dallas April 7, 2021

Lani Huang, 25, earns ,400 as a public middle school math teacher in Dallas, Texas. She made an additional ,212 from teaching virtual summer school and making instructional math videos for her school district. She recently bought a home for 5,000.

This is the latest installment of CNBC Make It’s Millennial Money, which profiles people around the world and details how they earn, spend and save their money.

Read more about about Lani’s budget breakdown here: https://cnb.cx/3nsUaa4

Lani Huang has never had a “normal” year as a teacher.

She began her career in 2017 teaching in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and took part in the 2018 teacher walkouts at the end of her first year. In the fall of 2019, she relocated to a new school in Dallas and ended the term in the spring of 2020 like millions of other teachers and students around the world — interacting with her class virtually as her school district shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, the 25-year-old is back in the classroom teaching middle school math to students spaced six feet apart, shielded by face masks with Plexiglas separating their desks, while also instructing a group of students who remain at home through Zoom.

This year, Huang will earn ,400 as a public middle school math teacher. She made an additional ,212 from teaching virtual summer school and making instructional math videos for her school district to air on the local PBS channel. She also received a 0 stipend for serving as a mentor to two new teachers on her team and 8 for covering a class for a colleague in December.

Despite the many challenges over the past few years, Huang has achieved some major milestones: She paid off her student loans, moved to a new state, bought her first house and moved in with her boyfriend.

Huang felt it was important to share her journey to financial independence as a second-generation American raised by a single mother. She hopes to encourage young people from similar backgrounds that they can achieve similar goals.

Here’s how Huang manages her money.

Money lessons from childhood

Huang’s mom, Jan, is one of 10 kids and the only one to leave Thailand for the U.S. She arrived in Chicago when she was 25 with a plan to work and go to college. She gave birth to her only daughter when she was in her 40s.

Huang says her mom — who worked long hours for the Chicago Public School district and as a nursing assistant and stretched the household budget on a single income in an expensive city — is the biggest influence in how she perceives money today.

First and foremost, Huang learned from her the importance of saving from an early age, and she now tries to stash away ,000 per month. She learned that material possessions lose value and prefers to spend on experiences, like travel and concerts, over things.

Perhaps most importantly, Huang’s mom taught her to not rely on anyone else while working toward her goals. “My mom always told me to not wait for a man to get what I wanted or what I needed,” she says. “I think that’s what made me work so hard. If I want something, I know that I have to find a way to do it.”

Paying off debt and becoming a homeowner

Huang studied psychology and Mandarin Chinese at her mom’s alma mater, DePaul University, while working food-service and hospitality jobs. She graduated with about ,000 in student debt.

During her senior year, she was recruited by Teach for America to become a certified educator and teach at a school that serves low-income students in Tulsa. She taught there for two years and used her demanding schedule, low cost of living and limited social activities to her advantage to save as much money as possible — usually a few hundred dollars each month.

Through its partnership with AmeriCorp, Teach for America covered roughly ,000 of Huang’s student loans in exchange for her teaching service. And on August 2, 2019 — the day before her 24th birthday — Huang paid off the remaining ,000 principal in one lump sum as a gift to herself.

Once she was debt-free, she set her sights on another goal on her list: buying a home.

After growing up in rented apartments, “it’s always been a dream of mine to own my own home,” Huang says.

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Living On K A Year In Dallas | Millennial Money

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