In Budgeting, Canada, Discussions, Money, Wealth

How does an almost 30-year old have over $300,000 saved while only earning $20,000 net a year?

This link by Financial Post entitled: Young, educated and making it on less than $35,000 was shared by Makin the bacon on Twitter, and as I read through the profiles, the first one raised some red flags.

I think (as one commenter mentioned below) that they were missing a big chunk of information, as in:

“How much financial aid did your parents give you

(e.g. tuition paid, down payment for a house, etc)?”

..because I read Seanna Magee’s profile who is about my age and she has a rather large whackload of money considering her income has been less than $35,000 since she graduated (about the same time as I did):

Here is her profile:

http://business.financialpost.com/2013/10/12/young-educated-and-making-it-on-less-than-35000/

Her budget looks like this if you are interested:

Financial-Post-Seanna-Magee-Young-Educated-Less-than-35000-Profile-Budget-Pie

 

Then when you continue reading, you get to this point:

http://business.financialpost.com/2013/10/12/young-educated-and-making-it-on-less-than-35000/

Say what!? O_O;;

SHE HAS A $308,000 NET WORTH ON A $20,000 NET INCOME A YEAR

Assuming she netted $20,000 a year since she graduated (around the same time I did):

Her total net income earned: $140,000

Never mind that it doesn’t even cover the $250,000 condo that she earns, she still has to pay for living expenses too, which are about $1600 a month or $19,200 a year.

That eats up pretty much her ENTIRE net income of $20,000!

As someone who has a lower net worth around the range of $200,000 I can tell you that when I graduated, I did not earn $20,000 as my net income a year.

I earned about $50,000 net a year, or more than double her net income.

Aside from the fact that we do not have the same living expenses (my freelancing expenses blur into my personal ones as I have to travel for work), and I also spend a heck of a lot more than she does and I take a lot of “sabbaticals” in between my contracts…

HOW I GOT MY $200,000 NET WORTH AT THE SAME AGE

I was curious enough to do a comparison of what her parental contribution might have been compared to me, someone who received $0 from her parents since she left home at 19.

For one thing, I started $60,000 off in the hole.

Then I earned about $50,000 as my net income for the first two years ($100,000).

After two years, I became a freelancer and earned $72,000 net for 3 months.

Then I had a year long break in between (housing crisis hit), and then I made $144,000 for 9 months.

I had another yearly break in between (I traveled around the world for a year), came back, and made $104,000 in 10 weeks.

And now, expecting my first child as well, I am taking an involuntary yearly break in between.

(I am still holding out hope I will get a contract before the baby arrives, but so far.. it’s looking like I might have to work ASAP next year, the earliest being when the baby is at least 3 months).

Photograph-Travel-Brussels-Belgium-Europe-La-Grande-Place

My total net income earned (same amount of time): $420,000

This is exactly 3 times more than what she has netted over the years, and I started with $60,000 in debt.

(Again, not taking into account that I like to shop and travel a lot, and she seems far more practical / frugal than I am.)

With the $60,000 I started off in debt, and another ~$60,000 over this time was spent on my shopping ($10,000.. or more!!), moving from country to country ($20,000), and traveling all over the world ($30,000), it makes up for my lack of net worth parity to even reach her $300,000 net worth.

…but I am at peace with all that. I don’t regret anything I’ve done.

IT IS EASY TO FEEL JEALOUS UNTIL YOU KNOW THE WHOLE STORY

I’ll admit it, the green-eyed monster came out very briefly when I read her profile… then I shoved it back into its dungeon because I acknowledge the following:

  1. She is far more frugal / practical than I will ever be… especially on that income.
  2. She probably didn’t start $60,000 in debt as I did
  3. The business school she went to DID NOT not cost a bundle (see below)
  4. She probably had her parents pay for her education, along with living expenses for 4 years
  5. She probably had her parents generously give her a condo or at least paid a huge chunk of it
  6. She worked the entire 7 years, I lazed around for about 3 years & spent a lot of money doing so

The business school she attended, only cost about $5500 a year for tuition alone.

I paid upwards to $20,000 a year (a little under 4X as much), which is why I also had to work 2 full-time jobs while in school:

St-Francis-Xavier-University-Nova-Scotia-Tuition-Totals

..THEN SHE SAYS SHE IS BROKE BEFORE EVERY PAYDAY

It all becomes a little clearer that she obviously had a lot of financial help from someone(s) because she says the following:

 

You don’t say.

I know better than anyone how travel and daily spending basically eats away at your net worth!!

