Money at 30: Celebrating Three Years Since My “Financial Awakening”
This past week, I attended my second FinCon. If you’re not familiar, this annual event is where “money and media meet.” In other words, it’s a conference for personal finance bloggers, advisors, brands, and others to come together. Whether I’m discussing my site, YouTube channel, or other projects, one of the first questions I’m asked is, “How long have you been doing that for?” And typically, I don’t have an exact answer.
That pretty much explains how I managed to miss a recent anniversary of mine. No, not one with my wife (thankfully) but one with this column. Just over three years ago, I published what was then a guest post on Dyer News titled “Money at 30: My Financial Awakening and How I Got Here.” From that, a weekly column was born followed by a spin-off site of sorts, Moneyat30.com. However, while the blogging aspect of this chain of events has been transformative, today I want to celebrate what the first post was all about: overcoming my past money mistakes and turning things around.
It’s fun that, as a blogger, sometimes I’m a little envious of those who have a great hook such as “how I paid down six figures in debt in just 13 months!” My story isn’t nearly as exciting or grand. While I never racked up student debt or anything in even the five-figure range (unless you’re counting my car payment), it’s definitely safe to say that I didn’t know “how to money” when I was younger. As I’ve mentioned before and continue to joke about with my dad, he used to tell me often how my spending habits would undoubtedly lead me to payday lenders in the long run. In that aspect, it was likely only a matter of time before I reached those debt levels we see cited so frequently.
In fairness to myself, my financial turn around actually happened well before my “awakening.” Regardless, even if I was making better financial choices overall, I was still uninformed and, as a result, still not making the best moves I could. Granted, I’m still far from knowing everything but my thirst for knowledge and excitement for sharing what I’m learning along the way have kept me growing.
Since writing that first post, my wife and I have:
- Learned to make the most of credit cards while maintaining excellent credit
- Built a full-sized emergency fund
- Cut out thousands in unnecessary spending, refunneling those funds toward savings goals and other priorities such as travel
- Maxed out our IRA contributions for 2018 while also participating in a 401(k)
- Started investing in index funds
- and more
Each of these “Money Milestones” (as I like to call them) has been a huge deal for us. I can’t begin to express how much more financially secure we feel now than when I wrote that initial column — not to mention how we were doing when we lived back in Los Angeles. In turn, while I may not have realized how stressed and anxious I was at the time, I can certainly appreciate how much easier I can breathe now.
To me, one of the hardest parts of looking back at my previous financial life is thinking about what could have been if I knew then what I know now. This is actually a recurring theme with me as I frequently think back to dumb things I said or did and just want to kick myself. At the same time, while it’s hard to shake off the feeling of “what if?” forever, I’ve also learned to forgive myself for my mistakes of the past while making the most of the present and future. In fact I think this is one of the most important steps I’ve taken in my journey.
Laying all of this out might sound like I’m winding up for a sign-off or some of big announcement. Well, sorry to disappoint but I’ve got nothing. Instead I just wanted to share my gratitude as I reflect back on the past three years and look forward to what lies ahead.
Also published on Medium.