How helping someone can go completely against good financial advice. And how it can change lives.
I had messed up. I hadn’t done my best. I hadn’t tried my hardest. Maybe I hadn’t taken it seriously from the get go. But there I was needing to take more classes and having just lost a big financial aid scholarship. $12,600 if I remember correctly. The scholarship was only good for the standard time to complete the degree. Me, I had just failed to do that.
Why did I even go to college?
You see my parents didn’t go to college right after high school in fact my dad never even graduated. My mom finish high school and was shipped off to American from her central American home. My dad dropped out of a high school in California.
But even with that, college always felt like something that I was supposed to do.
While we grew up my mom started taking classes for architecture and even as I got older my father too signed up for classes at the local community college.
We grew up attending community college classes sitting at the back of the room being quite. Or running around the hallways trying to entertain ourselves while my mom took her classes.
After we got a bit older we even wandered into empty rooms all 3 of us and played school. Taking turns teaching something. But usually my older sister teaching us something she was learning. ( It’s how I picked up a bit of french)
College was part of our lives and it was fun. Why wouldn’t we go?
So as I got into high school I new I was going. My first college search freshman year yielded interest in an art school in the Boston. But through out the rest of high school I discovered engineering a happy marriage of my 2 strongest subject matters. Math and science.
Earlier I said maybe I just didn’t take it seriously from the get go. And looking back that definitely seems like the case. You see after the discovery I had the subject matter I wanted to study: Engineering. I also knew there was no way I was going to the local community college. Even near by universities were ruled out because of the simple fact that I didn’t want living at home to be an option. Far in another state would be ideal. To that effect I received lots of pamphlet and application information in the mail from all across the US for different universities I could attend.
And even though I read through most of them( and had never heard of most of them before). Even though I kept narrowing them down. You know what happened? I’ll tell you what happened. I missed the application deadline. I mean how in the hell do you miss the application deadline if you’re serious about going to college.
Thinking back that shows that I wasn’t taking it seriously to begin with.
But you know what? I decided to not give up I rifled through some papers and found universities with rolling admissions or later deadlines.
I found some and applied.
Honestly even though university was expected, if I think back, my real motivations weren’t the desire to get an amazing degree to secure an amazing job. It wasn’t to be better off then my parents. It wasn’t to be the trailblazer. The first of the family to receive a prestigious degree. (Well maybe it was a little bit of that! It comes with bragging rights!) It was because I wanted to get out of my house. The only way someone of my age and my economical disposition gets to leave home and be on their own is by going away to college. The farther the better. And that desire to flee was strongly coupled by a desire to travel. The only way someone like me could travel was by going off to college and then participating in the study abroad program. That is why I wanted to go to college. ( you know what? in the end I didn’t even get to study abroad, oh the irony)
Those don’t seem to be good enough reasons to attend university and it showed up in my work.
University for me was about the experience, and it showed up in my work.
I got A’s ,I got B’s, I got C’s ,Ds and went through class withdrawals.
I started needing to retake classes. Eventually resulting in pushing out my graduation date.
Then something happened. That could have derailed my graduation indefinitely.
I got pregnant.
You know, I always though of myself as the black sheep of the family. But really? This? How could I let this happen to me? At 20 I was only halfway through the degree program. And I wasn’t keeping up.
It was a wake up call.
I didn’t want to become another statistic. I’m latina. And even though I was past being a teen mom. I didn’t want to be a drop out.
Ugh… how disgusting and shameful. How culturally common. A drop out with a kid.
The thought of having debt I wouldn’t be able to pay off didn’t even cross my mind.
It was all about not becoming a drop out. Taking time off even just one semester for me would mean setting myself up for never returning.
As I thought of it more I realized that the only way I would survive this was to keep going to school. You see. I attended a school that required working a co-op. A paid working experience. Where I earned real money. $15/hr.
Nowhere could I make that kind of money with no degree. And now it wasn’t just about me.
So I didn’t take a break I went back to school and took back to back school terms while pregnant.
A funny thing happened. Those were my best semester through my college career. Somehow managing a full school load, I was able to balance everything with a work study , increasing doctors visits and the ever ever present need to frequently excuse myself from class to go pee. My time management skills flourished due to necessity.
It was good but not good enough. I couldn’t pull in my graduation date.
Though I survived the rest of the time and classes after the birth. The day came when it was clear I would need to take more time to finish.
But how would I do that having lost my biggest scholarship.
I talk to people and knew of so many people having dropped out because of lack of funding. With 1 year left. They were so close. I was so close.
But I didn’t have the money. The money I made during my 6 month co-op was all going to living expenses for the whole year. I was already stretching.
So I did the only thing I could. I maxed all my loans out. But it still wasn’t enough.
I tried taking out a loan in my name, it was denied.
I tried having family cosign. No dice. My family couldn’t provide any financial support.
