There are a few reasons I haven’t posted on this site in a while, which one is the reason for this post. The following content is a little candid about a topic, so be prepped to learn a thing or two about me you may not know. Full disclosure, I’ve written and re-written this article four times. Hopefully this one sticks.
If you knew me in my late teens – early twenties, this was my life goal. When people would ask me “what is your dream job/career?” My response was always “To not need one.” Even ask my financial advisor. I’ve always had to goal to “retire” by my mid 40s through either rental properties or passive income investments.
I’ve written a few articles that mention my reason for buying my first home at 23. With the goal of building equity through rent until the next phase in my life, ideally building wealth for future family security.
Some time in October I started researching new podcasts to listen to at work. One niche that caught my interest was a group that spoke on Financial Independence. This movement is a collection of people who speak strategy on how to retire early, or reach financial independence so you aren’t chained to a 9-5. Of course this caught my attention because of my prior desires.
With the awakening of this new energy, I decided to do a status check on my current net worth. Almost five years of home ownership, a good job, and no crippling debt, I felt that I was in a good position. Nothing major like student loans or a brand new car, but I’ve juggled some debt for a couple years. I’ve made budgets, knowing I wasn’t the best at keeping them, but at least I’ve made budgets. So it couldn’t be that bad right?
Once everything was totaled, tallied up the asset and liability columns . . . I was worth nothing.
All the equity in my home, all the value in my retirement accounts, and the miscellaneous items owned that I could liquidate if needed . . . were overshadowed by my negligent spending. Even with no major debts other than my mortgage, I had some how amassed about $40,000 in total debt.
Without paying attention, all the “prudent” decisions I made were being swallowed up by imprudence in other ways. Over the years I had lost connection to my financial decisions and their motivators, it slipped my sight.
How did this happen? Not from one swift blow, but death by a thousand cuts. Small portions of over spending in several different places, justifying “I’ll pay it off later.” over and over again had gotten out of hand.
The humbling thing about it is that a lot of people know me as a finance guy, and ask my advice on life decisions involving money. Heck even part of my job is keeping expenses in check for our associates. Yet I have not been doing it myself. After some counsel from close friends and family . . . something had to change . . . SOMEONE had to change.
Several key moments were nails in the coffin to the death of self and reviving sacrifice.
First – our company had a round of layoffs. Eight spots were dissolved right around the time I started taking this issue serious. Certainly a wake up call to the risk I was exposed. If I would have lost my job, would I be able to pay my bills before finding another?
Second – during some personal reflection. While going through a litany of mercy, there was one petition that slapped me and caused me to pause.
“For living beyond my means . . . Lord have mercy.” The term “irresponsible” is not quite the same gravity as something that requires mercy. Inward groans transitioned to welled tears as the hypocrisy of my financial choices became real.
I’ve written articles, prideful, on making prudent decisions and trying not to be mediocre. Yet through my own fault and negligence, that pride is current vane.
Few things make tears fall from a man’s eyes, and for me that was one of them. Though I never intentionally lied or deceived anyone, there were parts of my life that were a sham. For living a façade of doing better than others, I ask for your forgiveness.
Naturally not wanting to be a phony, I developed action plans to get rid of debt and actually thrive as the Lord intended. Not in effort to live a health and wealth gospel, but to be a good steward for the blessings that have been given to me.
Immediately the following steps were taken:
- Accountability – I hired a personal finance coach to call me out on my “thousand cuts” B.S.
- Revising my budget and sticking to it. To the point of even canceling my home internet. Right now I’m sitting at the library typing this up!
- Worked a second job for a few months, to get a jump start.
I was amazed at how just paying attention and a little effort could be so effective. In just three months I’ve been able to cash flow a few real expenses and pay off about $5,000 of debt. No where near the finish line, but walking towards a goal one step at a time feels great.
My real time goal is to be consumer debt free before the end of this year, and then tackle a personal loan within next year. Two years seems like a long time, but when I’ve been bouncing some of this around for five, with a minimum schedule of another 5 years . . . two years of intense personal sacrifice is a cake walk.
This is one reason I’ve taken a break from writing over the last few months. It was quite a challenge to work 70+ hours a week and even sleep much less pull out my computer and type for an hour.
Don’t worry, I’m not in any major trouble. I’m not asking for more accountability. Just finally getting a handle on something that shouldn’t have gotten this bad. Being in debt is normal, unfortunately. In my research I’ve found this is such a common issue because personal finances tend to be a hush-hush subject. So transparency and candidness is necessary for growth.
“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” II Corinthians 11:30
It doesn’t make much sense to be normal and keep the subheading of this site?
“Musings on excellence in a world of mediocrity.”
In this aspect of life, I’ve decided to no longer be mediocre. It doesn’t make sense to try and keep up with the Joneses when I don’t even have close friends whose last name is Jones.
From the countless times I’ve told young people “Saying no to something now is saying yes to something greater.” This is now my morning mantra to myself in the mirror every day.
“ . . . the borrower is slave to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7
(A visual reminder of Christ holding the chain of my debt. As increment amounts are paid, the link is broken off.)
What does this mean for the site? Most likely my posts in the near future will include topics from my journey. Climbing the mountain of freedom from debt (rapidly) and the journey to financial independence. With still the occasional posts including other stuff too. 😉 Interested? Feel free to subscribe.
Thanks for reading, and I’d be more than happy to have a personal conversation with anyone who is interested.
For living beyond my means . . . Lord have mercy.