Search Results for: financially independent

Why I Want To Be Financially Independent

In my mind, reaching financial independence is pretty much the closest thing to heaven on earth.

If you don’t know what it means to be financially independent, you can find a detailed explanation here. If you want my abbreviated version, here you go:

Being financially independent means that you don’t have to actively work to pay your bills. Your income-producing assets make enough money to cover your living expenses. Rather than slaving away at a 9-to-5 job for 30+ years, you have complete control over your time.

Let me repeat that for emphasis: you have complete control over your time. Whether you want to travel around the world or play Parcheesi every afternoon at 1:30, the choice is all yours.

Seriously – how amazing does that sound?! Let me paint a little picture for you:

  • No spending 40+ hours of your week at a job that may or may not fulfill you.
  • No Sunday night blues.
  • No Monday mornings! (Well, Monday mornings will still happen, but you know what I mean.)
  • No stressful morning and evening commutes.
  • No leaving your small children in daycare (unless you choose to, of course).
  • No wishing away your Monday-Friday in anticipation of the weekend.

I know, I know – it seems like I’ve got a “grass is greener” mentality. (And we all know the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side.) Many people will say they need a job to maintain a sense of purpose in life, and to keep them from boredom. There are plenty of well-documented cases of people becoming depressed in retirement for these reasons.

I’ve gotta say, while I understand this sentiment, I can’t relate to it at all. There are so many things I want to experience during my lifetime – my biggest road block is finding the time to do them. Here is a small sample of what I’d do to fill my days:

  • Travel everywhere
  • Spend more time with family and friends
  • Train for a mind-blowing race
  • Volunteer for a cause that I’m passionate about
  • Read all day long
  • Write a book
  • Cook amazing food from scratch every day (or at least when I get inspired)
  • Move someplace by the ocean, and spend as much time there as possible
  • Go back to school for something I love that isn’t necessarily practical
  • Get certified to teach Yoga, Zumba, Kickboxing, etc.
  • Really learn to play piano instead of being a hack
  • Go on long bike rides and take long walks
  • Spend more time in the sun

This list could go on much longer, but you get the point. Yes, I’m sure I could fit many of these things into my life right now, but not at the level I desire. I mean, it’s just not practical for someone with a full-time job and a busy home life to spend all day reading. (Okay, I probably do get that opportunity 1-2 times per year, and it’s glorious.)

[Side note: this post is not meant to demean anyone who enjoys working, appreciates the daily grind, and needs the structure that work life provides. I have needed these things at various points in my life as well, and I’m sure that will continue in the future. The opportunity to work will always be there.]

My point is that – for me – life could easily be fulfilling and purposeful without a traditional job. I have never been able to see myself working in the same career for decades on end. I am intensely curious about all this world has to offer, and want to experience as much of it as possible.

Anyhow, I digress.

But How Am I Going To Reach Financial Independence?

I read about how to become financially independent every day of my life. Currently there seems to be a movement of people on a quest to retire early and reach financial independence (commonly abbreviated as FIRE). Here are a few blogs I read on this topic:

There are numerous other great blogs on this topic, I just seem to visit these over and over. The people behind these blogs inspire me to continue along my journey to financial freedom.

My problem right now is that I don’t know how I intend to reach financial independence. There are many avenues to pursue: real estate investments, dividend-paying stocks, creating a product/service that provides passive income, and winning the lottery, among others. These all sound appealing in some form, but let’s be honest – I have no idea what I’m doing here. As such, I’m not comfortable jumping into anything full force yet. Without a clear cut strategy, obviously I cannot determine my path to financial independence yet.

And yet, while it’s important to recognize my ignorance on these subjects, I don’t want that to excuse me from taking action in some form. I’m going to make mistakes, no doubt, but failure is an important part of the learning process. I would much rather try something and fail than be stuck in the same place without the courage to start. That’s why I’m currently working towards building a dividend growth portfolio. This approach makes sense to me, and has provided me with the most immediacy on getting started (as opposed to investing in real estate, creating a product/service to sell, etc.). I have read and researched a fair amount about it, and feel comfortable enough to dip my toes in the water, so to speak.

My plan for the future is to become knowledgeable enough to branch out and explore avenues outside of dividend growth investing. I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket, and fully believe in the value of diversification when it comes to investing. I believe my ultimate path to financial independence will be some sort of hybrid approach.

Reaching financial independence is a lofty goal that will involve a lot of sacrifice, persistence, and calculated risk. Ultimately though, I think there are few – if any – pursuits more worthy of my time than this. Having complete control over my schedule will give me the opportunity to chase any dream I want, and I can’t think of anything better than that!

Do you need to work, or could you purposefully live without it? If so, what would you do with your time?

What small step did you take to reach one of your goals today?

I made a list of possible ideas to create passive income!

