A Week In Silicon Valley, CA, On A $145,000 Salary

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Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We're asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.

Today: a soon-to-be employed Product Manager who makes $145,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a marble Greek bust statue.
Occupation: Currently unemployed, but will be a Product Manager in two weeks!
Industry: Tech
Age: 29
Location: Silicon Valley, CA
Salary: $145,000 (I just signed an offer and will start in two weeks)
Net Worth: $71,000 (Savings: $35,000, 401(k): $10,000, IRA: $6,000 (I only started during COVID and used unemployment money), Stocks: $15,000, Crypto: $5,000)
Debt: none, I pay off my credit cards each month
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $7,500 (in two weeks!)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $890 (my half, split with my partner who moved in with me when I lost my job in May due to COVID)
Car Insurance: $50
Netflix/Hulu: $25 (I pay for my family's streaming addiction)
LinkedIn Premium: $29.99 (begrudgingly used for networking for the past four months)
WiFi: $29.99
Phone: $15 (through Mint Mobile)
Electric: ~$100
Property Savings: $500 (I am helping my parents buy a house back home in Asia where I also plan to retire)
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Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
Yes. I went to university in a third-world country (parents paid for it) and then my family moved to the US eight years ago. Both parents were professionals that stressed the value of higher education. They came from poor families and they are both the most successful of their siblings (16 siblings combined) because they went to college. In my country, the only way for you to succeed is through higher education so it was a non-negotiable for me.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My country (a third-world Asian country) considers money a taboo topic. I had little to no exposure to financial literacy, savings, taxes, etc. My parents don't even know how much the other person makes. There is also a lot of distrust in financial institutions which made things more difficult. When I was growing up, my mom purchased life insurance and a college fund for my sister and me that ended up disappearing completely due to embezzlement. This has shaped my very "every woman for herself" financial mindset and made me swear I wouldn't be a product of my culture.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was to be an assistant to a wholesale clothing company. I sorted and ironed clothes, etc. At that point, I had just moved to the US, was on my own, and just needed to survive. I remember commuting two hours a day via two trains and a bus to get to and from work for a year. I had a rough start, but it shaped me to be the person I am today.
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Did you worry about money growing up?
No, luckily my parents were considered successful back home. Despite that, they had to support their families who weren't so lucky, so we were very stingy and didn't spend a lot on luxuries. Presents growing up were practical gifts — towels, books, clothes, etc. We traveled some, but nothing crazy, maybe a road trip somewhere local a year.
Do you worry about money now?
No. Because I had such a bad foundation with money, I knew I had to be financially responsible. I rode public transportation for three years before I bought a car. I lived with roommates (and on a couch for a year!), didn't spend much on luxuries, and made it a point to double my salary with every career move. When I lost my job in May, I had a one-year safety net that I saved up for exactly for that reason. I contributed my severance and unemployment funds to help my parents buy a house back home, into an IRA account, put some into the stock market for long-term holding, and the rest into savings.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
Now I do. I built up my wealth over time and I was probably 23 years old when I started contributing to a savings and retirement fund. At the time, I was making $10/hr but was still contributing to a 401(k), supporting my sister's college expenses (sent her $200/month), and paying off my car. I was probably left with under $100 a month, but I saved that consistently. My entertainment comprised of taking the bus to free events, walking everywhere, and going to friends' houses. Despite it being so difficult, I think of that time fondly.
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Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
(Laughs in immigrant.)

Day One

9 a.m. — I wake up feeling under the weather so I go to a pharmacy to buy a bunch of cold medicine, cough drops, and zinc supplements. I am very cautious about this stuff so I schedule a COVID test just in case. My partner, M., and I spent the weekend in Los Angeles to visit family and friends after being in quarantine for the last two weeks. $54
11 a.m. — I drive up to the COVID test site to get a free nose swab test. All in all, it takes five minutes and I am told that I'll get my results tomorrow. Thank you, science!
4 p.m. — M. and I start on the six-hour drive back to home. We listen to Reply All, Not Another D&D Podcast, and Comedy Bang Bang. We talk about what AI means for the future of work. We stop by McDonald's to get an early dinner. Spicy nuggs for life! M. pays.
9 p.m. — We finally get home and our cat meows at us nonstop. We watch the movie Split about a man with a multiple personality disorder and like it a lot. M. and I head to bed after the movie.
Daily Total: $54

