Hello everyone! Today, we have a great dear debt letter from Sam. Sam graduated in May of 2013 from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with roughly $25000 of debt. Living at home for a year allowed her to nearly cut that amount in half, but once she moved out, Sam developed a few bad habits and managed to rack up a grand total of $35,000 between her student loans, credit card debt, a car loan, and a personal loan from her parents. She was able to get the total down to $23,800 at the start of 2016, and is trying to knock out the last $10700 before the beginning of 2017. Follow Sam and her experiences on her blog.


Dear Debt,

I like to think I’ve handled you better than most, but I know that our relationship is more one-sided than I’d like it to be. Though now I can’t wait to get rid of you, I still remember the times when I was so grateful for you and your help. I know that without you I wouldn’t be who I am today.

Because of you, Debt, I was able to continue my education when my parents had to give me some tough love my freshman year of college. You allowed me to realize that I hadn’t ruined my life, just learned a lesson the hard way, and because of that, I was able to forgive myself. After my first year back at school, though, I forgot a bit about the price I had to pay to be in your favor, and so I kept our abusive friendship.

Debt, even though I had three jobs in college, I used YOU to fund my drinking, my wants AND my needs, thinking that it was enough to use my income from my jobs for schooling. I was being mostly good — that counted, right? I knew that there was a (literal) price to pay to being friendly with you, Debt, but at the same time, that was FUTURE Sam’s problem, not present Sam’s, and so I ignored the negatives and only enjoyed your positives.

I know I am luckier than most people who graduated with me. I only had about $25,000 of debt, which, compared to others, is not much. The first year out of college, I had a job where I earned commission and I did very well. Couple that with living with my parents, and I was ready to start attacking you.

My parents always taught me to save a chunk of my paycheck, spend a small amount, and use the rest to pay off my loan. Sure I could pay it off in 20 years, but why accrue the interest? They told me that the sooner I paid you off, the better my life would be. So I did. I was putting over $1000 towards you every month. I had the idea that I would pay you off in less than two years.

But I didn’t, obviously. I was commuting over an hour and a half one way to work, and you knew the drive was killing me AND my car. So you helped me come up with a plan to move closer to work. My best friend had a similar idea, and we ended up moving in together in a nicer neighborhood, closer to both of our jobs.

Splitting the costs of housing and cutting down on transportation should make it cheaper, shouldn’t it? Technically yes, but it was around this time that I started developing bad habits. Bad habits like drinking more out of college than I did in college. Bad habits like getting drunk and buying lots of things off of Amazon (I both love and hate you, Prime). Bad habits like eating out for lunch EVERY DAY (Gasp! Such a no-no). You funded all of this, Debt. You allowed me to live above my means and yet hide the truth from everyone.

So even tho I had reduced you originally, Debt, before moving out of my parents by almost half, I managed to get seduced by you in a worse way – high interest credit card debt. Originally, I was racking up my credit card balance, but still paying it off in full every month. Eventually, it caught up to me and went to the point where I was carrying a balance. Instead of trying to pay off the balance, I started ignoring it. Long story short, I ended up with over $8000 of credit card debt. Couple this with my 2003 Dodge Neon dying randomly (RIP Thundercat), I had to find a way to get a new car.

Having stupidly assumed that my old car would die after I had saved enough for a new car (and without actually saving anything for a new car), I was in a bad position. I made sure to always have at least $1000 in both my checking and savings account, but I wasn’t trying to drain all of my accounts. So I had to awkwardly ask my parents to help me. Which, since they are amazing, they did. But that left me with $5000 that I owed them on top of the $14500 on my car.

This was my wake up call, Debt. I realized that you were controlling me, not the other way around. You had grown too much for me to handle on my own. I was so embarrassed, Debt. I was living like a fraud, making more than I thought I would two years out of college, and yet it wasn’t enough.

I started taking action to paying you down, never once telling my roommate, boyfriend, or even my parents how bad you have gotten. I think if I did, they might have helped, but at the same time, I didn’t want their judgement. I got myself into this mess, and I knew I could get myself out. And it’s that belief in myself that has gotten me this far.

At the beginning of 2016, I owed $23500ish between my student loan, credit card debt, car loan, and the loan from my parents. As of today, both the student loan and credit card debt are gone, and I have about $9000 left on my car and about $3000 to my parents.