 

My Goals For 2016

It’s January 10th, and I’m just now posting my new year’s resolutions. Does that mean I’m doomed from the beginning? 😮

The truth is, I’m taking this process very seriously – I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time thinking about my resolutions. What can I say? I’m determined to make 2016 the best year ever!

The List

1. Take one business idea and develop it

I don’t have any experience in the actual business world, but I believe my current career is preparing me quite well for a possible transition into it. Right now I have 5-7 business ideas floating around in my head that I would love to develop. I just need to pick the best one and set aside time to work on it.

2. Write every day

I am discovering that I love to write. Unfortunately, I’m not nearly as disciplined as I’d like to be in this area. I get inspired to write 2-3 times per week, which just isn’t enough. If I really want to hone my skills, I need to do it daily – even if it’s just for just five minutes. Creating the habit is the most important part.

3. Blog 1-3 times consistently each week

This should be a piece of cake, right? Wrong. My motivation definitely comes and goes on this, so staying consistent is a challenge. I think the keys to success here are: 1) setting a regular schedule for working on the blog, 2) having a backlog of posts ready to go at all times, and 3) giving up my perfectionist tendencies.

4. Run a marathon in 4 hours or less

This is a lofty goal for me. I’ve only run one marathon, and I finished it in 4:48. Furthermore, it was not an uplifting experience for me – quite the opposite, actually. I’m ready to find my running mojo again and stop with the self-limiting beliefs. (“I can’t run that fast!”  “I’m not a real runner!” etc.)

5. Set a personal record (PR) in a half-marathon

I’ve only run one half-marathon, and my time was 2:05. I feel pretty confident that I can beat this by at least a few minutes with some consistent training. I’m not sure if I’m going to run one as part of my spring marathon training, or push it off until the fall. I guess we’ll see how well the weather cooperates (if it’s a cold/snowy/stupid spring, I’ll probably wimp out until fall).

6. Do P90X again

Despite my love/hate relationship with it, P90X ended up being a great experience for me. It opened my eyes to the benefits of strength training, which is something I’ve fought my entire adult life. While I saw amazing results from the workouts alone, this time around I’m hoping to focus more on diet so that I can get the full effects of the program.

7. Pay off at least $1200 extra in student loans

I got a decent start on this during 2015, but I need to ramp up my efforts. I’m aiming to pay at least $100 per month extra toward my student loans. The one self-imposed condition here is that I can’t sacrifice my other financial goals in the process. This means I have to get creative and either pinch more pennies or earn more money (or both!).

8. Save/invest at least 40% of my take-home pay all year

I’d like to be financially independent someday, and this is a very important step in paving the road to get there. I can hit this number pretty easily for a few months at a time, but I’ve never tried it for a full year. It will probably require more long-term budgeting than I’m used to, but I’m up for the challenge.

9. Improve my net worth by at least 20%

I recently started tracking my net worth via Personal Capital. Let me tell you – having all the numbers laid out in front of you in one spot is pretty sobering. While my net worth is somewhat depressing at the moment, I’m more motivated than ever to improve it.

10. Become a morning person once and for all

There is no doubt in my mind that the majority of successful people wake up early to maximize the day. I really want to be one of those people. I’ve battled my natural night-owl tendencies my entire life, and it’s time to kick them to the curb for good. After all, I’m more likely to reach all my goals by changing this habit.

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These goals will not come easily, but I believe they are attainable with consistent effortWhat I love about this list is that many of them feed each other. For instance, if I train properly for my marathon, a half-marathon PR should come without much extra effort (provided that I’m smart about how I schedule my races, of course).

The Less Important List

In addition to the goals listed above, there are a few other things I’d like to work on in 2016. They didn’t quite make the official cut, so I’ll probably choose to work on them in smaller, random doses (or not at all). Nevertheless, I think they’re worth mentioning, as they may become focal points in the future:

  • Use my gratitude jar
  • Create weekly goal lists and post them here
  • Practice eating like the French
  • Give up dairy for a specified amount of time
  • Give up alcohol for a specified amount of time
  • Read at least one book per month
  • Attempt to declutter
  • Put more effort into promotion and back-end work on the blog
  • Complete a sprint triathlon

The Big Picture

No matter what 2016 brings, I’d like to look back on it a year from now and say, “I’m a better person than I was a year ago.” I am so blessed to have the opportunity to make positive changes in my life, and I don’t intend to squander it.

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What are your new year’s resolutions? How are they going so far?

What small step did you take today to reach one of your goals?

I changed banks to help facilitate my financial goals. (In doing so, I get a $200 bonus in April, which will go directly to my student loans!)

My Plan To Make Extra Payments On Student Loans

It’s no secret that I stand among the ranks of some 40 million Americans that have student loan debt. And while I hate it hanging over my head, I’m also not really in a hurry to repay it. Because my debt carries a low interest rate, I believe I am better off investing my money rather than funneling it into repayment. Currently, I save/invest 40-50% of my income; I only use about 5% of it to repay student loans.

