July Peer Profile: "There's No Benefit In One Person Doing Better Than Another."
Last year, we started a feature on Hello HENRYs called Peer Profiles - a series in which we interviewed millennials about their approach to money + what has influenced the way they manage it. We think there is so much value in having conversations with friends about money! It shouldn’t be taboo + we guarantee that you can learn something new, even from your most financially clueless friends. We hope that our conversations inspire you to break the ice with your own peers!
For this month’s Peer Profile, we met with Lyndsie Wright, a 27-year old Claims + Insurance Manager living in Seattle, Washington. Lyndsie recently left her job at a major Fortune 500 company to experience the excitement, autonomy + growth opportunities of startup life. We were excited to learn how Lyndsie was navigating her big career move, while still prioritizing her financial goals…and, even better, finding the time to meet us for Happy Hour! We met for drinks + apps at Dahlia Lounge in Downtown Seattle, the brilliant Tom Douglas’ first restaurant. Read on for a small peek into our almost 3-hour conversation with Lyndsie!
Hello HENRYs: Although we are hoping to change this, money is never an easy thing to just jump into, so we always like to start off with something simple to break the ice! What is your favorite or go-to drink?
Lyndsie Wright: I feel like champagne is the most versatile option + if I could only have one drink for the rest of my life, it would have to be champagne. I had the best champagne cocktail at Eve over in Fremont. (For those planning a trip to Seattle, Fremont is a trendy, youthful neighborhood with lots of bars, restaurants + a fabulous farmers’ market. Centrally located to downtown + many other fun neighborhoods worth checking out.)
HH: Yay! We love champagne too! Kind of hate that so many reserve it for just special occasions. Glad we know who to call to share it with us! We always like to start off these meet ups learning a little more about how you viewed money in your childhood, what your parents’ attitude toward money was, etc. We feel this usually has at least some impact in how you view finances as an adult.
LW: I think my parents did a really great job talking to me directly about money + never “dumbing” anything down. They treated me like an adult, when it came to money conversations, from a very young age. I even have memories of my dad talking to me about concepts like supply + demand when I was under 10 years old. A few things that come to mind is my mom stressing forward-thinking, the importance of independence, taking care of myself + what all of that entails.
HH: So interesting. Of all of the money conversations that we have had, the biggest commonality that we have noticed is that those who are the strongest with their finances as an adult had parents that weren’t afraid to talk to them about money from a young age. This is SO important to be transparent, both in good times + bad, and explain things to children directly. Now that you are about 5 years out of college, looking back, what do you think was a good decision that you made right away to give you a solid foundation financially?
LW: Growing up, I saw people handle money in so many different ways, including the stress of living paycheck-to-paycheck. I knew that was something I never wanted to experience or get into the habit of. Right after graduating, I was conscious of my priorities. I was earning an entry-level salary, but knew that my priorities were still to save + contribute to retirement, but be able to enjoy my weekends to the fullest, ideally with money left over. To fund all of that, I had to make a sacrifice. I chose to share a 5-bedroom house with 4 other women from college. I lived there for 4 years + only recently moved out. This was by far the best decision I could have made.
HH: That is amazing! You made a conscious choice to determine what your priorities were + made sacrifices accordingly. We always say that you can’t afford everything, but that you should be able to afford the things that are most important to you. It’s all about determining your top 2-3 values, funding those + cutting costs mercilessly on anything that doesn’t bring you happiness or fall into that top 3. One thing that we have encountered in doing this is judgement from others at times. Did you ever experience this around your living choices + how did you deal with that?
LW: The main reaction that I got was more along the lines of “Woah you’re living with that many people? I could never do that.” Truthfully, we all had such different schedules that it was rare for us all to ever be home at the same time + in general, we were all on the same page which really helped make the relationships/living situation work. I always shared that when met with any kind of surprise or negative reactions, but, in the end, I was so sure that I was making the right decision for myself that it really didn’t matter.
HH: Totally! That is such a mature approach to have. Others probably saw that you were living such an active social life + having fun on the weekends + their negativity could have stemmed from wishing they could do more too. Especially with social media these days, we are always overhearing conversations like “Ugh how does so and so afford all of these trips?” or “Omg! She got another Gucci bag. I don’t get it!” But there are so many decisions + sacrifices that others make that we don’t see on the outside. Any frustration might be a sign that we should re-evaluate our own priorities + ensure our spending is aligning with what we value most.
Talk to us about financial goal setting + how goals are accomplished.
LW: I think financial goals can be so lofty that they sound intimidating + that can just make it daunting to even start. Honestly, as I’ve shared before, my biggest thing is just not wanting to be stressed about money. My initial goal was to build + maintain a comfortable emergency fund. I don’t want to ever get a surprise bill + not be able to pay it. As far as sticking to these goals or accomplishing them, I’m thankful that I’m getting to an age now where it’s okay to say “No, I don’t want to go out tonight” and friends are respectful of that. Having like-minded or goal-oriented people in your life makes it easier; I’m grateful for supportive friends.
HH: We are lucky that you are one of ours!!
