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Viewing the 'Retirement' Category: Another Family Debt Blog
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Viewing the 'Retirement' Category

Yearly Update

March 18th, 2016 at 02:04 am

I admit we're not doing much with our TMM right now given me being in school. But I still feel the need to post occasionally given how prevalent our long-term financial situation still sits in my mind. And besides, I only have 9 months of school left! My goal is to be working by Feb of next year, and I am pretty sure I will be starting around $59K.

I want to dump as much of that new income as possible into my student loans so that we can finally be done with them once and for all. Even still, I'm guessing that's going to take about 5 years. Because I owe A LOT. Currently $121K and counting. Thankfully, there is a union work program I will qualify for that will pay off about $25K of that over 5 years, starting after 1 year of work. But, that's still $96K and I'm barely keeping up with the interest payments right now.

We could probably get it done in 4 years if we were really strict about it. But then I would lose $10K of the tuition repayment benefit. And we're going to be trying to save for a house down payment for part of that time as well. The boys are in kindergarten right now, and by the time they're in middle school (6th grade), we want to be in a better school district. So that again gives us about 5 years. (2021 should be an interesting year for us!) We have a fair amount of equity in our current home right now, but I don't want any PMI next time and who knows what the market will do by then.

Right now we're kind of treading water financially. I'm not working anymore now that I'm in school fulltime. And we have new before/after school care expenses on top of it. Medical expenses have gone down a little, but tuition/fees have gone way, way up. I managed to avoid taking out more student loans while doing just my pre-reqs part-time, but at this point its costing about $12K/semester and there's just no way around it. Ugh, ugh, ugh.
On the bright side, the amount I paid/borrowed for this career change is equal to or less than the gross amount I will make in just one year of working. And I will have a pension. So I think it will all be financially worth it in the end. And emotionally it's not even a question. A change was necessary.

Hubby got a nice bonus again this year, but not a very nice raise. We had kind of figured that due to the job hopping he did this year (3 different positions within the same company in 1 year). He seems happy now in his new position and hopefully next year will be a little better. But this new position is not as demanding as before, and therefore it is unlikely to come with the large pay increases he was getting for a few years while working his butt off. We'll manage though. Work/life balance is more important to us than higher paychecks.

This year, the bonus money was spend in some fairly unexciting ways. A lot of it just went into our emergency fund, to top it back up after the dips we had been making into it since I quit my job. Hopefully a combination of hubby's pay increase and some further belt tightening will keep that from happening again this year.
We also got a new water softener, which has been sorely needed for over a year now. We set aside some money for summer daycare since it will be double what we're used to paying during the school year. And then with the remaining amount we bought new deck furniture (our last set was about 14 years old and in poor shape) and new beds/dressers for the boys. They were finally getting too big for all their old toddler/preschool stuff. Now they have big boy beds and are no longer sharing an old dresser. All grown up!
Oh wait, and I got a new laptop. My old one was about 5 years old and died. The new one is nothing fancy, but a must for school. But that reminds me, the boys broke our old TV so we got a new one of those too. So I guess we did get a few fun things after all, even if they were mainly replacements. Hubby wanted one that was about 10 inches bigger than our last one, but I think TVs that big are just ridiculous. We compromised on one that was 5 inches bigger and it seems like a good fit for our living room, even though I can't, for the life of me, figure out how to use it. (Gosh that makes me sound old.)

Looking ahead to next year, a "new" car for hubby is on the horizon once I get a job. His car is about 12 years old now and is starting to show it. I know I had posted previously about planning to pay off my current car loan with last year's bonus, but somehow that didn't happen. Probably because of all the medical expenses we had for the boys back then. It's hard to remember now. By this time next year, I think we will still owe about $7K. Which, after taxes, is going to eat up most of hubby's next bonus, but so be it. I don't want to take out another car loan until we have that one paid off.

Someday, somehow, I really, really want to be able to take an awesome family vacation together to someplace like the Grand Canyon or Disney World. Not to mention a romantic vacation with just hubby to someplace like Greece or Machu Picchu too. But it's really hard to picture that being in the cards anytime in the next 5 years. Especially when I start thinking about retirement on top of it. None the less, I need to at least throw that wish out there.

We're both turning 40 this year, and should have at minimum about 2 years worth of income saved at this point. Instead, we have more like a quarter of 1 years income. In 5 years, I think we'll finally be ready to start tackling that head on, but by then we should have 3 years saved! Pretty sure retirement is going to have to be closer to 70 than 65 at this point. Just need to stay healthy so that I can still enjoy it! Feb 2014
Start 6% 401K withdrawals: Sept 2013----->Feb/Mar 2014
Save for/Pay off "new" car: May 2014----->Feb 2015

As I said: Ugh.

A new reflection though: I saw on FB recently that an old friend of mine I've lost touch with the past few years, is selling her house. She has been dying for a bigger house for years, and her husband had a well paying job. But they also had a lot of debt and not the best of spending habits, and with the housing market crash they felt completely stuck.

About 4 months back, her husband's department was downsized and he was laid off. He had a few months severance though and lots of job interview lined up, so they weren't too concerned at the time. Thus, when I saw her recent FB posting, I at first assumed he had found something even better and that with the housing market upswing they were finally able to afford the new home they have been wanting.

But then I read further. Turns out, they are not buying a new one, just selling the old one. She didn't elaborate more but a quick check on LinkedIn confirmed what I feared; her husband has been out of work since Oct. Now I am purely speculating at this point, but given what I know of their past financial situation, it's not at all hard to draw a line that without a high paying job, the large debts have are going to sink them once the severance pay ends, and they are trying to find a source for more funds.

I say all this not to gossip or point fingers (presumably, you have no idea who I'm even talking about), and I actually feel very bad for her, though not really close enough anymore to question her about such a personal matter. But for me, she is such a stunning reminder of why hubby and I are doing all this.

Our financial situations were close enough at one time that it is easy for me to picture how something very similar could have happened to us, had we not begun to exercise financial restraint. But I admit that it was very hard for me to hear about their fancy trips, and see their pretty new cars and how beautifully decorated the inside of her home was. I wanted those things too. I wanted to look that good as well. But we were pouring all our extra cash into debt and had nothing visual to show for it.

We are still a long way from where we want to be. And without more savings, we are still not even insulated from going through something similar ourselves were hubby to lose his job. But we have no credit card or car debt dragging us down anymore. And we have a very clear picture of our budget and of the steps we need to take to get from A to B. So, even though this is a total drag, and even though I feel like it's taking way longer than it should, reflecting on where we could be instead leaves me still feeling thankful about where we are. Maybe not happy, but thankful. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105872] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 105872 [entry_title] => Commencing Baby Step 3 [entry_stub] => commencing-baby-step-3- [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/11/24/commencing-baby-step-3-_105872/ [entry_date] => 1385315344 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-11-24 11:49:04 [entry_text] => We've finally finished wading through all the home maintenance projects (including an unexpected $1000 repair on the roof a couple weeks ago) and even set aside $1000 for Christmas. We've reached our family health deductible for the year and are scheduling appts like mad for these next few weeks to take full advantage of paying only 20% rather than 100% for the rest of the year. And we were also incredibly blessed to have my aunt unexpectedly send me a check to cover my first semester of tuition and books for the community college I will be starting at in Jan. And so, with that all finally behind us, it's time to commence on our TMM baby step 3 (beef up emergency fund to cover 3-6 months of expenses).

It has been almost 4 months since we finished baby step 2, so I am relieved to finally be getting back on track again. We made a lot of prudent purchases and repairs, but as the money kept flowing out rather than in, I worried that our financial plan had become derailed. Apparently though, even without CC debt, we do still have some motivation and dedication to this plan after all. And it's time to buckle down again.

My main goal for this coming financial year is to see our next worth begin to rise finally. Although given it is currently -$46K, it might be more accurate to say we want to see our gaping net worth hole begin to be filled in. It's actually much better now that it was a year ago. Partly because of paying off the CC's and car loan. But also in a large part due to home values bouncing back again finally, and we can't really take credit for that. Plus that part could go again as easy as it came.

But I was realizing the other day that we are at an exciting point none that less because from here on out, we will mainly be investing in ourselves. Even the $25K we hope to save for a "new" vehicle over the next year and a half will be savings converted into an asset, rather than simply blown out the window. And yes, yes, I know their will be depreciation, but you get my point. We're finally investing in our own net worth. And that is exciting!

Plus, during the open enrollment period this year we made sure to max out our HSA contribution for next year, as well as bump up the life insurance and disability policies a little bit. And it feels wonderful to know we are getting an adequate financial safety net into place. Almost like we're becoming real adults finally!

From this point on though, we're going to be breaking a bit from strict compliance to the TMM plan. For instance, we're going to start baby step 4 (retirement savings) as soon as we get $5000 towards baby step 3. Which should be by the end of Jan if we practice restraint over Xmas. We are way too old to be putting it off any longer and we're going to be doing baby step 3 for quite some time. We want our final emergency fund to be around $20K, but we need to buy a car along the way, so almost as soon as we get it we're going to empty it out and start again.

I consider this an EF worthy purchase though because, as discussed previously, our current family vehicle is a 1999 and has over 225K miles. It's just not going to be around much longer, and when it does finally die, it will certainly be an emergency. After doing a lot of research we decided that the most financially wise options were to either buy a cheap 7-8 year old car in decent condition and plan to cover fairly regular repairs until we can afford an upgrade. Or to buy a reliable low mileage 1-2 year old vehicle that shouldn't need much work for a few years, and which would be just as affordable as long as we keep driving it at least 10 years. And given how very tired we are of highly used vehicles at this point, we have decided to go for the 2nd option.

We're going to save as much as we can for it until May and then get a loan for the remainder. We want to give the old one to our daughter when she comes home from college for the summer so that she will have her own vehicle to get to and from her summer job. And then we're going to pay off the car loan as fast as possible, though right now it's looking like Feb 2015 before we get there.

So that's the plan right now. Hubby is in the process of applying for new jobs that pays more though, and if one of them pans out, maybe we can even do this without a car loan. Hoping for the best!

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105329] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 105329 [entry_title] => TMM Year 2 [entry_stub] => tmm-year-2 [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/10/20/tmm-year-2_105329/ [entry_date] => 1382288284 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-10-20 11:58:04 [entry_text] => It's been forever, I know. Not sure what the deal is with all this crazy /// nonsense in my info section since I left either. Anywho...

This Oct marks the beginning of the second year for hubby and I's Total Money Makeover. And how far have we gotten in a year? Well, considerably farther than we pictured ourselves one year ago for sure. We originally thought we'd be nearing the end of our credit card payments about now, and just starting to work on the car loan. The was before we discovered what the power of a budget and willpower can actually do. So instead we finished both by the end of July.

On the other hand...we are considerably less far than we had pictured ourselves being by now last June. Our revised goal was to have the initial $5000 for our emergency fund fully stocked by now, as well as kicking off the retirement 401k we need so badly and also making headway towards the "new" car we need. Instead we are in a much more dangerous no man's land somewhere between Baby Step 2 and Baby Step 3. I don't feel we are derailed from our TMM, but we do need to start getting this show on the road again soon.

So what have we been doing instead of all those June goals? Well, a lot of home stuff actually. Things we put off forever while dealing with our CC debt. We finally got a new toilet for downstairs (which lowered out water bill by $35/month!). We got a few trees cut down that had died and got our gutters cleaned out. We are also getting a large rip in our kitchen linolium repaired as well as some baseboards re-added that we never replaced after our mold damage issue a couple years ago.

We're getting our radon remitigation system installed this week ($1200). And we also had to take care of a couple big car repairs as well as buying hubby a new suit for job interviewing after all the weight he lost. Additionally, we finally replaced a few items that were wearing out. Like hubby's desk chair that was held together by duct tape and the kitchen rug that was coming apart at the seams. And we also spent more than typical on entertainment too, given it was summer and we had more family outings than usual.

Some of that stuff qualifies as emergency fund type things. Some doesn't. But it's all stuff we've been wanting to take care of forever and I'm glad we did it. By the end of this month we should be done with all that and ready to begin on Baby Step 3 for real. Trouble is, the boys are finally in preschool and I am finally going back to school myself to begin a second career. My first tuition/books payment will be due this Dec (just in time for Xmas) and is probably going to be around $2000. Long story short, I don't think we're going to be able to start the 401k until about Jan instead of Sept like we had planned and that sucks.

Regardless, compared to where we saw ourselves a year ago, we are doing much, much better indeed. Hopefully by this time next year we will be finished with Baby Step 4 and be looking ahead to a bright financial future!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [103651] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 103651 [entry_title] => Closing In [entry_stub] => closing-in [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/07/13/closing-in_103651/ [entry_date] => 1373733962 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-07-13 11:46:02 [entry_text] => Almost at the finish line for TMM baby step 2: debt snowball. Actually, we could have been there on July 19th, but, the laptop hubby has been wanting for so long went on sale for the 4th of July week. We saved $100 by buying it now and pushing the fridge payoff out one more paycheck (Aug 2). Which I think is fine given it's no interest for 3 more months and definitely will be paid off on the 2nd. We chose snail speed shipping though to save on that part, so it will still be another week or so before he gets it, but I'm sure he will be very happy when it finally arrives!

We are starting to look into what the next financial steps are. Dave Ramsey says baby step 3 should be saving a 3-6 month emergency fund (building on the $1000 one from baby step 1). That would be about $18,000 for us and would take quite some time. And in the meantime, we would still not be taking advantage of the 3% 401K matching hubby's company offers (not to mention just plain starting to save for retirement period, even though we're both entering our late 30's.) Additionally, our '99 SUV is probably not going to last much longer and certainly will be an emergency when it dies. And we want our next car purchase to be a slightly used, reliable family vehicle with low miles that we can count on driving for at least 8-10 years.

So, we're thinking of taking a middle of the road approach. I've opened a money market account with Ally bank and transferred our $1000 emergency fund there. As soon as the fridge is done we are going to work on building that up to $5000 as fast as possible. After that, we have some home maintenance issues we have been putting off forever that we need to take care of. Getting all of that accomplished is going to push us well into the end of Oct.

But once we're there, we are going to start putting 6% of hubby's paychecks into the company 401K (the maximum matching amount). And come open enrollment in Nov we are also going to up our HSA/FSA medical contributions to the max for the coming year. That's going to take quite a dent out of our monthly income, but with all the debt we've now paid off (as well as the decrease in taxable income from the 401K/HSA/FSA), we should still be able to raise our entertainment budget from what it has been these past 9 months, and still work towards saving for a new vehicle.

We originally wanted to save for it completely before purchasing, which would have taken about a year, but our daughter really needs a car for the college internship she wants to do next summer. Assuming the SUV is still running then, we'd like to pass it off to her by next May so she can do that. That said, we should be 80% of the way there by May with hubby's bonus, so it shouldn't be too bad to take out a small loan at that point and pay it off in 4-6 months.

At that point, I will be starting school again (just a few classes at a community college to begin with) so there will be some tuition to take care of. But we will also need to start kicking up our savings as well. I'm looking into a Roth IRA for that, and Ally bank seems like a good place to help us with it. Given that you can withdraw contributions without penalty if needed, I feel like this could double with retirement and most of our remaining 3-6 month emergency fund. Short of job loss, I doubt we will ever need more than the $5K we will already have set aside in the money market (which I will keep separate). And $18K seems like too much money to just have sitting in a low interest account, when it will likely never be used, while we make no progress on retirement. Dave Ramsey would not approve, and I'm still looking into the details, but right now that's the plan. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 7 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [101832] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 101832 [entry_title] => March Madness Ends [entry_stub] => march-madness-ends [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/26/march-madness-ends_101832/ [entry_date] => 1364260552 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-25 20:15:52 [entry_text] => Well, probably not the March Madness you're thinking of. But our March madness - the one where all the money came in, that one is finally wrapping up. And we have *mostly* been very, very good.

As you'll recall, hubby got a $5K bonus in Feb, a raise that translates in to $250 extra per paycheck starting mid-March, and a tax return total around $6200. Yeah, it was pretty sweet. But, unlike every other year in prior history, we applied ALL this money towards our debts. The checks came in, and I mailed another out.

And now, that's it. No more extra money. But only ONE credit card left! Wow. And I think we have about an extra $1000 left over from this month's budget that I'll be able to put towards it at month's end. If we keep sticking to the plan, I believe we'll be done with baby step 2 finally come July. Thank. Goodness. Cause we are sooooo sick of this.

Granted, we're not out of the water yet. Before I feel good about where we're at, we're going to need to save up for a "new" family car (preferably BEFORE the old one dies), start contributing enough to hubby's 401K to take full advantage of the employer matching, and save up at least $15K into an emergency fund. I feel like those are the bare minimum financial things I need to feel like a financially respectable adult. Hubby agrees, and until we reach those goals, we are both willing to do some more sacrificing (some of us less reluctantly than others, but we're not naming names here!).

Really though, that's just the bottom line because eventually, when the boys are finally in school I want to go back to school myself and start a second career. And given that we've barely made a dent in my previous student loans, I'd rather not take out more if possible. And we want to pay off our mortgage. And before too terribly much longer hubby will need a newer car too. And it's going to take a lot more than just hubby's 401K to make up for the Absolutely Nothing we have saved for retirement yet.

But, all in good time. The good news is that I think we will actually have reached my bottom line by this time next year, and that will be amazing. Hubby and I do have a few rewards we will be giving ourselves along the way as we reach our intermediate goals. To start with, once the credit cards are finished, our monthly entertainment budget goes up. We get to start having real date nights again! Also, there will be a new refrigerator and a new lap top ASAP, both of which will replace objects that we are just praying will hold out until July right now. But for now, baby step 2 continues...

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 2 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [101411] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 101411 [entry_title] => Making Progress [entry_stub] => making-progress [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/02/making-progress_101411/ [entry_date] => 1362265644 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-02 17:07:24 [entry_text] => I am frustrated that I have not been able to keep up with this blog very well lately due to some other projects I have been working on. I think it is a really good outlet for the stress this financial overhaul creates in our lives sometimes. And I think its a really good tool for keeping us accountable. Should be able to put more time into it again by the end of this month though I think, so I'll have to be content with that for now.

As for where we're at right now, do you see that side bar?! Talk about progress! Yes, the windfall has finally begun. Hubby got his bonus from work, which was about $5K after taxes got done with it. Originally, I had planned on paying off credit cards first with that, but after reading A LOT of material of financial planning recently, I decided a better use would be to pay off the car first, due to its higher interest rate. So, that one is done! And that payoff alone increases our monthly income by $198/month. Yay!

We also got our state return, a little under $500, and with that and some other surplus, I did pay off 1 of our 4 credit cards as well, though that one only increases out bottom line by about $30/month so not as exciting. But still progress! Supposedly, the IRS is going to finally start processing returns for people with mortgage interest credits within the next week. So hopefully, we will get that soon too (assuming no audit as discussed previously:

Text is http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-and-taxes_100945/ and Link is
http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-a...). And when we do, I plan to knock off a couple more cards, this raising our bottom line another $180/month. Wow, were we ever wasting a lot of money of this crap.

After that, it will just be the one big one left, which I'm hoping to have taken care of by the end of the summer, maybe sooner depending on how my business goes (summers tend to be slower). And then, we finally get to start the more fun part of personal finance: investing in ourselves.

Certainly we still have a lot of debt to pay off, between my student loans and our mortgage. Actually, even after paying off the the rest of the credit cards, I was disappointed to find that our net worth will still be around -$84K. Ouch. Though it is above the -$100K mark now for the first time in years. But as one financial planner I read stated, we're working really hard just to be worthless right now (ie $0 net worth).

None the less, after receiving some comments about how silly we are to not be taking advantage of the 401K matching hubby's company offers, I did a bit of research and decided in the end that, yes, we are being incredibly stupid not taking this free money and we need to get on that train ASAP, Dave Ramsey be damned. If we were being completely logical rather than emotional about it in fact, we would probably be prioritizing that even above our credit cards given that they have very low promotional interest rates. After much discussion though, we have decided we simply cannot bring ourselves to make this credit card thing go any slower. We feel spread much too thin as it is, and we need to be done with those debts and never use credit that way again. Our emotional sanity depends on it. Especially given how close we are.

If it were going to be something that was a few years away from being accomplished, like our mortgage and student loans, it might make sense to do it with more of a long view in mind. But we are literally within 3-5 months of our goal and our monthly income will increase by another $300 compared to now, once we sunset this. And that will certainly help our long term bottom line as well. That's our thinking at least. But at least we're almost there!

Anyways, very happy to be making some definite progress finally and looking forward to a 3 paycheck March this month as well! [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 4 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99541] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99541 [entry_title] => My Student Loan Baggage [entry_stub] => my-student-loan-baggage [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/my-student-loan-baggage_99541/ [entry_date] => 1355427008 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:30:08 [entry_text] => One of the few topics in Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover that really irks me is his discussion of student loan debt. I'm not saying his points are all without merit. But when he talks about credit cards, he seems to understand that the mental/emotional game is just as important, perhaps even more important, than the financial one. And so he recommends paying off your lowest balance card before your highest interest card, purely so you can see results sooner. And I totally get that. But he does not allow for the same types of emotional weakness when it comes to student loans. Consider the rant of his in this link for instance:
Text is http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-education/ and Link is
http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-edu... Ouch. That's all I can say. And since I am one of those previously professional, now stay-at-home mom's with over $100K in debt he's ranting about, it can't get much more personal than that.

When I look back over my life, there is only place I can think of that I maybe should/would have made a different decision about my education. And that was when I chose to keep pursuing a PhD in a field I wasn't sure was a good fit for me, instead of being willing to start graduate school over, or at least stop with a masters. Given that my graduate tuition was paid for, however, and that I was receiving a stipend for most of my living expenses, cutting out that leg of the journey wouldn't have changed that much. Maybe $20K less at best.

Growing up, we were poor. Like free school lunch, hand me down clothes from cousins, can't afford a school yearbook poor. I vividly remember my mom dividing one family size can of spaghettios between the 4 of my sisters and I, plus a glass of milk, for lunch. I was a small, hungry, skinny and very active kid, who hung out a lot at my friend's houses bumming snacks. My mom and dad fought constantly, and would have no matter what, but certainly a major theme of their blowouts was money. There was never enough of it, and it seemed that would never change. My mom often grew wistful in private about how, despite how smart she had been, she had dropped out of college after only a year or so at her first husband's insistence (my father) and never found her way back once the babies started coming with her second. And worse, how she could never leave her abusive second husband because she could never support the 5 of us on her own.

I'm not sure how directly it was ever stated, but I grew up with the clear impression that it was absolutely imperative that I go to college some day so that I would be able to support myself without a man. But that there would be absolutely no financial help for me to do so. This was further complicated by my step-father's abusive put downs of me compared to my sisters, and his continuous proclamations that I was never going to be good enough for anything.

Given the trouble I was often into growing up in a home like that, there were many years it seemed like he was right. There were many years I didn't bother with homework. For a period of time, I was suicidal. And I was pregnant before I was out of high school. But I harbored a deep, driving need to prove him wrong as well. And despite his insults otherwise, I was actually quite intelligent. And seriously driven to believe that there was a way out of my childhood and into the type of future I had always dreamed of. Halfway through high school, I turned over a new leaf and started to show what I was capable of academically, though my new daughter senior year complicated things a bit.

When I was applying to colleges, the last thing on my mind was the amount of money I was taking out in student loans. Certainly I qualified for every need based option possible, not to mention a few merit based ones as well. Imagining what that payback would look like 5 to 10 years down the road when I finally had a real job and was out of this mess seemed besides the point. My burning questions were: Am I really capable of this? A 4 year degree at a respectable university with a child? What if they see only what my step-dad saw? What if I am doomed to repeat the same life for my daughter as the one that was given to me?

But I got in and I did my best. My first year I did outstanding actually, but the second year my young marriage began to fall apart and afterwards, it took a couple years of struggle before my daughter and I found a new equilibrium. My last two years of undergrad I did much better for the most part, and somewhere during that time, I realized that to become anything more than a lab rat with my degree, I would need to apply for graduate school. In this sense, Dave's rant doesn't completely apply to me. I did understand that I needed to be highly marketable to pay for all this.

At that point in life, I was pretty clear that I wanted to be a working mother. I loved my daughter dearly, and was very much looking forward to being done with school and having more time eventually. But I was the kind of person who got depressed without something intellectual to pursue. Something for myself separate from my role as a mother. Perhaps partly because I had become a mother before I had gotten time to be just myself. As exhausting as it was during the semesters, school holidays were often worse because I just got so depressed with nothing to work towards.

If you had told me that I would one day choose to be a stay at home mom, I would have laughed in your face. Dave can say that young women without kids yet have no idea how they're going to feel when they do, but I think that's overly simplistic and implies we all want to stay at home deep down. I'm a stay at home mom now, and I'm still not always sure its what I want to be doing. Furthermore, I already had a child at that point. I did know what it was like. If I could have had the option to work only part time with a young family, that probably would have been my first choice. But that is not a realistic possibility in most fields, least of all mine, and I was not unrealistic. I figured with a PhD, I could make enough that my future husband could stay home if we wanted.

Graduate school was hard though. Really hard. My fears about not being good enough were constantly at an edge when surrounded by so many other brilliant people. I had developed a fuzzy, idealistic picture of my doctoral field while leisurely pursuing undergraduate research with lower expectations I had no trouble meeting. This vision was shattered to make room for the more brutal and difficult reality of what higher academia really was. The relationship with my advisor slowly went from love to hate. Somewhere along the way, I began to question whether I was really doing this for myself, or just to prove that I could. Some days, I began to acknowledge that despite how far I had come, it was possible I was moving in the wrong direction.

That is the one point in my academic journey I regret. If I had been brave, or maybe even just less tired, I would have thrown in my first 2 1/2 years of research and allowed myself to start again in a new field. If I had done this, perhaps I would be happily pursuing my new career even now? I had an inkling of what at least some of those other possibilities could have been. It wouldn't have set me back more than a couple years (though that would have added even more to my debt!). But that light at the end of the tunnel I had been impossibly chasing for so long was finally so close. I had already passed my preliminary doctoral exam. I had my project all mapped out. I just needed to buckle down for 3 more years and do it.

And so that's what I did. I figured when I was done I could work on re-branding myself in an area of research I was more interested in for the job hunt. Instead, I found myself perfectly trained to do exactly the type of research I did not want to pursue. But it sure payed well. Even if it did necessitate moving halfway across the country.

It seemed like that would be enough, eventually. But it wasn't even close. And despite my husband (then boyfriend) being brave enough to come along with my daughter and I and start this new life together out west, it just never felt right there. We just couldn't get settled. We couldn't get to a place where the future we had pictured together seemed possible. We couldn't define what needed to shift. And despite crossing the 30's threshold, we couldn't possibly imagine starting a family in that life and place.

Through all of this, my daughter moved into her teenage years, and despite being very close when she was younger, she suddenly wanted nothing to do with me. It became painfully obvious that though my school was finally done and I was ready to focus more fully on her, she no longer had any interest in focusing on me. That ship had sailed, so to speak, and I had missed my boat. That was hard. That was very hard. And it made me reflect a lot on my plans to start a family again soon. The role I wanted to play in my new children's life and the type of mother I wanted to be. As my regret grew, I also stopped giving a crap what other people thought about how capable I was. I had gotten a PhD for cripe sakes. What more could they expect of me? And it was my right to decide what I wanted to do with that degree from that point on. Obviously, it was always my right. But that was when I finally realized it.

So anyways, long story short, with my boyfriend's blessing, I quit my high paying job and decided to become a stay at home mother with over $100K in student loans instead. It was a rough few years of transition. At this point, my husband finally makes a pretty decent income. Almost as much as I used to (and adjusted for the midwest, probably a lot more). But with three kids, primarily one income, and a student loan payment of over $600/month, it never goes as far as it seems like it should. It's going to take us a while to get out of this mess. And though we are now over 4 years into this new life path, it's hard sometimes to accept where we are now compared to where we used to be. Hard to know that we will probably never live in a beautiful home/location like that one ever again. That it will be years, eons, before we can afford another fancy trip. That given the realities of our budget, money is going to continue to feel like a struggle for probably at least another 5 or so years until I'm working again. My husband and I find that hard. And depressing. And Dave would probably just say "What did you expect!?!"

...A chance to live a life much different than the one my parent's gave me I guess. A chance to feel like I had enough money to never be trapped in a relationship that was bad for me. A certainty that my children would always have enough to eat, as well as year books and new clothes and maybe even stories about trips to Disney World with our family last summer. I probably didn't need a $100K education to secure all those things, but it was an emotional journey for me that took a while to figure out.

For now, I comfort myself with the fact that though this is not always the life of my dreams, it is finally the life of my choice. I am choosing to be much poorer than I could be. I am choosing to temporarily give up most personal and intellectual pursuits (though I did start a secret blog!) so that I will have fewer regrets next time about the mother I am to my children. I could do it differently, and from time to time I check in and make sure this is what I still want. So far it is. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99540] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99540 [entry_title] => How We Got Into This Mess [entry_stub] => how-we-got-into-this-mess [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/how-we-got-into-this-mess_99540/ [entry_date] => 1355426916 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:28:36 [entry_text] => Sometimes Iím a little surprised to find myself with debt troubles, because back when my husband (then boyfriend) and I were both working 6 years ago, there was a point where we were making quite a bit of money. During that two year period, we managed to pay off all the credit cards we had at that time (due to divorces and our big move west for my job) as well as the remainder of hubbyís student loan. We did not, however, manage to save a dime towards retirement or anything else. And we went on at least two fancy trips. And ate out a lot. And didn't even look at price tags in certain stores. We also did not own a home at that point, and were paying a small fortune to rent a very nice one (we needed one with with space for our huge dog to run!), while paying only the minimum on my student loans.

Each month we wondered how we could possibly make so much money (some months we brought in more than $10K total - after taxes) and still have nothing left to save towards a house or retirement by the end of the month. I have a few defenses for this. One is that I was less than two years out of graduate school (finally!) and after having been a young, poor, and mostly single mom for that difficult 11 year period, I had a big wish list for life. I needed some fun time. Additionally, my field was very specialized, and required us to live in a very expensive area on the west coast. We were both completely shell shocked by the cost of living adjustment our first year. The price of things like cheese always floored me. Plus, Hubby and I weren't actually married yet at that point, and despite entering our 30's, we were simply not ready yet to buckle down and get serious about financial planning.

So thatís my list of reasons, minus a lot of things I could say about hind sight that you can fill in for me if you like. That period of my life ended almost 5 years ago when hubby and I made the difficult, but long coming decision for me to quit my job (or really career in this case) and move back to our hometown in the Midwest. At that point, we did begin to reign it in a bit in preparation for the 60% reduction in income we would be undergoing in a few short months. We stop planning for the next big vacation and started planning for the journey home instead. We cut back on spending, and put a little away each month for the huge moving expenses we knew from experience that we would be racking up soon. Not nearly enough, but it helped. And I began to look into information on starting a new home business.

We made a mix of good and bad financial decisions over the next few years, but also worked very hard. That first year back, I often spent upwards of 50 hours a week laying the groundwork to get my business up and running, and even took on housecleaning jobs in the meantime until my cash flow became more regular. Thankfully, hubby's job was able to come with him on our move, but the recession had just kicked in and there would be no cost of living raises that year. We had a few thousand in credit card debt again from the move we had to pay on, but we put my student loans on temporary forbearance (which sadly wiped out all progress we had made thus far). My daughter had hit the difficult teenage years, and no matter how much we made, it could never be enough to acquire all the things she was certain she needed (and that every other person she knew already had). Additionally, I felt bad downgrading her too much from what she had become used to at that point, given that the second move was hard enough on her, and certainly not what she had wanted or expected. In all honesty, we had a bit of a hard time adjusting to all of that ourselves actually, and though our rent was much cheaper than it had been out west, it was still much more expensive that what we probably should have taken on. But we felt we needed to step into our new cost of living situation gradually, so as not to give up everything we'd had all at once.

Now that we were back in the much more affordable and homey midwest, we finally felt able to settle down and begin working towards our future together. We got officially engaged and started looking into homes and saving for a down payment. I settled in to my new work routine and despite how much tighter things were, we managed to put away at least $700/month during most of that first year. And though I feel our wedding was perfect, it was a small, elegant but inexpensive, at home affair that did not set us back too much more. Can't say the same for my amazing ring though. (I made it clear there was no way we were spending less than he spent on his ex and I still do not regret that!) We also had a short, but sweet honeymoon that added a little more. And within two months of all that shenanigans, we dropped all our saving and then some into our new house.

Despite putting a little more on the cards to get all settled in, I think our house was a good purchase. A huge step down from what we'd had out west, and more than $1000 per month less than our rent had been even after moving back to the midwest. But a respectable, comfortable, suburban home in a good neighborhood none the less, with a payment we could afford. We bought it at what was the market low (at that point) and with a great fixed interest rate, and it has plenty of room for a family. Therefore, we immediately jumped into the next stage of our long term life plan - babies! And what with that first "Holy Shit" ultrasound, and the later preterm birth that twins tend to bring, less than 12 mos after we said "I do" we had two of them! Not to mention a lot of unexpected time off from work (and savings) on my part due to bed rest.

Somewhere in all of that, there was also a long distance wedding trip, a number of car issues and more than one or two home owner issues as well. We did not have an emergency fund yet at that point, so anything extra was a problem. Plus, my daughter had turned 16 and began driving, and no matter how crappy a car you give them, the insurance still sucks. Its no secret that kids tend to be the most expensive at the bookends of your 18 years with them, and unfortunately we had some on each end. I had to keep my work hours while I was breastfeeding (and not sleeping) to less than half of what they had been pre-baby. We started getting a grocery delivery service rather than shopping ourselves, despite the extra expense, cause we couldn't figure out how to manage life without hating each other otherwise. And as thankful as we were for hubby's work from home job that came with us on our big move, it was far from competitive in pay (though excellent in health coverage thank goodness), and yet we just didn't feel like we could manage him finding something out of the home until we got closer to the boys first birthday.

Lest I mislead you, there were some toys in there too. We got a new flat screen tv, and we had cable, netflix and audible subscriptions. We both got iPhone 3's when the 4's came out and have since upgraded. We got a new laptop when the old one died. We ate out a couple times a week at least. We took a couple modest vacations. We purchased memberships to the zoo and museum. We weren't partying, but we weren't suffering.

None the less, fast forward to about 18 mos. later and we have finally begun to catch our breath again. Hubby did find a new job outside the home that pays much better (though that required me to cut my hours even more initially, and necessitated another car purchase). We stopped hemorrhaging expenses and started simply treading water instead. I think its been over a year since we even used a credit card,which means we have mostly gotten the hang of living within our means (pre-child support loss at least!). And we did finally get an emergency fund going. But its been pretty clear that we haven't made much of any real progress towards wiping out the debt we accumulated either. And as we slowly inch towards the end of our 30's, it is clear that the time to start planning for our financial future is now. Like, so right now, its yesterday.

So that's how we got here. Nothing completely stupid I don't think (well, maybe the ring. But since I'd do that one again, I don't think it counts), though lots of things we could have done a bit better. And today, on this Thanksgiving Day 2012, I am thankful that hubby and I have both the means and dedication to tackle this massive financial overhaul, so that our future can be a bright one.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99522] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 99522 [entry_title] => The Big Picture [entry_stub] => the-big-picture [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/the-big-picture_99522/ [entry_date] => 1355371250 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-12 22:00:50 [entry_text] => This may be simply an exercise in idealistic dreaming, but I want to paint for you (or maybe mostly just me) a picture of how I see this new financial plan unfolding for us in the coming years. Cause I have big, unrealized but hopefully not unrealistic, dreams. In Dave Ramsey's book, he tells you that it takes most people about seven years to reach Baby Step 7: Build Wealth. Longer still to get to the Pinnacle Point where your money finally starts working harder than you have to. Certainly, that is the long term goal. And the short term goal is the credit card/car payment debt payoff I've already outlined. But it'd be nice to have a picture of our mid-term plan as well. Especially given that I don't think we will be following the Baby Steps precisely.

So, one year out, give or take a few months, and hopefully our small debts (non-mortgage/student loan) will be paid off. At that point we will hopefully be more used to getting by with a lot less monthly discretionary income. Maybe we can at least add enough back in to be able to go on monthly date nights again though. But I don't want to get too slack because we still have a lot or work to do. Baby Step 3 is to Finish the Emergency Fund, which he defines as 3-6 mos. worth of expenses. For us, that would roughly be $15K-$30K.

Projecting out both raises and expenses, once we get our small debts paid off, I think we could save roughly $25K/yr. So, that should take us 7-14 mos. depending on how much cushion we want. My thought is that we should save as much as possible, setting aside the minimum $15K to touch only for emergencies, but then factor in the fact that our family SUV will be 15 years old (already has 223K miles) by then. I am fine with driving it until it dies, but its pretty much a given that that is going to be before too much longer (please, please, please not this year!). I am also fine with not getting a new car when it does die. But I would prefer to get something gently used with at least a few more bells and whistles than our current one has. I think we could probably get something 5-6 years old for between $15-$20K.

That's not the only big ticket item we need to save for though. In a few more years, the boys will be ready to start school and I will be more than ready to jump back on the career train. But that is probably going to require a bit of retraining on my part, and I am not willing to take out any more student loans. (Above and beyond the $105K I already put my foot down on of course). So, if I want to go back, which I very much do right now, we will need to save for that too. I am conservatively estimating about $20K for that right now, plus after school daycare (maybe $5K? Though that will be more of an on-going expense), but given the rising cost of education these days, who knows?

The point of all this speculating is to point out that with these extra purchases, the time it takes up to save about $30K for an emergency fund is going to be more like 2-3/4 to 3 years rather than 14 mos. That's a long time. And who knows how many set backs there might be in the meantime. At some point, hubby's car will need to be replaced as well, though it is 5 years newer than the SUV at least. But I guess I'm okay with it as long as we get to Baby Step 4: Retirement Investing, by the time I re-graduate, which I am predicting will be in 5-6 years. If we get to that step before I graduate, then I guess we will start putting at least the company matching amount into hubby's 401K. Actually, if we don't get to that step before 40, we probably should do a lot more than that, and I kind of doubt we will. Once I do graduate and start working again though, we are going to kick step 4's butt.

And then we get to Baby Step 5: College Funding for the kids. Except we're going to re-package that one as college payoff for the adults. By then my daughter will be done with college (or darn well better be at least). Until we get fabulously wealthy, I have done the best I can for her by insisting that she go to a school where she would graduate with a maximum of $40K in debt. Still a lot I know, but less than half as much than me, and within the amount considered reasonable by the income to debt calculators. She hated me for it at the time, but now seems mostly happy.

I am hoping that with a new masters degree I will be able to make at least $50K, although about half of that will probably have to go towards retirement, and the rest will get taxed. But lets just say that after stocking up our emergency fund, we have about $25K/yr extra from hubby's income and $25K/yr from mine. So $50K/yr extra after I start working to do with what we will. (OMG, is that really possible?) What to do with all that cash?? Pay off my damn student loans!! If we stick to the plan, that should take us only two more years. At that point, we can look into some minimal investing for the boys' college (and maybe some back pay for my daughter). But they are going to be expected to chip in as well because we are heading off to...

...Baby Step 6: Pay Off the Mortgage! Honestly, not quite sure what's going to happen when we get to this step because you see, before we focus on paying off the mortgage, we'd like to focus instead of getting the house we'd really like to have. The exciting thing is, once the student loan is paid off, we could afford about $600 more per month for a mortgage without changing anything else. Assuming the market continues to improve, we should also have a fair amount of equity at this point, having lived here for about 11 years. I am not sure yet whether we would rather buy or remodel. It will probably depend a lot on the location of our jobs at that point. There are some things I really like about both this home and this area, but our home was built in the 1960's and it really needs some updating. I think it would take between $175K-$200K to get it to where we want it, and only about 60% of that could be recouped in re-sale value. Whether or not that's worth it will depend largely on what we could get for the same value given the housing market at the time.

