I am just going to jump right in because if I don’t, I’ll get overwhelmed about how to lead off and I’ll never get started. So without making this sound too much like a dating profile, my name is Erin, and I’m a mid-twenty-something living and working in Washington, DC. Last summer I started feeling like I was dangerously on the verge of living paycheck to paycheck (because friends leaving town for bigger and better things like grad school means they start crossing bars and restaurants and activities off their DC bucket lists and that is not cheap!) and emphatically did not want to continue down that path, so I began looking around for information about budgets. Good old Google led me to something called Mr. Money Mustache, and I was so intrigued by this weird dude who retired at age 30 that I started reading many of his posts. Those posts and comments led to other personal finance blogs, specifically financial independence and early retirement blogs, and here I am some months later finally trying to get my feet wet in the same sphere as I try to document my path to financial independence. I’ll absolutely talk more about what “financial independence” means, but the short version is that I want to reach a point where I’m financially secure enough to not be beholden to a 9-5 job in order to afford to live. I’ll have the freedom to decide how I use my time, whether that means traveling, learning new skills, sitting in my chair reading all day, or…working a 9-5 job. Again, more on all of this later since otherwise this will become more of a chapter than a blog post.
The dirty laundry:
I absolutely want to start off by acknowledging that as a white woman from a solidly middle class family (and whose parents are still married), I’ve got obscene amounts of privilege in society, which makes it possible for me to even start to think about financial independence: I’m not actually scrambling for money every month, despite how #broke I may sometimes feel. Add to that the fact that my parents (thanks, Mom and Dad!), with help from one of my grandfathers (thanks, Granddad!), mostly paid for my college education. I’ve only fairly recently started to grasp the implications of just how big of a leg up that was, because I graduated with a BA and something like a measly $7,000 of student loans. Given the inspiring stories I’ve read about how people paid off tens of thousands of dollars of debt in impressively short amounts of time, it’s actually embarrassing that I haven’t paid that off yet. But if I’m going to start writing about personal finance, that includes being brutally honest about my personal finance situation, and to be fair the interest rates on my loans are so low that doing other things with my money is probably in my best interest anyway.
Other dirty money secrets that make it easier for me to even start to pursue this goal include:
• I’m on the cheapest health insurance plan my employer offers, which at least for now actually means I pay $0/month. I also have an amazing employer 401k match (to the tune of 9%. Told you it was amazing) that I am absolutely taking advantage of because who doesn’t like free money? I may constantly complain about how non-profits don’t pay us low-level peons enough but I do love the benefits they offer
• I don’t pay a phone bill since I’m still on my parents’ family plan
• same goes for Netflix and Hulu (thanks, Mom and Dad!)
• I uh…still kinda sorta get an allowance. Of sorts. This is a holdover from my college days, when $20 would show up in my account every week for groceries. And $15 every other week to my savings account because my parents are awesome. It still shows up because I am a bad daughter and just haven’t straight up told them “thanks, I really appreciate it, but I actually don’t need that money anymore!” I suppose once they find out I have a financial independence blog, it’ll really be time to stop that…
Why this blog?
The honest truth is that I’m not a writer. If you haven’t noticed that by now, you certainly will soon! I had a study abroad blog in college that I valiantly tried to keep alive but ultimately failed at that. So if I’ve previously failed at blogging (let’s get real, I even abandoned my Tumblr, which was mostly pictures) and I’m not a writer, why on earth have I just minted a brand new, shiny blog? Because I want to put all this out there publicly and keep myself accountable. I’ve spent a few months working on minimizing my spending and maximizing my savings but know I can do better and have decided that the next level involves me documenting my efforts. Even if no one reads this, it’s still out there so someone could, and do I really want to have to justify why I bought x or y item to an audience? I’m good at justifying these things to myself, which is part of the problem. So I’m trying again and we’ll see what happens.
I’ve also found in all this reading of other PF blogs that I really enjoy reading about people’s journeys, so figured I’d add my own voice to the chorus. I’ve also noticed that I seem to be coming from a slightly different perspective than many of the biggest PF bloggers because:
• I’m just starting out on this FI journey whereas everyone else seems to already have their stuff together and mostly figured out. It’s a bit intimidating sometimes to read these amazing people and then look at my net worth which is SO paltry in comparison
• many of them are also already retired or well on their way, whereas I am…not. I’m focusing on FI instead of early retirement because it’s a bit depressing to think about how long early retirement will realistically take me despite how much I wish it were a matter of a few years. FI is the more attainable goal!
• there don’t seem to be too many people living in high cost of living areas, maybe because so many people are already retired or close enough to it to escape to somewhere with more sane rent/mortgage prices. I do like living in the city but I do also see myself in the future moving somewhere with a much more reasonable cost of living. But for now, HCoL DC it is!
• there are a number of blogs documenting people crushing huge amounts of debt, and thankfully this won’t be one of them because I’m not in that position. I’ve got some education debt and some credit card debt but in the grand scheme of things it’s not much at all
• off the top of my head, all of the bloggers I’ve read are married or at least living with their longtime partners, and I am incredibly jealous of the fact that they have/had two salaries with which to maximize their savings rate. I’m not going to focus on being #perpetuallysingle or anything, but it is just me and my salary over here!
• on that note, there’s something (okay, numbers and spreadsheets) about personal finance that seems to attract engineers, math, sales, and computer people, all of whom have much better salary prospects than, say, your liberal arts major who finds herself pigeonholed in an admin position at the moment. Currently my rent takes up a good 50% of my take-home pay, which doesn’t leave me a lot to work with in terms of my savings rate. I will be writing about that because it’s painfully clear something needs to change
I sometimes get excited about things and jump in with both feet (see also, this blog. New recipes. The candle-making hobby I picked up a few months ago. The five library books about sustainable urban design I have sitting on my bookshelf that likely won’t get read before I can’t renew them anymore) so I haven’t necessarily figured out all of the details of this. I do want to keep this pretty anonymous for the moment because I am incredibly dependent on a steady paycheck from my 9-5, so I’ll figure out what publishing financials (monthly spend reports? Quarterly? Only reporting my savings rate?) looks like as I go.
So all of that is to say, here’s why I got inspired to start my own blog, despite what seems like a proliferation of personal finance blogs lately. Welcome, and I hope you enjoy following my journey.