Here's another Money Match profile, from someone whose experience living in China has given her a very interesting perspective on personal finance:
My vital stats--I'm 34 years old, female, single, and living in the Boston area.
Frugality gives me a cheap thrill (heh). But I am definitely frugal as opposed to cheap. I was raised to pay for quality, rather than buying something cheaper that wouldn't last. I was also raised to pay off credit card bills immediately, the very moment they arrived. Both of those are ingrained in me and I live by them. I have no debt and don't own many clothes or other objects, but the ones I own I value highly and use often. I have no car, no mortgage (although I may someday), and no kids (which may also change at some point). I pay about $725 in rent and utilities every month, and make about 56K/year working in the educational publishing industry.
I lived in semi-rural China from 1997 to 1999, teaching English with the Peace Corps. In China, "How much money do you make?" is a popular conversation-starter when you meet a new person, very much like "So what do you do?" in the States. As volunteers, we were given a living allowance of about $125/month, which was about twice what the Chinese teachers at our school made, and about half of what the local taxi drivers made! Still, all the Chinese people we met assumed we were all wealthy since we were Americans. One nice benefit I got out of my time in China is that I am no longer afraid of bargaining, or of discussing salary openly. There's such a stigma against that in the U.S., and I think that makes it a lot harder for people to demand raises and really push for the benefits they deserve at their jobs here.
I guess the main thing I learned about money in China is that over there, a person's value and their salary are separate. No one would ever make a correlation between how much money I earned and what kind of person I was. Here in the U.S., net worth and personal worth are closely intertwined. Money is weird, because it's both the most objective and impersonal thing ever--and also, at the same time, wicked personal. I think I have a healthy relationship to it, in general, and I try not to give it either too much or too little importance as I plan (and live) my life.
I just love the interesting financial stories that some of these profiles come with-- I'm sure those Peace Corps years helped make Anya's current frugal lifestyle seem quite luxurious.
Anya is looking to meet a like-minded gentleman in the Boston area, so if you're interested, email me (at openwallet1 [at] yahoo [dot] com) and I'll forward your response to her.