When I was in my mid-twenties, I made some of the same mistakes that a lot of other people made. I had two auto loans, a hefty mortgage, and little money in savings. Yet, my family still took family vacations, dined-out weekly, and participated in other activities that channeled money away from debt payoff.
By the time I reached my late-twenties, I was fed-up at my debts and started making radical financial changes. I sold both cars that had loans and downgraded to cars for which I could pay cash, and I began aggressively saving to pay off the mortgage that was $30,000 underwater. It was 2009.
By the time 2011 came around, those savings quickly dwindled due to my impending divorce and the alimony payments that would follow.
After the divorce, I spent a lot of money in the dating scene. And I spent even more money during my first relationship after my divorce.
After that relationship didn’t work out, I was Single yet again. And of course, I spent more money. Though, this time it was for my own entertainment. Let’s just call it money spent in a quest to reach self-actualization.
I had made some smart financial decisions along the way, though, like driving a 15-year-old car (that I paid to “upgrade” with a $500 Maaco paint job) until my alimony payments stopped. But soon after the alimony payments stopped, I bought a new, used car that had cost around $21,000.
Even though I paid it off within a year, there was nothing mechanically wrong with my previous vehicle. The $21,000 could have gone towards my mortgage payments, a retirement account or any other asset.
I also took several trips to my new favorite hang-out, the Dominican Republic. Each trip had cost at least $1,500. I went three times by myself, and once with my son.
Then, at a conference that cost about $1,200, including airfare…but not the $800 that I used to pay for everyone’s evening meal… I met a wonderful young lady who became my fiancé.
The money spent between courting her and the actual wedding was even more astounding. We took plenty of international trips, ate several meals out, and spent plenty of money on things that any reasonable person can argue is unnecessary and compulsive spending.
And the wedding…instead of going to the local Justice of the Peace, we had a beautiful wedding that cost us at least $7,500, including the honey moon to Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
All the while, my wife (WE) owes over $65,000 in student loan debt.
Had our number one focus been on her debt, we could have knocked out at least $25,000 by now. How much have we knocked out…about $1,000.
Do we have things under control and have a plan, yes?
Did we have an aggressive plan over the past year? Absolutely not.
Lots of money went everywhere except on the student loan debt.
Two weeks in Costa Rica, including our Puerto Viejo to Bocas del Toro trip.
Could we pay it off within 7 days if we wanted? Of course. But this would be a very personal decision and no one on the internet would change the way we’d make such a decision.
So, if no one can change my decision about how I spend money, how is what I do with my money, how I feel about it, or what I think is best for someone else relevant to their situation?
The reality is, it isn’t. Here’s why:
No one’s financial situation is the same.
The decisions that I make at an income level of six figures are much different from the decisions I made when I earned less than $40,000 a year. A decision I (we) make for a family of three is much different from a decision that I made as a single father. And I, who is eligible to receive a retirement pension that’s worth millions of dollars in fewer than five short years, and who has the desire to do what I want when I want when I retire, make way different decisions than someone who has to work until they’re 60 years old.
People are going to do what they want.
If you put my personal finances aside, there are still some decisions that I think are no-brainers. For example, if I had zero dollars in savings, I wouldn’t put $1,000 on a credit card for a family trip. Yet, this is done all the time by others, no matter what I write. Being approved for a large mortgage loan doesn’t mean I should make my monthly mortgage payments more than 15% of my take home pay. Yet, this is done all the time.
The decisions that we make are the right decisions 100% of the time.
Otherwise, we wouldn’t make the decisions. Right? Only in retrospect can we see the stupid mistakes we make, if ever we see them.
There is no one, right way to pay down debts.
There are “fastest” ways pay down debts, but no one, right or wrong way to pay them down. One can make minimum payments for two years, and then attack their debts with “gazelle intensity” for the next five years, and then begin making minimum payments again. People can choose take out a mortgage for 15, 30, or 40 years, or not own a home at all. It all depends on what makes them comfortable. Who am I to preach the best way to pay down debts, especially when that someone doesn’t live in my financial world?
My opinion really doesn’t matter.
At the end of the day, my opinion really doesn’t matter. There are many paths that we can take to get to where we want to be in life. For every suggestion I give, one can scour the internet and find five that are different.
I can write that people should care about civil rights, that one should want to retire early, or that one should put any and all extra money towards their debts, but at the end of the day…it all depends on who you’re talking to. Clearly, not everyone agrees on what civil rights means. Clearly, not everyone desires to retire early. And clearly, not every one cares about being aggressive in their debt pay off efforts.
It takes way too much energy, time and effort to write.
At one point I loved writing. It was very therapeutic. To be honest, now that I’ve remarried, my wife is my therapist. The things I would I wrote in the past goes straight to my wife’s ears. She not only is my filter but my saving grace. Depending on the subject, a blog post written from the heart takes hours to write. Maybe if I were paid for every post I’d have a different mentality. Maybe not. Money was never my motivation. It was to help others from making similar financial mistakes and to allow them to think differently about situations.
The truth is, my only responsibility is to make sure that my family makes the best decisions for us. For this is where my energy should be focused. If we were to follow and consume all the information that exists on blogs, we’d forever be lost. We live in a world of information overload. Where everyone has the answer. And everyone has an opinion. However, in reality, no one really knows shit. And for this reason, I now choose to keep my opinions to myself.
My time is better spent studying the things that I am passionate about learning and doing, cuddling up watching a movie with my wife, or mentoring my son into a young man.
Will I write in the future? Who knows. This is the first post I’ve written since my “Freedom” post in November of last year. And it is exhausting. So for now, I think I’m going to continue enjoying my time off.