I’m not as far as I wanted to be at this point in the year, but I’m determined to end our relationship, Debt. You keep trying to draw me back, but I’m smarter this time. I have a plan. I know how much I need to dedicate to you per paycheck to be rid of you. I don’t need you anymore, and I don’t intend on seeing you again once 2017 starts.

Bye forever,

Sam

This post is in: dear debt letter

After many months, I have an exciting announcement: MY BOOK IS HERE! Can you believe it? If you would have told me three years ago when I started this blog that it would lead to a book deal, I’d laugh in your face.

I am really excited to share my baby with the world and hope it inspires people to dump debt and take control of their finances.

Instead of just mentioning my book, I thought I’d share the five best books to help you get out of debt. Sometimes you need a little extra guidance so here are some of my favorite resources to help you pay down debt and get your money in order. (p.s. these are affiliate links and I’ll make a small commission if you purchase something, which helps support Dear Debt)

1. Dear Debt: A Story About Breaking Up with Debt

Okay, so shameless plug here but I do think my book is one of the best books to help you get out of debt. Why?

I paid off $81,000 in student loans. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’m proof it can be done. The book chronicles my journey of getting into debt and how I managed to get out of it after struggling with low-paying jobs, making $10-$12 per hour after graduation.

The book is part memoir, part actionable advice and every chapter ends with a dear debt letter! I was so excited because I was able to share some of the killer letters that others have written in the book!

If you’re looking for inspiration, motivation, and actionable advice on paying off debt, cutting back, and earning more, my book is for you.  And remember…you are not a loan. You are not alone.

2. Hustle Away Debt

You guys know I’m all about the side hustle. Side hustling pretty much changed my life and helped me get out of debt. Not only that, it led to a new career.

Everything you want to know about side hustles is in Hustle Away Debt by David Carlson. He shows you how you can pay down your debt using side hustles and provides guidance on how to find the best hustle for your lifestyle, how to fit it into your schedule, and how to make real money at it. This is an essential guide if you’re looking to earn more!

3. You Only Live Once: The Roadmap to Financial Wellness and a Purposeful Life

I can’t tell you how proud I am of my boy Jason Vitug! Jason wrote You Only Live Once (YOLO — get it?) to help inspire millennials to get purposeful about their money. Throughout the book Jason shares his personal story and experience and discusses the importance of knowing your money why.

Once you understand your money why and how it can serve you, Jason hands you the tools you need to reach it in this book. For Vitug, it’s all about using your money to take you to the next level. He teaches you how to take control of your money through budgeting and strategic savings. With your money under control, you can move toward reaching your bigger purpose.

The 5 Best Books to Help You Get Out of Debt (And My Big Book Announcement)

4. The Recovering Spender: How to Live a Happy, Fulfilled, Debt-Free Life

Ok, this book isn’t even out yet, but I’m excited to read it. With a tagline like “how to live a happy, fulfilled, debt-free life” how could you go wrong? I’m putting this on the list as I know several blogger friends who’ve gotten a sneak peek at the book and they’re raving about it. Also, Lauren is just cool.

Lauren Greutman speaks from her own experience with credit card debt and chronic overspending in this book. Using her personal story of financial recovery ($40,000 in debt, and an underwater mortgage) and its effect on her marriage, she shares the steps she took to get her money into shape, and stop the overspending. You can pre-order now! 

5. Your Money or Your Life

Early on in my personal finance journey, I read Your Money or Your Life, considered one of the personal finance Bibles. This book has endured and stayed relevant for over twenty years. Vicki Robinson and Joe Dominguez focus heavily on finding satisfaction and peace with both your money, and your contribution to the world.

They believe your money should be a tool to bringing happiness into every area of your life. With their big picture approach, this book is about radically shifting your thought process surrounding your money, and the direction of your life.

Some of the things I got out of the book include looking at your after-tax salary and what you really take home and also quantifying purchases in hours worked. For example, a purchase isn’t just $20. It’s trading one hour of your life to make $20, to afford that purchase. This book can really shift your thinking when it comes to spending and money management!

Have you read any of these books? Any others you’d recommend? 

Image courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo

This post is in: debt, side hustle

August 10, 2016

Hey debt fighters! I hope this election season, you’ll be rocking the vote. Nevermind that it’s a political circus.

