May 2020 Financial Update:

Welcome to the first Official Financial Update Blog Post. To start, as someone who lives in Minnesota, I cannot ignore the obvious injustices that are happening in the U.S. right now. I am not going to go in depth because this is a finance blog, but I have been extremely active in expressing my opinion on my Social Media and in real life. All I’m going to say here is Black Lives Matter. Period.

Our Goal Financial Independence Numbers:

  • $900,000 Invested to cover beyond our Living Expenses.
  • $150,000 In Savings for Market Crashes or Emergencies.
  • An HSA we are Maxing out every year while working for Medical Expenses.
  • $0 Personal Debt- No Mortgage or Car Payment brings down our expenses a ton. **Unless the debt is for a rental property (or properties) that generates us more income than what we spend on the property**

I do not care about our exact Net Worth, but rather the amount we have invested and saved. (I do not care about the value of our house, cars, or how much is in our checking account when it comes to us achieving Financial Independence.)

Our Current Numbers as of June 1st 2020:

  • $16,814 Invested
  • $10,028 In Savings
  • No HSA (will get one Oct. 2022 when we can)
  • -$150,279 Total Debt (House and Car)

Total Amount Needed to reach F. I. Goals: $1,173,158

According to my calculations, if we continue saving/investing/paying down debt at our current rate we should reach Financial Independence about 15 years from now. If our wages increase and we start saving/investing/paying down debt even more, we will achieve F.I. sooner.

How to Prepare for a Market Crash:

Market Crashes/Corrections are a fact of life and are necessary for a healthy economy. We need to expect that they will happen eventually and unexpectedly, so we need to be as prepared as we can.

Emergency Fund:

I have emphasized the importance of an emergency fund in some of my other posts, but I am going to repeat it again. One of the first financial actions I think people should take is have 6-9 months of expenses saved. That way if something unexpected happens like: a man in China eats a bat causing a rare virus we have no cure for to spread globally and cause millions of people to lose their jobs indefinitely, then you will be covered. If you have an emergency fund it will bring you some peace of mind and if something happens you won’t have to take out a loan or charge things on a high interest credit card.

Asset Allocation:

First of all, what is asset allocation? Asset allocation is an investment strategy that aims to balance risk and reward by apportioning a portfolio’s assets according to an individual’s goals, risk tolerance, and investment horizon. For Example: Having some of your investment portfolio in bonds rather than all stocks or diversifying what stocks you are invested in, helps decrease the down-side potential of your investment(s). I am not going to go in-depth on different investment strategies, but I am using the Betterment SRI (Socially Responsible Investing) portfolio strategy for my Roth IRA and then plan on using the Golden Butterfly method later or when I have a higher income.

Diversification of Income:

Having only one source of income is as risky as it gets, in my opinion. It is like investing all of your money, time, livelihood, and security into one company (the one that you work for). In the beginning of your adult life, it may seem harder to have more than one source of income (outside of having multiple jobs).

The key is to find as many ways to make money as you can, even if it is a small amount. According to passiveincomemd.com: “Researchers have even pinpointed a statistic: millionaires, on average, have not just one, but seven streams of income.”

Some examples of possible income streams:

A blog or website that you get revenue from people clicking your links, viewing ads, or from you selling goods/services.

Your regular day job, self explanatory. Find ways to optimize your time inside and outside of work.

Investment Income, the money you make off of the growth of your investments. (Stocks, Bonds, ETFs, etc.)

Real Estate, renting out your spare bedroom to a friend or sublease your apartment while you travel. Use where you live as an Airbnb or end up buying an actual rental property or two, commercial or residential. There is also a great online investment site for real estate investing that I plan on using in the future, called Fundrise. It is a simple, low-cost way for anyone to get into real estate investing.

Social Media, Create a social media account where companies will pay you to promote their products or services, such as an Instagram influencer, YouTuber, or consistently do live streams on Twitch. If you post a great picture/video/stream consistently every day or week, there is no way you’re not going to slowly gain a following, the key is consistency and quality.

