a franchisee. So, then I asked him, well, how can I be one too? So he was also a grad student at that time.
15:27 Emily: Wow. This is a fascinating idea. I’ve never thought about people becoming franchisees during graduate school, except I’m now remembering that I actually knew someone who did that in a different business. So when I was in graduate school, I was friends with someone who was a franchisee for PhD Posters. I don’t know if they’re still in existence, but they had multiple locations around the U.S. And it’s a poster printing service. And so it wouldn’t be, you know, it would be grad students usually affiliated with the university and they would, you know, drop off posters that people ordered to the various lab spaces. And anyway, it seemed like a great kind of business model for a grad student wanting to run a side business. And it sounds like your business was also, you know, in a similar way, a little bit of overhead for the space, but I’m imagining you paid contractors, right? To do the tutoring. So that’s not any, you know, serious payroll costs. Yeah. Interesting.
Investing and Self-Learning Personal Finance
16:17 Emily: Okay. So when, you know, you’re getting to the end of graduate school, it sounds like you had a healthy savings account at that point. Do you want to tell us, you know, what your net worth was? Or were you doing any, like investing, or was it strictly just cash savings?
16:31 Judy: It was, oh, whoa. I started looking into mutual funds. Someone introduced me to the idea of mutual funds. My dad did a lot of stock trading. So I understand the buy low sell high idea. But he only knows about the trademark that’s in Hong Kong. He has no idea how the Canadian or the American system work. So I wasn’t able to get any support from him. Like, he doesn’t understand the system. And he’s, I don’t know, he doesn’t share much about how he managed his finances. So I had to learn everything on my own. And it was hard. I think, I do feel that I have more advanced knowledge than my average colleague or my friend, and even going to the bank, they didn’t really take me seriously when I asked them questions.
17:23 Judy: Or they assigned a very junior financial advisor to me when I actually knew all the answers myself. But I didn’t have enough money to get like more experience. I don’t know if it’s just my money, my net worth, or my look, or my age, but I was never able to talk to someone who’s more experienced. So I had to do a lot of my own learning. But I was lucky during our grad years, one of our technicians in the lab, he’s a very advanced investor. So there were a few of us, we would spend our afternoon tea time. Oh, by the way, I studied food science. So we would spend our ice cream time talking about finance. So there are a few of us who would exchange ideas on what can we do with our money, stocks, mutual funds. But I had to do a lot of my own learning.
18:30 Emily: And so that process did start during graduate school.
18:33 Judy: Yes. Officially start in graduate school. I’ve always been curious and interested about trading, buying stocks, but I just didn’t have enough confidence as a high schooler. I think in high school, I was already keen to know more, but it was, no, I would say I started in undergrad, in college, that I wanted to know more.
18:57 Emily: Yeah. That’s a really kind of interesting combination of like, seeing an example from your parent and getting some of the mindset of the importance of investing from your parent, yet not being able to receive the practical help because of being in a different context. I hadn’t heard of that before, but yeah. So it’s actually for you maybe a little bit the best of both worlds, because you got to be inspired by your parents, but still had to do all the legwork on your own to figure it out. Which of course means you really internalize what you’re learning.
19:25 Judy: I also learned how to do my own income tax when I was in high school. I had to help my parents because English is not their first language. My parents actually relied on me to look for an accountant. And I am someone who loves numbers and money. And so actually read into personal income tax when I was in high school. And so yeah, I had to do all that education on my own. So till today I still do my own income tax.
19:52 Emily: Yeah. They certainly, you were forced to grow up, and it’s benefited you. Right?
19:57 Judy: Thank you. Yes.
20:00 Emily: Emily here for a brief interlude! This announcement is for prospective and first-year graduate students. My colleague, Dr. Toyin Alli of The Academic Society, offers a fantastic course just for you called Grad School Prep. The course teaches you Toyin’s 4-step Gradboss Method, which is to uncover grad school secrets, transform your mindset, uplevel your productivity, and master time management. I contributed a very comprehensive webinar to the course, titled “Set Yourself Up for Financial Success in Graduate School.” It explores the financial norms of grad school and the financial secrets of grad school. I also give you a plan for what to focus on in your finances in each season of the year that you apply to and into your first year of grad school. If this all sounds great to you, please register at theacademicsociety.com/emily for Toyin’s free masterclass on what to expect in your first semester of grad school and the three big mistakes that keep grad students stuck in a cycle of anxiety, overwhelm, and procrastination. You’ll also learn more about how to join Grad School Prep if you’d like to go a step further. Again, that’s the academic society dot com slash e m i l y for my affiliate link for the course. Now back to our interview.
