Lessons From Her Father

It’s no surprise that 30-year-old Kimberly Allman has her finances in order. Her parents’ guidance dovetailed with her own financial self-discipline. It was those early influences that led to the Brooklyn, New York, resident’s credit score of 762, credit cards with zero balances, and her money-saving mindset. A Cornell Law School alum, Allman uses her financial sensibilities in two jobs: as manager at a nonprofit that helps homeowners avoid foreclosure, and as president of Allman Financial Planning L.L.C., her own personal finance consultancy.

Allman’s father helped to shape her relationship with money. She opened a checking account in high school, and as the balance grew, so did her desire to access it. “I remember I really wanted an ATM card, but I couldn’t get one because I was under 18,” says Allman. Her father could have easily signed a waiver to obtain the card, but in his wisdom, he declined. “He said, ‘You’re a teenager–you probably don’t need it anyway,’” says Allman. Her father also helped her start an investment account for retirement in high school, though now she winces when she thinks how much further along she would be if she had invested more. “For me it was watching him in how he handled his money,” Allman says of her father’s influence.

Allman, who is single, now follows her father’s example when she doles out advice to clients regarding debt, credit scores, and investments, among other concerns. “Being financially stable is comforting,” she says. “I talk to people who can’t sleep at night.” Allman,  who earns roughly $85,000 per year, has three credit cards with zero balances. Since she pays off credit card balances monthly, she’s less concerned with the periodic rise and fall of interest rates. But she still scrutinizes her monthly statements. While reading a letter from her card issuer, for instance, she discovered that the company tried to lower her credit limit–even though she maintained a zero balance. This happened in late 2008 when banks nationwide were reducing customers’ access to credit. Allman negotiated with the bank to restore her credit limit because lowering it threatened her credit score.

In addition to her law degree, Allman has a bachelor’s in psychology and political science from Duke University, and she’s set to receive a certificate in financial planning from Boston University this spring. While in school she avoided frills and kept expenses to a minimum. During summers she’d use earnings from part-time jobs to pay down balances.

In September 2005, Allman began work as a securities lawyer for Sidley Austin L.L.P. in New York, drafting documents to create hedge funds for corporate clients. Despite the temptation to spend her yearly bonuses, she used them to pay down student loan debt.

Her strategy in paying off her student loans is a lesson in sacrifice. First she’s paying off the private student loans, which have higher interest rates. “I have federal student loans, but I’m paying those off over time,” she says. The government loans have lower interest. “I don’t think it makes as much sense to rush and pay those off.” She also mentions that the interest paid on student loans is tax deductible.