27-year-old earns $650,000 a year in LA, is on her way to $1 million
This story was part of CNBC Make It’s Millennial Money series, which details how people around the world earn, spend and save their money.
Lauren Simmons usually tells people that she is a finance professional when she introduces herself.
But, she is also a 27-year-old author, producer and podcast host. Angel investor, and board member for several financial firms.
Simmons has learned to be in control of her own career. Simmons is a history-maker. In 2017, she was 22 and became the youngest full-time female trader on Wall Street, and the second African American woman trader in the New York Stock Exchange’s 229-year history.
But while at the NYSE, Simmons learned she was being paid just $12,000 while male colleagues with the same job and qualifications were making upwards of $120,000. From that point on, she made a commitment to herself that she’d never make less than $120,000 a year.
Simmons left the trading floor in 2018 and formed an LLC to manage all of her projects.
In the last few years, she has secured a deals on a book, movie, TV show and two podcasts. Her most consistent income comes from speaking engagements (she averages two per month), and she can earn up to six figures on brand deals.
No two days look the same. Simmons works long hours and on weekends, taking meetings as early as 3 a.m. and as late as 11 p.m. because she works with people all over the world. Her most recent project is a hosting job with the streaming series “Going Public,” which requires filming the series itself and traveling to promote it.
In 2021, Simmons moved to L.A and earned $650,000. In 2022, she’s on track to earn $1 million.
Simmons grew up in Marietta, Georgia, with her mom, twin brother and younger sister. She credits her mom’s strict budgeting for how she learned to save 85% of her income, which she began doing while earning just $12,000 in New York City. It was barely enough to pay for transportation while she lived with family in nearby New Jersey, and she didn’t spend any money on going out.
Simmons admits her saving strategy today isn’t the most traditional, but it works for her.
She sends all of her earnings into a savings account and for the most part doesn’t touch it. She also waits as long as possible to deposit her earnings. Simmons closed a few speaking engagement deals in January but will have her business manager hold onto the checks until just before they expire, so she won’t actually see that income until March.
“I like for my money to be out of sight, out of mind so I won’t spend it,” she says.
She’ll sometimes transfer money to a separate checking account, which she keeps at $2,000 for everyday spending. She’ll give herself a little more for birthdays and holidays, but never allows herself to spend more than 15% of her earnings each month.
Despite making a name for herself in the financial world, Simmons doesn’t feel like an expert all the time. She only began investing in the stock market during the 2020 pandemic downturn. She keeps her emergency fund, savings and retirement money all in one bank account. And she unapologetically splurges on Bath & Body Works candles: “Any time they have a sale, I am there.”
As for managing her own money, “I think that there are days that I’m decent at it,” Simmons says, but “I know that there’s a lot to learn every time I get to a different phase in my life.”
Here’s a look at how Simmons typically spends her money, as of January 2022.
- Rent: $3,850, paid for one year upfront and includes Wi-Fi, water and parking
- Transportation: $195 for car insurance and about $20 to charge her Tesla, which she leases under her LLC
- Pet: $200 for dog food and grooming
- Discretionary: $182 includes shopping, entertainment and household goods
- Food: $165 on groceries and dining out
- Health insurance: $100, paid for one year upfront
- Utilities: $43 for heat and electricity
- Subscriptions: $24 for meditation app Hay House, Hulu and The New York Times
Simmons’ earnings fluctuate wildly from $12,000 to $150,000 a month, so she plans ahead for big expenses. She paid a year’s worth of her rent upfront when she moved in, for example. She pays for health insurance a year at a time and car insurance six months at a time.
Another big constant in her budget is her 7-year-old Maltese, Kasper. She spends about $200 on him each month between grooming and pet food. “He lives a very luxurious lifestyle,” Simmons says.
Otherwise, Simmons keeps her budget pretty lean. In January, she spent $182 on shopping and entertainment, $165 on food (mostly groceries from Whole Foods) and $24 on a few subscriptions. She shares streaming-service logins with family and contributes Hulu to the pot.
Given her hectic schedule, making time for health and wellness is a non-negotiable. Simmons prefers hiking, doing yoga and exercising outdoors — it’s a big reason why she moved to L.A. She meditates every morning, anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours, to stay grounded and focused.
Simmons believes it doesn’t have to be expensive to take care of yourself. “I don’t want to turn into that person that is spending thousands of dollars in wellness, because I think you can do it for free at home,” she says.
That said, she does splurge on herself “once in a blue moon”: She recently treated herself and her mom to a seven-day trip at a wellness retreat as a gift.
This year, Simmons expects to earn $1 million across brand deals, partnerships, speaking engagements, and returns on investing in companies.
But even for someone who loves talking about money, it still feels awkward to say out loud.
Simmons knows all too well that when young women succeed at work, “we don’t get the same kudos as our male counterparts.” But those reminders only make her want to talk about her accomplishments and pay even more.
“That’s why we’re trying to fight societal norms and have these open dialogs and change the mindset of people,” she says. She wants to eliminate the stereotype that “young, successful women who make a lot of money are bragging.”
The million-dollar milestone carries a lot of personal significance, too: “I’m the first person in my family to graduate with a college degree,” she says. “My family and I have come a long way, and I’m super grateful.”
Simmons couldn’t have predicted how much her life would change from the first day she walked onto the NYSE trading floor. But she still has big plans ahead to negotiate new projects for herself and invest in more startups.
Her career has been full of twists and turns. It’s difficult for her to predict what her future life might look like. She hopes to own a Florida investment property and a home of her choice.
“Outside of that, I have no idea, but I’m excited to watch this video five to 10 years from now and to see where I’m at — maybe running for president.”
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