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — I wake up at 7:30 every day to do a daily meditation practice through Headspace (they offered a free year to people that lost their jobs), and then do my daily affirmations ("I am smart, I am capable, I am worthy of getting a kickass job"). Now that I have a job, I have to change that last line. "I am enough," I'll say.
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11 a.m. — I get confirmation that my COVID test came back negative. It took one day to get these results. I'm impressed.
2 p.m. — Since losing my job in May, I have been very experimental with meals at home — I like to make delicious food on a budget as a challenge. I've made okonomiyaki, bread, udon, pasta, and wontons from scratch — just to name a few. I have all my Asian ingredient staples, so I buy meat, fruits, and veggies for our meals for the next two weeks. I also get our cat some cat food. M. and I have an arrangement that I do the groceries and make all the delicious food and he pays for groceries for the months I'm unemployed (these groceries cost $100). I'm so excited to finally be able to pay for groceries again next month!
5:30 p.m. — I do a group coaching call with other women of color about decolonizing food and body image. Today, we talk about how society has set up unrealistic beauty standards and then profit off of our insecurities. I share that when I was growing up, light skin was considered more attractive, so I felt like I needed to buy whitening soaps that made my skin peel. Sigh. Now, every time I feel bad about my body, I pause and ask myself who profits off of these insecurities and move on with my day.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — I practice my daily meditation and then do my new affirmations: "I am smart. I am capable. I am enough." I feel as light as a cloud.
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11 a.m. — I want to be successful in my new role, so I purchase the book Your First 90 Days. I've also been reading How Women Rise, which has taught me that the idea of perfection hurts high-achieving women. "Maybe you spend too much energy trying to be perfect, trying to please, or overvaluing expertise instead of valuing relaxed communication that gives people permission to be themselves." This line, officer. It attacked me. $21
1 p.m. — I know I'm going to have limited time when I go back to work in two weeks, so I'm trying to do all of my big to-dos (like cleaning out my closet, deep cleaning the apartment, and dealing with the DMV) this week. My anxiety is off the charts, but I feel productive AF.
6 p.m. — My therapy sessions have been a godsend as I navigate unemployment. I'm lucky enough to have a low-cost therapist (their rate goes up to $150/hour once my job starts) that shares my cultural background — it's been a real game-changer for me. I don't feel like I need to explain cultural context, so we can focus on more deep inner work. These sessions have made me feel more comfortable in my imperfections and have helped me think of my cultural background as a strength instead of a weakness. $60
Daily Total: $81

Day Four

11 a.m. — I have an informational chat with a leader in my field to help me navigate my new job. I've gotten so many great pieces of advice from her. She taught me to talk to as many coworkers as possible within my first 30 days and to clearly define what I do and how I can help each person succeed. I love that! I'm usually anxious about networking, but I'm really learning so much from every single person I meet. I tell her I usually don't do informational chats due to my nerves and she is so kind and accommodating and said she was the same way back then, too. High-achieving women AREN'T perfect? Who knew!
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12 p.m. — I know my sister has been having a hard time lately due to everything that's happening, so I buy her a journal where she can note down her thoughts and start putting her anxieties into writing. My journals are just filled with horror-story black circles and scribbles in crayon to reflect my everyday thoughts. Jk! It's full of me deconstructing every anxious thought, and realizing that that's all they are... thoughts. $30
1 p.m. — I make some oyakodon (chicken and egg bowl) for lunch. M. rates it an 8/10. It is surprisingly easy to make, so I gave it a 9. Having lunch with M. on a weekday? 10/10.
2 p.m. — I drive 45 minutes to go to the beach and read my book. The water is so nice and it's calming to be outside. I'm proud of myself for this self-care choice.
6 p.m. — After spending a few hours on the beach, I get home and I ask M. if he wants ice cream. He says yes. We walk to a rolled ice cream shop and order cereal-flavored ice cream. Yum! On our walk, M. and I discuss how I spoke to over 200 people during my job search. As someone with severe social anxiety, this is a big win for me. Being vulnerable and reaching out to people in my network and people I don't know is something I had no idea I could do. I give myself a big hug in the middle of the street. $10
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7:30 p.m. — My friends are hosting a watch party on YouTube and I join. Today, we're watching the California Academy of Sciences talk about sea otters, their importance in the ecosystem, and their history. From 300,000 otters in the 1700s, the population shrank down to 2,000 by 1911 due to the maritime fur trade. People can suck sometimes.
9:30 p.m. — M. and I wind down with some wine. He's been my biggest cheerleader throughout this process — powering me up with hugs right before my interviews, crying with me when roles don't work out, and telling me how great I am every day. I can't imagine a better quarantine partner.
Daily Total: $40

