Another Debt Paid

Woo hoo. I’ve finally paid off my private student loans as of this month. That still leaves the one owned by Navient, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Luckily, my student loans have very low interest rates, so I plan on putting that aside for now to concentrate on my consumer debt. While it’s still a huge task, I’m definitely prepared to pay it off as soon as possible. It probably won’t happen at the end of this year (unless there’s some huge windfall), but I’m confident my consumer debt will be gone next year and maybe even the rest of my student loans. I’m excited to see how it feels to finally be debt free.

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2017 So Far

2017 so far has been a tough year. I’ve suffered from serious lack of motivation and have just felt so drained from the daily rat race. Every day seems to mirror the other and it’s a struggle to get out of bed every morning. I wake up and wonder what the point of all of this is.

Then I get up and go to work because I need to support myself. It’s this soul killing slog. And the thing is, it’s not as though I have a demanding job. Far from it. I’m lucky in the sense I can leave at 5pm and not have to worry about checking my emails. Most of my days are spent working on my own business. It just doesn’t feel right. I want to feel a connection to the work I do and for quite some time I just haven’t. You could say it’s my own fault. It’s up to me to create meaning in my work, but I’m so tired of trying. I know I should, but another part of me just wants to coast by as much as possible. And because of this attitude I feel as though maybe I’ll never reach FIRE.

And yet there is still a glimmer of hope. I’ve managed to pay off all of my private student loans this month (hurray!) and intend to redouble my efforts for my credit card debt. If I’m able to hang out to my job for at least another year, I will be able to pay off everything. It’s been a much longer journey than 3 years, but I had really just set that deadline as a way to pressure myself into taking my debt seriously. With it eliminated, I can put any extra towards an emergency fund and then sink more into my 401K. I’ve even started some very small stock investing on Motif where I can choose a “motif” that interest me and invest money in several companies in that market. So far I haven’t invested much ($300) but already I have earned $100 return. Not too bad. Eventually I do intend to put some money into index funds, but that will be after I’ve paid everything off. And hey, maybe by then it will be cheaper so I can get more for my money.

So 2017 so far, like every other year, has had its share of ups and down. On the one hand, I’ve lost a lot of my motivation this year so I need to find a way to rekindle it. On the other hand, my debt is slowly shrinking so I’m on the right track.

How has your 2017 gone?

Summer Cleaning

With temperatures soaring into the 90s here and humidity hovering around the 60s, things are hotter and more miserable than usual. It also means that it’s time to start cleaning up my apartment and get rid of some things that I’ll probably never use. That way, I can reduce clutter and hopefully that will help reduce the heat sticking around my tiny apartment.

Last year I did a de-clutter challenge (two actually). One I completed and the other I didn’t, but I did manage to get rid of a lot of unnecessary paper lying around. My apartment hasn’t gained back any clutter, but it’s still a bit cramped for my liking. As much as I hate doing so, I’ll have to sell some of my books or maybe donate them depending on if the local library has enough space for them. I have most of the books in digital format already, it’s just tough getting rid of the physical versions. I’m sure I’ll keep a few, but right  now, they’re just taking up way too much room in my tiny apartment. I also plan to clear out my closet a bit more and generally just organize. I’m hoping a cleaner apartment will lead to a more relaxing environment. If there’s one thing I need less of when trying to become FIRE it’s added stress.

Debt free in Four Years

It’s looking like I’m not going to make my goal of being debt free in three years. While a bit of a blow to the ego. It just means I’ll be a little late. The way things are going, it will probably take at least 2 years to get rid of my credit and student loans. Still, that’s much closer than I would have expected. Of course, this means I have to tighten my belt a little and focus on putting all of my efforts into paying everything down.

My credit card shot up again thanks to a vacation I took, but I don’t regret it. There’s no money in the world that can recreate the experience I had on this trip nor being able to spend time with my mother. You never know how long you have in life, so whenever there’s a chance to visit someplace I’ve never been, I’m the first to seize it. And, it ended up being pretty amazing. The food was great, I managed to see whales and enjoyed the fresh cedar forests of Oregon. Could you ask for anything better?

For me, traveling is something that calls to me. I want to experience other places, cultures and more. So why put this off until I retire? While I’m sure many hardcore FIRE folks would chastise me for spending money when I’m in debt, I think it’s important to prioritize what you want out of life even beforehand, especially when you have the means. That doesn’t mean to go crazy and spend all your money on things you like. But I don’t think you need to sacrifice everything to get to FIRE. Life is short. Any of us could die tomorrow. So why not enjoy the life you have right now rather than assume you’ll be able to enjoy it after retirement?