Finances Post-PhD: Real Estate Advenures
21:27 Emily: Okay. Let’s talk about the post-PhD phase. But we’re not going to quite get to kids yet. So let’s talk about your finances, you know, after you finished grad school.
21:37 Judy: Yes. So it was time to get married. Looking back, my boyfriend then, my husband now, he said I was crazy. Because we just started a new business. We were still very young, and before we got married, because we were in a very stable relationship, we knew we were going to get married. It’s just a matter of Judy finishing her PhD. Everything was on hold until I was able to finish my PhD, and my choice.
22:06 Emily: I think that’s a common story.
22:09 Judy : And then sometime around that, after the business, before my PhD, before we got married, I said, “Let’s get an apartment. We need to get into the real estate market.” The real estate market in Vancouver has been crazy for the last 15, 20 years. It’s been always up with a little dip, a little dip, but it’s always up. So I said let’s go buy our first apartment. So we got our first apartment, and one of my criteria is we need to have a tenant in the apartment. It will be a bonus if there’s an existing tenant in the apartment. We would just carry over the rental lease. So we did that before my PhD was done, before we got married.
22:58 Emily: Wow. So I’ve learned that this, this term is house hacking. Buy a property, live in it with your tenant. And whether that is, you know, in an apartment where you’re sort of, it’s a roommate situation. That could also be like a multi-family if you went that route. But yeah, really glad to hear that you used that strategy. It’s one I’m very excited about, learning more about this spring. We did a focus on, well, I’m not sure when this will be published, so it’s either in the past or upcoming, but in March, 2021, we are reading The House Hacking Strategy in our book club, inside the Personal Finance for PhDs Community. So if that hasn’t happened yet, listeners check that out if this strategy interests you. I’d like to know some of the numbers on that. Like how much did having a tenant there help you out? You know, was it worthwhile to sacrifice, you know, the privacy and so forth?
23:47 Judy: Yes!
23:48 Emily: And how many years did you do that for?
23:50 Judy: So we had the tenant for less than a year, and then we got married. So we moved into, we asked the tenant to leave because we need to get into, that’s our place. So that’s when I officially moved out from my, our parents, same for him. He was living with his parents. And then, so we got married, I finished my PhD. Finished PhD, got married, and you know, all those orders are important in Chinese culture. So, and then I was pregnant. And then when I was pregnant, I was in the elevator in the apartment, and I go, no, I don’t want my kids to grow up in an apartment. I want my kids to grow in a house. You know, this is why we come to North America. We want to live in a house. And then I did like very quick, it wasn’t too hard to find out that we can actually afford a house. If we rent out the basement, that fits into what you just told us now, the house hacking, because the tenant will basically be able to pay for the difference that we have to pay in our mortgage. That’s it? Why not? Right? We got to sell our apartment, get a bigger house. The rental that we can get from our basement will pay for the difference. So it was a very logical change or purchase for us, for me.
From House Hacking to House Upgrading
25:14 Emily: Yeah. It enabled you to upgrade your housing situation, get more space and so forth without having the full, full burden of the cost solely on your incomes. And so how long did you stay in that arrangement?
25:26 Judy: We stayed in that arrangement for about four years. That was after my second kid was born. And, again, I’m so lucky. I have a girl and a son. A girl and a boy. And then at that time I had that illusion, because I came to Vancouver, Canada when I was 14 and my parents put us in the basement. I was happy. Like my sister and I, we were just happy to be in the basement. So I had that illusion that I can put my kids in the basement. So we can ask our tenant to leave. They can go into the basement. But I forgot that in between five years old and 12 years old, I cannot put them in the basement. So we, at that time in the main floor, we had two bedrooms. So, we really need a third bedroom, because you know, two kids. So, and then we were really lucky again. We were looking for, it was about time to upgrade, oh, by the way, my money advice, any extra money we have, we put it into our mortgage. So, when I shop for mortgage, I really look for a very flexible repayment method. So any extra money goes in, we actually, every month we pay more than we need to. And then at the end of the year, we also put all the savings into the house.