I also really like Dave Ramsey's idea of taking out only a 15 year mortgage and keeping your mortgage payment to less than 25% of your take home pay. Whether we decide to buy or remodel, I do very much want to keep those rules in mind. After all our hard work, I certainly do not want to end up house poor. It will be hard to feel like we can't afford just about whatever we want once we've taken care of all that other debt. And I do love big, pretty homes. Nonetheless, regardless of what we choose to do, at that point it should be a maximum of 15 years until we are entirely debt free, and if we continue with the $50K/yr rule, I think we could take that down to 6 years.

Which means this is more like a 14 year than a 7 years plan for us, but by the time we enter our 50's, it is very possible we will have no debt remaining (maybe we'll bump up the boys college fund at that point) and hopefully by the time we hit our 60's we will have reached that fabled Pinnacle Point which will leave us set for a long, happy retirement. Its certainly not a get rich quick scheme. which makes it seem somewhat more believable. Though it will certainly require a lot of dedication and sacrifice. But it seems like by the time the boys graduate from high school, we will finally have both the time AND money to do all sorts of things.

So that's the big picture. And now back to Baby Step 2.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 6 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99515] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99515 [entry_title] => Another Family Debt Blog [entry_stub] => another-family-debt-blog [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/another-family-debt-blog_99515/ [entry_date] => 1355368863 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-12 21:21:03 [entry_text] => (Can't decide if I will move all of these entries over or not, some are out of date now, but I figured I'd try to get at least the ones with the background info.)

Iím not a big 12 step follower or anything. But I do believe that two very important steps for beginning a major life change, of most any sort, are acceptance and admission. You need to truly accept that there is a problem with something in your life. No more excuses, no more minimizing. And then, to fully define what the problem is, you need an open admission of your mistakes and current status. To that end..."Hi. My name is Anne, and I have a problem with Debt."

To be fair, my husband and I have known and admitted this for years. And we are not the type to drive around in a fancy new car we're leasing while uncertain how we're going to pay our credit cards this month. Actually, our newest car is 8 years old. And we always have enough on hand to pay our bills (which according to all the political talk you hear lately means we are somehow better off than 2/3 of Americans?!?). But that is not to say we don't have our frivolities. We have a gym membership, grocery delivery and a lawn service. My husband has weaseled his way into getting an iPhone 5 soon, though I will be settling for the 4 (I only have a 3 right now!). We have a 36" flat screen TV and a new laptop. We're not suffering. We're just not winning any achievement awards either. We are very effectively treading water, as we have been for many years.

The description I just gave creates the same moderately dismal view of debt that I think a lot of Americans have. Kind of a necessary evil in which you "do the best you can", trying to make some responsible headway while still allowing yourself some enjoyment of "the good things in life". And I think it is this minimizing, moderate view that has kept my husband and I in this situation for much longer than we have really needed to be here. We're smart people. We make a decent income. We should not be here. And so, like so many debt slashers before me, I have have just finished Dave Ramsey's "Total Money Makeover" book, and I am now in the mood to take a much more extreme (i.e. honest) stance about our current situation. (I know some people here are not big fans of his, totally okay. I have my qualms too. But he's working well to motivate us right now.)

Let's just start with a number. $327,758. As of Oct. 1, 2012, that is where our total debt stands. About 60% of this belongs to our mortgage. Another 32% to my student loans. (Boo!) The remaining 8% is a combination of credit cards and car loan. Keep in mind that 8% of $327,758 is over $26,000. Keep in mind also that although we may not be suffering, this total number is still more than three times our combined yearly income. Ugh. To top it all off, we're in our mid 30's and have not a dime saved for retirement or college for our boys, and we will probably end up co-signing on $40,000 in student loans by the time my daughter graduates from college (though hopefully that will be her problem, not mine). We are in deep s**t folks.

Despite our seeming record to the contrary, I am actually a big believer in Ramsey's assertion that debt of just about any sort is just no good. That we have all bought into a lie that serves the lenders rather than ourselves. And that mostly, the only excuse for using credit cards is poor planning and difficulty with impulse control. Ouch. We suck. I have lots of good excuses for our credit card debt that I have pulled out in the past to soothe these sharp criticisms. And I will say at least that my husband and I are generally not people who use credit cards for shiny new toys or entertainment much less basics like groceries and clothes. Mostly, these were one time or unplanned emergency expenses (that being said, I can think of at least one exception to pretty much each one of those things I just mentioned.) None the less, even the unplanned things were mostly due to not saving for an emergency fund the way we should have to begin with. There was some impulsiveness in there as well for sure. (And a very shiny toy indeed in the form of a ring that now sits upon my wedding finger.)

I want to be completely, un-sugar-coated honest about this because I am [i]tired[/] of being in credit card debt. I am tired of wondering what on earth we would do if one of our cars died. I am tired of feeling trapped in my home by having no home equity. I am tired of feeling too daunted by my student loans to even begin handling my retirement. And I am sick to death of feeling like this will be the year we're finally going to start getting ahead a little, only to somehow have all the extra trickle away again with no lasting effect on the bottom line. I am ready to get serious about this. I am ready to start making some sacrifices. I am not sure about "gazelle intensity" (maybe just cause I really hate that phrase?) but I am willing to begin exploring options I haven't been willing to consider before.

But I need something to keep me motivated. And I need a way to work out the serious anxiety I am feeling about all this. And a place to put down some of the things I learn and maybe even help someone else in the process. Thus, I started a blog! Smile
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 1 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) ) -->

A Quick Check-In

August 23rd, 2014 at 04:05 am

I was feeling a bit lonely and neglected today, but then hubby brought me home flowers (most unlike him) and it made the whole rest of my day better. Just needed to tell someone that. Smile Things have been so busy lately and I've just been stressed.

Got the final medical insurance refund check today from all the crazy bills we had to pay before the TEFRA coverage for our twin boys' autism disability came through. We're still going to have to plan for fairly high medical expenses. Probably about $5000/yr for the TEFRA and at least another $2K/yr for hubby and I, if not $5K to max it out and be safe. This is in addition to our regular monthly insurance premium mind you. But at least we know everything is covered now, and the payments will be more spread out and manageable. Additionally, the refunds will allow us to payoff the balance transfer we did in Jan of this year in order to max out our HSA.

Tuition for fall semester is paid, though I still have one text book left to buy. My aunt hasn't said anything yet about helping us out again with it like she has the last two times. I'm guessing she will, but I would never ask. Regardless, we had to dip into our emergency fund to cover it which is why it's still looking pretty tepid. If you count our slowly growing 401(k) though it looks a little better!

We had a series of misfortunate plumbing issues this past Aug, almost all of which were related to one of our "darling" boys. All said and done we spent over $700 on repairs. Ugh. It seems like such a paradox to me that at the same time in a child's life that you would prefer to keep the bathroom off limits, you also need to be teaching them independence in potty training. No bueno.

I calculated out that even if we apply my hubby's entire after tax bonus this winter to the car loan we got in May, we will still be $1000 short of paying it off. We probably still will but this bums me out as it means the payments won't be done like I had hoped. What with tuition around every corner though, I just can't see how to do it any faster right now. And with my student loans on deferment right now, we should really take advantage of any "extra" cash to pay that primary down. Will reaccess come Jan though.

Also have been really bummed about the dive our home price is taking again lately. We have a couple new foreclosures in our neighborhood which is probably why, but it still makes my net worth look sad(er). Easy come, easy go.

That's all for now!
Feb 2014
Start 6% 401K withdrawals: Sept 2013----->Feb/Mar 2014
Save for/Pay off "new" car: May 2014----->Feb 2015

As I said: Ugh.

A new reflection though: I saw on FB recently that an old friend of mine I've lost touch with the past few years, is selling her house. She has been dying for a bigger house for years, and her husband had a well paying job. But they also had a lot of debt and not the best of spending habits, and with the housing market crash they felt completely stuck.

About 4 months back, her husband's department was downsized and he was laid off. He had a few months severance though and lots of job interview lined up, so they weren't too concerned at the time. Thus, when I saw her recent FB posting, I at first assumed he had found something even better and that with the housing market upswing they were finally able to afford the new home they have been wanting.

But then I read further. Turns out, they are not buying a new one, just selling the old one. She didn't elaborate more but a quick check on LinkedIn confirmed what I feared; her husband has been out of work since Oct. Now I am purely speculating at this point, but given what I know of their past financial situation, it's not at all hard to draw a line that without a high paying job, the large debts have are going to sink them once the severance pay ends, and they are trying to find a source for more funds.

I say all this not to gossip or point fingers (presumably, you have no idea who I'm even talking about), and I actually feel very bad for her, though not really close enough anymore to question her about such a personal matter. But for me, she is such a stunning reminder of why hubby and I are doing all this.

Our financial situations were close enough at one time that it is easy for me to picture how something very similar could have happened to us, had we not begun to exercise financial restraint. But I admit that it was very hard for me to hear about their fancy trips, and see their pretty new cars and how beautifully decorated the inside of her home was. I wanted those things too. I wanted to look that good as well. But we were pouring all our extra cash into debt and had nothing visual to show for it.

We are still a long way from where we want to be. And without more savings, we are still not even insulated from going through something similar ourselves were hubby to lose his job. But we have no credit card or car debt dragging us down anymore. And we have a very clear picture of our budget and of the steps we need to take to get from A to B. So, even though this is a total drag, and even though I feel like it's taking way longer than it should, reflecting on where we could be instead leaves me still feeling thankful about where we are. Maybe not happy, but thankful. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105872] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 105872 [entry_title] => Commencing Baby Step 3 [entry_stub] => commencing-baby-step-3- [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/11/24/commencing-baby-step-3-_105872/ [entry_date] => 1385315344 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-11-24 11:49:04 [entry_text] => We've finally finished wading through all the home maintenance projects (including an unexpected $1000 repair on the roof a couple weeks ago) and even set aside $1000 for Christmas. We've reached our family health deductible for the year and are scheduling appts like mad for these next few weeks to take full advantage of paying only 20% rather than 100% for the rest of the year. And we were also incredibly blessed to have my aunt unexpectedly send me a check to cover my first semester of tuition and books for the community college I will be starting at in Jan. And so, with that all finally behind us, it's time to commence on our TMM baby step 3 (beef up emergency fund to cover 3-6 months of expenses).

It has been almost 4 months since we finished baby step 2, so I am relieved to finally be getting back on track again. We made a lot of prudent purchases and repairs, but as the money kept flowing out rather than in, I worried that our financial plan had become derailed. Apparently though, even without CC debt, we do still have some motivation and dedication to this plan after all. And it's time to buckle down again.

My main goal for this coming financial year is to see our next worth begin to rise finally. Although given it is currently -$46K, it might be more accurate to say we want to see our gaping net worth hole begin to be filled in. It's actually much better now that it was a year ago. Partly because of paying off the CC's and car loan. But also in a large part due to home values bouncing back again finally, and we can't really take credit for that. Plus that part could go again as easy as it came.

But I was realizing the other day that we are at an exciting point none that less because from here on out, we will mainly be investing in ourselves. Even the $25K we hope to save for a "new" vehicle over the next year and a half will be savings converted into an asset, rather than simply blown out the window. And yes, yes, I know their will be depreciation, but you get my point. We're finally investing in our own net worth. And that is exciting!

Plus, during the open enrollment period this year we made sure to max out our HSA contribution for next year, as well as bump up the life insurance and disability policies a little bit. And it feels wonderful to know we are getting an adequate financial safety net into place. Almost like we're becoming real adults finally!

From this point on though, we're going to be breaking a bit from strict compliance to the TMM plan. For instance, we're going to start baby step 4 (retirement savings) as soon as we get $5000 towards baby step 3. Which should be by the end of Jan if we practice restraint over Xmas. We are way too old to be putting it off any longer and we're going to be doing baby step 3 for quite some time. We want our final emergency fund to be around $20K, but we need to buy a car along the way, so almost as soon as we get it we're going to empty it out and start again.

I consider this an EF worthy purchase though because, as discussed previously, our current family vehicle is a 1999 and has over 225K miles. It's just not going to be around much longer, and when it does finally die, it will certainly be an emergency. After doing a lot of research we decided that the most financially wise options were to either buy a cheap 7-8 year old car in decent condition and plan to cover fairly regular repairs until we can afford an upgrade. Or to buy a reliable low mileage 1-2 year old vehicle that shouldn't need much work for a few years, and which would be just as affordable as long as we keep driving it at least 10 years. And given how very tired we are of highly used vehicles at this point, we have decided to go for the 2nd option.

We're going to save as much as we can for it until May and then get a loan for the remainder. We want to give the old one to our daughter when she comes home from college for the summer so that she will have her own vehicle to get to and from her summer job. And then we're going to pay off the car loan as fast as possible, though right now it's looking like Feb 2015 before we get there.

So that's the plan right now. Hubby is in the process of applying for new jobs that pays more though, and if one of them pans out, maybe we can even do this without a car loan. Hoping for the best!

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105329] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 105329 [entry_title] => TMM Year 2 [entry_stub] => tmm-year-2 [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/10/20/tmm-year-2_105329/ [entry_date] => 1382288284 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-10-20 11:58:04 [entry_text] => It's been forever, I know. Not sure what the deal is with all this crazy /// nonsense in my info section since I left either. Anywho...

This Oct marks the beginning of the second year for hubby and I's Total Money Makeover. And how far have we gotten in a year? Well, considerably farther than we pictured ourselves one year ago for sure. We originally thought we'd be nearing the end of our credit card payments about now, and just starting to work on the car loan. The was before we discovered what the power of a budget and willpower can actually do. So instead we finished both by the end of July.

On the other hand...we are considerably less far than we had pictured ourselves being by now last June. Our revised goal was to have the initial $5000 for our emergency fund fully stocked by now, as well as kicking off the retirement 401k we need so badly and also making headway towards the "new" car we need. Instead we are in a much more dangerous no man's land somewhere between Baby Step 2 and Baby Step 3. I don't feel we are derailed from our TMM, but we do need to start getting this show on the road again soon.

So what have we been doing instead of all those June goals? Well, a lot of home stuff actually. Things we put off forever while dealing with our CC debt. We finally got a new toilet for downstairs (which lowered out water bill by $35/month!). We got a few trees cut down that had died and got our gutters cleaned out. We are also getting a large rip in our kitchen linolium repaired as well as some baseboards re-added that we never replaced after our mold damage issue a couple years ago.

We're getting our radon remitigation system installed this week ($1200). And we also had to take care of a couple big car repairs as well as buying hubby a new suit for job interviewing after all the weight he lost. Additionally, we finally replaced a few items that were wearing out. Like hubby's desk chair that was held together by duct tape and the kitchen rug that was coming apart at the seams. And we also spent more than typical on entertainment too, given it was summer and we had more family outings than usual.

Some of that stuff qualifies as emergency fund type things. Some doesn't. But it's all stuff we've been wanting to take care of forever and I'm glad we did it. By the end of this month we should be done with all that and ready to begin on Baby Step 3 for real. Trouble is, the boys are finally in preschool and I am finally going back to school myself to begin a second career. My first tuition/books payment will be due this Dec (just in time for Xmas) and is probably going to be around $2000. Long story short, I don't think we're going to be able to start the 401k until about Jan instead of Sept like we had planned and that sucks.

Regardless, compared to where we saw ourselves a year ago, we are doing much, much better indeed. Hopefully by this time next year we will be finished with Baby Step 4 and be looking ahead to a bright financial future!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [103651] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 103651 [entry_title] => Closing In [entry_stub] => closing-in [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/07/13/closing-in_103651/ [entry_date] => 1373733962 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-07-13 11:46:02 [entry_text] => Almost at the finish line for TMM baby step 2: debt snowball. Actually, we could have been there on July 19th, but, the laptop hubby has been wanting for so long went on sale for the 4th of July week. We saved $100 by buying it now and pushing the fridge payoff out one more paycheck (Aug 2). Which I think is fine given it's no interest for 3 more months and definitely will be paid off on the 2nd. We chose snail speed shipping though to save on that part, so it will still be another week or so before he gets it, but I'm sure he will be very happy when it finally arrives!

We are starting to look into what the next financial steps are. Dave Ramsey says baby step 3 should be saving a 3-6 month emergency fund (building on the $1000 one from baby step 1). That would be about $18,000 for us and would take quite some time. And in the meantime, we would still not be taking advantage of the 3% 401K matching hubby's company offers (not to mention just plain starting to save for retirement period, even though we're both entering our late 30's.) Additionally, our '99 SUV is probably not going to last much longer and certainly will be an emergency when it dies. And we want our next car purchase to be a slightly used, reliable family vehicle with low miles that we can count on driving for at least 8-10 years.

So, we're thinking of taking a middle of the road approach. I've opened a money market account with Ally bank and transferred our $1000 emergency fund there. As soon as the fridge is done we are going to work on building that up to $5000 as fast as possible. After that, we have some home maintenance issues we have been putting off forever that we need to take care of. Getting all of that accomplished is going to push us well into the end of Oct.

But once we're there, we are going to start putting 6% of hubby's paychecks into the company 401K (the maximum matching amount). And come open enrollment in Nov we are also going to up our HSA/FSA medical contributions to the max for the coming year. That's going to take quite a dent out of our monthly income, but with all the debt we've now paid off (as well as the decrease in taxable income from the 401K/HSA/FSA), we should still be able to raise our entertainment budget from what it has been these past 9 months, and still work towards saving for a new vehicle.

We originally wanted to save for it completely before purchasing, which would have taken about a year, but our daughter really needs a car for the college internship she wants to do next summer. Assuming the SUV is still running then, we'd like to pass it off to her by next May so she can do that. That said, we should be 80% of the way there by May with hubby's bonus, so it shouldn't be too bad to take out a small loan at that point and pay it off in 4-6 months.

At that point, I will be starting school again (just a few classes at a community college to begin with) so there will be some tuition to take care of. But we will also need to start kicking up our savings as well. I'm looking into a Roth IRA for that, and Ally bank seems like a good place to help us with it. Given that you can withdraw contributions without penalty if needed, I feel like this could double with retirement and most of our remaining 3-6 month emergency fund. Short of job loss, I doubt we will ever need more than the $5K we will already have set aside in the money market (which I will keep separate). And $18K seems like too much money to just have sitting in a low interest account, when it will likely never be used, while we make no progress on retirement. Dave Ramsey would not approve, and I'm still looking into the details, but right now that's the plan. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 7 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [101832] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 101832 [entry_title] => March Madness Ends [entry_stub] => march-madness-ends [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/26/march-madness-ends_101832/ [entry_date] => 1364260552 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-25 20:15:52 [entry_text] => Well, probably not the March Madness you're thinking of. But our March madness - the one where all the money came in, that one is finally wrapping up. And we have *mostly* been very, very good.

As you'll recall, hubby got a $5K bonus in Feb, a raise that translates in to $250 extra per paycheck starting mid-March, and a tax return total around $6200. Yeah, it was pretty sweet. But, unlike every other year in prior history, we applied ALL this money towards our debts. The checks came in, and I mailed another out.

And now, that's it. No more extra money. But only ONE credit card left! Wow. And I think we have about an extra $1000 left over from this month's budget that I'll be able to put towards it at month's end. If we keep sticking to the plan, I believe we'll be done with baby step 2 finally come July. Thank. Goodness. Cause we are sooooo sick of this.

Granted, we're not out of the water yet. Before I feel good about where we're at, we're going to need to save up for a "new" family car (preferably BEFORE the old one dies), start contributing enough to hubby's 401K to take full advantage of the employer matching, and save up at least $15K into an emergency fund. I feel like those are the bare minimum financial things I need to feel like a financially respectable adult. Hubby agrees, and until we reach those goals, we are both willing to do some more sacrificing (some of us less reluctantly than others, but we're not naming names here!).

Really though, that's just the bottom line because eventually, when the boys are finally in school I want to go back to school myself and start a second career. And given that we've barely made a dent in my previous student loans, I'd rather not take out more if possible. And we want to pay off our mortgage. And before too terribly much longer hubby will need a newer car too. And it's going to take a lot more than just hubby's 401K to make up for the Absolutely Nothing we have saved for retirement yet.

But, all in good time. The good news is that I think we will actually have reached my bottom line by this time next year, and that will be amazing. Hubby and I do have a few rewards we will be giving ourselves along the way as we reach our intermediate goals. To start with, once the credit cards are finished, our monthly entertainment budget goes up. We get to start having real date nights again! Also, there will be a new refrigerator and a new lap top ASAP, both of which will replace objects that we are just praying will hold out until July right now. But for now, baby step 2 continues...

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 2 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [101411] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 101411 [entry_title] => Making Progress [entry_stub] => making-progress [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/02/making-progress_101411/ [entry_date] => 1362265644 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-02 17:07:24 [entry_text] => I am frustrated that I have not been able to keep up with this blog very well lately due to some other projects I have been working on. I think it is a really good outlet for the stress this financial overhaul creates in our lives sometimes. And I think its a really good tool for keeping us accountable. Should be able to put more time into it again by the end of this month though I think, so I'll have to be content with that for now.

As for where we're at right now, do you see that side bar?! Talk about progress! Yes, the windfall has finally begun. Hubby got his bonus from work, which was about $5K after taxes got done with it. Originally, I had planned on paying off credit cards first with that, but after reading A LOT of material of financial planning recently, I decided a better use would be to pay off the car first, due to its higher interest rate. So, that one is done! And that payoff alone increases our monthly income by $198/month. Yay!

We also got our state return, a little under $500, and with that and some other surplus, I did pay off 1 of our 4 credit cards as well, though that one only increases out bottom line by about $30/month so not as exciting. But still progress! Supposedly, the IRS is going to finally start processing returns for people with mortgage interest credits within the next week. So hopefully, we will get that soon too (assuming no audit as discussed previously:

Text is http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-and-taxes_100945/ and Link is
http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-a...). And when we do, I plan to knock off a couple more cards, this raising our bottom line another $180/month. Wow, were we ever wasting a lot of money of this crap.

After that, it will just be the one big one left, which I'm hoping to have taken care of by the end of the summer, maybe sooner depending on how my business goes (summers tend to be slower). And then, we finally get to start the more fun part of personal finance: investing in ourselves.

Certainly we still have a lot of debt to pay off, between my student loans and our mortgage. Actually, even after paying off the the rest of the credit cards, I was disappointed to find that our net worth will still be around -$84K. Ouch. Though it is above the -$100K mark now for the first time in years. But as one financial planner I read stated, we're working really hard just to be worthless right now (ie $0 net worth).

None the less, after receiving some comments about how silly we are to not be taking advantage of the 401K matching hubby's company offers, I did a bit of research and decided in the end that, yes, we are being incredibly stupid not taking this free money and we need to get on that train ASAP, Dave Ramsey be damned. If we were being completely logical rather than emotional about it in fact, we would probably be prioritizing that even above our credit cards given that they have very low promotional interest rates. After much discussion though, we have decided we simply cannot bring ourselves to make this credit card thing go any slower. We feel spread much too thin as it is, and we need to be done with those debts and never use credit that way again. Our emotional sanity depends on it. Especially given how close we are.

If it were going to be something that was a few years away from being accomplished, like our mortgage and student loans, it might make sense to do it with more of a long view in mind. But we are literally within 3-5 months of our goal and our monthly income will increase by another $300 compared to now, once we sunset this. And that will certainly help our long term bottom line as well. That's our thinking at least. But at least we're almost there!

Anyways, very happy to be making some definite progress finally and looking forward to a 3 paycheck March this month as well! [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 4 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99541] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99541 [entry_title] => My Student Loan Baggage [entry_stub] => my-student-loan-baggage [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/my-student-loan-baggage_99541/ [entry_date] => 1355427008 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:30:08 [entry_text] => One of the few topics in Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover that really irks me is his discussion of student loan debt. I'm not saying his points are all without merit. But when he talks about credit cards, he seems to understand that the mental/emotional game is just as important, perhaps even more important, than the financial one. And so he recommends paying off your lowest balance card before your highest interest card, purely so you can see results sooner. And I totally get that. But he does not allow for the same types of emotional weakness when it comes to student loans. Consider the rant of his in this link for instance:
Text is http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-education/ and Link is
http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-edu... Ouch. That's all I can say. And since I am one of those previously professional, now stay-at-home mom's with over $100K in debt he's ranting about, it can't get much more personal than that.

When I look back over my life, there is only place I can think of that I maybe should/would have made a different decision about my education. And that was when I chose to keep pursuing a PhD in a field I wasn't sure was a good fit for me, instead of being willing to start graduate school over, or at least stop with a masters. Given that my graduate tuition was paid for, however, and that I was receiving a stipend for most of my living expenses, cutting out that leg of the journey wouldn't have changed that much. Maybe $20K less at best.

Growing up, we were poor. Like free school lunch, hand me down clothes from cousins, can't afford a school yearbook poor. I vividly remember my mom dividing one family size can of spaghettios between the 4 of my sisters and I, plus a glass of milk, for lunch. I was a small, hungry, skinny and very active kid, who hung out a lot at my friend's houses bumming snacks. My mom and dad fought constantly, and would have no matter what, but certainly a major theme of their blowouts was money. There was never enough of it, and it seemed that would never change. My mom often grew wistful in private about how, despite how smart she had been, she had dropped out of college after only a year or so at her first husband's insistence (my father) and never found her way back once the babies started coming with her second. And worse, how she could never leave her abusive second husband because she could never support the 5 of us on her own.

I'm not sure how directly it was ever stated, but I grew up with the clear impression that it was absolutely imperative that I go to college some day so that I would be able to support myself without a man. But that there would be absolutely no financial help for me to do so. This was further complicated by my step-father's abusive put downs of me compared to my sisters, and his continuous proclamations that I was never going to be good enough for anything.

Given the trouble I was often into growing up in a home like that, there were many years it seemed like he was right. There were many years I didn't bother with homework. For a period of time, I was suicidal. And I was pregnant before I was out of high school. But I harbored a deep, driving need to prove him wrong as well. And despite his insults otherwise, I was actually quite intelligent. And seriously driven to believe that there was a way out of my childhood and into the type of future I had always dreamed of. Halfway through high school, I turned over a new leaf and started to show what I was capable of academically, though my new daughter senior year complicated things a bit.

When I was applying to colleges, the last thing on my mind was the amount of money I was taking out in student loans. Certainly I qualified for every need based option possible, not to mention a few merit based ones as well. Imagining what that payback would look like 5 to 10 years down the road when I finally had a real job and was out of this mess seemed besides the point. My burning questions were: Am I really capable of this? A 4 year degree at a respectable university with a child? What if they see only what my step-dad saw? What if I am doomed to repeat the same life for my daughter as the one that was given to me?

But I got in and I did my best. My first year I did outstanding actually, but the second year my young marriage began to fall apart and afterwards, it took a couple years of struggle before my daughter and I found a new equilibrium. My last two years of undergrad I did much better for the most part, and somewhere during that time, I realized that to become anything more than a lab rat with my degree, I would need to apply for graduate school. In this sense, Dave's rant doesn't completely apply to me. I did understand that I needed to be highly marketable to pay for all this.

At that point in life, I was pretty clear that I wanted to be a working mother. I loved my daughter dearly, and was very much looking forward to being done with school and having more time eventually. But I was the kind of person who got depressed without something intellectual to pursue. Something for myself separate from my role as a mother. Perhaps partly because I had become a mother before I had gotten time to be just myself. As exhausting as it was during the semesters, school holidays were often worse because I just got so depressed with nothing to work towards.

If you had told me that I would one day choose to be a stay at home mom, I would have laughed in your face. Dave can say that young women without kids yet have no idea how they're going to feel when they do, but I think that's overly simplistic and implies we all want to stay at home deep down. I'm a stay at home mom now, and I'm still not always sure its what I want to be doing. Furthermore, I already had a child at that point. I did know what it was like. If I could have had the option to work only part time with a young family, that probably would have been my first choice. But that is not a realistic possibility in most fields, least of all mine, and I was not unrealistic. I figured with a PhD, I could make enough that my future husband could stay home if we wanted.

Graduate school was hard though. Really hard. My fears about not being good enough were constantly at an edge when surrounded by so many other brilliant people. I had developed a fuzzy, idealistic picture of my doctoral field while leisurely pursuing undergraduate research with lower expectations I had no trouble meeting. This vision was shattered to make room for the more brutal and difficult reality of what higher academia really was. The relationship with my advisor slowly went from love to hate. Somewhere along the way, I began to question whether I was really doing this for myself, or just to prove that I could. Some days, I began to acknowledge that despite how far I had come, it was possible I was moving in the wrong direction.

That is the one point in my academic journey I regret. If I had been brave, or maybe even just less tired, I would have thrown in my first 2 1/2 years of research and allowed myself to start again in a new field. If I had done this, perhaps I would be happily pursuing my new career even now? I had an inkling of what at least some of those other possibilities could have been. It wouldn't have set me back more than a couple years (though that would have added even more to my debt!). But that light at the end of the tunnel I had been impossibly chasing for so long was finally so close. I had already passed my preliminary doctoral exam. I had my project all mapped out. I just needed to buckle down for 3 more years and do it.

And so that's what I did. I figured when I was done I could work on re-branding myself in an area of research I was more interested in for the job hunt. Instead, I found myself perfectly trained to do exactly the type of research I did not want to pursue. But it sure payed well. Even if it did necessitate moving halfway across the country.

It seemed like that would be enough, eventually. But it wasn't even close. And despite my husband (then boyfriend) being brave enough to come along with my daughter and I and start this new life together out west, it just never felt right there. We just couldn't get settled. We couldn't get to a place where the future we had pictured together seemed possible. We couldn't define what needed to shift. And despite crossing the 30's threshold, we couldn't possibly imagine starting a family in that life and place.

Through all of this, my daughter moved into her teenage years, and despite being very close when she was younger, she suddenly wanted nothing to do with me. It became painfully obvious that though my school was finally done and I was ready to focus more fully on her, she no longer had any interest in focusing on me. That ship had sailed, so to speak, and I had missed my boat. That was hard. That was very hard. And it made me reflect a lot on my plans to start a family again soon. The role I wanted to play in my new children's life and the type of mother I wanted to be. As my regret grew, I also stopped giving a crap what other people thought about how capable I was. I had gotten a PhD for cripe sakes. What more could they expect of me? And it was my right to decide what I wanted to do with that degree from that point on. Obviously, it was always my right. But that was when I finally realized it.

So anyways, long story short, with my boyfriend's blessing, I quit my high paying job and decided to become a stay at home mother with over $100K in student loans instead. It was a rough few years of transition. At this point, my husband finally makes a pretty decent income. Almost as much as I used to (and adjusted for the midwest, probably a lot more). But with three kids, primarily one income, and a student loan payment of over $600/month, it never goes as far as it seems like it should. It's going to take us a while to get out of this mess. And though we are now over 4 years into this new life path, it's hard sometimes to accept where we are now compared to where we used to be. Hard to know that we will probably never live in a beautiful home/location like that one ever again. That it will be years, eons, before we can afford another fancy trip. That given the realities of our budget, money is going to continue to feel like a struggle for probably at least another 5 or so years until I'm working again. My husband and I find that hard. And depressing. And Dave would probably just say "What did you expect!?!"

...A chance to live a life much different than the one my parent's gave me I guess. A chance to feel like I had enough money to never be trapped in a relationship that was bad for me. A certainty that my children would always have enough to eat, as well as year books and new clothes and maybe even stories about trips to Disney World with our family last summer. I probably didn't need a $100K education to secure all those things, but it was an emotional journey for me that took a while to figure out.

For now, I comfort myself with the fact that though this is not always the life of my dreams, it is finally the life of my choice. I am choosing to be much poorer than I could be. I am choosing to temporarily give up most personal and intellectual pursuits (though I did start a secret blog!) so that I will have fewer regrets next time about the mother I am to my children. I could do it differently, and from time to time I check in and make sure this is what I still want. So far it is. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99540] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99540 [entry_title] => How We Got Into This Mess [entry_stub] => how-we-got-into-this-mess [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/how-we-got-into-this-mess_99540/ [entry_date] => 1355426916 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:28:36 [entry_text] => Sometimes Iím a little surprised to find myself with debt troubles, because back when my husband (then boyfriend) and I were both working 6 years ago, there was a point where we were making quite a bit of money. During that two year period, we managed to pay off all the credit cards we had at that time (due to divorces and our big move west for my job) as well as the remainder of hubbyís student loan. We did not, however, manage to save a dime towards retirement or anything else. And we went on at least two fancy trips. And ate out a lot. And didn't even look at price tags in certain stores. We also did not own a home at that point, and were paying a small fortune to rent a very nice one (we needed one with with space for our huge dog to run!), while paying only the minimum on my student loans.

Each month we wondered how we could possibly make so much money (some months we brought in more than $10K total - after taxes) and still have nothing left to save towards a house or retirement by the end of the month. I have a few defenses for this. One is that I was less than two years out of graduate school (finally!) and after having been a young, poor, and mostly single mom for that difficult 11 year period, I had a big wish list for life. I needed some fun time. Additionally, my field was very specialized, and required us to live in a very expensive area on the west coast. We were both completely shell shocked by the cost of living adjustment our first year. The price of things like cheese always floored me. Plus, Hubby and I weren't actually married yet at that point, and despite entering our 30's, we were simply not ready yet to buckle down and get serious about financial planning.

So thatís my list of reasons, minus a lot of things I could say about hind sight that you can fill in for me if you like. That period of my life ended almost 5 years ago when hubby and I made the difficult, but long coming decision for me to quit my job (or really career in this case) and move back to our hometown in the Midwest. At that point, we did begin to reign it in a bit in preparation for the 60% reduction in income we would be undergoing in a few short months. We stop planning for the next big vacation and started planning for the journey home instead. We cut back on spending, and put a little away each month for the huge moving expenses we knew from experience that we would be racking up soon. Not nearly enough, but it helped. And I began to look into information on starting a new home business.

We made a mix of good and bad financial decisions over the next few years, but also worked very hard. That first year back, I often spent upwards of 50 hours a week laying the groundwork to get my business up and running, and even took on housecleaning jobs in the meantime until my cash flow became more regular. Thankfully, hubby's job was able to come with him on our move, but the recession had just kicked in and there would be no cost of living raises that year. We had a few thousand in credit card debt again from the move we had to pay on, but we put my student loans on temporary forbearance (which sadly wiped out all progress we had made thus far). My daughter had hit the difficult teenage years, and no matter how much we made, it could never be enough to acquire all the things she was certain she needed (and that every other person she knew already had). Additionally, I felt bad downgrading her too much from what she had become used to at that point, given that the second move was hard enough on her, and certainly not what she had wanted or expected. In all honesty, we had a bit of a hard time adjusting to all of that ourselves actually, and though our rent was much cheaper than it had been out west, it was still much more expensive that what we probably should have taken on. But we felt we needed to step into our new cost of living situation gradually, so as not to give up everything we'd had all at once.

Now that we were back in the much more affordable and homey midwest, we finally felt able to settle down and begin working towards our future together. We got officially engaged and started looking into homes and saving for a down payment. I settled in to my new work routine and despite how much tighter things were, we managed to put away at least $700/month during most of that first year. And though I feel our wedding was perfect, it was a small, elegant but inexpensive, at home affair that did not set us back too much more. Can't say the same for my amazing ring though. (I made it clear there was no way we were spending less than he spent on his ex and I still do not regret that!) We also had a short, but sweet honeymoon that added a little more. And within two months of all that shenanigans, we dropped all our saving and then some into our new house.

Despite putting a little more on the cards to get all settled in, I think our house was a good purchase. A huge step down from what we'd had out west, and more than $1000 per month less than our rent had been even after moving back to the midwest. But a respectable, comfortable, suburban home in a good neighborhood none the less, with a payment we could afford. We bought it at what was the market low (at that point) and with a great fixed interest rate, and it has plenty of room for a family. Therefore, we immediately jumped into the next stage of our long term life plan - babies! And what with that first "Holy Shit" ultrasound, and the later preterm birth that twins tend to bring, less than 12 mos after we said "I do" we had two of them! Not to mention a lot of unexpected time off from work (and savings) on my part due to bed rest.

Somewhere in all of that, there was also a long distance wedding trip, a number of car issues and more than one or two home owner issues as well. We did not have an emergency fund yet at that point, so anything extra was a problem. Plus, my daughter had turned 16 and began driving, and no matter how crappy a car you give them, the insurance still sucks. Its no secret that kids tend to be the most expensive at the bookends of your 18 years with them, and unfortunately we had some on each end. I had to keep my work hours while I was breastfeeding (and not sleeping) to less than half of what they had been pre-baby. We started getting a grocery delivery service rather than shopping ourselves, despite the extra expense, cause we couldn't figure out how to manage life without hating each other otherwise. And as thankful as we were for hubby's work from home job that came with us on our big move, it was far from competitive in pay (though excellent in health coverage thank goodness), and yet we just didn't feel like we could manage him finding something out of the home until we got closer to the boys first birthday.

Lest I mislead you, there were some toys in there too. We got a new flat screen tv, and we had cable, netflix and audible subscriptions. We both got iPhone 3's when the 4's came out and have since upgraded. We got a new laptop when the old one died. We ate out a couple times a week at least. We took a couple modest vacations. We purchased memberships to the zoo and museum. We weren't partying, but we weren't suffering.

None the less, fast forward to about 18 mos. later and we have finally begun to catch our breath again. Hubby did find a new job outside the home that pays much better (though that required me to cut my hours even more initially, and necessitated another car purchase). We stopped hemorrhaging expenses and started simply treading water instead. I think its been over a year since we even used a credit card,which means we have mostly gotten the hang of living within our means (pre-child support loss at least!). And we did finally get an emergency fund going. But its been pretty clear that we haven't made much of any real progress towards wiping out the debt we accumulated either. And as we slowly inch towards the end of our 30's, it is clear that the time to start planning for our financial future is now. Like, so right now, its yesterday.

So that's how we got here. Nothing completely stupid I don't think (well, maybe the ring. But since I'd do that one again, I don't think it counts), though lots of things we could have done a bit better. And today, on this Thanksgiving Day 2012, I am thankful that hubby and I have both the means and dedication to tackle this massive financial overhaul, so that our future can be a bright one.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99522] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 99522 [entry_title] => The Big Picture [entry_stub] => the-big-picture [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/the-big-picture_99522/ [entry_date] => 1355371250 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-12 22:00:50 [entry_text] => This may be simply an exercise in idealistic dreaming, but I want to paint for you (or maybe mostly just me) a picture of how I see this new financial plan unfolding for us in the coming years. Cause I have big, unrealized but hopefully not unrealistic, dreams. In Dave Ramsey's book, he tells you that it takes most people about seven years to reach Baby Step 7: Build Wealth. Longer still to get to the Pinnacle Point where your money finally starts working harder than you have to. Certainly, that is the long term goal. And the short term goal is the credit card/car payment debt payoff I've already outlined. But it'd be nice to have a picture of our mid-term plan as well. Especially given that I don't think we will be following the Baby Steps precisely.

So, one year out, give or take a few months, and hopefully our small debts (non-mortgage/student loan) will be paid off. At that point we will hopefully be more used to getting by with a lot less monthly discretionary income. Maybe we can at least add enough back in to be able to go on monthly date nights again though. But I don't want to get too slack because we still have a lot or work to do. Baby Step 3 is to Finish the Emergency Fund, which he defines as 3-6 mos. worth of expenses. For us, that would roughly be $15K-$30K.

Projecting out both raises and expenses, once we get our small debts paid off, I think we could save roughly $25K/yr. So, that should take us 7-14 mos. depending on how much cushion we want. My thought is that we should save as much as possible, setting aside the minimum $15K to touch only for emergencies, but then factor in the fact that our family SUV will be 15 years old (already has 223K miles) by then. I am fine with driving it until it dies, but its pretty much a given that that is going to be before too much longer (please, please, please not this year!). I am also fine with not getting a new car when it does die. But I would prefer to get something gently used with at least a few more bells and whistles than our current one has. I think we could probably get something 5-6 years old for between $15-$20K.

That's not the only big ticket item we need to save for though. In a few more years, the boys will be ready to start school and I will be more than ready to jump back on the career train. But that is probably going to require a bit of retraining on my part, and I am not willing to take out any more student loans. (Above and beyond the $105K I already put my foot down on of course). So, if I want to go back, which I very much do right now, we will need to save for that too. I am conservatively estimating about $20K for that right now, plus after school daycare (maybe $5K? Though that will be more of an on-going expense), but given the rising cost of education these days, who knows?

