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Senior product manager and senior software engineer: Our budget and planning for our future

Ram Kandasamy and Bhavna Muthangi, both earning $160,000 annually, share their journey to financial security. They discuss paying off $110,000 in student loans, a $250,000 mortgage, and the importance of investing early. They also highlight their monthly expenses, savings, and the joy of being debt-free.

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Video transcript

My name is Ram Kandasamy. I'm a senior software engineer, and I work at AppLovin. I make $160,000 a year. I am Bhavna Muthangi. I'm a senior product manager, and I make $160,000 a year. I feel financially secure now. I think I've felt that way for about a year and a half. The reason why I didn't feel secure before that is because I had $110,000 in student loans that I was still working on paying off. We also had a $250,000 mortgage. I think for me the biggest part of feeling financially secure was just knowing that we had paid off all of our debt. It's a great feeling, knowing that you don't really owe anyone anything, and I think it's very freeing. To tell you the truth, I only felt, I felt very financially secure very recently, only because Bhav and I did some calculations on, 'cause we were basically trying to determine at what point we could be financially independent, and it turns out that we're well on our way to doing that. I come from a first generation immigrant family. We actually both do. While I think some people would argue that you should put that money towards, into the market, where you're getting a higher return than the interest that you are paying on your mortgage, from our mentality, our culture really values paying off debt, so that you feel secure, so I think that really, it was just a matter of feeling safe and knowing that this house belongs to us. I was very fortunate, my parents saved a lot of money so that they could pay for my college education, so I pretty much just had to focus on my studies, and I'm very grateful for that. For me, I was lucky enough to have my family be able to pay for part of college, but I also received some financial aid, and I was able to pay for about 25% of my tuition with a work study program, so I worked in our IT center when I was in college. When I went to business school, I actually earned a lot less than my peers at that time, so I was able to get a lot of financial aid for business school. In total, between college and business school, I still had about $110,000 in debt. I guess growing up, my parents, especially my mom, she kind of made it sound like having bad credit was a character flaw, so it was something that I desperately just wanted to avoid at all costs. I make sure every month, near the end of the month, to make sure I've paid off my credit card debt. I actually grew up in a household that was exactly the opposite of his. We had a ton of credit card debt when I was growing up, and I really saw how stressed my family was because of it, and we actually would sometimes move balances from credit card to credit card, and at one point, we were actually getting rejected for credit cards because our credit score was so low. I decided that when I became an adult I really did not want to live with that kind of stress. The Bay Area actually is a very expensive place to live, in terms of cost of living. The primary cost for most people though is housing. We actually have a big advantage on that front, just because we were able to buy property at a pretty low price. Basically, we had the whole housing crisis in 2008, 2009, and the housing market was pretty depressed for the next three years or so, and so we were able to buy this house when the prices were very low. This was also a foreclosed house, so it was much cheaper than other houses in the Bay Area at the time. I just looked for houses that met my parameters, two bedroom, two bath, and then I was just looking for the cheapest one I could find, really, because housing so expensive. I was just looking for something that would be a good value. I'm a pretty simple guy; I don't really need a really fancy house. I just want a place where I can live, and that could potentially also increase in value over time. I think we'll definitely live here for a while. We actually, for two years, we actually had roommates, and our roommate and his girlfriend were living in the second bedroom, so this house can fit up to four people, so I think we'll stay in this house for our whole life. We each earn $160,000 a year annually. Our combined monthly gross is 26,667. Now, federal and state taxes take out a good chunk of that. We pay about $10,198 each month in just taxes. After that, we contribute pre-tax money to 401K retirement accounts, and also to something called an employee stock purchase plan. An employee stock purchase plan is offered by a lot of companies as a benefit to their employees. What it means is that employees can purchase company stock, usually at a 15% discount, and so basically when the employees sell the stock, they're automatically getting a 15% return. We contribute $4,267 each month to our 401Ks and my employer's employee stock purchase plan. That leaves us with $12,202. Okay, so now moving to our monthly expenses, first we start off with the Homeowners Association bill and our annual property tax. When you become a property owner, you have to pay the Homeowners Association bill monthly, and basically what this is is it encompasses a bunch of improvements and fixtures for the whole community, 'cause we live in a condo complex. For example, it covers our garbage, our water, and things like that. In terms of property tax, that's just 1% of our total property value, and if you calculate that monthly, it comes out to $756. Next on the list is gas and electric. That's $70 a month for us. Then, internet and streaming services. In terms of streaming, we pay for Netflix, and we pay for Hulu, so that comes out to $95 a month. For both of us combined for our phones, we pay $80 a month. The reason for why it's so low is because our family lives here, and so we're part of a big family plan, and so we're able to get a discount there. In terms of our cars, we pay insurance, for insurance, maintenance, and gas for our cars, and if you kind of calculate that annually and divide it by 12, it comes out to $650. In terms of student loans, we actually don't have any student loans, so we're happy about that. For food and groceries, we spend $450 a month. For our gym membership, we spend $120 a month. For restaurants and entertainment, we spend $377 a month. Another line item is just for miscellaneous expenses, like Amazon books and clothing. That comes up to about $300 a month. Although it could be a lot less if we just used our library subscription to get more books, rather than getting them from Amazon. That's probably true. I do buy a lot of books on Amazon. After you take out all of our expenses, we have 9,339 left, and from that, we take $1,000, and we contribute it to our vacation fund each year. Normally, we take two international trips and one or two domestic trips each year. We try to travel pretty frugally. Traveling is one of our great passions. We've gone to Europe, we've gone to Asia, and we've gone to South America. After that, the vacation fund is taken out, we have $8,339 left. Over the years, we've already built up an emergency fund of one year's worth of expenses. Now, all of this money is going into very low-cost investments. Investing was really something I had to learn on my own. I'm from a first generation immigrant family, and when I was a child, we were just trying to keep our heads above water. There really wasn't as much of a focus on investing and building wealth for the future. Once I went to business school, and I saw what a lot of my classmates were doing, I started reading a lot of literature on it. I think one of my biggest regrets is that I didn't invest for a very long time, so I feel like a lot of millennials think this way, because we had the recession in 2001, and then we also had another recession in 2007, so they came pretty quickly after one another, so I think a lot of my generation holds off on investing, and unfortunately, I did that as well. I really wish that I had maxed out my 401Ks to their annual limit in my early 20s so that I could've seen those gains compound over time. I wish I had participated in my employer's stock purchase plan and gotten these discounted stocks. I think those are the biggest things I learned.