Travel-Photograph-Lisbon-Portugal-Europe-Streets

I’m fairly sure that if she can barely make her own budget work on her income, saving only about $200 a month, she would only have about $16,800 saved as her net worth.

The rest, had to come from her parents, to the tune of about $291,200.

Inheritance, aid, help.. whatever it is.

I am not saying this is disreputable or horrible in any way to have such lovely, kind, money smart family members… [in fact, I don’t even know if perhaps her parents died suddenly which is the reason why she has all the money (goodness forbid!!!)] but it just isn’t portraying a true-life story of people who actually make less than $35,000 a year and make it work.

If you are to post an extraordinary story such as Magee’s — having about $300,000 as your net worth while only earning $20,000 a year — you should ALSO post the circumstances behind it.

If not, other readers who are making that income level (heck, even someone who made 3X what she did would feel a twinge of jealousy) don’t suddenly fall into a kind of depression over how she has so much saved while they are earning barely anything and have nowhere near those numbers.

Retirement-Money-Savings-Success-In-Life

The part that kind of bothers me very slightly is her saying that she doesn’t think money is that important.

Of course she doesn’t.

I don’t think money is very important either now, but it’s easier to say that when you have at least $100,000 banked than when you have $1000 in your bank account and truly scraping by on $20,000 net a year.

Lastly, she complains about how employers are evil and don’t want to pay her what she’s worth.


This I partly agree with in principle because I run across this as a freelancer when I negotiate for my rate …. but she comes off as slightly entitled saying this, seeing as she is already very financially secure for her age, and is working a retail store manager job at The Running Room.

Does she really expect The Running Room to pay her a ridiculous salary like $60,000 a year as a retail store manager?

I mean, those jobs aren’t usually held by people who have business degrees, I keep hearing of store managers who have Arts degrees, but rarely Business!

All I have to say to her is: You are either not good at what you do to be able to move up the ladder quickly and/or you are in the wrong career, my friend.

Employers appreciate great employees.

You just may not be a fit for that job (or the company) which is why they don’t “recognize your value”. Or maybe there is just no upward mobility in that company, which makes it a dead-end job (retail store manager? Methinks that has something to do with it..).

So quit, and find a job that recognizes your value, or suck it up and try to work your way up the ladder to an executive position in that company and pay your dues.

—————

Anyway, I just wanted to post a financial comparison for anyone who has read that article (or has thought about similar articles) to show that you can’t know all the circumstances behind a person’s net worth until you ask them.

So don’t feel bad or jealous as I did. You can only concentrate on what you can save and what YOUR circumstances are.

Again, the article I am citing is here: Young, educated and making it on less than $35,000

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

Am my own Sugar Daddy. Am a millionaire at 36 after getting out of $60K of student debt in 18 months, a little over a decade earlier, using TheBudgetingTool.com. I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K with an average lifetime savings rate of 50%. I have 11 side incomes that are on track in 2020 to make me $50K - $75K. I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I am all about balance - between time and money, and also enjoying my money. I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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47 Comments

  1. Seanna

    Hi there!
    Seanna here. Yes, the same one. I just came across this, crazy – I know! I do remember taking part in the National Post piece … I got hooked up with the writer on twitter, and the next thing you know, voila! Yes, I do agree the piece is a bit misleading. Not all, but a bit. I certainly did work as a retail store manager at the time of the posting. I actually worked there for a better part of a year … as having bills to pay, and I enjoyed running, it was a place that paid the bills between jobs. The first year out a school I worked for a broadcaster in marketing, and then took on more of a career role at an insurance company. Having commission potential, I had some okay years. I also made the decision when I got my 1 bdrm condo to get someone on crags list to build a drywall and door and convert my 1 bdrm to a 2 bedrm. Being downtown Toronto, and even though it was older, smaller bldg, allowed me to rent it out and actually pay my mortgage each month. And so that did free some money for savings. I was fortunate with being a landlord for 7 years with great roomies and sublets, I even used short term rentals on kijiji and craigslist quite a bit, as the rates were better, and I could always stay with family for the weekend. I also downsized my condo at 28, lowballing a unit it my building and selling my unit to pay off the balance of my mortgage, while also leaving my insurance job, at which I was able to sell my accounts for an okay amount. And yes, I did this all without starting with college debt, something I am very fortunate for my parents for paying my tuition, and working while at school gave me cash to live off of. I no longer work in retail, however it was a good fix in between and kept me from going into debt while off work. I now work for a bank in the same type of work as before, however a little bit more of a comfortable wage. I did have to sell my condo to have the money to buy into my new place. I did a few contracts coaching while I was also working, and side jobs like that helped along the way as well. So yeah, was I lucky, yes. Some good decisions and definitely some help accepted got me through what could have been much harder to get where I am today. The article was a good idea, however didn’t quite afford enough space to get into each person’s actual story, and took it at one point in time … and at that point, I wasn’t making much that year … did enjoy reading the comments though.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Thank you! That makes so much more sense now that you explain the whole situation. It was really puzzling for all of us to read that and think: But.. where are we going wrong?

