How To Track Your Whole Life

Recently I wrote an end of year recap on LinkedIn highlighting my habits & accomplishments professionally & personally for the year. This could not have been possible without the help of some truly amazing apps. So in honor of that post & those apps, I’ve decided to write an accompanying piece on how I track everything. Obviously, some people are not fans of being tracked, but I admit, I’m quite biased given I work in data, however; I think it’s a really good way to keep track of habits & re-prioritize your life, especially at the start of a new year! Note: Some links are referral links. Track Music & Podcasts

I’ve been using for over 15 years! It has the built in ability to track all your Spotify listening (I always joke that the Spotify Wrapped is never particularly surprising because I have There are mobile apps that let you track podcast listening also. | View My Profile | Pricing: Freemium (0 – 30 GBP annually)

Trakt: Track TV & Movie Watching

Trakt is a site that allows you to keep track of all the movies & TV shows you watch and even let’s you know where to find the shows & when the newest episodes come out. I’ve yet to find and TV show or movie not in their database! | Price: Freemium (0 – 60 USD annually)

RescueTime: Track Your Screen Time

RescueTime is an absolute game-changer. I have it installed on my personal computer, work computer and phone. It tracks all of my screentime and categorizes it so I know how long I spend working, how much I spend mindlessly scrolling through social media and how long it takes to complete projects. I started using it years ago because I was working as a freelance consultant and wanted to make sure I was tracking my hours but I just love it so much even after I stopped, it was just so useful especially with setting productivity (and unproductivity!) goals. | Price: 72 USD annually

Google Location History: Track Your Location

If you don’t mind Google following you around, Google Location History is such an amazing tool to remember where you have been as long as you have your phone with you! If you’re in the Google ecosystem, I highly recommend Google Map’s saved list feature to keep track of recommendations, lists, and places you want to go! | Price: Free

Polarsteps: Track Your Vacations

If you prefer to track your location on when you’re on holiday, Polarsteps is a free app & site that will plot out your trips on a map and allow friends to follow along with your journey, upload photos, and write up blog content for your trip! | My Polarsteps | Price: Free

Toshl/Mint: Track Your Finances

Toshl & Mint (US only) are both amazing tools that allow you to track all your finances in one place (credit cards, pension accounts, loans, brockerage accounts & more). Toshl is especially amazing because it supports major banks all over the world (definite plus as an ex-pat!). You can see things like your net worth, create budgets, categorize spending, etc. | Toshl Price: 20 – 40 USD annually | Mint Price: Free

Fitbit & MyFitnessPal: Track Your Health & Food

First I must start off by saying, I do not recommend long term use of MyFitnessPal. I will use it for a few weeks maybe once or twice a year if I feel like my eating habits are getting out of control but I don’t think it’s healthy to police your eating long term. Fitbit, though, I love! I track my steps, calories burned, sleeping, heart rate, period, exercise, etc. with it. You can also track your water consumption, your wellness & more. I also have a non-Fitbit smart scale that logs my weight & body fat for a comprehensive look at my health. One big reason why I love Fitbit is because it helps me catch any irregularities or issues I should bring up with my doctor so that when they ask “how long have you had trouble sleeping?” I can answer… | Price: App is freemium but the devices vary in price starting at 100 USD


I’m a pencil & paper to-do list girl but I do use Google Keep often as my very simple digital to do list/post-it app, Amazon Wishlist for any items (even if not on Amazon thanks to their Amazon Assistant plugin) and Raindrop for bookmarking. Todoist is a more advanced list-making tool that I’ve tried off & on.

Exist: Bring it All Together

I’m obsessed with Exist. What is does is connects almost everything I listed above together, plus weather, social media, custom day tagging, and a daily mood rating into a single dashboard. Not only does it do that, it provides you with trends, shows you how things have changed over time, identifies correlations with different data points and tells you what things contribute to better or worse days. It’s also a perfect daily habit tracker! Honestly, it’s incredible and well worth the price. | Price: 57 USD annually

Other Useful Tools:

Not necessary tracking, but other productivity & automation tools I recommend to save you time & simplify your life:


  • Revolut is an incredible product that allows you to have bank accounts in multiple countries/currencies, transfer money, invest in crypto, buy individual stocks, and more. It’s an absolute life saver.
  • Monzo (UK), basically every ex-pat in the UK has it so it’s really easy to send money to people. Plus, the card is pink which I enjoy immensely.
  • Curve is an ex-pat dream come true. You can add basically any Visa or Mastercard to the app and then switch between them. Similar to Apple or Google Pay but you have a physical card (not everywhere takes Apple/Google Pay!). In addition, you can switch the card you use up to 14 days after the purchase and depending on your subscription type, you get no foreign transaction fees. So, if, like me, you have credit & debit cards from multiple countries, it makes the buying experience much more seamless (and guarantees I get all my travel points!)
  • Google Pay Loyalty Cards — one feature I’m not sure is well known within Google Pay is the ability to save your loyalty cards like for Walgreens or Boots so you don’t have to carry them around with you. It produces the barcode on your phone, so you just scan as you normally would when checking out.

