Discovered ERE a few months ago. Been interested in personal finance for the past 11 years. Thought I was on the right track. It’s ironic how clueless I really was…
Discovered PF when a coworker explained 401k accounts to me and showed me spreadsheets with projections. Fell in love with the concept of investing over a long period of time and letting compounding work its magic so one could retire – at age 65! Read every PF book I could find. Then PF blogs came on the scene and I started following them regularly.
I’m a single parent of a son and had worked as a Staff Accountant for many years, without a formal degree. I lost interest long ago in acquiring material things & had learned to budget for necessities like childcare. In 2000, I decided to go back to school to major in Management/Finance. Seemed like a good fit given my experience in Accounting and my interest in Finance. I decided to pay for my education without loans. This meant in order to pay for it myself, my BS degree would take almost a decade going part-time while working full-time. But hey, what else did I have to do for the next decade?! I might as well learn something! Ultimately, it took me 7 ½ years to complete my degree.
While in school, I saved & deposited $ each month into my ING account & any raises and bonuses went toward school as well. In the end, I paid for all but the final year of school for my BS. (Toward the end I lost discipline & took some loans & took my son on a trip to Paris with the remainder of my savings.)
I loved school and won an award for being the top-ranked finance student . However, at this point I had realized that finance theory is one thing and finance as a career is an entirely different thing. I just couldn’t envision myself in a career in financial services, no matter how much I loved modeling finance equations! Then Lehman Bros. tried to recruit me so I did a phone interview for the hell of it. Well, that interview solidified the fact that I didn’t want to be in that world. When I asked them about the diversity of their workforce, which was highly touted on their career website, the interviewer told me with enthusiasm that they had a few other employees from “Non-Core schools!”( I was attending a state school.) Now I have nothing against Ivy Leagers, but non-Ivy Leagers don’t count as diverse to me! And I’ve worked with enough of them to realize I have little in common with their lavish lifestyles. I never got a 2nd interview, which was a good thing, otherwise I would have been out of a job because they went out of business shortly after that.
Meanwhile my job, with its never-ending multiple & conflicting deadlines, was draining me and I realized I really had no desire to work for anyone other than myself. It was very awkward when having just received the finance award, a professor asked what I wanted to do for a career and I couldn’t give him an answer. I gave him a vague answer about sticking with my current position until we see what direction the economy takes. My heart just wasn’t in it. I’ve never been the type of person who was defined by what I do for a living. Someone once told me about a friend he had who didn’t work. While at a cocktail party, someone asked the guy “What do you do?” without bothering to ask his name first. The guy replied “I don’t. I’m a human being not a human doing.” I love that response! Might be a good one for you ERErs when interrogated about not working for a living. :)
Anyway, I thought I was doing well for someone living on a modest income. My son didn’t have video games, we didn’t have cable, no fancy tv and I’ve always driven used cars paid for in cash. Though I saved regularly & also had a small 401k plan, my savings were always there to be spent on something-namely experiences (travel etc.) I was always saving up for some goal & then spending it down for such things. In my mind, and I don’t think I even realized this until I found ERE, savings were meant to be spent! I thought I was empowered because I wasn’t spending my $ on stuff, had no credit card debts, no car loans, just a small student loan. Strange as it was, I had the tools to take it further, but it just didn’t seem doable to me. I was never really getting ahead and I couldn’t figure out why. I understood the concept of putting $ to work to make more money, but assumed I would never have enough funds to invest in anything other than my 401k. Significantly reducing my living expenses to build higher savings to invest and live off the income, well before the age of 65, had never occurred to me! When I found Jacob’s site, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe that FI could actually be within reach. I ordered the ERE book and then YMOYL. Nothing in I learned in school can compare to the profound ideas in those two books. Thank goodness for original thinkers like Jacob and this community! I’ve just begun my ERE plan and will update from time to time as it would be great to get input, run ideas by, and learn more from all of you!