I had gotten far since the news of my pregnancy. But the thought of not dropping out jumped into my mind like I had made the resolution yesterday.
It was so close but farther then ever.
Then I decided I just needed to throw a wider net.
But I could only think of one person, a fellow student, who I felt comfortable asking for help.
I was asking him to help me. To give me a chance at finishing my degree. I was asking him to cosign a $10,000 loan at an absurdly horrible rate 10.75%. To go against all financial advise that says you should never, Never do that.
For some reason. He agreed. He agreed to expose himself financially and give me an amazing gift.
This friend I can only assume believed in me.
But we never really talked about it again. So I never knew why?
All I knew was that he didn’t want me talking about it. He was naturally concerned about how others might interpret the situation. He didn’t want other people expecting the same thing.
But I still wonder Why? Why Did he do such a thing? And I’ve wondered it on many occasions.
I want to understand because I want to give someone that gift too. A life changing gift. I want to know how he knew he wasn’t going to get burned. Or why if he did it was worth the risk.
His help changed my life. It gave me the chance to finish.
I don’t know if it was Mr.1500’s post of pivotal life events. But this one post just flowed out of me.
Getting pregnant with Jr Roamer was one of those moments. And a few years later, so was this amazing friends life changing financial gift.
People say you can get where ever you want if you just work hard. But some of it does seem to be just good fortune. I was fortunate to have meet this person. With out the luck of meeting him I wouldn’t have been able to ask for his help in the first place.
So the things I want you to think about is. Sometimes breaking sound financial advice can really help someone.*
I want you to think about moments in your life that helped you get where you are today.
But mostly I want you to realize that even though I made so many “mistakes”. I am in an amazing place right now. So you can overcome too.
And if you feel inclined share with me how this post made you feel? And whether there is some financial advice worth breaking.
* That is not to say to start loaning and cosigning left and right. Like I said I still don’t understand his thought process.
Spending money before its in your pocket. You know this is a frequent topic when it comes to money and often its used to illustrate poor financial habits.
Some guy buying a big screen TV in anticipation of a big bonus. Or some girl eyeing some strappy sandals and a nice paring bag. Because she deserves it.
Honestly I’ve never suffered from wanting to buy stuff before even having the money in my hand. Actually I’m a really bad shopper period. Even when I see something I want and think about it I regularly convince myself out of the purchase.
And even to this day there are things I still want after years and years of thinking about it. (Like the signature little black dress, and a nice blazer). Have I bought them? nope. Because I don’t really need them.
Yet I realized that even though I don’t buy things. Specially physically things with out having the money. I actually do suffer from spending in advance.
Well after college graduation I made the lofty goal to pay off my $46,000 debt in just 5 yrs. I knew I didn’t want that pain in the butt hanging around long term. I needed to kill it.
My plan to kill it came with me dedicating plenty of my paycheck to pay it off. But where my advanced spending is really highlighted is in the fact that I also earmarked my tax refunds years in advanced for debt repayment.
That’s right, before I ever got my tax refunds I had already spent them. I did some math and conservatively calculated that I could expect to get at least an extra $1000 in my tax refund. In turn I could use those funds towards my loans each of those 5 yrs. Sure I spent them on debt repayment but I’d spent them nonetheless.
Up to 5 years in advance. Compared to those who spend just a paycheck in advance I have a serious problem. 🙁
Why exactly is this a problem?
Well let me break it down to you in this way. When you spend your money ahead of time. It means you need it. You’re depending on it. And when your banking on money it means your going to stress out about it. If it doesn’t come your going to be SOL. I think it’s a lot worse when you have a physical item in your hands you can’t pay for. But even if its just the idea of future spending you still end up stressing about it.
It’s stressful because it limits your options. It ways you down. You feel stuck, after all you really need that next paycheck. You’ve spent it already.
And just like those paycheck to paycheck people I would have to scramble to figure out what my next move was. Not because I really needed to but because in my mind I had already spent it, so now I needed to find a way to make up the difference.
Well I’ve paid off my debt so what’s there to worry about now.
I should be relaxed. I shouldn’t be worried about money anymore. I mean at the start of the year our networth was over $85k and its been growing ever since.
We’ve cut our monthly costs drastically simply by paying off all our debts. Inversely increasing our cash flow.
We have a nice years worth of safety cushion in a saving account.
We could both loose our jobs and we’d survive just fine with plenty of time to find new ones.
So no stress for the Roamer. Not money related at least. Right?!
You see I’ve gone and done it again. Spent all my money before I even made it.
It’s important to note that I also realized that the bigger the amount your on the hook for the bigger the amount of stress.
That makes sense right? If you owed someone $5 you wouldn’t be nearly as worried as if you owed them $5,000.
So tell me Roamer with all that plush why are you still stressing about money?