    Read more about my personal finance tools & tips here.


  • TripIt is a fantastic itinerary creator. You can connect it to your email and it scans your emails for hotel, restaurant, entertainment and travel confirmations and combines them together for your trip. Really handy if you’re planning a multi-city trip especially!
  • Opentable is the most comprehensive restaurant reservation site in the world. Easily find last minute reservations and it even has filters for outdoor dining to give you a bit more piece of mind.
  • Culture Trip is a great site to help you find things to do in any city that go beyond what you’d normally see on sites like Tripadvisor.
  • With Locals is affordable-ish private tours from locals in many cities around the world. You get an amazing guided experience without looking like a tourist. Also, recommend Airbnb Experiences for small group tours & authentic experiences.
  • Award Wallet lets you track all of your loyalty & reward program points in a single place. It even keeps track of when your points will expire and how many points you need for higher tiers.

Daily Life:

  • Handy is a website that allows you to book services that range from recurring house cleaning to building Ikea furniture to electrical work. Available in US, CA & UK.
  • Crashplan as a cheap full computer backup solution including getting old versions of files and Google Drive Backup & Sync as a selective backup solution (Yes, I run both! You can never be too careful!).
  • Google Photos best feature is it’s search feature. It allows you to tag faces and then automatically tags any new photos of that person, plus if you turn on your location history so you can search by name & location in your photos.
  • Clean Email is a tool that allows you to clean out unwanted old emails but more importantly for me, it can create a digest view of all your email subscriptions so you can pick & choose what you want to read without cluttering your inbox.
  • Calendly syncs with your calendar so you can easily send people your availability rather than going back & forth with scheduling.

So, You Want to Work in Data in the Music Industry…

I get questions about working in data in the music industry a lot. I’m by no means an expert but this all comes from various jobs in the industry since I was 16 ranging from working with startups, radio stations, labels, live, etc. This doesn’t represent data at any one company or any one field, just a combination of working, hiring and being hired in this industry.

Before we dive into getting into it, let’s make sure you’re prepared.

The music industry is a tough one to get into.

It is highly sought after, so you’re competing with a lot of people for roles even with experience, a good network, education, etc., you are still one of the hundreds vying for a small number of roles in a very close-knit, well-connected industry. You’re competing with 25-year-olds with 8 years of experience because they started interning at labels at 17. If you’re looking to change countries in addition to all of this, multiply it by 10. Here is my post about getting a music job in Sweden.

There are more lucrative roles in tech out there.

If you’re motivated to work in tech because it makes money (no judgment, secure that bag!) then the music industry may not be for you. In my experience, the music industry generally pays less than equivalent technical roles that may be at startups, tech companies and especially in industries like finance. For the best of both worlds, roles at the music tech companies (Spotify, Apple, Amazon, YouTube) pay more favorably but are usually even more challenging to secure and often (but not always!) further removed from artists & the “business of music” in those tech roles.

Being technical in a creative industry is tough.

Any time you combine creativity & numbers, there’s a lot to reconcile. The music industry is full of passionate people that have relied on their guts for decades (and often rightfully so!) so coming in with an Excel sheet or an algorithm to tell VPs what to do is not always looked upon favorably. In addition to the technical skills, you have to have thick skin, confidence & strong communication/presentation skills.

Skills to Learn

All that being said, I absolutely love the music industry. Any negativity & cynicism I feel is washed away instantly when I see all the hard work come to fruition — hearing a song on the radio, seeing a live show, talking to an artist about what you’re working on, watching culture change because of what we do… It still gives me goosebumps.

If you’re not obsessed with music, there are probably better options out there for you.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move onto what steps to take. This is very specific to data & music because honestly, I’m truly amazed anyone ever gets a job transitioning into music not working in legal, finance or tech, so I give my perpetual kudos to those people.

Learn the Tech

Honestly, I think tech is the easiest part of this endeavor. I learned most of this with a mix of experience and education. If you have the time & money, I really love General Assembly otherwise, it’s easy to learn with a lot of Googling or cheap online courses like Coursera or Udemy.

  • SQL: This is the minimum. This lets you query our billions of rows of data to get out what you need.
  • Python or R: This will help you work with datasets larger than 1M rows (max for Excel). It comes in handy to clean, manipulate & acquire data. Both allow you to do data science and visualization. In addition, Python can also be used (more easily) for development, so with a little knowledge of web development, you can develop site mockups or handle some workflows for data engineering.
  • Statistics & Math: Self-explanatory, but make sure you understand technically what the numbers are telling you.
  • Data Science: Not everyone is going to be a data scientist, so this is optional but it’s as easy transition once you’ve learned everything else above so at the minimum understand what’s available to you in Excel like regressions and be knowledgable enough in Data Science to know how fancy AI data tools work so you’re not constantly being sold products you don’t need.

