Over a year ago, I quit my steady well-paying law firm job. Despite not having a full-time job for almost 14 months, I haven’t worried about money. Here’s how I afforded my year off from legal work.
We Are Not Saving Enough
The savings rate for middle-class Americans is low. The rate jumped to 7.6% in 2019, but that’s still far below what it needs to be to put Americans on solid footing. Now that we are in unprecedented times and unemployment rates are up, savings will likely fall back. It seems easy to just give up. After all, even if you save 7.6% of your salary, it will take 13 years to save a year of expenses for an emergency fund. Thirteen years is a long time! But even if the savings are small, there are many benefits of saving even small amounts.
When people talk about personal finance, they usually want to know how to save money but start talking about budgets and it’s all sorts of panic.
It’s a little odd that people would be more interested in saving money, i.e. how NOT to use money, then how to use it. Money is a tool. It’s not enough to know what inappropriate uses are – you have to know when and how to use your tools to get the maximum benefit. So let’s take some of the stigma out of spending and talk about how to spend money to create a better life.
On February 4, 2019, I quit my job. February 19 was my last day at work, and February 20 was my first day of freedom. On this one year anniversary, I’d like to look back at what happened the year that I retired at 35.
I read another blogger’s early retirement post and he could quantify a great deal of accomplishments. And I guess I can rattle off things I’ve done, but that seems like running a different kind of rat race.
I kept busy on my time off. I’ve traveled a bit – to L.A., New York, San Francisco, Redmond, Capetown, Johannesburg (South Africa), Lisbon, Porto, and Sintra (Portugal). This is what I would say if people asked me what I had done with the year. Travel seems to be the only “real” accomplishment worth noting when you’re retired. And to be fair, South Africa was eye-opening, especially after listening to Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. But to me, the really interesting changes were when I was home.
What I’m focusing on in this post is not necessarily my choices during the year, but the repercussions. I often would made one choice that led to another choice and all those choices led to a different trajectory. It’s like when I started this blog, then I started Twitter to promote it, then I met friends, and two of those friends were the duo that started Chain of Wealth, who will figure significantly in some of these adventures. You just never know where things are going to take you. And the oddest part of any journey may be where you end up.
Being single seems like it would be an impediment to advancing in your career. For instance, a significant other can halve your chores and expenses and provide advice and support – clear benefits. For me though, being single helped advance my career. It turns out that my experience is typical for highly educated women professionals. Here are 8 ways being single can help a women’s career (or how being married/coupled can hurt it) and my experience navigating these obstacles.
I was fortunate enough to graduate from college debt free. Then I had to go and attend law school where I racked up $112,000 in student loan and credit card debt. So you can add this to the unremitting list of “student loan debt payoff” stories. I will admit that my story is more boring than most:
My secret is that there is no secret: I got paid a salary that made it possible to pay off the debt while living a reasonable lifestyle. There are no magical tricks herein. My story is completely mathematically realistic.
The high income was the most important key to paying off my debt. Still, there were a few basic guidelines I followed that helped me pay off the debt.* Continue reading “How I Paid off $112,000 in Law School Student Loan Debt in 18 Months”
Personal finance is different for each person, and that’s especially true for women lawyers. Factors like giant student loan debt, no work life balance, lack of financial confidence, the glass ceiling – are just a few things that make navigating finances as a woman attorney different from others.
Female lawyers face their own unique personal finance challenges. They call it personal finance because the principles are not universal. If you’re a lawyer, you will likely accrue a lot of debt and no earnings while attending law school. It might still be a good decision because you are pursuing the career you want and are potentially setting yourself up for higher earnings. If you take a pay cut so that you can care for your family, that also might be the right financial decision for you, even though you are not saving.
Personal finance looks different for each individual depending on their circumstances and the stages in their lives. You might ask why this site focuses on women lawyers and it’s because female lawyers have different financial circumstances than male lawyers or women in other professions, due to a variety of systemic problems and societal norms. These differences are not necessarily night and day from other people’s experiences, but it’s different enough to warrant different advice. Below I explain some of these differences.