You want the truth? You can’t handle the TRUTH!
It’s this stupid FI goal! Ha-ha seriously!
You see some people say when you save for retirement don’t think of it as savings. Your actually spending it on your future self.
I have made this thing so real that my money is already spent. And not just the money I’ve saved so far but all the money I’m yet to earn in the next 7-10 yrs.
I made this, its all my doing. I’ve promised myself this and in doing so I’ve put myself in debt and not just to my future self but to Mr. Roamer too. The more he talks about it the more real it is, the more that it becomes unacceptable to do anything less.
You see just like my student debt I’ve created this stress. In truth if I didn’t get my 1k I would have been fine. Realistically it would have pushed out my repayment by a couple of months and made me pay maybe.. maybe… a couple extra $100. The world wouldn’t have ended. But it stressed me out.
And now we aren’t talking about 1k we are talking about multiples and multiples of it.
I’ve put this thing over our heads and as I think about just quitting for a year because night shift suck for our family… It sucks so bad. I am stressed out, scrambling to see if I can make the numbers work. If I can calculate how we can still make it to FI in 7-10 yrs.
But do I really need to run these numbers?! Is age 41 really worse? Or 45 for that matter.
I recognize it now, the dangers of spending before hand. Because you put yourself up against a wall. You give yourself that fight or flight feeling. You make yourself feel trapped.
Really, the runway is clear. Unlike a jet on an aircraft carrier I won’t plummet into the ocean if I take more time to sail into the FI sky.
With the habits we have we will get there for sure, maybe not in a specific amount of time but we are headed in that direction.
Now that I’ve recognized it how do I remove these shackles I’ve placed on myself?
To you FI dreamer I send a warning and advice. Stay flexible. Don’t shackle yourself, not even to a goal…
Do you have any advice for me? For all you FI-ers how do you stay centered?
Lastly a Thanks to the minimalists who helped my thoughts flow after their great essay.
You know when life happens to you…. When you wake up one morning and you can’t believe you are in a certain situation…
How did this happen?… How is it that I am still stuck in this dead end job. Or what happen to my dream of roughing it abroad…
Life happens when you let go of the wheel …. When you stop being intentional and just go with the flow..
Going with the flow can be fine if that’s truly who you are . but if you wake up one day and you don’t know how you got to that point, then it means you flowed to much off track…
I keep hearing this term thrown around and with out any follow up research I can say I’m probably very type A.*
Yet sometimes even I (type A person) still have moments when I ask myself… What am I doing with this one life.
Its a big deal to me because I don’t believe in an after life… This is it! There is no gold pot at the end of the rainbow.
Not a dress rehearsal as they say.
So I and maybe you need to ask ourselves. What do we want out of life? In the core of our being what do we value? Are we living that life?
What can we do to get there? I’m nearing my 30s and I don’t want to wake up 10 yrs from now wondering how I got to that point.
Be intentional. . that doesn’t mean just making decisions. You can make decisions based on laziness or routine. Make decisions that are pulled back to your core values. Then you’ll be steering in the direction you want to go.
A midlife crisis I now understand can happen at any moment. That moment, is when you realize somehow you let go of the wheel.
We all probably try to exert some control over our lives and the problem could be we are focusing on inconsequential things like matching shoes and shirts for an outfit. These small things make us feel like we are in control but then we let the important stuff just pass us by.
Those small little instances of control hide the fact that we aren’t taking control of the big picture. This is a constant struggle for me.
That is why I make life plans, even though they change as time goes on I want to keep it in my mind that this is something important. That I need to take time and think about it.
So take some time today and visualize the future. Imagine yourself 10 years older. What do you want to have accomplished. Where do you want to be standing. Are those congruent with your inner most values? Then take it a step further into the future maybe on your deathbed. What would you want your life to have been?
Maybe even do this exercise.
Think deeply with no distractions and write your top 5 values.
Think deeply again. what preoccupies your time, thoughts and actions most of the days? Write the top 5.
Then compare both lists. Are the thing you think about, and act on tied to what you value?
Here’s one of mine. I value building stronger relationships with my family. Yet most of my thoughts and days revolve around work products. If you aren’t specific enough you might say family and then say work. Yes, work helps me support my family so it makes sense. Yes, work does help me support my family, but in the vein of building stronger relationships with them, work actually conflicts with what I value most. Its takes time away from them.
So you have to be careful and you have to be specific. Or you might convince yourself that something makes sense, when in actuality it is contradicting your values not supporting them.
– The Roamer
Do you ever feel like you are really adamant about making small decisions but feel overwhelmed when faced with a life changing one? Did you do the exercise. Did your lists match or where there conflicts?
* ok I had to do some research before posting. Type A. High stress, push themselves with deadlines. take on too much. Sound to me like people who like to be in control.
Funding the Journey through Parenthood, Early Retirement and Travel