Skip to main content

Breaking: Debt Repayment Journey Gets Delayed By Midlife Crisis!

(Originally posted on The $76K Project on 10/24/2018)

Before we became financially responsible, we very much lived by the principles of YOLO. We took the vacations we wanted to take, bought the things we wanted to buy, and moved when we wanted to move. We paid little attention to whether we could afford those choices, which explains why we're now digging out of debt.

When we started our debt repayment journey in April of 2017, we wholeheartedly abandoned our YOLO ways so that we could reach our goals as quickly as possible. Every choice we made - from the things we purchased (or didn't purchase) to the jobs we took to the money we started investing - became about setting ourselves up for success down the line.

We've become obsessed with our financial future.

I'm not sure that's entirely a good thing.

I miss YOLO me.

I'm proud of how far we've come. I really am. 

But here's the thing: I'm not necessarily happy with who I've become in this process. 

Before we started tackling our debt, I was:

  • Adventurous
  • Spontaneous
  • Relatively optimistic about the future
  • A risk taker

I wasn't always happy - who is? - but I was idealistic. I had faith that things would work out if I just had the courage to take the next step. I was excited about life and its possibilities. Some of the best and most indelible things I've done in my life have been done on credit, supported by crappy health insurance.

Now we're out of credit card debt and well into our student loan repayment. We have real jobs and employer-sponsored health insurance and I am:

  • Unfulfilled in my work
  • Bored out of my mind most days
  • Constantly worried about things that could go wrong, financially or otherwise
  • Cautious
  • Not really excited about the future

This past weekend I sat down to make some personal goals, and outside of some well-defined financial benchmarks, I couldn't bring myself to write down anything. Why? Because I'm completely uninspired right now. Every goal I could think of that fits into our current debt repayment paradigm seems lackluster and pointless.

Something needs to change, and I think the thing that needs to change is that we need step back for a few months and prioritize the present over the future. I don't mean that we should go back into credit card debt or that we should quit our jobs tomorrow. But maybe it's okay to slow this whole thing down a little bit, because I really don't see why I should sacrifice the things I like about myself for the unknowns of tomorrow.

So what's that going to take?

One, I need to find a satisfying career path. That could mean getting a new job, but more likely it means saving up and planning for that career break I've talked about and figuring out a way to work for myself. Which feels scary. What about health insurance? What about a steady paycheck? What about being able to afford our rent? Will we be able to get by on one income for a while?

I don't know, but venturing into the unknown, even if it means occasionally MacGyvering my way along, sounds way more appealing than sitting at a desk for the next 25 years. 

Two, at least for now, we need to change our emphasis from debt repayment to saving. I've had a lot of good conversations on Twitter this week about the best way to use money: pay off debt? Invest? Build up the emergency fund? As several smart people keep pointing out, there's no right answer because personal finance is personal. 

Yes, paying off debt feels fantastic. It's a high, and it's addictive. But. I also want to be able to make this career shift. I want to be able to attend events like CentsPositive and Lola Retreat. I want to be able to take a trip outside the country with my family. I don't want to wait two or three more years to do that.

Is it worth it to me to keep paying $600 a month to student loans a while longer? 

I think so.

So in November, we're going to take a little break from the student loans. We're going on a family hiking trip over Thanksgiving, and then we're going to put the rest of our disposable income into our savings account. We'll build up that savings until the end of next summer while we try to map out a career plan, whether that means me finding a new job, re-training, or building my own business.

It doesn't sound like the wisest move financially, and yet it feels like the right path.

Don't get me wrong: I'm all for planning for the future and making wise financial choices. But not at the expense of the things that make me who I am.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Okay, Fine, I'm Back

Why? I miss blogging. I miss talking/ranting about money and personal finance. So I've fired up a new Blogger account, this time with uber-ugly formatting circa 2005!  (A stipulation of me returning to blogging is that I don't have to make the blog look nice. Sorry. I did try to pick the best theme that Blogger has to offer, but we're not working with a whole lot of options here.) And why launch a reboot rather than pick up where I left off on the original $76K Project?  For one thing, all of my old links are broken and I'm too lazy to fix them. For another, the original blog focused on debt reduction. We've* moved beyond that. Although we still have a sizable student loan (~$30K or thereabouts), most of our fiscal attention has turned to saving, investing (we have quite a bit of catching up to do in terms of our retirement accounts), giving, and spending on the things/experiences we value. That said, I do plan to move some of the more useful and/or popular $76K Pro

Well! So That Was April.

Happy spring! Here in the $76K household, April turned out to be a rather eventful month: 1. Our teenager ended up in the ICU and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.  File this situation under "Things We Would Have Never Predicted," especially given that he was rarely ill up until now. In fact, it had been so long since we'd seen his doctor that the man had retired in the meantime and we had no idea until the ER team asked for the name of his primary care physician. 2. As a result, we've been learning and trying new things. Since he was released from the hospital, we've been learning as much as we can about T1D and working with his doctors to get his blood sugar into a healthy range. This has involved frequent blood glucose checks (his fingers have become pin cushions, basically), insulin injections, and some dietary modifications. It's a lot of responsibility for a 15-year-old who's also in the middle of final exams, but he's handled it amazingly wel

Thanksgiving Chili, Video Games, and Housing Decisions (November 22-28)

I've returned to blogging because I miss writing, particularly about personal finance. But I've realized that I don't want to structure it by topic the way I did when I was writing at The $76K Project. Somehow, that feels like too much work.  Instead, I'm going to try going with a weekly journal format. More informal! Less pressure! No real research necessary! I plan to blog as lazily as possible. So here's the rundown for Thanksgiving week: Work My partner worked on Monday and Tuesday; I worked Monday through Wednesday. I spent the longest short week ever answering customer questions about a Black Friday sale and counting down the hours to the holiday weekend.  I'm supposed to dive into my new role next week, although I get the impression that I'll be juggling elements of both jobs for another month or two. I'm nervous about the new gig and will miss my friendly, supportive teammates. However, I'm so burnt out on customer service that I'm willin