Learn to Tell a Good Story

  • Basic Data Visualization: Learn how to display numbers in a way that people can digest them. I always say, “If I’m doing my job right, no one has to see an Excel sheet.” This doesn’t need to be complex… sometimes, it’s just a graph or conditional formatting.
  • Advanced Visualization (Tableau, Data Studio, Etc.): Learn to make things interactive through any data visualization tool. Once you learn one, it’s pretty easy to learn the others. Google Data Studio is the one I recommend most because it’s free to use. Once you have the ability to do this, instead of answering one question, you’ve built something that can answer multiple questions (or multiple versions of the same question) thus saving you time and making others more independent and data literate.
  • Teaching, Presenting & Communicating: No matter how good your work is, if you can’t explain it and tailor it to different audiences, it really doesn’t matter. Get comfortable explaining complex things simply and understanding your audience enough to recalibrate accordingly. You could easily have to show the same presentation to your boss, your peers, an artist’s manager, and an EVP in the same week. There’s usually an element of teaching others how to understand data which can require patience and an ability to explain why something is important enough to take the time to focus on it.

Learn the Industry

This can be tough without being in the industry but it’s possible! I also encourage networking to get some of this information first hand rather than just reading about it.

  • Read Blogs & Industry News: Read blogs like Musically and Chartmetric and follow the industry as a whole through sites like Billboard. Read up on the industry lists (like Billboard’s 40 Under 40) to know who’s who.
  • Understand how the music business works: Understand conceptionally how things work. How does a song get on streaming services? How do artists get paid? What is the difference between a publisher & a label? What are the major artists signed to each major label?
  • Get your hands on publically available music data: I usually direct people to learn the Spotify API. As you’re doing data projects, it’s robust, clean data & accessible to learn. In addition to that, there’s tons of data available like charts,, Chartmetric and more. Play around with them so you understand macro trends and know what the impact of things like playlisting, radio, and sync are.

Finding the Right Role

Part of the reason, the industry research is necessary is to help you figure out where you want to be.

What do you want to do in data?

So, if you’re feeling ready to apply to roles there are a lot of fields within data & music. I won’t go into all of them, but I’ve normally worked in marketing/commercial and data but I’m a bit of a generalist. I have a bit of experience in data science, reporting, data engineering, finance, marketing, development, visualization, analysis, insights, etc. If you’re in a small territory/country or at a small label, there’s a chance you’re only data person, so being a generalist is usually welcomed. As you get into larger corporations, you may want to try to focus on a certain field. Do your research & consider what you’d like your day to day to look like. If you’re transitioning from another field, consider what skills you have that may overlap to help you make that choice. For example, if you came from a role/have a degree with a lot of math, you may want to consider being a financial analyst or data scientist. Every field in music needs data from marketing to A&R.

What size & type of company you want to work for?

Think about what you want your day to day to look like? Do you want to interact a lot with artists? Do you want a lot of time to code & develop? Do you want to build products? There are big differences between indie labels, publishers and major labels. Even the tech companies differ from the startup to the Google’s of the world. There are also companies often overlooked like the RIAA, IFPI, Neilsen, etc. that are big players in the industry.

Prep for the Applying & Interviewing

  • Understand the level of job you’re applying for. Titles can be a bit insane in the music industry, a manager title may not mean you have any direct reports, for example. So, ask around to understand where you’ll be in the food chain, especially if titles & hierarchy are important to you.
  • Prepare at least one portfolio piece that employers can easily access. It could be a report, a Data Science project, a Tableau dashboard, even a Github link if you’re applying to a particularly technical role. Here’s an example of mine. This is especially important if you have no prior experience/education in data.
  • Depending on what you want to do, consider making your resume a bit more creative. You don’t need to go over the top but remember you’re trying to work in a creative industry — a little color on your resume goes a long way!
  • Even if you have a portfolio, be prepared to have to do a technical test AND also present it. This is to ensure you understand data and can explain it to others. If they don’t give you a test, it’s likely you’ll be the only technical person around which has it’s own advantages & challenges.
  • Make sure you ask the right questions: What will my day to day actually look like? What limitations/issues exist with the company’s data? What the general attitude on data is in the company? Are there other data people around for support? Who’s job is it to do the things you won’t be doing (like how does the data engineering at the company work)? Does my supervisor have a background in data? This will tell you a lot about what your job will look like, what support you’ll have, and what challenges you’ll face. Coming from outside a company, it’s also tough to work out job descriptions often, so asking questions helps you understand the terminology, like does the international team mean you’re getting people in your country to listen to internationals tracks or that you’re trying to get other countries to listen to your domestic tracks, for example?

Despite everything I said above, a lot of this industry is knowing the right people, being in the right places, and having the right conversations. I’ve gotten as many jobs/opportunities applying through a website as I have by sending the right email at the right time. In a lot of ways, data in the music industry is still a very new thing so you have a lot of opportunities to carve your own path. So, just get out there & figure out how you can add value wherever you want to be. Don’t be obnoxious, though — no one wants that.

Speaking of that… Feel free to send me a message (I get a lot of them which is why I wrote this, so please be patient!). I’m always going to do as much as I can to help people passionate about music get to where they need to be especially women & people of color because they’ve historically had a tough time in this industry.

So, if after all of that, you still want to do this, I wish you all the luck in the world and would love to help!