26:51 Emily: That’s on top of investing though. Right? Because you’re still, were you doing any like retirement stuff through your work?
26:57 Judy: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Retirement stuff. Take advantage of the retirement pension plan at work and then putting any extra money into the mortgage. So we were able to, four years into the house, we were able to upgrade to a bigger house.
27:17 Emily: So that strategy, it sounds like is because you knew that you would be not in that house for decades, you knew you’d be changing. And so you get the mortgage paid down. So you have a lot of equity to go into your next property. Is that the idea?
27:29 Judy: No, no. We didn’t know that. Like, when I purchased the house with the, I call that a smaller house with the two bedroom in the main floor and two bedroom in the basement, I really thought that my kids would grow up in the basement because I enjoyed it as a teenager, but I forgot about that “in the middle” time. And so, when it was time, when I needed to have two bedrooms, one bedroom for my son and one for my daughter, I felt that we need, to upgrade the house. And having so much of the mortgage that’s been paid down, helped us upgrade our house.
28:06 Emily: Gotcha.
28:07 Judy: I paid it then, what was the reason, I just don’t want to own that much money. I have extra money, then just pay down the mortgage because everything that I pay then will go straight to the principal, and then I don’t have to pay interest on them.
28:24 Emily: Yeah, absolutely. I’m inquiring about this because, you know, we are in a super low interest rate environment right now.
28:32 Judy: Yes.
28:33 Emily: What was your interest rate at that time?
28:36 Judy: 2.5. It was super low. Yeah. It was super low. Yeah.
28:40 Emily: So this was really about you, as you just said, not being comfortable with holding that much debt and as you know, I’m tracking through your story, this is the first debt that you’ve actually taken out, right?
28:50 Judy: Yeah.
28:50 Emily: Yeah. So you’re just, you’re just a naturally debt-averse person. And this is part of that.
28:58 Judy: But at the same time, it doesn’t matter. Okay. Let’s say just pick a number. 3%. 3% is pretty low. I see where you’re going, why don’t I put the money into the stock market? I have to earn 6% return because I have to pay tax on that return in order for me to earn that 3%. And so to me, and the stock market is known to be volatile. It’s not a guarantee. So on one hand I feel that I am getting that guaranteed 3% saving instead of putting the money in a stock market that I need at least just like rough number. Right. I need at least 6% because I have to pay tax on my, on my earning. And I don’t want to do that calculation. I don’t want to worry about that.
Business Updates and Additional Family Expenses
29:53 Emily: Yeah, no, the guaranteed return on debt repayment is very attractive. I agree. So we’ve talked about, you know, real estate changes. Let’s get an update on your business, you know, from that time period.
30:08 Judy: Business was going well. It was going well, we were happy, word of mouth. We were able to generate the money that we forecast. It was going well. Until the pandemic. I have to admit, pandemic has a huge impact on our finance right now. But it’s okay because I do have a stable job at the university.
30:30 Emily: Yeah. So you have your full-time position. Was your husband’s full-time job the business, or did he have a job in addition to that?
30:35 Judy: No, very soon once we made the decision to go into the franchise, and as we were doing our renovations and as we’re getting the prep work going, he had a full-time job at that time. He felt that he needed to dedicate, and he wanted to. And I said, sure. Because I knew he always wanted to be a business owner, and I was doing my PhD. So it made sense that there’s a dedicated person at the business. So he’s full-time there.
31:06 Emily: Gotcha. And let’s talk then about the addition of the children. And you’ve already mentioned that that’s caused some real estate, you know upheavals, but you know, how else have your finances changed upon having children?
How Have Your Finances Changed Upon Having Children?