Sometimes, when friendships start to challenge your goals, having one person take the lead can help the entire group. Be honest + say “I can’t go on this trip because I would have to take on credit card debt to do so” or “I am going to skip this week’s Happy Hour to save money, but would love to go for a Sunday morning walk instead.” If your friends see you being honest + open about your financial situation + goals, it gives them the confidence + comfort to do the same. We know you mentioned living with roommates as the best choice you made out of college, but, since then, what would you say has been your smartest move recently?
LW: I really like that I opened a Roth IRA early on. Recently, friends told me about a high yield savings account - which I didn’t even know was an option. That’s something I’ve done recently that I’m proud of. I might not have taken that plunge had I not been talking to my friends about it. There’s no benefit in one person doing better than another.
HH: We absolutely LOVE that you said that! Those are literally two of the top tips that we give to anybody looking to better their finances. (Click the highlighted links in Lyndsie’s previous response to learn more about these two topics from two of our past blog posts.) Since we’ve talked about some of your financial successes, we’re curious if you’d be open to sharing more about any financial pitfalls you’ve experienced. After all, most people don’t get to a good place with their money until after they’ve had a few bumps in the road.
LW: I mean, I’m still making it…I’m currently using an Edward Jones advisor, but I don’t think it’s meant for me. I’m paying way more in fees than I should. I think I need to move those funds into my Ellevest account. I realized the difference in fee structure after reading different articles.
HH: People are going to start thinking we are paying you for these responses!! Yet another of our most frequent recommendations. Getting started with investing, regardless of the avenue that you choose, is a great decision, but so many young people are drastically overpaying. Most young people start off with minimal amounts to invest - usually under $20,000. The amount that you pay in fees for most brokerages to make trades for you + manage your portfolio balances is way more than it’s worth for a balance of this size. We recommend starting with a “robo-advisor” service + then moving to a brokerage firm if you feel the need as your balance grows. Lauren uses Wealthfront + Kelda uses Ellevest.
You’ve mentioned your savings accounts + investments accounts. Talk to us a little more about your account strategy in general. How many do you have + how do you manage them?
LW: Outside of my retirement + investment accounts, I have 5 accounts total - travel fund, savings account, emergency fund, bills account + my general “for fun” account. I don’t use a debit card at all. I put all of my expenses on my Chase credit card to get travel points. With my general/every day account, I feel comfortable spending that money on whatever I want because I know that “future Lyndsie” is taken care of with the other accounts. I’m a big planner which helps me to track knowing what my expenses will look like for the whole month ahead.
HH: Once again, we have a very similar approach!! Some people find it overwhelming to have so many accounts, but, in our minds, we are hyper-organized up front so that we don’t have to think about the details or stress later. We know that all of our bills, savings + investments are automatically taken care of each month, so the only account that we need to worry about or keep close tabs on is our “fun” account.
Switching gears a little bit, one of the biggest obstacles that young people cite when it comes to their money is student loans. Do you have any student loans and, if so, talk us through how you feel about them.
LW: Yes, I do. I graduated with about $25,000 in student loans + now I only have $10,000. I’m currently paid off through early 2021. Looking back, it was a lot of responsibility to be 18 + taking out a loan. Most people probably haven’t even purchase a car at that point, so it’s hard to have a frame of reference with the dollar amounts. I was a first generation college student + navigating that for the first time on my own was hard. I was pretty independent on deciding how much I was going to accept in my loans. I was conservative to make sure that I had what I needed to make it through the semester, but not any more than that.
When re-paying my loans, I try to strike a balance between contributing to my retirement/investment accounts (which I know is the smart move) and ensuring I’m making progress on my outstanding student loan balance (which helps manage my stress).
HH: You touched on one of the key tenants of success in personal finance - psychology + emotion vs. math + logic. If someone were to pay extra on low interest (3-4%) student loans, they’re probably netting less money overall by not investing that extra in the stock market (8-10% interest). However, you can’t put a price on emotional well-being + for some people, the stress of debt takes away from enjoying so many other areas of life. If that’s the case, we definitely support putting as much extra as you can toward the student loans. After they are paid off, then you can funnel the extra payments + the standard monthly payments all towards the investments that you choose! That’s exactly why some people choose to pay off their debts from smallest to largest, regardless of what the interest rate might be. The momentum of paying the debts off keeps them going if they otherwise would have given up.
In closing, what are your biggest goals + biggest pieces of advice as a 20-something?
LW: As far as advice, I would say to be very intentional with your spending + learn to live within your means as early as possible. In addition, to get more comfortable with talking about money + being honest with people in your life about what you can + can’t do.
As far as my goals, I feel like you could summarize that as: Doing what I want + how and when I want to do it. For example, right now, I don’t want to buy a house. The thought of being a single woman taking care of a place isn’t appealing to me at all. I like having a landlord. 10 years from now, that may change, whether that’s buying a property here in Seattle or an investment elsewhere. Either way, I’d like to know that I have the savings to be able to make the decision that I want.
HH: Those could not be better closing words!! You are proof that by setting your mind to things, you can get ahead financially + set yourself up for success, even with student loans, entry-level salaries or any other common millennial obstacle. Thank you so much for your time, Lyndsie!!
If you or any of your friends are interested in participating in our Peer Profiles series, please let us know!! We are always looking for a fresh perspective!!