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Living with Family to Pay Debt, Save Money and Buy a Home - My Money Story

Living with Family to Pay Debt, Save Money and Buy a Home - My Money Story

This is an interview with a Snowball Wealth community member, Lina Orjuela

My name is Lina, I’m 24 years old, and I have a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University. I work at ThankView, a tech startup based in New York City, but I currently live with my parents in New Jersey. I have about $31,000 left in student loans, but since I don’t pay rent, I’m using the extra cash to pay my student debt while saving for mine and my parents’ retirement.

What was your financial situation growing up?

Growing up, I knew my family was lower-middle class, but my parents always provided the necessities for me and my brother so it didn’t feel like we were in that bracket. My mom was a stay-at-home mom but now she prepares taxes. My dad is the main contributor working as a contractor. They’re both now close to retirement age.

I started working at the mall when I was 17, but I never really thought about saving, so I would just spend it on clothes. When I was ready to apply for colleges, I had about $3,000-$5,000 from scholarships for my college tuition, but it wasn’t much, so I decided to go to a state university. I graduated with about $45,000 in student loans.

What are your current struggles when it comes to money?

My biggest struggle right now is making sure I’m saving and learning about my own future retirement while working towards helping my parents become homeowners. Since my parents are already near retirement age and they don’t have any type of retirement savings, I feel a lot of pressure to be more well off financially so I can pay for their expenses once they decide to stop working (or are no longer physically able to work).

I would say that the biggest money saver has been living at home. I understand the privilege it is to still be able to live with my parents. However, it does have its challenges like the lack of privacy and the long commute into NYC for work (before the pandemic, of course).

Read our millennial guide to retirement

How have your views on money changed over time?

Realizing that I have to save money for my parents’ retirement has definitely changed my relationship with my finances. Now that I have a salary job, I spend less and I’m saving as much as I can. Other than that, it helped me realize that I don’t want to be a burden for my children when I get to retirement age. I’ve been more mindful of my expenses and how I manage my money. I’ve also started to focus more on educating myself about investing and getting multiple streams of income.

What are some money habits you adopted?

When I was growing up (and still now honestly), my dad liked to pay for everyone. If we had family visiting, we would go out to a restaurant, and he would be the one paying for the entire bill. I have definitely gotten this money habit from him albeit not a good one. Whenever I’m out with friends, I’ll say “this round’s on me,” or I won’t worry if a friend doesn’t pay me back, not to show off, but because I want to have a good experience, and I don’t mind paying that money.

A good money habit I’ve adopted is that I focus more on spending money on experiences instead of materialistic things. I’ve found myself a lot happier and less stressed since I have these good memories to look back on. Although I’ll admit, I still do the occasional Amazon buying binge.

How do you think your culture has contributed to you being the backbone of your family?

In the Latinx culture, we’re very family-oriented almost to a fault. Whether it’s my immediate family or it’s a family member I haven’t talked to in 10 years, we always take care of each other and have each other’s backs. This has made me keep my family in mind when thinking about any future financial planning. I’m making buying a house with my parents a priority instead of moving out. I’m also preparing for their future retirement where I will no doubt have to help out with their expenses.

One of the unfair things about my parents being immigrants is that they were too busy creating our life here in the U.S. that they didn’t have the time nor the expendable income to prepare for their future retirement. Because of this, I’m going to do whatever I can to provide for them because they provided for me and gave me everything that I have today.

What are some pieces of advice for those thinking of moving in with family to save money?

Stay focused and keep reminding yourself of the goals you’re trying to achieve. It’s not an ideal situation, but there is a clear financial benefit so it’s worth it for the eventual payoff.

Can you tell us a bit more about your financial progress and what your goals are?

I’ve more than tripled my emergency savings and my retirement savings in the last year. Saving for my parent’s retirement has been slow going but I’m working towards it. Also, my parents and I are currently looking at home lenders to buy their house!

My goals are to:
Max out 401k, HSA, and Roth IRA every year
Help my parents buy a house in the next year
Pay off all my student loan debt before 30
Buy an apartment in Colombia and rent it out on Airbnb

Money mantra?

"You don’t need more skincare stuff!!!"
Every little bit counts!

Read more on how to support your family financially during a time of crisis here

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