Your own business (think BIG), in a field you are well versed in, this will vary for everyone.

There are obviously infinite ways to make money, but these are a few I really like and think are very do-able. Don’t limit yourself and think outside of the box.

This may be kind of a funky example, but I like to reference Jeffree Star. He has a huge makeup brand, runs a merchandise company, owns real estate, invests in marijuana, invests in luxury hand bags that go up in value (such as the Hermes Birkin), he invests in stocks, has a YouTube channel, just to name a few income sources I can think of. He is a prime example of finding multiple ways to make money. Because he has set up multiple income streams, if one totally fails, he will be fine! If YouTube all of a sudden did not exist or one of his rental properties burned down, it would barely impact him.

These are just a few ways to help prepare for any unexpected financial events. I hope these ideas help you out!

How to get Financially ahead in your Late Teens/Early Twenties:

Automatically Save and Invest Every Month (Even if it is a small amount!):

Banks let you set up automatic transfers to savings accounts in any amount, you can even choose what day of the month you prefer so that it works well with your pay schedule. The key is to get in the habit of consistently saving and investing as young as possible.

For Investing, open up a Roth IRA (I suggest Betterment.com) and set up automatic withdrawals from your checking to go into your investment account.

Start Tracking your Net Worth:

Knowing how much money you actually have is very important. It shows you care where you are at with your money and you will feel more motivated to see that number go up. To calculate your Net Worth, take your assets (cash, investments, property such as house or cars, etc.) minus your liabilities or your debts (Student loans, Credit Cards, Mortgages, Car Loans, etc.) I like to use Mint.com, it automatically calculates your Net Worth, you can track all of your spending in one place, and you can link ALL of your financial accounts, plus it is FREE!

Track your Credit Score:

Tracking your credit score is also extremely necessary. If you do not have a good credit score, landlords may turn you down, employers may not want to hire you, and banks may not want to approve you for a loan. Through my bank, you can track your credit score online for free and can check it as many times as you want without penalty. If your bank does not have this feature, you can go to sites like Creditkarma.com. Just caring about your Net Worth and Credit Score are HUGE first steps!

Avoid Debt:

Credit Cards: Try to avoid debt as much as you can, especially high interest debt like credit cards! With that being said, credit cards are GREAT financial tools when used properly, I myself have two credit cards that offer awesome cash back. The key is to pay them off right away and never charge more on your credit card than money you have available.

Car Loans: Do not waste your money on a new vehicle, it is not worth going into debt for, in my opinion. Try to save up a couple thousand dollars cash, then buy a used car. If you need to, take out a small loan for a car, but I highly advise against taking out a $20,000+ loan for a newer car. Cars are one of THE WORST “investments” of your money, a new car depreciates an average of 20-30% after the first year, meaning you will most likely owe more money on your car than what it is worth if you take out a loan.

Student Loans: I made a post a while back about how I graduated with an Associate’s Degree Debt Free, so I would check that out if it interests you. In my experience, and the numerous adults I have spoken to that have college degrees, they all regret going into debt for school. According to collegeatlas.org, less than 66% of college students (on average) graduate with a degree, which means a lot of people go into debt for a degree they never finish. Also, 30% of college freshman drop out after their first year! This is why I suggest starting at a technical or community college first to test if college is right for you. It is a lot cheaper and the courses are more flexible!

Have at least a Part-Time Job:

I think having a job and providing for yourself is extremely important. It will show future employers you have work ethic and you will learn more than you expect from those mediocre jobs. It will make you realize you do not want to stay at a job like that for the rest of your life, thus motivating you to achieve more. At least, that is how it worked for me.

Live at home or with Roommates:

If you can stand your parents/guardians, I highly suggest living at home to save money! I did not do this because I did not get along well with my mother, but if you do, go for it! You will save thousands and thousands of dollars doing this which will give you a major financial boost. Also, splitting rent with someone greatly helps, even if you need to do it under the table.

