Ten Money Questions for Erica Mauter
1. What do you do for a living?
I’m a validation engineer at a pharmaceutical company. Because we’re so heavily regulated, there’s an extra layer of documentation for every single thing we do. I document that the equipment, cleaning procedures, and manufacturing processes we use all do exactly what they’re supposed to do and are in compliance with federal regulations and current Good Manufacturing Practice. My job is about 70% technical writing, 15% manufacturing, and 15% regulatory.
2. What you want to do, if not at your dream job right now?
I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up! I think my dream job would involve philanthropy or arts management. Or something that would allow me to travel extensively. I’ve very recently kicked around the thought of owning a yoga studio or some kind of holisticly-oriented wellness center. Definitely something less left-brainy and technical than what I’ve been doing.
3. Have you been deeply affected by the economy? If so, how?
I somehow feel guilty admitting this, but I have not personally been significantly impacted by the recent economic downturn. While all this has been going on, I’ve managed to finish paying off my biggest debts and start socking away cash. Early last year, my employer’s parent company announced that they will close our plant and transfer all our manufacturing to another facility. The plant shutdown is a 3+ year project, so while I know I’ll likely be laid off at some point in the next year or two, for now it’s business as usual. I’m hoping by the time my number comes up, the availability of jobs will have improved.
4. Do you rent or own your home?
My partner owns our home. Technically, I rent from her. We’re looking to move and purchase a home together next year.
5. You’re a blogger. Have you gotten any writing or speaking gigs because of your blog?
I have. I’ve been a cityblogger for several years. I started out at the Minneapolis Metblog and then last year I left to start my own cityblog, fresh.mn. Within the local blogging ecosystem, I’ve made connections with mainstream journalists, bloggers of various stripes, and pro-am citizen journalists. The fact of the matter is that the popularity of the blog as a publishing platform and the evolving social nature of the web has changed the way news is delivered. So while I’m not a journalist, nor do I have journalist aspirations, I will staunchly defend the right of the blog to be a platform for citizen journalism and am have been asked a number of times to speak on that topic. I have another blog, cinna.mn, which is about minority experiences in Minnesota. I was fortunate enough to be asked to cover a speaking gig with Peggy McIntosh, author of Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, a groundbreaking essay on white privilege. I got a chance to speak with her myself, and that was just mindblowing.
6. Do you and your partner see eye to eye on finances? Do you ever argue while shopping at Ikea or any other “big box” store (no pun intended.)
We have a congruent sense of what to spend money on and how much to spend on it, whether it’s around-the-house stuff or entertainment or travel or food, etc. Neither of us spend flippantly or carelessly. We’re also pretty good about letting each other spend our own money freely. I don’t feel like I need to check with her before I buy something or vice versa, but we also trust each other to make reasonable purchases and to discuss big ticket items in advance. We’ve never fought over money. There has been an interesting evolution over the course of our relationship. I was in a world of financial hurt years ago (right before we got together) and have become accustomed to obsessively tracking every penny. As I’ve paid off all my debts and begun to save aggressively, I’m adjusting to the “loose” feeling of having a little extra money around. She’s coming from a place of not having had to worry about money at all and has been learning to track her spending and budget accordingly. We’re meeting in the middle in a
pretty good place. I think I’ll always be the household CFO, though.
7. When you were a kid, did you get an allowance? What would you buy?
I got a small allowance when I was very young, but I was “working” by the time I was 11 or so. I don’t remember too much about it, though. I know I had a bank account. I’m sure I mostly spent it hanging out at the mall with my friends, buying food or music or movie tickets.
8. What is the one personal item that you always splurge on?
Travel. Not that I spend a lot on any given trip. I’m actually pretty good about budget travel. But the choice to travel at all is a luxury, especially in this country where you often have to fly because you don’t have much vacation time to spend getting from Point A to Point B and you can’t just hop on a train and get somewhere. Travel is very important to me. I love to see new places and visit people and just not be in the same place all the time. It’s particularly important to get away from Minnesota for a bit in the middle of the long winter! Not being able to travel was the thing I missed most when I was broke and one of the first things I did when I scraped up spare cash. I know so many folks who would love to travel but feel like they can’t because it’s too expensive for them.
9. What is one thing that you feel is always overpriced?
Transportation in general.
10. If money can’t buy happiness, what can it it buy?
Money can buy freedom from the stress of not having any money. I’m lucky that in my darkest financial days I wasn’t living on the street or on food stamps or anything, but I was barely scraping by and it was very stressful to not have extra money. To have to think hard about which bill to pay first, how far you can stretch $20 at the grocery store, to have to turn down your friends’ invites to go to the bar or other places that are too expensive for you. To have to constantly choose one basic comfort over another. And then there’s the shame of it on top of all that. I hope I never have to go through that again. I like to think that I know enough now to avoid it but if something terrible happened I also have learned enough to manage it better.
Read other Queercents interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.