Back in March, one of our diarists, a finance VP in New York City, drummed up a lot of conversation after readers learned of her high income and spending habits. Here’s what she had to say:
“I had no idea [my diary] was going to cause such a shit storm. Actually, I was pleasantly surprised; most of the comments were very nice.
“I learned a LOT. I am the kind of person who (oddly, [considering] my line of business) wants to avoid really tallying up what I’m doing. I always review my credit card charges and I think I’m pretty responsible for the most part. I [tend to] spend frugally day-to-day, but will save up and be happy to spend on something like a vacation or a new handbag. I care a lot more about the big-ticket items than buying coffee every day. (BTW, I went back and ordered that sofa from ABC Home! It cost just under $2,000, but I expect to keep it for at least five years. I am a trader; I like to invest.)”
“One place where I could definitely be saving is grocery stores! I tend to go every two or three weeks because, honestly I just hate doing it. Then, when I go, I wander around aimlessly and pick out random things. I enjoy cooking, but there’s only so many vegetables you can eat as a single person in a week before they go bad and you have to throw them out! I think I will work on either going more often or making a list.
“With regards to the comments on my charity spending, I spend about $3,000 a year on various charities. The form asked for monthly expenses, not yearly ones, so I was just following instructions. I had no idea that’s what people would focus on, especially considering I spend quite a bit on causes that matter to me. Also, taxes are nuts! Something like 30% to 40% of my headline income goes to taxes. Especially in Manhattan, you get dinged three time — federal, state, and city. I work on commission, so it’s hard to budget. But I’m not complaining, I am in a high-income bracket — so I have very high tax rates.
“I think I have a healthy relationship with debt, which is something I’ve learned from reading a lot of these Money Diaries. Credit scores are SO important! I was really fortunate to have parents who made me get a credit card when I was in middle school (!!) and pay it down. I’ve had a credit score for almost 15 years! I have friends who just got a credit card last year.
“There were a few comments about privilege that, honestly, I expected. I went to public school until I went to a top-notch university; it was private and crazy expensive. But my parents grew up very poor and have managed to do some incredible things. This will probably make me sound even more frivolous (I already got nailed for spending $100 on a single candle!), but my parents knew the kind of lifestyle I wanted to live from a young age. They’ve been very open in telling me, Hey, if you want that $5 million townhouse, you’re going to need to make a lot of money. Here are the career paths you can take. They really pushed me into finance because they knew this was the career path I’d need to take to make the kind of money I want.
“I think this is a message that gets lost on a lot of people. If you want to go be a humanitarian or work for a nonprofit, that’s great — but it comes with a different financial picture. For me, this was more important. I am fully aware that my job is loathed by some, but it’s the choice I made to live the kind of lifestyle I want. I’ve also been lucky to have parents who understood how much they could help. I’ll confess that I originally wanted to be a doctor! This would have also, eventually, yielded the kind of income I’d need to live the life I want, but my parents sat me down and said, ‘Look: We can’t pay for medical school. How long and how much debt do you want to be in?’ It’s all about payoffs.
“I am really glad I wrote this because I’ve never actually itemized the things I’ve done. And I am happy, overall, with the responses I’ve gotten. I hope that women — or people — reading this got something out of it as well.”