The point of all this speculating is to point out that with these extra purchases, the time it takes up to save about $30K for an emergency fund is going to be more like 2-3/4 to 3 years rather than 14 mos. That's a long time. And who knows how many set backs there might be in the meantime. At some point, hubby's car will need to be replaced as well, though it is 5 years newer than the SUV at least. But I guess I'm okay with it as long as we get to Baby Step 4: Retirement Investing, by the time I re-graduate, which I am predicting will be in 5-6 years. If we get to that step before I graduate, then I guess we will start putting at least the company matching amount into hubby's 401K. Actually, if we don't get to that step before 40, we probably should do a lot more than that, and I kind of doubt we will. Once I do graduate and start working again though, we are going to kick step 4's butt.

And then we get to Baby Step 5: College Funding for the kids. Except we're going to re-package that one as college payoff for the adults. By then my daughter will be done with college (or darn well better be at least). Until we get fabulously wealthy, I have done the best I can for her by insisting that she go to a school where she would graduate with a maximum of $40K in debt. Still a lot I know, but less than half as much than me, and within the amount considered reasonable by the income to debt calculators. She hated me for it at the time, but now seems mostly happy.

I am hoping that with a new masters degree I will be able to make at least $50K, although about half of that will probably have to go towards retirement, and the rest will get taxed. But lets just say that after stocking up our emergency fund, we have about $25K/yr extra from hubby's income and $25K/yr from mine. So $50K/yr extra after I start working to do with what we will. (OMG, is that really possible?) What to do with all that cash?? Pay off my damn student loans!! If we stick to the plan, that should take us only two more years. At that point, we can look into some minimal investing for the boys' college (and maybe some back pay for my daughter). But they are going to be expected to chip in as well because we are heading off to...

...Baby Step 6: Pay Off the Mortgage! Honestly, not quite sure what's going to happen when we get to this step because you see, before we focus on paying off the mortgage, we'd like to focus instead of getting the house we'd really like to have. The exciting thing is, once the student loan is paid off, we could afford about $600 more per month for a mortgage without changing anything else. Assuming the market continues to improve, we should also have a fair amount of equity at this point, having lived here for about 11 years. I am not sure yet whether we would rather buy or remodel. It will probably depend a lot on the location of our jobs at that point. There are some things I really like about both this home and this area, but our home was built in the 1960's and it really needs some updating. I think it would take between $175K-$200K to get it to where we want it, and only about 60% of that could be recouped in re-sale value. Whether or not that's worth it will depend largely on what we could get for the same value given the housing market at the time.

I also really like Dave Ramsey's idea of taking out only a 15 year mortgage and keeping your mortgage payment to less than 25% of your take home pay. Whether we decide to buy or remodel, I do very much want to keep those rules in mind. After all our hard work, I certainly do not want to end up house poor. It will be hard to feel like we can't afford just about whatever we want once we've taken care of all that other debt. And I do love big, pretty homes. Nonetheless, regardless of what we choose to do, at that point it should be a maximum of 15 years until we are entirely debt free, and if we continue with the $50K/yr rule, I think we could take that down to 6 years.

Which means this is more like a 14 year than a 7 years plan for us, but by the time we enter our 50's, it is very possible we will have no debt remaining (maybe we'll bump up the boys college fund at that point) and hopefully by the time we hit our 60's we will have reached that fabled Pinnacle Point which will leave us set for a long, happy retirement. Its certainly not a get rich quick scheme. which makes it seem somewhat more believable. Though it will certainly require a lot of dedication and sacrifice. But it seems like by the time the boys graduate from high school, we will finally have both the time AND money to do all sorts of things.

So that's the big picture. And now back to Baby Step 2.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 6 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99515] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99515 [entry_title] => Another Family Debt Blog [entry_stub] => another-family-debt-blog [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/another-family-debt-blog_99515/ [entry_date] => 1355368863 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-12 21:21:03 [entry_text] => (Can't decide if I will move all of these entries over or not, some are out of date now, but I figured I'd try to get at least the ones with the background info.)

Iím not a big 12 step follower or anything. But I do believe that two very important steps for beginning a major life change, of most any sort, are acceptance and admission. You need to truly accept that there is a problem with something in your life. No more excuses, no more minimizing. And then, to fully define what the problem is, you need an open admission of your mistakes and current status. To that end..."Hi. My name is Anne, and I have a problem with Debt."

To be fair, my husband and I have known and admitted this for years. And we are not the type to drive around in a fancy new car we're leasing while uncertain how we're going to pay our credit cards this month. Actually, our newest car is 8 years old. And we always have enough on hand to pay our bills (which according to all the political talk you hear lately means we are somehow better off than 2/3 of Americans?!?). But that is not to say we don't have our frivolities. We have a gym membership, grocery delivery and a lawn service. My husband has weaseled his way into getting an iPhone 5 soon, though I will be settling for the 4 (I only have a 3 right now!). We have a 36" flat screen TV and a new laptop. We're not suffering. We're just not winning any achievement awards either. We are very effectively treading water, as we have been for many years.

The description I just gave creates the same moderately dismal view of debt that I think a lot of Americans have. Kind of a necessary evil in which you "do the best you can", trying to make some responsible headway while still allowing yourself some enjoyment of "the good things in life". And I think it is this minimizing, moderate view that has kept my husband and I in this situation for much longer than we have really needed to be here. We're smart people. We make a decent income. We should not be here. And so, like so many debt slashers before me, I have have just finished Dave Ramsey's "Total Money Makeover" book, and I am now in the mood to take a much more extreme (i.e. honest) stance about our current situation. (I know some people here are not big fans of his, totally okay. I have my qualms too. But he's working well to motivate us right now.)

Let's just start with a number. $327,758. As of Oct. 1, 2012, that is where our total debt stands. About 60% of this belongs to our mortgage. Another 32% to my student loans. (Boo!) The remaining 8% is a combination of credit cards and car loan. Keep in mind that 8% of $327,758 is over $26,000. Keep in mind also that although we may not be suffering, this total number is still more than three times our combined yearly income. Ugh. To top it all off, we're in our mid 30's and have not a dime saved for retirement or college for our boys, and we will probably end up co-signing on $40,000 in student loans by the time my daughter graduates from college (though hopefully that will be her problem, not mine). We are in deep s**t folks.

Despite our seeming record to the contrary, I am actually a big believer in Ramsey's assertion that debt of just about any sort is just no good. That we have all bought into a lie that serves the lenders rather than ourselves. And that mostly, the only excuse for using credit cards is poor planning and difficulty with impulse control. Ouch. We suck. I have lots of good excuses for our credit card debt that I have pulled out in the past to soothe these sharp criticisms. And I will say at least that my husband and I are generally not people who use credit cards for shiny new toys or entertainment much less basics like groceries and clothes. Mostly, these were one time or unplanned emergency expenses (that being said, I can think of at least one exception to pretty much each one of those things I just mentioned.) None the less, even the unplanned things were mostly due to not saving for an emergency fund the way we should have to begin with. There was some impulsiveness in there as well for sure. (And a very shiny toy indeed in the form of a ring that now sits upon my wedding finger.)

I want to be completely, un-sugar-coated honest about this because I am [i]tired[/] of being in credit card debt. I am tired of wondering what on earth we would do if one of our cars died. I am tired of feeling trapped in my home by having no home equity. I am tired of feeling too daunted by my student loans to even begin handling my retirement. And I am sick to death of feeling like this will be the year we're finally going to start getting ahead a little, only to somehow have all the extra trickle away again with no lasting effect on the bottom line. I am ready to get serious about this. I am ready to start making some sacrifices. I am not sure about "gazelle intensity" (maybe just cause I really hate that phrase?) but I am willing to begin exploring options I haven't been willing to consider before.

But I need something to keep me motivated. And I need a way to work out the serious anxiety I am feeling about all this. And a place to put down some of the things I learn and maybe even help someone else in the process. Thus, I started a blog! Smile
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 1 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) ) -->

Winter Blahs and Some Reflection

January 7th, 2014 at 03:41 am

I'm usually pretty positive about our TMM, even after 15 tedious months in the trenches. But today, this week, ugh. Maybe it's just too cold and dark for a brighter outlook right now. I am frustrated though that we are clearly not going to make our Jan. 31st goal date for scraping together a $5000 emergency fund. Right now we're about $913 short and the best we can hope for is maybe on Feb. 14th.

This wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that our original goal for this was late Aug. last year. I've discussed some of the setbacks in other posts. And this month the setback is mostly due to my home business going very slowly this past month. But it's always something, ya know? I feel like we're never going to actually get there. Somehow it's always another month or two out.

Even this would not be so horrible if it wasn't the case that despite my hubby and I entering our late thirties, we still have not a dime saved towards our retirement. I am literally starting to panic. We need to get going on this. But we also need to have at least a few thousand set aside for an emergency first, because heaven knows those certainly seem to keep creeping up on us.

So right now our TMM timeline has shifted thus:

Finish stocking $5K EF: Aug 2013----->Feb 2014
Start 6% 401K withdrawals: Sept 2013----->Feb/Mar 2014
Save for/Pay off "new" car: May 2014----->Feb 2015

As I said: Ugh.

A new reflection though: I saw on FB recently that an old friend of mine I've lost touch with the past few years, is selling her house. She has been dying for a bigger house for years, and her husband had a well paying job. But they also had a lot of debt and not the best of spending habits, and with the housing market crash they felt completely stuck.

About 4 months back, her husband's department was downsized and he was laid off. He had a few months severance though and lots of job interview lined up, so they weren't too concerned at the time. Thus, when I saw her recent FB posting, I at first assumed he had found something even better and that with the housing market upswing they were finally able to afford the new home they have been wanting.

But then I read further. Turns out, they are not buying a new one, just selling the old one. She didn't elaborate more but a quick check on LinkedIn confirmed what I feared; her husband has been out of work since Oct. Now I am purely speculating at this point, but given what I know of their past financial situation, it's not at all hard to draw a line that without a high paying job, the large debts have are going to sink them once the severance pay ends, and they are trying to find a source for more funds.

I say all this not to gossip or point fingers (presumably, you have no idea who I'm even talking about), and I actually feel very bad for her, though not really close enough anymore to question her about such a personal matter. But for me, she is such a stunning reminder of why hubby and I are doing all this.

Our financial situations were close enough at one time that it is easy for me to picture how something very similar could have happened to us, had we not begun to exercise financial restraint. But I admit that it was very hard for me to hear about their fancy trips, and see their pretty new cars and how beautifully decorated the inside of her home was. I wanted those things too. I wanted to look that good as well. But we were pouring all our extra cash into debt and had nothing visual to show for it.

We are still a long way from where we want to be. And without more savings, we are still not even insulated from going through something similar ourselves were hubby to lose his job. But we have no credit card or car debt dragging us down anymore. And we have a very clear picture of our budget and of the steps we need to take to get from A to B. So, even though this is a total drag, and even though I feel like it's taking way longer than it should, reflecting on where we could be instead leaves me still feeling thankful about where we are. Maybe not happy, but thankful. Feb 2014
Start 6% 401K withdrawals: Sept 2013----->Feb/Mar 2014
Save for/Pay off "new" car: May 2014----->Feb 2015

As I said: Ugh.

A new reflection though: I saw on FB recently that an old friend of mine I've lost touch with the past few years, is selling her house. She has been dying for a bigger house for years, and her husband had a well paying job. But they also had a lot of debt and not the best of spending habits, and with the housing market crash they felt completely stuck.

About 4 months back, her husband's department was downsized and he was laid off. He had a few months severance though and lots of job interview lined up, so they weren't too concerned at the time. Thus, when I saw her recent FB posting, I at first assumed he had found something even better and that with the housing market upswing they were finally able to afford the new home they have been wanting.

But then I read further. Turns out, they are not buying a new one, just selling the old one. She didn't elaborate more but a quick check on LinkedIn confirmed what I feared; her husband has been out of work since Oct. Now I am purely speculating at this point, but given what I know of their past financial situation, it's not at all hard to draw a line that without a high paying job, the large debts have are going to sink them once the severance pay ends, and they are trying to find a source for more funds.

I say all this not to gossip or point fingers (presumably, you have no idea who I'm even talking about), and I actually feel very bad for her, though not really close enough anymore to question her about such a personal matter. But for me, she is such a stunning reminder of why hubby and I are doing all this.

Our financial situations were close enough at one time that it is easy for me to picture how something very similar could have happened to us, had we not begun to exercise financial restraint. But I admit that it was very hard for me to hear about their fancy trips, and see their pretty new cars and how beautifully decorated the inside of her home was. I wanted those things too. I wanted to look that good as well. But we were pouring all our extra cash into debt and had nothing visual to show for it.

We are still a long way from where we want to be. And without more savings, we are still not even insulated from going through something similar ourselves were hubby to lose his job. But we have no credit card or car debt dragging us down anymore. And we have a very clear picture of our budget and of the steps we need to take to get from A to B. So, even though this is a total drag, and even though I feel like it's taking way longer than it should, reflecting on where we could be instead leaves me still feeling thankful about where we are. Maybe not happy, but thankful. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105872] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 105872 [entry_title] => Commencing Baby Step 3 [entry_stub] => commencing-baby-step-3- [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/11/24/commencing-baby-step-3-_105872/ [entry_date] => 1385315344 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-11-24 11:49:04 [entry_text] => We've finally finished wading through all the home maintenance projects (including an unexpected $1000 repair on the roof a couple weeks ago) and even set aside $1000 for Christmas. We've reached our family health deductible for the year and are scheduling appts like mad for these next few weeks to take full advantage of paying only 20% rather than 100% for the rest of the year. And we were also incredibly blessed to have my aunt unexpectedly send me a check to cover my first semester of tuition and books for the community college I will be starting at in Jan. And so, with that all finally behind us, it's time to commence on our TMM baby step 3 (beef up emergency fund to cover 3-6 months of expenses).

It has been almost 4 months since we finished baby step 2, so I am relieved to finally be getting back on track again. We made a lot of prudent purchases and repairs, but as the money kept flowing out rather than in, I worried that our financial plan had become derailed. Apparently though, even without CC debt, we do still have some motivation and dedication to this plan after all. And it's time to buckle down again.

My main goal for this coming financial year is to see our next worth begin to rise finally. Although given it is currently -$46K, it might be more accurate to say we want to see our gaping net worth hole begin to be filled in. It's actually much better now that it was a year ago. Partly because of paying off the CC's and car loan. But also in a large part due to home values bouncing back again finally, and we can't really take credit for that. Plus that part could go again as easy as it came.

But I was realizing the other day that we are at an exciting point none that less because from here on out, we will mainly be investing in ourselves. Even the $25K we hope to save for a "new" vehicle over the next year and a half will be savings converted into an asset, rather than simply blown out the window. And yes, yes, I know their will be depreciation, but you get my point. We're finally investing in our own net worth. And that is exciting!

Plus, during the open enrollment period this year we made sure to max out our HSA contribution for next year, as well as bump up the life insurance and disability policies a little bit. And it feels wonderful to know we are getting an adequate financial safety net into place. Almost like we're becoming real adults finally!

From this point on though, we're going to be breaking a bit from strict compliance to the TMM plan. For instance, we're going to start baby step 4 (retirement savings) as soon as we get $5000 towards baby step 3. Which should be by the end of Jan if we practice restraint over Xmas. We are way too old to be putting it off any longer and we're going to be doing baby step 3 for quite some time. We want our final emergency fund to be around $20K, but we need to buy a car along the way, so almost as soon as we get it we're going to empty it out and start again.

I consider this an EF worthy purchase though because, as discussed previously, our current family vehicle is a 1999 and has over 225K miles. It's just not going to be around much longer, and when it does finally die, it will certainly be an emergency. After doing a lot of research we decided that the most financially wise options were to either buy a cheap 7-8 year old car in decent condition and plan to cover fairly regular repairs until we can afford an upgrade. Or to buy a reliable low mileage 1-2 year old vehicle that shouldn't need much work for a few years, and which would be just as affordable as long as we keep driving it at least 10 years. And given how very tired we are of highly used vehicles at this point, we have decided to go for the 2nd option.

We're going to save as much as we can for it until May and then get a loan for the remainder. We want to give the old one to our daughter when she comes home from college for the summer so that she will have her own vehicle to get to and from her summer job. And then we're going to pay off the car loan as fast as possible, though right now it's looking like Feb 2015 before we get there.

So that's the plan right now. Hubby is in the process of applying for new jobs that pays more though, and if one of them pans out, maybe we can even do this without a car loan. Hoping for the best!

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105329] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 105329 [entry_title] => TMM Year 2 [entry_stub] => tmm-year-2 [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/10/20/tmm-year-2_105329/ [entry_date] => 1382288284 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-10-20 11:58:04 [entry_text] => It's been forever, I know. Not sure what the deal is with all this crazy /// nonsense in my info section since I left either. Anywho...

This Oct marks the beginning of the second year for hubby and I's Total Money Makeover. And how far have we gotten in a year? Well, considerably farther than we pictured ourselves one year ago for sure. We originally thought we'd be nearing the end of our credit card payments about now, and just starting to work on the car loan. The was before we discovered what the power of a budget and willpower can actually do. So instead we finished both by the end of July.

On the other hand...we are considerably less far than we had pictured ourselves being by now last June. Our revised goal was to have the initial $5000 for our emergency fund fully stocked by now, as well as kicking off the retirement 401k we need so badly and also making headway towards the "new" car we need. Instead we are in a much more dangerous no man's land somewhere between Baby Step 2 and Baby Step 3. I don't feel we are derailed from our TMM, but we do need to start getting this show on the road again soon.

So what have we been doing instead of all those June goals? Well, a lot of home stuff actually. Things we put off forever while dealing with our CC debt. We finally got a new toilet for downstairs (which lowered out water bill by $35/month!). We got a few trees cut down that had died and got our gutters cleaned out. We are also getting a large rip in our kitchen linolium repaired as well as some baseboards re-added that we never replaced after our mold damage issue a couple years ago.

We're getting our radon remitigation system installed this week ($1200). And we also had to take care of a couple big car repairs as well as buying hubby a new suit for job interviewing after all the weight he lost. Additionally, we finally replaced a few items that were wearing out. Like hubby's desk chair that was held together by duct tape and the kitchen rug that was coming apart at the seams. And we also spent more than typical on entertainment too, given it was summer and we had more family outings than usual.

Some of that stuff qualifies as emergency fund type things. Some doesn't. But it's all stuff we've been wanting to take care of forever and I'm glad we did it. By the end of this month we should be done with all that and ready to begin on Baby Step 3 for real. Trouble is, the boys are finally in preschool and I am finally going back to school myself to begin a second career. My first tuition/books payment will be due this Dec (just in time for Xmas) and is probably going to be around $2000. Long story short, I don't think we're going to be able to start the 401k until about Jan instead of Sept like we had planned and that sucks.

Regardless, compared to where we saw ourselves a year ago, we are doing much, much better indeed. Hopefully by this time next year we will be finished with Baby Step 4 and be looking ahead to a bright financial future!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [103651] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 103651 [entry_title] => Closing In [entry_stub] => closing-in [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/07/13/closing-in_103651/ [entry_date] => 1373733962 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-07-13 11:46:02 [entry_text] => Almost at the finish line for TMM baby step 2: debt snowball. Actually, we could have been there on July 19th, but, the laptop hubby has been wanting for so long went on sale for the 4th of July week. We saved $100 by buying it now and pushing the fridge payoff out one more paycheck (Aug 2). Which I think is fine given it's no interest for 3 more months and definitely will be paid off on the 2nd. We chose snail speed shipping though to save on that part, so it will still be another week or so before he gets it, but I'm sure he will be very happy when it finally arrives!

We are starting to look into what the next financial steps are. Dave Ramsey says baby step 3 should be saving a 3-6 month emergency fund (building on the $1000 one from baby step 1). That would be about $18,000 for us and would take quite some time. And in the meantime, we would still not be taking advantage of the 3% 401K matching hubby's company offers (not to mention just plain starting to save for retirement period, even though we're both entering our late 30's.) Additionally, our '99 SUV is probably not going to last much longer and certainly will be an emergency when it dies. And we want our next car purchase to be a slightly used, reliable family vehicle with low miles that we can count on driving for at least 8-10 years.

So, we're thinking of taking a middle of the road approach. I've opened a money market account with Ally bank and transferred our $1000 emergency fund there. As soon as the fridge is done we are going to work on building that up to $5000 as fast as possible. After that, we have some home maintenance issues we have been putting off forever that we need to take care of. Getting all of that accomplished is going to push us well into the end of Oct.

But once we're there, we are going to start putting 6% of hubby's paychecks into the company 401K (the maximum matching amount). And come open enrollment in Nov we are also going to up our HSA/FSA medical contributions to the max for the coming year. That's going to take quite a dent out of our monthly income, but with all the debt we've now paid off (as well as the decrease in taxable income from the 401K/HSA/FSA), we should still be able to raise our entertainment budget from what it has been these past 9 months, and still work towards saving for a new vehicle.

We originally wanted to save for it completely before purchasing, which would have taken about a year, but our daughter really needs a car for the college internship she wants to do next summer. Assuming the SUV is still running then, we'd like to pass it off to her by next May so she can do that. That said, we should be 80% of the way there by May with hubby's bonus, so it shouldn't be too bad to take out a small loan at that point and pay it off in 4-6 months.

At that point, I will be starting school again (just a few classes at a community college to begin with) so there will be some tuition to take care of. But we will also need to start kicking up our savings as well. I'm looking into a Roth IRA for that, and Ally bank seems like a good place to help us with it. Given that you can withdraw contributions without penalty if needed, I feel like this could double with retirement and most of our remaining 3-6 month emergency fund. Short of job loss, I doubt we will ever need more than the $5K we will already have set aside in the money market (which I will keep separate). And $18K seems like too much money to just have sitting in a low interest account, when it will likely never be used, while we make no progress on retirement. Dave Ramsey would not approve, and I'm still looking into the details, but right now that's the plan. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 7 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [101832] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 101832 [entry_title] => March Madness Ends [entry_stub] => march-madness-ends [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/26/march-madness-ends_101832/ [entry_date] => 1364260552 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-25 20:15:52 [entry_text] => Well, probably not the March Madness you're thinking of. But our March madness - the one where all the money came in, that one is finally wrapping up. And we have *mostly* been very, very good.

As you'll recall, hubby got a $5K bonus in Feb, a raise that translates in to $250 extra per paycheck starting mid-March, and a tax return total around $6200. Yeah, it was pretty sweet. But, unlike every other year in prior history, we applied ALL this money towards our debts. The checks came in, and I mailed another out.

And now, that's it. No more extra money. But only ONE credit card left! Wow. And I think we have about an extra $1000 left over from this month's budget that I'll be able to put towards it at month's end. If we keep sticking to the plan, I believe we'll be done with baby step 2 finally come July. Thank. Goodness. Cause we are sooooo sick of this.

Granted, we're not out of the water yet. Before I feel good about where we're at, we're going to need to save up for a "new" family car (preferably BEFORE the old one dies), start contributing enough to hubby's 401K to take full advantage of the employer matching, and save up at least $15K into an emergency fund. I feel like those are the bare minimum financial things I need to feel like a financially respectable adult. Hubby agrees, and until we reach those goals, we are both willing to do some more sacrificing (some of us less reluctantly than others, but we're not naming names here!).

Really though, that's just the bottom line because eventually, when the boys are finally in school I want to go back to school myself and start a second career. And given that we've barely made a dent in my previous student loans, I'd rather not take out more if possible. And we want to pay off our mortgage. And before too terribly much longer hubby will need a newer car too. And it's going to take a lot more than just hubby's 401K to make up for the Absolutely Nothing we have saved for retirement yet.

But, all in good time. The good news is that I think we will actually have reached my bottom line by this time next year, and that will be amazing. Hubby and I do have a few rewards we will be giving ourselves along the way as we reach our intermediate goals. To start with, once the credit cards are finished, our monthly entertainment budget goes up. We get to start having real date nights again! Also, there will be a new refrigerator and a new lap top ASAP, both of which will replace objects that we are just praying will hold out until July right now. But for now, baby step 2 continues...

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 2 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [101411] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 101411 [entry_title] => Making Progress [entry_stub] => making-progress [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/02/making-progress_101411/ [entry_date] => 1362265644 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-02 17:07:24 [entry_text] => I am frustrated that I have not been able to keep up with this blog very well lately due to some other projects I have been working on. I think it is a really good outlet for the stress this financial overhaul creates in our lives sometimes. And I think its a really good tool for keeping us accountable. Should be able to put more time into it again by the end of this month though I think, so I'll have to be content with that for now.

As for where we're at right now, do you see that side bar?! Talk about progress! Yes, the windfall has finally begun. Hubby got his bonus from work, which was about $5K after taxes got done with it. Originally, I had planned on paying off credit cards first with that, but after reading A LOT of material of financial planning recently, I decided a better use would be to pay off the car first, due to its higher interest rate. So, that one is done! And that payoff alone increases our monthly income by $198/month. Yay!

We also got our state return, a little under $500, and with that and some other surplus, I did pay off 1 of our 4 credit cards as well, though that one only increases out bottom line by about $30/month so not as exciting. But still progress! Supposedly, the IRS is going to finally start processing returns for people with mortgage interest credits within the next week. So hopefully, we will get that soon too (assuming no audit as discussed previously:

Text is http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-and-taxes_100945/ and Link is
http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-a...). And when we do, I plan to knock off a couple more cards, this raising our bottom line another $180/month. Wow, were we ever wasting a lot of money of this crap.

After that, it will just be the one big one left, which I'm hoping to have taken care of by the end of the summer, maybe sooner depending on how my business goes (summers tend to be slower). And then, we finally get to start the more fun part of personal finance: investing in ourselves.

Certainly we still have a lot of debt to pay off, between my student loans and our mortgage. Actually, even after paying off the the rest of the credit cards, I was disappointed to find that our net worth will still be around -$84K. Ouch. Though it is above the -$100K mark now for the first time in years. But as one financial planner I read stated, we're working really hard just to be worthless right now (ie $0 net worth).

None the less, after receiving some comments about how silly we are to not be taking advantage of the 401K matching hubby's company offers, I did a bit of research and decided in the end that, yes, we are being incredibly stupid not taking this free money and we need to get on that train ASAP, Dave Ramsey be damned. If we were being completely logical rather than emotional about it in fact, we would probably be prioritizing that even above our credit cards given that they have very low promotional interest rates. After much discussion though, we have decided we simply cannot bring ourselves to make this credit card thing go any slower. We feel spread much too thin as it is, and we need to be done with those debts and never use credit that way again. Our emotional sanity depends on it. Especially given how close we are.

If it were going to be something that was a few years away from being accomplished, like our mortgage and student loans, it might make sense to do it with more of a long view in mind. But we are literally within 3-5 months of our goal and our monthly income will increase by another $300 compared to now, once we sunset this. And that will certainly help our long term bottom line as well. That's our thinking at least. But at least we're almost there!

Anyways, very happy to be making some definite progress finally and looking forward to a 3 paycheck March this month as well! [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 4 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99541] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99541 [entry_title] => My Student Loan Baggage [entry_stub] => my-student-loan-baggage [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/my-student-loan-baggage_99541/ [entry_date] => 1355427008 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:30:08 [entry_text] => One of the few topics in Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover that really irks me is his discussion of student loan debt. I'm not saying his points are all without merit. But when he talks about credit cards, he seems to understand that the mental/emotional game is just as important, perhaps even more important, than the financial one. And so he recommends paying off your lowest balance card before your highest interest card, purely so you can see results sooner. And I totally get that. But he does not allow for the same types of emotional weakness when it comes to student loans. Consider the rant of his in this link for instance:
Text is http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-education/ and Link is
http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-edu... Ouch. That's all I can say. And since I am one of those previously professional, now stay-at-home mom's with over $100K in debt he's ranting about, it can't get much more personal than that.

When I look back over my life, there is only place I can think of that I maybe should/would have made a different decision about my education. And that was when I chose to keep pursuing a PhD in a field I wasn't sure was a good fit for me, instead of being willing to start graduate school over, or at least stop with a masters. Given that my graduate tuition was paid for, however, and that I was receiving a stipend for most of my living expenses, cutting out that leg of the journey wouldn't have changed that much. Maybe $20K less at best.

Growing up, we were poor. Like free school lunch, hand me down clothes from cousins, can't afford a school yearbook poor. I vividly remember my mom dividing one family size can of spaghettios between the 4 of my sisters and I, plus a glass of milk, for lunch. I was a small, hungry, skinny and very active kid, who hung out a lot at my friend's houses bumming snacks. My mom and dad fought constantly, and would have no matter what, but certainly a major theme of their blowouts was money. There was never enough of it, and it seemed that would never change. My mom often grew wistful in private about how, despite how smart she had been, she had dropped out of college after only a year or so at her first husband's insistence (my father) and never found her way back once the babies started coming with her second. And worse, how she could never leave her abusive second husband because she could never support the 5 of us on her own.

I'm not sure how directly it was ever stated, but I grew up with the clear impression that it was absolutely imperative that I go to college some day so that I would be able to support myself without a man. But that there would be absolutely no financial help for me to do so. This was further complicated by my step-father's abusive put downs of me compared to my sisters, and his continuous proclamations that I was never going to be good enough for anything.

Given the trouble I was often into growing up in a home like that, there were many years it seemed like he was right. There were many years I didn't bother with homework. For a period of time, I was suicidal. And I was pregnant before I was out of high school. But I harbored a deep, driving need to prove him wrong as well. And despite his insults otherwise, I was actually quite intelligent. And seriously driven to believe that there was a way out of my childhood and into the type of future I had always dreamed of. Halfway through high school, I turned over a new leaf and started to show what I was capable of academically, though my new daughter senior year complicated things a bit.

When I was applying to colleges, the last thing on my mind was the amount of money I was taking out in student loans. Certainly I qualified for every need based option possible, not to mention a few merit based ones as well. Imagining what that payback would look like 5 to 10 years down the road when I finally had a real job and was out of this mess seemed besides the point. My burning questions were: Am I really capable of this? A 4 year degree at a respectable university with a child? What if they see only what my step-dad saw? What if I am doomed to repeat the same life for my daughter as the one that was given to me?

But I got in and I did my best. My first year I did outstanding actually, but the second year my young marriage began to fall apart and afterwards, it took a couple years of struggle before my daughter and I found a new equilibrium. My last two years of undergrad I did much better for the most part, and somewhere during that time, I realized that to become anything more than a lab rat with my degree, I would need to apply for graduate school. In this sense, Dave's rant doesn't completely apply to me. I did understand that I needed to be highly marketable to pay for all this.

At that point in life, I was pretty clear that I wanted to be a working mother. I loved my daughter dearly, and was very much looking forward to being done with school and having more time eventually. But I was the kind of person who got depressed without something intellectual to pursue. Something for myself separate from my role as a mother. Perhaps partly because I had become a mother before I had gotten time to be just myself. As exhausting as it was during the semesters, school holidays were often worse because I just got so depressed with nothing to work towards.

If you had told me that I would one day choose to be a stay at home mom, I would have laughed in your face. Dave can say that young women without kids yet have no idea how they're going to feel when they do, but I think that's overly simplistic and implies we all want to stay at home deep down. I'm a stay at home mom now, and I'm still not always sure its what I want to be doing. Furthermore, I already had a child at that point. I did know what it was like. If I could have had the option to work only part time with a young family, that probably would have been my first choice. But that is not a realistic possibility in most fields, least of all mine, and I was not unrealistic. I figured with a PhD, I could make enough that my future husband could stay home if we wanted.

Graduate school was hard though. Really hard. My fears about not being good enough were constantly at an edge when surrounded by so many other brilliant people. I had developed a fuzzy, idealistic picture of my doctoral field while leisurely pursuing undergraduate research with lower expectations I had no trouble meeting. This vision was shattered to make room for the more brutal and difficult reality of what higher academia really was. The relationship with my advisor slowly went from love to hate. Somewhere along the way, I began to question whether I was really doing this for myself, or just to prove that I could. Some days, I began to acknowledge that despite how far I had come, it was possible I was moving in the wrong direction.

That is the one point in my academic journey I regret. If I had been brave, or maybe even just less tired, I would have thrown in my first 2 1/2 years of research and allowed myself to start again in a new field. If I had done this, perhaps I would be happily pursuing my new career even now? I had an inkling of what at least some of those other possibilities could have been. It wouldn't have set me back more than a couple years (though that would have added even more to my debt!). But that light at the end of the tunnel I had been impossibly chasing for so long was finally so close. I had already passed my preliminary doctoral exam. I had my project all mapped out. I just needed to buckle down for 3 more years and do it.

And so that's what I did. I figured when I was done I could work on re-branding myself in an area of research I was more interested in for the job hunt. Instead, I found myself perfectly trained to do exactly the type of research I did not want to pursue. But it sure payed well. Even if it did necessitate moving halfway across the country.

It seemed like that would be enough, eventually. But it wasn't even close. And despite my husband (then boyfriend) being brave enough to come along with my daughter and I and start this new life together out west, it just never felt right there. We just couldn't get settled. We couldn't get to a place where the future we had pictured together seemed possible. We couldn't define what needed to shift. And despite crossing the 30's threshold, we couldn't possibly imagine starting a family in that life and place.

Through all of this, my daughter moved into her teenage years, and despite being very close when she was younger, she suddenly wanted nothing to do with me. It became painfully obvious that though my school was finally done and I was ready to focus more fully on her, she no longer had any interest in focusing on me. That ship had sailed, so to speak, and I had missed my boat. That was hard. That was very hard. And it made me reflect a lot on my plans to start a family again soon. The role I wanted to play in my new children's life and the type of mother I wanted to be. As my regret grew, I also stopped giving a crap what other people thought about how capable I was. I had gotten a PhD for cripe sakes. What more could they expect of me? And it was my right to decide what I wanted to do with that degree from that point on. Obviously, it was always my right. But that was when I finally realized it.

So anyways, long story short, with my boyfriend's blessing, I quit my high paying job and decided to become a stay at home mother with over $100K in student loans instead. It was a rough few years of transition. At this point, my husband finally makes a pretty decent income. Almost as much as I used to (and adjusted for the midwest, probably a lot more). But with three kids, primarily one income, and a student loan payment of over $600/month, it never goes as far as it seems like it should. It's going to take us a while to get out of this mess. And though we are now over 4 years into this new life path, it's hard sometimes to accept where we are now compared to where we used to be. Hard to know that we will probably never live in a beautiful home/location like that one ever again. That it will be years, eons, before we can afford another fancy trip. That given the realities of our budget, money is going to continue to feel like a struggle for probably at least another 5 or so years until I'm working again. My husband and I find that hard. And depressing. And Dave would probably just say "What did you expect!?!"

...A chance to live a life much different than the one my parent's gave me I guess. A chance to feel like I had enough money to never be trapped in a relationship that was bad for me. A certainty that my children would always have enough to eat, as well as year books and new clothes and maybe even stories about trips to Disney World with our family last summer. I probably didn't need a $100K education to secure all those things, but it was an emotional journey for me that took a while to figure out.

For now, I comfort myself with the fact that though this is not always the life of my dreams, it is finally the life of my choice. I am choosing to be much poorer than I could be. I am choosing to temporarily give up most personal and intellectual pursuits (though I did start a secret blog!) so that I will have fewer regrets next time about the mother I am to my children. I could do it differently, and from time to time I check in and make sure this is what I still want. So far it is. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99540] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99540 [entry_title] => How We Got Into This Mess [entry_stub] => how-we-got-into-this-mess [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/how-we-got-into-this-mess_99540/ [entry_date] => 1355426916 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:28:36 [entry_text] => Sometimes Iím a little surprised to find myself with debt troubles, because back when my husband (then boyfriend) and I were both working 6 years ago, there was a point where we were making quite a bit of money. During that two year period, we managed to pay off all the credit cards we had at that time (due to divorces and our big move west for my job) as well as the remainder of hubbyís student loan. We did not, however, manage to save a dime towards retirement or anything else. And we went on at least two fancy trips. And ate out a lot. And didn't even look at price tags in certain stores. We also did not own a home at that point, and were paying a small fortune to rent a very nice one (we needed one with with space for our huge dog to run!), while paying only the minimum on my student loans.

Each month we wondered how we could possibly make so much money (some months we brought in more than $10K total - after taxes) and still have nothing left to save towards a house or retirement by the end of the month. I have a few defenses for this. One is that I was less than two years out of graduate school (finally!) and after having been a young, poor, and mostly single mom for that difficult 11 year period, I had a big wish list for life. I needed some fun time. Additionally, my field was very specialized, and required us to live in a very expensive area on the west coast. We were both completely shell shocked by the cost of living adjustment our first year. The price of things like cheese always floored me. Plus, Hubby and I weren't actually married yet at that point, and despite entering our 30's, we were simply not ready yet to buckle down and get serious about financial planning.

So thatís my list of reasons, minus a lot of things I could say about hind sight that you can fill in for me if you like. That period of my life ended almost 5 years ago when hubby and I made the difficult, but long coming decision for me to quit my job (or really career in this case) and move back to our hometown in the Midwest. At that point, we did begin to reign it in a bit in preparation for the 60% reduction in income we would be undergoing in a few short months. We stop planning for the next big vacation and started planning for the journey home instead. We cut back on spending, and put a little away each month for the huge moving expenses we knew from experience that we would be racking up soon. Not nearly enough, but it helped. And I began to look into information on starting a new home business.

We made a mix of good and bad financial decisions over the next few years, but also worked very hard. That first year back, I often spent upwards of 50 hours a week laying the groundwork to get my business up and running, and even took on housecleaning jobs in the meantime until my cash flow became more regular. Thankfully, hubby's job was able to come with him on our move, but the recession had just kicked in and there would be no cost of living raises that year. We had a few thousand in credit card debt again from the move we had to pay on, but we put my student loans on temporary forbearance (which sadly wiped out all progress we had made thus far). My daughter had hit the difficult teenage years, and no matter how much we made, it could never be enough to acquire all the things she was certain she needed (and that every other person she knew already had). Additionally, I felt bad downgrading her too much from what she had become used to at that point, given that the second move was hard enough on her, and certainly not what she had wanted or expected. In all honesty, we had a bit of a hard time adjusting to all of that ourselves actually, and though our rent was much cheaper than it had been out west, it was still much more expensive that what we probably should have taken on. But we felt we needed to step into our new cost of living situation gradually, so as not to give up everything we'd had all at once.

Now that we were back in the much more affordable and homey midwest, we finally felt able to settle down and begin working towards our future together. We got officially engaged and started looking into homes and saving for a down payment. I settled in to my new work routine and despite how much tighter things were, we managed to put away at least $700/month during most of that first year. And though I feel our wedding was perfect, it was a small, elegant but inexpensive, at home affair that did not set us back too much more. Can't say the same for my amazing ring though. (I made it clear there was no way we were spending less than he spent on his ex and I still do not regret that!) We also had a short, but sweet honeymoon that added a little more. And within two months of all that shenanigans, we dropped all our saving and then some into our new house.

Despite putting a little more on the cards to get all settled in, I think our house was a good purchase. A huge step down from what we'd had out west, and more than $1000 per month less than our rent had been even after moving back to the midwest. But a respectable, comfortable, suburban home in a good neighborhood none the less, with a payment we could afford. We bought it at what was the market low (at that point) and with a great fixed interest rate, and it has plenty of room for a family. Therefore, we immediately jumped into the next stage of our long term life plan - babies! And what with that first "Holy Shit" ultrasound, and the later preterm birth that twins tend to bring, less than 12 mos after we said "I do" we had two of them! Not to mention a lot of unexpected time off from work (and savings) on my part due to bed rest.