2 Years Later

It’s been about two years since I first started this blog and in some ways I’m closer and further away from FIRE. My student loans have gone down, but my credit card loans have increased. This past year has been especially rough as I spend more money than I had paying for driving lessons (still haven’t gotten my license) and also took on additional loans to go to a coding bootcamp so I could learn more about web development.

I’m hoping these will eventually pay off, but for now, it’s been a struggle to actually get everything paid off. Add to that a new hobby (photography) that costs money and I’m swimming in debt once again. With that said, luckily I’m able to pay off my camera relatively quickly. For my credit card, I’m going to have to start using only my debit card again so I can tackle my credit card debt once again. It isn’t that much, but the number is getting to a point where I won’t be able to manage if I get a lower paying job. Plus, I want to focus on putting all of that money to my student loans again. With that said, my credit card debt takes priority over student loans because of the ridiculously high interest rates. Once I get it back down to $0 I’ll start tackling my student loans again.

Things could be worse though. I have a new job that pays me the same as my previous one. I’m still contributing to my 401K and I now am putting aside $200/month for an emergency fund. It’s not much, but I’m hoping things turn around. I have one more year left to pay off my debt. I think I should be able to make it, but it’ll be a tight year.

What is Money

I often stop throughout the day and marvel at the idea of money. I used to work in finance as an executive assistant and it always was funny to me how excited people got about closing a multi-million dollar deal. As I learned more about what we do, it made me wonder about the currency system and question – what really is money?

From a young age we learn we need it if we want anything in life. Want that toy? Well you need money and mom or dad won’t pay for it. It’s worth is instilled in us at such an early age. Yet there’s no inherent value. If the world fell into some post-apocalyptic scenario would our credit cards or dollar bills get us anything? No. It only does because we attach a value to it. We’re using it as a middle man to get us to work, to get vegetables or clothes or whatever else.

I find it kind of silly and yet because we’re constantly told there isn’t enough resources to go around we continue to worship the almighty dollar. What would happen if we just decided to stop and barter instead? Maybe we can go and borrow items if we only intend on using it just a few times. I’m not the only one who thinks like this apparently as there are now more businesses embracing this model. I can only hope it gains traction and we move away from this idea of working for a paycheck. Yes, I do it because right now it’s the system in place where I barter my time for money. But is it worth it? We spend 40+ hours at a job. A large percentage dislike the actual job but do it because they have to pay the bills and keep a roof over their head. Heck, I’m one of them.

But what could life be if we didn’t have those constraints? Would we still have greed? What if we just took money out of the equation. How much would we advance if at all?

First Step to FIRE – Vanguard

No matter what personal finance blog I read, all of the authors sing the praises of Vanguard. After reading more about it, I can understand why. Not only are their fees dirt cheap, the investment fees are fairly low depending on what you want to get into. For example, the VTSX only requires you to put in an initial investment of $3,000. That means I really only need to save up for a couple months (if I play my cards right) to actually start investing in some index funds. I’ve never really been a big investor and the couple times I did buy some stocks, they were in very small amounts and pretty much just penny stocks. I don’t have the interest or desire to really learn about the market and from everything I’ve read, timing the market is pretty much impossible. Instead, it’s about steadily contributing to the funds to grow that nest egg.

Of course, besides this I’ve also started my Roth and 401K contributions for my new place of employment. I still need to rollover my previous options to the new one, but now that everything is set up, it should be relatively easy, or so I hope.

It’s funny, I’ve never thought too hard about retirement, especially in my 20s. I knew it was important in a nebulous kind of way, but after reading more about FIRE and realizing that I could eventually retire well before 65, it lit a fire in me. After all, who wants to spend their best years sitting at a desk inside on days like today? Every day I try to remind myself what I’m working towards – a life where I get to control my days and where I don’t have to worry about money anymore. A life where I can get up and embrace the day with a sense of wonder and not have to worry about what time I wake up, crowded commute time or having only a few hours a day to actually enjoy myself. I’m excited to get to that chapter in my life as quickly as possible. With that said, it doesn’t mean I’m going to forego every fun thing that comes my way. I will still enjoy the small pleasures in life like a good fruit tart, walks to the park and more.

Aside from enjoying my freedom, I also plan on focusing more on jobs I enjoy such as writing and game development. I hope to spend time learning more about web development and design and even learn a few languages.

Right now it seems impossible, but as Mr. MM says – a millionaire is made ten bucks at a time.