Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Improving My Tomorrows



Advance warning, this post is about finances and might not be the most entertaining thing in the world, but it's what's swimming around in my noggin at the moment. Proceed if that kind of thing floats your boat or if you need a nap.

Remember how "they" all told you when you graduated from college that the sooner you started saving for retirement the better? And yes, you listen- but just barely since stuffing money into some random IRA account while you're barely squeaking by on a recent-grad salary seems almost comical.

Yeah. All of that was so me.

Not only did I not start saving when I graduated- I lived far beyond my means.

I was blessed that my parents paid for my college and gave me a hefty allowance to live on considering the low cost of living in Lubbock (my rent was a whopping $283 a month). Between that and my very lucrative gig driving the beer cart at a golf course, I was living large without even realizing it.

So when I moved to Dallas after graduation, the reality of my rent tripling and my "adult career" salary totaling less than what I was living on in college hit hard. Very hard. And I didn't adjust my lifestyle accordingly.

My parents trained me properly. I had a couple credit cards in college which I dutifully paid off every month in full. I had a ridiculously high credit score when I graduated thanks to them giving me an "Emergency AMEX" on their account in my name. Funny side note: when you looked at my credit report back then it said that I had been an AMEX cardholder since 1981. I was born in 1982. Nothing like 18 years worth of pristine credit to start you off in life.

It took one solid run at getting my ass in a crack with those tempting pieces of plastic for me to learn my lesson. Never ever again. They say an education costs you and while my parents were great about teaching me how to be financially responsible, there is nothing that prepared me for that lesson like going through it myself. It was a horrible experience, but I'm so thankful for what it taught me.

Having lived to tell the tale, I am now very proud to say that I have been free of credit card debt for two years. I feel like I have grown up immensely when it comes to money. Now that I am debt free AND have also learned the all important task of how to live within my means, I think it might be time to tackle the thought that seemed like a pipe dream when I was 22- investing for retirement.

I read something earlier this week that really made me snap out of it. Basically it said that if I had started investing $5,000/year into an IRA when I was 25, I could have retired at 65 a millionaire. As it stands, investing the exact same yearly amount but starting at the age of 30, I will net something to the tune of $440,000 less. That is INSANE to me that $25,000 would make that much of a difference in the long run.

I'm sure they told me this back when I was 22, but back then 30 just seemed SO FAR AWAY.

Ugh.

An education costs you, indeed.

BUT, the good news is- my head is now removed from my ass and I'm ready to tackle this head-on.
  • First order of business, I signed up for LearnVest.com.
  • Second order of business, enlisting the assistance of a financial planner.
  • Third order of business, peeling myself away from Pinterest where I am consistently rationalizing why I NEED that fancy chevron chair, maxi dress, and/or pair of heels.

If you haven't heard of LearnVest, you should click over and check it out for yourself. It's basically a financial planning website geared toward young(ish) women. I tend to glaze over when people start talking about stocks, IRA's, and 401k's. It's very intimidating to me and I consider myself a fairly smart cookie.

I like LearnVest because it was founded by a 28 year old woman and that fact permeates the site. The articles are interesting and relevant to where I am in my life. The way they describe how to approach your finances is smart but not overwhelming. So far it's been very helpful, if nothing else than to just give me the encouragement that now is the time to take control of this aspect of my life.

My meeting with the financial planner is Thursday so I'll update you if anything of interest comes out of it. Hopefully it isn't too painful!

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