Somewhere in all of that, there was also a long distance wedding trip, a number of car issues and more than one or two home owner issues as well. We did not have an emergency fund yet at that point, so anything extra was a problem. Plus, my daughter had turned 16 and began driving, and no matter how crappy a car you give them, the insurance still sucks. Its no secret that kids tend to be the most expensive at the bookends of your 18 years with them, and unfortunately we had some on each end. I had to keep my work hours while I was breastfeeding (and not sleeping) to less than half of what they had been pre-baby. We started getting a grocery delivery service rather than shopping ourselves, despite the extra expense, cause we couldn't figure out how to manage life without hating each other otherwise. And as thankful as we were for hubby's work from home job that came with us on our big move, it was far from competitive in pay (though excellent in health coverage thank goodness), and yet we just didn't feel like we could manage him finding something out of the home until we got closer to the boys first birthday.

Lest I mislead you, there were some toys in there too. We got a new flat screen tv, and we had cable, netflix and audible subscriptions. We both got iPhone 3's when the 4's came out and have since upgraded. We got a new laptop when the old one died. We ate out a couple times a week at least. We took a couple modest vacations. We purchased memberships to the zoo and museum. We weren't partying, but we weren't suffering.

None the less, fast forward to about 18 mos. later and we have finally begun to catch our breath again. Hubby did find a new job outside the home that pays much better (though that required me to cut my hours even more initially, and necessitated another car purchase). We stopped hemorrhaging expenses and started simply treading water instead. I think its been over a year since we even used a credit card,which means we have mostly gotten the hang of living within our means (pre-child support loss at least!). And we did finally get an emergency fund going. But its been pretty clear that we haven't made much of any real progress towards wiping out the debt we accumulated either. And as we slowly inch towards the end of our 30's, it is clear that the time to start planning for our financial future is now. Like, so right now, its yesterday.

So that's how we got here. Nothing completely stupid I don't think (well, maybe the ring. But since I'd do that one again, I don't think it counts), though lots of things we could have done a bit better. And today, on this Thanksgiving Day 2012, I am thankful that hubby and I have both the means and dedication to tackle this massive financial overhaul, so that our future can be a bright one.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99522] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 99522 [entry_title] => The Big Picture [entry_stub] => the-big-picture [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/the-big-picture_99522/ [entry_date] => 1355371250 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-12 22:00:50 [entry_text] => This may be simply an exercise in idealistic dreaming, but I want to paint for you (or maybe mostly just me) a picture of how I see this new financial plan unfolding for us in the coming years. Cause I have big, unrealized but hopefully not unrealistic, dreams. In Dave Ramsey's book, he tells you that it takes most people about seven years to reach Baby Step 7: Build Wealth. Longer still to get to the Pinnacle Point where your money finally starts working harder than you have to. Certainly, that is the long term goal. And the short term goal is the credit card/car payment debt payoff I've already outlined. But it'd be nice to have a picture of our mid-term plan as well. Especially given that I don't think we will be following the Baby Steps precisely.

So, one year out, give or take a few months, and hopefully our small debts (non-mortgage/student loan) will be paid off. At that point we will hopefully be more used to getting by with a lot less monthly discretionary income. Maybe we can at least add enough back in to be able to go on monthly date nights again though. But I don't want to get too slack because we still have a lot or work to do. Baby Step 3 is to Finish the Emergency Fund, which he defines as 3-6 mos. worth of expenses. For us, that would roughly be $15K-$30K.

Projecting out both raises and expenses, once we get our small debts paid off, I think we could save roughly $25K/yr. So, that should take us 7-14 mos. depending on how much cushion we want. My thought is that we should save as much as possible, setting aside the minimum $15K to touch only for emergencies, but then factor in the fact that our family SUV will be 15 years old (already has 223K miles) by then. I am fine with driving it until it dies, but its pretty much a given that that is going to be before too much longer (please, please, please not this year!). I am also fine with not getting a new car when it does die. But I would prefer to get something gently used with at least a few more bells and whistles than our current one has. I think we could probably get something 5-6 years old for between $15-$20K.

That's not the only big ticket item we need to save for though. In a few more years, the boys will be ready to start school and I will be more than ready to jump back on the career train. But that is probably going to require a bit of retraining on my part, and I am not willing to take out any more student loans. (Above and beyond the $105K I already put my foot down on of course). So, if I want to go back, which I very much do right now, we will need to save for that too. I am conservatively estimating about $20K for that right now, plus after school daycare (maybe $5K? Though that will be more of an on-going expense), but given the rising cost of education these days, who knows?

The point of all this speculating is to point out that with these extra purchases, the time it takes up to save about $30K for an emergency fund is going to be more like 2-3/4 to 3 years rather than 14 mos. That's a long time. And who knows how many set backs there might be in the meantime. At some point, hubby's car will need to be replaced as well, though it is 5 years newer than the SUV at least. But I guess I'm okay with it as long as we get to Baby Step 4: Retirement Investing, by the time I re-graduate, which I am predicting will be in 5-6 years. If we get to that step before I graduate, then I guess we will start putting at least the company matching amount into hubby's 401K. Actually, if we don't get to that step before 40, we probably should do a lot more than that, and I kind of doubt we will. Once I do graduate and start working again though, we are going to kick step 4's butt.

And then we get to Baby Step 5: College Funding for the kids. Except we're going to re-package that one as college payoff for the adults. By then my daughter will be done with college (or darn well better be at least). Until we get fabulously wealthy, I have done the best I can for her by insisting that she go to a school where she would graduate with a maximum of $40K in debt. Still a lot I know, but less than half as much than me, and within the amount considered reasonable by the income to debt calculators. She hated me for it at the time, but now seems mostly happy.

I am hoping that with a new masters degree I will be able to make at least $50K, although about half of that will probably have to go towards retirement, and the rest will get taxed. But lets just say that after stocking up our emergency fund, we have about $25K/yr extra from hubby's income and $25K/yr from mine. So $50K/yr extra after I start working to do with what we will. (OMG, is that really possible?) What to do with all that cash?? Pay off my damn student loans!! If we stick to the plan, that should take us only two more years. At that point, we can look into some minimal investing for the boys' college (and maybe some back pay for my daughter). But they are going to be expected to chip in as well because we are heading off to...

...Baby Step 6: Pay Off the Mortgage! Honestly, not quite sure what's going to happen when we get to this step because you see, before we focus on paying off the mortgage, we'd like to focus instead of getting the house we'd really like to have. The exciting thing is, once the student loan is paid off, we could afford about $600 more per month for a mortgage without changing anything else. Assuming the market continues to improve, we should also have a fair amount of equity at this point, having lived here for about 11 years. I am not sure yet whether we would rather buy or remodel. It will probably depend a lot on the location of our jobs at that point. There are some things I really like about both this home and this area, but our home was built in the 1960's and it really needs some updating. I think it would take between $175K-$200K to get it to where we want it, and only about 60% of that could be recouped in re-sale value. Whether or not that's worth it will depend largely on what we could get for the same value given the housing market at the time.

I also really like Dave Ramsey's idea of taking out only a 15 year mortgage and keeping your mortgage payment to less than 25% of your take home pay. Whether we decide to buy or remodel, I do very much want to keep those rules in mind. After all our hard work, I certainly do not want to end up house poor. It will be hard to feel like we can't afford just about whatever we want once we've taken care of all that other debt. And I do love big, pretty homes. Nonetheless, regardless of what we choose to do, at that point it should be a maximum of 15 years until we are entirely debt free, and if we continue with the $50K/yr rule, I think we could take that down to 6 years.

Which means this is more like a 14 year than a 7 years plan for us, but by the time we enter our 50's, it is very possible we will have no debt remaining (maybe we'll bump up the boys college fund at that point) and hopefully by the time we hit our 60's we will have reached that fabled Pinnacle Point which will leave us set for a long, happy retirement. Its certainly not a get rich quick scheme. which makes it seem somewhat more believable. Though it will certainly require a lot of dedication and sacrifice. But it seems like by the time the boys graduate from high school, we will finally have both the time AND money to do all sorts of things.

So that's the big picture. And now back to Baby Step 2.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 6 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99515] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99515 [entry_title] => Another Family Debt Blog [entry_stub] => another-family-debt-blog [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/another-family-debt-blog_99515/ [entry_date] => 1355368863 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-12 21:21:03 [entry_text] => (Can't decide if I will move all of these entries over or not, some are out of date now, but I figured I'd try to get at least the ones with the background info.)

Iím not a big 12 step follower or anything. But I do believe that two very important steps for beginning a major life change, of most any sort, are acceptance and admission. You need to truly accept that there is a problem with something in your life. No more excuses, no more minimizing. And then, to fully define what the problem is, you need an open admission of your mistakes and current status. To that end..."Hi. My name is Anne, and I have a problem with Debt."

To be fair, my husband and I have known and admitted this for years. And we are not the type to drive around in a fancy new car we're leasing while uncertain how we're going to pay our credit cards this month. Actually, our newest car is 8 years old. And we always have enough on hand to pay our bills (which according to all the political talk you hear lately means we are somehow better off than 2/3 of Americans?!?). But that is not to say we don't have our frivolities. We have a gym membership, grocery delivery and a lawn service. My husband has weaseled his way into getting an iPhone 5 soon, though I will be settling for the 4 (I only have a 3 right now!). We have a 36" flat screen TV and a new laptop. We're not suffering. We're just not winning any achievement awards either. We are very effectively treading water, as we have been for many years.

The description I just gave creates the same moderately dismal view of debt that I think a lot of Americans have. Kind of a necessary evil in which you "do the best you can", trying to make some responsible headway while still allowing yourself some enjoyment of "the good things in life". And I think it is this minimizing, moderate view that has kept my husband and I in this situation for much longer than we have really needed to be here. We're smart people. We make a decent income. We should not be here. And so, like so many debt slashers before me, I have have just finished Dave Ramsey's "Total Money Makeover" book, and I am now in the mood to take a much more extreme (i.e. honest) stance about our current situation. (I know some people here are not big fans of his, totally okay. I have my qualms too. But he's working well to motivate us right now.)

Let's just start with a number. $327,758. As of Oct. 1, 2012, that is where our total debt stands. About 60% of this belongs to our mortgage. Another 32% to my student loans. (Boo!) The remaining 8% is a combination of credit cards and car loan. Keep in mind that 8% of $327,758 is over $26,000. Keep in mind also that although we may not be suffering, this total number is still more than three times our combined yearly income. Ugh. To top it all off, we're in our mid 30's and have not a dime saved for retirement or college for our boys, and we will probably end up co-signing on $40,000 in student loans by the time my daughter graduates from college (though hopefully that will be her problem, not mine). We are in deep s**t folks.

Despite our seeming record to the contrary, I am actually a big believer in Ramsey's assertion that debt of just about any sort is just no good. That we have all bought into a lie that serves the lenders rather than ourselves. And that mostly, the only excuse for using credit cards is poor planning and difficulty with impulse control. Ouch. We suck. I have lots of good excuses for our credit card debt that I have pulled out in the past to soothe these sharp criticisms. And I will say at least that my husband and I are generally not people who use credit cards for shiny new toys or entertainment much less basics like groceries and clothes. Mostly, these were one time or unplanned emergency expenses (that being said, I can think of at least one exception to pretty much each one of those things I just mentioned.) None the less, even the unplanned things were mostly due to not saving for an emergency fund the way we should have to begin with. There was some impulsiveness in there as well for sure. (And a very shiny toy indeed in the form of a ring that now sits upon my wedding finger.)

I want to be completely, un-sugar-coated honest about this because I am [i]tired[/] of being in credit card debt. I am tired of wondering what on earth we would do if one of our cars died. I am tired of feeling trapped in my home by having no home equity. I am tired of feeling too daunted by my student loans to even begin handling my retirement. And I am sick to death of feeling like this will be the year we're finally going to start getting ahead a little, only to somehow have all the extra trickle away again with no lasting effect on the bottom line. I am ready to get serious about this. I am ready to start making some sacrifices. I am not sure about "gazelle intensity" (maybe just cause I really hate that phrase?) but I am willing to begin exploring options I haven't been willing to consider before.

But I need something to keep me motivated. And I need a way to work out the serious anxiety I am feeling about all this. And a place to put down some of the things I learn and maybe even help someone else in the process. Thus, I started a blog! Smile
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 1 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) ) -->

Commencing Baby Step 3

November 24th, 2013 at 05:49 pm

We've finally finished wading through all the home maintenance projects (including an unexpected $1000 repair on the roof a couple weeks ago) and even set aside $1000 for Christmas. We've reached our family health deductible for the year and are scheduling appts like mad for these next few weeks to take full advantage of paying only 20% rather than 100% for the rest of the year. And we were also incredibly blessed to have my aunt unexpectedly send me a check to cover my first semester of tuition and books for the community college I will be starting at in Jan. And so, with that all finally behind us, it's time to commence on our TMM baby step 3 (beef up emergency fund to cover 3-6 months of expenses).

It has been almost 4 months since we finished baby step 2, so I am relieved to finally be getting back on track again. We made a lot of prudent purchases and repairs, but as the money kept flowing out rather than in, I worried that our financial plan had become derailed. Apparently though, even without CC debt, we do still have some motivation and dedication to this plan after all. And it's time to buckle down again.

My main goal for this coming financial year is to see our next worth begin to rise finally. Although given it is currently -$46K, it might be more accurate to say we want to see our gaping net worth hole begin to be filled in. It's actually much better now that it was a year ago. Partly because of paying off the CC's and car loan. But also in a large part due to home values bouncing back again finally, and we can't really take credit for that. Plus that part could go again as easy as it came.

But I was realizing the other day that we are at an exciting point none that less because from here on out, we will mainly be investing in ourselves. Even the $25K we hope to save for a "new" vehicle over the next year and a half will be savings converted into an asset, rather than simply blown out the window. And yes, yes, I know their will be depreciation, but you get my point. We're finally investing in our own net worth. And that is exciting!

Plus, during the open enrollment period this year we made sure to max out our HSA contribution for next year, as well as bump up the life insurance and disability policies a little bit. And it feels wonderful to know we are getting an adequate financial safety net into place. Almost like we're becoming real adults finally!

From this point on though, we're going to be breaking a bit from strict compliance to the TMM plan. For instance, we're going to start baby step 4 (retirement savings) as soon as we get $5000 towards baby step 3. Which should be by the end of Jan if we practice restraint over Xmas. We are way too old to be putting it off any longer and we're going to be doing baby step 3 for quite some time. We want our final emergency fund to be around $20K, but we need to buy a car along the way, so almost as soon as we get it we're going to empty it out and start again.

I consider this an EF worthy purchase though because, as discussed previously, our current family vehicle is a 1999 and has over 225K miles. It's just not going to be around much longer, and when it does finally die, it will certainly be an emergency. After doing a lot of research we decided that the most financially wise options were to either buy a cheap 7-8 year old car in decent condition and plan to cover fairly regular repairs until we can afford an upgrade. Or to buy a reliable low mileage 1-2 year old vehicle that shouldn't need much work for a few years, and which would be just as affordable as long as we keep driving it at least 10 years. And given how very tired we are of highly used vehicles at this point, we have decided to go for the 2nd option.

We're going to save as much as we can for it until May and then get a loan for the remainder. We want to give the old one to our daughter when she comes home from college for the summer so that she will have her own vehicle to get to and from her summer job. And then we're going to pay off the car loan as fast as possible, though right now it's looking like Feb 2015 before we get there.

So that's the plan right now. Hubby is in the process of applying for new jobs that pays more though, and if one of them pans out, maybe we can even do this without a car loan. Hoping for the best!

Feb 2014
Start 6% 401K withdrawals: Sept 2013----->Feb/Mar 2014
Save for/Pay off "new" car: May 2014----->Feb 2015

As I said: Ugh.

A new reflection though: I saw on FB recently that an old friend of mine I've lost touch with the past few years, is selling her house. She has been dying for a bigger house for years, and her husband had a well paying job. But they also had a lot of debt and not the best of spending habits, and with the housing market crash they felt completely stuck.

About 4 months back, her husband's department was downsized and he was laid off. He had a few months severance though and lots of job interview lined up, so they weren't too concerned at the time. Thus, when I saw her recent FB posting, I at first assumed he had found something even better and that with the housing market upswing they were finally able to afford the new home they have been wanting.

But then I read further. Turns out, they are not buying a new one, just selling the old one. She didn't elaborate more but a quick check on LinkedIn confirmed what I feared; her husband has been out of work since Oct. Now I am purely speculating at this point, but given what I know of their past financial situation, it's not at all hard to draw a line that without a high paying job, the large debts have are going to sink them once the severance pay ends, and they are trying to find a source for more funds.

I say all this not to gossip or point fingers (presumably, you have no idea who I'm even talking about), and I actually feel very bad for her, though not really close enough anymore to question her about such a personal matter. But for me, she is such a stunning reminder of why hubby and I are doing all this.

Our financial situations were close enough at one time that it is easy for me to picture how something very similar could have happened to us, had we not begun to exercise financial restraint. But I admit that it was very hard for me to hear about their fancy trips, and see their pretty new cars and how beautifully decorated the inside of her home was. I wanted those things too. I wanted to look that good as well. But we were pouring all our extra cash into debt and had nothing visual to show for it.

We are still a long way from where we want to be. And without more savings, we are still not even insulated from going through something similar ourselves were hubby to lose his job. But we have no credit card or car debt dragging us down anymore. And we have a very clear picture of our budget and of the steps we need to take to get from A to B. So, even though this is a total drag, and even though I feel like it's taking way longer than it should, reflecting on where we could be instead leaves me still feeling thankful about where we are. Maybe not happy, but thankful. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105872] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 105872 [entry_title] => Commencing Baby Step 3 [entry_stub] => commencing-baby-step-3- [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/11/24/commencing-baby-step-3-_105872/ [entry_date] => 1385315344 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-11-24 11:49:04 [entry_text] => We've finally finished wading through all the home maintenance projects (including an unexpected $1000 repair on the roof a couple weeks ago) and even set aside $1000 for Christmas. We've reached our family health deductible for the year and are scheduling appts like mad for these next few weeks to take full advantage of paying only 20% rather than 100% for the rest of the year. And we were also incredibly blessed to have my aunt unexpectedly send me a check to cover my first semester of tuition and books for the community college I will be starting at in Jan. And so, with that all finally behind us, it's time to commence on our TMM baby step 3 (beef up emergency fund to cover 3-6 months of expenses).

It has been almost 4 months since we finished baby step 2, so I am relieved to finally be getting back on track again. We made a lot of prudent purchases and repairs, but as the money kept flowing out rather than in, I worried that our financial plan had become derailed. Apparently though, even without CC debt, we do still have some motivation and dedication to this plan after all. And it's time to buckle down again.

My main goal for this coming financial year is to see our next worth begin to rise finally. Although given it is currently -$46K, it might be more accurate to say we want to see our gaping net worth hole begin to be filled in. It's actually much better now that it was a year ago. Partly because of paying off the CC's and car loan. But also in a large part due to home values bouncing back again finally, and we can't really take credit for that. Plus that part could go again as easy as it came.

But I was realizing the other day that we are at an exciting point none that less because from here on out, we will mainly be investing in ourselves. Even the $25K we hope to save for a "new" vehicle over the next year and a half will be savings converted into an asset, rather than simply blown out the window. And yes, yes, I know their will be depreciation, but you get my point. We're finally investing in our own net worth. And that is exciting!

Plus, during the open enrollment period this year we made sure to max out our HSA contribution for next year, as well as bump up the life insurance and disability policies a little bit. And it feels wonderful to know we are getting an adequate financial safety net into place. Almost like we're becoming real adults finally!

From this point on though, we're going to be breaking a bit from strict compliance to the TMM plan. For instance, we're going to start baby step 4 (retirement savings) as soon as we get $5000 towards baby step 3. Which should be by the end of Jan if we practice restraint over Xmas. We are way too old to be putting it off any longer and we're going to be doing baby step 3 for quite some time. We want our final emergency fund to be around $20K, but we need to buy a car along the way, so almost as soon as we get it we're going to empty it out and start again.

I consider this an EF worthy purchase though because, as discussed previously, our current family vehicle is a 1999 and has over 225K miles. It's just not going to be around much longer, and when it does finally die, it will certainly be an emergency. After doing a lot of research we decided that the most financially wise options were to either buy a cheap 7-8 year old car in decent condition and plan to cover fairly regular repairs until we can afford an upgrade. Or to buy a reliable low mileage 1-2 year old vehicle that shouldn't need much work for a few years, and which would be just as affordable as long as we keep driving it at least 10 years. And given how very tired we are of highly used vehicles at this point, we have decided to go for the 2nd option.

We're going to save as much as we can for it until May and then get a loan for the remainder. We want to give the old one to our daughter when she comes home from college for the summer so that she will have her own vehicle to get to and from her summer job. And then we're going to pay off the car loan as fast as possible, though right now it's looking like Feb 2015 before we get there.

So that's the plan right now. Hubby is in the process of applying for new jobs that pays more though, and if one of them pans out, maybe we can even do this without a car loan. Hoping for the best!

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105329] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 105329 [entry_title] => TMM Year 2 [entry_stub] => tmm-year-2 [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/10/20/tmm-year-2_105329/ [entry_date] => 1382288284 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-10-20 11:58:04 [entry_text] => It's been forever, I know. Not sure what the deal is with all this crazy /// nonsense in my info section since I left either. Anywho...

This Oct marks the beginning of the second year for hubby and I's Total Money Makeover. And how far have we gotten in a year? Well, considerably farther than we pictured ourselves one year ago for sure. We originally thought we'd be nearing the end of our credit card payments about now, and just starting to work on the car loan. The was before we discovered what the power of a budget and willpower can actually do. So instead we finished both by the end of July.

On the other hand...we are considerably less far than we had pictured ourselves being by now last June. Our revised goal was to have the initial $5000 for our emergency fund fully stocked by now, as well as kicking off the retirement 401k we need so badly and also making headway towards the "new" car we need. Instead we are in a much more dangerous no man's land somewhere between Baby Step 2 and Baby Step 3. I don't feel we are derailed from our TMM, but we do need to start getting this show on the road again soon.

So what have we been doing instead of all those June goals? Well, a lot of home stuff actually. Things we put off forever while dealing with our CC debt. We finally got a new toilet for downstairs (which lowered out water bill by $35/month!). We got a few trees cut down that had died and got our gutters cleaned out. We are also getting a large rip in our kitchen linolium repaired as well as some baseboards re-added that we never replaced after our mold damage issue a couple years ago.

We're getting our radon remitigation system installed this week ($1200). And we also had to take care of a couple big car repairs as well as buying hubby a new suit for job interviewing after all the weight he lost. Additionally, we finally replaced a few items that were wearing out. Like hubby's desk chair that was held together by duct tape and the kitchen rug that was coming apart at the seams. And we also spent more than typical on entertainment too, given it was summer and we had more family outings than usual.

Some of that stuff qualifies as emergency fund type things. Some doesn't. But it's all stuff we've been wanting to take care of forever and I'm glad we did it. By the end of this month we should be done with all that and ready to begin on Baby Step 3 for real. Trouble is, the boys are finally in preschool and I am finally going back to school myself to begin a second career. My first tuition/books payment will be due this Dec (just in time for Xmas) and is probably going to be around $2000. Long story short, I don't think we're going to be able to start the 401k until about Jan instead of Sept like we had planned and that sucks.

Regardless, compared to where we saw ourselves a year ago, we are doing much, much better indeed. Hopefully by this time next year we will be finished with Baby Step 4 and be looking ahead to a bright financial future!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [103651] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 103651 [entry_title] => Closing In [entry_stub] => closing-in [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/07/13/closing-in_103651/ [entry_date] => 1373733962 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-07-13 11:46:02 [entry_text] => Almost at the finish line for TMM baby step 2: debt snowball. Actually, we could have been there on July 19th, but, the laptop hubby has been wanting for so long went on sale for the 4th of July week. We saved $100 by buying it now and pushing the fridge payoff out one more paycheck (Aug 2). Which I think is fine given it's no interest for 3 more months and definitely will be paid off on the 2nd. We chose snail speed shipping though to save on that part, so it will still be another week or so before he gets it, but I'm sure he will be very happy when it finally arrives!

We are starting to look into what the next financial steps are. Dave Ramsey says baby step 3 should be saving a 3-6 month emergency fund (building on the $1000 one from baby step 1). That would be about $18,000 for us and would take quite some time. And in the meantime, we would still not be taking advantage of the 3% 401K matching hubby's company offers (not to mention just plain starting to save for retirement period, even though we're both entering our late 30's.) Additionally, our '99 SUV is probably not going to last much longer and certainly will be an emergency when it dies. And we want our next car purchase to be a slightly used, reliable family vehicle with low miles that we can count on driving for at least 8-10 years.

So, we're thinking of taking a middle of the road approach. I've opened a money market account with Ally bank and transferred our $1000 emergency fund there. As soon as the fridge is done we are going to work on building that up to $5000 as fast as possible. After that, we have some home maintenance issues we have been putting off forever that we need to take care of. Getting all of that accomplished is going to push us well into the end of Oct.

But once we're there, we are going to start putting 6% of hubby's paychecks into the company 401K (the maximum matching amount). And come open enrollment in Nov we are also going to up our HSA/FSA medical contributions to the max for the coming year. That's going to take quite a dent out of our monthly income, but with all the debt we've now paid off (as well as the decrease in taxable income from the 401K/HSA/FSA), we should still be able to raise our entertainment budget from what it has been these past 9 months, and still work towards saving for a new vehicle.

We originally wanted to save for it completely before purchasing, which would have taken about a year, but our daughter really needs a car for the college internship she wants to do next summer. Assuming the SUV is still running then, we'd like to pass it off to her by next May so she can do that. That said, we should be 80% of the way there by May with hubby's bonus, so it shouldn't be too bad to take out a small loan at that point and pay it off in 4-6 months.

At that point, I will be starting school again (just a few classes at a community college to begin with) so there will be some tuition to take care of. But we will also need to start kicking up our savings as well. I'm looking into a Roth IRA for that, and Ally bank seems like a good place to help us with it. Given that you can withdraw contributions without penalty if needed, I feel like this could double with retirement and most of our remaining 3-6 month emergency fund. Short of job loss, I doubt we will ever need more than the $5K we will already have set aside in the money market (which I will keep separate). And $18K seems like too much money to just have sitting in a low interest account, when it will likely never be used, while we make no progress on retirement. Dave Ramsey would not approve, and I'm still looking into the details, but right now that's the plan. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 7 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [101832] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 101832 [entry_title] => March Madness Ends [entry_stub] => march-madness-ends [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/26/march-madness-ends_101832/ [entry_date] => 1364260552 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-25 20:15:52 [entry_text] => Well, probably not the March Madness you're thinking of. But our March madness - the one where all the money came in, that one is finally wrapping up. And we have *mostly* been very, very good.

As you'll recall, hubby got a $5K bonus in Feb, a raise that translates in to $250 extra per paycheck starting mid-March, and a tax return total around $6200. Yeah, it was pretty sweet. But, unlike every other year in prior history, we applied ALL this money towards our debts. The checks came in, and I mailed another out.

And now, that's it. No more extra money. But only ONE credit card left! Wow. And I think we have about an extra $1000 left over from this month's budget that I'll be able to put towards it at month's end. If we keep sticking to the plan, I believe we'll be done with baby step 2 finally come July. Thank. Goodness. Cause we are sooooo sick of this.

Granted, we're not out of the water yet. Before I feel good about where we're at, we're going to need to save up for a "new" family car (preferably BEFORE the old one dies), start contributing enough to hubby's 401K to take full advantage of the employer matching, and save up at least $15K into an emergency fund. I feel like those are the bare minimum financial things I need to feel like a financially respectable adult. Hubby agrees, and until we reach those goals, we are both willing to do some more sacrificing (some of us less reluctantly than others, but we're not naming names here!).

Really though, that's just the bottom line because eventually, when the boys are finally in school I want to go back to school myself and start a second career. And given that we've barely made a dent in my previous student loans, I'd rather not take out more if possible. And we want to pay off our mortgage. And before too terribly much longer hubby will need a newer car too. And it's going to take a lot more than just hubby's 401K to make up for the Absolutely Nothing we have saved for retirement yet.

But, all in good time. The good news is that I think we will actually have reached my bottom line by this time next year, and that will be amazing. Hubby and I do have a few rewards we will be giving ourselves along the way as we reach our intermediate goals. To start with, once the credit cards are finished, our monthly entertainment budget goes up. We get to start having real date nights again! Also, there will be a new refrigerator and a new lap top ASAP, both of which will replace objects that we are just praying will hold out until July right now. But for now, baby step 2 continues...

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 2 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [101411] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 101411 [entry_title] => Making Progress [entry_stub] => making-progress [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/02/making-progress_101411/ [entry_date] => 1362265644 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-02 17:07:24 [entry_text] => I am frustrated that I have not been able to keep up with this blog very well lately due to some other projects I have been working on. I think it is a really good outlet for the stress this financial overhaul creates in our lives sometimes. And I think its a really good tool for keeping us accountable. Should be able to put more time into it again by the end of this month though I think, so I'll have to be content with that for now.

As for where we're at right now, do you see that side bar?! Talk about progress! Yes, the windfall has finally begun. Hubby got his bonus from work, which was about $5K after taxes got done with it. Originally, I had planned on paying off credit cards first with that, but after reading A LOT of material of financial planning recently, I decided a better use would be to pay off the car first, due to its higher interest rate. So, that one is done! And that payoff alone increases our monthly income by $198/month. Yay!

We also got our state return, a little under $500, and with that and some other surplus, I did pay off 1 of our 4 credit cards as well, though that one only increases out bottom line by about $30/month so not as exciting. But still progress! Supposedly, the IRS is going to finally start processing returns for people with mortgage interest credits within the next week. So hopefully, we will get that soon too (assuming no audit as discussed previously:

Text is http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-and-taxes_100945/ and Link is
http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-a...). And when we do, I plan to knock off a couple more cards, this raising our bottom line another $180/month. Wow, were we ever wasting a lot of money of this crap.

After that, it will just be the one big one left, which I'm hoping to have taken care of by the end of the summer, maybe sooner depending on how my business goes (summers tend to be slower). And then, we finally get to start the more fun part of personal finance: investing in ourselves.

Certainly we still have a lot of debt to pay off, between my student loans and our mortgage. Actually, even after paying off the the rest of the credit cards, I was disappointed to find that our net worth will still be around -$84K. Ouch. Though it is above the -$100K mark now for the first time in years. But as one financial planner I read stated, we're working really hard just to be worthless right now (ie $0 net worth).

None the less, after receiving some comments about how silly we are to not be taking advantage of the 401K matching hubby's company offers, I did a bit of research and decided in the end that, yes, we are being incredibly stupid not taking this free money and we need to get on that train ASAP, Dave Ramsey be damned. If we were being completely logical rather than emotional about it in fact, we would probably be prioritizing that even above our credit cards given that they have very low promotional interest rates. After much discussion though, we have decided we simply cannot bring ourselves to make this credit card thing go any slower. We feel spread much too thin as it is, and we need to be done with those debts and never use credit that way again. Our emotional sanity depends on it. Especially given how close we are.

If it were going to be something that was a few years away from being accomplished, like our mortgage and student loans, it might make sense to do it with more of a long view in mind. But we are literally within 3-5 months of our goal and our monthly income will increase by another $300 compared to now, once we sunset this. And that will certainly help our long term bottom line as well. That's our thinking at least. But at least we're almost there!

Anyways, very happy to be making some definite progress finally and looking forward to a 3 paycheck March this month as well! [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 4 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99541] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99541 [entry_title] => My Student Loan Baggage [entry_stub] => my-student-loan-baggage [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/my-student-loan-baggage_99541/ [entry_date] => 1355427008 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:30:08 [entry_text] => One of the few topics in Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover that really irks me is his discussion of student loan debt. I'm not saying his points are all without merit. But when he talks about credit cards, he seems to understand that the mental/emotional game is just as important, perhaps even more important, than the financial one. And so he recommends paying off your lowest balance card before your highest interest card, purely so you can see results sooner. And I totally get that. But he does not allow for the same types of emotional weakness when it comes to student loans. Consider the rant of his in this link for instance:
Text is http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-education/ and Link is
http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-edu... Ouch. That's all I can say. And since I am one of those previously professional, now stay-at-home mom's with over $100K in debt he's ranting about, it can't get much more personal than that.

When I look back over my life, there is only place I can think of that I maybe should/would have made a different decision about my education. And that was when I chose to keep pursuing a PhD in a field I wasn't sure was a good fit for me, instead of being willing to start graduate school over, or at least stop with a masters. Given that my graduate tuition was paid for, however, and that I was receiving a stipend for most of my living expenses, cutting out that leg of the journey wouldn't have changed that much. Maybe $20K less at best.

Growing up, we were poor. Like free school lunch, hand me down clothes from cousins, can't afford a school yearbook poor. I vividly remember my mom dividing one family size can of spaghettios between the 4 of my sisters and I, plus a glass of milk, for lunch. I was a small, hungry, skinny and very active kid, who hung out a lot at my friend's houses bumming snacks. My mom and dad fought constantly, and would have no matter what, but certainly a major theme of their blowouts was money. There was never enough of it, and it seemed that would never change. My mom often grew wistful in private about how, despite how smart she had been, she had dropped out of college after only a year or so at her first husband's insistence (my father) and never found her way back once the babies started coming with her second. And worse, how she could never leave her abusive second husband because she could never support the 5 of us on her own.

I'm not sure how directly it was ever stated, but I grew up with the clear impression that it was absolutely imperative that I go to college some day so that I would be able to support myself without a man. But that there would be absolutely no financial help for me to do so. This was further complicated by my step-father's abusive put downs of me compared to my sisters, and his continuous proclamations that I was never going to be good enough for anything.

Given the trouble I was often into growing up in a home like that, there were many years it seemed like he was right. There were many years I didn't bother with homework. For a period of time, I was suicidal. And I was pregnant before I was out of high school. But I harbored a deep, driving need to prove him wrong as well. And despite his insults otherwise, I was actually quite intelligent. And seriously driven to believe that there was a way out of my childhood and into the type of future I had always dreamed of. Halfway through high school, I turned over a new leaf and started to show what I was capable of academically, though my new daughter senior year complicated things a bit.

When I was applying to colleges, the last thing on my mind was the amount of money I was taking out in student loans. Certainly I qualified for every need based option possible, not to mention a few merit based ones as well. Imagining what that payback would look like 5 to 10 years down the road when I finally had a real job and was out of this mess seemed besides the point. My burning questions were: Am I really capable of this? A 4 year degree at a respectable university with a child? What if they see only what my step-dad saw? What if I am doomed to repeat the same life for my daughter as the one that was given to me?

But I got in and I did my best. My first year I did outstanding actually, but the second year my young marriage began to fall apart and afterwards, it took a couple years of struggle before my daughter and I found a new equilibrium. My last two years of undergrad I did much better for the most part, and somewhere during that time, I realized that to become anything more than a lab rat with my degree, I would need to apply for graduate school. In this sense, Dave's rant doesn't completely apply to me. I did understand that I needed to be highly marketable to pay for all this.

At that point in life, I was pretty clear that I wanted to be a working mother. I loved my daughter dearly, and was very much looking forward to being done with school and having more time eventually. But I was the kind of person who got depressed without something intellectual to pursue. Something for myself separate from my role as a mother. Perhaps partly because I had become a mother before I had gotten time to be just myself. As exhausting as it was during the semesters, school holidays were often worse because I just got so depressed with nothing to work towards.

If you had told me that I would one day choose to be a stay at home mom, I would have laughed in your face. Dave can say that young women without kids yet have no idea how they're going to feel when they do, but I think that's overly simplistic and implies we all want to stay at home deep down. I'm a stay at home mom now, and I'm still not always sure its what I want to be doing. Furthermore, I already had a child at that point. I did know what it was like. If I could have had the option to work only part time with a young family, that probably would have been my first choice. But that is not a realistic possibility in most fields, least of all mine, and I was not unrealistic. I figured with a PhD, I could make enough that my future husband could stay home if we wanted.

Graduate school was hard though. Really hard. My fears about not being good enough were constantly at an edge when surrounded by so many other brilliant people. I had developed a fuzzy, idealistic picture of my doctoral field while leisurely pursuing undergraduate research with lower expectations I had no trouble meeting. This vision was shattered to make room for the more brutal and difficult reality of what higher academia really was. The relationship with my advisor slowly went from love to hate. Somewhere along the way, I began to question whether I was really doing this for myself, or just to prove that I could. Some days, I began to acknowledge that despite how far I had come, it was possible I was moving in the wrong direction.

That is the one point in my academic journey I regret. If I had been brave, or maybe even just less tired, I would have thrown in my first 2 1/2 years of research and allowed myself to start again in a new field. If I had done this, perhaps I would be happily pursuing my new career even now? I had an inkling of what at least some of those other possibilities could have been. It wouldn't have set me back more than a couple years (though that would have added even more to my debt!). But that light at the end of the tunnel I had been impossibly chasing for so long was finally so close. I had already passed my preliminary doctoral exam. I had my project all mapped out. I just needed to buckle down for 3 more years and do it.

And so that's what I did. I figured when I was done I could work on re-branding myself in an area of research I was more interested in for the job hunt. Instead, I found myself perfectly trained to do exactly the type of research I did not want to pursue. But it sure payed well. Even if it did necessitate moving halfway across the country.

It seemed like that would be enough, eventually. But it wasn't even close. And despite my husband (then boyfriend) being brave enough to come along with my daughter and I and start this new life together out west, it just never felt right there. We just couldn't get settled. We couldn't get to a place where the future we had pictured together seemed possible. We couldn't define what needed to shift. And despite crossing the 30's threshold, we couldn't possibly imagine starting a family in that life and place.

Through all of this, my daughter moved into her teenage years, and despite being very close when she was younger, she suddenly wanted nothing to do with me. It became painfully obvious that though my school was finally done and I was ready to focus more fully on her, she no longer had any interest in focusing on me. That ship had sailed, so to speak, and I had missed my boat. That was hard. That was very hard. And it made me reflect a lot on my plans to start a family again soon. The role I wanted to play in my new children's life and the type of mother I wanted to be. As my regret grew, I also stopped giving a crap what other people thought about how capable I was. I had gotten a PhD for cripe sakes. What more could they expect of me? And it was my right to decide what I wanted to do with that degree from that point on. Obviously, it was always my right. But that was when I finally realized it.

So anyways, long story short, with my boyfriend's blessing, I quit my high paying job and decided to become a stay at home mother with over $100K in student loans instead. It was a rough few years of transition. At this point, my husband finally makes a pretty decent income. Almost as much as I used to (and adjusted for the midwest, probably a lot more). But with three kids, primarily one income, and a student loan payment of over $600/month, it never goes as far as it seems like it should. It's going to take us a while to get out of this mess. And though we are now over 4 years into this new life path, it's hard sometimes to accept where we are now compared to where we used to be. Hard to know that we will probably never live in a beautiful home/location like that one ever again. That it will be years, eons, before we can afford another fancy trip. That given the realities of our budget, money is going to continue to feel like a struggle for probably at least another 5 or so years until I'm working again. My husband and I find that hard. And depressing. And Dave would probably just say "What did you expect!?!"

...A chance to live a life much different than the one my parent's gave me I guess. A chance to feel like I had enough money to never be trapped in a relationship that was bad for me. A certainty that my children would always have enough to eat, as well as year books and new clothes and maybe even stories about trips to Disney World with our family last summer. I probably didn't need a $100K education to secure all those things, but it was an emotional journey for me that took a while to figure out.

For now, I comfort myself with the fact that though this is not always the life of my dreams, it is finally the life of my choice. I am choosing to be much poorer than I could be. I am choosing to temporarily give up most personal and intellectual pursuits (though I did start a secret blog!) so that I will have fewer regrets next time about the mother I am to my children. I could do it differently, and from time to time I check in and make sure this is what I still want. So far it is. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99540] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99540 [entry_title] => How We Got Into This Mess [entry_stub] => how-we-got-into-this-mess [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/how-we-got-into-this-mess_99540/ [entry_date] => 1355426916 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:28:36 [entry_text] => Sometimes Iím a little surprised to find myself with debt troubles, because back when my husband (then boyfriend) and I were both working 6 years ago, there was a point where we were making quite a bit of money. During that two year period, we managed to pay off all the credit cards we had at that time (due to divorces and our big move west for my job) as well as the remainder of hubbyís student loan. We did not, however, manage to save a dime towards retirement or anything else. And we went on at least two fancy trips. And ate out a lot. And didn't even look at price tags in certain stores. We also did not own a home at that point, and were paying a small fortune to rent a very nice one (we needed one with with space for our huge dog to run!), while paying only the minimum on my student loans.