However, you can rock the vote before November. If you’re a lover of all things personal finance, you can vote for your favorite bloggers, podcasters, authors, writers and more with the Plutus award.

I won Best Debt blog last year, which was amazing! And you know what? My publisher for my book (which will be released soon — check my Instagram) contacted me the day after I won and said they found me through my blog and the Plutus awards. So, this isn’t “just an award”. It could lead to opportunities!

I’m also on the voting panel this year and want to see some amazing things happen for others this year! You have until August 15th to vote! You don’t have to be a blogger to vote, so don’t let that intimidate you. Here’s the link for voting.

Secondly, I wanted to let you know that FinCon is offering a scholarship! FinCon is the financial bloggers conference that pretty much changed my life. I quit my job in July 2014 and went to FinCon in September 2014. I’ve gotten so many clients from FinCon and have made such important friendships.

If you’re a new blogger (January 2015 or later) and you haven’t registered to attend FinCon, apply for a scholarship by August 15. I’d love to see you there! Apply here. 

Anyway, wanted to share these opportunities, but expect cool updates from me soon!

This post is in: FinCon

Hey everyone, we have an awesome dear debt letter from Taberah Joy, aka Pixie. Pixie wears many hats and is a self-proclaimed slasher – a lawyer/writer/energy healer/tutor/actor/director. She is working to pay off $50,000 and hopes that all those slashes can one day build a bridge to her financial freedom.

Dear Debt,

I don’t know where to begin. I am thankful for you in so many ways. As I am thankful to all my creditors who gave me housing and food, very essential things in life. I am thankful that you allowed me to live my life my way. I am thankful that I didn’t stay in any relationship because I was dependent on the other person’s money. You know who I am talking about.

You have been so very good to me. I am amazed at how I can now talk about us without shame, without fear, and without too much judgment. I come from a “cash on the barrel head” culture. A culture where my parents paid cash for all of their cars, and my grandparents paid cash for their house.

So getting involved with you was a risk, a taboo. And you know what a rebel I am. If someone tells me not to do something, the teenage me just goes ahead and does it.

You were there for me when I wasn’t sure of myself, when I didn’t know if I could do this thing called life by myself. You said I could. And I believe you. I believe you now.

Debt my darling I believe it’s time that we part. You have been such an integral part of my life. It is difficult to leave you. It’s difficult to do this thing on my own. But because you supported me, I know that I will make it. I know that I am resourceful. I know that the universe provides.

Thank you for everything. I know you will get along without me just fine. There are others who need you more than I do now. Go be with them. Comfort them. Instill them with confidence, with reassurance that life works out if you show up.

With much love and many thanks,

Pixie

This post is in: dear debt letter

I look at the date, and I can’t believe my eyes. How is it almost August? How have I not blogged in one month? A first for Dear Debt. I don’t know exactly where all the time went, but it was spent working, a lot.

I remember feverishly working all fourth of July weekend to meet my deadlines. The downside of being your own boss is that holidays no longer matter, especially if you want the money to keep rolling in (but I also find it a great time to work as my inbox is quiet).

Shortly thereafter, I went to Chicago for a work trip. For a period of four days, I had anywhere between one and five hours of sleep. While I was there for event work, the writing work didn’t stop and I was trying to manage everything in a clumsy juggling act, hoping to not drop the ball.

Because I’m no longer 21, but rather 31, this extreme lack of sleep and overwork seriously took a toll on my mental and physical health. I felt wrecked.

I am finally feeling recovered two weeks later, but I’m in my busy season writing a lot, preparing for events at FinCon and acting as project manager for the Road to Financial Wellness. Oh, and I’m looking at my final edits for my book.

Holy cow! When I step outside of myself for a moment, I can hardly believe all that has happened. This little old blog of mine has led to a rewarding writing and event planning career. Winning best debt blog at the Plutus awards led to a book contract.

Dreams vs. Reality

In my wildest dreams, I would have never thought any of this would happen. But as I celebrate my two-year quitiversary, I realize that having all of your dreams come true is so much different in your head than it is in reality.

In your dreams, you imagine all of the good stuff, without any thought to the bad. In reality, having your dreams come true is much sweeter — but also ten times tougher than you think it will be.

Over the past few months, I’ve felt some major business growing pains. I’ve become intimately aware of my own scarcity mindset issues, even though I’m debt free now.

