“Maybe we should just give up.” A blank stare greeted me. “OK. Not give up, but we could just push a really big pause button for the next five or ten years.”
I got no reaction. Instead, silence hung in the air.
Finally, something. “If that’s what you want. But I know that’s not what you want.”
Drat. It’s almost like my husband knows me incredibly well.
I don’t think I’ve ever been one to hide the fact that what I want is to make a lot of money. The only long-form guest post that I have ever done that wasn’t an interview is 1,500 words about my quest to earn six figures. I am also all too happy to poo-poo on anyone who says that money can’t buy happiness. You give me yours, and we can swap notes, yeah?
But alas, as two teachers, we aren’t going to be rolling around in piles of money anytime soon. For a while, though, things were coming up roses in the financial department of our life. We were consistently maxing out our Roths. We put six figures toward our mortgage in four years. We were both side hustling.
Then, the math stopped working.
An unpaid maternity leave left me with a fraction of my salary for a year. Childcare costs started to crop up. Other expenses loomed on the horizon. It felt as if all of our progress would stall. So, I found myself telling my husband that since we couldn’t make a lot of progress, I was willing to hold off on making any.
Thankfully, he set me straight.
We won’t be making a lot of progress this year. But we will still make progress. Here’s how:
It’s really commonplace to hear people talking about maxing out their workplace retirement plans. I’m not even close. But the fact that I have a workplace investment is huge. Let me explain.
Teachers get taken advantage of like no one else when it comes to retirement plans. OK, not no one else. Pretty much anyone who is eligible for a 403(b) has seen the AXA pamphlets circling the mailrooms like birds of prey. The fees are obscene and there is no such thing as a direct answer. A lot of people have been fighting the good fight to reform 403(b) options for teachers, but it’s slow going. So slow, in fact, that my district didn’t really offer anything remotely close to a low-fee, self-managed fund that I was interested in. Until I made a 403(b) option with Fidelity work. Huzzah!
Now, I can contribute $18,500 a year to this investment account. I won’t crack a fraction of that this year. But the account is set up, and $100 a paycheck is headed straight to FSTVX. Now that my salary will be fully reinstated after my unpaid maternity leave, I am hopeful that I will be able to nudge this amount up. But there’s also new childcare expenses this year.
Basically, I had so many
reasons excuses recuses (let’s make a word that covers both!), the fact that I even managed to get this ball rolling at all feels Herculean.
$400,000 paid off in 4 minutes! OK. That isn’t exactly a headline you might see, but it’s close. The personal finance community has caught the clickbait contagion, and it’s spreading. In fact, I think I am pretty guilty of shouty, overly enthusiastic debt payoff headlines myself.
Except I haven’t written anything like that lately because our progress is s l o w i n g down.
Why? I used to be able to put all of our side hustle money toward our mortgage. Now, though, we pay family for childcare and this year, we are also paying for a part-time program several days a week.
Since my side hustle income is earmarked for something else for the foreseeable future, it was tempting to just let our mortgage ride. After all, it’s good debt and a tax write off (just kidding: I don’t believe the former and I think the latter is too weaksauce of a salve to make up for how much I hate our debt). I actually thought about just leaving it alone because I didn’t see any other option. I certainly lost the ability to pay off a lot of our debt.
RELATED POST: How I Fell into Six Figures of Debt Without Noticing
Now, though, I realized I can still chip away at it a little. All of my decluttering sales may never even crack four figures this year, but it’s still a couple hundred dollars of debt that I won’t have to look at anymore.
Final Thoughts on Doing A Little
Maybe you’ve never found yourself in this situation financially or otherwise. If that’s the case, I am bananas jealous. Props to you!
If you have found yourself in a situation, though, where a little progress didn’t seem significant enough to count, I understand. But if you can’t do a lot, do a little. It keeps those money muscles strong in the meantime. We’ll get back to a lot one day. And every little bit counts.
So Tell Me…Have you ever had to move more slowly at progress toward a goal than you hoped? How do you remind yourself that a little is just as important as a lot?