Each month we wondered how we could possibly make so much money (some months we brought in more than $10K total - after taxes) and still have nothing left to save towards a house or retirement by the end of the month. I have a few defenses for this. One is that I was less than two years out of graduate school (finally!) and after having been a young, poor, and mostly single mom for that difficult 11 year period, I had a big wish list for life. I needed some fun time. Additionally, my field was very specialized, and required us to live in a very expensive area on the west coast. We were both completely shell shocked by the cost of living adjustment our first year. The price of things like cheese always floored me. Plus, Hubby and I weren't actually married yet at that point, and despite entering our 30's, we were simply not ready yet to buckle down and get serious about financial planning.

So thatís my list of reasons, minus a lot of things I could say about hind sight that you can fill in for me if you like. That period of my life ended almost 5 years ago when hubby and I made the difficult, but long coming decision for me to quit my job (or really career in this case) and move back to our hometown in the Midwest. At that point, we did begin to reign it in a bit in preparation for the 60% reduction in income we would be undergoing in a few short months. We stop planning for the next big vacation and started planning for the journey home instead. We cut back on spending, and put a little away each month for the huge moving expenses we knew from experience that we would be racking up soon. Not nearly enough, but it helped. And I began to look into information on starting a new home business.

We made a mix of good and bad financial decisions over the next few years, but also worked very hard. That first year back, I often spent upwards of 50 hours a week laying the groundwork to get my business up and running, and even took on housecleaning jobs in the meantime until my cash flow became more regular. Thankfully, hubby's job was able to come with him on our move, but the recession had just kicked in and there would be no cost of living raises that year. We had a few thousand in credit card debt again from the move we had to pay on, but we put my student loans on temporary forbearance (which sadly wiped out all progress we had made thus far). My daughter had hit the difficult teenage years, and no matter how much we made, it could never be enough to acquire all the things she was certain she needed (and that every other person she knew already had). Additionally, I felt bad downgrading her too much from what she had become used to at that point, given that the second move was hard enough on her, and certainly not what she had wanted or expected. In all honesty, we had a bit of a hard time adjusting to all of that ourselves actually, and though our rent was much cheaper than it had been out west, it was still much more expensive that what we probably should have taken on. But we felt we needed to step into our new cost of living situation gradually, so as not to give up everything we'd had all at once.

Now that we were back in the much more affordable and homey midwest, we finally felt able to settle down and begin working towards our future together. We got officially engaged and started looking into homes and saving for a down payment. I settled in to my new work routine and despite how much tighter things were, we managed to put away at least $700/month during most of that first year. And though I feel our wedding was perfect, it was a small, elegant but inexpensive, at home affair that did not set us back too much more. Can't say the same for my amazing ring though. (I made it clear there was no way we were spending less than he spent on his ex and I still do not regret that!) We also had a short, but sweet honeymoon that added a little more. And within two months of all that shenanigans, we dropped all our saving and then some into our new house.

Despite putting a little more on the cards to get all settled in, I think our house was a good purchase. A huge step down from what we'd had out west, and more than $1000 per month less than our rent had been even after moving back to the midwest. But a respectable, comfortable, suburban home in a good neighborhood none the less, with a payment we could afford. We bought it at what was the market low (at that point) and with a great fixed interest rate, and it has plenty of room for a family. Therefore, we immediately jumped into the next stage of our long term life plan - babies! And what with that first "Holy Shit" ultrasound, and the later preterm birth that twins tend to bring, less than 12 mos after we said "I do" we had two of them! Not to mention a lot of unexpected time off from work (and savings) on my part due to bed rest.

Somewhere in all of that, there was also a long distance wedding trip, a number of car issues and more than one or two home owner issues as well. We did not have an emergency fund yet at that point, so anything extra was a problem. Plus, my daughter had turned 16 and began driving, and no matter how crappy a car you give them, the insurance still sucks. Its no secret that kids tend to be the most expensive at the bookends of your 18 years with them, and unfortunately we had some on each end. I had to keep my work hours while I was breastfeeding (and not sleeping) to less than half of what they had been pre-baby. We started getting a grocery delivery service rather than shopping ourselves, despite the extra expense, cause we couldn't figure out how to manage life without hating each other otherwise. And as thankful as we were for hubby's work from home job that came with us on our big move, it was far from competitive in pay (though excellent in health coverage thank goodness), and yet we just didn't feel like we could manage him finding something out of the home until we got closer to the boys first birthday.

Lest I mislead you, there were some toys in there too. We got a new flat screen tv, and we had cable, netflix and audible subscriptions. We both got iPhone 3's when the 4's came out and have since upgraded. We got a new laptop when the old one died. We ate out a couple times a week at least. We took a couple modest vacations. We purchased memberships to the zoo and museum. We weren't partying, but we weren't suffering.

None the less, fast forward to about 18 mos. later and we have finally begun to catch our breath again. Hubby did find a new job outside the home that pays much better (though that required me to cut my hours even more initially, and necessitated another car purchase). We stopped hemorrhaging expenses and started simply treading water instead. I think its been over a year since we even used a credit card,which means we have mostly gotten the hang of living within our means (pre-child support loss at least!). And we did finally get an emergency fund going. But its been pretty clear that we haven't made much of any real progress towards wiping out the debt we accumulated either. And as we slowly inch towards the end of our 30's, it is clear that the time to start planning for our financial future is now. Like, so right now, its yesterday.

So that's how we got here. Nothing completely stupid I don't think (well, maybe the ring. But since I'd do that one again, I don't think it counts), though lots of things we could have done a bit better. And today, on this Thanksgiving Day 2012, I am thankful that hubby and I have both the means and dedication to tackle this massive financial overhaul, so that our future can be a bright one.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99522] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 99522 [entry_title] => The Big Picture [entry_stub] => the-big-picture [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/the-big-picture_99522/ [entry_date] => 1355371250 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-12 22:00:50 [entry_text] => This may be simply an exercise in idealistic dreaming, but I want to paint for you (or maybe mostly just me) a picture of how I see this new financial plan unfolding for us in the coming years. Cause I have big, unrealized but hopefully not unrealistic, dreams. In Dave Ramsey's book, he tells you that it takes most people about seven years to reach Baby Step 7: Build Wealth. Longer still to get to the Pinnacle Point where your money finally starts working harder than you have to. Certainly, that is the long term goal. And the short term goal is the credit card/car payment debt payoff I've already outlined. But it'd be nice to have a picture of our mid-term plan as well. Especially given that I don't think we will be following the Baby Steps precisely.

So, one year out, give or take a few months, and hopefully our small debts (non-mortgage/student loan) will be paid off. At that point we will hopefully be more used to getting by with a lot less monthly discretionary income. Maybe we can at least add enough back in to be able to go on monthly date nights again though. But I don't want to get too slack because we still have a lot or work to do. Baby Step 3 is to Finish the Emergency Fund, which he defines as 3-6 mos. worth of expenses. For us, that would roughly be $15K-$30K.

Projecting out both raises and expenses, once we get our small debts paid off, I think we could save roughly $25K/yr. So, that should take us 7-14 mos. depending on how much cushion we want. My thought is that we should save as much as possible, setting aside the minimum $15K to touch only for emergencies, but then factor in the fact that our family SUV will be 15 years old (already has 223K miles) by then. I am fine with driving it until it dies, but its pretty much a given that that is going to be before too much longer (please, please, please not this year!). I am also fine with not getting a new car when it does die. But I would prefer to get something gently used with at least a few more bells and whistles than our current one has. I think we could probably get something 5-6 years old for between $15-$20K.

That's not the only big ticket item we need to save for though. In a few more years, the boys will be ready to start school and I will be more than ready to jump back on the career train. But that is probably going to require a bit of retraining on my part, and I am not willing to take out any more student loans. (Above and beyond the $105K I already put my foot down on of course). So, if I want to go back, which I very much do right now, we will need to save for that too. I am conservatively estimating about $20K for that right now, plus after school daycare (maybe $5K? Though that will be more of an on-going expense), but given the rising cost of education these days, who knows?

The point of all this speculating is to point out that with these extra purchases, the time it takes up to save about $30K for an emergency fund is going to be more like 2-3/4 to 3 years rather than 14 mos. That's a long time. And who knows how many set backs there might be in the meantime. At some point, hubby's car will need to be replaced as well, though it is 5 years newer than the SUV at least. But I guess I'm okay with it as long as we get to Baby Step 4: Retirement Investing, by the time I re-graduate, which I am predicting will be in 5-6 years. If we get to that step before I graduate, then I guess we will start putting at least the company matching amount into hubby's 401K. Actually, if we don't get to that step before 40, we probably should do a lot more than that, and I kind of doubt we will. Once I do graduate and start working again though, we are going to kick step 4's butt.

And then we get to Baby Step 5: College Funding for the kids. Except we're going to re-package that one as college payoff for the adults. By then my daughter will be done with college (or darn well better be at least). Until we get fabulously wealthy, I have done the best I can for her by insisting that she go to a school where she would graduate with a maximum of $40K in debt. Still a lot I know, but less than half as much than me, and within the amount considered reasonable by the income to debt calculators. She hated me for it at the time, but now seems mostly happy.

I am hoping that with a new masters degree I will be able to make at least $50K, although about half of that will probably have to go towards retirement, and the rest will get taxed. But lets just say that after stocking up our emergency fund, we have about $25K/yr extra from hubby's income and $25K/yr from mine. So $50K/yr extra after I start working to do with what we will. (OMG, is that really possible?) What to do with all that cash?? Pay off my damn student loans!! If we stick to the plan, that should take us only two more years. At that point, we can look into some minimal investing for the boys' college (and maybe some back pay for my daughter). But they are going to be expected to chip in as well because we are heading off to...

...Baby Step 6: Pay Off the Mortgage! Honestly, not quite sure what's going to happen when we get to this step because you see, before we focus on paying off the mortgage, we'd like to focus instead of getting the house we'd really like to have. The exciting thing is, once the student loan is paid off, we could afford about $600 more per month for a mortgage without changing anything else. Assuming the market continues to improve, we should also have a fair amount of equity at this point, having lived here for about 11 years. I am not sure yet whether we would rather buy or remodel. It will probably depend a lot on the location of our jobs at that point. There are some things I really like about both this home and this area, but our home was built in the 1960's and it really needs some updating. I think it would take between $175K-$200K to get it to where we want it, and only about 60% of that could be recouped in re-sale value. Whether or not that's worth it will depend largely on what we could get for the same value given the housing market at the time.

I also really like Dave Ramsey's idea of taking out only a 15 year mortgage and keeping your mortgage payment to less than 25% of your take home pay. Whether we decide to buy or remodel, I do very much want to keep those rules in mind. After all our hard work, I certainly do not want to end up house poor. It will be hard to feel like we can't afford just about whatever we want once we've taken care of all that other debt. And I do love big, pretty homes. Nonetheless, regardless of what we choose to do, at that point it should be a maximum of 15 years until we are entirely debt free, and if we continue with the $50K/yr rule, I think we could take that down to 6 years.

Which means this is more like a 14 year than a 7 years plan for us, but by the time we enter our 50's, it is very possible we will have no debt remaining (maybe we'll bump up the boys college fund at that point) and hopefully by the time we hit our 60's we will have reached that fabled Pinnacle Point which will leave us set for a long, happy retirement. Its certainly not a get rich quick scheme. which makes it seem somewhat more believable. Though it will certainly require a lot of dedication and sacrifice. But it seems like by the time the boys graduate from high school, we will finally have both the time AND money to do all sorts of things.

So that's the big picture. And now back to Baby Step 2.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 6 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99515] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99515 [entry_title] => Another Family Debt Blog [entry_stub] => another-family-debt-blog [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/another-family-debt-blog_99515/ [entry_date] => 1355368863 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-12 21:21:03 [entry_text] => (Can't decide if I will move all of these entries over or not, some are out of date now, but I figured I'd try to get at least the ones with the background info.)

Iím not a big 12 step follower or anything. But I do believe that two very important steps for beginning a major life change, of most any sort, are acceptance and admission. You need to truly accept that there is a problem with something in your life. No more excuses, no more minimizing. And then, to fully define what the problem is, you need an open admission of your mistakes and current status. To that end..."Hi. My name is Anne, and I have a problem with Debt."

To be fair, my husband and I have known and admitted this for years. And we are not the type to drive around in a fancy new car we're leasing while uncertain how we're going to pay our credit cards this month. Actually, our newest car is 8 years old. And we always have enough on hand to pay our bills (which according to all the political talk you hear lately means we are somehow better off than 2/3 of Americans?!?). But that is not to say we don't have our frivolities. We have a gym membership, grocery delivery and a lawn service. My husband has weaseled his way into getting an iPhone 5 soon, though I will be settling for the 4 (I only have a 3 right now!). We have a 36" flat screen TV and a new laptop. We're not suffering. We're just not winning any achievement awards either. We are very effectively treading water, as we have been for many years.

The description I just gave creates the same moderately dismal view of debt that I think a lot of Americans have. Kind of a necessary evil in which you "do the best you can", trying to make some responsible headway while still allowing yourself some enjoyment of "the good things in life". And I think it is this minimizing, moderate view that has kept my husband and I in this situation for much longer than we have really needed to be here. We're smart people. We make a decent income. We should not be here. And so, like so many debt slashers before me, I have have just finished Dave Ramsey's "Total Money Makeover" book, and I am now in the mood to take a much more extreme (i.e. honest) stance about our current situation. (I know some people here are not big fans of his, totally okay. I have my qualms too. But he's working well to motivate us right now.)

Let's just start with a number. $327,758. As of Oct. 1, 2012, that is where our total debt stands. About 60% of this belongs to our mortgage. Another 32% to my student loans. (Boo!) The remaining 8% is a combination of credit cards and car loan. Keep in mind that 8% of $327,758 is over $26,000. Keep in mind also that although we may not be suffering, this total number is still more than three times our combined yearly income. Ugh. To top it all off, we're in our mid 30's and have not a dime saved for retirement or college for our boys, and we will probably end up co-signing on $40,000 in student loans by the time my daughter graduates from college (though hopefully that will be her problem, not mine). We are in deep s**t folks.

Despite our seeming record to the contrary, I am actually a big believer in Ramsey's assertion that debt of just about any sort is just no good. That we have all bought into a lie that serves the lenders rather than ourselves. And that mostly, the only excuse for using credit cards is poor planning and difficulty with impulse control. Ouch. We suck. I have lots of good excuses for our credit card debt that I have pulled out in the past to soothe these sharp criticisms. And I will say at least that my husband and I are generally not people who use credit cards for shiny new toys or entertainment much less basics like groceries and clothes. Mostly, these were one time or unplanned emergency expenses (that being said, I can think of at least one exception to pretty much each one of those things I just mentioned.) None the less, even the unplanned things were mostly due to not saving for an emergency fund the way we should have to begin with. There was some impulsiveness in there as well for sure. (And a very shiny toy indeed in the form of a ring that now sits upon my wedding finger.)

I want to be completely, un-sugar-coated honest about this because I am [i]tired[/] of being in credit card debt. I am tired of wondering what on earth we would do if one of our cars died. I am tired of feeling trapped in my home by having no home equity. I am tired of feeling too daunted by my student loans to even begin handling my retirement. And I am sick to death of feeling like this will be the year we're finally going to start getting ahead a little, only to somehow have all the extra trickle away again with no lasting effect on the bottom line. I am ready to get serious about this. I am ready to start making some sacrifices. I am not sure about "gazelle intensity" (maybe just cause I really hate that phrase?) but I am willing to begin exploring options I haven't been willing to consider before.

But I need something to keep me motivated. And I need a way to work out the serious anxiety I am feeling about all this. And a place to put down some of the things I learn and maybe even help someone else in the process. Thus, I started a blog! Smile
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 1 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) ) -->

TMM Year 2

October 20th, 2013 at 04:58 pm

It's been forever, I know. Not sure what the deal is with all this crazy /// nonsense in my info section since I left either. Anywho...

This Oct marks the beginning of the second year for hubby and I's Total Money Makeover. And how far have we gotten in a year? Well, considerably farther than we pictured ourselves one year ago for sure. We originally thought we'd be nearing the end of our credit card payments about now, and just starting to work on the car loan. The was before we discovered what the power of a budget and willpower can actually do. So instead we finished both by the end of July.

On the other hand...we are considerably less far than we had pictured ourselves being by now last June. Our revised goal was to have the initial $5000 for our emergency fund fully stocked by now, as well as kicking off the retirement 401k we need so badly and also making headway towards the "new" car we need. Instead we are in a much more dangerous no man's land somewhere between Baby Step 2 and Baby Step 3. I don't feel we are derailed from our TMM, but we do need to start getting this show on the road again soon.

So what have we been doing instead of all those June goals? Well, a lot of home stuff actually. Things we put off forever while dealing with our CC debt. We finally got a new toilet for downstairs (which lowered out water bill by $35/month!). We got a few trees cut down that had died and got our gutters cleaned out. We are also getting a large rip in our kitchen linolium repaired as well as some baseboards re-added that we never replaced after our mold damage issue a couple years ago.

We're getting our radon remitigation system installed this week ($1200). And we also had to take care of a couple big car repairs as well as buying hubby a new suit for job interviewing after all the weight he lost. Additionally, we finally replaced a few items that were wearing out. Like hubby's desk chair that was held together by duct tape and the kitchen rug that was coming apart at the seams. And we also spent more than typical on entertainment too, given it was summer and we had more family outings than usual.

Some of that stuff qualifies as emergency fund type things. Some doesn't. But it's all stuff we've been wanting to take care of forever and I'm glad we did it. By the end of this month we should be done with all that and ready to begin on Baby Step 3 for real. Trouble is, the boys are finally in preschool and I am finally going back to school myself to begin a second career. My first tuition/books payment will be due this Dec (just in time for Xmas) and is probably going to be around $2000. Long story short, I don't think we're going to be able to start the 401k until about Jan instead of Sept like we had planned and that sucks.

Regardless, compared to where we saw ourselves a year ago, we are doing much, much better indeed. Hopefully by this time next year we will be finished with Baby Step 4 and be looking ahead to a bright financial future!
Feb 2014
Start 6% 401K withdrawals: Sept 2013----->Feb/Mar 2014
Save for/Pay off "new" car: May 2014----->Feb 2015

As I said: Ugh.

A new reflection though: I saw on FB recently that an old friend of mine I've lost touch with the past few years, is selling her house. She has been dying for a bigger house for years, and her husband had a well paying job. But they also had a lot of debt and not the best of spending habits, and with the housing market crash they felt completely stuck.

About 4 months back, her husband's department was downsized and he was laid off. He had a few months severance though and lots of job interview lined up, so they weren't too concerned at the time. Thus, when I saw her recent FB posting, I at first assumed he had found something even better and that with the housing market upswing they were finally able to afford the new home they have been wanting.

But then I read further. Turns out, they are not buying a new one, just selling the old one. She didn't elaborate more but a quick check on LinkedIn confirmed what I feared; her husband has been out of work since Oct. Now I am purely speculating at this point, but given what I know of their past financial situation, it's not at all hard to draw a line that without a high paying job, the large debts have are going to sink them once the severance pay ends, and they are trying to find a source for more funds.

I say all this not to gossip or point fingers (presumably, you have no idea who I'm even talking about), and I actually feel very bad for her, though not really close enough anymore to question her about such a personal matter. But for me, she is such a stunning reminder of why hubby and I are doing all this.

Our financial situations were close enough at one time that it is easy for me to picture how something very similar could have happened to us, had we not begun to exercise financial restraint. But I admit that it was very hard for me to hear about their fancy trips, and see their pretty new cars and how beautifully decorated the inside of her home was. I wanted those things too. I wanted to look that good as well. But we were pouring all our extra cash into debt and had nothing visual to show for it.

We are still a long way from where we want to be. And without more savings, we are still not even insulated from going through something similar ourselves were hubby to lose his job. But we have no credit card or car debt dragging us down anymore. And we have a very clear picture of our budget and of the steps we need to take to get from A to B. So, even though this is a total drag, and even though I feel like it's taking way longer than it should, reflecting on where we could be instead leaves me still feeling thankful about where we are. Maybe not happy, but thankful. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105872] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 105872 [entry_title] => Commencing Baby Step 3 [entry_stub] => commencing-baby-step-3- [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/11/24/commencing-baby-step-3-_105872/ [entry_date] => 1385315344 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-11-24 11:49:04 [entry_text] => We've finally finished wading through all the home maintenance projects (including an unexpected $1000 repair on the roof a couple weeks ago) and even set aside $1000 for Christmas. We've reached our family health deductible for the year and are scheduling appts like mad for these next few weeks to take full advantage of paying only 20% rather than 100% for the rest of the year. And we were also incredibly blessed to have my aunt unexpectedly send me a check to cover my first semester of tuition and books for the community college I will be starting at in Jan. And so, with that all finally behind us, it's time to commence on our TMM baby step 3 (beef up emergency fund to cover 3-6 months of expenses).

It has been almost 4 months since we finished baby step 2, so I am relieved to finally be getting back on track again. We made a lot of prudent purchases and repairs, but as the money kept flowing out rather than in, I worried that our financial plan had become derailed. Apparently though, even without CC debt, we do still have some motivation and dedication to this plan after all. And it's time to buckle down again.

My main goal for this coming financial year is to see our next worth begin to rise finally. Although given it is currently -$46K, it might be more accurate to say we want to see our gaping net worth hole begin to be filled in. It's actually much better now that it was a year ago. Partly because of paying off the CC's and car loan. But also in a large part due to home values bouncing back again finally, and we can't really take credit for that. Plus that part could go again as easy as it came.

But I was realizing the other day that we are at an exciting point none that less because from here on out, we will mainly be investing in ourselves. Even the $25K we hope to save for a "new" vehicle over the next year and a half will be savings converted into an asset, rather than simply blown out the window. And yes, yes, I know their will be depreciation, but you get my point. We're finally investing in our own net worth. And that is exciting!

Plus, during the open enrollment period this year we made sure to max out our HSA contribution for next year, as well as bump up the life insurance and disability policies a little bit. And it feels wonderful to know we are getting an adequate financial safety net into place. Almost like we're becoming real adults finally!

From this point on though, we're going to be breaking a bit from strict compliance to the TMM plan. For instance, we're going to start baby step 4 (retirement savings) as soon as we get $5000 towards baby step 3. Which should be by the end of Jan if we practice restraint over Xmas. We are way too old to be putting it off any longer and we're going to be doing baby step 3 for quite some time. We want our final emergency fund to be around $20K, but we need to buy a car along the way, so almost as soon as we get it we're going to empty it out and start again.

I consider this an EF worthy purchase though because, as discussed previously, our current family vehicle is a 1999 and has over 225K miles. It's just not going to be around much longer, and when it does finally die, it will certainly be an emergency. After doing a lot of research we decided that the most financially wise options were to either buy a cheap 7-8 year old car in decent condition and plan to cover fairly regular repairs until we can afford an upgrade. Or to buy a reliable low mileage 1-2 year old vehicle that shouldn't need much work for a few years, and which would be just as affordable as long as we keep driving it at least 10 years. And given how very tired we are of highly used vehicles at this point, we have decided to go for the 2nd option.

We're going to save as much as we can for it until May and then get a loan for the remainder. We want to give the old one to our daughter when she comes home from college for the summer so that she will have her own vehicle to get to and from her summer job. And then we're going to pay off the car loan as fast as possible, though right now it's looking like Feb 2015 before we get there.

So that's the plan right now. Hubby is in the process of applying for new jobs that pays more though, and if one of them pans out, maybe we can even do this without a car loan. Hoping for the best!

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105329] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 105329 [entry_title] => TMM Year 2 [entry_stub] => tmm-year-2 [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/10/20/tmm-year-2_105329/ [entry_date] => 1382288284 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-10-20 11:58:04 [entry_text] => It's been forever, I know. Not sure what the deal is with all this crazy /// nonsense in my info section since I left either. Anywho...

This Oct marks the beginning of the second year for hubby and I's Total Money Makeover. And how far have we gotten in a year? Well, considerably farther than we pictured ourselves one year ago for sure. We originally thought we'd be nearing the end of our credit card payments about now, and just starting to work on the car loan. The was before we discovered what the power of a budget and willpower can actually do. So instead we finished both by the end of July.

On the other hand...we are considerably less far than we had pictured ourselves being by now last June. Our revised goal was to have the initial $5000 for our emergency fund fully stocked by now, as well as kicking off the retirement 401k we need so badly and also making headway towards the "new" car we need. Instead we are in a much more dangerous no man's land somewhere between Baby Step 2 and Baby Step 3. I don't feel we are derailed from our TMM, but we do need to start getting this show on the road again soon.

So what have we been doing instead of all those June goals? Well, a lot of home stuff actually. Things we put off forever while dealing with our CC debt. We finally got a new toilet for downstairs (which lowered out water bill by $35/month!). We got a few trees cut down that had died and got our gutters cleaned out. We are also getting a large rip in our kitchen linolium repaired as well as some baseboards re-added that we never replaced after our mold damage issue a couple years ago.

We're getting our radon remitigation system installed this week ($1200). And we also had to take care of a couple big car repairs as well as buying hubby a new suit for job interviewing after all the weight he lost. Additionally, we finally replaced a few items that were wearing out. Like hubby's desk chair that was held together by duct tape and the kitchen rug that was coming apart at the seams. And we also spent more than typical on entertainment too, given it was summer and we had more family outings than usual.

Some of that stuff qualifies as emergency fund type things. Some doesn't. But it's all stuff we've been wanting to take care of forever and I'm glad we did it. By the end of this month we should be done with all that and ready to begin on Baby Step 3 for real. Trouble is, the boys are finally in preschool and I am finally going back to school myself to begin a second career. My first tuition/books payment will be due this Dec (just in time for Xmas) and is probably going to be around $2000. Long story short, I don't think we're going to be able to start the 401k until about Jan instead of Sept like we had planned and that sucks.

Regardless, compared to where we saw ourselves a year ago, we are doing much, much better indeed. Hopefully by this time next year we will be finished with Baby Step 4 and be looking ahead to a bright financial future!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [103651] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 103651 [entry_title] => Closing In [entry_stub] => closing-in [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/07/13/closing-in_103651/ [entry_date] => 1373733962 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-07-13 11:46:02 [entry_text] => Almost at the finish line for TMM baby step 2: debt snowball. Actually, we could have been there on July 19th, but, the laptop hubby has been wanting for so long went on sale for the 4th of July week. We saved $100 by buying it now and pushing the fridge payoff out one more paycheck (Aug 2). Which I think is fine given it's no interest for 3 more months and definitely will be paid off on the 2nd. We chose snail speed shipping though to save on that part, so it will still be another week or so before he gets it, but I'm sure he will be very happy when it finally arrives!

We are starting to look into what the next financial steps are. Dave Ramsey says baby step 3 should be saving a 3-6 month emergency fund (building on the $1000 one from baby step 1). That would be about $18,000 for us and would take quite some time. And in the meantime, we would still not be taking advantage of the 3% 401K matching hubby's company offers (not to mention just plain starting to save for retirement period, even though we're both entering our late 30's.) Additionally, our '99 SUV is probably not going to last much longer and certainly will be an emergency when it dies. And we want our next car purchase to be a slightly used, reliable family vehicle with low miles that we can count on driving for at least 8-10 years.

So, we're thinking of taking a middle of the road approach. I've opened a money market account with Ally bank and transferred our $1000 emergency fund there. As soon as the fridge is done we are going to work on building that up to $5000 as fast as possible. After that, we have some home maintenance issues we have been putting off forever that we need to take care of. Getting all of that accomplished is going to push us well into the end of Oct.

But once we're there, we are going to start putting 6% of hubby's paychecks into the company 401K (the maximum matching amount). And come open enrollment in Nov we are also going to up our HSA/FSA medical contributions to the max for the coming year. That's going to take quite a dent out of our monthly income, but with all the debt we've now paid off (as well as the decrease in taxable income from the 401K/HSA/FSA), we should still be able to raise our entertainment budget from what it has been these past 9 months, and still work towards saving for a new vehicle.

We originally wanted to save for it completely before purchasing, which would have taken about a year, but our daughter really needs a car for the college internship she wants to do next summer. Assuming the SUV is still running then, we'd like to pass it off to her by next May so she can do that. That said, we should be 80% of the way there by May with hubby's bonus, so it shouldn't be too bad to take out a small loan at that point and pay it off in 4-6 months.

At that point, I will be starting school again (just a few classes at a community college to begin with) so there will be some tuition to take care of. But we will also need to start kicking up our savings as well. I'm looking into a Roth IRA for that, and Ally bank seems like a good place to help us with it. Given that you can withdraw contributions without penalty if needed, I feel like this could double with retirement and most of our remaining 3-6 month emergency fund. Short of job loss, I doubt we will ever need more than the $5K we will already have set aside in the money market (which I will keep separate). And $18K seems like too much money to just have sitting in a low interest account, when it will likely never be used, while we make no progress on retirement. Dave Ramsey would not approve, and I'm still looking into the details, but right now that's the plan. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 7 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [101832] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 101832 [entry_title] => March Madness Ends [entry_stub] => march-madness-ends [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/26/march-madness-ends_101832/ [entry_date] => 1364260552 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-25 20:15:52 [entry_text] => Well, probably not the March Madness you're thinking of. But our March madness - the one where all the money came in, that one is finally wrapping up. And we have *mostly* been very, very good.

As you'll recall, hubby got a $5K bonus in Feb, a raise that translates in to $250 extra per paycheck starting mid-March, and a tax return total around $6200. Yeah, it was pretty sweet. But, unlike every other year in prior history, we applied ALL this money towards our debts. The checks came in, and I mailed another out.

And now, that's it. No more extra money. But only ONE credit card left! Wow. And I think we have about an extra $1000 left over from this month's budget that I'll be able to put towards it at month's end. If we keep sticking to the plan, I believe we'll be done with baby step 2 finally come July. Thank. Goodness. Cause we are sooooo sick of this.

Granted, we're not out of the water yet. Before I feel good about where we're at, we're going to need to save up for a "new" family car (preferably BEFORE the old one dies), start contributing enough to hubby's 401K to take full advantage of the employer matching, and save up at least $15K into an emergency fund. I feel like those are the bare minimum financial things I need to feel like a financially respectable adult. Hubby agrees, and until we reach those goals, we are both willing to do some more sacrificing (some of us less reluctantly than others, but we're not naming names here!).

Really though, that's just the bottom line because eventually, when the boys are finally in school I want to go back to school myself and start a second career. And given that we've barely made a dent in my previous student loans, I'd rather not take out more if possible. And we want to pay off our mortgage. And before too terribly much longer hubby will need a newer car too. And it's going to take a lot more than just hubby's 401K to make up for the Absolutely Nothing we have saved for retirement yet.

But, all in good time. The good news is that I think we will actually have reached my bottom line by this time next year, and that will be amazing. Hubby and I do have a few rewards we will be giving ourselves along the way as we reach our intermediate goals. To start with, once the credit cards are finished, our monthly entertainment budget goes up. We get to start having real date nights again! Also, there will be a new refrigerator and a new lap top ASAP, both of which will replace objects that we are just praying will hold out until July right now. But for now, baby step 2 continues...

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 2 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [101411] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 101411 [entry_title] => Making Progress [entry_stub] => making-progress [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/02/making-progress_101411/ [entry_date] => 1362265644 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-02 17:07:24 [entry_text] => I am frustrated that I have not been able to keep up with this blog very well lately due to some other projects I have been working on. I think it is a really good outlet for the stress this financial overhaul creates in our lives sometimes. And I think its a really good tool for keeping us accountable. Should be able to put more time into it again by the end of this month though I think, so I'll have to be content with that for now.

As for where we're at right now, do you see that side bar?! Talk about progress! Yes, the windfall has finally begun. Hubby got his bonus from work, which was about $5K after taxes got done with it. Originally, I had planned on paying off credit cards first with that, but after reading A LOT of material of financial planning recently, I decided a better use would be to pay off the car first, due to its higher interest rate. So, that one is done! And that payoff alone increases our monthly income by $198/month. Yay!

We also got our state return, a little under $500, and with that and some other surplus, I did pay off 1 of our 4 credit cards as well, though that one only increases out bottom line by about $30/month so not as exciting. But still progress! Supposedly, the IRS is going to finally start processing returns for people with mortgage interest credits within the next week. So hopefully, we will get that soon too (assuming no audit as discussed previously:

Text is http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-and-taxes_100945/ and Link is
http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-a...). And when we do, I plan to knock off a couple more cards, this raising our bottom line another $180/month. Wow, were we ever wasting a lot of money of this crap.

After that, it will just be the one big one left, which I'm hoping to have taken care of by the end of the summer, maybe sooner depending on how my business goes (summers tend to be slower). And then, we finally get to start the more fun part of personal finance: investing in ourselves.

Certainly we still have a lot of debt to pay off, between my student loans and our mortgage. Actually, even after paying off the the rest of the credit cards, I was disappointed to find that our net worth will still be around -$84K. Ouch. Though it is above the -$100K mark now for the first time in years. But as one financial planner I read stated, we're working really hard just to be worthless right now (ie $0 net worth).

None the less, after receiving some comments about how silly we are to not be taking advantage of the 401K matching hubby's company offers, I did a bit of research and decided in the end that, yes, we are being incredibly stupid not taking this free money and we need to get on that train ASAP, Dave Ramsey be damned. If we were being completely logical rather than emotional about it in fact, we would probably be prioritizing that even above our credit cards given that they have very low promotional interest rates. After much discussion though, we have decided we simply cannot bring ourselves to make this credit card thing go any slower. We feel spread much too thin as it is, and we need to be done with those debts and never use credit that way again. Our emotional sanity depends on it. Especially given how close we are.

If it were going to be something that was a few years away from being accomplished, like our mortgage and student loans, it might make sense to do it with more of a long view in mind. But we are literally within 3-5 months of our goal and our monthly income will increase by another $300 compared to now, once we sunset this. And that will certainly help our long term bottom line as well. That's our thinking at least. But at least we're almost there!

Anyways, very happy to be making some definite progress finally and looking forward to a 3 paycheck March this month as well! [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 4 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99541] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99541 [entry_title] => My Student Loan Baggage [entry_stub] => my-student-loan-baggage [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/my-student-loan-baggage_99541/ [entry_date] => 1355427008 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:30:08 [entry_text] => One of the few topics in Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover that really irks me is his discussion of student loan debt. I'm not saying his points are all without merit. But when he talks about credit cards, he seems to understand that the mental/emotional game is just as important, perhaps even more important, than the financial one. And so he recommends paying off your lowest balance card before your highest interest card, purely so you can see results sooner. And I totally get that. But he does not allow for the same types of emotional weakness when it comes to student loans. Consider the rant of his in this link for instance:
Text is http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-education/ and Link is
http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-edu... Ouch. That's all I can say. And since I am one of those previously professional, now stay-at-home mom's with over $100K in debt he's ranting about, it can't get much more personal than that.

When I look back over my life, there is only place I can think of that I maybe should/would have made a different decision about my education. And that was when I chose to keep pursuing a PhD in a field I wasn't sure was a good fit for me, instead of being willing to start graduate school over, or at least stop with a masters. Given that my graduate tuition was paid for, however, and that I was receiving a stipend for most of my living expenses, cutting out that leg of the journey wouldn't have changed that much. Maybe $20K less at best.

Growing up, we were poor. Like free school lunch, hand me down clothes from cousins, can't afford a school yearbook poor. I vividly remember my mom dividing one family size can of spaghettios between the 4 of my sisters and I, plus a glass of milk, for lunch. I was a small, hungry, skinny and very active kid, who hung out a lot at my friend's houses bumming snacks. My mom and dad fought constantly, and would have no matter what, but certainly a major theme of their blowouts was money. There was never enough of it, and it seemed that would never change. My mom often grew wistful in private about how, despite how smart she had been, she had dropped out of college after only a year or so at her first husband's insistence (my father) and never found her way back once the babies started coming with her second. And worse, how she could never leave her abusive second husband because she could never support the 5 of us on her own.

I'm not sure how directly it was ever stated, but I grew up with the clear impression that it was absolutely imperative that I go to college some day so that I would be able to support myself without a man. But that there would be absolutely no financial help for me to do so. This was further complicated by my step-father's abusive put downs of me compared to my sisters, and his continuous proclamations that I was never going to be good enough for anything.

Given the trouble I was often into growing up in a home like that, there were many years it seemed like he was right. There were many years I didn't bother with homework. For a period of time, I was suicidal. And I was pregnant before I was out of high school. But I harbored a deep, driving need to prove him wrong as well. And despite his insults otherwise, I was actually quite intelligent. And seriously driven to believe that there was a way out of my childhood and into the type of future I had always dreamed of. Halfway through high school, I turned over a new leaf and started to show what I was capable of academically, though my new daughter senior year complicated things a bit.

When I was applying to colleges, the last thing on my mind was the amount of money I was taking out in student loans. Certainly I qualified for every need based option possible, not to mention a few merit based ones as well. Imagining what that payback would look like 5 to 10 years down the road when I finally had a real job and was out of this mess seemed besides the point. My burning questions were: Am I really capable of this? A 4 year degree at a respectable university with a child? What if they see only what my step-dad saw? What if I am doomed to repeat the same life for my daughter as the one that was given to me?

But I got in and I did my best. My first year I did outstanding actually, but the second year my young marriage began to fall apart and afterwards, it took a couple years of struggle before my daughter and I found a new equilibrium. My last two years of undergrad I did much better for the most part, and somewhere during that time, I realized that to become anything more than a lab rat with my degree, I would need to apply for graduate school. In this sense, Dave's rant doesn't completely apply to me. I did understand that I needed to be highly marketable to pay for all this.

At that point in life, I was pretty clear that I wanted to be a working mother. I loved my daughter dearly, and was very much looking forward to being done with school and having more time eventually. But I was the kind of person who got depressed without something intellectual to pursue. Something for myself separate from my role as a mother. Perhaps partly because I had become a mother before I had gotten time to be just myself. As exhausting as it was during the semesters, school holidays were often worse because I just got so depressed with nothing to work towards.

If you had told me that I would one day choose to be a stay at home mom, I would have laughed in your face. Dave can say that young women without kids yet have no idea how they're going to feel when they do, but I think that's overly simplistic and implies we all want to stay at home deep down. I'm a stay at home mom now, and I'm still not always sure its what I want to be doing. Furthermore, I already had a child at that point. I did know what it was like. If I could have had the option to work only part time with a young family, that probably would have been my first choice. But that is not a realistic possibility in most fields, least of all mine, and I was not unrealistic. I figured with a PhD, I could make enough that my future husband could stay home if we wanted.

Graduate school was hard though. Really hard. My fears about not being good enough were constantly at an edge when surrounded by so many other brilliant people. I had developed a fuzzy, idealistic picture of my doctoral field while leisurely pursuing undergraduate research with lower expectations I had no trouble meeting. This vision was shattered to make room for the more brutal and difficult reality of what higher academia really was. The relationship with my advisor slowly went from love to hate. Somewhere along the way, I began to question whether I was really doing this for myself, or just to prove that I could. Some days, I began to acknowledge that despite how far I had come, it was possible I was moving in the wrong direction.

That is the one point in my academic journey I regret. If I had been brave, or maybe even just less tired, I would have thrown in my first 2 1/2 years of research and allowed myself to start again in a new field. If I had done this, perhaps I would be happily pursuing my new career even now? I had an inkling of what at least some of those other possibilities could have been. It wouldn't have set me back more than a couple years (though that would have added even more to my debt!). But that light at the end of the tunnel I had been impossibly chasing for so long was finally so close. I had already passed my preliminary doctoral exam. I had my project all mapped out. I just needed to buckle down for 3 more years and do it.

