Where was that millionaire’s manual?

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I peered over my youngest child’s shoulder as she opened a financial aid letter from the private college she’ll be attending in the fall. It was a notice about the student loan offer that was part of her financial aid package. (There’s an oxymoron.) “No, we’re not doing that,” I said to her. “But then,” she asked, “how will we afford my college?” “I’m saving our pennies,” I said. “You are not going into debt.”

My oldest had already accrued some debt before I woke up to our financial nightmare and started getting it together. I’ll pay that at the end of the line, after cash flowing both their college costs, paying off all our credit card debt and car loans. Then there will still be the HELOC and the mortgage. Still, we should be totally debt free in a little over five years.

Yep, I’m hell bent on living on a budget, paying cash for college, and paying off the nearly $662,000 in debt we accrued over the years.

I can’t believe how stupid my fella and I had been. As I’ve written, two decades ago we inherited a million bucks. An inheritance like that should come with an owner’s manual. It would include tips like these:

  • Put the money in mutual funds.
  • Don’t touch the principle except to buy real estate.
  • So don’t take out a mortgage.
  • Live on your income, not the proceeds from the investment, much less the principle.
  • In fact, live on a budget so you can still add to your investments.
  • And don’t borrow a dime.

Well, there was no manual, but we should have had enough sense to seek out some good advice. Fortunately, we did roll over a good amount into some IRAs so we weren’t left with nothing after all our stupidity.

As Dave Ramsey says, now’s the time to stop looking in the rear view window and start look ahead. It’s going to be fine.  I found me some sense before it was too late. I’ve written my own manual. If all goes well, we’ll get back that million and then some.



No Pair of Shoes is Worth 2 Million Bucks

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I thought the hard part was going to be a year of no shopping—that’s what kicked me into gear just five weeks ago, motivated by an op-ed by Ann Patchett: no more personal shopping for clothes, shoes, bags, or jewelry.

I was wrong.

The hard part is not being able to not shop fast enough to make all this debt go away. I was so clueless about the mess I was in. Serious denial. Crazy. Batshit. Crazy.

And now, as I wrote a few days ago, I am totally woke.

So now I make lists of how long it will take me to get out of debt. I’ve used a variety of budget apps to budget loose $4,000 a month. With that, along with my side consulting income, I think we will be

  • free of credit card debt by January 2019;
  • liberated from auto loan payments by March 2019 (and the two cars should see us through the end of the era of the personal automobile);
  • flush with an emergency fund to cover three months expenses by June 2019;
  • back to investing in retirement accounts (on top of what our employers already do) by August 2019;
  • in the process of cash flowing our remaining kids’ college expenses through 2022;
  • paying off the house by 2025 (there’s a lot of dreaming involved in this aspiration);
  • and then maximizing our investments over the next five years until we retire in 2030 with, if my numbers and the economy hold up even moderately, about $2 million saved plus the worth of the house.

Those are the goals that will keep me focused. And I hardly care if I ever buy another pair of shoes again.