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — After my daily affirmations, I want to continue with my "must-dos" before going back to work. I decide to go hiking by the redwoods up north. It takes 45 minutes to get there. I take my time getting ready.
10 a.m. — I make the drive and go solo hiking underneath some beautiful redwoods. I see very few people on the hike and everybody is wearing masks. While expensive, the Bay Area really shines with its outdoor activities. It's so beautiful!
3 p.m. — I stop by a Chinese hole-in-the-wall restaurant for some dumplings after my hike. I have exactly $15 in cash so I know I need to keep it within that budget. I get har gow, siu mai, and some pork buns. M. and I try to limit our meat intake and have meat maybe twice a week, so these are a great meat meal. $15
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7 p.m. — On Friday nights, M. and I each have a cannabis-infused gummy (5mg, nothing crazy) to celebrate the start of our weekend. We watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine and laugh until we cry. We also get two pints of ice cream because we are only human. I know it's a little weird to just get two pints of ice cream, so I tip the driver generously in exchange for his non-judgment. I'm one of those people that likes weird flavors so I get cheese and apple pie, while M. gets the classic cookie dough. $25
Daily Total: $40

Day Six

9 a.m. — I wake up and get ready to go to the farmer's market nearby. I get various fresh vegetables, bread, and my favorite labneh (Greek yogurt) from the hummus stand I go to weekly. I get a small tub each of fig and date-flavored labneh. So refreshing for such a hot day. $45
3 p.m. — I want to try running for exercise at least once before I go back to work and decide today is the day. I have a free trial of the Aaptiv app, so I listen to a fitness coach guiding me through walking, jogging, and power-walking set to 90s tunes. I enjoy it more than I thought I would. I really dislike the "feeling like you're about to die" aspect of running, but having a soundtrack in the background and a coach telling me that I'm awesome makes it actually pleasant.
7 p.m. — I make pancit (stir-fry noodles) for dinner using the vegetables I got from the farmers market. It's so good!
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Daily Total: $45

Day Seven

8 a.m. — I wake up early to do my affirmations and to prepare for my walk with my neighbor-turned friend, C., before she moves. We have a great time thinking about our year. We both moved to the Bay late last year and laugh at everything that happened this year that completely derailed our plans. As tough as it was, we both agree that it was a great year to pause, think about what really matters to us, and say goodbye to what no longer serves us. We stop by a Starbucks to get some tea then head home. $3
11 a.m. — I reheat leftover pancit and it's somehow better today than it was yesterday? Filipino food magic.
12 p.m. — Every Sunday, I play Dungeons and Dragons with a group of online friends I've never met in person. Today, we travel to the spiritual plane, fight the death god, and revive the soul of a party member that was murdered by a warrior made of sand. All in a day's work for some folk town heroes.
6 p.m. — I usually spend a few moments every Sunday thinking about the week's highs and lows. I feel very fortunate to be starting a job I'm excited about and to have the downtime leading up to my start date. The week's lowest point revolves around a judicial decision I do not agree with that weighs on my heart very heavily. I feel so powerless. Apart from actually voting, I vote with my dollars and donate $75 to Breonna Taylor's GoFundMe that has exceeded $6,000,000, well above their $500,000 goal. I still feel powerless, but I'm happy I was able to turn this pain into action. I swear to always say her name. $75
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8 p.m. — As a form of retail therapy, I buy myself a Greek bust statue from Etsy. I know it'll look great on my marble table. $34
Daily Total: $112
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