Why Did You Even Go To School?

If you ever wonder why the great burden of your debt was worth it...this film will remind you of why...and why it's not the best choice:

Watch it.

It's happening. Bam!

Although I'm down stocked to get down to $7k, I've been surprised at how relative it is. I consoled a friend who had $5k when I had $12k, and she was more overwhelmed than I was. The number isn't what actually matters with regards to alleviating the overwhelming burden. It's not the amount of debt that controls the suffocating feeling, it's the plan you have in place to deal with it. If you know the date you'll be done -- or can at least see your progress over time -- that is what will alleviate the burden -- whether you have $3k or $300k.

Make a plan. Write it down. And focus on your happiness

How to Vacation While In Debt

In the last 30 days I visited...
Lisbon, Portugal

San Fransisco, California

Rome (and Venice), Italy

...so sorry I'm a little late posting this month.

So, although I'm still in debt...

I'm still able to travel and not incur any additional debt (ie credit card) from traveling. Instead, as I've said before, I made a plan for paying off my debt and saving and have stuck to it. I'm pretty much on auto pilot now. I just set aside as much as I need to travel and don't buy any plane tickets until I have it. 

Some recommendations for frugal traveling:

1. Airbnb - Stay in someone's home, meet locals, get the best travel tips ever and make new friends. WAY better than any hotel I've ever stayed in. 

2. FlightCar -  Rent someone's car while it's in long term parking. Although only in LAX, SFO, BOS and Seattle, it's a wonderful service, easy, and takes the hassle out of traditional car renting. For example, you actually pay the price on the website and it's really inexpensive. 

3. Lyft & Uber - Have someone pick you up in their car instead of using a taxi. I like Lyft personally (the Uber app doesn't seem to work on my phone), and it does everything you wish a cab would do. For example, on the way to the airport it automatically routed the driver to a 2nd passenger who was on the way to the airport. So, instead of having to pay $40 for the entire ride, I paid $20 because the app automatically routed a 2nd passenger that made sense to pick up. Awesome sauce!

And, of course, best of all, is knowing I'm super close to finishing up my dang student loans. The burden felt unbearable once, but now it's just a matter of making a plan and perspective. Going forward, I want to help others make a plan to get out of debt. It's simpler than you think and it's closer than you think. I promise.

That said, How can I help you?

How Can I Help You?

You know that knot in your stomach that makes you literally feel sick? I mean, the psychological angst from student debt?

It doesn't have to feel that way. After months of paying mine, I want to help you stop feeling the pangs of debt burden. Please let me know what I can do to help you...

Calculator: The Fastest Way To Pay Off Debt

Lets do a little dance, shall we? It goes like this...1 step forward, 100 steps back, 1 step forward, 99 steps back...it's known as the Interest Dance. I've been doing it for about 1.5 yrs now with my mega student loan, but am seeing light at the end of the tunnel! Eep! SO EXCITED!

I'm only 6 MONTHS away from debt burden freedom!!!! I've paid it down to the point where instead of my interest accruing at $5/day, it's accruing at $2.50/day. This means that instead of paying $150/month in interest, I'm paying $75/month in interest. 

But, although I'm paying less in interest (and am closer than ever to freedom!) I'm just more and more determined to pay them off even faster. 

What's the fastest way to pay off loans?

Pay them before interest accrues...or at least make as many payments as frequently as possible. You don't have to pay more just make payments more often. 

In other words, since I accrue interest everyday, then if I paid my loan every day then I'd get ahead of the interest before it counts against me too badly. Let me show you what happens if I pay...

If I paid monthly (made one payment per month) then I'd finish by 4/15/15 and have paid $276.97 in interest. 

If I paid twice per month (made two payments per month) then I'd finish by 3/30/15 and have paid $258.36 in interest. 

If I paid daily (made a payment every day) then I'd finish by 3/15/15* and have paid $243.66* in interest. 
*Note: Since I'd have the amount for the last payment on 3/15/15, then I'd just pay it all on that day, rather than 3/29/15 shown below. I also added the interest I'd save to the amount by paying 15 days prior to what's shown below. 


To summarize...