If you are going to college, often the amount you pay to stay in the dorms and eat at the cafeteria is far greater than just renting a place of your own and going grocery shopping. This may not be the case for every university but it is true for the three colleges in my town, just sit down and do the math to see what makes most financial sense for you and weigh the pros & cons! I personally LOVE having my own space and not dealing with people, so renting was the correct option for me.

What to do Financially about Coronavirus:

We are all currently going through a weird, crazy, stressful time for many varying reasons. Now is not the time to panic and drastically change how we are approaching our finances. I personally am continuing to act as I did before, but maybe invest more than usual because prices are lower. I personally do not believe in the constant watching of the market and buying/selling often. Just contribute consistent amounts over time and stay invested, then you will be golden.

We have made it through many market crashes/corrections and we will eventually come out of this as well. I heard a gentleman on a Podcast I listen to compare this to a hurricane. He said something along the lines of “When a hurricane hits, you don’t go out to try and prepare for the Hurricane, you have to wait it out.” He is essentially saying the preparation needs to be done before the market crash so you are ready. Market crashes/corrections always happen and we need to expect them to. Check out my How to Prepare for a Market Crash post for more information. So when this is all over, then you can reassess your finances and prepare better for next time.

*Disclaimer: I am not a licensed financial professional.

10 Step Plan to Financial Freedom:

I have read many financial guru’s books and websites. Including, Kristy Shen, Robert Kiyosaki, Ramit Sethi, Dave Ramsey, etc. They all have different versions of how they got rich and different tactics they recommend, such as a six week program, seven baby steps, or 10 year long process. I don’t 100% agree with some of these people, but that is okay. Everyone is different, has different financial goals, and comes from different situations.

Here is my version of what they all recommend (it is a bit of a combination):