      Reply
  2. Anonymous

    OK I read that linked article and that Seanna woman annoyed me. She says in that article, “I just see employers as cheap, somewhat exploitative and unwilling to invest to keep good employees.”

    I do agree with her on one hand as I have seen that type of behavior at companies I’ve worked at. The corporate world can be very “dog eat dog.”
    But at the same time you aren’t going to earn a lot of money as a retail store manager which at the time of publishing is what her job title was.

    If you want to be paid well it usually helps to have a scarce skill and not go into something that anyone with a college degree or high school degree can do.

    For most companies it’s easy to find someone and train them to be a store manager. The article says she has a business degree, what kind of degree?

    Is it a general business degree? Business management? Business administration? If it’s one of these degrees then not really surprised she works as a retail manager.

    I have known many people who went into sales, retail, and call centers when they get those degrees. Those are common fields to go into after college graduation with those degrees.

    It’s much more difficult to find a skilled surgeon, nurse anesthetist, a software engineer, a CPA, a vet, etc.

    I was going to go for a History degree but decided against it. As much as I love history, I realized that it’s not good enough to get any college degree, it truly matters what you major in. I decided to go for an IT degree.

    Other times they just want a degree and if you have good skills to bring to the table then that can trump the degree. One of my boyfriend’s friends majored in international studies, he went abroad for a semester or two, but learned programming and developer skills on the side. He now works as a software engineer.

    Anyway back to this lady, she also said that she worked for many cool organizations. Is she a job hopper? That can sometimes explain low wage. It’s been my experience that “fun” careers don’t pay very well.

    A boring career can often pay very well and you will be treated better because there’s not another Joe or Jane around the corner that can be trained fast for your job. Your employer might also have more of an incentive to keep you and treat you well vs. someone who works at a magazine and can be replaced with the drop of a hat.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Anonymous: HEAR HEAR.

      You and I are on the same page for this.

      People think their dream careers should ALSO pay well and I find the two are very difficult to reconcile. Most of the time, fun, dream careers do not pay well. Not so fun careers, pay well.

      I also found her quite unrealistic in her answers because she doesn’t have to hustle or do anything to have made it to where she was.

      It’s easy to say this and that when you have all this money saved or your parents to help you. It’s much harder to get up on your soapbox and talk about how “The Man” is bringing people down when you are just trying to get food on the table.

      Not that I’m blaming her or her parents for helping her (all the power to them!) but the whole context / perspective is totally off for me.

      What sells is talent and skill. If you don’t have either, be prepared to be in a generic job that doesn’t pay well.

      I too was going to go for Anthropology in school but decided against it. Went into business instead (an actual degree in business, not a fake, general one).

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        @save. spend. splurge.:
        Thanks for your reply. Good to hear I’m not alone in this. 😉

        Reply
        1. save. spend. splurge.

          I try to be tactful and diplomatic in my blog posts the best I can, but in comments? Free rein! 😉

          Reply
  3. Miiockm

    It seems like her parents or someone just paid for her entire mortgage. Everything else she has seems reasonable.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      That’s what I thought too.

      Reply
  4. Jason

    Yes, I definitely agree that this is very skewed.

    Even if she paid no taxes, had no expenses, paid no rent, didn’t have to eat, and started working at 23 (approximate age of a college grad?). 6 years of pure, unrealistic saving at 20.4k / year would only get her to 122k net worth.

    Even tacking on an extra tax-free part-time job in the evenings and weekends would not get her there… unless that job was drug trafficking, maybe.

    Hilarious!

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Jason: Apparently she has only saved $60,000 of her own money, which I think is still admirable, considering how much she has netted over the years.. that is, if it wasn’t gifted savings …

      Reply
  5. SP

    While I agree we aren’t getting all the info, I don’t think the condo is her partners.
    “Take over my partner’s condo to joint-own. Sell my place.”

