Jessica Chang is a certified registered nurse anaesthetist in California. She also writes the blog Nurse Jess. We asked her how she budgets.
Are you a spender or a saver?
"I would definitely say a saver," Chang said.
Chang always pays off her credit card bills and is diligent about putting her money in a savings account.
"I'm using an account called Marcus and they have a pretty high interest rate (2.25% as of June 18)," she said.
Chang maxes out her 401(k) at work every year.
"There's no reason not to max that out," Chang said.
Chang is also putting away money for a down payment for a mortgage for a planned move to Michigan.
"I'm in the saving mode, especially for that purpose," Chang said.
What makes budgeting as a nurse different?
"The income is pretty good, so I would say just managing that money — knowing what to do with it is a big factor," the 30-year-old said. "And protecting that income is also important."
One of the ways Chang protects her income is with disability insurance.
"In case I become disabled, within 90 days the disability insurance would kick in and it would be able to take over maybe half my income," Chang said.
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What other kinds of insurance do you have?
Chang has auto insurance and life insurance.
"I don't have a house right now," Chang said. "I'm planning to buy a house after I move back to Michigan so I'll have homeowners insurance at that time."
Chang has group life insurance through her job.
"I don't have any kids so I don't plan on buying a ton of life insurance at this very moment, but once I start having kids I'll consider that," Chang said.
What tools do you use to budget?
Chang tracks her income and expenses with an Excel spreadsheet.
"If I see I'm spending more on one thing, I'll be more conscious about trying to cut down on it," Chang said.
Chang also uses Mint to track her balances in all her accounts, including her investment accounts.
What debt do you have & how do you manage it?
Chang is debt-free, aside from the lease on her car. She's paid off her student loans.
"My parents were able to help me quite a bit and the rest of it, as soon as I started working as a nurse, I just paid it off immediately," Chang said.
Aside from necessities like her rent, her car payments and groceries, Chang put all her money toward paying off her student loans completely.
Who influenced your approach to money?
"My dad," Chang said.
He took Chang to Fidelity at 18 and announced they were opening an individual retirement account.
"And I'm like, 'What the heck is an IRA?'" Chang said.
He told Chang she should open a Roth IRA since she wasn't making much money at the time and would be able to withdraw the money tax-free when she retired. He told Chang to put her money in exchange-traded funds and index funds rather than actively managed funds to avoid high fees.
"He just kind of led me down the path," Chang said.
How has your approach to money changed?
"When I was a registered nurse versus when I became a certified registered nurse anaesthetist, the income is a pretty big difference," Chang said.
She had to be conscious about spending more.
"It's very easy to say, 'I have more income I'm just going to spend more money,'" Chang said. "I had to think, 'I'm still a registered nurse, but I just happen to have extra cash so I have to save that money rather than just spending it all.'"
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