MONTHLY = finish 4/15/15, interest $276.97 
TWICE PER MONTH = finish 3/30/15, interest $258.36
DAILY = finish 3/15/15, interest $243.66

As you can see in each I pay the same amount per month; the same amount goes from my bank account to my loan. But, the more frequently I pay, the less interest I accrue. In other words, I earn time. If I pay daily I finish 30 days earlier than if I pay monthly. So, even though I'll make my goal, I can earn more time in which I'm free of my burden by paying more frequently. That's less time with debt, and more time sipping smoothies.

But, you can also see that there's a sweet spot. On one extreme I extend my debt by 30 days and lose about $30 (if paid monthly), but on the other end (if paid daily) I gain 30 days, earn about $30, but also go insane from the neurotic compulsion of scheduling daily payment. Eww! That said, for me (not everyone) the sweet spot is to pay twice per month. I feel accomplished when I see the balance go down in one big swoop, and, the monetary return on paying more frequently is negligible for me personally (hence the personal within "personal" finance). 

Now, if the cards were different, and there were more cards stacked against me -- I owed more at this point, my interest rate were higher, my term were longer, I wouldn't come out ahead on my goal -- then I might opt for paying more frequently (like weekly perhaps). However, twice per month works for me. 

See what works for you: here's the calculator I used for the charts above. But, remember, the key is to not let it drive you mad, so that you prioritize your sanity. If you just stick to a plan, then you'll get there. Really.  

What's your plan? How frequently do you pay down your debt burden?

Thanks Anna I. for inspiring this post! :) 

Everything You Need To Know About Money. Ever.

I write down my goals.

Well obviously, we know that already. 

Here me out. Every morning I sit and focus on my goals and ask myself "What will I do today to get closer to my goals?" One goal I had was literally:

"Buy a $200k house, with at least 20% down, next November, within 15 minutes of downtown, with a big yard."

Blah blah blah...okay. Pretty much a plain vanilla dream house goal. There was something that felt very empty about the goal. I did some soul searching and finally rewrote it to:

"Build a home full of joy and laughter"

Phew! Much better.

The closer I get to student debt freedom, the more other debts/investments (aka a house!) and financial independence goals (aka retire by 40) start taking over all of my brain space. There's nothing really "wrong" with the goals, but, I let them give me a certain level of anxiety that naughs at my soul like a wolf on a steak.

Wait. Is that greed I feel? Are those anxiety pangs just a greedy green monster setting up shop in my brain?

As an unexpected twist of events would have it...just when I thought it was all about the hockey pokey...well I was wrong.

Debt isn't at all about the greedy soul sucking pangs of anxiety that come with debt burden, it's about opportunity. In other words, buying a house isn't about buying a house, it's about building a loving home.

I tip my hat to he who put it best...here's what it's all about:

Warren Buffet = hero

And, of course, we can't forget the monthly update. Especially because you can butter me up and call me a biscuit, I've passed 50%!!!!!!!!!! 

I even added $10 more per month to my debt nuclearizing scheme...so now I'm paying $1810 rather than $1800. What can I say, I reeeaaalllly want to annihilate this &*%@ debt. 

BUT I'm still making time to do what I love...taking lots of time -- which, as we know is more valuable than money -- to make art. Ahhh...glory.

Making Art Making Money & House Shopping

I am currently obsessed with an online class I just took. LOVE IT!

define your mission.

Do you want to sell your art, without selling out?
Join nationally-noted painter Ann Rea for a comprehensive introduction to the sequential process that you’ll need to build a fine art enterprise.
During this course, Ann will be teaching you how to create value above and beyond your art.
You’ll learn how to define your mission and how to create a "Blue Ocean Strategy" that serves a target market and eliminates the competition.
Rather than pursue a "career" within the scarcity and permission-based art establishment, Ann will teach you how to take the reins and build a creative enterprise.

Here's the latest and greatest...on my way to debt freedom!!

In other news...I've been obsessively looking for a house to buy. Yep, that's right, although I'm looking forward to debt freedom, I'm on the verge of acquiring more. But, also acquiring a house! Eep!

I'm looking at a 15-year mortgage because interest rates are much lower so you pay less overall than with a 30-year. Besides, who the &%* wants to be paying a mortgage for 30 - Thirty!? - years. No thanks!

