Aging is not a death sentence. It is, in fact, the exact opposite.
Each birthday is another opportunity to grow, and it’s not just about becoming long in the tooth. People travel forward on their journeys,
even if especially if their journeys aren’t straight lines. Of course, our thoughts and views change.
What doesn’t get discussed enough are the ways in which our views of money change. And not just on some political or global level. My day-to-day interactions with the way I think about money, the way I save money, and the way I spend money evolve as I age. As they should.
So rather than create some sort of arbitrary money achievement list that is nothing more than a measuring stick to point out all the myriad ways in which myself and most everyone else falls short with money, I’m doing something else.
The only money thing I want to do at 33 is simple. I want to create a financial time capsule for me.
stand type, hovering on the completion of the first third of my life, here’s where I currently stand with money:
Consumerism & Clutter
I’ve stopped buying shoes.
Not permanently of course. But reshaping the way in which I spend my leisure time has helped me make terrific inroads toward my financial goals. Now, I buy shoes when I need them. Not every five seconds when they beckon to me from store windows and Instagram accounts.
I’m not selling my Jimmy Choos.
Aside from a dozen or so handbags, the most expensive thing in my closet are my wedding shoes that Nordstrom graciously replaced. For free. They are brand new in the box just waiting for next celebration. I could recoup at least half of their value, if not more, but I’m not going to sell them. Instead, I’m going to wear them to every celebration in which they are at least mildly appropriate.
RELATED POST: I Spent $700 on a Pair of Shoes and I’d Do it Again
I am working on a massive overhaul of my closet and my home.
It involves a lot of painstaking work. I’m prioritizing giving over re-selling now that I can fully appreciate what my time is worth. Above all that, though, I’m focused on being as kind to the Earth as possible as I re-home these pieces.
Investing & Saving
Investing isn’t so scary.
Our Roths are still growing, and we’re working on maxing them out for a fifth year in a row. In fact, one of the biggest money moves that I intend to make before my actual birthday is to take money out of our savings and finish maxing out our Roths for 2019 (almost a year before the April 2020 deadline!). Before making this move, I’m sitting at $80,746.47 in my individual Roth.
Noise is just noise.
The personal finance community talks a lot about tuning out noise, but then they also make a lot of noise themselves. For years, I put off opening a 403(b) because I was so bogged down in the horror stories that surround them. But after finally working with my business office and asking approximately 854734561 questions, I was able to open an account for a very low-fee mutual fund. It’s not scary or sad. It’s fantastic. But I let myself get so overwhelmed and concerned that I didn’t ask the easy questions. In fact, I didn’t ask any questions. As of right now, I have $2,006.26 invested (and totally unsustainable 16.96% YTD rate of return).
RELATED POST: Terrible 403b Options: What Do I Do?
Savings helps me sleep.
Perhaps it’s the season of life or perhaps it’s the flavor of my personality. Having too much cash and erring on the side of caution spell financial disaster to some people, but they give me peace of mind. I do think our investments are appropriate. They’re growing at a nice clip, and we’ve already weathered some bumps. But having a plump emergency fund lets me entertain the idea of growing our family some more or finally installing the new windows that our home is starting to hint at.
I hate that we have a mortgage.
We have a lot of debt. Currently, our debt is over six-figures ($116,225.87 to be exact). For years, I was oblivious to the idea that a mortgage is a debt. It sounds so silly to spell out in sentence form, but I really didn’t know. Lesson learned. The other thing that I have learned is that I am not a fan. I really hate that the bank gets such a significant slice of our paychecks each month, especially when it adds up to thousands of dollars in interest.
Debt is temporary.
So many aspects of finance are temporary. Someone could have a really sound financial foothold one day only to watching things crumble the next. Still, when things are difficult, it feels like forever. Our mortgage seems never-ending. In fact, if we let the loan go to term, I’m fairly certain Elon Musk will have found a way to get cars to fly. But the fact of the matter is that we won’t be in debt forever, and even if we were, it isn’t a reflection of who we are.
RELATED POST: When You Can’t Do A Lot, Do A Little
It’s not always a disaster.