And so that's what I did. I figured when I was done I could work on re-branding myself in an area of research I was more interested in for the job hunt. Instead, I found myself perfectly trained to do exactly the type of research I did not want to pursue. But it sure payed well. Even if it did necessitate moving halfway across the country.

It seemed like that would be enough, eventually. But it wasn't even close. And despite my husband (then boyfriend) being brave enough to come along with my daughter and I and start this new life together out west, it just never felt right there. We just couldn't get settled. We couldn't get to a place where the future we had pictured together seemed possible. We couldn't define what needed to shift. And despite crossing the 30's threshold, we couldn't possibly imagine starting a family in that life and place.

Through all of this, my daughter moved into her teenage years, and despite being very close when she was younger, she suddenly wanted nothing to do with me. It became painfully obvious that though my school was finally done and I was ready to focus more fully on her, she no longer had any interest in focusing on me. That ship had sailed, so to speak, and I had missed my boat. That was hard. That was very hard. And it made me reflect a lot on my plans to start a family again soon. The role I wanted to play in my new children's life and the type of mother I wanted to be. As my regret grew, I also stopped giving a crap what other people thought about how capable I was. I had gotten a PhD for cripe sakes. What more could they expect of me? And it was my right to decide what I wanted to do with that degree from that point on. Obviously, it was always my right. But that was when I finally realized it.

So anyways, long story short, with my boyfriend's blessing, I quit my high paying job and decided to become a stay at home mother with over $100K in student loans instead. It was a rough few years of transition. At this point, my husband finally makes a pretty decent income. Almost as much as I used to (and adjusted for the midwest, probably a lot more). But with three kids, primarily one income, and a student loan payment of over $600/month, it never goes as far as it seems like it should. It's going to take us a while to get out of this mess. And though we are now over 4 years into this new life path, it's hard sometimes to accept where we are now compared to where we used to be. Hard to know that we will probably never live in a beautiful home/location like that one ever again. That it will be years, eons, before we can afford another fancy trip. That given the realities of our budget, money is going to continue to feel like a struggle for probably at least another 5 or so years until I'm working again. My husband and I find that hard. And depressing. And Dave would probably just say "What did you expect!?!"

...A chance to live a life much different than the one my parent's gave me I guess. A chance to feel like I had enough money to never be trapped in a relationship that was bad for me. A certainty that my children would always have enough to eat, as well as year books and new clothes and maybe even stories about trips to Disney World with our family last summer. I probably didn't need a $100K education to secure all those things, but it was an emotional journey for me that took a while to figure out.

For now, I comfort myself with the fact that though this is not always the life of my dreams, it is finally the life of my choice. I am choosing to be much poorer than I could be. I am choosing to temporarily give up most personal and intellectual pursuits (though I did start a secret blog!) so that I will have fewer regrets next time about the mother I am to my children. I could do it differently, and from time to time I check in and make sure this is what I still want. So far it is. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99540] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99540 [entry_title] => How We Got Into This Mess [entry_stub] => how-we-got-into-this-mess [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/how-we-got-into-this-mess_99540/ [entry_date] => 1355426916 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:28:36 [entry_text] => Sometimes Iím a little surprised to find myself with debt troubles, because back when my husband (then boyfriend) and I were both working 6 years ago, there was a point where we were making quite a bit of money. During that two year period, we managed to pay off all the credit cards we had at that time (due to divorces and our big move west for my job) as well as the remainder of hubbyís student loan. We did not, however, manage to save a dime towards retirement or anything else. And we went on at least two fancy trips. And ate out a lot. And didn't even look at price tags in certain stores. We also did not own a home at that point, and were paying a small fortune to rent a very nice one (we needed one with with space for our huge dog to run!), while paying only the minimum on my student loans.

Each month we wondered how we could possibly make so much money (some months we brought in more than $10K total - after taxes) and still have nothing left to save towards a house or retirement by the end of the month. I have a few defenses for this. One is that I was less than two years out of graduate school (finally!) and after having been a young, poor, and mostly single mom for that difficult 11 year period, I had a big wish list for life. I needed some fun time. Additionally, my field was very specialized, and required us to live in a very expensive area on the west coast. We were both completely shell shocked by the cost of living adjustment our first year. The price of things like cheese always floored me. Plus, Hubby and I weren't actually married yet at that point, and despite entering our 30's, we were simply not ready yet to buckle down and get serious about financial planning.

So thatís my list of reasons, minus a lot of things I could say about hind sight that you can fill in for me if you like. That period of my life ended almost 5 years ago when hubby and I made the difficult, but long coming decision for me to quit my job (or really career in this case) and move back to our hometown in the Midwest. At that point, we did begin to reign it in a bit in preparation for the 60% reduction in income we would be undergoing in a few short months. We stop planning for the next big vacation and started planning for the journey home instead. We cut back on spending, and put a little away each month for the huge moving expenses we knew from experience that we would be racking up soon. Not nearly enough, but it helped. And I began to look into information on starting a new home business.

We made a mix of good and bad financial decisions over the next few years, but also worked very hard. That first year back, I often spent upwards of 50 hours a week laying the groundwork to get my business up and running, and even took on housecleaning jobs in the meantime until my cash flow became more regular. Thankfully, hubby's job was able to come with him on our move, but the recession had just kicked in and there would be no cost of living raises that year. We had a few thousand in credit card debt again from the move we had to pay on, but we put my student loans on temporary forbearance (which sadly wiped out all progress we had made thus far). My daughter had hit the difficult teenage years, and no matter how much we made, it could never be enough to acquire all the things she was certain she needed (and that every other person she knew already had). Additionally, I felt bad downgrading her too much from what she had become used to at that point, given that the second move was hard enough on her, and certainly not what she had wanted or expected. In all honesty, we had a bit of a hard time adjusting to all of that ourselves actually, and though our rent was much cheaper than it had been out west, it was still much more expensive that what we probably should have taken on. But we felt we needed to step into our new cost of living situation gradually, so as not to give up everything we'd had all at once.

Now that we were back in the much more affordable and homey midwest, we finally felt able to settle down and begin working towards our future together. We got officially engaged and started looking into homes and saving for a down payment. I settled in to my new work routine and despite how much tighter things were, we managed to put away at least $700/month during most of that first year. And though I feel our wedding was perfect, it was a small, elegant but inexpensive, at home affair that did not set us back too much more. Can't say the same for my amazing ring though. (I made it clear there was no way we were spending less than he spent on his ex and I still do not regret that!) We also had a short, but sweet honeymoon that added a little more. And within two months of all that shenanigans, we dropped all our saving and then some into our new house.

Despite putting a little more on the cards to get all settled in, I think our house was a good purchase. A huge step down from what we'd had out west, and more than $1000 per month less than our rent had been even after moving back to the midwest. But a respectable, comfortable, suburban home in a good neighborhood none the less, with a payment we could afford. We bought it at what was the market low (at that point) and with a great fixed interest rate, and it has plenty of room for a family. Therefore, we immediately jumped into the next stage of our long term life plan - babies! And what with that first "Holy Shit" ultrasound, and the later preterm birth that twins tend to bring, less than 12 mos after we said "I do" we had two of them! Not to mention a lot of unexpected time off from work (and savings) on my part due to bed rest.

Somewhere in all of that, there was also a long distance wedding trip, a number of car issues and more than one or two home owner issues as well. We did not have an emergency fund yet at that point, so anything extra was a problem. Plus, my daughter had turned 16 and began driving, and no matter how crappy a car you give them, the insurance still sucks. Its no secret that kids tend to be the most expensive at the bookends of your 18 years with them, and unfortunately we had some on each end. I had to keep my work hours while I was breastfeeding (and not sleeping) to less than half of what they had been pre-baby. We started getting a grocery delivery service rather than shopping ourselves, despite the extra expense, cause we couldn't figure out how to manage life without hating each other otherwise. And as thankful as we were for hubby's work from home job that came with us on our big move, it was far from competitive in pay (though excellent in health coverage thank goodness), and yet we just didn't feel like we could manage him finding something out of the home until we got closer to the boys first birthday.

Lest I mislead you, there were some toys in there too. We got a new flat screen tv, and we had cable, netflix and audible subscriptions. We both got iPhone 3's when the 4's came out and have since upgraded. We got a new laptop when the old one died. We ate out a couple times a week at least. We took a couple modest vacations. We purchased memberships to the zoo and museum. We weren't partying, but we weren't suffering.

None the less, fast forward to about 18 mos. later and we have finally begun to catch our breath again. Hubby did find a new job outside the home that pays much better (though that required me to cut my hours even more initially, and necessitated another car purchase). We stopped hemorrhaging expenses and started simply treading water instead. I think its been over a year since we even used a credit card,which means we have mostly gotten the hang of living within our means (pre-child support loss at least!). And we did finally get an emergency fund going. But its been pretty clear that we haven't made much of any real progress towards wiping out the debt we accumulated either. And as we slowly inch towards the end of our 30's, it is clear that the time to start planning for our financial future is now. Like, so right now, its yesterday.

So that's how we got here. Nothing completely stupid I don't think (well, maybe the ring. But since I'd do that one again, I don't think it counts), though lots of things we could have done a bit better. And today, on this Thanksgiving Day 2012, I am thankful that hubby and I have both the means and dedication to tackle this massive financial overhaul, so that our future can be a bright one.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99522] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 99522 [entry_title] => The Big Picture [entry_stub] => the-big-picture [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/the-big-picture_99522/ [entry_date] => 1355371250 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-12 22:00:50 [entry_text] => This may be simply an exercise in idealistic dreaming, but I want to paint for you (or maybe mostly just me) a picture of how I see this new financial plan unfolding for us in the coming years. Cause I have big, unrealized but hopefully not unrealistic, dreams. In Dave Ramsey's book, he tells you that it takes most people about seven years to reach Baby Step 7: Build Wealth. Longer still to get to the Pinnacle Point where your money finally starts working harder than you have to. Certainly, that is the long term goal. And the short term goal is the credit card/car payment debt payoff I've already outlined. But it'd be nice to have a picture of our mid-term plan as well. Especially given that I don't think we will be following the Baby Steps precisely.

So, one year out, give or take a few months, and hopefully our small debts (non-mortgage/student loan) will be paid off. At that point we will hopefully be more used to getting by with a lot less monthly discretionary income. Maybe we can at least add enough back in to be able to go on monthly date nights again though. But I don't want to get too slack because we still have a lot or work to do. Baby Step 3 is to Finish the Emergency Fund, which he defines as 3-6 mos. worth of expenses. For us, that would roughly be $15K-$30K.

Projecting out both raises and expenses, once we get our small debts paid off, I think we could save roughly $25K/yr. So, that should take us 7-14 mos. depending on how much cushion we want. My thought is that we should save as much as possible, setting aside the minimum $15K to touch only for emergencies, but then factor in the fact that our family SUV will be 15 years old (already has 223K miles) by then. I am fine with driving it until it dies, but its pretty much a given that that is going to be before too much longer (please, please, please not this year!). I am also fine with not getting a new car when it does die. But I would prefer to get something gently used with at least a few more bells and whistles than our current one has. I think we could probably get something 5-6 years old for between $15-$20K.

That's not the only big ticket item we need to save for though. In a few more years, the boys will be ready to start school and I will be more than ready to jump back on the career train. But that is probably going to require a bit of retraining on my part, and I am not willing to take out any more student loans. (Above and beyond the $105K I already put my foot down on of course). So, if I want to go back, which I very much do right now, we will need to save for that too. I am conservatively estimating about $20K for that right now, plus after school daycare (maybe $5K? Though that will be more of an on-going expense), but given the rising cost of education these days, who knows?

The point of all this speculating is to point out that with these extra purchases, the time it takes up to save about $30K for an emergency fund is going to be more like 2-3/4 to 3 years rather than 14 mos. That's a long time. And who knows how many set backs there might be in the meantime. At some point, hubby's car will need to be replaced as well, though it is 5 years newer than the SUV at least. But I guess I'm okay with it as long as we get to Baby Step 4: Retirement Investing, by the time I re-graduate, which I am predicting will be in 5-6 years. If we get to that step before I graduate, then I guess we will start putting at least the company matching amount into hubby's 401K. Actually, if we don't get to that step before 40, we probably should do a lot more than that, and I kind of doubt we will. Once I do graduate and start working again though, we are going to kick step 4's butt.

And then we get to Baby Step 5: College Funding for the kids. Except we're going to re-package that one as college payoff for the adults. By then my daughter will be done with college (or darn well better be at least). Until we get fabulously wealthy, I have done the best I can for her by insisting that she go to a school where she would graduate with a maximum of $40K in debt. Still a lot I know, but less than half as much than me, and within the amount considered reasonable by the income to debt calculators. She hated me for it at the time, but now seems mostly happy.

I am hoping that with a new masters degree I will be able to make at least $50K, although about half of that will probably have to go towards retirement, and the rest will get taxed. But lets just say that after stocking up our emergency fund, we have about $25K/yr extra from hubby's income and $25K/yr from mine. So $50K/yr extra after I start working to do with what we will. (OMG, is that really possible?) What to do with all that cash?? Pay off my damn student loans!! If we stick to the plan, that should take us only two more years. At that point, we can look into some minimal investing for the boys' college (and maybe some back pay for my daughter). But they are going to be expected to chip in as well because we are heading off to...

...Baby Step 6: Pay Off the Mortgage! Honestly, not quite sure what's going to happen when we get to this step because you see, before we focus on paying off the mortgage, we'd like to focus instead of getting the house we'd really like to have. The exciting thing is, once the student loan is paid off, we could afford about $600 more per month for a mortgage without changing anything else. Assuming the market continues to improve, we should also have a fair amount of equity at this point, having lived here for about 11 years. I am not sure yet whether we would rather buy or remodel. It will probably depend a lot on the location of our jobs at that point. There are some things I really like about both this home and this area, but our home was built in the 1960's and it really needs some updating. I think it would take between $175K-$200K to get it to where we want it, and only about 60% of that could be recouped in re-sale value. Whether or not that's worth it will depend largely on what we could get for the same value given the housing market at the time.

I also really like Dave Ramsey's idea of taking out only a 15 year mortgage and keeping your mortgage payment to less than 25% of your take home pay. Whether we decide to buy or remodel, I do very much want to keep those rules in mind. After all our hard work, I certainly do not want to end up house poor. It will be hard to feel like we can't afford just about whatever we want once we've taken care of all that other debt. And I do love big, pretty homes. Nonetheless, regardless of what we choose to do, at that point it should be a maximum of 15 years until we are entirely debt free, and if we continue with the $50K/yr rule, I think we could take that down to 6 years.

Which means this is more like a 14 year than a 7 years plan for us, but by the time we enter our 50's, it is very possible we will have no debt remaining (maybe we'll bump up the boys college fund at that point) and hopefully by the time we hit our 60's we will have reached that fabled Pinnacle Point which will leave us set for a long, happy retirement. Its certainly not a get rich quick scheme. which makes it seem somewhat more believable. Though it will certainly require a lot of dedication and sacrifice. But it seems like by the time the boys graduate from high school, we will finally have both the time AND money to do all sorts of things.

So that's the big picture. And now back to Baby Step 2.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 6 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99515] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99515 [entry_title] => Another Family Debt Blog [entry_stub] => another-family-debt-blog [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/another-family-debt-blog_99515/ [entry_date] => 1355368863 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-12 21:21:03 [entry_text] => (Can't decide if I will move all of these entries over or not, some are out of date now, but I figured I'd try to get at least the ones with the background info.)

Iím not a big 12 step follower or anything. But I do believe that two very important steps for beginning a major life change, of most any sort, are acceptance and admission. You need to truly accept that there is a problem with something in your life. No more excuses, no more minimizing. And then, to fully define what the problem is, you need an open admission of your mistakes and current status. To that end..."Hi. My name is Anne, and I have a problem with Debt."

To be fair, my husband and I have known and admitted this for years. And we are not the type to drive around in a fancy new car we're leasing while uncertain how we're going to pay our credit cards this month. Actually, our newest car is 8 years old. And we always have enough on hand to pay our bills (which according to all the political talk you hear lately means we are somehow better off than 2/3 of Americans?!?). But that is not to say we don't have our frivolities. We have a gym membership, grocery delivery and a lawn service. My husband has weaseled his way into getting an iPhone 5 soon, though I will be settling for the 4 (I only have a 3 right now!). We have a 36" flat screen TV and a new laptop. We're not suffering. We're just not winning any achievement awards either. We are very effectively treading water, as we have been for many years.

The description I just gave creates the same moderately dismal view of debt that I think a lot of Americans have. Kind of a necessary evil in which you "do the best you can", trying to make some responsible headway while still allowing yourself some enjoyment of "the good things in life". And I think it is this minimizing, moderate view that has kept my husband and I in this situation for much longer than we have really needed to be here. We're smart people. We make a decent income. We should not be here. And so, like so many debt slashers before me, I have have just finished Dave Ramsey's "Total Money Makeover" book, and I am now in the mood to take a much more extreme (i.e. honest) stance about our current situation. (I know some people here are not big fans of his, totally okay. I have my qualms too. But he's working well to motivate us right now.)

Let's just start with a number. $327,758. As of Oct. 1, 2012, that is where our total debt stands. About 60% of this belongs to our mortgage. Another 32% to my student loans. (Boo!) The remaining 8% is a combination of credit cards and car loan. Keep in mind that 8% of $327,758 is over $26,000. Keep in mind also that although we may not be suffering, this total number is still more than three times our combined yearly income. Ugh. To top it all off, we're in our mid 30's and have not a dime saved for retirement or college for our boys, and we will probably end up co-signing on $40,000 in student loans by the time my daughter graduates from college (though hopefully that will be her problem, not mine). We are in deep s**t folks.

Despite our seeming record to the contrary, I am actually a big believer in Ramsey's assertion that debt of just about any sort is just no good. That we have all bought into a lie that serves the lenders rather than ourselves. And that mostly, the only excuse for using credit cards is poor planning and difficulty with impulse control. Ouch. We suck. I have lots of good excuses for our credit card debt that I have pulled out in the past to soothe these sharp criticisms. And I will say at least that my husband and I are generally not people who use credit cards for shiny new toys or entertainment much less basics like groceries and clothes. Mostly, these were one time or unplanned emergency expenses (that being said, I can think of at least one exception to pretty much each one of those things I just mentioned.) None the less, even the unplanned things were mostly due to not saving for an emergency fund the way we should have to begin with. There was some impulsiveness in there as well for sure. (And a very shiny toy indeed in the form of a ring that now sits upon my wedding finger.)

I want to be completely, un-sugar-coated honest about this because I am [i]tired[/] of being in credit card debt. I am tired of wondering what on earth we would do if one of our cars died. I am tired of feeling trapped in my home by having no home equity. I am tired of feeling too daunted by my student loans to even begin handling my retirement. And I am sick to death of feeling like this will be the year we're finally going to start getting ahead a little, only to somehow have all the extra trickle away again with no lasting effect on the bottom line. I am ready to get serious about this. I am ready to start making some sacrifices. I am not sure about "gazelle intensity" (maybe just cause I really hate that phrase?) but I am willing to begin exploring options I haven't been willing to consider before.

But I need something to keep me motivated. And I need a way to work out the serious anxiety I am feeling about all this. And a place to put down some of the things I learn and maybe even help someone else in the process. Thus, I started a blog! Smile
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 1 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) ) -->

Closing In

July 13th, 2013 at 04:46 pm

Almost at the finish line for TMM baby step 2: debt snowball. Actually, we could have been there on July 19th, but, the laptop hubby has been wanting for so long went on sale for the 4th of July week. We saved $100 by buying it now and pushing the fridge payoff out one more paycheck (Aug 2). Which I think is fine given it's no interest for 3 more months and definitely will be paid off on the 2nd. We chose snail speed shipping though to save on that part, so it will still be another week or so before he gets it, but I'm sure he will be very happy when it finally arrives!

We are starting to look into what the next financial steps are. Dave Ramsey says baby step 3 should be saving a 3-6 month emergency fund (building on the $1000 one from baby step 1). That would be about $18,000 for us and would take quite some time. And in the meantime, we would still not be taking advantage of the 3% 401K matching hubby's company offers (not to mention just plain starting to save for retirement period, even though we're both entering our late 30's.) Additionally, our '99 SUV is probably not going to last much longer and certainly will be an emergency when it dies. And we want our next car purchase to be a slightly used, reliable family vehicle with low miles that we can count on driving for at least 8-10 years.

So, we're thinking of taking a middle of the road approach. I've opened a money market account with Ally bank and transferred our $1000 emergency fund there. As soon as the fridge is done we are going to work on building that up to $5000 as fast as possible. After that, we have some home maintenance issues we have been putting off forever that we need to take care of. Getting all of that accomplished is going to push us well into the end of Oct.

But once we're there, we are going to start putting 6% of hubby's paychecks into the company 401K (the maximum matching amount). And come open enrollment in Nov we are also going to up our HSA/FSA medical contributions to the max for the coming year. That's going to take quite a dent out of our monthly income, but with all the debt we've now paid off (as well as the decrease in taxable income from the 401K/HSA/FSA), we should still be able to raise our entertainment budget from what it has been these past 9 months, and still work towards saving for a new vehicle.

We originally wanted to save for it completely before purchasing, which would have taken about a year, but our daughter really needs a car for the college internship she wants to do next summer. Assuming the SUV is still running then, we'd like to pass it off to her by next May so she can do that. That said, we should be 80% of the way there by May with hubby's bonus, so it shouldn't be too bad to take out a small loan at that point and pay it off in 4-6 months.

At that point, I will be starting school again (just a few classes at a community college to begin with) so there will be some tuition to take care of. But we will also need to start kicking up our savings as well. I'm looking into a Roth IRA for that, and Ally bank seems like a good place to help us with it. Given that you can withdraw contributions without penalty if needed, I feel like this could double with retirement and most of our remaining 3-6 month emergency fund. Short of job loss, I doubt we will ever need more than the $5K we will already have set aside in the money market (which I will keep separate). And $18K seems like too much money to just have sitting in a low interest account, when it will likely never be used, while we make no progress on retirement. Dave Ramsey would not approve, and I'm still looking into the details, but right now that's the plan. Feb 2014
Start 6% 401K withdrawals: Sept 2013----->Feb/Mar 2014
Save for/Pay off "new" car: May 2014----->Feb 2015

As I said: Ugh.

A new reflection though: I saw on FB recently that an old friend of mine I've lost touch with the past few years, is selling her house. She has been dying for a bigger house for years, and her husband had a well paying job. But they also had a lot of debt and not the best of spending habits, and with the housing market crash they felt completely stuck.

About 4 months back, her husband's department was downsized and he was laid off. He had a few months severance though and lots of job interview lined up, so they weren't too concerned at the time. Thus, when I saw her recent FB posting, I at first assumed he had found something even better and that with the housing market upswing they were finally able to afford the new home they have been wanting.

But then I read further. Turns out, they are not buying a new one, just selling the old one. She didn't elaborate more but a quick check on LinkedIn confirmed what I feared; her husband has been out of work since Oct. Now I am purely speculating at this point, but given what I know of their past financial situation, it's not at all hard to draw a line that without a high paying job, the large debts have are going to sink them once the severance pay ends, and they are trying to find a source for more funds.

I say all this not to gossip or point fingers (presumably, you have no idea who I'm even talking about), and I actually feel very bad for her, though not really close enough anymore to question her about such a personal matter. But for me, she is such a stunning reminder of why hubby and I are doing all this.

Our financial situations were close enough at one time that it is easy for me to picture how something very similar could have happened to us, had we not begun to exercise financial restraint. But I admit that it was very hard for me to hear about their fancy trips, and see their pretty new cars and how beautifully decorated the inside of her home was. I wanted those things too. I wanted to look that good as well. But we were pouring all our extra cash into debt and had nothing visual to show for it.

We are still a long way from where we want to be. And without more savings, we are still not even insulated from going through something similar ourselves were hubby to lose his job. But we have no credit card or car debt dragging us down anymore. And we have a very clear picture of our budget and of the steps we need to take to get from A to B. So, even though this is a total drag, and even though I feel like it's taking way longer than it should, reflecting on where we could be instead leaves me still feeling thankful about where we are. Maybe not happy, but thankful. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105872] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 105872 [entry_title] => Commencing Baby Step 3 [entry_stub] => commencing-baby-step-3- [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/11/24/commencing-baby-step-3-_105872/ [entry_date] => 1385315344 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-11-24 11:49:04 [entry_text] => We've finally finished wading through all the home maintenance projects (including an unexpected $1000 repair on the roof a couple weeks ago) and even set aside $1000 for Christmas. We've reached our family health deductible for the year and are scheduling appts like mad for these next few weeks to take full advantage of paying only 20% rather than 100% for the rest of the year. And we were also incredibly blessed to have my aunt unexpectedly send me a check to cover my first semester of tuition and books for the community college I will be starting at in Jan. And so, with that all finally behind us, it's time to commence on our TMM baby step 3 (beef up emergency fund to cover 3-6 months of expenses).

It has been almost 4 months since we finished baby step 2, so I am relieved to finally be getting back on track again. We made a lot of prudent purchases and repairs, but as the money kept flowing out rather than in, I worried that our financial plan had become derailed. Apparently though, even without CC debt, we do still have some motivation and dedication to this plan after all. And it's time to buckle down again.

My main goal for this coming financial year is to see our next worth begin to rise finally. Although given it is currently -$46K, it might be more accurate to say we want to see our gaping net worth hole begin to be filled in. It's actually much better now that it was a year ago. Partly because of paying off the CC's and car loan. But also in a large part due to home values bouncing back again finally, and we can't really take credit for that. Plus that part could go again as easy as it came.

But I was realizing the other day that we are at an exciting point none that less because from here on out, we will mainly be investing in ourselves. Even the $25K we hope to save for a "new" vehicle over the next year and a half will be savings converted into an asset, rather than simply blown out the window. And yes, yes, I know their will be depreciation, but you get my point. We're finally investing in our own net worth. And that is exciting!

Plus, during the open enrollment period this year we made sure to max out our HSA contribution for next year, as well as bump up the life insurance and disability policies a little bit. And it feels wonderful to know we are getting an adequate financial safety net into place. Almost like we're becoming real adults finally!

From this point on though, we're going to be breaking a bit from strict compliance to the TMM plan. For instance, we're going to start baby step 4 (retirement savings) as soon as we get $5000 towards baby step 3. Which should be by the end of Jan if we practice restraint over Xmas. We are way too old to be putting it off any longer and we're going to be doing baby step 3 for quite some time. We want our final emergency fund to be around $20K, but we need to buy a car along the way, so almost as soon as we get it we're going to empty it out and start again.

I consider this an EF worthy purchase though because, as discussed previously, our current family vehicle is a 1999 and has over 225K miles. It's just not going to be around much longer, and when it does finally die, it will certainly be an emergency. After doing a lot of research we decided that the most financially wise options were to either buy a cheap 7-8 year old car in decent condition and plan to cover fairly regular repairs until we can afford an upgrade. Or to buy a reliable low mileage 1-2 year old vehicle that shouldn't need much work for a few years, and which would be just as affordable as long as we keep driving it at least 10 years. And given how very tired we are of highly used vehicles at this point, we have decided to go for the 2nd option.

We're going to save as much as we can for it until May and then get a loan for the remainder. We want to give the old one to our daughter when she comes home from college for the summer so that she will have her own vehicle to get to and from her summer job. And then we're going to pay off the car loan as fast as possible, though right now it's looking like Feb 2015 before we get there.

So that's the plan right now. Hubby is in the process of applying for new jobs that pays more though, and if one of them pans out, maybe we can even do this without a car loan. Hoping for the best!

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105329] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 105329 [entry_title] => TMM Year 2 [entry_stub] => tmm-year-2 [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/10/20/tmm-year-2_105329/ [entry_date] => 1382288284 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-10-20 11:58:04 [entry_text] => It's been forever, I know. Not sure what the deal is with all this crazy /// nonsense in my info section since I left either. Anywho...

This Oct marks the beginning of the second year for hubby and I's Total Money Makeover. And how far have we gotten in a year? Well, considerably farther than we pictured ourselves one year ago for sure. We originally thought we'd be nearing the end of our credit card payments about now, and just starting to work on the car loan. The was before we discovered what the power of a budget and willpower can actually do. So instead we finished both by the end of July.

On the other hand...we are considerably less far than we had pictured ourselves being by now last June. Our revised goal was to have the initial $5000 for our emergency fund fully stocked by now, as well as kicking off the retirement 401k we need so badly and also making headway towards the "new" car we need. Instead we are in a much more dangerous no man's land somewhere between Baby Step 2 and Baby Step 3. I don't feel we are derailed from our TMM, but we do need to start getting this show on the road again soon.

So what have we been doing instead of all those June goals? Well, a lot of home stuff actually. Things we put off forever while dealing with our CC debt. We finally got a new toilet for downstairs (which lowered out water bill by $35/month!). We got a few trees cut down that had died and got our gutters cleaned out. We are also getting a large rip in our kitchen linolium repaired as well as some baseboards re-added that we never replaced after our mold damage issue a couple years ago.

We're getting our radon remitigation system installed this week ($1200). And we also had to take care of a couple big car repairs as well as buying hubby a new suit for job interviewing after all the weight he lost. Additionally, we finally replaced a few items that were wearing out. Like hubby's desk chair that was held together by duct tape and the kitchen rug that was coming apart at the seams. And we also spent more than typical on entertainment too, given it was summer and we had more family outings than usual.

Some of that stuff qualifies as emergency fund type things. Some doesn't. But it's all stuff we've been wanting to take care of forever and I'm glad we did it. By the end of this month we should be done with all that and ready to begin on Baby Step 3 for real. Trouble is, the boys are finally in preschool and I am finally going back to school myself to begin a second career. My first tuition/books payment will be due this Dec (just in time for Xmas) and is probably going to be around $2000. Long story short, I don't think we're going to be able to start the 401k until about Jan instead of Sept like we had planned and that sucks.

Regardless, compared to where we saw ourselves a year ago, we are doing much, much better indeed. Hopefully by this time next year we will be finished with Baby Step 4 and be looking ahead to a bright financial future!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [103651] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 103651 [entry_title] => Closing In [entry_stub] => closing-in [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/07/13/closing-in_103651/ [entry_date] => 1373733962 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-07-13 11:46:02 [entry_text] => Almost at the finish line for TMM baby step 2: debt snowball. Actually, we could have been there on July 19th, but, the laptop hubby has been wanting for so long went on sale for the 4th of July week. We saved $100 by buying it now and pushing the fridge payoff out one more paycheck (Aug 2). Which I think is fine given it's no interest for 3 more months and definitely will be paid off on the 2nd. We chose snail speed shipping though to save on that part, so it will still be another week or so before he gets it, but I'm sure he will be very happy when it finally arrives!

We are starting to look into what the next financial steps are. Dave Ramsey says baby step 3 should be saving a 3-6 month emergency fund (building on the $1000 one from baby step 1). That would be about $18,000 for us and would take quite some time. And in the meantime, we would still not be taking advantage of the 3% 401K matching hubby's company offers (not to mention just plain starting to save for retirement period, even though we're both entering our late 30's.) Additionally, our '99 SUV is probably not going to last much longer and certainly will be an emergency when it dies. And we want our next car purchase to be a slightly used, reliable family vehicle with low miles that we can count on driving for at least 8-10 years.

So, we're thinking of taking a middle of the road approach. I've opened a money market account with Ally bank and transferred our $1000 emergency fund there. As soon as the fridge is done we are going to work on building that up to $5000 as fast as possible. After that, we have some home maintenance issues we have been putting off forever that we need to take care of. Getting all of that accomplished is going to push us well into the end of Oct.

But once we're there, we are going to start putting 6% of hubby's paychecks into the company 401K (the maximum matching amount). And come open enrollment in Nov we are also going to up our HSA/FSA medical contributions to the max for the coming year. That's going to take quite a dent out of our monthly income, but with all the debt we've now paid off (as well as the decrease in taxable income from the 401K/HSA/FSA), we should still be able to raise our entertainment budget from what it has been these past 9 months, and still work towards saving for a new vehicle.

We originally wanted to save for it completely before purchasing, which would have taken about a year, but our daughter really needs a car for the college internship she wants to do next summer. Assuming the SUV is still running then, we'd like to pass it off to her by next May so she can do that. That said, we should be 80% of the way there by May with hubby's bonus, so it shouldn't be too bad to take out a small loan at that point and pay it off in 4-6 months.

At that point, I will be starting school again (just a few classes at a community college to begin with) so there will be some tuition to take care of. But we will also need to start kicking up our savings as well. I'm looking into a Roth IRA for that, and Ally bank seems like a good place to help us with it. Given that you can withdraw contributions without penalty if needed, I feel like this could double with retirement and most of our remaining 3-6 month emergency fund. Short of job loss, I doubt we will ever need more than the $5K we will already have set aside in the money market (which I will keep separate). And $18K seems like too much money to just have sitting in a low interest account, when it will likely never be used, while we make no progress on retirement. Dave Ramsey would not approve, and I'm still looking into the details, but right now that's the plan. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 7 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [101832] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 101832 [entry_title] => March Madness Ends [entry_stub] => march-madness-ends [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/26/march-madness-ends_101832/ [entry_date] => 1364260552 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-25 20:15:52 [entry_text] => Well, probably not the March Madness you're thinking of. But our March madness - the one where all the money came in, that one is finally wrapping up. And we have *mostly* been very, very good.

As you'll recall, hubby got a $5K bonus in Feb, a raise that translates in to $250 extra per paycheck starting mid-March, and a tax return total around $6200. Yeah, it was pretty sweet. But, unlike every other year in prior history, we applied ALL this money towards our debts. The checks came in, and I mailed another out.

And now, that's it. No more extra money. But only ONE credit card left! Wow. And I think we have about an extra $1000 left over from this month's budget that I'll be able to put towards it at month's end. If we keep sticking to the plan, I believe we'll be done with baby step 2 finally come July. Thank. Goodness. Cause we are sooooo sick of this.

Granted, we're not out of the water yet. Before I feel good about where we're at, we're going to need to save up for a "new" family car (preferably BEFORE the old one dies), start contributing enough to hubby's 401K to take full advantage of the employer matching, and save up at least $15K into an emergency fund. I feel like those are the bare minimum financial things I need to feel like a financially respectable adult. Hubby agrees, and until we reach those goals, we are both willing to do some more sacrificing (some of us less reluctantly than others, but we're not naming names here!).

Really though, that's just the bottom line because eventually, when the boys are finally in school I want to go back to school myself and start a second career. And given that we've barely made a dent in my previous student loans, I'd rather not take out more if possible. And we want to pay off our mortgage. And before too terribly much longer hubby will need a newer car too. And it's going to take a lot more than just hubby's 401K to make up for the Absolutely Nothing we have saved for retirement yet.

But, all in good time. The good news is that I think we will actually have reached my bottom line by this time next year, and that will be amazing. Hubby and I do have a few rewards we will be giving ourselves along the way as we reach our intermediate goals. To start with, once the credit cards are finished, our monthly entertainment budget goes up. We get to start having real date nights again! Also, there will be a new refrigerator and a new lap top ASAP, both of which will replace objects that we are just praying will hold out until July right now. But for now, baby step 2 continues...

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 2 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [101411] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 101411 [entry_title] => Making Progress [entry_stub] => making-progress [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/02/making-progress_101411/ [entry_date] => 1362265644 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-02 17:07:24 [entry_text] => I am frustrated that I have not been able to keep up with this blog very well lately due to some other projects I have been working on. I think it is a really good outlet for the stress this financial overhaul creates in our lives sometimes. And I think its a really good tool for keeping us accountable. Should be able to put more time into it again by the end of this month though I think, so I'll have to be content with that for now.

As for where we're at right now, do you see that side bar?! Talk about progress! Yes, the windfall has finally begun. Hubby got his bonus from work, which was about $5K after taxes got done with it. Originally, I had planned on paying off credit cards first with that, but after reading A LOT of material of financial planning recently, I decided a better use would be to pay off the car first, due to its higher interest rate. So, that one is done! And that payoff alone increases our monthly income by $198/month. Yay!

We also got our state return, a little under $500, and with that and some other surplus, I did pay off 1 of our 4 credit cards as well, though that one only increases out bottom line by about $30/month so not as exciting. But still progress! Supposedly, the IRS is going to finally start processing returns for people with mortgage interest credits within the next week. So hopefully, we will get that soon too (assuming no audit as discussed previously:

Text is http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-and-taxes_100945/ and Link is
http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-a...). And when we do, I plan to knock off a couple more cards, this raising our bottom line another $180/month. Wow, were we ever wasting a lot of money of this crap.

After that, it will just be the one big one left, which I'm hoping to have taken care of by the end of the summer, maybe sooner depending on how my business goes (summers tend to be slower). And then, we finally get to start the more fun part of personal finance: investing in ourselves.

Certainly we still have a lot of debt to pay off, between my student loans and our mortgage. Actually, even after paying off the the rest of the credit cards, I was disappointed to find that our net worth will still be around -$84K. Ouch. Though it is above the -$100K mark now for the first time in years. But as one financial planner I read stated, we're working really hard just to be worthless right now (ie $0 net worth).

None the less, after receiving some comments about how silly we are to not be taking advantage of the 401K matching hubby's company offers, I did a bit of research and decided in the end that, yes, we are being incredibly stupid not taking this free money and we need to get on that train ASAP, Dave Ramsey be damned. If we were being completely logical rather than emotional about it in fact, we would probably be prioritizing that even above our credit cards given that they have very low promotional interest rates. After much discussion though, we have decided we simply cannot bring ourselves to make this credit card thing go any slower. We feel spread much too thin as it is, and we need to be done with those debts and never use credit that way again. Our emotional sanity depends on it. Especially given how close we are.

If it were going to be something that was a few years away from being accomplished, like our mortgage and student loans, it might make sense to do it with more of a long view in mind. But we are literally within 3-5 months of our goal and our monthly income will increase by another $300 compared to now, once we sunset this. And that will certainly help our long term bottom line as well. That's our thinking at least. But at least we're almost there!

Anyways, very happy to be making some definite progress finally and looking forward to a 3 paycheck March this month as well! [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 4 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99541] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99541 [entry_title] => My Student Loan Baggage [entry_stub] => my-student-loan-baggage [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/my-student-loan-baggage_99541/ [entry_date] => 1355427008 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:30:08 [entry_text] => One of the few topics in Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover that really irks me is his discussion of student loan debt. I'm not saying his points are all without merit. But when he talks about credit cards, he seems to understand that the mental/emotional game is just as important, perhaps even more important, than the financial one. And so he recommends paying off your lowest balance card before your highest interest card, purely so you can see results sooner. And I totally get that. But he does not allow for the same types of emotional weakness when it comes to student loans. Consider the rant of his in this link for instance:
Text is http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-education/ and Link is
http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-edu... Ouch. That's all I can say. And since I am one of those previously professional, now stay-at-home mom's with over $100K in debt he's ranting about, it can't get much more personal than that.

When I look back over my life, there is only place I can think of that I maybe should/would have made a different decision about my education. And that was when I chose to keep pursuing a PhD in a field I wasn't sure was a good fit for me, instead of being willing to start graduate school over, or at least stop with a masters. Given that my graduate tuition was paid for, however, and that I was receiving a stipend for most of my living expenses, cutting out that leg of the journey wouldn't have changed that much. Maybe $20K less at best.

Growing up, we were poor. Like free school lunch, hand me down clothes from cousins, can't afford a school yearbook poor. I vividly remember my mom dividing one family size can of spaghettios between the 4 of my sisters and I, plus a glass of milk, for lunch. I was a small, hungry, skinny and very active kid, who hung out a lot at my friend's houses bumming snacks. My mom and dad fought constantly, and would have no matter what, but certainly a major theme of their blowouts was money. There was never enough of it, and it seemed that would never change. My mom often grew wistful in private about how, despite how smart she had been, she had dropped out of college after only a year or so at her first husband's insistence (my father) and never found her way back once the babies started coming with her second. And worse, how she could never leave her abusive second husband because she could never support the 5 of us on her own.

I'm not sure how directly it was ever stated, but I grew up with the clear impression that it was absolutely imperative that I go to college some day so that I would be able to support myself without a man. But that there would be absolutely no financial help for me to do so. This was further complicated by my step-father's abusive put downs of me compared to my sisters, and his continuous proclamations that I was never going to be good enough for anything.