One of the main things I planned on doing once I became debt free was to slow down. I have to say that hasn’t happened at all.

Business Growing Pains

I’m busier than ever and I’m doing it alone. I’m doing it alone mostly because I’m a control freak. Even though I’ve managed people in a former nonprofit job, having people help me with administrative duties still feels so weird.

As the projects roll in, I keep saying “yes”. As a freelancer, you never know if it will be feast or famine, so I always take work when it comes my way. But I’ve realized that in my fear of missing out on work, I’ve taken on too much. For me, it’s so hard to know when is too much until you are in it and trying not to have a panic attack, while you are in a mad rush to finish projects.

In an ideal world, I want to find that Goldilocks balance of work — find what is just right. But it’s hard.

Through this bout of overwork and workaholism, I’ve neglected my blog, my relationship, and my health. I’ve pushed myself to the edge and have been scared to death looking down.

I received some honest advice from friends in Chicago, giving me a nudge to “Diva Up” and really own my dreams and not let them control me. Be the boss of my own business and not be bossed around. And sometimes that means letting go, being honest with what I can and can’t do and prioritize my needs over others.

Making Mindset Changes

It’s tough for me — just a few years ago, I was making $12 per hour and on food stamps. Letting go of my past and accepting my present, while dreaming of my future, has been confusing and tough.

I don’t want to turn down work because I never want to go back to where I used to be…struggling to find work is one of the most humiliating, awful things to experience. It makes you question everything you’ve worked hard for and, in this culture, can make you feel worthless.

Having all of my dreams come true is something I’ll never take for granted. It has pushed my boundaries and taught me so much about myself.

Currently, though, I’m going through some growing pains and trying to figure it all out and manage it all.

I keep thinking of the quote “Don’t be so busy making a living that you forget to make a life”. I think in a lot of ways I’ve failed at that. Part of it is that I still feel “new” at this even with two years under my belt…but also the two years have proved to me that I haven’t failed and my dreams came true, not my nightmares.

So for all you dreamers and doers, know that your life can change for the better and that all of your dreams can come true. Just realize that your dreams coming true probably won’t be like you imagined and that it requires an insane amount of hard work…but it’s important to stand your ground and enjoy your life or else what is the point?

I’m realizing you can create a business that leads to freedom or you can create a business that leaves you feeling trapped. I’m working more on the freedom part — which means taking some difficult next steps, letting go of perfectionism, practicing saying “no” and getting back in touch with who I am outside of work.

In the end, I realize how freaking lucky I am and I am so grateful…and I can’t wait to make things even better, so I can take care of myself…which in the end will be better for my business anyway.

This post is in: end of month update

June 24, 2016

Time is starting to become this weird mystery to me. I only really know what time or day it is because of the meetings that string the hours together, but aside from that it’s all been a blur as of late.

A few weeks ago, I went to the launch of the Road to Financial Wellness tour in New York City sponsored by Centsai. It was great to be back in my favorite city — the site where I accumulated the majority of my student loan debt.

RoadNYC

My colleague Tonya Rapley and Jason Vitug, founder of the Road to Financial Wellness

 

The event was a success, but the trip was also exhausting. Fun, but so tiring. Just days before my trip I signed a lease on a new apartment, which meant as soon as I got back from my trip my life consisted of unpacking, cleaning, and getting settled.

Road to Financial Wellness NYC

We’re mostly there and it feels so good to finally have a space of our own. I am finally feeling like we live here again and aren’t on some weird vacation.

While I’m so happy to have our own place again, this move hasn’t been cheap. Now we’re paying full-on rent (and not discounted parental rent) and getting renter’s insurance, internet, desks, etc. It’s amazing how many little things you need just to get started in a new place.

Financially it hurts, but I know I’ll just be bleeding money for a month or two and things will level out.

But then again maybe I’m being too optimistic. I’m now going to Chicago for the Road to Financial Wellness pit stop (I love my job — if you’re in the area sign-up!) in July, going to Portland for a wedding in August and will be headed to FinCon in September. Luckily, FinCon is in my home state but I know it will come with some expenses.

PIT-STOP (1)

I’m trying not to panic about all the expenses, but also trying to be mindful of them and lower them where I can. In addition, I’m working a ton, which I hope will lead to a good income in the coming months.