  • #1: You need to care. If you are not mentally ready to understand that you are in control of your finances and need to take action, then none of this will work for you. (Obviously if you live under a totalitarian regime, like Kristy Shen did, things are a lot harder, but even she achieved financial independence as well. So, I am speaking more to people who live in first world countries.)
  • #2: Then it is time to educate yourself. Read the different books I suggested, listen to podcasts, and talk to people you know that are financially successful. Ultimately, you know what you want out of your life and you know your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to money.
  • #3: After you are mentally ready and you have educated yourself, it is time to start taking actions to create a plan. You need to analyze where your money is going. Go over your online banking and look at each charge to your account(s) over the last month or farther back if you can. Then break down each expense either on a spreadsheet or by physically writing it down. Now you can truly see how much you are spending (I like to break down each charge into categories like, food (groceries), need (electricity), fun (a movie), etc.).
  • #4: After you have broken down your spending, you can now see places where you may be spending more than necessary or you may even notice subscription services you no longer use. In this step, it is time to cut things out. Now if you love your daily coffee and it seriously brings you joy, keep that in! I’m talking about things you either don’t use frequently or that you don’t really feel good about spending money on. For example, when I did this step I noticed I was paying for Amazon Prime and I didn’t even know it, I thought I had canceled it a year prior. So I called them up, turns out my email address was somehow linked to two accounts (one old, one newer). They saw that I never used their services and that it was clearly a mistake so they canceled it and refunded me nine months worth of automatic payments! During this process, I also realized how much I spent at Target on unnecessary things. So now I try to really limit how often I go there and how long I stay.
  • #5: Now that you have cut things out that no longer matter to you, it is time to figure out where you want your money going each month. Failing to plan, is planning to fail. Add up your monthly necessities to get a total, this is the amount you need to survive and have a roof over your head. Some examples are: Rent, Food, Electricity, Water, Toothpaste, Loan payments, etc. Let’s say you make $2,000 a month and your needs total to be $1,000 a month (to keep it simple). You then have $1,000 left over, yay! What are you going to do with that $1,000? To start, I think it is good to set aside some “fun money” that you can do whatever you want with for the month, lets say $200. At this point, you will want to automate all of your bills and get direct deposit if you can. I suggest building up a little “buffer” in your checking account, maybe a couple hundred dollars so that you know you will not overdraw. The goal is to not have to worry about your money all the time.
  • #6: You still have $800 left! Here is what to do with it: The next most important step is to have an emergency fund of 6-9 months+ of expenses (if you already have one, move on to the next step!). Life can be crazy, you’ll never know if your car will break down, if you’ll get laid off, or have a medical emergency, so it is best to be prepared. In this scenario, if your monthly expenses are $1,000, then you will need $6,000-$9,000 for a good emergency fund. If you are saving that extra $800 each month, it should take you 7.5-11.25 months to achieve your goal. This is the first real financial goal I think people should work on even before paying down debt and investing. If you do not have an emergency fund and something happens that you NEED to pay for, then you will have to take out a loan or charge it on your credit card which will put you further in the hole. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to work on paying down debt and investing, but if you put all of your extra money towards paying off your credit card with no emergency fund and something happens, then you’ll be forced to go into even more debt. (Side note: the emergency fund should be kept in a savings account. This savings account can also be used for short-term savings goals (5 years or less) like a vacation, buying a car, etc.)
  • #7: Congratulations, you now have your emergency fund all good to go! Now it is time to work on investing in your future! (Only a little bit, for now.) If your employer has a 401(k), especially if they have matching, sign up for it as soon as you start working for them and contribute at least the percentage they match! For example, if your employer matches up to 4%, have at least 4% coming out of each of your paychecks. In our example of a $2,000 monthly income, 4% a month would be only $80, but with your employer matching it would actually total $160, you are literally getting 80 free dollars each month from your employer that is also being invested so it is growing at approximately 7%. If you invest the amount your employer matches you are automatically getting a 100% return on your investment which is insane! There are also tax advantages and some limitations with this type of retirement account that I am not going to get into right now, but if you have more questions ask your HR department or do some more research online. (One side note: DO NOT withdraw from or close out your 401(k) early (rollovers are okay). There are major tax penalties.) Now, some of you may be thinking, great I don’t have the option of getting a 401(k). Then the next best option is setting up a Roth IRA (or Traditional, but I believe Roth’s have certain advantages I prefer. Do research on both types of IRAs to figure out which is best for you) for yourself at the financial institution of your choice (I personally use Betterment) and start contributing to it automatically each month. You can start with just $50 every two weeks, but the more you contribute, the better.
  • #8: Time to tackle DEBT! At this point, you have your monthly minimum bills taken care of, you have your emergency fund set in place, and you are contributing a little to your retirement. When it comes to paying down debt, you want to pay off the highest interest debt you have first. For example, let’s say your debts are: A credit card (interest= 20%), a personal loan (i= 11%), a student loan (i= 6%), and a car (i= 4%). You would want to start to pay off your credit card as fast as you can because that is taking a lot of your money in interest. So, lets go back to our scenario of making $2,000 a month. You have $720 left over after your needs, fun money, and putting 4% towards your retirement. So, you want to put that extra $720 onto your credit card each month until it is paid off (while making your minimum payments on the other debts). Now it is a couple months later and your credit card is paid off! Let’s say you were making a minimum payment on your personal loan this whole time of $50 (as a part of your expenses). You are now going to put the $720 you were putting on the credit card onto your personal loan plus the $50 you have been paying the whole time. Now each month you are putting $770 onto your personal loan. Then you will repeat this with your student loan. If your debt is low interest, like a car loan or mortgage, then it may actually make more sense to invest that extra money rather than try to pay off your house or car as fast as you can. The stock market grows at an average of 7% and your car loan grows at a rate of 4%. If you pay off your car early you are saving 4% in interest, but if you invest that money instead, it will be a gain of 7%. In this scenario, investing will actually make you 3% more money than paying off your car. I think paying of debt that has an interest rate 5% or higher before investing more is a smart idea. If the interest rate is below 5% it is better to invest that extra money instead.
  • #9: Now all of your high interest debt is paid off! (5% interest and above) Let’s break down where you’re at:
  • You have a 6-9 month emergency fund, with a little buffer in the checking.
  • You are contributing approximately 4% of your income to your retirement (depending upon what your employer matches).
  • All of your high-interest debts are paid off (maybe a car or house left to pay off).
  • It is time to invest as much as you possibly can. Max out your 401(k) contribution limit, then max out your Roth IRA. If you have maxed out your retirement accounts, I suggest then opening a regular taxable investment account (I am planning on doing this, most likely with Vanguard and I plan on using the Golden Butterfly method.) Do this with your extra income that is left over after you pay for your bills/needs, set aside fun money, and have paid off your high interest debts. (Remember, investing is for the long-term!)
  • #10: If you reach this level, you are absolutely killing it! You are basically as efficient as it gets! Now that you are investing so much and have little to no debt, you can prioritize what you want to do with your extra money, want to retire early? Go on a trip? You can.