    It implies her partner has a condo, and she has her own “property” worth 250k. That clearly her parents gifted her, or some other piece of info we don’t know. The whole article was silly.

    I don’t get much of a case of envy though – all in all, i got an OK hand and I’m happy in my life, so I guess I don’t care that some people get significant help.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Okay, that makes more sense now. Confusing, but they should at least just come clean with such an extraordinary net worth on “ordinary” earnings.

      Reply
  6. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life

    My income is in the 20-30k range and my net worth is around 30k- I thought that was good. I’ll admit up front, I was lucky to have my college paid for, thank you mom and dad (best gift ever). Also, when I work shows out of town, I sublet my apartment and get housing and per diem from the company, so while income is shitty, living expenses are zero.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      That IS good. On that income, I can tell you I am not sure I’d be able to save as much as you did. 😐

      Reply
  7. Alicia @ Financial Diffraction

    This is definitely aggravating to read. It makes it look so easy, but in actual facts major pieces of the puzzle are being left out. I always find these articles from the Financial Post have gapping holes in the math.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I don’t mind being motivated, but I want to be REALLY motivated, not led on.

      Reply
  8. Aleksie

    I don’t feel jealous, just irritated. I don’t care if people get help from their parents, but when they downplay it or leave it out to make it sounded like they’re 100% self-made, I’m bothered. It’s dishonest. I’ve also noticed that these people tend to be not very aware of their privilege.

    Reply
  9. S @ American Debt Project

    I just want to know how she bought that $250k property on that income…that’s the hidden piece..

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      As Charles mentioned in the comments (unconfirmed) the property is her partner’s and she’s claiming half of it as her own.

      Reply
  10. Girl Meets Debt

    But if the “author” put the true cicumstances behind Magee’s finances, it wouldn’t make for such “fine” journalism right? 😉

    Reply
  11. Tania

    Yup, those numbers don’t add up and I didn’t even need to use a calculator. It could be she inherited her condo, happens all the time. There is nothing wrong with that but if it is an article on her net worth, it was information that should’ve been included. Agree.

    You know, one thing about me is I don’t get envious, ever. Every family has secrets and issues not everyone knows about. Some people are blessed with inheritance or other financial means but that doesn’t mean that they are happier, more loved or in better health than the rest of us. I also worked in luxury so I fully understand not everyone is as “rich” as they seem. Judging someone by their lifestyle is an incomplete picture at best.

    Speaking of luxury, shop managers in certain retailers like high end luxury brands can make up to six figures, it just depends. The job in those industries isn’t easy either, they do have quite a bit of pressure to build the clientele base, generate PR and also can have duties that go beyond managing the sales floor including event management and writing reports on sales/merchandise. True business managers. But yup, there is a wide spectrum of people and job descriptions under the term “shop or retail manager”.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Apparently the condo is her partner’s, which goes to show she didn’t save that money herself..

      You’re really lucky to not have a jealous, envious bone in your body. I’m envious/jealous, and I try to be conscious of it and tell myself it isn’t the whole picture.

      Oh so maybe she can switch to a high end brand then, but I can tell you without a doubt that The Running Room is not high end.

      Reply
  12. ArianaAuburn

    I call B.S. on this woman’s story. She must have had a big payout at some point in her life and decided not to splurge it. Hell, if she were smart, she would not publish how much she saved her big payout AT ALL. Better to be under the radar than to open oneself to a possible crime. A lot of people who make $35,000 a year CANNOT save $300,000 unless there is a huge payout.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Apparently the condo is her partner’s, and she’ll get to claim half… so maybe the condo is $500K and her half is $250K? Still, she didn’t save it.

      Reply
  13. Romona@Monasez

    Sounds like she won the lottery to me. There’s just no way that’s possible.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      The lottery of a partner/helping financial hand that wasn’t disclosed, you mean…

      Reply
  14. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

    Love the new site design!!! Yeah, it’s funny how some of those articles make it seem as if the subject themselves did all of the work when that is FAR from the truth. I think it works well to discourage the rest of us who are truly making it on our own without having cash handed to them. It would be one thing if they disclosed this, but when they don’t I think it serves to make the rest of us feel like we must not be doing good enough.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Thank you kindly! I’ve been tweaking it here and there.. trying my hardest to make it user-friendly and not so unwieldy.

      As Charles mentioned, apparently she’s only saved $60K (which is impressive on $140K net income), the rest is her partner’s.

