Breaking the Taboo with Jess
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi. My name is Jess, I’m 27 and work as a tech consultant in London. I also volunteer for a wonderful organization called Chayn which ‘leverages tech to empower women’ and when I’m not working I love running up mountains.
What’s your annual salary/net-worth?
I am in the middle of changing jobs so I’ll base this on what my salary is going to be which is £58k per annum. I also own my flat and rent out the spare room tax free under the spare room scheme for an extra £6300 a year and I occasionally freelance as a consultant which brings me in extra money when I need it.
What are your living arrangements? Are you living with a partner and your children, flatsharing with friends or living alone with cats? (no judgment!)
I am currently a live-in Landlady so live my lodger/roommate. However, I lived with my parents until a year ago which helped me save up to buy my flat. I did pay rent during the 4 years that I lived there but only £600 a month which is significantly less than I would have done if I was renting in London.
How much do you spend on your rent/mortgage?
I currently spend £800 a month on my mortgage.
What’s your relationship like with money and personal finance? Has it changed much in recent years?
Honestly money scares me a bit. I talk about it all the time and I’m more than happy to be open about it, but I worry about doing ‘the right thing’ all the time which means that I often swing between feeling guilty about spending money and feeling as though I should be allowed to do whatever I want with it.
It’s definitely changed over the years. I’m much more aware of what I do with it in terms of which accounts I use, how much I save and what is and isn’t good value for money than I used to be.
Budgeting - do you follow any guides, or are you more of a freewheeler?
I try and follow a general rule, I know how much I need to spend on groceries a week and how much all my bills are. I also have a direct debit set up for my savings account and I have a set amount that I can spend on unnecessary expenditure e.g. clothes. However, I don’t worry too much about other discretionary spend – I love coffee for example and so I don’t beat myself up about buying it even though I know it’s technically a colossal waste of money.
Do you have any debts? Do you have a plan on how to tackle them?
Other than my mortgage, no. I’ve paid off my student loan – luckily I missed the fee increase by a year and I worked & saved about £7,000 during my gap year so my loan was only about £13,000 to begin with. I paid off about 80% of this on my own and my dad helped with the remainder. I pay my credit card off every month so that it doesn’t count as continuing debt.
Have you started saving for retirement? Why, or why not?
Yes! I pay into my pension through work and have done since my first job out of university. The amount that I’ve paid in has varied depending on the scheme offered by my work but it’s currently about 5% of my monthly salary. I have amalgamated all of my pensions into one which I can check online and keep everything in high risk investments as I’ve got time to recoup any losses and therefore the benefits outweigh the risk.
Do you feel like you live above your means (as in - do you spend more than you can afford)?
Yes and no. I have months where I overspend but I can make up for it next month or I’ll draw on my savings if it’s for something specific that I’ve been planning on purchasing/organizing for a while. I also always check if I can afford something before I decide to buy it.
Are you any good with your savings? Do you have a rainy day fund?
Not as good as I would like. I bought my flat last year and that pretty much cleared me out. It’s taken me a while to recover from that outlay so I’ve only really just started paying back into my savings regularly. I have a direct debit set up that transfers £250 a moth into my account and I plan on increasing this to £500 a month once I can afford to do so. I have an overall savings target of wanting to be able to save £4,000 this year which I’m currently a long way off but with my new salary and a less expensive second half of the year I think it will be possible. If the worst came to the worst, I have a £6,000 credit limit which I would use in an emergency.
Have you ever experienced a financial epiphany? A sort of wake-up call, where you suddenly think - “I must start doing things differently”? If so, what brought it about?
Hmm, I’ve never had a life-changing shift in my attitude but I lived on my own in my flat for the first 6 months and I just found that I was running out of money at the end of every month and that was freaking me out. Then it suddenly occurred to me that I could rent the spare room, which has really helped and it actually turns out that I really enjoy living with my lodger she’s become a great friend.
What’s the one thing you indulge in?
COFFEE! Then I’m also really into health and fitness so I spend a lot on that, but I think your health is priceless so I’m not sure I count it as an indulgence.
What’s your relationship with credit cards? Love ‘em, hate ‘em, avoid using them entirely?
I have one. It terrified me at first now I’m more relaxed about it and since buying my house destroyed my savings (in the sense that I can’t access them) it makes me feel a lot more secure than I would without it.
Have you ever worked with a financial advisor? What were they like?
No but I have been doing a lot of work with financial services providers in the development of AI and robo-advice in personal finance which is aiming to bring financial advice to the masses. There’s a lot of stuff that has to happen before this can make a real impact but I think it has a lot of potential. Mobillity which is a chatbot that also links you to a human advisor is especially good. It’s very accessible and breaks down the barriers to advice.
Let’s talk gender pay gap. Have you got any personal experiences concerning unequal pay? Any ideas on how to close the gap?
I found out after I left my old job that one of my male colleagues (who is now one of my best friends) was being paid £8,000 more than me despite having less experience and having worked at the company for less amount of time. The biggest thing this taught me was that you have to negotiate, I think if we give women the confidence to ask for what they are truly worth this would help as it would put pressure on companies to meet their expectations.
What are your biggest financial fears and concerns?
My biggest concern is that I won’t be able to keep up with my mortgage payments or that I won’t be able to save consistently. However, I know that if things ever got really bad, I could move back into my parents’ house and rent the whole flat if I needed to or I could sell it if necessary.
What is Vestpod for you?
For me Vestpod is so important. I am really passionate about helping women gain their independence and becoming financially independent is a really big part of this.
Own up. Have you made any major financial faux-pas?
I ended up with about £1,000 debt on my credit card 4 months after I’d bought my flat. The bills were a lot more expensive than I had expected them to be and I didn’t adjust my spending as much as I should have. This is when I decided to take in my lodger and since then it’s been fine.
Thanks a lot Jess!
Jess is a tech-loving fitness addict passionate about women’s rights and the power of technology to change the world for the better. You can find her on LinkedIn.