Hey Christine, I Need Money Advice!

Sometimes people ask me for financial advice, so I thought this was a good time to put a quick how to together of how I went from having $9,000 in credit card debt to having a full year’s salary saved in 9 years.

Obviously, I’m not a financial planner so this is mostly based on my extensive research and all the things I actually did, so you should probably do more research than just this blog post but I hope it helps. I won’t explain the why of everything because they’re a lot of much smarter people than me that have already done that, so I’ll drop links in when relevant. Most of my investment strategy is in a broad mix of companies in the stock market, which obviously isn’t always guaranteed to go up but historically has literally always grown in the long run and has given me 10-15% gains annually.

I’ve done my research in both the US & UK, so I’ve provided comparables for both and only include the currency in my little guide if it’s relevant. Though I lived in Sweden for 2 years, I still förstår inte tillräckligt med svenska to be able to write anything even remotely helpful. BTW, some of these links are referral codes.

So, without further ado, here’s my 6 step guide to getting your financial shit together.

1. Keep track of your credit score & spending

Mint is only in the US but Toshl is similar and available pretty globally. Credit Karma is UK & US. The latter allows you to track your spending and categories it so you can see where you’re spending your cash. The latter allows you to keep track of your credit score. All are free but Toshl costs a few pounds a month to connect your bank accounts to track your spending automatically. Mint does this for free.

2. Save an emergency fund

The wisdom is to have 3-6 months of your expenses saved in a savings account. I think that’s way too daunting if you don’t have anything saved.

I saved up enough to cover expenses that couldn’t be put on a credit card (i.e. my rent) for a month to start. So, to be honest, I only had about $1000 in savings for the first 2 years of living on my own but considering my rent was $400-$600 at the time, that would have gotten me pretty far. I’d recommend having at least a full month’s salary saved and always have your CV up to date…

Now my husband & I keep about 5K USD each on hand in a savings account, which could last us about 2 months. Everything else gets invested. We could have more in case, but we have investment accounts we could easily liquidate in the case of an emergency plus literally almost 100K in available combined credit on a few credit cards should a true emergency come up. Also, in Europe, the concept of emergency is much different than the US, for example, if I got fired, work still has to give us 3 month’s notice or 3 months of severance. So really, we have a 5-month buffer with 2 months worth of expenses in cash.

3. Invest in your pension (UK) or 401K if you have an employer match

Whatever it takes to get your company match, make sure you at least invest in there because it’s free money. In the UK you’re auto-enrolled to 5% and the minimum employer contribution is 3%. This means basically if you have a 45K salary (3,750 monthly) before taxes, you put in 2,250 a year (187.50 per month) and your employer gives you another 1,350 a year (112.50 per month). Totaling 3,600 annually. In the US, many employers offer a similar set up but may require you to put in a minimum before they give you a match.

The amount you contribute is tax-deferred meaning you pay taxes when you take the money out at retirement, not now, so even if you decided to not contribute, you wouldn’t see that full 187.50. In the US tax law is insane (different rules per state and you tax home more money because you’re married for some reason). The UK is pretty straight forward, so just going to use that. After taxes, and national insurance, your take-home would be about 76% of your net, so about 2,850 without a 5% pension contribution. With the pension your take home is about 2,700 meaning you’d take home 150 less for a 187.50 contribution + a 112.50 employer match. Basically, that extra 150 in your pocket now would cost you an additional 150 later not even taking into account the growth potential (yes, you pay taxes later but at retirement age your tax is likely to be low and you get to build wealth on the government’s dime because you didn’t give them your taxes up front…). The math works out pretty similarily in the US to this example & of course this doesn’t take into account any other stuff coming out of your paycheck like insurances.

Once you’ve seen your second payments come out of your paycheck, log in and see where they’re investing your money. Most likely, it’s some type of target date fund (meaning it changes in how risky your investments are as you get older). That’s a fine place but it’s a bit conservative for my taste. Many companies have some type of financial advisor for employees that will help them a bit, but to sum it up, figure out how much the fees are for your funds available, find the lowest ones for an S&P 500 type fund (or all world if you don’t want to stick to mostly US) and invest 80% in that and 20% in a high yield bond. 90/10 if you’re less conservative & call it a day until you’re like 40. Or, just leave it in the target date fund, whatever–it’s better than not having anything invested.

TL;DR: Just contribute up to your company match to get free money!

Read More: US News & World Report: 9 Charts Showing Why Invest Today

4. Pay off credit card debt

I’ve seen wisdom both ways, but I believe you should bank on your future self so contribute to retirement enough to get the match, then worry about debt but these 2 things could be switched depending on how you feel about debt.