Given the trouble I was often into growing up in a home like that, there were many years it seemed like he was right. There were many years I didn't bother with homework. For a period of time, I was suicidal. And I was pregnant before I was out of high school. But I harbored a deep, driving need to prove him wrong as well. And despite his insults otherwise, I was actually quite intelligent. And seriously driven to believe that there was a way out of my childhood and into the type of future I had always dreamed of. Halfway through high school, I turned over a new leaf and started to show what I was capable of academically, though my new daughter senior year complicated things a bit.

When I was applying to colleges, the last thing on my mind was the amount of money I was taking out in student loans. Certainly I qualified for every need based option possible, not to mention a few merit based ones as well. Imagining what that payback would look like 5 to 10 years down the road when I finally had a real job and was out of this mess seemed besides the point. My burning questions were: Am I really capable of this? A 4 year degree at a respectable university with a child? What if they see only what my step-dad saw? What if I am doomed to repeat the same life for my daughter as the one that was given to me?

But I got in and I did my best. My first year I did outstanding actually, but the second year my young marriage began to fall apart and afterwards, it took a couple years of struggle before my daughter and I found a new equilibrium. My last two years of undergrad I did much better for the most part, and somewhere during that time, I realized that to become anything more than a lab rat with my degree, I would need to apply for graduate school. In this sense, Dave's rant doesn't completely apply to me. I did understand that I needed to be highly marketable to pay for all this.

At that point in life, I was pretty clear that I wanted to be a working mother. I loved my daughter dearly, and was very much looking forward to being done with school and having more time eventually. But I was the kind of person who got depressed without something intellectual to pursue. Something for myself separate from my role as a mother. Perhaps partly because I had become a mother before I had gotten time to be just myself. As exhausting as it was during the semesters, school holidays were often worse because I just got so depressed with nothing to work towards.

If you had told me that I would one day choose to be a stay at home mom, I would have laughed in your face. Dave can say that young women without kids yet have no idea how they're going to feel when they do, but I think that's overly simplistic and implies we all want to stay at home deep down. I'm a stay at home mom now, and I'm still not always sure its what I want to be doing. Furthermore, I already had a child at that point. I did know what it was like. If I could have had the option to work only part time with a young family, that probably would have been my first choice. But that is not a realistic possibility in most fields, least of all mine, and I was not unrealistic. I figured with a PhD, I could make enough that my future husband could stay home if we wanted.

Graduate school was hard though. Really hard. My fears about not being good enough were constantly at an edge when surrounded by so many other brilliant people. I had developed a fuzzy, idealistic picture of my doctoral field while leisurely pursuing undergraduate research with lower expectations I had no trouble meeting. This vision was shattered to make room for the more brutal and difficult reality of what higher academia really was. The relationship with my advisor slowly went from love to hate. Somewhere along the way, I began to question whether I was really doing this for myself, or just to prove that I could. Some days, I began to acknowledge that despite how far I had come, it was possible I was moving in the wrong direction.

That is the one point in my academic journey I regret. If I had been brave, or maybe even just less tired, I would have thrown in my first 2 1/2 years of research and allowed myself to start again in a new field. If I had done this, perhaps I would be happily pursuing my new career even now? I had an inkling of what at least some of those other possibilities could have been. It wouldn't have set me back more than a couple years (though that would have added even more to my debt!). But that light at the end of the tunnel I had been impossibly chasing for so long was finally so close. I had already passed my preliminary doctoral exam. I had my project all mapped out. I just needed to buckle down for 3 more years and do it.

And so that's what I did. I figured when I was done I could work on re-branding myself in an area of research I was more interested in for the job hunt. Instead, I found myself perfectly trained to do exactly the type of research I did not want to pursue. But it sure payed well. Even if it did necessitate moving halfway across the country.

It seemed like that would be enough, eventually. But it wasn't even close. And despite my husband (then boyfriend) being brave enough to come along with my daughter and I and start this new life together out west, it just never felt right there. We just couldn't get settled. We couldn't get to a place where the future we had pictured together seemed possible. We couldn't define what needed to shift. And despite crossing the 30's threshold, we couldn't possibly imagine starting a family in that life and place.

Through all of this, my daughter moved into her teenage years, and despite being very close when she was younger, she suddenly wanted nothing to do with me. It became painfully obvious that though my school was finally done and I was ready to focus more fully on her, she no longer had any interest in focusing on me. That ship had sailed, so to speak, and I had missed my boat. That was hard. That was very hard. And it made me reflect a lot on my plans to start a family again soon. The role I wanted to play in my new children's life and the type of mother I wanted to be. As my regret grew, I also stopped giving a crap what other people thought about how capable I was. I had gotten a PhD for cripe sakes. What more could they expect of me? And it was my right to decide what I wanted to do with that degree from that point on. Obviously, it was always my right. But that was when I finally realized it.

So anyways, long story short, with my boyfriend's blessing, I quit my high paying job and decided to become a stay at home mother with over $100K in student loans instead. It was a rough few years of transition. At this point, my husband finally makes a pretty decent income. Almost as much as I used to (and adjusted for the midwest, probably a lot more). But with three kids, primarily one income, and a student loan payment of over $600/month, it never goes as far as it seems like it should. It's going to take us a while to get out of this mess. And though we are now over 4 years into this new life path, it's hard sometimes to accept where we are now compared to where we used to be. Hard to know that we will probably never live in a beautiful home/location like that one ever again. That it will be years, eons, before we can afford another fancy trip. That given the realities of our budget, money is going to continue to feel like a struggle for probably at least another 5 or so years until I'm working again. My husband and I find that hard. And depressing. And Dave would probably just say "What did you expect!?!"

...A chance to live a life much different than the one my parent's gave me I guess. A chance to feel like I had enough money to never be trapped in a relationship that was bad for me. A certainty that my children would always have enough to eat, as well as year books and new clothes and maybe even stories about trips to Disney World with our family last summer. I probably didn't need a $100K education to secure all those things, but it was an emotional journey for me that took a while to figure out.

For now, I comfort myself with the fact that though this is not always the life of my dreams, it is finally the life of my choice. I am choosing to be much poorer than I could be. I am choosing to temporarily give up most personal and intellectual pursuits (though I did start a secret blog!) so that I will have fewer regrets next time about the mother I am to my children. I could do it differently, and from time to time I check in and make sure this is what I still want. So far it is. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99540] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99540 [entry_title] => How We Got Into This Mess [entry_stub] => how-we-got-into-this-mess [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/how-we-got-into-this-mess_99540/ [entry_date] => 1355426916 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:28:36 [entry_text] => Sometimes Iím a little surprised to find myself with debt troubles, because back when my husband (then boyfriend) and I were both working 6 years ago, there was a point where we were making quite a bit of money. During that two year period, we managed to pay off all the credit cards we had at that time (due to divorces and our big move west for my job) as well as the remainder of hubbyís student loan. We did not, however, manage to save a dime towards retirement or anything else. And we went on at least two fancy trips. And ate out a lot. And didn't even look at price tags in certain stores. We also did not own a home at that point, and were paying a small fortune to rent a very nice one (we needed one with with space for our huge dog to run!), while paying only the minimum on my student loans.

Each month we wondered how we could possibly make so much money (some months we brought in more than $10K total - after taxes) and still have nothing left to save towards a house or retirement by the end of the month. I have a few defenses for this. One is that I was less than two years out of graduate school (finally!) and after having been a young, poor, and mostly single mom for that difficult 11 year period, I had a big wish list for life. I needed some fun time. Additionally, my field was very specialized, and required us to live in a very expensive area on the west coast. We were both completely shell shocked by the cost of living adjustment our first year. The price of things like cheese always floored me. Plus, Hubby and I weren't actually married yet at that point, and despite entering our 30's, we were simply not ready yet to buckle down and get serious about financial planning.

So thatís my list of reasons, minus a lot of things I could say about hind sight that you can fill in for me if you like. That period of my life ended almost 5 years ago when hubby and I made the difficult, but long coming decision for me to quit my job (or really career in this case) and move back to our hometown in the Midwest. At that point, we did begin to reign it in a bit in preparation for the 60% reduction in income we would be undergoing in a few short months. We stop planning for the next big vacation and started planning for the journey home instead. We cut back on spending, and put a little away each month for the huge moving expenses we knew from experience that we would be racking up soon. Not nearly enough, but it helped. And I began to look into information on starting a new home business.

We made a mix of good and bad financial decisions over the next few years, but also worked very hard. That first year back, I often spent upwards of 50 hours a week laying the groundwork to get my business up and running, and even took on housecleaning jobs in the meantime until my cash flow became more regular. Thankfully, hubby's job was able to come with him on our move, but the recession had just kicked in and there would be no cost of living raises that year. We had a few thousand in credit card debt again from the move we had to pay on, but we put my student loans on temporary forbearance (which sadly wiped out all progress we had made thus far). My daughter had hit the difficult teenage years, and no matter how much we made, it could never be enough to acquire all the things she was certain she needed (and that every other person she knew already had). Additionally, I felt bad downgrading her too much from what she had become used to at that point, given that the second move was hard enough on her, and certainly not what she had wanted or expected. In all honesty, we had a bit of a hard time adjusting to all of that ourselves actually, and though our rent was much cheaper than it had been out west, it was still much more expensive that what we probably should have taken on. But we felt we needed to step into our new cost of living situation gradually, so as not to give up everything we'd had all at once.

Now that we were back in the much more affordable and homey midwest, we finally felt able to settle down and begin working towards our future together. We got officially engaged and started looking into homes and saving for a down payment. I settled in to my new work routine and despite how much tighter things were, we managed to put away at least $700/month during most of that first year. And though I feel our wedding was perfect, it was a small, elegant but inexpensive, at home affair that did not set us back too much more. Can't say the same for my amazing ring though. (I made it clear there was no way we were spending less than he spent on his ex and I still do not regret that!) We also had a short, but sweet honeymoon that added a little more. And within two months of all that shenanigans, we dropped all our saving and then some into our new house.

Despite putting a little more on the cards to get all settled in, I think our house was a good purchase. A huge step down from what we'd had out west, and more than $1000 per month less than our rent had been even after moving back to the midwest. But a respectable, comfortable, suburban home in a good neighborhood none the less, with a payment we could afford. We bought it at what was the market low (at that point) and with a great fixed interest rate, and it has plenty of room for a family. Therefore, we immediately jumped into the next stage of our long term life plan - babies! And what with that first "Holy Shit" ultrasound, and the later preterm birth that twins tend to bring, less than 12 mos after we said "I do" we had two of them! Not to mention a lot of unexpected time off from work (and savings) on my part due to bed rest.

Somewhere in all of that, there was also a long distance wedding trip, a number of car issues and more than one or two home owner issues as well. We did not have an emergency fund yet at that point, so anything extra was a problem. Plus, my daughter had turned 16 and began driving, and no matter how crappy a car you give them, the insurance still sucks. Its no secret that kids tend to be the most expensive at the bookends of your 18 years with them, and unfortunately we had some on each end. I had to keep my work hours while I was breastfeeding (and not sleeping) to less than half of what they had been pre-baby. We started getting a grocery delivery service rather than shopping ourselves, despite the extra expense, cause we couldn't figure out how to manage life without hating each other otherwise. And as thankful as we were for hubby's work from home job that came with us on our big move, it was far from competitive in pay (though excellent in health coverage thank goodness), and yet we just didn't feel like we could manage him finding something out of the home until we got closer to the boys first birthday.

Lest I mislead you, there were some toys in there too. We got a new flat screen tv, and we had cable, netflix and audible subscriptions. We both got iPhone 3's when the 4's came out and have since upgraded. We got a new laptop when the old one died. We ate out a couple times a week at least. We took a couple modest vacations. We purchased memberships to the zoo and museum. We weren't partying, but we weren't suffering.

None the less, fast forward to about 18 mos. later and we have finally begun to catch our breath again. Hubby did find a new job outside the home that pays much better (though that required me to cut my hours even more initially, and necessitated another car purchase). We stopped hemorrhaging expenses and started simply treading water instead. I think its been over a year since we even used a credit card,which means we have mostly gotten the hang of living within our means (pre-child support loss at least!). And we did finally get an emergency fund going. But its been pretty clear that we haven't made much of any real progress towards wiping out the debt we accumulated either. And as we slowly inch towards the end of our 30's, it is clear that the time to start planning for our financial future is now. Like, so right now, its yesterday.

So that's how we got here. Nothing completely stupid I don't think (well, maybe the ring. But since I'd do that one again, I don't think it counts), though lots of things we could have done a bit better. And today, on this Thanksgiving Day 2012, I am thankful that hubby and I have both the means and dedication to tackle this massive financial overhaul, so that our future can be a bright one.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99522] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 99522 [entry_title] => The Big Picture [entry_stub] => the-big-picture [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/the-big-picture_99522/ [entry_date] => 1355371250 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-12 22:00:50 [entry_text] => This may be simply an exercise in idealistic dreaming, but I want to paint for you (or maybe mostly just me) a picture of how I see this new financial plan unfolding for us in the coming years. Cause I have big, unrealized but hopefully not unrealistic, dreams. In Dave Ramsey's book, he tells you that it takes most people about seven years to reach Baby Step 7: Build Wealth. Longer still to get to the Pinnacle Point where your money finally starts working harder than you have to. Certainly, that is the long term goal. And the short term goal is the credit card/car payment debt payoff I've already outlined. But it'd be nice to have a picture of our mid-term plan as well. Especially given that I don't think we will be following the Baby Steps precisely.

So, one year out, give or take a few months, and hopefully our small debts (non-mortgage/student loan) will be paid off. At that point we will hopefully be more used to getting by with a lot less monthly discretionary income. Maybe we can at least add enough back in to be able to go on monthly date nights again though. But I don't want to get too slack because we still have a lot or work to do. Baby Step 3 is to Finish the Emergency Fund, which he defines as 3-6 mos. worth of expenses. For us, that would roughly be $15K-$30K.

Projecting out both raises and expenses, once we get our small debts paid off, I think we could save roughly $25K/yr. So, that should take us 7-14 mos. depending on how much cushion we want. My thought is that we should save as much as possible, setting aside the minimum $15K to touch only for emergencies, but then factor in the fact that our family SUV will be 15 years old (already has 223K miles) by then. I am fine with driving it until it dies, but its pretty much a given that that is going to be before too much longer (please, please, please not this year!). I am also fine with not getting a new car when it does die. But I would prefer to get something gently used with at least a few more bells and whistles than our current one has. I think we could probably get something 5-6 years old for between $15-$20K.

That's not the only big ticket item we need to save for though. In a few more years, the boys will be ready to start school and I will be more than ready to jump back on the career train. But that is probably going to require a bit of retraining on my part, and I am not willing to take out any more student loans. (Above and beyond the $105K I already put my foot down on of course). So, if I want to go back, which I very much do right now, we will need to save for that too. I am conservatively estimating about $20K for that right now, plus after school daycare (maybe $5K? Though that will be more of an on-going expense), but given the rising cost of education these days, who knows?

The point of all this speculating is to point out that with these extra purchases, the time it takes up to save about $30K for an emergency fund is going to be more like 2-3/4 to 3 years rather than 14 mos. That's a long time. And who knows how many set backs there might be in the meantime. At some point, hubby's car will need to be replaced as well, though it is 5 years newer than the SUV at least. But I guess I'm okay with it as long as we get to Baby Step 4: Retirement Investing, by the time I re-graduate, which I am predicting will be in 5-6 years. If we get to that step before I graduate, then I guess we will start putting at least the company matching amount into hubby's 401K. Actually, if we don't get to that step before 40, we probably should do a lot more than that, and I kind of doubt we will. Once I do graduate and start working again though, we are going to kick step 4's butt.

And then we get to Baby Step 5: College Funding for the kids. Except we're going to re-package that one as college payoff for the adults. By then my daughter will be done with college (or darn well better be at least). Until we get fabulously wealthy, I have done the best I can for her by insisting that she go to a school where she would graduate with a maximum of $40K in debt. Still a lot I know, but less than half as much than me, and within the amount considered reasonable by the income to debt calculators. She hated me for it at the time, but now seems mostly happy.

I am hoping that with a new masters degree I will be able to make at least $50K, although about half of that will probably have to go towards retirement, and the rest will get taxed. But lets just say that after stocking up our emergency fund, we have about $25K/yr extra from hubby's income and $25K/yr from mine. So $50K/yr extra after I start working to do with what we will. (OMG, is that really possible?) What to do with all that cash?? Pay off my damn student loans!! If we stick to the plan, that should take us only two more years. At that point, we can look into some minimal investing for the boys' college (and maybe some back pay for my daughter). But they are going to be expected to chip in as well because we are heading off to...

...Baby Step 6: Pay Off the Mortgage! Honestly, not quite sure what's going to happen when we get to this step because you see, before we focus on paying off the mortgage, we'd like to focus instead of getting the house we'd really like to have. The exciting thing is, once the student loan is paid off, we could afford about $600 more per month for a mortgage without changing anything else. Assuming the market continues to improve, we should also have a fair amount of equity at this point, having lived here for about 11 years. I am not sure yet whether we would rather buy or remodel. It will probably depend a lot on the location of our jobs at that point. There are some things I really like about both this home and this area, but our home was built in the 1960's and it really needs some updating. I think it would take between $175K-$200K to get it to where we want it, and only about 60% of that could be recouped in re-sale value. Whether or not that's worth it will depend largely on what we could get for the same value given the housing market at the time.

I also really like Dave Ramsey's idea of taking out only a 15 year mortgage and keeping your mortgage payment to less than 25% of your take home pay. Whether we decide to buy or remodel, I do very much want to keep those rules in mind. After all our hard work, I certainly do not want to end up house poor. It will be hard to feel like we can't afford just about whatever we want once we've taken care of all that other debt. And I do love big, pretty homes. Nonetheless, regardless of what we choose to do, at that point it should be a maximum of 15 years until we are entirely debt free, and if we continue with the $50K/yr rule, I think we could take that down to 6 years.

Which means this is more like a 14 year than a 7 years plan for us, but by the time we enter our 50's, it is very possible we will have no debt remaining (maybe we'll bump up the boys college fund at that point) and hopefully by the time we hit our 60's we will have reached that fabled Pinnacle Point which will leave us set for a long, happy retirement. Its certainly not a get rich quick scheme. which makes it seem somewhat more believable. Though it will certainly require a lot of dedication and sacrifice. But it seems like by the time the boys graduate from high school, we will finally have both the time AND money to do all sorts of things.

So that's the big picture. And now back to Baby Step 2.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 6 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99515] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99515 [entry_title] => Another Family Debt Blog [entry_stub] => another-family-debt-blog [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/another-family-debt-blog_99515/ [entry_date] => 1355368863 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-12 21:21:03 [entry_text] => (Can't decide if I will move all of these entries over or not, some are out of date now, but I figured I'd try to get at least the ones with the background info.)

Iím not a big 12 step follower or anything. But I do believe that two very important steps for beginning a major life change, of most any sort, are acceptance and admission. You need to truly accept that there is a problem with something in your life. No more excuses, no more minimizing. And then, to fully define what the problem is, you need an open admission of your mistakes and current status. To that end..."Hi. My name is Anne, and I have a problem with Debt."

To be fair, my husband and I have known and admitted this for years. And we are not the type to drive around in a fancy new car we're leasing while uncertain how we're going to pay our credit cards this month. Actually, our newest car is 8 years old. And we always have enough on hand to pay our bills (which according to all the political talk you hear lately means we are somehow better off than 2/3 of Americans?!?). But that is not to say we don't have our frivolities. We have a gym membership, grocery delivery and a lawn service. My husband has weaseled his way into getting an iPhone 5 soon, though I will be settling for the 4 (I only have a 3 right now!). We have a 36" flat screen TV and a new laptop. We're not suffering. We're just not winning any achievement awards either. We are very effectively treading water, as we have been for many years.

The description I just gave creates the same moderately dismal view of debt that I think a lot of Americans have. Kind of a necessary evil in which you "do the best you can", trying to make some responsible headway while still allowing yourself some enjoyment of "the good things in life". And I think it is this minimizing, moderate view that has kept my husband and I in this situation for much longer than we have really needed to be here. We're smart people. We make a decent income. We should not be here. And so, like so many debt slashers before me, I have have just finished Dave Ramsey's "Total Money Makeover" book, and I am now in the mood to take a much more extreme (i.e. honest) stance about our current situation. (I know some people here are not big fans of his, totally okay. I have my qualms too. But he's working well to motivate us right now.)

Let's just start with a number. $327,758. As of Oct. 1, 2012, that is where our total debt stands. About 60% of this belongs to our mortgage. Another 32% to my student loans. (Boo!) The remaining 8% is a combination of credit cards and car loan. Keep in mind that 8% of $327,758 is over $26,000. Keep in mind also that although we may not be suffering, this total number is still more than three times our combined yearly income. Ugh. To top it all off, we're in our mid 30's and have not a dime saved for retirement or college for our boys, and we will probably end up co-signing on $40,000 in student loans by the time my daughter graduates from college (though hopefully that will be her problem, not mine). We are in deep s**t folks.

Despite our seeming record to the contrary, I am actually a big believer in Ramsey's assertion that debt of just about any sort is just no good. That we have all bought into a lie that serves the lenders rather than ourselves. And that mostly, the only excuse for using credit cards is poor planning and difficulty with impulse control. Ouch. We suck. I have lots of good excuses for our credit card debt that I have pulled out in the past to soothe these sharp criticisms. And I will say at least that my husband and I are generally not people who use credit cards for shiny new toys or entertainment much less basics like groceries and clothes. Mostly, these were one time or unplanned emergency expenses (that being said, I can think of at least one exception to pretty much each one of those things I just mentioned.) None the less, even the unplanned things were mostly due to not saving for an emergency fund the way we should have to begin with. There was some impulsiveness in there as well for sure. (And a very shiny toy indeed in the form of a ring that now sits upon my wedding finger.)

I want to be completely, un-sugar-coated honest about this because I am [i]tired[/] of being in credit card debt. I am tired of wondering what on earth we would do if one of our cars died. I am tired of feeling trapped in my home by having no home equity. I am tired of feeling too daunted by my student loans to even begin handling my retirement. And I am sick to death of feeling like this will be the year we're finally going to start getting ahead a little, only to somehow have all the extra trickle away again with no lasting effect on the bottom line. I am ready to get serious about this. I am ready to start making some sacrifices. I am not sure about "gazelle intensity" (maybe just cause I really hate that phrase?) but I am willing to begin exploring options I haven't been willing to consider before.

But I need something to keep me motivated. And I need a way to work out the serious anxiety I am feeling about all this. And a place to put down some of the things I learn and maybe even help someone else in the process. Thus, I started a blog! Smile
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 1 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) ) -->

March Madness Ends

March 26th, 2013 at 01:15 am

Well, probably not the March Madness you're thinking of. But our March madness - the one where all the money came in, that one is finally wrapping up. And we have *mostly* been very, very good.

As you'll recall, hubby got a $5K bonus in Feb, a raise that translates in to $250 extra per paycheck starting mid-March, and a tax return total around $6200. Yeah, it was pretty sweet. But, unlike every other year in prior history, we applied ALL this money towards our debts. The checks came in, and I mailed another out.

And now, that's it. No more extra money. But only ONE credit card left! Wow. And I think we have about an extra $1000 left over from this month's budget that I'll be able to put towards it at month's end. If we keep sticking to the plan, I believe we'll be done with baby step 2 finally come July. Thank. Goodness. Cause we are sooooo sick of this.

Granted, we're not out of the water yet. Before I feel good about where we're at, we're going to need to save up for a "new" family car (preferably BEFORE the old one dies), start contributing enough to hubby's 401K to take full advantage of the employer matching, and save up at least $15K into an emergency fund. I feel like those are the bare minimum financial things I need to feel like a financially respectable adult. Hubby agrees, and until we reach those goals, we are both willing to do some more sacrificing (some of us less reluctantly than others, but we're not naming names here!).

Really though, that's just the bottom line because eventually, when the boys are finally in school I want to go back to school myself and start a second career. And given that we've barely made a dent in my previous student loans, I'd rather not take out more if possible. And we want to pay off our mortgage. And before too terribly much longer hubby will need a newer car too. And it's going to take a lot more than just hubby's 401K to make up for the Absolutely Nothing we have saved for retirement yet.

But, all in good time. The good news is that I think we will actually have reached my bottom line by this time next year, and that will be amazing. Hubby and I do have a few rewards we will be giving ourselves along the way as we reach our intermediate goals. To start with, once the credit cards are finished, our monthly entertainment budget goes up. We get to start having real date nights again! Also, there will be a new refrigerator and a new lap top ASAP, both of which will replace objects that we are just praying will hold out until July right now. But for now, baby step 2 continues...

Feb 2014
Start 6% 401K withdrawals: Sept 2013----->Feb/Mar 2014
Save for/Pay off "new" car: May 2014----->Feb 2015

As I said: Ugh.

A new reflection though: I saw on FB recently that an old friend of mine I've lost touch with the past few years, is selling her house. She has been dying for a bigger house for years, and her husband had a well paying job. But they also had a lot of debt and not the best of spending habits, and with the housing market crash they felt completely stuck.

About 4 months back, her husband's department was downsized and he was laid off. He had a few months severance though and lots of job interview lined up, so they weren't too concerned at the time. Thus, when I saw her recent FB posting, I at first assumed he had found something even better and that with the housing market upswing they were finally able to afford the new home they have been wanting.

But then I read further. Turns out, they are not buying a new one, just selling the old one. She didn't elaborate more but a quick check on LinkedIn confirmed what I feared; her husband has been out of work since Oct. Now I am purely speculating at this point, but given what I know of their past financial situation, it's not at all hard to draw a line that without a high paying job, the large debts have are going to sink them once the severance pay ends, and they are trying to find a source for more funds.

I say all this not to gossip or point fingers (presumably, you have no idea who I'm even talking about), and I actually feel very bad for her, though not really close enough anymore to question her about such a personal matter. But for me, she is such a stunning reminder of why hubby and I are doing all this.

Our financial situations were close enough at one time that it is easy for me to picture how something very similar could have happened to us, had we not begun to exercise financial restraint. But I admit that it was very hard for me to hear about their fancy trips, and see their pretty new cars and how beautifully decorated the inside of her home was. I wanted those things too. I wanted to look that good as well. But we were pouring all our extra cash into debt and had nothing visual to show for it.

We are still a long way from where we want to be. And without more savings, we are still not even insulated from going through something similar ourselves were hubby to lose his job. But we have no credit card or car debt dragging us down anymore. And we have a very clear picture of our budget and of the steps we need to take to get from A to B. So, even though this is a total drag, and even though I feel like it's taking way longer than it should, reflecting on where we could be instead leaves me still feeling thankful about where we are. Maybe not happy, but thankful. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105872] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 105872 [entry_title] => Commencing Baby Step 3 [entry_stub] => commencing-baby-step-3- [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/11/24/commencing-baby-step-3-_105872/ [entry_date] => 1385315344 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-11-24 11:49:04 [entry_text] => We've finally finished wading through all the home maintenance projects (including an unexpected $1000 repair on the roof a couple weeks ago) and even set aside $1000 for Christmas. We've reached our family health deductible for the year and are scheduling appts like mad for these next few weeks to take full advantage of paying only 20% rather than 100% for the rest of the year. And we were also incredibly blessed to have my aunt unexpectedly send me a check to cover my first semester of tuition and books for the community college I will be starting at in Jan. And so, with that all finally behind us, it's time to commence on our TMM baby step 3 (beef up emergency fund to cover 3-6 months of expenses).

It has been almost 4 months since we finished baby step 2, so I am relieved to finally be getting back on track again. We made a lot of prudent purchases and repairs, but as the money kept flowing out rather than in, I worried that our financial plan had become derailed. Apparently though, even without CC debt, we do still have some motivation and dedication to this plan after all. And it's time to buckle down again.

My main goal for this coming financial year is to see our next worth begin to rise finally. Although given it is currently -$46K, it might be more accurate to say we want to see our gaping net worth hole begin to be filled in. It's actually much better now that it was a year ago. Partly because of paying off the CC's and car loan. But also in a large part due to home values bouncing back again finally, and we can't really take credit for that. Plus that part could go again as easy as it came.

But I was realizing the other day that we are at an exciting point none that less because from here on out, we will mainly be investing in ourselves. Even the $25K we hope to save for a "new" vehicle over the next year and a half will be savings converted into an asset, rather than simply blown out the window. And yes, yes, I know their will be depreciation, but you get my point. We're finally investing in our own net worth. And that is exciting!

Plus, during the open enrollment period this year we made sure to max out our HSA contribution for next year, as well as bump up the life insurance and disability policies a little bit. And it feels wonderful to know we are getting an adequate financial safety net into place. Almost like we're becoming real adults finally!

From this point on though, we're going to be breaking a bit from strict compliance to the TMM plan. For instance, we're going to start baby step 4 (retirement savings) as soon as we get $5000 towards baby step 3. Which should be by the end of Jan if we practice restraint over Xmas. We are way too old to be putting it off any longer and we're going to be doing baby step 3 for quite some time. We want our final emergency fund to be around $20K, but we need to buy a car along the way, so almost as soon as we get it we're going to empty it out and start again.

I consider this an EF worthy purchase though because, as discussed previously, our current family vehicle is a 1999 and has over 225K miles. It's just not going to be around much longer, and when it does finally die, it will certainly be an emergency. After doing a lot of research we decided that the most financially wise options were to either buy a cheap 7-8 year old car in decent condition and plan to cover fairly regular repairs until we can afford an upgrade. Or to buy a reliable low mileage 1-2 year old vehicle that shouldn't need much work for a few years, and which would be just as affordable as long as we keep driving it at least 10 years. And given how very tired we are of highly used vehicles at this point, we have decided to go for the 2nd option.

We're going to save as much as we can for it until May and then get a loan for the remainder. We want to give the old one to our daughter when she comes home from college for the summer so that she will have her own vehicle to get to and from her summer job. And then we're going to pay off the car loan as fast as possible, though right now it's looking like Feb 2015 before we get there.

So that's the plan right now. Hubby is in the process of applying for new jobs that pays more though, and if one of them pans out, maybe we can even do this without a car loan. Hoping for the best!

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105329] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 105329 [entry_title] => TMM Year 2 [entry_stub] => tmm-year-2 [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/10/20/tmm-year-2_105329/ [entry_date] => 1382288284 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-10-20 11:58:04 [entry_text] => It's been forever, I know. Not sure what the deal is with all this crazy /// nonsense in my info section since I left either. Anywho...

This Oct marks the beginning of the second year for hubby and I's Total Money Makeover. And how far have we gotten in a year? Well, considerably farther than we pictured ourselves one year ago for sure. We originally thought we'd be nearing the end of our credit card payments about now, and just starting to work on the car loan. The was before we discovered what the power of a budget and willpower can actually do. So instead we finished both by the end of July.

On the other hand...we are considerably less far than we had pictured ourselves being by now last June. Our revised goal was to have the initial $5000 for our emergency fund fully stocked by now, as well as kicking off the retirement 401k we need so badly and also making headway towards the "new" car we need. Instead we are in a much more dangerous no man's land somewhere between Baby Step 2 and Baby Step 3. I don't feel we are derailed from our TMM, but we do need to start getting this show on the road again soon.

So what have we been doing instead of all those June goals? Well, a lot of home stuff actually. Things we put off forever while dealing with our CC debt. We finally got a new toilet for downstairs (which lowered out water bill by $35/month!). We got a few trees cut down that had died and got our gutters cleaned out. We are also getting a large rip in our kitchen linolium repaired as well as some baseboards re-added that we never replaced after our mold damage issue a couple years ago.

We're getting our radon remitigation system installed this week ($1200). And we also had to take care of a couple big car repairs as well as buying hubby a new suit for job interviewing after all the weight he lost. Additionally, we finally replaced a few items that were wearing out. Like hubby's desk chair that was held together by duct tape and the kitchen rug that was coming apart at the seams. And we also spent more than typical on entertainment too, given it was summer and we had more family outings than usual.

Some of that stuff qualifies as emergency fund type things. Some doesn't. But it's all stuff we've been wanting to take care of forever and I'm glad we did it. By the end of this month we should be done with all that and ready to begin on Baby Step 3 for real. Trouble is, the boys are finally in preschool and I am finally going back to school myself to begin a second career. My first tuition/books payment will be due this Dec (just in time for Xmas) and is probably going to be around $2000. Long story short, I don't think we're going to be able to start the 401k until about Jan instead of Sept like we had planned and that sucks.

Regardless, compared to where we saw ourselves a year ago, we are doing much, much better indeed. Hopefully by this time next year we will be finished with Baby Step 4 and be looking ahead to a bright financial future!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [103651] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 103651 [entry_title] => Closing In [entry_stub] => closing-in [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/07/13/closing-in_103651/ [entry_date] => 1373733962 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-07-13 11:46:02 [entry_text] => Almost at the finish line for TMM baby step 2: debt snowball. Actually, we could have been there on July 19th, but, the laptop hubby has been wanting for so long went on sale for the 4th of July week. We saved $100 by buying it now and pushing the fridge payoff out one more paycheck (Aug 2). Which I think is fine given it's no interest for 3 more months and definitely will be paid off on the 2nd. We chose snail speed shipping though to save on that part, so it will still be another week or so before he gets it, but I'm sure he will be very happy when it finally arrives!

We are starting to look into what the next financial steps are. Dave Ramsey says baby step 3 should be saving a 3-6 month emergency fund (building on the $1000 one from baby step 1). That would be about $18,000 for us and would take quite some time. And in the meantime, we would still not be taking advantage of the 3% 401K matching hubby's company offers (not to mention just plain starting to save for retirement period, even though we're both entering our late 30's.) Additionally, our '99 SUV is probably not going to last much longer and certainly will be an emergency when it dies. And we want our next car purchase to be a slightly used, reliable family vehicle with low miles that we can count on driving for at least 8-10 years.

So, we're thinking of taking a middle of the road approach. I've opened a money market account with Ally bank and transferred our $1000 emergency fund there. As soon as the fridge is done we are going to work on building that up to $5000 as fast as possible. After that, we have some home maintenance issues we have been putting off forever that we need to take care of. Getting all of that accomplished is going to push us well into the end of Oct.

But once we're there, we are going to start putting 6% of hubby's paychecks into the company 401K (the maximum matching amount). And come open enrollment in Nov we are also going to up our HSA/FSA medical contributions to the max for the coming year. That's going to take quite a dent out of our monthly income, but with all the debt we've now paid off (as well as the decrease in taxable income from the 401K/HSA/FSA), we should still be able to raise our entertainment budget from what it has been these past 9 months, and still work towards saving for a new vehicle.

We originally wanted to save for it completely before purchasing, which would have taken about a year, but our daughter really needs a car for the college internship she wants to do next summer. Assuming the SUV is still running then, we'd like to pass it off to her by next May so she can do that. That said, we should be 80% of the way there by May with hubby's bonus, so it shouldn't be too bad to take out a small loan at that point and pay it off in 4-6 months.

At that point, I will be starting school again (just a few classes at a community college to begin with) so there will be some tuition to take care of. But we will also need to start kicking up our savings as well. I'm looking into a Roth IRA for that, and Ally bank seems like a good place to help us with it. Given that you can withdraw contributions without penalty if needed, I feel like this could double with retirement and most of our remaining 3-6 month emergency fund. Short of job loss, I doubt we will ever need more than the $5K we will already have set aside in the money market (which I will keep separate). And $18K seems like too much money to just have sitting in a low interest account, when it will likely never be used, while we make no progress on retirement. Dave Ramsey would not approve, and I'm still looking into the details, but right now that's the plan. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 7 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [101832] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 101832 [entry_title] => March Madness Ends [entry_stub] => march-madness-ends [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/26/march-madness-ends_101832/ [entry_date] => 1364260552 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-25 20:15:52 [entry_text] => Well, probably not the March Madness you're thinking of. But our March madness - the one where all the money came in, that one is finally wrapping up. And we have *mostly* been very, very good.

As you'll recall, hubby got a $5K bonus in Feb, a raise that translates in to $250 extra per paycheck starting mid-March, and a tax return total around $6200. Yeah, it was pretty sweet. But, unlike every other year in prior history, we applied ALL this money towards our debts. The checks came in, and I mailed another out.

And now, that's it. No more extra money. But only ONE credit card left! Wow. And I think we have about an extra $1000 left over from this month's budget that I'll be able to put towards it at month's end. If we keep sticking to the plan, I believe we'll be done with baby step 2 finally come July. Thank. Goodness. Cause we are sooooo sick of this.

Granted, we're not out of the water yet. Before I feel good about where we're at, we're going to need to save up for a "new" family car (preferably BEFORE the old one dies), start contributing enough to hubby's 401K to take full advantage of the employer matching, and save up at least $15K into an emergency fund. I feel like those are the bare minimum financial things I need to feel like a financially respectable adult. Hubby agrees, and until we reach those goals, we are both willing to do some more sacrificing (some of us less reluctantly than others, but we're not naming names here!).

Really though, that's just the bottom line because eventually, when the boys are finally in school I want to go back to school myself and start a second career. And given that we've barely made a dent in my previous student loans, I'd rather not take out more if possible. And we want to pay off our mortgage. And before too terribly much longer hubby will need a newer car too. And it's going to take a lot more than just hubby's 401K to make up for the Absolutely Nothing we have saved for retirement yet.

But, all in good time. The good news is that I think we will actually have reached my bottom line by this time next year, and that will be amazing. Hubby and I do have a few rewards we will be giving ourselves along the way as we reach our intermediate goals. To start with, once the credit cards are finished, our monthly entertainment budget goes up. We get to start having real date nights again! Also, there will be a new refrigerator and a new lap top ASAP, both of which will replace objects that we are just praying will hold out until July right now. But for now, baby step 2 continues...

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 2 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [101411] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 101411 [entry_title] => Making Progress [entry_stub] => making-progress [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/02/making-progress_101411/ [entry_date] => 1362265644 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-02 17:07:24 [entry_text] => I am frustrated that I have not been able to keep up with this blog very well lately due to some other projects I have been working on. I think it is a really good outlet for the stress this financial overhaul creates in our lives sometimes. And I think its a really good tool for keeping us accountable. Should be able to put more time into it again by the end of this month though I think, so I'll have to be content with that for now.

As for where we're at right now, do you see that side bar?! Talk about progress! Yes, the windfall has finally begun. Hubby got his bonus from work, which was about $5K after taxes got done with it. Originally, I had planned on paying off credit cards first with that, but after reading A LOT of material of financial planning recently, I decided a better use would be to pay off the car first, due to its higher interest rate. So, that one is done! And that payoff alone increases our monthly income by $198/month. Yay!

We also got our state return, a little under $500, and with that and some other surplus, I did pay off 1 of our 4 credit cards as well, though that one only increases out bottom line by about $30/month so not as exciting. But still progress! Supposedly, the IRS is going to finally start processing returns for people with mortgage interest credits within the next week. So hopefully, we will get that soon too (assuming no audit as discussed previously:

Text is http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-and-taxes_100945/ and Link is
http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-a...). And when we do, I plan to knock off a couple more cards, this raising our bottom line another $180/month. Wow, were we ever wasting a lot of money of this crap.

After that, it will just be the one big one left, which I'm hoping to have taken care of by the end of the summer, maybe sooner depending on how my business goes (summers tend to be slower). And then, we finally get to start the more fun part of personal finance: investing in ourselves.

Certainly we still have a lot of debt to pay off, between my student loans and our mortgage. Actually, even after paying off the the rest of the credit cards, I was disappointed to find that our net worth will still be around -$84K. Ouch. Though it is above the -$100K mark now for the first time in years. But as one financial planner I read stated, we're working really hard just to be worthless right now (ie $0 net worth).