While I refuse to lower my savings/investing rate to accommodate faster debt repayment, I know there are ways to throw a few extra dollars at it without much effort. I’m going to do some experimenting to see which methods work best, and then capitalize on them as much as possible. My one self-imposed condition here is that I cannot spend more than an hour each week doing these things. The reason for this is simple – if it becomes too time-consuming, I am probably better off focusing my attention on making more money rather than pinching pennies. But an hour seems reasonable to me.

[Side notes: I have considered consolidation, but have been told multiple times that I am not a good candidate for it because I already have such low interest rates. I am also in the process of applying for partial loan forgiveness, which could reduce my total debt by $5,000!]

Here are my ideas so far (I hope to add more as time goes on):

1. Put $20 extra toward it each paycheck.

Okay, okay, so this is not creative or enlightening at all, but it will be effective. I am a meticulous budgeter, and I know I can always find an extra $20 hiding somewhere. Time to put that small cushion I always have in my checking account to use!

2. Use cash back apps and websites to pool money together

I was recently introduced to IbottaCheckout 51, and Snap, and I love them! I can’t imagine shopping without them now. I’ve also started shopping at Walmart and using the Savings Catcher app. Another great resource for online purchases is TopCashback. (<—- I purchased a year’s supply of contact lenses through this website, and got $49 cash back, plus a $45 manufacturer’s rebate!)

Over the course of a month, I’ve received $65-70 through these resources alone. They were all quick and painless to use, and rewarded me for shopping that I had to do anyway. No, I’m not going to get rich using them, but having an extra $70 to put towards my debt is nothing to sneeze at!

3. Cash in loose change

Again, a no-brainer. These days, I have a lot of spare change because I’m paying for everything in cash. We usually save our loose change for tolls when driving through Illinois, but our stash is getting a little ridiculous. Those coins need to be cashed in and used for something more purposeful. The last time I did this I became $42 richer! (Well, not richer, but you know what I mean.)

4. Consign clothes

I will be the first to admit that I hate doing this! Consigning clothes takes a lot more effort than simply dropping off trash bags full of crap at Goodwill. They expect you to wash/iron/repair stuff and follow their intake schedule. (It’s rough, let me tell you.)

But, it’s probably worth the effort. Back in my days of under-employment, I easily cleared about $25 a month consigning. (Bonus: it’s nice to live in a less-cluttered home!)

5. Sell stuff on Craigslist

I must admit that I’ve never sold anything on Craigslist. Am I the only one paranoid about having a creepy axe-murderer show up at my door? Regardless, I just need to get over it. I know there is a lot of riff-raff on Craigslist, but there is also a large population of nice people just trying to score a deal on something they need/want.

6. Use Mechanical Turk during mindless quality time on the couch

This one might be a waste of time, but I’m going to give it a shot anyhow. I’ve earned a whopping $3.24 at Mechanical Turk over the course of the last week. In total, I probably spent about 90 minutes on the site – anytime I had a spare 10 or 15 minutes, I would hop on and complete a few simple tasks. It’s certainly not life-changing money, but the appeal is that it can easily be made while sitting on the couch and watching TV.

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Okay, so let’s talk hard numbers. I believe every goal, no matter how big or small, needs a concrete plan behind it. Currently I pay $678.96 per year in interest, which breaks down to $56.58 per month. Covering that amount seems like a good place for me to start – it’s tangible, realistic, and will force me to take action in some small way. (Not to mention, even paying this small amount will significantly reduce the life of my loan and the amount of interest that I pay!)

I am excited to see how this experiment goes. It seems like a good way to be proactive about reducing debt while not sabotaging my ultimate goal of building wealth to become financially independent. As always, I will keep you updated and hold myself accountable right here.

Do you have any ideas for quick and easy ways to make a few dollars?

What small step have you taken today to reach one of your goals?

I paid an extra $50 toward my student loan debt!

(I have currently paid an extra $405 toward my student loans since August 9, 2015!)

 

Full disclosure: Some of the links above contain referral codes.

My Goals

Here is a list of my current goals. I’m either actively working on these now or plan to begin within the next year. While I have much bigger aspirations for the future, I believe these are realistic for me to pursue at this point in my life.

Fitness

Financial

  • Become financially independent by age 45
  • Deposit at least $650 per month in a brokerage account for the remainder of 2015
  • Pay at least $56 extra towards student loans each month without adjusting my budget
  • Pay cash for all regular expenses for the remainder of 2015

Other

  • Blog at least 4 days per week for the remainder of 2015
  • Make $100 in one month from online income by March 2016

Confession: I’m figuring things out as I go, and have no idea what I’m doing on some of these. This list will definitely evolve over time as I improve my strategies and learn how to work smarter.