31:20 Judy: A lot. A lot. Children are very expensive for financial life. Yeah. It’s like daycare. Daycare is expensive in Canada. You know, every month is one TV, right? Every month is one iPhone, if you have to compare it to material. Also because, in Canada, the illusion is we can get a whole year off, but the whole year off for me also means a significant pay cut, right? Yes. Legally, we can get the time off, and then we will go back to having a job, but there’s a difference in income. So, that was okay. Because I think the business was doing well, and I have enough savings. I never need to worry about that. But I have to say that every month that the childcare, the daycare fee, was hard to swallow in the beginning. Whoa, that’s another iPhone. That’s another TV. So, it’s expensive to have kids.
32:26 Emily: So then what happened with your finances overall? Does that translate to a lower savings rate or, you know, did you change your lifestyle during that period?
32:36 Judy: I think we had to change our saving strategy. Like we just have to put more expenses, and less saving. Yes.
32:45 Emily: Yeah. So I have two children, they’re ages four and two. Of course, pandemic year is a weird year, and we’re not paying for childcare right now, but I am looking forward to my daughter turning five and starting kindergarten. And maybe there’ll be some, you know, before or aftercare, I don’t know, but I’m really looking forward to that state-sponsored childcare that’s coming. I’ll still have to pay for the little one for another, you know, few years, but yeah, it’s a really, really significant bite. And so it’s kind of a, you know, it’s a phase of life, right? When you have to pay for childcare, it’s a phase of life you have to accept. Yeah. Your savings rate is going to be lower than it would have been, but Hey, once the expense goes away, you just can put all that money back into savings and your rate will shoot up.
33:28 Judy: Oh, Emily, I don’t know when that will be, when we can get into that stage. Because when they are four and two is the daycare. When they are five to nine is all the extra curriculum activities. My daughter, she dances. Her first dance dress that she needs for her performance was more expensive than my wedding dress. That’s it. That’s it. That’s expensive.
33:57 Emily: Yeah. I’ve heard that too. Both about expenses with kids, is that, yeah, the daycare is a lot of the beginning, but also just shifts later on to being other things. And then also, you know, the intensity of the parenting is much more like it’s physical when they’re young, but it’s very emotional when they’re older and you just have different kind of roles to play as they age. And how old are your children now?
34:18 Judy: They are 10 and 12.
Financial Advice for First-Time Parents
34:19 Emily: Okay. And so what is your advice for someone, you know, anticipating the birth of their first child or who has young children, you know, financial advice for that person?
34:30 Judy: For kids stuff? I would say, I feel a lot of people, they would like to invest into one thing like a car seat, a stroller. I would say, go ahead, buy that luxurious thing that you really want for your kids. But everything else, get hand-me-downs. Get it from your friend. Because they grow up so fast. They grow up so fast. They don’t need all these fancy little cute dresses. And by the time you actually can fit into the dress, we live in Vancouver. So the summer time we only have three sunny days ever. Like hot sunny days. I mean, I remember we had so many cute little dressed that we really couldn’t use them. So, hand-me-downs. Get hand-me-downs.
35:11 Emily: Yeah. I think we followed your advice for our children. The one big, nice expensive thing that we bought was a Bob stroller. Right. Jogging stroller. And then everything else, we did buy new cribs, but we bought like Ikea, like bottom of the line, like so simple, stripped down Ikea cribs and tons and tons of used clothes. We were so fortunate to be, you know, sort of passed used clothes and then we pass them on to the next family afterwards. That’s exactly it worked. Yeah. Yeah. It’s a wonderful boon, if you can get into a parenting community that does that sort of thing. But yeah, I do think we followed your advice. We picked one thing that we wanted and everything else was just really just as cheap as we could get it.
35:49 Judy: And then the other one advice, well, for me that works really well, is I told my kids that I would pay for their education, for their readings, and everything. Because I think my mom was really frugal to a point that looking back, there are moments I go, mom, you know, you could have spent a little bit more money on my education. Because I think we have PhDs. So we care about education. So I really wanted to let my kids know. I am willing to spend money on things that are important to me. And the thing that is important to me is your education. So they know, they know that they can go into the local bookstore, we call it the bookstore. They can buy almost anything in the bookstore, including toys, you know, the bookstore has so many other gadgets. But they take advantage of it. And I actually allow them to, you know, as a bookstore, we will buy something educational. So I don’t, when it comes to book, I have no limit for my kids. Yes.