      Reply
  15. Hayley @ A Disease Called Debt

    Thanks for the comparison! I try not to feel jealous, but if I’m honest of course I do because I’m striving to make my own financial future not quite so dire as it is at the moment. But then again, such posts give me inspiration at the same time. I understand what you’re saying though about backing up a claim to such a net worth with circumstances so that we can digest it properly.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      If you didn’t feel jealous, I’d wonder how you became a saint. 🙂

      Reply
  16. Liquid

    Those articles always have to leave out important bits of information in order to appear more interesting. I get jealous of people with more money than me all the time. But sometimes that pushes me to work harder. I want to excel until my idols become my rivals 🙂 But what I always remember is that everyone’s situation is different. For example, we don’t know how much of her assets come from her boyfriend’s sides, or what kind of expenses he’s paying for them. And I’m surprised she has so much in her retirement account already. Personally I wouldn’t be putting any investments in an RRSP at all if I made less than $25K, unless my employer will match it.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      As Charles mentioned, apparently it’s not only her income… which is odd because it didn’t list “Joint income”

      So maybe not her parents money then, but listing your partners’ money as your own is cheating. I could do that too, and bump up my net worth.

      Reply
  17. Bridget

    This is ridiculous. I’m not jealous, moreso annoyed. How can the author of this article present her as “making it on $35,000/year”? ANYONE can make it on $35,000 per year when they own their home free and clear.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Especially when you see that she has no mortgage to pay! The condo fees are basically her only “rent”.

      Reply
  18. Dear Debt

    The green eyed monster comes out all the time for me! You really need to keep everything in perspective and context to get the full picture. I find her net-worth admirable, but also unrealistic.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Unrealistic for most folks. It’s definitely not the norm.

      Reply
  19. Renée (@nickelbynickel)

    It’s this type of stuff that has resulted in my just not blogging, and not reading a lot of blogs. I’ve gotten so annoyed with this, and the rehashing with the words in different orders of pf topics. Bleh.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Oh and P.S. I already wrote about 95% of PF blogs suck, seeing as most people just do posts like: How to make your own fresh dog food and call it a “new” take on PF blogging.

      So if you want something “fresh” to read, seeing as you’re a jaded PF blogger, you should read that.

      Or maybe rip off my idea and then write your OWN post about how everyone rehashes PF mantras to try and keep them fresh.

      Reply
    2. save. spend. splurge.

      Good for you, at least you know what you want.

      Reply
  20. SarahN

    OMG I get green eyed monster with my friends! They bought years before me (which I think is a measure of ability to save at least 20% of the purchase price, even 10% is a fair chunk in this city). They seem to eat every weekend meal out, they travel internationally and stay in nice places… And I think ‘why not me’ – especially seeing as I have the same degree was the guy. But then I remember they are two. And his parents did pay his tuition. And they lived in their parents homes for a lot longer, but got out whilst I went back to ‘catch up’. Still, to this day, I feel like they do better and enjoy life more than I can. But I don’t really know how much savings/equity they have, so there’s no real way of knowing either.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      You know, saving 20% is not easy. I always ask myself: HOW THE HELL do people buy $800K homes here in Toronto with 20% down? Then I realized they only put down 5% before…. 😐

      Reply
      1. SarahN

        @save. spend. splurge.:
        Just so you know, my place was about $500k and I put down 18% or so… It was a long and hard savings path (and three years as a grown adult working full time living with my parents – which sorta made sense as my job location changed every six months)

        Reply
        1. save. spend. splurge.

          You know, living with your parents really helps you save a bundle of cash. It’s nice that they let you stay there for free to be able to do so!!

          Reply
  21. Charles@gettingarichlife

    She actually has only $60,000 saved. The property is her partner’s thus the line where she is going to take it over as joint owned.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Where did you get this info? 🙂 I’d love to read more about the situation!

      Reply
      1. Reader of blog

        @save. spend. splurge.:

        I also understood that she only has 60k saved and it’s her partners condo based on her comments from the article:

        “I have about $40,000 in my RRSP, $18,000 in my TFSA, $2,000 in a more liquid savings non-reg account”

        “Take over my partner’s condo to joint-own.”

        She claims she owns the property at the start of her article piece, but toward the end of the article she reveals it’s also her partners which hopes to joint-own. Hope I read that correctly…

        Reply
        1. save. spend. splurge.

          Oh she had comments?!! I missed that completely. Thank you.

          In that case, it means that her parents at least paid for that condo that she owns “free and clear”, and then will take over or joint-own her condo with her partner as a swap.

          Still doesn’t make sense.

          Reply

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