An Update on Life: Student Loans, A Half-Marathon PR, and Cheap Toilet Paper

Hello world! It’s Sunday evening in Wisconsin, and I’m finally taking the time to post an update! Let’s get to it, shall we?

Student Loan Progress

If you read this post, you know that I’m dying to pay off my student loans. I graduated college in 2006, and until recently, never really felt the burden of that $38,000 debt. Long story short, I had a ‘come to Jesus’ moment over the summer, and realized I want that debt to go away now.

As of July 14, I owed $27,748 to an unnamed financial institution in Missouri. I am proud to report that today I owe $15,958! Not to toot my own horn, but that’s a reduction of $11,790 in just over four months! I’m pretty excited about that!

Unfortunately that level of progress isn’t sustainable much longer. (And it definitely hasn’t come without the short-term sacrifice of other financial goals.) You see, a good chunk of this money came from selling stocks/funds housed within my taxable brokerage accounts. I originally funded these accounts in hopes of them sustaining me in early retirement, so watching them dwindle to almost nothing is somewhat demoralizing. Luckily there is an equal and opposite feeling of gratification that comes with watching the number on my student loan debt go down.

[Side note: I’m not touching any money in retirement accounts for this purpose. Student loans suck, but early withdrawal penalties suck worse.]

I have also drained a couple different savings accounts to help the cause. I haven’t completely decided whether or not this is a smart move, as it’s a tad anxiety-inducing. But, as with most things, being a little uncomfortable is generally a good thing. Plus: 1) my husband has an emergency fund separate from mine, and 2) I hate this debt more than I love the comfort of a fat savings account.

Beyond that, my not-so-secret formula for paying off the remainder is: earn more, spend less, and throw every extra dollar I have at my stupid debt. Thus far, I am only driving my family a little crazy with my ruthless frugality. (“Sorry honey, there’s no room in the grocery budget for chips and salsa. You get one or the other. Take your pick.”)

I’ve had a successful few months chipping away at this goal, but given the sad state of my savings/brokerage accounts, I need to get a little more creative from here on out. I’m currently applying for part-time jobs to turbo charge my repayment, but haven’t landed “the one” yet. (I don’t need anything too specific. Just a high-paying, low-stress, work-from-home job that has completely flexible scheduling, and lets me work whenever I feel like it. Any takers? 😀)

A Half-Marathon PR

One of my goals for 2016 was to set a personal record in a half-marathon. I am happy to report that I accomplished this on two separate occasions – once in August, and again in October. My current personal best is 1:55:23, which is a pace of about 8:48 per mile. For me, this was comfortably challenging for the entire 13.1 miles. I’m no Speedy Gonzalez, but I’ve definitely improved from the days I used run every mile on flat courses at a relaxed 10-minute pace. (Newsflash: running faster during training helps you run faster at races! I’m not sure why it took me so long to figure this out.)

After completing a marathon this spring and two half-marathons this fall, I’m taking a break from running to focus on some strength training by way of P90X3. I’m hating just about every second of it, and would prefer to do a 60-minute run over a 30-minute weight session any day of the week. But while running is my passion, it doesn’t transform my body the way strength training does. Thus, I’m begrudgingly dragging myself through 90 days of hell once again.

While I’m on the subject of fitness, let me just go ahead and make one of next year’s goals public. In the spring of 2017, I’d like to run a 1:48 half-marathon, which is a pace of ~8:15 per mile. For anyone who may care, this is slightly faster than the 8:23 pace I need to qualify in my age group for the Boston Marathon (someday…).

Random Updates/Musings

  1. I opened a 457B in October. I’m pretty excited about it, even though it’s effectively killing my dreams of paying off my student loans by hijacking a lot of disposable income.
  2. I recently started travel hacking, and it’s awesome! I can’t believe I waited so long to jump on the bandwagon.
  3. I’m going through a major transition at work, and am on an emotional rollercoaster because of it. It’s heartbreaking and amazing all at the same time. Many tears have been shed over this, but I know I’m on a better path now.
  4. I suck at blogging on a regular basis. This is not news to anyone. I’ll try to do better.
  5. I’m trying to resuscitate my very limited Spanish-speaking abilities by listening to podcasts on the way to work. (I’d love to be fluent someday.) It’s proving to be a nice way to distract my mind from the crappy work commute.
  6. My 9 year old daughter is straight-up obsessed with Michael Jackson right now. (She even dressed up as him for Halloween!) I’m not upset about this.
  7. After 7 years of marriage, I can say this for certain: a man never putting the toilet seat down is not nearly as a bad as a man never putting it up to begin with. Think about that for a minute.
  8. More so than ever before, I am inspired to keep working towards financial independence. And while I’m constantly wishing for a lottery win or unexpected inheritance, it looks like another decade or so of earning more/spending less is the best way to get there.
  9. Speaking of spending less…I can out-frugal just about anyone this side of the Atlantic, but cheap toilet paper? No. Just…no. I was reminded of this a few weeks ago after scoring what I thought was a killer deal on a bulk purchase of Angel Soft. Go without paper towels or Cheetos if you must balance the budget, but never put yourself through the misery that is cheap toilet paper. Life is hard enough already.