By my junior year of college, I had a job paying me about $12K a year which was a lot for me at the time! Obviously, I spent way more than that, and I had about $9000 in credit card debt when I finished college. I paid them off only paying about 5% of my balance in fees. Here’s how:

  1. I spent on 0% interest credit cards so accrued no interest and paid what I could above the minimum payment while I had a low salary knowing that once school finished, I’d have a higher one (My first job out of school gave me a salary of I think $27K and raised to $32K after about a year).
  2. Once school ended, I consolidated all my credit card bills onto a single card with a balance transfer at a 0% interest rate (which means even if you carry a balance on your card there is no interest charged). I usually paid a balance transfer fee of 2-3%. So if I had a 5K balance, I’d pay $100 for the transfer (at 2%).
  3. If that card had 12 months of 0% interest, I’d divide my balance by 12 and pay that much monthly if I could afford it. So in the example of 5K, that would be 425/month (which is the original 5000 + 100 for the fee divided by 12).
  4. If I couldn’t afford that, I’d pay whatever I could and then carry over the balance to a new 0% interest card again, again splitting by whatever the time frame allowed for no interst.

I did this for about 2 years before I completely paid off my cards probably paying about $500 in fees for starting balance of $9000 which was only about 6% of what I owed vs. a normal credit card rate of anywhere between 18-35%.

I don’t recommend getting into $9,000 in credit card debt but this was the smartest way I saw to get out of it. Having a quick search, it seems similar cards exist in the UK, as well.

During these 2 years, though tempting, I didn’t spend any money on my credit cards. Yes, I was forsaking credit card points but I relied only on my debit cards to not put myself further in debt. I even had a fun competition with a friend to see how many consecutive days we could go without spending any money.

I will say, now that I’m out of debt, 0% interest credit cards are a great way to get a free loan for a big purchase if you know you can pay it off in time.

Read More: Money Saving Expert’s Best 0% Credit Cards (UK) |’s Multiple Balance Transfer Debt Payoff Strategy

4.5. Deal With Your Student Loans

Undergrad was essentially free for me thanks to a merit scholarship that covered my tuition and my parents covering my room & board for the year & a half I lived on campus but I did go to grad school for my MBA which cost $55K.

Giving your salary right now (I’m assuming you’re probably under 40), it likely doesn’t make sense to pay more than the amount you need to pay for your loans (more power to you if you want to but there are better places to spend your money right now, imo).

Whatever you decide, make sure you are paying if you have to and figure out your repayment options. I’m on a US extended payment plan which means I pay about $400 a month until I die (well actually until about 2040 then whatever is left over is forgiven). But, there are payment plans that reduce your payments based on how much you make, so you could potentially pay much less or even nothing.

My plan is to keep paying my monthly $400 until I can afford to refinance to a 5-year loan with a lower interest rate and pay around $1000/mo and just pay the whole thing off in 5 years. My rate is currently 6.4% from the US government, so I’m blowing a lot of cash not paying it off but $400/mo is pretty inconsequential to my monthly expenses while I’d definitely feel $1000/mo for 5 years and would rather invest some of that money for a longer time to get market returns. I also hate giving anyone (except my future self) a large chunk of money, so it’s a balancing act of where I’d rather put my money right now.

Rule of thumb for those taking out loans, I always say, don’t take more out in loans for a degree/program than what you expect as an annual salary once you finish. For example, after undergrad, I ended up making $32K within a year of graduation which was just about the cost of my state school undergrad program at the time had I paid out of pocket (minus room & board). 4 years later, I completed my MBA, and took out $55K in loans. Within a year, I had a salary of about $58K.

I ended up only paying for 1 of the 3 degrees I ended up getting (and didn’t pay for the additional courses/bootcamps I took) because work paid for them all. One bright side of taking lower pay in the public sector is perks like this, so take that into consideration should you be interested in pursuing additional higher education.

Read More: Money Saving Expert’s Student Loan Repayment (UK) | Money Under 30’s Should I Pay Off Student Loans Early

5. Get a second form of income

After I finished my THIRD degree program, I finally had some time to do some work on the side. I started doing some freelance web development and marketing to make some extra income. I don’t want to get into the taxes of all of that right now, but I made about $2000 my first year & at my peak doing it part time, I made somewhere in the ball park of $18,000. About a third of that goes to taxes but it helped pay for a significant chunk of my wedding and allowed for extra retirement contributions. This could be earlier than step 5 in your financial plan, but given the 7.5 years of higher education, this is when I had the time.

Note about 2nd incomes: Consider what your earning potential might be with just getting a better job or going back to school for even a 12-week bootcamp course. Driving an Uber around may not be worth it in comparison to a 10% raise at a different company after investing in yourself. After my first few months of freelancing, I raised my rates up to $75/hour which is much more than almost any office job I could get right now.

6. Save & invest more!

So, you’ve got an emergency fund, you’re contributing to your pension, you no longer have credit card debt, you’ve figured out your student loans and you may even have a side hustle. Awesome!

For me, this was about 3 years after graduation. Once I was at this point, I made it a point to save at least 20% of my income between retirement & savings. The idea is that you should aim to have a full year’s salary saved every 5 years. 20% of your income x 5 years = 100% of your income. So if you start at 25, by 30 when you take into account the (hopeful) growth of your money, you should have somewhere around 1 year’s full salary saved.

6.1 – Get your access to liquid funds up to 3 months of expenses.

