20 Financial Milestones: How’d I Do?

Last week at GenYWealth, they had a post called 20 Financial Milestones You Want to Reach in Your 20s.  It has been bouncing around the PF world since then, and many bloggers are stacking themselves up against the list and seeing where they can improve, and others are lamenting that they don’t have one for their age group.  I think Paranoid Asteroid had a great take on it: some of these things you may not want to do at all….so find something else.  We all know that personal finance is personal, so she suggests creating your own list of goals and an age to reach them.   I figured that it would be worthwhile to look at this list and see how I’m doing.  So, Here we go!

1) Finance a dream vacation…in cash

This I have not done yet, although I’m looking to do it sometime in the next 12 months.  I’ve got frequent flyer miles already earned to cover the ticket and I’ve got a friend to travel with, I just need to save up some vacation time and find a spot to travel to – I’d like to go out of the country, but I don’t know where yet.

2) Pay Off Student Loans

I’m working on this one as we speak.  I’ve paid off 1 of the 3, and I’m working at paying off the second one.  After that there will be 1 more, but I think I’m going to pay off my vehicle first.

3) Automate Paying your Credit Card Bill in Full

I don’t do this – If I did, I wouldn’t review my purchases every month, but I do pay my bill in full every month, and have since the “Great credit card break-up of 2010

4) Get Rid of ALL Bad Debt

I’m working on this one as well.  I’ve gotten rid of Credit Cards, and am working on student loans and will hopefully pay off my truck in 2010.

5) Build An Adequate Emergency Fund

I’m working at this as well, and just keeping steady with my $1,000 in the bank right now.  I’d like this to get bigger (who wouldn’t) but I think I’m sitting pretty for now.

6) Make Your First (and Last) Investment Mistake

I really hope that this is one that I’ll be able to skirt.  I am focusing all my spare resources on paying off debt, so I don’t really have much money to invest with.  Maybe before my 20s are over I will, but I don’t now.

7) Develop a Statement of Cash Flows

I’ve got this one down pat, and must say that it makes life a whole lot easier.  Knowing what you’re taking in really helps you know how much you can spend & save.

8 & 9) Max out a Roth IRA and Contribute to a 401k

I do have a Roth, although I don’t ever discuss it on here because the amount is so pitifully small that it’s not even worth mentioning.  I plan to focus more on this when I have extra cash.  I do contribute up to my employer match for my 401k, though.

10) Get a Degree or Certification that Increases your Earning Power

I’ve got a graduate degree, but it hasn’t done anything for my earning power.  Maybe it will someday, but I’m not going to bank on that, either.

11) Take a Career Risk

I recently did this. I transferred from my secure job with a stable salary to one with higher upside, but a lower salary. It had been a while since I had switched jobs so my resume needed updating. I personally think I’m awful at this, so when I started looking I looked for a resume company online and settled on Executive Drafts. They fixed up my resume and there is no doubt it helped me land the job I have now.

12) Negotiate Something

Check – Was able to practice negotiation when I bought my truck last year.

13) Earn Your First Side Grand

I’m going to go ahead and say that I completed this one, as I’ve earned way more than a grand from my second job, and while I don’t consider it “side” money, most people would.

14) Start a Sub-Savings Account for a Financial Goal

I’ve got this done as well.  Every month, I stash a little bit away for a future home purchase.  I’d like to increase this when my debt has been slayed.

15) Set a Target Retirement Date

This one is really interesting – I enjoy working (most of the time) and I don’t ever see my self really retiring.  If I stop working formally, I’d like to have a side business of some sort, maybe selling homemade goods or things I’ve grown/raised.

16) Monitor Your Credit

I do this, and in fact, this reminded me that there is something on my credit report that I need to get resolved.  I’m terrible at follow through for this, as I think I needed to get this resolved LAST YEAR!

17) Say NO to a Financial Salesman

I haven’t had the opportunity to do this (they usually don’t bother you if you’re poor like me), but I won’t hesitate when I do get the chance!

18) Give Just Enough to Make it Hurt

I am terrible at giving.  I while I realize that some find value in donating internationally, It’s not something that I find value in – I’d rather give locally.  Usually clothing is the easiest thing for me to give so I do that, but as far as giving cold, hard cash – It doesn’t happen very often.  I’ll need to get better at that.

RJ calls these next 2 “Milestones for the Over Achiever”

19) Invest $1 for every $1 You Spend

I’m nowhere close to this.

