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Housing: Dan chooses to pay $1,600 a month for a one-bedroom apartment. 
Dawn opts to split a 2-bedroom rental with a roommate for $1,000 apiece, so she can put an extra $300 toward her student loans and $300 in a down payment fund (a high-yield savings account paying 1.2-percent interest).

Income: Dan’s only income is his full-time salary. 
Dawn picks up a side gig, walking dogs for an extra $400 per month, so she can put $500/month toward her credit card debt. (Dan pays off just enough to keep the balance from growing.) 

Investing: Both have access to a 401(k)—averaging 7% annual returns—and get a 50-percent employer match. Dan puts in the default 3 percent ($187/month with the match). Dawn contributes 6 percent ($375 with the match).

How will their choices play out over the next five years? Keep reading.