Everyone is talking about the crisis among twentysomethings. We don’t save enough. We’re behind on retirement. Our loans are untenable. We have high credit card debt.
I’m a 27-year-old legal consultant in New York City. I don’t make six figures, but I make a comfortable income. And I like saving. A lot. Maybe a little too much. I max out my 401(k), have a robust savings account and no credit card debt, and I paid off $34,000 in student loans in less than a year. Even my parents think I’m an over-saver, and they save a lot.
What Made Me This Way
I was raised on Staten Island, New York in a middle class family. My dad was a teacher, and my mom worked for the government. We were generally financially secure, though somewhere below what would be termed “comfortable.” But for some reason, I got it into my head at a young age that we were poorer than we were.
It probably had something to do with the fact that both my parents came from poor families. My dad’s parents were both factory workers who lived in Brooklyn in an apartment with no heat. When the factories would close down for a month in the summer, they went on temporary welfare.
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My mother grew up the oldest girl of seven kids in a two-bedroom house in Queens. She went to Queens College even though she was valedictorian of her class, because it was all her family could afford. I think she’s always regretted that she didn’t go somewhere fancier, so she’s made it her goal to give me and my brother as much as she could.
For this reason, she tended to spoil us. I had several dozen Barbies, the Barbie dream house, the Barbie limo, the Barbie yacht (that thing had a working blender on it) and nice clothes. Of course, my mom bought everything on sale whenever she could, because that’s just how we roll in our family. And the rest of her money she saved and put in savings bonds … so she could give it to me and my brother later. (She gave my brother the down payment for his first condo and money for his next home with his wife, the result of saving a little bit of each paycheck since the day he was born.)
I walk to work—it takes a half hour each way—rather than spend $2.50 each way on subway fare. That also saved me from getting a gym membership.
I saw my parents fight about money a couple of times, and they were separated by the time I was eight. Though I later found out that their divorce was for very different reasons, I think that in my head I at least partly attributed their separation to money, which made me think that more money equaled less discord.