20) Start a 529 Plan

Not even on my radar.

For the final tally, I’ve gotten 8 of these done, 7 of them are not done or have not been started, and 4 are in progress.

How do you stack up?

December 2010 Monthly Review

Well, it looks like another month has passed us by.  This month was not all that kind to me in terms of how I did with my debt, but it did put my quest into perspective and help me get back on the right track (I’ve had 3 no spend days in a row!).  Although I’ve done a yearly review, I figured that a monthly review would benefit me, if for no other reason than to stay consistent.

Student Loans:

Although I haven’t made a payment aside from my minimums (yet), it doesn’t look like it’s going to be all that substantial.  Working less around thanksgiving (instead of more, like last year) and christmas, and taking some time off submarined my hours at Job #2, thus reducing my earnings.

Direct Loan $4,269 ($250) – This just went down a small amount after I made a $1,400 payment to the note in November.  This has been my prime target for about a month, and I’ve made quite a few strides on it so far.  This will continue to be my target until it’s gone.

Great Lakes Loan $12,365 ($94)  Just sent my regular minimum payment to this loan.  This loan has a rather high interest rate which is rather bothersome, but there’s not much I can do about it – consolidation would be a pain in the ass, and when I pay off the Direct Loan, that will act as its own consolidation.

Truck Debt:

This is for my vehicle.  I had already started trying to become debt free when I bought this, so I was quite torn as to wether or not to take on new debt while I was trying to eliminate other debt.  If you want to read more about it, check herehere and here.  Despite most of the advice I heard, I went ahead and took out a loan on this.   I made the right move.  Unfortunately, due to the amount I drive, my “3 year/36,000 mile” warranty lasted less than 1 year.  Of course, when I was just 100 miles over the number, I had something happen and it needed to get towed in to a shop for a repair, which I had to pay for.

I’ve decided that this will be my next focus after the Direct Loan is paid off.  If you want to read more about my decision making process, go here and here.

Ford Credit: 17,959 ($310): Just made the regular monthly payment on this loan, so I’m not sure why it went down more than normal, but I’ll take it.

Payoff Plan:

  1. Direct Loan
  2. Truck
  3. Great Lakes

Total Debt Level: $34,593 ($2,064) This went down so much because of the large snowball payment that I made from November during the first week of December.  I think that this is the most that my debt has gone down in one month, though, which is something to be celebrated!  I made my debt level goal for the year, and now I’ve gotten off and set some new goals for 2011, which I’ll share later.

Year End Goals Review

It’s the end of the year, and it’s normally a good time to review the goals that you set for yourself at different points in the year and see how you progressed.  I’ve got a post that details my financial progress throughout the year and how I fared against the financial goals that I put up on my goals page in June, so this will just be a quick review of the other goals that I had listed on the page (sparse, I know).  If you’d like to read my 9 month review, head here.

Health Goals:

I don’t know if I’d call this an epic failure, but I failed at this.  I was able to join the gym, and after 3 months, It wasn’t looking good.  I got onto this big project at work and ended up not going to the gym for almost a month.  After that, I got back on track though, and have been making it at least 2 times a week, although most weeks it’s more.  It’s not the 4/5 times that I had hoped for, but it will work for now.

Environment Goals:

These seem to have fared slightly better.  My first goal was to walk to do more things around town.  During my 9 month review, I was skeptical of the progress I’d be able to make for this because of the winter snow.  I’m happy to report that there has been hardly any snow (thus far) this year.  I havent been walking as much as I was, but I’ve been riding my bike to meet friends and whatnot, so I’ll consider this one a success.  I’d like to keep this up for next year, as well.

The next goal was my compost heap.  There was very little progress made on this goal at all, and while I can say I now know you can toss almost anything in there, I still dont know how to make it work faster/better.

How did you do on your goals from last year?  Where would you like to improve for next year?

Year In Review

Well, there are about 2 weeks left in 2010.  Just like everyone else on the net, I’d like to go over where I started the year at, and where I finished the year, just to track my progress (and hopefully to give you all hope). Hopefully my numbers for the year will help you realize that getting out of debt is possible, and is also a worthwhile goal.  I’m sure that looking back I’ll notice spots where I took the wrong turn, but overall I think that I’ll be satisfied with the way that the year turned out.