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What’s new in your world?

What small step did you take to reach one of your goals today?

P90X3 – Pilates baby!

 

Goal: Pay Off My Student Loans

Hello world!

I was up at 5:00 this morning to attend my first-ever Body Pump class, so I’m in an especially chipper mood today.

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And now to bring this party to a screeching halt – I’d like to discuss my student loan situation. The first time I blogged about this subject was roughly 10 months ago, when I had about $33,000 of debt.

At the time, my plan was to pay just a little extra each month and continue contributing aggressively to my savings and investment accounts. My rationale was simple, and not unsound: my student loans carried the low interest rate of 2.07%, and I could probably make more than that investing in index funds.*

Fast forward 10 months ——> my philosophy has changed. I want that debt to go away. Right now. 

Why the sudden change?

Two reasons:

  1. My interest rate just increased to 2.4%. Because this is literally the first time my rate has changed since I graduated college, I was under the impression I had a fixed rate (stupid rookie mistake). After playing around with a debt repayment calculator, I realized this “small” increase would result in paying almost $1,000 more in interest over the course of repayment. And of course, the federal government has the power to change my rate each year, so who knows where it will go from here? I don’t like any of this.
  2. This blog: No More Harvard Debt. This guy paid off $90,000 in student loans in 7 months!  His approach was extreme: he liquidated retirement accounts, took on roommates, and sold prized possessions, among other things. His razor-sharp focus on the goal of paying off his debt has inspired me to do the same.

For the last several years, my student loans have been paid via automatic bill pay. This is generally a good thing – I’ve never been late on a payment, and I don’t really have to think about it.

But on the flip side – I don’t really have to think about it. Sure, I budget for it faithfully every month, but that only requires 1.8 seconds of thought. Until last August, I never took the time to dig into the numbers and consciously track my progress. Lacking consciousness about it meant that I never really felt the burden of the debt. 

My, how things have changed. This debt now feels like an anchor weighing me down, sabotaging my path to financial freedom, and ultimately holding me back from the life I dream about.

(I’m only being a little dramatic, I swear.)

The Nitty Gritty

Here are some hard numbers/facts:

  • I started with $38,290 of debt in August of 2006.
  • I have 10 separate loans ranging in amount from $852 – $4,123. (Yes, I have pursued consolidation, but was told my interest rate couldn’t be beaten.)
  • In August of 2015 – when I got motivated to pay it down faster – I owed approximately $33,000.
  • Since August, I have paid $4,062 extra toward my student loans. This is in addition to my automated payment each month.
  • I currently owe $27,748.
  • I’m on a graduated repayment plan. I began with a monthly payment of $118 upon graduation, and currently pay $153. This number will steadily increase every two years to $452 in the year 2027.

Okay, stop right there. There is no freakin’ way I’ll still be paying on these loans in 2027! I’ll be 45 years old for Heaven’s sake! No. Just…no.

So What’s The Plan?

Naturally, the plan is to pay these suckers off as soon as humanly possible.

Based on my current income, I could pay them off in three years while maintaining the quality of life I’m accustomed to. (For perspective: I’m already super-frugal, but I do budget for a yearly vacation, a few fun weekends per year, and the occasional dinner out.) This would mean paying $500 each month in addition to the automated $153 payment. That’s a decent goal: it will definitely hurt to see that money flying out the window, but I won’t have to feed my family ramen noodles every night for dinner.

IMG_2266

But that’s not good enough. Three years is a little too long. I need a stretch goal.

I’m setting a deadline of December 31, 2018 to pay off my student loans. This gives me about 2.5 years to pay off $27,748 on a (paltry) teacher’s salary. To accomplish this, I will need to pay $153 (regular payment) plus $800 extra each month.

That’s a scary number for me.

So Much Cognitive Dissonance

These are all thoughts running through my mind right now:

“But I want to take a trip to San Francisco next summer!”

“But I need to spend $120 on a gym membership so I can go to fitness classes!”

“But my daughter wants to start gymnastics!” (“And she needs cute new clothes for 3rd grade!”)

“But our TV is about to kick the bucket, our couch has seen better days, and our basement is a cold gray dungeon that needs some serious TLC.”

“But I’m 34 years old – I should be able to afford wine that costs more than $6 a bottle!”

“But I want to advance my career and/or learn a new skill. It’s going to take money to do these things!”

“But, but, but…”

…..

Sigh. “But I really need to pay off my student loans.”