Liquid means easily available. This could be all-cash savings or maybe some available in a brokerage account, ISA, Roth IRA, etc. Make sure in an emergency you have capital available to you for up to 3 months. Decide on an amount and if you have to take money out of it at any time, you have to pay yourself back the next paycheck! To save your goal, make sure you pay yourself first (meaning you put money in savings before you do anything else). Once you’ve saved & paid your bills (including groceries), I felt completely fine to spend literally every dime left in my checking account every month because I did everything I was supposed to do already!

6.2 – Consider contributing to a Roth IRA/Stocks & Shares ISA

Roth IRA (US) or a Stocks & Shares ISA (UK) is money you invest with after you’ve paid taxes. These two accounts work almost the same way. Basically you pay the taxes like you normally would out of your salary and then you contribute to this account. Since you already paid taxes, you won’t pay any when you take the money out! So if you put a bunch of money in and have very good investments, you could end up not paying takes on thousands of dollars. This is a retirement account in the US, so you’re supposed to keep in the money in for a while but because you already paid taxes, the government doesn’t really care, so for both you can take out the money you contributed out at any time. In the UK, you can take even your earnings out at any time which is awesome if you’re planning an early retirement. In the US, you have to keep your earnings in your account until you reach 59.5 years old. The limit in the US is really low at only about 6K annually, so I maxed this out every year before raising my 401K contributions. One thing about these accounts is that it’s most beneficial when you’re paying low taxes, so once you’re in higher tax brackets, it might not make as much sense (or be allowed in the US). I’ll get to that next.

Regarding what to invest in, aim for high growth & high dividend low-cost ETFs (ETFs are basically a bucket of company’s shares in a single entity based around a theme instead of handpicking a bunch of different shares but they have a maintenance fee, so you want to find ones that have very low fees (called expense ratios)). Look for low expense ratios under 0.3% (meaning for every 100 you have invested, it costs you 0.30.

I use Fidelity (US) because that’s where my retirement accounts were from a previous employer. I really like it because they don’t charge a commission to buy ETFs (meaning there’s no extra cost per transaction). Vanguard is also a broker people like with low fees available in US & UK.

Here’s what I would do for a simple Roth split:

  • 60% domestic – Example ETF: SFY (S&P 500 high yield)
  • 30% international – Example ETFs: DVYE (emerging market high dividend) or VT (total world for more conservative)
  • 5% bonds – Example ETF: VWOB (emerging market high yield bonds)
  • 5% alternatives like something fun/risky – Examples: FREL (real estate ETF) or cryptocurrency like Bitcoin

I really enjoy this stuff, but if you don’t want to set it and forget it, consider Betterment‘s Roth IRA in the US or Wealthify Stocks & Shares ISA in the UK. These are both robo investors, meaning they ask you a few questions online and invest for you instead of you trying to do it on your own (kinda like those target funds I mentioned earlier).

Read More: Nerd Wallet’s What Is an ETF?

6.3 – Save for any big purchases.

If you’re trying to buy a house, have a kid or see the world. This is a good time to make sure you’re on track for that. I won’t get too much into all the options for home buying but look into what support you can get regarding tax breaks or lower down payment options. We were able to buy a home for less than 5% down before we left the states and in the UK, the government will match some of your contributions for a home up to 25% depending on your circumstances.

Set your goal and make sure you contribute monthly to that goal. I wouldn’t recommend investing money you need to use anywhere in the next 3 years unless you’re okay to lose a chunk of it but you can open up a savings bond that has a guaranteed return to keep it locked up and have some gains. Our big purchase was our wedding which I wrote about. It cost, including the honeymoon, about 55K USD. Of that, we paid 30K USD out of pocket which took a lot of savings (and stress!). Now, we usually save for big trips instead!

6.4 – Contribute more to your 401K/Pension.

Like I mentioned, because of taxes, anything you make above about 40K USD in the US or 50K GBP in the UK you should try to put into your pension/401K if you can. Because… taxes. To sum it up quickly, in the US after that much you start paying an income tax rate on the amount above 40K USD at a 22% rate instead of 12%; in the UK you start paying a rate for anything above 50K GBP at 40% instead of 20%.

Obviously you might actually need that money but if you’re not sure how much to invest, that’s an easy threshold to consider. The max you can contribute in the US is about 18K USD and 40K GBP in the UK annualy, so there’s a lot of room before you max it out.

6. 5 – Start thinking seriously about retirement

Once you’ve got all of this in order, you can use a site like Personal Capital (US only) for a more sophisticated investment guideline or start considering seeing a financial advisor.

When you start feeling pretty comfortable, you can start thinking more seriously about when you plan to retire and tax implications of your investments. Eventually, you may want to change up your savings contributions so they’re not all locked up until retirement age if you think you’re on track to retire early (or would like to be). So, I also have a brokerage account in the US. If it weren’t for very complicated tax law with being a US citizen, this would be my stocks & shares ISA in the UK.

My husband and I are currently at the point of considering early retirement in hopefully about 15-20 years. There’s a lot of considerations, like what country we want to live in but in the next few years, we will plan to figure that out likely after we’ve gotten dual citizenship (about 4 more years) so we can have more retirement location options (and may buy property again once we figure out where we want to live…).