2010 included a few firsts for me, and I’ll list them below:

Many of these firsts altered my way of thinking completely – I never thought I’d be able to get out of credit card debt, and with a bit of hard work, focus and sacrifice, I was able to do it!  Very exciting stuff.  I was also able to connect with an amazing community of PF bloggers, both in and out of the yakezie.  You all have provided me with a lot of tips for frugal living, different ways to attack debt, and different strategies for financial management and saving.  Obviously I can’t completely adopt your strategy to a T (this is personal finance, after all), I took bits and pieces of everyones tips/tricks and incorporated them into my own strategy.  With out further ado, lets look at where I started 2010, and where I ended it.


Even though I’d been working to pay off my debts for 6 months by the time January 2010 rolled around, I needed a new ride and had to make a decision that ended almost doubling down my debt.  I wouldn’t take it back, but it surely made this quest quite a bit longer.

My Debt in January consisted of 3 Credit cards, 1 Vehicle and 3 student loans (1 undergraduate, 2 graduate) broken down in the following way:

  • Credit Cards: $6,026
  • Vehicle: $21,502
  • Student Loans: $25,046

There were certain caveats to this, mainly that I had just bought a truck, got slapped with a sales tax bill (that I was unaware of and had to put on a credit card), and student loans that I had just found out that I had.  Excuses aside, the final number was:

  • Total (Jan, 2010) $52,574 (!!!)

Update to December 31, 2010.  I’ve been working 2 jobs for the whole year, which greatly increased my debt paying down abilities.  It has also increased my time on the road and miles traveled and I’ve had moments where I just want to be like everyone else and live where I work and not spend a bunch of time on the road, but I have to leave that for another day.

I’ve done a few things that slowed down my debt repayment, but I wouldn’t take them back.  I went to Hotlanta for a quick vacation, saw some great stuff and had some great eats.  I went to Washington, DC to use an old gift card for the airlines and take advantage of a free ticket promotion.  I volunteered at the rodeo (which was a blast).  While none of these things really helped me pay off debt, they did give me a break from the extremes that I was living in and allow me some new scenes to find some deals and have some fun.  While all of this probably amounted to 1,000 in spending, I always came back with renewed focus and wouldn’t trade these trips for anything.

Even though they added a bit of time to my debt repayment time, they were still worth it.  When I started paying off debt, I barely knew where to start, given the fact that I had 6 different things to pay off (which I soon increased to 7 with a car loan), but as recently as last month, I started to wonder aloud which debt that I should pay off next (this one or this one), based on cash flow projections and amount of time to slay the beast.  Here’s where we are now:

  • Credit Cards: $0 (read about it here)
  • Vehicle: $17,967
  • Student Loan: $16,563

With some spare time this year (I dont really remember when, but I think it was in june), I looked at where I was in a handful of areas and decided on some goals for the year in a handful of categories.  The one I set for my total debt level was $37,500 (at or under), and figured that if I stretched, I could make it.  Well, as time would tell, I turned out to be wrong, and met that goal at the end of october.  I guess next time I need to set some more ambitious goals (or waste more money….wait, no).  As it currently stands, the total amount of my debt is:

  • Total Debt (Dec 2010): $34,530

This means that I was able to pay off $18,044 of debt in 2010!  This just over 1/3rd of my total debt, and I’m pretty excited about it.  Now that I know what happened this year, it will help me plan for next year and establish some goals to keep me focused on my repayment and getting to the level of zero!

How did you do this year?  Did you build up reserves, pay off debt, or do neither or both?  What are you looking to do next year?

November 2010 Monthly Review

At the end of every month, I go over how much I was able to pay down my different debts for the month.  I think it gives readers a nice picture and shows that not all personal finance writers are debt free and stacking large amounts into savings every month.  Like some of you, I’ve still got student and vehicle debt.

Student Loans:

Earlier this month, someone I know (who is about 6 years older than me) posted on facebook that she had paid off her student loan.  I was happy for her, but I am going to work as hard as possible so that I wont be paying them off until I’m 31.  I’m that they will be gone when I’m 27 (about 18 months from now)

Nelnet Student Loan $ 0 ($0)  I paid this one off last month after a few weeks of very long hours at work.  It’s been nice to see it go, although I haven’t really seen much of an impact on my finances (yet).