Also, if I divert some of my savings later this month to student loan annihilation, then I may be done with my nasty ass debt 2 months early. We'll see. Stay tuned!

The Simple Way to Stop Worrying About Money

The #1 thing that keeps American's up at night is famine, genocide, their kids' education, and nuclear waste. NOT!

It's money! Good ol' personal finance. Why, with all the world's long-term problems, does your own wallet make you toss and turn at night more than the issues that can rock the foundation of all humanity? Because banking technology sucks! Yep. Technology.

Think about your checking account for a second, what do you see when you login? Most people see an oh-so boring and uninformative line that simply says "Available Balance" aka, what you have right now.

Exhibit A, a traditional bank account...try to stay awake now:

Now, imagine a world where you could login to your bank account and see what is "Safe-to-Spend", that is, what you have right now *minus* what you expect to spend. In other words, your oh-so-boring "Available Balance" may be $1000, but when you deduct your $500 rent and $50 cable bill your "Safe-to-Spend" amount is $450. So, if you spend $450 today you won't go over budget. In other words, how awesome would it be if a bank just budgeted for you!? Think Mint.com teaching your oh-so-boring bank a lesson. Well imagine no more! Enter, "Simple", the bank that helps budgets for you!

With Simple you have your Available Balance (the same oh-so-boring total of everything that's in your blah checking account), but it also deducts your Scheduled payments (i.e. that recurring bill you know you have to pay), and your Goals (what you're saving for and don't want to touch), and what you have left is your "Safe-to-Spend" balance. Voila, banking geniusness!

And, of course, it gets better...

You can set goals, like Weekend Trip to Coast, set how much you want to save -- say $250 -- and by when -- say Sept 19th -- and Simple will *automatically* (my favorite budgeting word), set that aside daily. That's right ladies and gents, automatic savings.

Simple = one million points, Traditional Banks = negative infinity points.

Not only is Simple awesome (and based out of the most hipster town in America, which adds to its awesomeness) but I have also taken my banking awesomeness to a whole new level by completely automating my personal finances. After reading I Will Teach You to Be Rich's chapter on automating finances and Afford Anything's "How the Anti-Budget Can Save Your Wallet" I knew it was time to stop worrying and calculating on spread sheets, and apps that connect to the very thing I know can be automated.

Here's what I did step-by-step to automate my cashflow (with a time estimate!).

Steps 1-3: Plan 

1. Knowledge is Power (5 mins): Read this awesome article that will change your life: "How the Anti-Budget Can Save Your Wallet"
2. Power I saw! (8 hrs): Read this book - optional but highly recommended: I Will Teach You to Be Rich's
3. Goal Setting (2 hrs): Write down all of your financial goals with a *deadline*. If you don't have a deadline, or at least a target date, then this will be much harder for you. If you need help, I recommend this checklist.
 Here are my goals:
     A. DebtPay off my highest interest student loans in one year...which I'm on track to doing:
       B. Emergency Fund: Save up 3 months of expenses in the bank by end of July. 
       C. Family: Save for an international family trip in September. 
       D. Save: Save for a home purchase for fall of 2015!
       E. Retirement: Put away as much as I can for retirement until I pay off my student loans.
       F. Guilt-Free-Spending: Per "I Will Teacher You to Be Rich", have guilt-free spending! Woo!

Steps 4-7: Act 

Now the fun part! Align, Allocate, Automate!

4. Align (1 hr): Line up your goals in a row so they're all sitting nicely next to one another, like little ducklings in a parade passing a baton...or golden goslings about to lay you some golden eggs...but I digress. What I mean to say is: write down your goals, expenses, and income in the order that your cash will flow through them based on tax-incentives (i.e. pre-tax retirement before taxes), and of course, paying yourself first (your goals are more important than your expenses). Don't worry so much about the amounts at this step, just focus on the order.

Mine lines up like this (click to enlarge):

Note: Necessary Expense, Debt, and Savings all happen at the same time, but are aligned here for simplicity.