I turned 30 a few months ago and successfully saved about a full year’s net income! Other than student loans & a now paid off home loan, I have been completely debt-free for 7 years. My investments overall make about 10%-15% annually. My returns in the market have covered the difference in my 20% savings with my lower salaries when I started compared to my higher salary now. My third-degree program (which work paid for) was for Data Science. Though it took a bit longer to get to my rule of thumb because I took a pay cut when moving to Sweden, I now make annually about what all 3 of my degrees would have cost me if I would have paid for them all out of pocket.

Though we’ve combined most of our finances now, my individual general split regarding accounts is:

  • 70% – 401K/pension (46% in the US / 16% in Sweden / 8% in the UK)
  • 20% – Roth IRA
  • 5% – Cash Savings
  • 5% – Brokerage (non-retirement)

Before you’re too impressed, a few caveats:

  • Everything is easier with finances when you have a partner–most things are literally half the cost.
  • We no longer own any homes (we had 3 in the states but sold them shortly after moving abroad)
  • We both work in tech so the ability to save is aided by high paying jobs (in compared to national averages)
  • We have no kids & don’t plan to have them for a very long time (if not ever)
  • I still have over 50K USD in student loan debt.

The things I didn’t cover are things like the self-employed IRA I had while in the states, the credit cards I use to get cashback/points, why I hate owning rental property and all of the complications with changing countries twice; but ask me in person (or virtually) about all of that 😉

Other Resources:

Here are some of the podcasts & apps I used to help me stay on track!



  • Acorns (US) – rounds up your purchases & auto invests
  • Moneybox (UK) – rounds up your purchases & auto invests
  • Mint (US) – track your spending across multiple accounts
  • Personal Capital (US) – track your spending & provides amazing investment advice
  • Credit Karma (US & UK) – check your credit score for free

That was a lot, so… If you have any questions, feel free to reach out at

Everything I Did That Didn’t Get Me a Job as an Ex-Pat in Sweden

So in 2017, my husband & I sold all of our things & moved from Baltimore to Stockholm. When we landed, I had never been to Stockholm before and went to Europe for the first time 6 weeks prior to.

I wanted a job in music. For specifically, I wanted a job at Spotify. I arrived with 3 degrees, including an MBA; 3 years of management experience; 6 years of full-time work; years of consulting experience; prior work at a record label, a radio station, venues, startups; spoken at conferences, taught workshops, the ability to write in Python, R, SQL, JavaScript; and with years of experience in Marketing, Web Development and Data Science.

I thought it would take me 6 weeks to find a job once I arrived in Stockholm. My husband said it would take 6 months.

It took 6 months.

Python Errors in Windows

So I took a Data Science bootcamp and as the only PC in the room, I found myself figuring out some issues on my own. Figured I’d document them in case others run into the same issues:

“ImportError: DLL load failed: The specified module could not be found”

Having trouble with seaborn and plotting graphs.

Error with Textblob

Couldn’t get textblob to run
Solution: Do a normal install, “import nltk”, then run This opens up a GUI installer.

I’ll continue to add more as they pop up.

Autofill Forms from Email Merge Fields

So, I always hate it when I receive an email from a company to sign up for an event or download a white paper, but when I click to get to the offer, they couldn’t be bothered to pre-populate the form with information about me they clearly already had (Name, Email, etc.). This is a bit challenging without a CRM, but if you have a good mail client, it can be done easily.

Create a Form:

See example-form.html below.

Create The Form URL

Go to your email provider, and identify the merge fields you need. I use MailChimp which you can identify the merge fields for your list by crafting a campaign and in a text box clicking “Merge Tags”:

Once you’ve identified the merge fields, you can create the URL which will be structured very similarly to a UTM tagged URL:

After you regular URL like add a question mark (?), then an identifier, I use “first” for first name. Set the merge tag to equal it, so first=*|FNAME|* if you’re using Mailchimp. That is one field set. To add additional, add an ampersands (&) and another identifier set equal to a form field. Continue until you have all the fields you need.

Add the jQuery Script to All Pages with Form

See example autofill-forms.js below.

This small script will read your URL and identify the information following the question mark and match up your identifier to the field. This should be added to every page the form is present on.

Identify the fields you want to auto-fill and fill them in, i.e. #firstname below corresponds to my input field with the ID of firstname. The name indicated on the right, i.e. “first” is the identifier we used in MailChimp before each equal sign. You can add additional fields as they become necessary.

Test Your URL

Once that has been put in place, test the URL to ensure the fields populate well. If you have the merge tags in place, it should fill with that tag since that is parsed through Mailchimp:


Once you verify that that URL works, test your merge fields by entering preview mode in MailChimp and choosing “Enable live merge tag info”:

(See the URL at the bottom left for the button I’m hovering over). Click through a few of your subscribers to make sure the merge fields look correct.