Where I am at in this 10 Step Plan:

As of 01/19/2020: I personally am working on steps #8/9. I have all of my bills going automatically, I have an emergency fund established, and the only debt my husband and I have is a car and our house. Neither of us currently have a 401(k) program through our jobs, so we both have Roth IRAs we are maxing out each year ($12,000 total/year). I will continue to post our monthly financial updates!

Two Year Degree, Debt-Free:

How I graduated with an Associate’s Degree Debt-Free.

Some quick notes before I start:

  • My parents did not pay for any of my schooling whatsoever.
  • I got 0 scholarships (I tried and applied every semester), I come from a middle-class white family.
  • I was making $11.50-$15.00 an hour at the time of paying for my tuition.
  • I was moved out and paying rent.
  • If you do not feel like reading my rambling, I have everything broken down more simply in the last section of this page. 🙂

My First Semester:

I went to a two year technical school and received an AAS in Business Management without taking out any student loans. First of all, I took advantage of my high school’s PSEO (Post Secondary Enrollment Options) program. This program lets high school students with certain GPAs (it varies by school and state, but you do not need to have a 4.0) take college courses for free while in high school that also count towards your high school credits. I wish I would have taken way more PSEO courses than what I did though. I only took three courses (9 credits) during my senior year of high school (Jan-May 2017), better than nothing I guess. Doing this saved me about $1,400. While still in high school I was only working 20-25 hours.

My Second Semester:

The next fall, I enrolled in the same college. I was making $11.50 an hour as a manager at a sandwich shop working 40 hours a week and took 12 credits of classes (about $1,800). I paid for it all by saving up over the summer and did receive a $600 state grant, so I spent $1,200. I also moved out of my mom’s house in May of my senior year of high school, so I was paying rent ($325), my car payment ($300), utilities ($100), food ($100), etc. (I live in a very cheap town to live in.) while saving this money. Every two weeks, my paychecks were around $500-600 after taxes (I live in MN where the state income tax is very high). Even so, I was saving about $400 a month.

Explaining My Tuition Reimbursement:

While I was going to school, that fall I got a new job as a bank teller (Nov. 2017), where I started making $13.50 an hour and kept saving at about the same rate. At this new job I was also eligible for tuition reimbursement after being employed there for 6 months. Tuition reimbursement is where after the semester, you can send in your transcript and tuition bill to your employer, and they will pay you back the money you spent on school! With my employer, you had to have a certain GPA (something like only 2.0 or 2.5+) and you could not be on any sort of corrective action at work (along with a couple of other limitations/requirements, every employer is different). Once I received the tuition reimbursement I had to stay employed full-time for a year afterwards or would have to pay a portion or all of it back.

