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It has been a long and winding road to even get on the path to FI and I can say without a doubt that suffering does produce perseverance and perseverance, character and character, hope. I am a better person because of the journey.
I had a fairly normal middle-class childhood. However, I always felt incomplete and constantly searched for something on the outside to fulfill me on the inside. When I took my first drink in my teens, I became everything I thought I wasn’t. From there on out, I sought out the party.
Unfortunately, I learned to fly under the radar and became good at walking the tightrope of a dual life. I would maintain my studies and work life appearing to be a normal contributing member of society. On the flip side, I would indulge in partying to the extreme. My life ebb and flowed for many years this way without too many obvious consequences.
Playing with fire has a way of catching up with a person. In my 30’s I found myself deep in the trenches of addiction/alcoholism and not many people knew it. Early on I had developed the disadvantageous skill of hiding the pain with a pretty face. Conversely, the travail it took to dig my way out of addiction has been a salubrious skill that when applied allows me to overcome any mountain, including debt.
I came to a breaking point where I knew I was losing my mind. I was faced with some serious choices and to be honest they were all bleak except the path of least resistance. That path ultimately resulted in surrender, admitting defeat and asking for help.
So I got sober 8+ years ago and returned to faith. The early years of my recovery were all about uncovering wounds, looking at my part, healing, making amends, forgiving and being forgiven. In this process, I took off the layers of lies and insecurities I had been cloaked in and traded them for my true identity. I discovered I am a passionate, loving, giving person with the gift to teach and help others.
Our greatest weakness can become our greatest strength. Those years I wasted in selfish and indulgent destruction are redeemed every time I help another person coming out of addiction or alcoholism.
About 4 years ago I became ready to clean up my financial wreckage and when I put out the call for help, I was steered to Dave Ramsey. For the first time in my life, I got on a budget and made a plan.
During the process, I had to consider the austere reality of my home which was in a town that was not bouncing back from the crash of the market. With some major things needing repair coupled with it no longer being a safe place for a single woman, I moved out. I moved into a ministry home (a form of house hacking by living with a community of people of a common faith) and pursued a short sale. After working with a realtor for a year, the short sale was declined and the house went into immediate foreclosure.
I had to pause my debt snowball and hire an attorney to navigate the foreclosure proceedings. In the end, the bank bought the house back and waived the deficiency. I walked away fairly unscathed but it was a depressing and heavy process. I remember my attorney saying to me that at some point all the bad effects will level out and it will be time to start building myself back up.
Upwards and Onwards
I knew it was time and so I looked at the remainder of my debt (~$36k) and decided to turn up the intensity. I humbled myself and asked my parents if they would allow me to move in for about two years. They graciously said yes and immediately I got to work.
The first order of business was the possibility of having to pay taxes on the waived deficiency. I saved up a big mound of cash and then began attacking the debt with a vengeance.
I embraced frugality and sacrifice and figured out the difference between a need and a want. Living with my parents made it very easy to say no to everything – from dinner out to skiing to highlighting my hair. I focused on the fact that I was there for a reason and a season and worked hard and got raises.
I want to pause here and emphasize some additional benefits, other than cost, of living with my folks in my 40’s:
- My Mom is a great cook
- Helping my parents
- Second chances
My Mom always made sure I was fed. At first, I balked at her offers thinking pridefully to myself, I know how to cook. Eventually, I decided to graciously accept. She loves to feed her family and I love to eat so why the heck not embrace that??
With the folks in their 70’s, I realized they need help with some things around the house. As a gracious beneficiary of free rent, I was happy to help. Now I am much more aware of how to continue to help them after I move out.
Oh, how I love second chances. The last time I had lived with my parents I was in my 20’s and was pretty rebellious and disrespectful. I recognized God was giving me another opportunity to live under their roof in a respectful manner. Bonus!
Due to having more debt then assets, I learned I didn’t have to pay the taxes on the waived deficiency. Phew! So I kept the cash parked it in Ally online savings account as my emergency fund, now affectionately labeled my POM (peace of mind) fund, and kept applying my income to my debt.
Introduction to Financial Independence
A colleague turned me onto the ChooseFI radio podcast in the Spring of 2017 and my world was rocked – woah! I had no idea there was a vibrant community of people finding creative ways of doing life differently. Knowing instantly this was the next leg of my journey, I dove headfirst into the FIRE community and have not looked back.
I am happy to write that on December 29, 2017 (which was 9 months sooner than anticipated), I made my final payment on my student loans! In total, I paid off $46,763.37 in debt. This means that 2018 is not only a new year but a new chapter in my life, one in which I get to build wealth.
I have set up automatic deposits to max out the following investment vehicles in 2018:
- Simple IRA ($12,500)
- HSA ($3,450)
- Roth IRA ($5,550)
All are invested in low-cost index funds.
I have additional money in my budget and I am now thinking about different asset classes to invest in. There are definitely, a couple of side hustles, or as Mrs. Wow, who writes over at Waffles on Wednesday, likes to call them, Besides Hustles, in the works. Stay tuned for details on my paintings.
I am saving more now than I ever have. Although, I would like to continue to find ways to increase my savings rate; hence, the inspiration to write about it for the built-in accountability.
On this blog, I will chronicle the different levers I pull in pursuit of FI. Of course, I will include more stories of my past exposing the dichotomy of me then versus now. This is such a stark contrast which started with some recognition, vulnerability and surrender sprinkled with intentionality, sacrifice, and perseverance.