Direct Loan  $5,929 6,189 ($260).  This one has been moving down about 250 per month for a while.  My parents help out with this one and I make my regular payments.  This loan is now my top priority, and although my ambitious goal of paying this off at the end of the year is out of the question, I’m still going to work hard at it.  I am getting a snowball payment ready for this loan, and while I don’t know the exact amount yet, it’s looking to be between $1,200 and $1,600.  That will be making progress, to be sure. Update: I sent my payment to this loan on 12/3/10, and it was $1400 even.  After gaming out my finances for the month, I’ll probably be able to make another payment (though not as substantial) to the loan next week.

Great Lakes Loan $ 12,459 12,537 ($78)  Just sent my regular minimum payment to this loan.  It looks like about half of the payment that Im making to this is going to interest and half is going to the principal – that sucks.  What can you do, though?  I’m thinking of moving this one to the end of my priority list, but it will be difficult because of the amount of interest that I pay on it every week.

Truck Debt:

This is for my vehicle.  I had already started trying to become debt free when I bought this, so I was quite torn as to wether or not to take on new debt while I was trying to eliminate other debt.  If you want to read more about it, check herehere and here.  Despite most of the advice I heard, I went ahead and took out a loan on this.   I made the right move.  It has been much easier to gear up on my other debt when I know exactly how much i’m going to spend to keep the car running every month.  The amount may be high, but that peace of mind is near priceless.

Last month, I mused on what to do with this loan – while it’s a large loan, paying it off would free up a huge amount of cash flow for me on a monthly basis.  If you’re interested in reading more, you can here.  There will also be a follow up to that post coming soon.

Ford Credit: $ 18,269 ($282): Just made the regular monthly payment on this loan. This is becoming an even more interesting case as the time goes by.  As those of you who read regularly know, I drive a lot to & from work.  I’ve owned this car for less than a year and there is almost 35,000 miles on it.  I haven’t taken any long road trips in it, that’s just standard driving to/from work and driving around town when needed.  I will be taking a trip this weekend in it, and that will be another 1,000 miles or so.  The 3 year, 36,000 mile warranty that’s saved my butt before will be gone a week from now.

Total Debt Level: $36,657 ($570) As I mentioned earlier, I haven’t made a snowball payment yet, so that’s why this number is so much smaller than normal.  Unfortunately, it also points out something slightly disheartening: If I only made the minimum payments, almost 20% of my pay goes to paying for my past.  Someday soon it will go to saving for my future.

New in Monthly Review:  My Payoff Plan (Subject to change).  This is the order that I’m currently going to pay off my debts in.  It doesn’t quite go from smallest to largest, but I think its the best for me (at this time).

  1. Direct Loan
  2. Truck Loan
  3. Final Student Loan

October 2010 Monthly Review

Student Loans:

I just wish these loans would go away.  I don’t want them anymore and I don’t want to deal with them anymore, so I’m trying to pay them off as quick as I can.

Nelnet Student Loan $ 0 ($1,750)  I posted about this friday, but I’m pretty excited to have this one all finished.  It has been named “Payoff Target” in Mint since the beginning of July.  It only took me 3.5 months to pay this off….Awesome.  At the right is a screenshot of what my loans look like in mint now.   I also renamed the loan, letting it know how I feel about it now.

Direct Loan  $6,189 ($256).  This one has been moving down about 250 per month for a while.  It’s nice to be able to set this one in my sights, and I think last months goal (End of December) may have been a little unrealistic, but what the hey.  I’ll try and probably fail, but you cant fault me for trying!

Great Lakes Loan $ 12,537 ($150)  Just sent my regular minimum payment to this loan.  However, mint is again having trouble with the amounts.  The amount shown at right is not correct.

Truck Debt:

This is for my vehicle.  I had already started trying to become debt free when I bought this, so I was quite torn as to wether or not to take on new debt while I was trying to eliminate other debt.  If you want to read more about it, check herehere and here.  Despite most of the advice I heard, I went ahead and took out a loan on this.   I made the right move.  It has been much easier to gear up on my other debt when I know exactly how much i’m going to spend to keep the car running every month.  The amount may be high, but that peace of mind is near priceless.

Ford Credit: $ 18,551 ($290): It’s interesting to watch the amount of money that gets applied to principal each month.  It seems to be very heavily dependent on what day I make my payment in the month.  It looks like I submitted my payment a little early on this one as well, as the principal went down $9 more than it did last month.  Mint has also been having problems updating this loan, and I dont know how long it’s been going on, but it’s been stuck at that number for months.  I don’t know how to fix it, and I’ve tried looking in their support forums for tips, to no avail.