When I Didn’t Know What I Was Doing:

Then I realized I didn’t know what I wanted to do or what direction I was going with my life, so I decided not to take any classes the following spring (2018) (I was originally majoring in Criminal Justice). This provided a 9 month gap where I did not take any classes, thought about what I wanted to do (for a job/career), and saved up. In March 2018, I got a raise to $15.00 and hour, so I started saving about $600 a month.

My Third Semester:

I enrolled and went to school again the following fall (Aug-Dec 2018) this time majoring in Business Management (During this time I also bought a home, got married, and was volunteering, so there was a lot going on). I ended up taking 21 credits (approx. $3,200), the maximum amount allowed. Because of the 9 month gap, I was a couple credits behind where I was hoping to be, so I overloaded myself with credits for my last two semesters of school. So after my fall semester ended, I applied and got fully reimbursed for the $3,200 I had spent, amazing.

My Final Semester:

As the months kept rolling on I became more stressed with school/work and discovered the teller life was not at all for me. I was miserable, I had to leave, but I didn’t want to have to pay the $3,200 back. So I kept working. I enrolled for the next semester (Jan-May 2019) with 21 credits and spent another $3,600 on school. I did not apply for tuition reimbursement for this final semester because I knew I was planning to leave my job. Finally, graduation came (May 2019) and I found a new employer! I started working for them in early September 2019. I did end up paying $1,600 (not the full $3,200) back to my previous employer because I did not meet the one year requirement, I had only met six months of it. I was not worried about paying this back though because at my new job I would make that money back very quickly.

My School Semesters Broken Down:

  • Spring 2017 Semester: Spent $0 for 9 credits through PSEO.
  • Fall 2017 Semester: Spent $1,200 for 12 credits, received one grant.
  • Spring 2018 Semester: Did not take any courses.
  • Fall 2018 Semester: Spent $1,600 (after Tuition Reimbursement) for 21 credits.
  • Spring 2019 Semester: Spent $3,600 for 21 credits out of pocket.
  • TOTAL SPENT: $6,400 for a two year degree.

I highly recommend starting your college education at a community or technical college. It will save you thousands. Also, the courses have way more flexibility so that you can work more hours. The majority of my classes were totally online, that’s how I was able to work 40 hours still. Take full advantage of any PSEO, scholarships, grants, tuition reimbursements, etc. It will all be worth it in the end. I’m not saying it was easy or fun, but it is doable. Over those two years, I basically did not have a life, but I’m okay with that because now I am way ahead.

Best Financial Education Resources:

Podcasts:

  • Listen Money Matters– Two intelligent and entertaining men discussing various financial topics while drinking beer.
  • The Mad Fientist– A man who reached Financial Independence at the age of 34 and now interviews others who are also financially successful.

Books:

Websites/Blogs:

A Little About Me:

I currently work for two Financial Advisors who have been in the industry for 30+ years. Previously, I worked at a bank where I also gained a lot of financial knowledge. I am constantly doing research, listening to financial podcasts, or reading finance books. My goal for this blog is to break down my knowledge to share it with others using simple terms. This way, I have already done the work and research for you.

Introduction

About This Blog:

“Today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can do what others can’t.”

— Jerry Rice

I have an extreme passion for personal finance and want to help as many people as I possibly can. I am creating this blog to share my financial knowledge and personal experiences to hopefully positively impact others.

I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, but there are so many fantastic financial blogs out there that I thought, what value am I going to add? Then I realized that I enjoy listening to and reading multiple people’s content. This way I can look for patterns in financial success stories and hear more diverse financial viewpoints. Then, I can pick and choose from different sources what works best for my financial goals. I think there is always room for more people to share their knowledge and experiences.

I am planning on posting personal financial progress updates on here with exact numbers, so others can join me on my financial journey. In addition, I just want to note that I am not the greatest with grammar and composition. So please forgive any errors, haha.

Feel free to leave any comments/questions on my posts. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.