5. Allocate (1 hr): Now you'll need to pull out the calculator and a calendar...or just a spreadsheet. I know, I know, this is the non-automated part, but once you set it up, then you're good to go until you either reach a goal, or a big expense (i.e. housing) changes. Calculate your cashflow in this order:

  • Goals: First calculate how much you'll need to reach each of your goals, including retirement, savings, etc.-- i.e. I need to pay $900 to my student loan per paycheck to reach my goal of having it paid off in a year. Pay yourself first!
  • Expenses: Next, add up your expenses including fix costs (rent, cable bill), and variable costs (water bill, etc.). For variable expenses, estimate based on your past spending. 
  • Allocate: Calculate a percentage and hard number based on your goal and expense calculations. If you have variable income (ie. freelance), then the percentages can better guide your cashflow plan.
    • You may have to adjust some of your goal timelines if you can't cover your expenses, but that's okay. I'm not savings a much as I want, but know that when I pay off my student loans I'll be able to. As long as you have a timeline, you're way ahead of where you probably were before you started at step one! 
My cashflow (the amounts are made up for simplicity):

6. Automate (2 weeks - 1 month): Now, put your money where your mouth is -- or where your cashflow goes, and AUTOMATE IT.  Each time your money moves, it need to do so automatically.

Your retirement needs to be deducted automatically, your taxes are deducted automatically so you don't need to worry about this unless you're self-employed (in which case, set up a separate savings account for it), then have your take home paycheck direct deposited into *SEPARATE* accounts. Put your expenses in an account that's separate from the one where your guilt-free spending goes, and very separate from your savings. This way, you won't "dip" into your savings. Don't touch it! It's savings! Just like you shouldn't take off surgical stitches just to "dip" into the wound, don't "dip" into your savings! You'll be infect your financial health with impatience. Don't touch it until you reach that goal!

Here's how my automation shakes out:

  • All of my savings go into one account, but within that I have all of my sub-goals within that savings pool. So a sub-goal for a house, another for a vacation, etc.
  • My necessary expense go into my old checking account, and all of my bills -- including my goals to pay off my student loans -- is deducted from that. So I never have to check it. I do go in for about 5mins whenever I get a paycheck just to make sure all the wheels are turning and my master plan is working...bwa ha ha!
  • My guilt-free spending goes into my new favorite thing on the planet: a Simple checking account. All of my fun money goals get tracked there, like birthday gifts, gym membership, clothes, date night, father's day gift (call your dad on June 15th!), etc. 
    • The only caveat to this is groceries. I have a groceries goal in Simple because it's money I spend regularly and need access to. 

Could I put all of my goals in Simple? Sure. But I want the highest interest possible for my long term goals (~1 year +), so those are in a separate high-interest-yield savings account. This way my long term savings (a) are growing faster than they would in a checking account, and (b) I can't get to them! The best way to not "dip" into your savings pool is to throw away the key! Keep it in a separate account!
It'll take a few weeks to open different accounts, so I'd give yourself a month to open them up and let things iron out over a paycheck or two.

But from step 1 to step 6 it took me about 3.5 weeks. Yes, that's right, in a month from now you too can be sipping a guilt-free paid for smoothie, while wearing your new guilt-free paid for bathing suit...

7. Go to the Beach (every weekend ever!): Just like when you go to the DMV or a doctor's office, and they have you fill out forms on paper that they're gonna have to enter in a database on a computer anyway (inefficient!), and you think "Why isn't this online and automated?" (at least I think that), you can ask yourself the same thing about your life!

"Why aren't my finances automated so I can enjoy smoothies on the beach without feeling guilty?"

Well, you can.

Money is a tool for enabling your highest potential. Not disabling your thoughts, and paralyzing you into a financial corner.

Yes, how much you make matters, but how you spend it matters more. I'm making more than I've ever made right now, but I'm also living on less than I've lived on ever (aka the same as I lived on in college). In other words, I'm making more, but spending smarter. And thus, I don't worry about money as much as I did a year ago, I know I'm on track to my financial goals, and I'm loving the *time* this has bought me so I can go to the beach, take a sewing class just for fun, and stay up reading interesting books in my pinterest inspired diy reading nook, instead of staying up worrying about my financial health.

paying my loans...automatically...from the beach #win

my pinterest inspired diy reading nook and diy wall decor...and my new orchid :)

Even if your personal finances are much more complicated -- i.e. you have dependents -- you can still do this, and is actually even more so a reason to automate your finances. Wouldn't you rather read a bedtime story to junior than budget? Don't let complexity hinder you from having more time and more happiness. Let it rather enable you to be your best self.

