Tuesday, April 11, 2006

About Me

Warning: this is a very looooooong post.

It’s been a little over a month since I started this blog. So, I thought it would be appropriate to tell you a little bit more about my background and history.

My parents emigrated to the U.S. when I was one. They didn’t come here to study or pursue higher education; they came here to work and to give their two kids a chance at a better life. In large part due to their sacrificial love, my brother and I have achieved what most folks consider the American Dream. We both graduated from college, we both have stable employment, and we both own our own homes. Like many immigrants, we grew up feeling poor. And that’s affected my brother and me in different ways. I tend to be a saver, like my parents. I’m always worried that I won’t have enough for a rainy day. My parents also taught me to abhor debt. So, I’ve always paid off my credit card bills at the end of each month.

My brother tends to be more of a spender. He says that he doesn’t want his kids to feel deprived, like he did.

Anyway, the American Dream didn’t exactly happen to me overnight. I’ve known what it is to be in plenty and in want. When I graduated from college, I made $22,000 a year (barely half of what most of my peers made at the time), even though I did really well in school. But I still managed to save a bit of money by moving back home with the parents. I started investing $50 a month in a mutual fund at the age of twenty-one.

From there, I went onto law school. After graduation, I was hired by one of the largest law firms in Chicago. I made an exorbitant amount of money for a twenty-eight year old. But I was also putting in twelve to fourteen hour days, six days a week. After paying my dues for four years, I decided that the extra money wasn’t worth it. So, I took a pay cut and switched to an in house position, which is where I am today. The hours are a bit more reasonable, and it’s freed me up to explore other interests outside of work.

As an aside, I managed to pay off all of my school loans within two years of graduation. Admittedly, I graduated with very little debt because I (i) went to a public institution, (ii) worked full-time during the summers, (iii) worked part-time for a professor during my second year, and (iv) worked for the university’s office of the general counsel during my third year, thereby obtaining a tuition waiver.

Being relatively debt free means having the freedom to pursue your passions. When I went to law school, I figured I would just try this law thing for a while. But after trying it for a few years, I came to the realization that I didn’t really enjoy the practice of law. So, I’m in the process of transitioning out of my current job and back to grad school to pursue a master’s in clinical psychology. Personally, I think even well adjusted individuals could benefit from talk therapy.

When people ask the question, ‘Could you live on half your salary?’ it’s usually in the context of a two-income household, where one person is exploring the possibility of staying at home with the kids. For me, the question is still relevant. Do I think I can live on half of my income? Yes. I’m going to have to. It’s taken me a while, but I finally made the decision last fall to give up a lucrative career to pursue one of my passions. Yes, a certain percentage of clinical psychologists in private practice do quite well for themselves financially by charging their clients an arm and a leg for each 45 minute session. But that’s not necessarily what I’ll be doing. So, my goal for the next year and a half is to ratchet back my lifestyle as much as possible and start living like a grad school student again. I already live well below my means (think ‘Millionaire Next Door’). But it’ll still be a drastic change.

I am spiritual but not religious. I identify myself as an evangelical Christian but not with the religious right. I believe we all live under grace. But I also believe that there are moral absolutes and certain universal truths. I tithe because I want to, not because I have to. And I serve as a leader and board member of my church.

When I fill out surveys, and they ask about my age, I can still check the box for 25-34 year olds, but not for much longer (or at least, not if I want to be honest about it).

In terms of why I started this blog, like many folks in the pf blogging community, my friends are tired of listening to me ramble on and on about personal finance (i.e., the stewardship of money). So, rather than inflict my inchoate random abstractions upon my friends, I thought I would inflict them upon you instead. LOL.

What keeps me up at night? The thought of caring for my aging parents. Although longevity runs in the family, my grandparents were in poor health for a very long time towards the end of their lives. My parents did not purchase long term care insurance when they were in their 40s and 50s, and now it is prohibitively expensive. So, I need to factor their financial needs into my plans for the future.

As for revealing personal details such as income and net worth, I’ve thought long and hard about this, and I’ve come to the reluctant conclusion that it wouldn’t be wise for me to do so. I’m a bit concerned that my friends and coworkers will figure out my identity. I think that in this day and age, anonymity is more of an illusion than reality. But I’ll try as much as possible to be transparent about other things, such as expenses and spending habits. The lessons that I’ve learned along the way apply to anyone, whether they’re making $20,000 or $500,000 (NOT my current salary).

That’s all for now. I’ll update this if anything else comes to mind. Thanks for stopping by.

P.S. If you’re a returning visitor, and you haven’t left any comments, please consider doing so. I’d love to be able to say ‘hello’ to my readers.


Tiredbuthappy said...

Nice to meet you, IRA. It will be interesting watching your financial life change as you get ready to change careers.

Terri W. said...

Hello! I read you regularly, and it's nice to "meet" you.

John OMM said...

Hello, IRA. I'm a regular reader too, but I thought I'd missed a post or two when I read your latest and saw the casual mention of your decision to give up a lucrative career and go back to school. I hope you'll be posting more about this soon.

John said...

Cool, thanks for sharing. Where are your parents from?

IRA said...

Claire - Thanks for stopping by. I'll try to write more about the career change in the future.

Terri W. - Thanks for being a regular reader. It's nice to meet you as well.

John OMM - Ahh...sorry to spring the career change on you. It's been in the works for a while now. Just wasn't ready to write about it in detail until recently.

John - You're very welcome. My parents were born in China and raised in Taiwan.

Single Ma said...

IRA - it was very nice reading "about you." Welcome to the PF bloglosphere!

I commend you for following your dreams and I look forward to cheering you on as your plan progress.

Flexo said...

Thank you for sharing the personal aspect!

calgirlfinance said...

Hi IRA, I think I've left a comment before, but I can't remember. That's great that you're making a career move that's true to who you are as a person! It must be hard to give up a lucrative career, but I applaud you for it! Hopefully someday I will make the same move. I went to grad school for education, but now I am in management consulting. I couldn't find a job at an educational nonprofit!

Apollo said...

Good luck on your career change. I think there's a lot to be said for people who work in jobs they enjoy. Maybe this is your calling.

IRA said...

Single Ma - Welcome back. Thanks for inspiring me to reveal a little more about myself with your very frank and candid post.

Flexo - Thanks for stopping by. When I stumbled across the pf blogging community, your blog was one of the first ones that I started to read every day.

Calgirlfinance - Thanks for your words of encouragement. I do hope that you'll be able to put your education degree to good use someday. Perhaps the consulting gig will open up some unexpected opportunites in the nonprofit sector.

Apollo - Thanks for stopping by. I do hope this is my calling. Otherwise, you'll be hearing all about another career change 5 years from now :-)

Gigi said...

I'm thinking about a career change to education in the next few years, so I'll be following your progress. I like to drop in every once in a while for an update.