If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Population health director: My budget and planning for the future

Sarah Schuyler shares her journey of managing a $135,000 salary in New York. She discusses her struggles with saving, strategies for building credit, and her experiences with student loans. She also highlights the importance of understanding taxes, the value of money over time, and the benefits of investing.

Want to join the conversation?

Video transcript

I'm Sarah Schuyler. I'm a director of Population Health Transformation at a large academic health system in New York. And I make 135,000 dollars a year. Money and I have a very complicated relationship because I love it way more than it loves me. (chuckles) I love spending. I'm not a natural saver by any means. It's always been very hard for me to save and I've had to be really diligent about it. No matter how much I make I find that my spending tends to meet what I'm making, no matter where I am. I trick myself into saving where I can. So, one thing that I do, every time I get paid I have, some of that money is through my company it goes straight to my retirement plan. So I have a 403(b), which is like the nonprofit version of a 401k. I never even see that, it's not part of my paycheck, I don't even know it's gone. And that'll be for my retirement. I kind of emulate that with my own accounts. Once I get my paycheck I have an automatic transfer set up to go right into savings before I even notice that my paycheck has landed. So I don't miss it. But I know it's accumulating in savings and I just have to promise myself not to touch my savings. I didn't enter the workforce with any sort of credit at all. I was terrified to use a credit card because I thought, oh my gosh, like, I'm gonna overspend. I realized quickly the importance of having credit when I tried to rent an apartment in New York City and they wouldn't let me, because I had no credit to speak of, so, I've slowly built up my credit. Started with really small credit cards with low limits, now I'm in a good spot. But, I treat my credit cards like debit cards, in that I only accumulate the charges that I know I can pay off at the end of every month. And I always make sure that my credit card balance is zero at the end of the month. For undergrad, I paid for college in a few different ways. I was able to get a good amount of scholarships, financial aid, and work study through the school. My parents paid for a few thousand out of pocket, and then I took out the balance in loans. When I graduated undergrad, I had probably around 10,000 dollars worth of loans to pay off. It took me about six years, just in time to take out new loans to go to grad school. Grad school was a bit different, I paid for that entirely myself. Most of it I took out in loans, I paid for some of it out of pocket where I could, but I finished grad school with about 70,000 dollars in loans. If I could do it again, or offer advice to anyone else getting a Master's: There's so much money out there for school, even graduate degrees. I didn't even look (chuckles). It doesn't hurt to look for money, even if the school can't directly give you money. There are private organizations that are happy to help. You just have to take the time to look for them and apply. Especially if you have an interesting story and you're really passionate about what you're doing. There's probably a cause out there that wants to help you get educated on it, so, I would not to what I did again and go in blind just eager to get into school. I would take the time to find someone to maybe help me a bit, 'cause 70,000 is a lot of loans. Once I exited the grace period and started having these massive monthly payments, someone I knew from grad school tipped me off to the prospect of refinancing your loans to get a better interest rate than you got in your initial loan. So it was a trade-off, I'm paying more every month, but in the end, because of the lower interest rate and the fewer years of payment, I end up saving about 10,000 dollars of interest, that would have accrued on top of the 70,000 that I already owe. So, that's the decision I made. It is a cut to my paycheck every month but, it's worth for me especially because I'm in a good position at work. I'd rather pay it off faster. I definitely take home a good paycheck and I'm very grateful for that, but even so I still have financial worries. I live in a really expensive city so money goes quickly. As I said, I'm not a natural saver, I like to spend, and if I'm not careful it goes. And right now, I'm trying really hard to save for my wedding in three months. We wanna have kids pretty soon, and so I know with those things coming up I'm in the process of changing some of my spending habits to make sure that we're responsible and setting aside what we need to make those things happen. My annual salary is 135,000 dollars. Monthly that translates to 11,250 dollars and then 5,062 dollars is taken out before I ever see it. That includes my payroll taxes, my healthcare, insurance, and my contribution to my 403(b), which is my employer sponsored retirement plan, just like a 401k. And luckily, anything that I contribute to that 403(b), my healthcare system will also donate a couple of percentage points to that retirement fund as well. So that leaves me with 6,188 dollars of take home net pay every month. My rent bill, well my share of my rent bill is 1750. I split that with my fiance, so our total rent is actually 3500 dollars. I pay our gas and electric, which usually comes out to about 65 dollars a month. My fiance pays our TV and internet. My phone bill is 125 dollars. My commuting expenses are 112 dollars for a monthly subway pass, and I don't have a car. Your commuting expenses, I learned recently, can be taken out of your paycheck pre-tax. So, I really should be doing that, and I just need to take the five minutes to set that up, and I haven't done it yet. I pay 1300 dollars toward my student loan repayment, for grad school. My food costs are about 500 dollars a month. Working to trim that down a bit, because we spend a lot of money eating out and getting take out. Largely because for the past four years, either my fiance of I have been in night school. We just haven't had a lot of time for cooking so we're working on that now. Other expenses, I have a gym in my building so luckily I don't have to pay for that, and I get to use the gym. I spend, probably, I'd say 200 bucks a month or so on clothes and fun things for myself. And on top of that maybe about 800 dollars for general entertainment. So going out with friends, traveling, going to weddings and giving gifts for weddings. That leaves me with about 1300 dollars left over. Right now I'm putting automatically 500 dollars of that into savings every month. And so that gives me a little bit of an emergency slush fund of 800 dollars. My fiance and I have three primary financial goals right now. The first is near term. We're planning a big wedding in three months. We're really excited about it, we want to throw a big party for all of our friends and family who rarely get to all spend time together. So we've been diligently trying to put money away for that. Trim spending where we can, and really prioritize things that are most important for us at that wedding, so that we can make it work. The next thing, we wanna have kids pretty soon. So, there's gonna be a lot of saving for that. Ya know, taking care of kids, saving for college. That's a whole separate fund that we're gonna need to put into. And then the third thing is, ultimately buy a house. We love living in the city, but, I think at some point, maybe three to five years from now we'll wanna move just outside into the suburbs. My fiance has lived in the city his whole life and has never had a yard, so that's a big thing we're trying to do. There are so many things I wish I had known about money when I first started working. I think, right off the bat, my first work experience with Americorps, I was making a stipend of 15,000 dollars a year. But that was before tax. It was a small enough amount that they weren't taking taxes out every month, when I got paid. I didn't realize that, and I didn't take the time to think about the math and realize that there were no taxes being taken out. And so, when tax time came I was hit with a huge debt that I really hadn't planned for. I panicked, I cried, I made it work, but I think, I wish I had known to really check for that and understand the difference between gross pay and all the deductions that happen through taxes. And if you have health insurance, that all comes out of your paycheck, whether up-front or later. Another thing that I had never really thought about before was the fact that money loses value over time due to inflation, so money sitting in your checking account or even a low-yield savings account, ten years from now it's not gonna be worth as much. So it's important to learn a bit about investing. It's something I'm actively learning about now. Luckily my fiance and my brother are both really good at investing and they've been helpful to me so far. But ya know, you work hard for the money that you get, and you wanna make sure that you're putting it to good use.