And keep in mind, knowledge truly is power. A year ago, I was totally burdened and overwhelmed by debt, and would duck under a table anytime I heard the word retirement, but only a year later I'm totally comfortable with my finances, and take joy in sharing what's I've learned...as well as what I still have no clue about (consolidating my retirement accounts, how the heck do I buy a house, etc.). But now, I face these financial challenges without shame, and most importantly seek out the knowledge that'll fill in the gaps. Who would've thought that reading books and blogs could build financial confidence in one year?!

I love books :)

Remember, step 1 in this process is all about knowledge. Never underestimate the power of your own ability to learn and stay curious.

My reads this month (from my public library...aka free books!) are Millionaire Next Door and Millionaire Woman Next Door.

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The 3 Stages of Wealth & A BIG Milestone

Wealth is exactly like health. Exactly. Like. Health.

Just as in health, you can keep eating cheetoes and steak, never exercise, and keep thinking you won't get high blood pressure. Also known as DENIAL. Which is also the first stage in my theory of wealth.

Stage 1 = Denial = You keep spending like crazy, never save, live paycheck to paycheck, use credit cards, and keep wracking it up until one day, boom!, you're so deep in the whole that you're totally overwhelmed. This is like eating junk food, but not knowing you're sick.

But when that day comes, where you're doctor gives you the news "No more cheetoes or you're gonna keel over", or you can't pay your credit card bill, or your student loan interest slaps you in the face (like it did to yours truly), and you wake up, and realize you're sick.

Stage 2 = Wake up = You finally admit that you're financially sick and need help. You need medicine in the form of financial advice, guidance, or knowledge. Yes, that's what will help you, not more money or less expenses...because after all, you're behavior hasn't changed. To get financially healthy you need to change your behavior not the amount of money in the bank. Keep in mind that financial planners are like the doctors of financial health. It's okay to see a doctor. You want to get better, right? I'd recommend talking to someone at Learnvest.com for advice. You know you're sick, and now you're just trying to become healthy.

The good news though, is that one you shed your denial and try to get healthy, you can achieve the healthiest stage of financial health, the coveted financial freedom.

Stage 3 = Financial Freedom = You have everything planned out, your emergency fund is doing great, you have investments, you know your financial goal and you don't ever worry about money. No more paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. Awesomeness. Glory.

I, personally, am on stage 2. I know I'm sick (aka in ungly debt) but am doing everything I can to get health. Including crowdfunding: https://www.zerobound.com/student_campaigns/view/31/updates

I can almost taste Stage 3. This month marks a very important milestone in getting to stage 3. It is the half way point towards my goal of getting rid of my student loan debt by age 30. I turn 29 and have paid down 33% of my debt burden and broke the $20K's. Take that debt burden! Bwahahaha!

Not only that, but I finally started a savings account. And will now be taking bite sized goals one month at a time. Check back on the first Thursday of each month to learn about...

June = opening an emergency fund
July = saving for retirement
August = investing

Those are the goals I have for now, but here are some great reads in the mean time:

"Finding the "Real" Value of Money": http://affordanything.com/2014/04/23/finding-the-meaning-of-life-through-money-the-noble-4-step-path/

"Automatic Millionaire": That's what I'm reading this month. Check it out at your local library...ya, remember those, you can get books for FREE there :)

Community Service Paying Off Loans

                                              Click HERE for full details. 

How Rich Are You?

I am the 24,759,564th richest person on Earth by income. Forget the 1%, I'm in the top 0.41% of the world's wealthiest by income. 

In other words, my monthly salary could pay the monthly salaries of 201 doctors in Pakistan.

Uff! Now I feel both burdened by debt, but also selfish and guilty about even feeling burdened. First world problem indeed.

But to add a little context, this time last year I was unemployed, was $42k in the whole, and was living on mom's couch. Fast forward one year, and lots of long nights budgeting, I am now very very happily employed, $28k in the whole ($22k grad, $6k undergrad), and in my own place. (What just one year of determinations can do! Am I right!?)