P.S. – Using Google Forms? Check out this easy tutorial

Tracking Event Values from Formstack to Google Analytics

Let’s say I have the Formstack Form below and really want to capture the data of “Amount of Expense” and the User ID that is auto assigned to each submission, in Google Analytics. How would you go about that?


Set Up On Formstack

  • Within Formstack, navigate to the form > Settings > Emails & Redirects > Confirmation Emails > “Click to Add One” > Content: Custom Message. (You won’t be composing a message, just getting a few variables out of Formstack.)
  • Within the body, select the Unique ID & whatever field have the monetary (value) amount you’d like to capture. Remember that you cannot put personally identifiable data in Google Analytics, so don’t try to capture email, last name, etc. in Google Analytics.
  • Take note of the user ID tag and the tag associated with the expense amount.
  • Press cancel without saving, once you’ve copied that information.


  • Once that screen is closed, navigate to “After the Form is Submitted” within the same page.
  • Select “Redirect to an External URL”, and insert your thank you page URL.
  • Immediately after, add a question mark (?) for a query. Within that query add the user ID tag.
  • Following that tag, add a hash symbol (#) followed by the tag for the expense, as you see below:{$_submission_id}#{$37021767}.
  • This results in your thank you page having the data passed in the URL so that Google Analytics can parse it.submit-action-form

Set Up Google Analytics

  • Ensure that you have Google Analytics installed on the page the form is embedded and the form’s thank you page.
  • Next, add this script to your thank you page. It will pull the parsed information into Google Analytics as an event submission.


Now the data will go into Google Analytics on each submission.

You’ll also be able to compare the Event Label within Formstack, under Submissions to match it up to the Personal Identification Information:

More Information

This tactic can also be use by taking advantage of Google’s Custom Dimensions and Metrics with Google Tag Manager.


Triggering a CSS Event Based On Time

At work one day, I had a client request a website change at 6PM and I wouldn’t be near a computer to make the simple text change. Since we don’t have a content management system, it was up to me to devise a solution.

So to trigger the change, I used a little bit of jQuery. This basic script just says, if the month is 11 (December) and the date is less than or equal to the 22nd, then any element with the class “remove” will show and any element with the class “show” will be hidden. When the date becomes December 13, then any element with the class”remove” will be hidden and any element with the class “show” will be visible.

With this quick script I can specify the minute, hour, day, month and/or year that I’d like certain elements to show by assigning them a CSS class of remove or show. The time is based on your server’s time.

More Info

• More about JavaScript Operators
• More about JavaScript Date Referencing
Stack Overflow Question That Inspired The Post


(Temporarily) Resolve the Server Reset/No Data Received WordPress Error

I use GoDaddy as my hosting and obviously have a WordPress install. A few months ago, I started running into this error on Google Chrome: “No data received [ERR_EMPTY_RESPONSE] Unable to load the webpage because the server sent no data.” I got a similar message in Firefox: “The connection to the server was reset while the page was loading.” This happened whenever I tried to make a new post and really put a damper on my blog activities on my various blogs.

I searched numerous forums, checked out my GoDaddy CPanel, looked at my FTP files, uninstalled & deactivated plugins, and made sure WordPress & plugins were all up to date. Still nothing worked! I did discover that the error could be triggered when editing files, as well though.

Becoming frustrated, I checked line-by-line of a draft to see what triggered the error, and I discovered it. The error occurred anytime a post had links with “http:” & “https:”.

(Temporary) Solution

Obviously removing the protocol declaration from links (and images) in a blog post could be problematic if I needed to link externally but thankfully, you don’t need to declare a protocol to make links. You can instead point to a website like this: // instead of http:|| (slashes would be here instead of pipes obviously).

With any post I now make, I just make sure my links use protocol-relative URLs instead of declaring the protocol and I no longer receive errors. Unfortunately, I have yet to discover the root cause of the problem, but for the time being, it allows me to blog again while I figure it out.


How to Ask for a LinkedIn Recommendation via Email

The other day, I realized that I didn’t have any LinkedIn recommendations, and being in consulting work, I needed some social proof. So my first thought was to use the built-in recommendation form provided by LinkedIn:


But then I thought, how many people actually read emails that come in from LinkedIn. What were the chances that the request would go unseen, thus unanswered? So I thought there must be a way to just send someone a direct link to recommend me via email.

How to Get A Direct Link to be Recommended (Prior to 2017):

  1. View Your Own LinkedIn Profile
  2. Scroll to the Bottom where your Recommendation Area Is
  3. Under, “Would you like to recommend?”, right click and get the URL of the link: “Recommend YOURNAME”.
  4. The URL is structured something like this:
  5. Use that URL to construct an email to your desired recommended (make sure you’re connected to them on LinkedIn).

This is where the URL links to (once they sign in):



How to Get A Direct Link to be Recommended (2017):

  1. Use the URL:
  2. It will take the user to a page that looks like this that prompts for relationship & position then asks for your recommendation:

    LinkedIn Recommendations

Thanks, Ethan Anderson for letting me know about the update!

How To Ask For A LinkedIn Recommendation

I could write something up about that but there is a lot of great articles already about it, so here are two I recommend: