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Money Mentality, Women + Finances

Turning 24, Death and Finding What Matters

In one week, I’m turning 24. I LOVE birthdays (my own and everyone else’s) so there will be a plethora of celebrating: camping with a group of my favorites, a weekend away with Alex, a visit to South Carolina to see my mom and a delicious dinner out. See? I told you like celebrating. *throws a gratuitous amount of confetti*

In some ways, 24 seems like an impossibly young age, but in other ways, it feels ridiculously old. When I was nine years old, I was enthralled by a sixteen-year-old girl on the bus. She reminded me of Britney Spears (from the early 2000’s, duh) and seemed SO COOL. She seemed to encapsulate everything I hoped to become: cool, adult and pretty.

Now, when I think about that sixteen girl, I laugh. Sixteen year olds seem like kids (and I’m sure some of you are laughing because I seem like a kid). But that’s what makes age so tricky. It’s hard to track or quantify because your relationship to it is constantly changing.

But there’s one thing that remains constant: this will eventually end.

Our journeys around the sun will eventually cease and the world will continue without us. It’s a fact that I’ve ALWAYS thought about. In fact, it’s often how I weigh big decisions or purchases. I ask myself, “If someone I love died tomorrow, would I regret doing this/taking the trip/this stupid fight/my actions?” In many ways, death is constantly on my mind because I know it is inevitable. But when I typically worry about death, I worry about being left behind. I worry about losing the people I love and in response to that fear, I try to ensure that I have no regrets.

But what about me? What if I leave them behind? *gulp*

If I had to explain my life motto, it would be simple: people above all else. My mom, sisters, stepdad, partner and best friends are more important to me than anything else. Period. End of discussion. When it comes to the people I love, I will do anything for them. No task is too much and no amount of money is too high and I know that my list of “absolutes” (my forever people) will continue to grow as life goes on, especially once we start having kids (Ekkk!) And I don’t want to ever leave them in a bad financial situation, especially my partner Alex.

That’s why life insurance has been on my to-do list for years. (I’m not joking. I almost signed up for a policy when I was 18 because I worried about my funeral expenses. Totally normal 18-year old behavior, right??)

As the years have gone by, I’ve gotten distracted by life and as a result, life insurance fell off my radar (especially when I was poor AF.)

But now I’m not, and there’s really no excuse. But even if you are poor AF, there are affordable options, so don’t despair.

I have no idea what tomorrow holds. I hope it holds my favorite people, good food and enjoyable work, but nothing is guaranteed, so I’ve promised myself that 24 is my year for life insurance.

If you’re ready to take the plunge with me and invest in the people you love, here’s everything you need to know.

1. Term vs. Whole…Huh?

Term life insurance is best. You buy a policy that can last from 1-30 years (most people buy a 20-year policy) and then you pay a monthly, quarterly, semi-annual or annual premium. If you die during the policy’s “term,” then your beneficiaries are paid. It’s simple, does its job and most importantly, it’s significantly cheaper than whole life insurance (which has a bunch of unnecessary features).

2. Save Money!

I never buy anything without looking at reviews and comparing options. (No, seriously. I research everything I buy) And when I buy term life insurance this year, I’m planning on researching the crap out of it.

The tool I’m going to use? SelectQuote Life because they’ve been doing this for over 30 years and make it ridiculously easy to research the best deal.

After you fill out a few simple questions (that take less than 5 minutes) they prepare a personalized plan that includes the best quotes and they call you within 24 hours to discuss.

selectquote

 

My quotes included a few different options, but the average cost was around $20/month. A pretty small price to pay to take care of the people I love.

3. Younger = Better

We live in a society that is obsessed with youth, and most of the time I call BS. After all, what’s better than life advice from someone who has actually lived for a few decades? But when it comes to term life insurance, it’s better to get a quote from SelectQuote Life sooner than later. If you wait until you’re 50 years or older, the prices will be dramatically higher. But even beyond that, if you get a 20-year term at 25 (or 24 like me) then your term will be up when you’re about 45 years old. This means that you can reevaluate whether or not you want to renew AND you’re not yet 50 years old. (Aka: the prices will still be relatively inexpensive).

But here’s the best part: if I continue to save aggressively and invest, I might not even need term life insurance anymore.

At that point, I might be “self-insured.” (My cash, investments and other assets would be able to take care of my family in case something happened to me.) That’s why it’s really important to get term life insurance while you’re still in the wealth building stage. Because that’s when you and your “forever people” could need it most.

Do you have life insurance? Am I crazy for buying it at 24 years old?

This article was sponsored by SelectQuote but all views, opinions and ridiculous stories are my own.

Money Mentality

Updates, Epiphanies and Why I’m NOT Working Towards Early Retirement

Nearly two months ago, I set a goal to post on my blog 3 times per week. I stuck to my goal for over a month and it was great. I love writing and it felt so good to sit down and write, even when I didn’t “feel” like it.

But then life happened. I moved in with my better half (yay!), Alex had wisdom teeth removed (boo), I attended FinCon (overwhelming), we packed up two apartments in one day and moved into our new place (ridiculously stressful), we unpacked our new apartment (intense), celebrated our 4-year anniversary (*heart eyes*) and throughout all of that, I worked a full-time job. Life has been in flux and a lot has been changing, but one thing is for sure: I missed blogging and I’m so happy to be back.

It’s been a crazy two weeks and there are a few surprising lessons I’ve learned along the way.

1. I Hate Moving

I know that moving is generally considered an ~unpleasant~ task, but my hatred of moving extends beyond just the actual act. I’ve moved once (or more) every year for the past 6 years and honestly, I’m ready to stop. I LOVE our new apartment and hope to stay here for as long as possible, but I’m really looking forward to one day owning a home that is ours forever. When we eventually decide to purchase a house, I know that I will 100% be an emotional homeowner. I don’t want to lose money on our future house (duh) but I’m also not looking to sell it and make a quick profit. In the same way I plan to “buy and hold” my investments, I’m planning to do the same with our future home.

2. People Matter Most

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t feel insanely, outrageously blessed to have such an amazing group of people in my life: my family, best friends and amazing partner. Money and work are irrelevant in comparison.

3. Early Retirement Isn’t for Me (Right Now)

I love reading about early retirement and hearing about the inspiring stories, but after FinCon, I realized that early retirement is not something I’m actively working towards. And honestly, it’s not something I want to be actively working towards right now. I’m excited about my career and I’m even more excited about what my career holds in the future.

If I wanted to, I have no doubt that I could be making six figures within the next few years and we could retire between 35 and 40 years old. But at what cost? There are SO many unknowns in my life right now: marriage, kids, pets, moving to London, grad school and extended travel. All of these things will probably happen within the next few years and there’s NO WAY I can plan for all of them at once or even predict how it will all turn out.

Instead of plotting my “freedom date,” I’m going to plot trips with friends, quality time with my family and celebrating life’s simple pleasures with my better half.

I’m still saving aggressively (more than 50% each month) but it’s not going towards early retirement. It’s going towards some of my other goals, and that’s the way I want it. (If this is a topic you’re interested in reading more about, you’re in luck! I have an entire post about this coming in the near future because I have A LOT of thoughts.)

4. This Blog’s Purpose

If you’ve ever started a blog or similar project, then you know that it’s hard to figure out exactly what your “purpose” is. When I began TFFM, it was all about my debt repayment. I was in a dark place with money and honestly, it sucked. But thankfully, things have begun to change. I no longer feel panicked at the check-out line or frantically crunch numbers multiple times a day. Instead, I’ve set my savings goals on autopilot and am enjoying life as my money hums along in the background. I’m not super frugal (I go out to eat and regularly go to Disneyland/the theatre/Halloween haunted houses/movies/other fun stuff that makes my life great). I’m not actively striving for early retirement (see #3). I’m no longer in debt (woohoo!). I’m not a minimalist (This article perfectly explains why.) and I don’t have any desire to blog full-time or blog about blogging.

Instead, I want this blog to be a space that is about REAL LIFE.

I want it to be about money mistakes, money successes, cool financial tech products that might make life better and a place where we can talk honestly about money, what it means and how we’re dealing with it. When I was at FinCon, I was continually asked, “What is your blog about?” and I struggled to answer. I don’t feel like this blog fits into one specific category and as I’ve thought about it for the past week, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I’m excited to see what this space becomes and I’m excited to continue writing, continue connecting and continue growing.

 

Has anything exciting, fun or shocking been going on in your life? I’d love to hear about it!

Extreme Savings, Money Mentality

The Ultimate Guide to Financial Liberation

When I decided to get serious about personal finance (and paying off my student loans), I knew that I had A LOT to learn. Like anything else in life, money management is a skill that needs to be learned, practiced and continually refreshed. It definitely helped that I was already interested in money, but I still had a lot of growth ahead of me. And honestly, I’m still learning, making mistakes and trying again. It’s a ~process~.

But if there’s one thing I know, it’s that I’m making progress.

I know the difference between an IRA and a 401(k), how income tax brackets work (lol, learned that the hard way), and how my emotions will always play a role in my finances (this may or may not be true for you).

I’ve learned by reading, researching, listening to podcasts and asking questions. So I wanted to take a moment to outline all of the resources that have helped me learn and grow. I hope they can help you too.

 

Investing

Investing was definitely the topic that confused me the most. I’m pretty risk averse and my knowledge about the stock market, index funds, etc. was essentially 0. These articles and resources have helped me tremendously.

1. I Don’t Know How to Invest and I’m Afraid of Making Expensive Mistakes by Afford Anything

This is the ultimate article on investing for beginners (like me). It’s long, it’s thorough and it’s ridiculously easy to understand. After you’re done reading, be sure to bookmark it on your computer. If you’re anything like me, you’ll come back to it multiple times.

2. How to Make Money in the Stock Market by Mr. Money Mustache

Short, sweet and to the point. The last paragraph has explicit directions for the index fund that he recommends.

3. Stock Series by J. L. Collins

Comprehensive, extensive and useful. The series will answer any question you’ve ever had, and probably some you didn’t even know you were wondering.

4. Compound Interest Calculator

The number one thing that has made me excited and ready to invest is entering numbers in this calculator. Watching compound interest do its thing is thrilling and incredibly motivating.

 

Saving and Money Mentality

If there’s one thing I learned about money during my self-education, it’s that saving is irrevocably intertwined with mentality. These are the resources that have helped me become a better saver, literally and mentally.

1. Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed by Raptitude

I’ve mentioned this article before, but it should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in creating change, but especially for people who want to save more money.

2. Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes

This book is AMAZING. Shannon unpacks our consumer culture in a completely unique way. She looks at consumption, waste and finances through the lens of the home, and she does so from a feminist perspective (YESSSS). Nothing I write will do this book justice, but if you’ve ever felt like there is more to life than manicured lawns and spending money you don’t have, this is the book for you. You can get it used on Amazon for a few dollars, but I actually found my copy in the local library.

3. The True Cost

I’m still working on eliminating fast fashion from my wardrobe, but this documentary definitely helped me to prioritize the change. Currently available on Netflix, The True Cost is an inside look at the fashion industry and the harm we are causing the planet in our pursuit of being fashionable. It’s both eye-opening and heartbreaking.

4. Cait Flanders

Cait has been pursuing a simpler and more focused life for years. All of her posts are heartfelt and honest. Her writing serves as a constant inspiration for me to cut back, slow down and be grateful.

 

You’re Not Alone

As I’ve embarked on this journey, one of the most challenging aspects has been feeling alone. The truth is that I don’t know anyone else in my “real life” who prioritized debt payoff or is aggressively saving for retirement. And even though I’ve found likeminded people online, I often feel left out in a different way—that I’m not aggressive enough. It’s a weird conundrum and can feel isolating, but the sites below have been the perfect cure.

1. Budgets Are Sexy by J. Money

Budgets are Sexy is an honest look at real life finances. J is honest about things that most personal finance bloggers consider taboo (like car payments) and it makes me feel so much less alone in my personal finance journey. Throughout the past year, I’ve come to realize that life fluctuates and changes. There are career changes, graduate degrees and cross country (or world) moves. Life happens and that’s okay. Through his honesty and transparency, J shows that rolling with the punches (and being open to change) won’t derail your finances.

2. The Financial Diet

The Financial Diet is an editorial site with a bunch of different writers. Anyone can submit a post and share their opinion or financial story. They also have excellent posts where they ask 5-6 people to anonymously share their thoughts on a certain financial topic. Anytime I visit the site I feel less alone in my journey. The site serves as a reminder that we are all trying our best and finances are incredibly personal.

 

Did I leave anything out? What else would you add?

Money Mentality, Uncategorized

The Pain of Getting Exactly What You Want

Sometimes life is hard, complicated or stressful. Sometimes it’s all of the above.

I’m currently in an “all of the above” stage and I’m trying my best to handle it with grace and faith.

Unfortunately, I have a track record of FREAKING OUT during times of change.

I’m a firm believer that we will be faced with the same hurdle in life until we can finally jump over it and move on. Right now, I’m staring at the same hurdle I’ve been facing for the past few years and willing it to move with my mind. *sigh*

What exactly is my hurdle? When-Then Thinking.

When-Then Thinking is the absurdly misguided belief that once you reach a certain point, achieve a certain goal or overcome a certain hurdle, then you’ll be ~happy~.

It’s an absurd belief because if you’re anything like me, once you reach the goal at hand, there will be a brief moment of celebration followed by fresh panic about the new things you need to achieve.

I’ve watched myself go through this vicious cycle again and again and again.

Yet, here I am. Still believing that when I achieve “X,” then I’ll be happy.

And unsurprisingly, this is exactly how I handled my debt repayment. I told myself (consciously and subconsciously) that life would be great once my debt was gone. It became a mantra that I repeated to myself every da and a phrase that I used to soothe my stress.

But of course, the day of debt freedom came and I wasn’t happy. Well, I was happy, but it was a short-lived joy. After it was all said and done, my debt repayment resulted in the most depressing debt freedom post EVER and a full blown career crisis.

This time, I’m trying to do things differently.

I’ve been using “Happiness Lists” (you can download my free template here) to realize that life is actually pretty amazing. I’m trying to trust that with hard work and dash of faith, that things will fall into place. But even beyond that, I’m trying to keep the changes in perspective: life isn’t going to begin or end, no matter the outcome.

 

 Any tips for handling stress?

Extreme Savings, Money Mentality

Being a Military Kid Taught Me About Money…and Loneliness (But Not in the Way You’d Expect)

As the child of a military officer, I moved…A LOT. I went to three different high schools, three different elementary schools and two different middle schools. Life was constantly in flux.

It’s a weird existence. And weirdly enough, it’s something that most military families don’t really talk about; it’s simply part of the job.

My sisters and I understood that “home” was a fleeting term, something used to describe your current address, but nothing more.

When the time came for us to pack our bags and leave yet another place, there was never a big talk or announcement from my parents about where we were moving next. Instead, there was a simple conversation.

As the list of where we had lived continued to grow, my sisters and I continued to grow too.

While most kids were excited about entering third grade, we were excited about exploring castle ruins in our German backyard.

We hunted for Easter eggs at this castle!

We hunted for Easter eggs at this castle!

It was an unusual way to live, but the strangest part is something that seems so obvious: I lived so many different lives.

In Alabama, I rode four-wheelers with friends and felt confined by the square footage of a small southern town. In Japan, I posed for pictures with Harajuku girls and laughed when the toilet spoke to me. In Arizona, I rode my bike around our suburban neighborhood and swam with our Golden Retriever in the backyard pool. Each place we lived in provided a snapshot of what life could be like, of what it was like for so many different families across the world. In many ways, it felt like I was only a visitor—observing the customs of a strange land, but never actually a local.

 Small town living in Alabama

Small town living in Alabama

In some places we lived, I made friends easily. In other places, the process of finding friends felt endless. But eventually, I would trade my skater shoes for Sperry’s or my Japanese sushi for In N’ Out burgers and adjust to my surroundings. However, the friendless in between still haunted me.

When I was seven years old, I found myself reacting to the painfulness of adjusting in a weird way: I kept wishing for the weekend. Each day that I rode the bus home, I would mentally write an “X” on the day and celebrate that I was one day closer to freedom.

But I quickly realized that there was a problem with my plan. “Freedom” never lasted.

I would spend the weekend in bliss, surrounded by my family, but no matter what I did, Monday always came.

This cycle continued for a few weeks before I realized what was happening.

Five days out of seven were spent waiting for the other two.

My seven-year-old brain imploded. So many days were spent unhappy and only two were spent in contentment. As I walked home that afternoon, I started crying.

Eventually, friends were made. The weekdays became more enjoyable. I joined the other kids on the playground during lunch. The school days slowly became filled with laugher. Without noticing, I abandoned my mental log.

But even though the log was abandoned, I’ve never forgotten that feeling. The fear of wasting my life still lingers. In many ways, it has pulled me in unexpected directions. The fear drew me into personal finance, and it allowed me to approach my debt repayment with a level of aggression that is usually reserved for NFL sports.

The fear of wasting of my life on things that make me unhappy is very much still alive. And so far, there’s only one way I’ve found to silence the fear: the pursuit of financial freedom.

Sometimes I think about my 7-year old self and wonder what she would think of my answer to her unspoken question.

I like to think that she would be proud.

 

Have any childhood realizations changed your life?

Money Mentality, Quote

Having a Bad Day? Read These Articles

It feels like life has been kicking my butt for the past few weeks. Overall, things are great: everyone I love is healthy and there haven’t been any major upsets. It’s just one of those times in life when things feel particularly hectic and stressful.

So in recognition of the funk I’m currently experiencing, I thought I would share a few articles from around the web that have been bringing me joy. Hopefully they will be able to brighten up your day a bit too.

 

1. A Mantra for 28 (Or Any Birthday, Really) by NZ Muse

A beautiful list of lessons learned and wisdom gained. It’s short article with a big impact.

NZMuse

2. An Anxious Day by From Frugal to Free

When you have dark moments, it’s nice to know that you’re not alone, and that is exactly what Kara provides in this heartfelt post.

FrugaltoFree

3. The Woods, Mountains and Happiness Within by Our Next Life (and Cait Flanders!)

This beautifully written essay is about finding peace in the present…even if it isn’t perfect.

OurNextLife

4. I Got Married! And I’m Still Debt-Free by Mixed Up Money

Nothing is more heartwarming than a wedding. The photos from Alyssa’s (cash wedding!) are magical.

MizedUpMoney

5. Time by Budget and the Beach

Tonya’s video is about the most asset we have…time. Inspirational and uplifting, it provides the viewer with an instant dose of gratitude.

BudgetandBeach

 

How have you been feeling lately? Any reading recommendations for bad days?