So, with less money woes tearing at my soul, I am now thinking about the next step. And not just financially but in terms of giving some of it away...say to 201 doctors in Pakistan, or to kids who want nothing more in the world than to have a pencil. 

{Sound of screeching tires!}

I've gotten ahead of myself again. I'm not a millionaire (yet), and although I'm in the top 0.41% in the world, I rank smack dab at the 50% mark in the U.S. And, still have a debt obligation...that I'm squashing like a watermelon off a 50-story building!

Despite my debt, and millionaire or not, I am currently giving all I can right now, with my time, to a cause that is very near and dear to my heart: the arts in my community.

However, it just so happens that following my happiness may help me with my loans. I was chosen to be a beta user for Zerobound - a site that helps those with student loans pay back their loans through community service and sponsorship. Bam! I was all over that! I am one of 10 users nationally chosen to first try it. That's me...I'm one of those 10!

I'll be publishing my Zerobound campaign and updates here as soon as we go live, so subscribe via email to get the latest and greatest!

But, alas, I digress.

I'm very happy for the opportunity to support zerobound's launch, but also, I am very happy to have carved out the time to volunteer and utilize a skill set that I'm super passionate about. And, most importantly, made time to follow my happiness. My entire career has been in the public service sector -- from a public school teacher to a stint with a U.S. Senator's office, and, of course, to the Master of Public Administration that I got into debt for -- for which the irony isn't lost on me -- I love public service.

The problem has been, however, that I have under valued my time. I wish I would've understood the value of time like 6 unpaid internships and 5,000+ volunteer hours ago. But thankfully, now I do. I understand that giving time, skills, experience, a hug, can go just as far, or further, than what I may be able to afford to monetarily give.

So, ladies and gents, the moral of today's story is, get your burdens in perspective to the world/US, you don't have to be a millionaire to give what you can, just do it because it brings meaning to you and others, and finally, start with giving a kid a pencil...or where ever your happiness leads you.


What is your absolute biggest dream ever? What keeps you from expanding your life beyond that dream? Money? EEEEHHH! Wrong! Fear.

If you are reading this, chances are you have some financial burden, some economic duress, or are holding something back...from yourself. Yes, holding something back from yourself. I said it. Now repeat it with me -- I'm holding myself back. One more time. *I* -- not money -- am holding myself back.

Money doesn't hold you back. If there's anything I've learned in furiously paying off my debt, it's that there is no reason -- zero, zip, ziltch -- reason to wait for anything. Happiness can buy you money. Truly, where there is a will there is a way. Whether it's the will to pay off your f*&%ing debt or to create your grand masterpiece.

I'm able to pay off my debt because I have a fire in my heart that I need to fuel. Debt is an emergency, just as much as living the life you dream of is an emergency. So I'm trying my darnest to do both..at the same time.

Back when I started with this goal a year ago I was totally paralyzed by fear to work towards the things that truly move me, I was unemployed, and I was living on my parents' couch with $40k+ in debt. Ew! Gross!!

Now, about a year later, I have the highest paying job I've ever had, have an awesome apartment (which by the way I'm downgrading for one that's less expensive because that'll get me closer to the life I want) and I'm totally running with what moves me -- creating and enacting visions for better communities.

Okay, gotta remember to breathe. I'm getting a little excited here...the keyboard's about to crack.

Of all the things I've learned in the last year to get me here here are the most important and how I've learned them:

1 - CULTIVATE CLARITY: Imagine if you didn't have any financial burden. Go with me now, really imagine it. You were filthy rich, like super rich swimming in a pool of gold coins rich. Now what? Okay okay, ya ya, you bought everyone in your family a house, you too your dream vacay, you donated half of it...blah blah blah. Okay *now* what? What's that thing...that thing you want to do that fills the rest of your days, that still makes you excited to get up every day, that thing that you know you want to do 'someday' but maybe haven't admitted it to yourself? It's okay. You can say it. If you're still afraid of saying it, that's not okay. Yep, NOT okay. Let's be real - if fear is holding you back from even admitting it to yourself, that's the first thing you have to work on.