To Make Matters Worse…

  • I got an awesome new job, but it comes with an awesome new pay cut. To the tune of $5700 per year.
  • In September we’ll have to start paying for before/after-school childcare for my daughter. To the tune of $400 per month. (I now realize how spoiled we’ve been by not having to pay for this the last three years.)

But On The Bright Side…

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Okay, I’ve complained just about enough for one post. Life is good, and I am very blessed. My husband is going to benefit from a decent salary increase soon with his new job. And while I have to take a pay cut this year, it’s only temporary. If I stay the course, I will get a raise of about $10,000 per year next September. Plus, how stinkin’ spoiled am I to have a 2.4% interest rate on my loans?!

I’ve set my deadline, and now I can’t ignore it. Now – how do I actually plan to pay my debt? I’ll save that for another post…

Do you make minimum payments on student loans, or do you try to pay extra?

Do you currently have any “stretch goals?”

What small step did you take to reach one of your goals today?

I made a $1,090 payment toward student loans!

 

*Some people will disagree that paying off student loans should take priority over saving for retirement and building other assets, particularly when the interest rate is low. That’s okay – I actually share that sentiment. But I feel so burdened by this debt right now that it’s eating away at my soul. And that’s never a good thing, so I just need to get rid of it ASAP.

Documenting My Small Steps

The whole premise behind this blog is to use myself as a guinea pig to prove that (almost) anything is attainable when broken down into small, manageable steps. My original vision was to lay out my goals and then document each daily step I was taking to reach one of them.

Let’s be real – 2015 was a huge failure as far as that’s concerned. Sure, I took a bunch of small steps toward goals, but I didn’t document them in a meaningful way. And on the days I was too (tired / lazy / lame / cranky / etc.) to work on my goals? I let myself off the hook altogether, reasoning that my small steps only needed to be accounted for when I posted a couple times a week. Not cool.

Clearly this needs to change.

My plan moving forward is to actually do what I intended from the beginning by tracking my small daily steps on this page. No more letting myself off the hook when the couch is calling my name (at least not without holding myself publicly accountable!). It’s time to get to work.

Not me

Not me

 

(Please follow this link to see the most updated version of this list.)

January 30 – I paid $50 extra toward my student loans.

January 29 – I invested $575 in VOO.

January 28 – I did 6 mile repeats (8:34 pace) in preparation for my marathon.

January 27 – I made my career change official. (This change will allow me to pursue my personal goals at a much faster pace.)

January 26 – I ran 5 easy miles in preparation for my marathon.

January 25 – I paid $100 extra toward my student loans.

January 24 – 😔

January 23 – I squeezed my workout in by running at midnight!

January 22 – 😔 <——- Ashamed face (no step forward today).

January 21 – I woke up early to run before work.

January 20 – I made time to do some blog writing during my lunch break.

January 19 – I invested $500 in VDE (Vanguard Energy ETF).

January 18 – I woke up early to exercise before work (and meditated, made green juice, and generally had an awesome morning).

January 17 – I ran six miles at a 9:10 pace in preparation for marathon training.

January 16 – I spent time working on the back-end of my blog (fixing links, etc.).

January 15 – I paid $25 extra toward my student loans.

January 14 – I drafted future blog posts.

January 13 – I got off my tush and went for a run when I reeeeeeally didn’t feel like it.

January 12 – I woke up early to run before work! (I also meditated, made green juice, and did a little blog work.)

January 11 – I researched and printed my marathon training plan.

January 10 – I opened a new bank account to better facilitate my financial goals.

January 9 – I registered for a marathon in May.

January 8 – I made a huge change at work that will positively affect my personal life.

January 7 – I invested in VOO (Vanguard S&P 500 ETF).

January 6 – I researched index funds/ETFs to add to my portfolio.

January 5 – I came up with a potential business idea.

January 4 – I fleshed out a 2016 budget to help me stay on track throughout the year.

January 3 – I created a quiet workspace in my house.

January 2 – I made the decision to switch my investing strategy.

January 1 – I paid $35 extra toward my student loans.

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections on 2015: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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What can I say? I’m a total sucker for the proverbial “clean slate” that comes with the start of each new year. Here’s me:

  • The sky is the limit!
  • The possibilities are endless!
  • It’s time to chase my dreams!
  • I’m going to become the best version of myself!

(At least until January 20th or so.) 😜

But before I yammer on and on about my new year’s resolutions, I think it’s important to take some time to reflect on 2015.

