Over the last thirteen days, I’ve found myself compulsively checking the online account for my car loan. I’m half expecting for some random amount to show up due; Maybe accrued interest, or some accounting error. But each time the balance remains at $0.
I should feel happy about that. Relieved. A sense of calming freedom. Instead, I find myself feeling a little bit overwhelmed.
My net worth update from April 2015 shows I owed $17,401 on the car loan. In a sense, that was my last remaining debt; The next month, I would sell the house and get rid of the mortgage. $17,401 is a lot of money to pay off in one year’s time. I’m proud of that. But, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a small amount.
Right now, I have a few little goals I want to achieve: Get my emergency fund back up to $5,000. Save money for a vacation with my mom and sisters. Save up some seed money for a side hustle. But those are all little goals that I should be able to wipe out before the end of the Summer.
I have bigger goals. But at this point they all seem so huge and unattainable. And I don’t know where my priorities should be. If I split my focus, it seems like I’ll never achieve any of them. But if I work on one goal to the exclusion of the others? It would take so long to reach one goal, I may never reach the others. So, which is my priority?
I obviously want to retire someday. And, at 37 years old, with only $21,000 in retirement savings, I’m woefully behind. For the first time in my life, I could actually contribute the maximum 401(k) amount of $18,000. Sure, the tax implications would be great. But it would be at the expense of all of my other goals. I’d be left with just enough money to cover my normal living expenses and spending, maybe a vacation or two each year. I would be putting everything towards the future, at the expense of everything between now and then.
I have other things I’d like to accomplish between 37 and 59 1/2 (when I could access my retirement accounts). Bryan and I would like to buy a house. Maybe not a traditional house: It’s possible we might purchase the triplex we’re currently living in. We’re trying to be strategic about the purchase, and ensure we get the best deal possible. But, it’s still going to require money upfront, along with a large cash cushion to cover ongoing repairs and maintenance.
We dream of one day becoming snowbirds, and heading South during the cold winters. That would involve either buying a place, or renting someplace for several months each year. Granted, there are ways to minimize that expense. But it isn’t going to be cheap.
Those goals in and of themselves would be enough. Compounding all this is the fact that I hate my job. Not just mildly dislike: I loathe going into work each day. And I’m at a point in my life where I’m honest enough about myself to admit that it isn’t just the company, it’s me. There’s a world of alternatives out there: Early retirement. Freelancing. Entrepreneurship. But all those things take money, and to some extent creativity and knowledge. And a whole lot of tolerance for risk. And did I mention money?
Of course, none of this is just a me issue: Bryan and I are going to need to figure out our goals, and how we plan to reach them, together. Right now is a weird time for him; We’re officially into Spring, where the weather sways from hot to cold, wet to dry. Some weeks he can work, other weeks it’s too rainy/wet/cold, and the job gets called off. It’s hard to think big picture, long-term, when you aren’t really sure if you’ll get a paycheck this week.
There’s also our age difference. Being 57, retirement is on the horizon for him. He isn’t planning for a retirement 20+ years from now, he’s planning for one in the next 5. Maybe less. And, given the type of retirement he’s planning, it pulls me into a different place than most people my age. After all, Accounting isn’t a very “snowbird friendly” career. It would be very difficult to find a traditional job that allowed for 3 months off each year.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Right now, I need to concentrate on rebuilding my emergency fund. And saving up for vacation. And trying some side hustles. The rest will come. Hopefully.
- Cindy W.