Before you get to that pool of gold coins, you must first embrace yourself, your dreams, your hopes...and what helped me most was a lot of (a) writing down what I really want -- ie. paying my loans by 30, growing my side business, etc. I've heard that 90% of Harvard grads write down their goals. So get started! And (b) this podcast Awesome Clarity Podcast, and (c) chanting.

2 - LEARN: Now that your heart is taken care of per #1, then you take care of your mind. Remember your mind thinks, but your heart always knows. You have to listen to your heart first, and then mold your mind towards that. Usually we do the opposite and try to calculate our way into the optimal life -- like neurotic ninjas who never go off to battle because they're too busy practicing, or like learning to swim by reading a book...but I digress.

You still need to learn your way into the life you want. After you've gotten as far as knowing what that is, then get mentors, follow the people who you admire, write to them, glean from their wisdom, read their biographies. Whether it's professional financial admiration learn your way into the life you want. Here are the top three resources I use to learn everyday as I work towards my financial freedom (aka not owing anyone squat, and having passive income):

Afford Anything
Budgets are Sexy

3 - VALUE TIME: Time is infinitely more valuable than money (pun intended). Don't just be fierce about your $$$ be fierce about your time. You can make more money but never more time. Things I've started doing to value my time more:

-Checking email once per day. I HATE email, fb, all that social media noise. I literally put on an egg timer  (per a tip I learned ---remember learning, that was #2 --- from Afford Anything). If you don't put a time limit on tasks they will take up all day, literally. I time everything -- folding clothes, groceries, etc. I've limited my errands to one hour in the morning each day, and listen to a podcast while doing so #2birds1eggtimer. If it doesn't get done, then it goes to a different day. So, in other words, I schedule time with myself! Narcissism > Procrastination!

-Say NO! Fiercely prioritizing my time with my goals has lead me to learn how to say now (there's our friend learning again!). If an activity/event/compromise doesn't align with furthering one of my goals (per #1) then I say no. It's hardest when it's friends or family, but you have to do this. You have to say no to friends and family when they may be stiffling, make you feel guilty, etc. For your sanity and theirs. Even when I could move something (i.e. working on my website for an hour) I still say no, because that's time that I have valued for myself.

-Create. Take time to create. Give your self at least one day each month where all you do is create. It will get you farther, ignite your days with wonder, and make this whole shindig worth it. Create create create.

4 - AUTOMATE LIFE: Automate your life as much as possible. Budgeting is crazy annoying. Phew! I said it. Automate your monetary life as much as possible. Save, invest, and live your financial life so it's as automated as possible. I've automated my debt payments so that they're exactly what I need in order to reach my goal. And, I've automated as much as possible towards my retirement $50/mth so that I am saving something. I'm working on automating investing next (stay tuned for that!). Automating your life will free up your time (our friend in #3) for things that are waaaaayyy more fun than budgeting, like dancing!

5 - DANCE: No one is watching. Do it! And even if they are who cares! Dance anyway! Tip: never attend concerts where you have to sit down. Boring!

Here, let me help you out:

Blister in the Sun by Violent Femmes on Grooveshark

Get it!

If you could...retire?

If you could...have any job in the whole world what would it be?

Why do you work? No, really. Why do you have a job? Okay okay, yes, I know you have to pay for your sweet crib, BBQ ribs and cornbread, and the drinking and debauchery you get into every so often...or at least I do (tee hee)...no, but really, if there's anything you could be doing with the majority of your time, anything at all, what would it be? Would it be what you do at work right now?

For me, that answer was "No." So, I did something about it. Over the past 2/3 months, in the throes of Monday morning work agony, I was compelled to ferociously (...ehm, I mean professionally) escape as fast as I could (...ehem, I mean, apply to other jobs). I received many rejections, but then, suddenly, faster than you can say butter me up and call me a biscuit, I got a job offer to a truly $weet job! I resigned from my old job and start the new one next week! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Just. Like. That. Don't leave yourself in the woes of Sunday night dread - you too can get out. Start applying now. 

And not only is my new job something that I've always wanted to do and have been dreaming of forever 'ever (education consulting - yay!), but I'm also going to get paid 20% more. One more time: Twenty Percent More! Bam! Take that old job!

