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Question for the Money Doctors

Question submitted on Apr 10, 2014.


I am a 25 year old single woman with no dependents. I make about $26,000.00 per year as a Paralegal. I am a college graduate with some post graduate education (no post graduate degree) so that means I have about $42,000.00 in student loan debt. I also currently have $1,000.00 in credit card debt. I live alone, but I can barely afford it. With my income, I am barely paying my bills, which means, on my monthly utilities and expenses I pay most of them but every month I have to get extensions on one or two of the bills and even then I barely have money left over to buy food, gas, and clothing. Obviously, I am not able to save anything. I already have a part time job working just a few hours a week, and is working on getting a third job just to make ends meet. My question is, what am I doing wrong? What can I do to make my financial situation better? I can't work 24 hours a day. My parents can not afford to help out much. They do what they can. Please help. I need some financial advice or encouragement. My current financial situation is very challenging right now.


I am encouraged that you are doing quite a bit right. Keeping your credit card debt to $1,000 is a win. I have a few thoughts that you will have to evaluate for yourself whether or not they are acceptable.

1. Roommates. I have seen quite a few people when they are starting out take on, or make arrangements with, people who they trust enough to be a roommate. While we all want privacy, we can save about 1/3 of the rental expenses (a 2 bedroom will cost more in rent and utilities),

2. Always look for a better second job. If your current job is Monday-Friday, look for a job that can provide a good revenue source.

3. Work ethic is incredibly important. While this may not be an issue for you, show your enthusiasm where you currently work by becoming more valuable. Pay attention to what goes on around the office. If something can be done better, start doing it. Is there a better scheduling program? Are there better ways to track work done? Can the files be organized better? What can technology do to help your office become more efficient? Do you see other areas you can make a difference in? Are there particular quirks of those in your firm that a certain something could make their job easier. They may not be that good at X, so go ahead and work extra. The peace of mind could inspire them to give you a raise or bonus in the long run.

4. Learn as much as possible about any job you do. A successful guy in TV once told me that he didn't care what he got paid, he just wanted to learn the craft. He got paid nothing at first and grew that into a global opportunity with the biggest name stars of the time. The same is true of whatever it is you do. Be inspired...and be inspiring. You can always be fired, but you can never have your intellectual capital taken from you. It is important to remember that small businesses struggle to get good talent. Many business owners lament that if only so and so would do better, that they have looked for better quality help but can't find it. Any one of us can become that person.

5. Treat any job like you own the business. I was talking with a mayor about this very topic. At age 5, she was taught that you have to wipe the windows and glass of the store to make sure it is always clean so that when potential customers walk up to the store, they will think it is a clean store that they want to shop in, instead of a dirty store that they wouldn't want to be seen in. She operates her city that way. It must be clean. It's as if she is the owner of the city, but it allows her to serve the residents of her community better.

6. Review your budget. Is there something that can be cut? Some people today are consolidating their home and cell phones. They feel it is redundant. I personally have never paid a cable bill. I don't have television. A national or state park pass can give much relaxation, physical fitness, and opportuity to get away from the day to day from time to time.

7. How can your knowledge of the computer help your employer? What an opportunity there is to make a difference in the emerging area of technology, social media, app development. Today, your office can connect via apps with clients on their schedule, not yours. You can have amazing touch points that you more easily see and connect with because you were raised on the computer. While, in all likelihood, those who own companies had to discover what might be possible as an adult, and typically cannot see the opportunity for their business.

8. Consider a federal government job. After 10 years of public service, the $42k is discharged. Generally, the government jobs pay significantly more than the private sector today. You can reference some of the requirements below:

Lastly, if some of the above are embraced, you are 25 years old, and at the lowest earning time of your life. The future is bright and is shaped by actions and habits you develop in the workplace.

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