The Good

Resolutions I kept, things I accomplished, and other changes I made in the name of self-improvement:

  1. I ran my first marathon. (2015 resolution)*
  2. I completed P90X. (2015 resolution)
  3. I quit Facebook. (2015 resolution)
  4. I decided to start down the path toward financial independence.
  5. I started this blog.
  6. I began tracking my expenses and keeping a detailed budget.
  7. I invested at least $650 per month from August-December.
  8. I started listening to podcasts.
  9. I paid at least $56 extra per month toward my student loan debt from August-December.
  10. I took the first steps toward building a sustainable career path for myself.
  11. I experimented with dividend growth investing (and then promptly realized how little I actually know about it).
  12. In the process of doing #11, I determined a better long-term investing strategy.
  13. After 10 years in my career, I finally let go of the masochistic need to stress about work.
  14. I stopped cleaning my house obsessively every weekend.
  15. I opened my heart and mind to the possibility of a different future.**

*Whoa! I actually kept some of my resolutions from last year!

**I’m being intentionally vague about some of these – I hope to write about them in a detailed way in the future.

The Bad

Resolutions I didn’t keep, things I didn’t accomplish, and other ways I generally slacked off (plus my lame attempts to justify my behavior):

  1. I didn’t read at least one book per month. (2015 resolution)

My excuse: I was too busy reading the whole internet.

     2.  I didn’t do a better job of staying in touch with friends and family. (2015 resolution)

My excuse: This resolution was too vague to begin with! (Read: I made no efforts to improve…not cool.)

     3.  I didn’t max out my IRA. (2015 resolution)

My rationale: I switched my investing strategy midway through the year to accommodate early retirement. I’m not sure if this was a good decision or not, and question myself regularly about it.

     4.  I didn’t save at least $5,000 toward my next car.

My rationale: I don’t want to ever have a car payment again. But, with adequate care and maintenance, I think my current car has several good years of life in it. As such, I didn’t prioritize saving for my next vehicle, and instead used the money to begin funding a taxable investment account.

     5.  I didn’t become a morning person.

My excuse: I made a valiant effort in the fall, but reverted back to my lifelong night-owl tendencies at the end of the year. There’s always 2016, right?

     6.  I stopped juicing on a regular basis.

My excuse: I definitely had this conversation with myself on multiple occasions: “Juicing is an awesome way to start my day! Coffee is also an awesome way to start my day, and requires much less effort!” 

     7.  I made a gratitude jar but didn’t really use it. (2015 resolution)

Confession: I used my gratitude jar on one occasion – to state that I was thankful for the snow days we got in January. Yep, that’s it.  

The Ugly

Random musings about stuff I really wish had gone differently:

1.  I ran my first marathon.

The abridged version: Yes, I finished, but man was it U-G-L-Y! I experienced the full gamut of emotions during that 4 hour and 48 minute period (a pace 35-40 minutes slower than I trained for) – and unfortunately most of them skewed toward the negative. There was happiness and elation for about 5 miles, and then everything took a turn for the worse.

(More on this topic later.)

     2.  I did a lot of procrastinating.

The abridged version: See this post: My Month-Long Visit To Lazytown. This happened more times than I care to admit throughout 2015 (although not usually for a month at a time). I slept in, lazed around in bed reading articles about nothing, skipped my workouts for no good reason, and generally made excuses for myself. Sure, it’s nice to be lazy once in a while, but I definitely should have hustled a lot more.

     3.  I worked too much.

The abridged version: True – I was able to let go of most of my work-related stress, but unfortunately that didn’t translate into working fewer hours. The older I get, the more difficult it is to endure long work days away from home. I have a sinking feeling that this will be my major regret in life. (Luckily, I have been blessed with another opportunity to make changes.)

     4.  I stopped washing my hair as much.

The abridged version: Okay, so this is actually awesome. As it turns out, washing my hair 8 times per week (what I’m accustomed to) isn’t good! So, I reduced that number to about 2 times per week. I love it; my husband hates it. (To his credit, my hair does get a little wonky after about 4 days, but that’s what ponytails and buns are for!)       

*****

As with all things in life, I have to take the good with the bad (and the ugly). And all things considered, I’m pretty happy with what I accomplished in 2015. A lot of self-discovery happened along the way, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. Onward and upward in 2016!

How did you do with your 2015 resolutions?

Do you take time to reflect on the past year around this time?

What small step did you take today to reach one of your goals?

I fleshed out a 2016 budget to keep myself on track financially for the year!

(Also – I installed an emoticon plugin, which, in my opinion, greatly enhances this blog.) 😊

 

 

 

Why I Stopped Cleaning My House On The Weekend

I recently stopped cleaning my house on the weekends. At first, it just felt wrong…like a betrayal to my inner neat freak or something. Then I stumbled upon this article, and all was right with the world again. (Check out #8!)

In the fall, a typical week looks like this for me:

Monday: Work 7:00 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. (with a break from 3:45-5:45 to work out, eat dinner with the family, run errands, etc.)

[Side note: Monday and I do not get along very well.]

