In our Money Mic series, we hand over the podium to people with controversial views about money. These are their views, not ours, but we welcome your responses.
Today, a 27-year-old lawyer tells us how her first big law job transformed her from budget-savvy to big spender—and how she’s managed to get her finances back on track.
I’ve been working since I was 14. Flipping burgers at McDonald’s, hostessing at restaurants, shelving books at the library—I’ve done tons of odd jobs because having money is important to me. Sure, I could be frivolous at times; I like to buy clothes, travel to new places, and go out to eat with my friends. But when I was living with my parents, my basic needs were covered. I attended college on a scholarship and worked then, too, so the combination of spare cash and low expenses meant it was always easy for me to stick to a budget.
Earning Close to Six Figures for the First Time
I began to lose a handle on money when I started law school in 2009. Even though I had student loans to cover all of the major costs (like books, housing and tuition), unexpected expenses popped up regularly—for example, I needed to buy a nice business suit to wear to interviews and mock trials, and had to travel out of town for job fairs on my own dime—and the paltry amount I was making as a part-time research assistant wasn’t enough to cover everything. Still, if I was short on cash at the end of the semester (before my next loan payment went through), my grandmother would usually help me out with whatever I needed, so I didn’t put any debt on the only credit card I had.
When I graduated from law school in 2012 and landed an entry-level law job, my expenses really skyrocketed. I moved from Indiana to Dayton, Ohio, where I’d accepted a position as general counsel at a great firm where I’d interned between my second and third year of law school. I liked the company, and they offered me a salary just under six figures—significantly more money than I’d ever made. I was excited to start my “adult life,” but I felt almost guilty getting that first paycheck, because I just wasn’t used to being compensated for my work that way.