Total Debt Level: $37,277 ($2383) WA-HOOOOOOO! I was able to reach my goal of getting my total debt level down below 37,500 by the end of the year.  I don’t think I’ll set a new number, but I’ll just keep going at it full bore and see where I end up.  I do have some things to think about though, mostly what to focus on after my direct loan.  The student loan balance is lower, but paying off the truck would do wonders for me with cash flow, because the monthly payment is more than double my student loan.  Add in the insurance savings i’d net from not having all coverage on the vehicle, and I’d be raking in almost 3x more cash.  It’s something i’ll need to think about.

This month has been very tedious.  I was working 80 hour weeks for most of the month, and things got quite crazy.  I was able to stay on top of things (for the most part) and even get in some quality time with friends and family.  The long workdays sucked, but the paycheck (when it comes) will be awesome, and will be my “stick of dynamite” for the Direct Loan.  There’s going to be a lot going on with the holidays working up, but hopefully I’ll be able to get a lot of work in (last year, January was my highest grossing month, by a long shot).  I’m looking for another repeat performance.

How are you doing towards paying off your debt?

How to Payoff your Nelnet Student Loan

Well, it’s time again to do one of my favorite things: Write up a post on making a final debt payment.  I did one for when I finally paid off my last credit card here and now I can do one for my Nelnet Student Loan.  (I’m talking strictly the steps needed to take to pay off the loan.  If you want to know How to Pay off debt, check out this post)

This loan and I have kind of had a rough history.  When I first had to start paying back my student loans, I thought I only had 2, and didn’t know about this one until I got a missed payment note in the mail.  Whoops! I remembered taking it out, but I had figured that it had been lumped in with my other loans.  Unfortunately it wasn’t, and that is one thing that really bothers me about student loans.  Many students have payee’s coming out their hind parts, and consolidation isnt always the right move.  It wasn’t for me because I was planning on paying them off in a few years, and once I did that, it wouldn’t matter.  I also had some very low interest rates on my student debt, and some were subsidized as well.  I would rather just pay 1 person, but that’s just me.

With this loan specifically, I’ve gotten questions on it before regarding the payoff schedule.  In short, a reader wanted to know what nelnet did if extra was paid on the loan.  Short answer: They moved your next due date forward to get their (interest) money.  He also asked me what happens when you pay off the loan.  Here’s what I did to to pay it off.  (I tried calling, but was told to go online)

First, you need to log in to your nelnet account.  You should already know how to do this if you’ve been making payments to your loan thus far.  Once you’re logged in, go to the My account tab, and you should see this:

Pay off nelnet

As you can see, after I made the big payment at the beginning of this month, it pushed my due date into 2014.   I don’t want this stupid little thing hanging over my head (and accruing interest) until then.  I want to pay it off.  Above the box, you’ll see I’ve circled the “click here” to obtain your 10 day payoff quote.  Once you do that, it will take you to another page that will tell you how much you  need to pay them in the next 10 days for them to consider the loan paid in full.  It takes into account interest that has accrued on the loan that is outstanding, estimated interest over the 10 day period (I’m assuming this was more relevant when people paid bills by paper check and snail mail) and the current principal balance on the loan.  Here’s what mine looks like:

Pay Nelnet

So, I can happily say that I submitted the online payment on 10.21, and it has cleared the bank.  Since this is the first student loan that I’ve ever paid off (but  not the last, rrrrgh) I was curious as to what would happen next.  Would I get a letter from the servicer saying that it has been paid off ?  (Not sure, but I don’t think so)  Would my credit report score improve? (not sure on that either) Would I have not sent the right amount and owe them something ridiculous like 32 cents?  (not at all).   After the payment clearing the account, here’s what my “My Account” section looks like:

Nelnet Loans

I now have a $0 amount outstanding – it’s awesome!  Here’s another shot of the group summary.  This is what you’ll want to see when you’ve sent them the final payment.  Notice on the “status” it says PIF by borrower, Paid In Full.  Not sure why it still shows me needing to make a 38 dollar payment, though.  Here’s the shot:


There is the process to pay off your student loans.  Make sure to keep your focus and you’ll be here in no time!  Good luck, and if you have any questions, contact me or leave them in the comments.  I’d be happy to answer them.