Generation Earn: Kimberly Palmer

Since learning I will be writing a money book, I’ve become obsessed with other money books, which is why we’re welcoming Kimberly Palmer to My168Hours today.

I first “met” Kim when I was fact-checking her columns for USA Today. She had been a previous intern there as well. My favorite piece of hers was one about the predictable alarmists claiming teenage bumping and grinding at high school dances heralded the Decline of Civilization. We went through historical records and found quotes from various decades making the same point about other dances that now seem tame. We are talking the fox trot here, folks.

Anyway, Kim has since gone on to become a personal finance columnist at US News & World Report, and is celebrating the launch, this month, of her new book Generation Earn: The Young Professional’s Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back. (That link takes you to her website; please go check it out). She makes the case that people in their 20s and 30s are better with money than we think, particularly when it comes to using money as a tool to build the life you want.

Laura: What do you want people to take away from your book?

Kim: I want people to feel like it’s completely possible and even easy to become financially secure, support their families, and start giving back in ways that align with their bigger goals and values. Even small changes like cooking more at home, buying more sustainable cleaning products, or investing in socially-responsible funds in your 401(k) can make a big difference over time. Most of the people profiled in my book started out by taking small steps towards ambitious goals, like starting a nonprofit or launching a small online business.

Laura: You tell people to save aggressively, but not to skimp when it comes to investing in your career. Why is that?

Kim: One of the biggest mistakes people can make in their 20s and 30s is not to invest in their careers. That can mean everything from taking a leadership course, hiring a professional career coach, or buying a website for the small business they hope to create one day. Even when you don’t have a lot of money, putting money into getting ahead in the profession of your dreams can help you earn more and get the life you want, so it’s the last thing you want to skimp on.

Laura: Have you had any big revelations about using your own time and money better?

Kim: Yes! I realized that I stress way too much about the small indulgences that give me pleasure, which is why I now buy myself coffee, taxi rides, and new clothes without thinking too much about it. But I cook more at home, because that saves a lot of money and I also enjoy it. I love spending money on things that save me time – for me, that includes grocery delivery services and a regular cleaning service. It lets me have more time to relax with my baby daughter and husband.

Laura: Is there any financial advice out there that you think is wrong or misleading?

Kim: I cannot stand hearing that people shouldn’t buy “lattes”! Coffee is cheap and can make you more productive, so I consider it an investment.

On a more serious note, I think people vastly underestimate how much they need to save. That’s why I say it’s essential to save one-third of your income (including retirement savings). It might sound impossible, and sometimes it is, but it’s also the only way to build financial security and retire comfortably one day.

Laura: If an extra $10,000 showed up in your life, what would you do with it?

Kim: I would save it. In the past year, I had a baby and bought a house, both of which have had a huge financial impact on my life… we’re in savings mode now as we figure out how to juggle these new costs.

Laura: What do you think about spending money to buy time?

I love it and dedicate a section of my book to its importance. Outsourcing chores or tasks through sites like elance.com can be a great decision and can free up more time for yourself or your family. If you’re a busy working mom (like me) then it’s almost always worth it!

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