Tuesday: Work 7:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., run errands, work out, cook/clean dinner, homework with my daughter, tackle unfinished work, get ready for next day, pass out in bed while reading about investing

Wednesday: Repeat Tuesday

Thursday: Repeat Wednesday with a possible evening meeting/obligation in the mix

Friday: Repeat Monday

Saturday: Work a few hours in the morning 2-3 times per month

Remainder of weekend: Catch up on sleep, family time, grocery shopping, food prep, etc.

Additionally, I spend 5-6 hours of my weekend on a top-to-bottom cleaning of the house. Why? Because “Outer order contributes to inner calm.” —Gretchen Rubin

Okay – I do believe that when things are clean, our household generally runs more smoothly. (My office space definitely functions better when I take the time to organize it.) And yes, I concede that cleaning can be therapeutic when I’m in the right mood. I would love to have a clean house all the time – it’s more aesthetically pleasing than a messy one, clearly.

But seriously – it suuuucks having to clean all weekend! And when Sunday night rolls around, I inevitably wonder where my weekend went. Does this happen to anyone else? If so, I think you should give yourself permission to change your ways, STAT. Once I stopped putting so much pressure on myself to clean the house every weekend, I instantly became more peaceful and found time to work on more important things.

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Yes, I could hire a housekeeper to spend a few hours cleaning my house each week and regain that time for personal use. But I have financial goals too, and for me, it just isn’t a good use of my money. I’d rather have a messy house and invest the money in stocks.

[Side note – I’m not judging anyone with a housecleaner. I think it’s a great use of money for people that are busier than me, and just can’t get everything done without some help. And for those of you that value your free time over money spent on a housecleaner. And for the neat freaks of the world. You’re all good people.]

For me, cleaning is very much an all-or-nothing task – I can’t do it half-heartedly. I can’t live with just picking up and vacuuming the living room. I must pick it up, vacuum, dust, organize our DVDs and video games, clean the windows, wash/vacuum every inch of the couch, and make sure all of the pillows follow a nice placement pattern. By the time this process is over, I’ve spent about 43 minutes cleaning one room. Repeat that about 8 times, and we end up with a nice, clean house.

But you know what? I’m never any happier at the end. Quite the opposite, actually – I’m angry at myself for spending my whole day off cleaning the house. And while cleaning isn’t a complete waste of time, I can think of about 12,000 things that I’d rather be doing to move my life forward in a more meaningful way…

  • Daydreaming about future goals
  • Reading about investing
  • Writing
  • Exploring more ways to create income
  • Doing a cooking project with my daughter
  • Watching a movie with my husband
  • Reading about and getting inspired by extraordinary people
  • Calling my best friend
  • Trying a challenging run/work out
  • Using a strange/forgotten ingredient in my kitchen to create a new recipe
  • Doing something fun and/or mindless that yanks me out of reality for a little while

I know, I know – sometimes this just isn’t realistic. The ‘to-do’ list never ends, and we are forced to spend a substantial amount of time on less-than-enjoyable tasks to keep our heads above water. (And for those of you that keep your houses perfectly clean and can’t relate to this post at all…well, I don’t think I like you very much. Just kidding! Please leave a comment so that we can learn your secrets.) But if, like me, you find yourself in this situation, here are some questions to consider:

1. What are the most important chores that must get done regularly?

For my family, it’s keeping the kitchen clean, cooking a few meals for the freezer, and staying on top of laundry. Think survival and function, not aesthetic value.

2. What can I reduce or let go of completely?

The guest room doesn’t need to be dusted every week, and for heaven’s sake, just let the kids’ rooms go. With the exception of the first 30 minutes after a cleaning, my daughter’s room is always nightmare. I just avoid it as much as possible.

3. Can I spend 10-15 minutes each day doing small things to avoid a marathon cleaning session on the weekend?

Yes! Just be ruthless about prioritizing what needs to get done in that time.

4. Can I delegate more to my family?

I know this is totally obvious for most people, but for control freaks like me, you may have to ask yourself this every now and then. Is your husband/child going to do anything the “right” way? Of course not! But it will be okay. (The sooner you make peace with this, the better. It’s a constant struggle for me.)

5. Can I stop folding most of the laundry?

Yep – just lay everyone’s clothes out in a pile and make them deal with it.

6. Can I put off washing my sheets until next weekend?

In most cases, yes.

7. Can I do spot-cleaning on my floor rather than mopping the entire thing?

Yes. You’ll be the only one that knows the difference, promise.

8. Can I just throw crap away instead of organizing it?

If it’s not useful or meaningful to your life, then yes, you can.

9. What can I spend my time on instead of cleaning that will add real value to my life?

Go do something awesome!

*****

Since successful people don’t clean their houses on the weekend, I’m letting myself off the hook here too. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather spend my time working on a goal that will propel my life forward than basking in the glow of a clean house.

To those of you that keep a clean house and spend ample time chasing goals, how do you do it?

What small step have you taken today to reach one of your goals?

I wrote and edited future blog posts!