I’ve spent the better part of my time blogging creating a false emergency. Debt in the form of a mortgage is not a pants-on-fire emergency. If I were a student in my classroom, this would be akin to running out of water in my water bottle. It’s a nuisance and a frustration, but guess what? It’s not enough of an emergency to go to the nurse. Somehow, though, I surrounded myself with so much concern about debt that I have tried to move financial mountains to pay it off. Instead of doing something really reckless like emptying our six-figure savings to banish our mortgage, we’ll keep chipping away at it when we can.
The Bigger Picture
Generosity matters now.
We are working to steadily increase our gifting budget. Right now, we spend about 3% of our income on gifts, largely charitable donations but also meal trains for neighbors, books for my classroom library, breakfast for students, and other things like that. As our income grows, we are working on growing that number as well.
How other people spend their money isn’t my business.
I am so much better at money now than I was as 23. Except for one thing: I sometimes let people convince me that I have a right to tell other people what to do with their money. The simple fact is that I don’t. Of course, I have opinions and many of them are strong. I’m going to share them from time to time, but I’m also going to continue to work to not position myself as an expert or an authority. I’m a human figuring this out one day at a time. Plus, leading by example has always gotten me farther in life that soapbox lectures. And I have $700 shoes in my closet so who am I to talk?
I’m happy my passion is my work.
I am also exhausted. But it’s the end of the school year. Truthfully, it’s the end of the most taxing year I’ve ever faced. And I’ve faced so many challenges over the past decade. But there’s nothing sweeter than looking around a room and seeing people succeed because of you. Teaching is incredibly messy and often filled with heartbreak. But the real heartbreak for me comes when I hear people talk about waiting until their 30s or 40s or 50s to give themselves permission to find a way to do what they love. This is right for me right now.
RELATED POST: To The Teacher Whose Broken Bookcase Post Went Viral
I will celebrate.
My celebrations likely won’t look like your celebrations, and they don’t have to. If someone wants to come take my Frugality Plutus Award back, so be it. But for a bunch of people who drink the Thoreau Koolaid about sucking the marrow out of a life, we’ve sure turned into a bunch of judgmental party poopers. Guilt doesn’t have a place in my finances anymore. But I’m not going to stop with celebrating just family and friends in real life. If I do nothing else with my blog, I want to continue to carve out a space for people to celebrate their own wins.
I want more balance.
Last year, I was just dollars shy of cresting the $10,000 mark in freelance writing, editing, and VA work. I did some additional side hustling as well. That income was a huge help to our financial goals, but my life felt sideways a lot of times. This year, I’m working on living more deeply. Side hustling and making all these money moves requires time, but so do the other parts of my life. As I realize just how short the years are, I want to give myself more opportunities to get lost in the depth of each day. That doesn’t mean cutting out side hustling or work; it just means making sure that the work I do is the work I actually want to do.
RELATED POST: The Stupidity of the Side Hustle
Money isn’t the goal.
One thing that I am absolutely guilty of is focusing too much on money as a metric. No matter how many times I say that I am not my money or my debt, my priorities fall out of alignment again. By celebrating things big and small and focusing on balance, I imagine this issue will correct itself. But it’s worth writing down anyway, but we all know I struggle with goals, especially if I don’t put pen to paper. Money is a tool to get more of what I want–time with family and friends, a bit of relaxation and adventure, plus the ability to do more good.
Final Thoughts on My Money Time Capsule at 33
When I started writing this post, I thought maybe I should include important things like the cost of a loaf of bread or a chai latte. But then I realized, there are so many things about the world that don’t need to be chronicled on my blog. There’s Google for that.
The money story that I want to focus on is my own, and I wanted to do it in a way that means the most to me. Not with numbers in a spreadsheet, but with words. As I inch closer to my birthday, I know these numbers will change. They fluctuations might be flutters and they might be wild swings. Here’s where I am today, and I’m thankful to be here and looking forward to tomorrow.
So Tell Me…Would you ever want to create a time capsule or money snapshot of yourself? What would you include?