None the less, after receiving some comments about how silly we are to not be taking advantage of the 401K matching hubby's company offers, I did a bit of research and decided in the end that, yes, we are being incredibly stupid not taking this free money and we need to get on that train ASAP, Dave Ramsey be damned. If we were being completely logical rather than emotional about it in fact, we would probably be prioritizing that even above our credit cards given that they have very low promotional interest rates. After much discussion though, we have decided we simply cannot bring ourselves to make this credit card thing go any slower. We feel spread much too thin as it is, and we need to be done with those debts and never use credit that way again. Our emotional sanity depends on it. Especially given how close we are.

If it were going to be something that was a few years away from being accomplished, like our mortgage and student loans, it might make sense to do it with more of a long view in mind. But we are literally within 3-5 months of our goal and our monthly income will increase by another $300 compared to now, once we sunset this. And that will certainly help our long term bottom line as well. That's our thinking at least. But at least we're almost there!

Anyways, very happy to be making some definite progress finally and looking forward to a 3 paycheck March this month as well! [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 4 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99541] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99541 [entry_title] => My Student Loan Baggage [entry_stub] => my-student-loan-baggage [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/my-student-loan-baggage_99541/ [entry_date] => 1355427008 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:30:08 [entry_text] => One of the few topics in Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover that really irks me is his discussion of student loan debt. I'm not saying his points are all without merit. But when he talks about credit cards, he seems to understand that the mental/emotional game is just as important, perhaps even more important, than the financial one. And so he recommends paying off your lowest balance card before your highest interest card, purely so you can see results sooner. And I totally get that. But he does not allow for the same types of emotional weakness when it comes to student loans. Consider the rant of his in this link for instance:
Text is http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-education/ and Link is
http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-edu... Ouch. That's all I can say. And since I am one of those previously professional, now stay-at-home mom's with over $100K in debt he's ranting about, it can't get much more personal than that.

When I look back over my life, there is only place I can think of that I maybe should/would have made a different decision about my education. And that was when I chose to keep pursuing a PhD in a field I wasn't sure was a good fit for me, instead of being willing to start graduate school over, or at least stop with a masters. Given that my graduate tuition was paid for, however, and that I was receiving a stipend for most of my living expenses, cutting out that leg of the journey wouldn't have changed that much. Maybe $20K less at best.

Growing up, we were poor. Like free school lunch, hand me down clothes from cousins, can't afford a school yearbook poor. I vividly remember my mom dividing one family size can of spaghettios between the 4 of my sisters and I, plus a glass of milk, for lunch. I was a small, hungry, skinny and very active kid, who hung out a lot at my friend's houses bumming snacks. My mom and dad fought constantly, and would have no matter what, but certainly a major theme of their blowouts was money. There was never enough of it, and it seemed that would never change. My mom often grew wistful in private about how, despite how smart she had been, she had dropped out of college after only a year or so at her first husband's insistence (my father) and never found her way back once the babies started coming with her second. And worse, how she could never leave her abusive second husband because she could never support the 5 of us on her own.

I'm not sure how directly it was ever stated, but I grew up with the clear impression that it was absolutely imperative that I go to college some day so that I would be able to support myself without a man. But that there would be absolutely no financial help for me to do so. This was further complicated by my step-father's abusive put downs of me compared to my sisters, and his continuous proclamations that I was never going to be good enough for anything.

Given the trouble I was often into growing up in a home like that, there were many years it seemed like he was right. There were many years I didn't bother with homework. For a period of time, I was suicidal. And I was pregnant before I was out of high school. But I harbored a deep, driving need to prove him wrong as well. And despite his insults otherwise, I was actually quite intelligent. And seriously driven to believe that there was a way out of my childhood and into the type of future I had always dreamed of. Halfway through high school, I turned over a new leaf and started to show what I was capable of academically, though my new daughter senior year complicated things a bit.

When I was applying to colleges, the last thing on my mind was the amount of money I was taking out in student loans. Certainly I qualified for every need based option possible, not to mention a few merit based ones as well. Imagining what that payback would look like 5 to 10 years down the road when I finally had a real job and was out of this mess seemed besides the point. My burning questions were: Am I really capable of this? A 4 year degree at a respectable university with a child? What if they see only what my step-dad saw? What if I am doomed to repeat the same life for my daughter as the one that was given to me?

But I got in and I did my best. My first year I did outstanding actually, but the second year my young marriage began to fall apart and afterwards, it took a couple years of struggle before my daughter and I found a new equilibrium. My last two years of undergrad I did much better for the most part, and somewhere during that time, I realized that to become anything more than a lab rat with my degree, I would need to apply for graduate school. In this sense, Dave's rant doesn't completely apply to me. I did understand that I needed to be highly marketable to pay for all this.

At that point in life, I was pretty clear that I wanted to be a working mother. I loved my daughter dearly, and was very much looking forward to being done with school and having more time eventually. But I was the kind of person who got depressed without something intellectual to pursue. Something for myself separate from my role as a mother. Perhaps partly because I had become a mother before I had gotten time to be just myself. As exhausting as it was during the semesters, school holidays were often worse because I just got so depressed with nothing to work towards.

If you had told me that I would one day choose to be a stay at home mom, I would have laughed in your face. Dave can say that young women without kids yet have no idea how they're going to feel when they do, but I think that's overly simplistic and implies we all want to stay at home deep down. I'm a stay at home mom now, and I'm still not always sure its what I want to be doing. Furthermore, I already had a child at that point. I did know what it was like. If I could have had the option to work only part time with a young family, that probably would have been my first choice. But that is not a realistic possibility in most fields, least of all mine, and I was not unrealistic. I figured with a PhD, I could make enough that my future husband could stay home if we wanted.

Graduate school was hard though. Really hard. My fears about not being good enough were constantly at an edge when surrounded by so many other brilliant people. I had developed a fuzzy, idealistic picture of my doctoral field while leisurely pursuing undergraduate research with lower expectations I had no trouble meeting. This vision was shattered to make room for the more brutal and difficult reality of what higher academia really was. The relationship with my advisor slowly went from love to hate. Somewhere along the way, I began to question whether I was really doing this for myself, or just to prove that I could. Some days, I began to acknowledge that despite how far I had come, it was possible I was moving in the wrong direction.

That is the one point in my academic journey I regret. If I had been brave, or maybe even just less tired, I would have thrown in my first 2 1/2 years of research and allowed myself to start again in a new field. If I had done this, perhaps I would be happily pursuing my new career even now? I had an inkling of what at least some of those other possibilities could have been. It wouldn't have set me back more than a couple years (though that would have added even more to my debt!). But that light at the end of the tunnel I had been impossibly chasing for so long was finally so close. I had already passed my preliminary doctoral exam. I had my project all mapped out. I just needed to buckle down for 3 more years and do it.

And so that's what I did. I figured when I was done I could work on re-branding myself in an area of research I was more interested in for the job hunt. Instead, I found myself perfectly trained to do exactly the type of research I did not want to pursue. But it sure payed well. Even if it did necessitate moving halfway across the country.

It seemed like that would be enough, eventually. But it wasn't even close. And despite my husband (then boyfriend) being brave enough to come along with my daughter and I and start this new life together out west, it just never felt right there. We just couldn't get settled. We couldn't get to a place where the future we had pictured together seemed possible. We couldn't define what needed to shift. And despite crossing the 30's threshold, we couldn't possibly imagine starting a family in that life and place.

Through all of this, my daughter moved into her teenage years, and despite being very close when she was younger, she suddenly wanted nothing to do with me. It became painfully obvious that though my school was finally done and I was ready to focus more fully on her, she no longer had any interest in focusing on me. That ship had sailed, so to speak, and I had missed my boat. That was hard. That was very hard. And it made me reflect a lot on my plans to start a family again soon. The role I wanted to play in my new children's life and the type of mother I wanted to be. As my regret grew, I also stopped giving a crap what other people thought about how capable I was. I had gotten a PhD for cripe sakes. What more could they expect of me? And it was my right to decide what I wanted to do with that degree from that point on. Obviously, it was always my right. But that was when I finally realized it.

So anyways, long story short, with my boyfriend's blessing, I quit my high paying job and decided to become a stay at home mother with over $100K in student loans instead. It was a rough few years of transition. At this point, my husband finally makes a pretty decent income. Almost as much as I used to (and adjusted for the midwest, probably a lot more). But with three kids, primarily one income, and a student loan payment of over $600/month, it never goes as far as it seems like it should. It's going to take us a while to get out of this mess. And though we are now over 4 years into this new life path, it's hard sometimes to accept where we are now compared to where we used to be. Hard to know that we will probably never live in a beautiful home/location like that one ever again. That it will be years, eons, before we can afford another fancy trip. That given the realities of our budget, money is going to continue to feel like a struggle for probably at least another 5 or so years until I'm working again. My husband and I find that hard. And depressing. And Dave would probably just say "What did you expect!?!"

...A chance to live a life much different than the one my parent's gave me I guess. A chance to feel like I had enough money to never be trapped in a relationship that was bad for me. A certainty that my children would always have enough to eat, as well as year books and new clothes and maybe even stories about trips to Disney World with our family last summer. I probably didn't need a $100K education to secure all those things, but it was an emotional journey for me that took a while to figure out.

For now, I comfort myself with the fact that though this is not always the life of my dreams, it is finally the life of my choice. I am choosing to be much poorer than I could be. I am choosing to temporarily give up most personal and intellectual pursuits (though I did start a secret blog!) so that I will have fewer regrets next time about the mother I am to my children. I could do it differently, and from time to time I check in and make sure this is what I still want. So far it is. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99540] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99540 [entry_title] => How We Got Into This Mess [entry_stub] => how-we-got-into-this-mess [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/how-we-got-into-this-mess_99540/ [entry_date] => 1355426916 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:28:36 [entry_text] => Sometimes Iím a little surprised to find myself with debt troubles, because back when my husband (then boyfriend) and I were both working 6 years ago, there was a point where we were making quite a bit of money. During that two year period, we managed to pay off all the credit cards we had at that time (due to divorces and our big move west for my job) as well as the remainder of hubbyís student loan. We did not, however, manage to save a dime towards retirement or anything else. And we went on at least two fancy trips. And ate out a lot. And didn't even look at price tags in certain stores. We also did not own a home at that point, and were paying a small fortune to rent a very nice one (we needed one with with space for our huge dog to run!), while paying only the minimum on my student loans.

Each month we wondered how we could possibly make so much money (some months we brought in more than $10K total - after taxes) and still have nothing left to save towards a house or retirement by the end of the month. I have a few defenses for this. One is that I was less than two years out of graduate school (finally!) and after having been a young, poor, and mostly single mom for that difficult 11 year period, I had a big wish list for life. I needed some fun time. Additionally, my field was very specialized, and required us to live in a very expensive area on the west coast. We were both completely shell shocked by the cost of living adjustment our first year. The price of things like cheese always floored me. Plus, Hubby and I weren't actually married yet at that point, and despite entering our 30's, we were simply not ready yet to buckle down and get serious about financial planning.

So thatís my list of reasons, minus a lot of things I could say about hind sight that you can fill in for me if you like. That period of my life ended almost 5 years ago when hubby and I made the difficult, but long coming decision for me to quit my job (or really career in this case) and move back to our hometown in the Midwest. At that point, we did begin to reign it in a bit in preparation for the 60% reduction in income we would be undergoing in a few short months. We stop planning for the next big vacation and started planning for the journey home instead. We cut back on spending, and put a little away each month for the huge moving expenses we knew from experience that we would be racking up soon. Not nearly enough, but it helped. And I began to look into information on starting a new home business.

We made a mix of good and bad financial decisions over the next few years, but also worked very hard. That first year back, I often spent upwards of 50 hours a week laying the groundwork to get my business up and running, and even took on housecleaning jobs in the meantime until my cash flow became more regular. Thankfully, hubby's job was able to come with him on our move, but the recession had just kicked in and there would be no cost of living raises that year. We had a few thousand in credit card debt again from the move we had to pay on, but we put my student loans on temporary forbearance (which sadly wiped out all progress we had made thus far). My daughter had hit the difficult teenage years, and no matter how much we made, it could never be enough to acquire all the things she was certain she needed (and that every other person she knew already had). Additionally, I felt bad downgrading her too much from what she had become used to at that point, given that the second move was hard enough on her, and certainly not what she had wanted or expected. In all honesty, we had a bit of a hard time adjusting to all of that ourselves actually, and though our rent was much cheaper than it had been out west, it was still much more expensive that what we probably should have taken on. But we felt we needed to step into our new cost of living situation gradually, so as not to give up everything we'd had all at once.

Now that we were back in the much more affordable and homey midwest, we finally felt able to settle down and begin working towards our future together. We got officially engaged and started looking into homes and saving for a down payment. I settled in to my new work routine and despite how much tighter things were, we managed to put away at least $700/month during most of that first year. And though I feel our wedding was perfect, it was a small, elegant but inexpensive, at home affair that did not set us back too much more. Can't say the same for my amazing ring though. (I made it clear there was no way we were spending less than he spent on his ex and I still do not regret that!) We also had a short, but sweet honeymoon that added a little more. And within two months of all that shenanigans, we dropped all our saving and then some into our new house.

Despite putting a little more on the cards to get all settled in, I think our house was a good purchase. A huge step down from what we'd had out west, and more than $1000 per month less than our rent had been even after moving back to the midwest. But a respectable, comfortable, suburban home in a good neighborhood none the less, with a payment we could afford. We bought it at what was the market low (at that point) and with a great fixed interest rate, and it has plenty of room for a family. Therefore, we immediately jumped into the next stage of our long term life plan - babies! And what with that first "Holy Shit" ultrasound, and the later preterm birth that twins tend to bring, less than 12 mos after we said "I do" we had two of them! Not to mention a lot of unexpected time off from work (and savings) on my part due to bed rest.

Somewhere in all of that, there was also a long distance wedding trip, a number of car issues and more than one or two home owner issues as well. We did not have an emergency fund yet at that point, so anything extra was a problem. Plus, my daughter had turned 16 and began driving, and no matter how crappy a car you give them, the insurance still sucks. Its no secret that kids tend to be the most expensive at the bookends of your 18 years with them, and unfortunately we had some on each end. I had to keep my work hours while I was breastfeeding (and not sleeping) to less than half of what they had been pre-baby. We started getting a grocery delivery service rather than shopping ourselves, despite the extra expense, cause we couldn't figure out how to manage life without hating each other otherwise. And as thankful as we were for hubby's work from home job that came with us on our big move, it was far from competitive in pay (though excellent in health coverage thank goodness), and yet we just didn't feel like we could manage him finding something out of the home until we got closer to the boys first birthday.

Lest I mislead you, there were some toys in there too. We got a new flat screen tv, and we had cable, netflix and audible subscriptions. We both got iPhone 3's when the 4's came out and have since upgraded. We got a new laptop when the old one died. We ate out a couple times a week at least. We took a couple modest vacations. We purchased memberships to the zoo and museum. We weren't partying, but we weren't suffering.

None the less, fast forward to about 18 mos. later and we have finally begun to catch our breath again. Hubby did find a new job outside the home that pays much better (though that required me to cut my hours even more initially, and necessitated another car purchase). We stopped hemorrhaging expenses and started simply treading water instead. I think its been over a year since we even used a credit card,which means we have mostly gotten the hang of living within our means (pre-child support loss at least!). And we did finally get an emergency fund going. But its been pretty clear that we haven't made much of any real progress towards wiping out the debt we accumulated either. And as we slowly inch towards the end of our 30's, it is clear that the time to start planning for our financial future is now. Like, so right now, its yesterday.

So that's how we got here. Nothing completely stupid I don't think (well, maybe the ring. But since I'd do that one again, I don't think it counts), though lots of things we could have done a bit better. And today, on this Thanksgiving Day 2012, I am thankful that hubby and I have both the means and dedication to tackle this massive financial overhaul, so that our future can be a bright one.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99522] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 99522 [entry_title] => The Big Picture [entry_stub] => the-big-picture [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/the-big-picture_99522/ [entry_date] => 1355371250 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-12 22:00:50 [entry_text] => This may be simply an exercise in idealistic dreaming, but I want to paint for you (or maybe mostly just me) a picture of how I see this new financial plan unfolding for us in the coming years. Cause I have big, unrealized but hopefully not unrealistic, dreams. In Dave Ramsey's book, he tells you that it takes most people about seven years to reach Baby Step 7: Build Wealth. Longer still to get to the Pinnacle Point where your money finally starts working harder than you have to. Certainly, that is the long term goal. And the short term goal is the credit card/car payment debt payoff I've already outlined. But it'd be nice to have a picture of our mid-term plan as well. Especially given that I don't think we will be following the Baby Steps precisely.

So, one year out, give or take a few months, and hopefully our small debts (non-mortgage/student loan) will be paid off. At that point we will hopefully be more used to getting by with a lot less monthly discretionary income. Maybe we can at least add enough back in to be able to go on monthly date nights again though. But I don't want to get too slack because we still have a lot or work to do. Baby Step 3 is to Finish the Emergency Fund, which he defines as 3-6 mos. worth of expenses. For us, that would roughly be $15K-$30K.

Projecting out both raises and expenses, once we get our small debts paid off, I think we could save roughly $25K/yr. So, that should take us 7-14 mos. depending on how much cushion we want. My thought is that we should save as much as possible, setting aside the minimum $15K to touch only for emergencies, but then factor in the fact that our family SUV will be 15 years old (already has 223K miles) by then. I am fine with driving it until it dies, but its pretty much a given that that is going to be before too much longer (please, please, please not this year!). I am also fine with not getting a new car when it does die. But I would prefer to get something gently used with at least a few more bells and whistles than our current one has. I think we could probably get something 5-6 years old for between $15-$20K.

That's not the only big ticket item we need to save for though. In a few more years, the boys will be ready to start school and I will be more than ready to jump back on the career train. But that is probably going to require a bit of retraining on my part, and I am not willing to take out any more student loans. (Above and beyond the $105K I already put my foot down on of course). So, if I want to go back, which I very much do right now, we will need to save for that too. I am conservatively estimating about $20K for that right now, plus after school daycare (maybe $5K? Though that will be more of an on-going expense), but given the rising cost of education these days, who knows?

The point of all this speculating is to point out that with these extra purchases, the time it takes up to save about $30K for an emergency fund is going to be more like 2-3/4 to 3 years rather than 14 mos. That's a long time. And who knows how many set backs there might be in the meantime. At some point, hubby's car will need to be replaced as well, though it is 5 years newer than the SUV at least. But I guess I'm okay with it as long as we get to Baby Step 4: Retirement Investing, by the time I re-graduate, which I am predicting will be in 5-6 years. If we get to that step before I graduate, then I guess we will start putting at least the company matching amount into hubby's 401K. Actually, if we don't get to that step before 40, we probably should do a lot more than that, and I kind of doubt we will. Once I do graduate and start working again though, we are going to kick step 4's butt.

And then we get to Baby Step 5: College Funding for the kids. Except we're going to re-package that one as college payoff for the adults. By then my daughter will be done with college (or darn well better be at least). Until we get fabulously wealthy, I have done the best I can for her by insisting that she go to a school where she would graduate with a maximum of $40K in debt. Still a lot I know, but less than half as much than me, and within the amount considered reasonable by the income to debt calculators. She hated me for it at the time, but now seems mostly happy.

I am hoping that with a new masters degree I will be able to make at least $50K, although about half of that will probably have to go towards retirement, and the rest will get taxed. But lets just say that after stocking up our emergency fund, we have about $25K/yr extra from hubby's income and $25K/yr from mine. So $50K/yr extra after I start working to do with what we will. (OMG, is that really possible?) What to do with all that cash?? Pay off my damn student loans!! If we stick to the plan, that should take us only two more years. At that point, we can look into some minimal investing for the boys' college (and maybe some back pay for my daughter). But they are going to be expected to chip in as well because we are heading off to...

...Baby Step 6: Pay Off the Mortgage! Honestly, not quite sure what's going to happen when we get to this step because you see, before we focus on paying off the mortgage, we'd like to focus instead of getting the house we'd really like to have. The exciting thing is, once the student loan is paid off, we could afford about $600 more per month for a mortgage without changing anything else. Assuming the market continues to improve, we should also have a fair amount of equity at this point, having lived here for about 11 years. I am not sure yet whether we would rather buy or remodel. It will probably depend a lot on the location of our jobs at that point. There are some things I really like about both this home and this area, but our home was built in the 1960's and it really needs some updating. I think it would take between $175K-$200K to get it to where we want it, and only about 60% of that could be recouped in re-sale value. Whether or not that's worth it will depend largely on what we could get for the same value given the housing market at the time.

I also really like Dave Ramsey's idea of taking out only a 15 year mortgage and keeping your mortgage payment to less than 25% of your take home pay. Whether we decide to buy or remodel, I do very much want to keep those rules in mind. After all our hard work, I certainly do not want to end up house poor. It will be hard to feel like we can't afford just about whatever we want once we've taken care of all that other debt. And I do love big, pretty homes. Nonetheless, regardless of what we choose to do, at that point it should be a maximum of 15 years until we are entirely debt free, and if we continue with the $50K/yr rule, I think we could take that down to 6 years.

Which means this is more like a 14 year than a 7 years plan for us, but by the time we enter our 50's, it is very possible we will have no debt remaining (maybe we'll bump up the boys college fund at that point) and hopefully by the time we hit our 60's we will have reached that fabled Pinnacle Point which will leave us set for a long, happy retirement. Its certainly not a get rich quick scheme. which makes it seem somewhat more believable. Though it will certainly require a lot of dedication and sacrifice. But it seems like by the time the boys graduate from high school, we will finally have both the time AND money to do all sorts of things.

So that's the big picture. And now back to Baby Step 2.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 6 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99515] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99515 [entry_title] => Another Family Debt Blog [entry_stub] => another-family-debt-blog [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/another-family-debt-blog_99515/ [entry_date] => 1355368863 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-12 21:21:03 [entry_text] => (Can't decide if I will move all of these entries over or not, some are out of date now, but I figured I'd try to get at least the ones with the background info.)

Iím not a big 12 step follower or anything. But I do believe that two very important steps for beginning a major life change, of most any sort, are acceptance and admission. You need to truly accept that there is a problem with something in your life. No more excuses, no more minimizing. And then, to fully define what the problem is, you need an open admission of your mistakes and current status. To that end..."Hi. My name is Anne, and I have a problem with Debt."

To be fair, my husband and I have known and admitted this for years. And we are not the type to drive around in a fancy new car we're leasing while uncertain how we're going to pay our credit cards this month. Actually, our newest car is 8 years old. And we always have enough on hand to pay our bills (which according to all the political talk you hear lately means we are somehow better off than 2/3 of Americans?!?). But that is not to say we don't have our frivolities. We have a gym membership, grocery delivery and a lawn service. My husband has weaseled his way into getting an iPhone 5 soon, though I will be settling for the 4 (I only have a 3 right now!). We have a 36" flat screen TV and a new laptop. We're not suffering. We're just not winning any achievement awards either. We are very effectively treading water, as we have been for many years.

The description I just gave creates the same moderately dismal view of debt that I think a lot of Americans have. Kind of a necessary evil in which you "do the best you can", trying to make some responsible headway while still allowing yourself some enjoyment of "the good things in life". And I think it is this minimizing, moderate view that has kept my husband and I in this situation for much longer than we have really needed to be here. We're smart people. We make a decent income. We should not be here. And so, like so many debt slashers before me, I have have just finished Dave Ramsey's "Total Money Makeover" book, and I am now in the mood to take a much more extreme (i.e. honest) stance about our current situation. (I know some people here are not big fans of his, totally okay. I have my qualms too. But he's working well to motivate us right now.)

Let's just start with a number. $327,758. As of Oct. 1, 2012, that is where our total debt stands. About 60% of this belongs to our mortgage. Another 32% to my student loans. (Boo!) The remaining 8% is a combination of credit cards and car loan. Keep in mind that 8% of $327,758 is over $26,000. Keep in mind also that although we may not be suffering, this total number is still more than three times our combined yearly income. Ugh. To top it all off, we're in our mid 30's and have not a dime saved for retirement or college for our boys, and we will probably end up co-signing on $40,000 in student loans by the time my daughter graduates from college (though hopefully that will be her problem, not mine). We are in deep s**t folks.

Despite our seeming record to the contrary, I am actually a big believer in Ramsey's assertion that debt of just about any sort is just no good. That we have all bought into a lie that serves the lenders rather than ourselves. And that mostly, the only excuse for using credit cards is poor planning and difficulty with impulse control. Ouch. We suck. I have lots of good excuses for our credit card debt that I have pulled out in the past to soothe these sharp criticisms. And I will say at least that my husband and I are generally not people who use credit cards for shiny new toys or entertainment much less basics like groceries and clothes. Mostly, these were one time or unplanned emergency expenses (that being said, I can think of at least one exception to pretty much each one of those things I just mentioned.) None the less, even the unplanned things were mostly due to not saving for an emergency fund the way we should have to begin with. There was some impulsiveness in there as well for sure. (And a very shiny toy indeed in the form of a ring that now sits upon my wedding finger.)

I want to be completely, un-sugar-coated honest about this because I am [i]tired[/] of being in credit card debt. I am tired of wondering what on earth we would do if one of our cars died. I am tired of feeling trapped in my home by having no home equity. I am tired of feeling too daunted by my student loans to even begin handling my retirement. And I am sick to death of feeling like this will be the year we're finally going to start getting ahead a little, only to somehow have all the extra trickle away again with no lasting effect on the bottom line. I am ready to get serious about this. I am ready to start making some sacrifices. I am not sure about "gazelle intensity" (maybe just cause I really hate that phrase?) but I am willing to begin exploring options I haven't been willing to consider before.

But I need something to keep me motivated. And I need a way to work out the serious anxiety I am feeling about all this. And a place to put down some of the things I learn and maybe even help someone else in the process. Thus, I started a blog! Smile
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 1 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) ) -->

Making Progress

March 2nd, 2013 at 11:07 pm

I am frustrated that I have not been able to keep up with this blog very well lately due to some other projects I have been working on. I think it is a really good outlet for the stress this financial overhaul creates in our lives sometimes. And I think its a really good tool for keeping us accountable. Should be able to put more time into it again by the end of this month though I think, so I'll have to be content with that for now.

As for where we're at right now, do you see that side bar?! Talk about progress! Yes, the windfall has finally begun. Hubby got his bonus from work, which was about $5K after taxes got done with it. Originally, I had planned on paying off credit cards first with that, but after reading A LOT of material of financial planning recently, I decided a better use would be to pay off the car first, due to its higher interest rate. So, that one is done! And that payoff alone increases our monthly income by $198/month. Yay!

We also got our state return, a little under $500, and with that and some other surplus, I did pay off 1 of our 4 credit cards as well, though that one only increases out bottom line by about $30/month so not as exciting. But still progress! Supposedly, the IRS is going to finally start processing returns for people with mortgage interest credits within the next week. So hopefully, we will get that soon too (assuming no audit as discussed previously:

Text is http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-and-taxes_100945/ and Link is
http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-a...). And when we do, I plan to knock off a couple more cards, this raising our bottom line another $180/month. Wow, were we ever wasting a lot of money of this crap.

After that, it will just be the one big one left, which I'm hoping to have taken care of by the end of the summer, maybe sooner depending on how my business goes (summers tend to be slower). And then, we finally get to start the more fun part of personal finance: investing in ourselves.

Certainly we still have a lot of debt to pay off, between my student loans and our mortgage. Actually, even after paying off the the rest of the credit cards, I was disappointed to find that our net worth will still be around -$84K. Ouch. Though it is above the -$100K mark now for the first time in years. But as one financial planner I read stated, we're working really hard just to be worthless right now (ie $0 net worth).

None the less, after receiving some comments about how silly we are to not be taking advantage of the 401K matching hubby's company offers, I did a bit of research and decided in the end that, yes, we are being incredibly stupid not taking this free money and we need to get on that train ASAP, Dave Ramsey be damned. If we were being completely logical rather than emotional about it in fact, we would probably be prioritizing that even above our credit cards given that they have very low promotional interest rates. After much discussion though, we have decided we simply cannot bring ourselves to make this credit card thing go any slower. We feel spread much too thin as it is, and we need to be done with those debts and never use credit that way again. Our emotional sanity depends on it. Especially given how close we are.

If it were going to be something that was a few years away from being accomplished, like our mortgage and student loans, it might make sense to do it with more of a long view in mind. But we are literally within 3-5 months of our goal and our monthly income will increase by another $300 compared to now, once we sunset this. And that will certainly help our long term bottom line as well. That's our thinking at least. But at least we're almost there!

Anyways, very happy to be making some definite progress finally and looking forward to a 3 paycheck March this month as well! Feb 2014
Start 6% 401K withdrawals: Sept 2013----->Feb/Mar 2014
Save for/Pay off "new" car: May 2014----->Feb 2015

As I said: Ugh.

A new reflection though: I saw on FB recently that an old friend of mine I've lost touch with the past few years, is selling her house. She has been dying for a bigger house for years, and her husband had a well paying job. But they also had a lot of debt and not the best of spending habits, and with the housing market crash they felt completely stuck.

About 4 months back, her husband's department was downsized and he was laid off. He had a few months severance though and lots of job interview lined up, so they weren't too concerned at the time. Thus, when I saw her recent FB posting, I at first assumed he had found something even better and that with the housing market upswing they were finally able to afford the new home they have been wanting.

But then I read further. Turns out, they are not buying a new one, just selling the old one. She didn't elaborate more but a quick check on LinkedIn confirmed what I feared; her husband has been out of work since Oct. Now I am purely speculating at this point, but given what I know of their past financial situation, it's not at all hard to draw a line that without a high paying job, the large debts have are going to sink them once the severance pay ends, and they are trying to find a source for more funds.

I say all this not to gossip or point fingers (presumably, you have no idea who I'm even talking about), and I actually feel very bad for her, though not really close enough anymore to question her about such a personal matter. But for me, she is such a stunning reminder of why hubby and I are doing all this.

Our financial situations were close enough at one time that it is easy for me to picture how something very similar could have happened to us, had we not begun to exercise financial restraint. But I admit that it was very hard for me to hear about their fancy trips, and see their pretty new cars and how beautifully decorated the inside of her home was. I wanted those things too. I wanted to look that good as well. But we were pouring all our extra cash into debt and had nothing visual to show for it.

We are still a long way from where we want to be. And without more savings, we are still not even insulated from going through something similar ourselves were hubby to lose his job. But we have no credit card or car debt dragging us down anymore. And we have a very clear picture of our budget and of the steps we need to take to get from A to B. So, even though this is a total drag, and even though I feel like it's taking way longer than it should, reflecting on where we could be instead leaves me still feeling thankful about where we are. Maybe not happy, but thankful. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105872] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 105872 [entry_title] => Commencing Baby Step 3 [entry_stub] => commencing-baby-step-3- [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/11/24/commencing-baby-step-3-_105872/ [entry_date] => 1385315344 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-11-24 11:49:04 [entry_text] => We've finally finished wading through all the home maintenance projects (including an unexpected $1000 repair on the roof a couple weeks ago) and even set aside $1000 for Christmas. We've reached our family health deductible for the year and are scheduling appts like mad for these next few weeks to take full advantage of paying only 20% rather than 100% for the rest of the year. And we were also incredibly blessed to have my aunt unexpectedly send me a check to cover my first semester of tuition and books for the community college I will be starting at in Jan. And so, with that all finally behind us, it's time to commence on our TMM baby step 3 (beef up emergency fund to cover 3-6 months of expenses).

It has been almost 4 months since we finished baby step 2, so I am relieved to finally be getting back on track again. We made a lot of prudent purchases and repairs, but as the money kept flowing out rather than in, I worried that our financial plan had become derailed. Apparently though, even without CC debt, we do still have some motivation and dedication to this plan after all. And it's time to buckle down again.

My main goal for this coming financial year is to see our next worth begin to rise finally. Although given it is currently -$46K, it might be more accurate to say we want to see our gaping net worth hole begin to be filled in. It's actually much better now that it was a year ago. Partly because of paying off the CC's and car loan. But also in a large part due to home values bouncing back again finally, and we can't really take credit for that. Plus that part could go again as easy as it came.

But I was realizing the other day that we are at an exciting point none that less because from here on out, we will mainly be investing in ourselves. Even the $25K we hope to save for a "new" vehicle over the next year and a half will be savings converted into an asset, rather than simply blown out the window. And yes, yes, I know their will be depreciation, but you get my point. We're finally investing in our own net worth. And that is exciting!

Plus, during the open enrollment period this year we made sure to max out our HSA contribution for next year, as well as bump up the life insurance and disability policies a little bit. And it feels wonderful to know we are getting an adequate financial safety net into place. Almost like we're becoming real adults finally!

From this point on though, we're going to be breaking a bit from strict compliance to the TMM plan. For instance, we're going to start baby step 4 (retirement savings) as soon as we get $5000 towards baby step 3. Which should be by the end of Jan if we practice restraint over Xmas. We are way too old to be putting it off any longer and we're going to be doing baby step 3 for quite some time. We want our final emergency fund to be around $20K, but we need to buy a car along the way, so almost as soon as we get it we're going to empty it out and start again.

I consider this an EF worthy purchase though because, as discussed previously, our current family vehicle is a 1999 and has over 225K miles. It's just not going to be around much longer, and when it does finally die, it will certainly be an emergency. After doing a lot of research we decided that the most financially wise options were to either buy a cheap 7-8 year old car in decent condition and plan to cover fairly regular repairs until we can afford an upgrade. Or to buy a reliable low mileage 1-2 year old vehicle that shouldn't need much work for a few years, and which would be just as affordable as long as we keep driving it at least 10 years. And given how very tired we are of highly used vehicles at this point, we have decided to go for the 2nd option.

We're going to save as much as we can for it until May and then get a loan for the remainder. We want to give the old one to our daughter when she comes home from college for the summer so that she will have her own vehicle to get to and from her summer job. And then we're going to pay off the car loan as fast as possible, though right now it's looking like Feb 2015 before we get there.

So that's the plan right now. Hubby is in the process of applying for new jobs that pays more though, and if one of them pans out, maybe we can even do this without a car loan. Hoping for the best!

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105329] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 105329 [entry_title] => TMM Year 2 [entry_stub] => tmm-year-2 [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/10/20/tmm-year-2_105329/ [entry_date] => 1382288284 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-10-20 11:58:04 [entry_text] => It's been forever, I know. Not sure what the deal is with all this crazy /// nonsense in my info section since I left either. Anywho...

This Oct marks the beginning of the second year for hubby and I's Total Money Makeover. And how far have we gotten in a year? Well, considerably farther than we pictured ourselves one year ago for sure. We originally thought we'd be nearing the end of our credit card payments about now, and just starting to work on the car loan. The was before we discovered what the power of a budget and willpower can actually do. So instead we finished both by the end of July.

On the other hand...we are considerably less far than we had pictured ourselves being by now last June. Our revised goal was to have the initial $5000 for our emergency fund fully stocked by now, as well as kicking off the retirement 401k we need so badly and also making headway towards the "new" car we need. Instead we are in a much more dangerous no man's land somewhere between Baby Step 2 and Baby Step 3. I don't feel we are derailed from our TMM, but we do need to start getting this show on the road again soon.

So what have we been doing instead of all those June goals? Well, a lot of home stuff actually. Things we put off forever while dealing with our CC debt. We finally got a new toilet for downstairs (which lowered out water bill by $35/month!). We got a few trees cut down that had died and got our gutters cleaned out. We are also getting a large rip in our kitchen linolium repaired as well as some baseboards re-added that we never replaced after our mold damage issue a couple years ago.

We're getting our radon remitigation system installed this week ($1200). And we also had to take care of a couple big car repairs as well as buying hubby a new suit for job interviewing after all the weight he lost. Additionally, we finally replaced a few items that were wearing out. Like hubby's desk chair that was held together by duct tape and the kitchen rug that was coming apart at the seams. And we also spent more than typical on entertainment too, given it was summer and we had more family outings than usual.

Some of that stuff qualifies as emergency fund type things. Some doesn't. But it's all stuff we've been wanting to take care of forever and I'm glad we did it. By the end of this month we should be done with all that and ready to begin on Baby Step 3 for real. Trouble is, the boys are finally in preschool and I am finally going back to school myself to begin a second career. My first tuition/books payment will be due this Dec (just in time for Xmas) and is probably going to be around $2000. Long story short, I don't think we're going to be able to start the 401k until about Jan instead of Sept like we had planned and that sucks.

Regardless, compared to where we saw ourselves a year ago, we are doing much, much better indeed. Hopefully by this time next year we will be finished with Baby Step 4 and be looking ahead to a bright financial future!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [103651] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 103651 [entry_title] => Closing In [entry_stub] => closing-in [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/07/13/closing-in_103651/ [entry_date] => 1373733962 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-07-13 11:46:02 [entry_text] => Almost at the finish line for TMM baby step 2: debt snowball. Actually, we could have been there on July 19th, but, the laptop hubby has been wanting for so long went on sale for the 4th of July week. We saved $100 by buying it now and pushing the fridge payoff out one more paycheck (Aug 2). Which I think is fine given it's no interest for 3 more months and definitely will be paid off on the 2nd. We chose snail speed shipping though to save on that part, so it will still be another week or so before he gets it, but I'm sure he will be very happy when it finally arrives!

We are starting to look into what the next financial steps are. Dave Ramsey says baby step 3 should be saving a 3-6 month emergency fund (building on the $1000 one from baby step 1). That would be about $18,000 for us and would take quite some time. And in the meantime, we would still not be taking advantage of the 3% 401K matching hubby's company offers (not to mention just plain starting to save for retirement period, even though we're both entering our late 30's.) Additionally, our '99 SUV is probably not going to last much longer and certainly will be an emergency when it dies. And we want our next car purchase to be a slightly used, reliable family vehicle with low miles that we can count on driving for at least 8-10 years.

So, we're thinking of taking a middle of the road approach. I've opened a money market account with Ally bank and transferred our $1000 emergency fund there. As soon as the fridge is done we are going to work on building that up to $5000 as fast as possible. After that, we have some home maintenance issues we have been putting off forever that we need to take care of. Getting all of that accomplished is going to push us well into the end of Oct.

But once we're there, we are going to start putting 6% of hubby's paychecks into the company 401K (the maximum matching amount). And come open enrollment in Nov we are also going to up our HSA/FSA medical contributions to the max for the coming year. That's going to take quite a dent out of our monthly income, but with all the debt we've now paid off (as well as the decrease in taxable income from the 401K/HSA/FSA), we should still be able to raise our entertainment budget from what it has been these past 9 months, and still work towards saving for a new vehicle.

We originally wanted to save for it completely before purchasing, which would have taken about a year, but our daughter really needs a car for the college internship she wants to do next summer. Assuming the SUV is still running then, we'd like to pass it off to her by next May so she can do that. That said, we should be 80% of the way there by May with hubby's bonus, so it shouldn't be too bad to take out a small loan at that point and pay it off in 4-6 months.

At that point, I will be starting school again (just a few classes at a community college to begin with) so there will be some tuition to take care of. But we will also need to start kicking up our savings as well. I'm looking into a Roth IRA for that, and Ally bank seems like a good place to help us with it. Given that you can withdraw contributions without penalty if needed, I feel like this could double with retirement and most of our remaining 3-6 month emergency fund. Short of job loss, I doubt we will ever need more than the $5K we will already have set aside in the money market (which I will keep separate). And $18K seems like too much money to just have sitting in a low interest account, when it will likely never be used, while we make no progress on retirement. Dave Ramsey would not approve, and I'm still looking into the details, but right now that's the plan. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 7 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [101832] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 101832 [entry_title] => March Madness Ends [entry_stub] => march-madness-ends [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/26/march-madness-ends_101832/ [entry_date] => 1364260552 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-25 20:15:52 [entry_text] => Well, probably not the March Madness you're thinking of. But our March madness - the one where all the money came in, that one is finally wrapping up. And we have *mostly* been very, very good.

As you'll recall, hubby got a $5K bonus in Feb, a raise that translates in to $250 extra per paycheck starting mid-March, and a tax return total around $6200. Yeah, it was pretty sweet. But, unlike every other year in prior history, we applied ALL this money towards our debts. The checks came in, and I mailed another out.

And now, that's it. No more extra money. But only ONE credit card left! Wow. And I think we have about an extra $1000 left over from t