So now, I will be going to work because I'm excited as f***, and because I'mma get paid what I believe I'm worth. This means that I'll have 20% more wiggle room in my budget and can *definitely* reach my debt pay off goal. And perhaps even do so 20% faster! :::two snaps and a head roll:::

February Update! Bam!

But, alas, as a wise many once said, "Mo' money, mo' problems." Before I get my first shiny still-in-the-envelope paycheck, I *must* allocate those funds even more wisely so Mo $ = No problems. And, to keep up with one of my new year's resolutions to focus more on abundance rather than debt/frugality (because a poor person can't get rich by counting their neighbor's wealth), let's talk about when we're expected to have almost no'money...retirement...dun dun dun!

Okay, it's not that scary. Really. After feeling super overwhelmed from doing a ton of research on traditional retirement and trying to plan out my life on excel, I realized it really boils down to one simple question -- and it's not, how much do you need to save -- it's simply, what do you want to do with your life?

Okay, before I go off on one of my existential tangents, let's get real bare bones about retirement savings (spoiler alert: you can save fore retirement while paying your student loans. I am and have been):

What is retirement?
Traditionally, in the US of A, this means working for many years (30-40 years), saving 10-15% of your income during your working years, quitting in your 60s to live off of the savings, and enjoying leisure time until you croak. To the right, there's a lovely infographic with some basic stats.

How can I save if I have student loans? Three steps: 1. Read this, 2. Match, 3. Automate...more slowly now...After reading #1, see if --and how much-- your employer matches and automate as much as you can to take advantage of it. My old employer matched 100% of what I put into retirement after my first year, and up to 5% of my income. So, since I was on my 2nd year of employment, I automated as much as I could into my retirement savings each month ($50 per paycheck) while still making my student debt goal and my employer put another $50 per paycheck in as well. My new employer matches 50% of what I put in after 12 months and up to 7% of my pre-tax income. Since my employer won't match until my 2nd year, then I won't put anything into my retirement until then. However, in the mean time -- during my first year -- I'll automate what I would be putting into retirement ($250) into a savings account and then put it into retirement during my 2nd year (but only up to 7% of my pre-tax income) that way I'll get the 50% match my 2nd year. Also, I've been (mostly blindly) putting away for retirement since I was 22. I didn't know what I was doing, but glad I did it. I have saved less than what I owe in loans, but it's something. And, it feels good to know I do have some savings.

What is retirement planning?
Figuring out how much you need to save so you don't run out of money before you die. The catch, you don't know when your expiration date is, soooooooo, ya...it's not only difficult to calculate your "retirement number" but it's also impossible and frankly, a bit creepy. But, putting aside the creepy-ness for a moment, retirement planning is basically making your budget for the 60-something year-old version of yourself. Plain and simple. Once you have that budget, then you figure out how much you have saved so far (if any) and then how much you need to save. But this part about figuring out how much you need is where it can get tricky. I found this retirement calculator to be a good starting point...up until I decided I want to live until 101...and now let's throw the creepy-ness of retirement planning back in the mix....

...traditional retirement is basically the financial planning of the last years of your life. In other words, zero fun. Planning + end of life + gray hair + Depends diapers = zero fun. I believe this traditional notion of retirement is archaic and should itself be retired (haha, pun intended!). And I haven't seen it better spelled out than by AffordAnything.com, in "The 4 Types of Retirement."

That's right Uh'mericah, paying for our sweet cribs, BBQ ribs and cornbread, and drinking and debauchery doesn't have to wait until our 60s! Phew! Retirement is really about deciding which path of the four above is right for you and planning for that. 

In my earlier 20s I was unknowingly saving for #1-Traditional Retirement because people say you should, but also living #3-Mini-Retirements because I wanted to (but didn't know that's what I was doing). Now, in my far wiser later 20s :) ... I'm actively working towards #4-Permanent Semi-Retirement because I love working (both on my creative endeavors/business, and new job), and also still saving for #1 because it still seems like a good idea to save. However, my next step in all of this 'retirement' planning is to decide on my goals for after I pay off my student loans, and see if I can become financially free (and perhaps) retire by 40...stay tuned!


Question of the Month <<<--check it out! A new thing! Woot woot! Thanks for sharing!

Which retirement type do you think is best for you and why?

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