36:52 Emily: And is there any other advice that you want to add in at this stage for new parents or parents of littles?
36:59 Judy: The phone is a very attractive thing. You know, it’s just one phone. You have so many toys in there, but stay away from it as much as possible. Get your toys from your friends. Get your free toys from your friends. That costs very little money. And, for me before the pandemic, I’ve been strictly using cash in front of my kids. I carry cash. I really want to show them the exchange of money. But during the pandemic it was a lot harder, but they are older now. I think they understand the money, they have some understanding of money, but before the pandemic, I strictly used cash, especially in front of the kids.
37:44 Emily: Yeah. I think that’s a really good tip. Actually, so I mentioned, my daughter is four, she turned four during the pandemic. And at four we were like, okay, we’re going to start really teaching her about money. Like, what is this concept? You know? But because it was during the pandemic, there was no way that we wanted to handle cash coins, anything. So we did get a toy that, you know, represents money, but it’s something that I feel she’s missing out on a little bit now. And I want to somehow, you know, establish that for her later.
38:11 Judy: Well, four is still young. Right? So you still have a lot of time. There’s no hurry. And yeah. She still has a whole lifetime to learn about money.
Best Financial Advice for Another Early-Career PhD
38:22 Emily: Yes. So Judy, thank you so much for this interview. I loved hearing about kind of your journey and your advice. To wrap up my interviews, I always ask my guests, what is your best financial advice for another early-career PhD? It could something that we haven’t mentioned so far in the interview or something you just want to circle back to and emphasize.
38:40 Judy: You don’t really need to spend money on things that you need to impress other people. You know, just really know what is important to you and what you need. Really understand what you need and what you want, the difference between the two. I mean, I’m not saying that you cannot get the thing you want, but knowing that this purchase is what I need, and this is a purchase that is what I want. And have that differentiation in your head, in your mind. I think that’s already a very good start.
39:11 Emily: Yeah. I think that’s an incredible insight. Especially, to me, I always think about this when it comes to recurring expenses like recurring, fixed expenses. So, you know, we talked about housing a bit earlier. So what in your housing cost is a need, and what is an upgrade to that, a want? And I think it’s important just to keep in mind in case you ever come upon a situation where, you know, you want to cut back, you’ll know, okay, well, you know what, the house actually is bigger than what we needed at this point, or the car, or whatever it is. Like if you differentiate between, okay, well, I could have this, I can afford this, you know, more of a want thing right now, but just to keep in mind. Yeah. There is a way that I can scale this down, you know, should it come to it in the future. Like you said, to differentiate in your mind, I really like that advice. And will you let us know, you know, about your business and you said, you know, it’s a little bit on the skids during the pandemic, give us kind of an update on that and where people can find you if they’re interested in learning more about it?
40:06 Judy: Well, my business is more catered to kids. And so it’s a reading center, we specialize in fostering reading and writing. We have lots of books. Good levels from the state. And so it’s called Reading Town, it’s a franchise and, and I love reading with kids. And we have programs that are good from Kindergarten all the way to grade 12. Lots of readings. Yes.
40:38 Emily: Yeah. Thank you so much for letting me know about that. And thank you so much for joining me today.
40:41 Judy: Thank you, Emily.
40:43 Emily: Listeners, thank you for joining me for this episode! pfforphds.com/podcast/ is the hub for the Personal Finance for PhDs podcast. On that page are links to all the episodes’ show notes, which include full transcripts and videos of the interviews. There is also a form to volunteer to be interviewed on the podcast and instructions for entering the book giveaway contest. I’d love for you to check it out and get more involved! If you’ve been enjoying the podcast, here are 4 ways you can help it grow: 1. Subscribe to the podcast and rate and review it on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or whatever platform you use. If you leave a review, be sure to send it to me! 2. Share an episode you found particularly valuable on social media, with a email list-serv, or as a link from your website. 3. Recommend me as a speaker to your university or association. My seminars cover the personal finance topics PhDs are most interested in, like investing, debt repayment, and effective budgeting. I also license pre-recorded workshops on taxes. 4. 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 Meryem Ok.
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