Going Forward

I’m happy to report that after my post about the dangers of all-or-nothing debt repayment, I actually saved enough for taxes for June. It felt like a big victory, given the previous months. I’m still slowly building my emergency fund and adding money to my investment account, but the savings goals are not happening as quickly as I’d like.

Being on the go so much isn’t a very good recipe for saving money. I’m happy with my experiences though and know that things will normalize soon.

Trying to remember what I had to do when I was getting out of debt — think of the big picture. Things can feel like they’re moving incredibly slow and like it will never get better. But small, consistent actions can lead to big changes. I’m also beginning to think and grow rich, something that I’ve recently adopted from my friend Shannon. Sometimes shifting your mindset can really help.

So I’m hoping that even though things aren’t perfect, that I’m still bettering my life financially every day.

How are things going for you?

This post is in: end of month update

This post is sponsored by Haven Life and originally appeared on the Haven Life blog.

Whether you’ve recently graduated or have been in the workforce for years, at some point, you may be thinking of going to grad school.

Grad school can be a great next step to boost your career or try your hand at something else. The only problem? Grad school can cost a pretty penny. I should know — I took out an additional $58,000 in student loans for my master’s degree, which helped me fulfill my dream of going to NYU.

If you’re thinking of going to grad school, you’re probably aware that you may have to take on student loans to make your dreams a reality. When you’re young and single, those student loans usually aren’t a consideration for anyone but yourself (unless you needed a co-signer to get them.) But, if you’re married and taking out student loans, you’re potentially taking on a debt burden that would impact your spouse and children.

If you’re single with a loan co-signer or married with children and taking on debt, did you know that you might need life insurance?

What happens to student loan debt when you die?

When deciding if you need life insurance to cover grad school debt, it all comes down to what happens to your student loan debt after you die? It’s not a pleasant thought, but it’s vitally important for you to know.

If you’re single and need a co-signer for your student loans, that debt would likely fall to your co-signer if you were to die. And, If you’re married and take out student loans during the course of your marriage, your spouse may be on the hook for your student loan payments, whether they co-sign those loans or not.

According to the website TheVirtualAttorney.com, “Not only do co-signers risk being left with hefty student loan payments, but the spouse of a deceased individual may also be put in a tough spot.” This is especially true of couples that live in a community property state because typically both spouses are liable for debts incurred during the marriage.

Currently, there are nine community property states: California, Washington, Wisconsin, Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas.

You should always know what would happen to your debt if you were to die, whether you’re married with financial dependents or single and carefree. But if you have financial dependents and are about to incur some serious debt, it becomes even more important to understand.

Different Lenders, Different Rules

If you’re only taking out federal student loans, there is a death discharge that states that your loans will be completely discharged upon your death. Some people still decide to purchase life insurance as a way to provide “just in case” peace of mind and to replace the income they plan to make once they finish college. That’s a personal decision though.

If federal student loans don’t cover all of your tuition needs, you may need to take out private student loans, which is where things get a bit tricky.

Currently, there is no formal death discharge for private student loans. Some lenders may grant a death discharge, but there is no standard rule across private student loan lenders.

In addition, many private student loans require a co-signer. If your private loan isn’t discharged upon death and if your spouse or parent is a co-signer, it is highly likely that he or she would be left with that debt if you died. And, if you’re married, you must consider that your spouse would also need to maintain their day-to-day lives without your financial contribution or the added income your post grad school job maybe would have given you.

Should You Get Life Insurance?

Let’s face it, thinking of your own death can be an unpleasant experience. It’s something you (rightfully) think about rarely, if you’re young and healthy. But life insurance is about thinking of the future and protecting your family.

So if you have financial dependents and are thinking of going to graduate school and student loans are part of that reality, a term life insurance policy is probably a good idea to help protect your family’s financial future. Especially if you take on private loans.

Term life insurance is for a specific term length — and in this case, can align with your repayment term, if you only want to purchase a policy to cover the student debt. So let’s say you borrow $80,000 in student loans and expect to pay it back over ten years. Whether you’re single or married, to protect your family or co-signer, you could purchase a term life insurance policy with a term of at least ten years, with coverage to pay for any remaining student loan debt, funeral costs, and loss of income.

And term life insurance is very affordable. Assuming excellent health and that you get the best rate class, a Haven Term policy can cost a 35-year-old woman $22.67 per month for a 20-year, $500,000 policy. Find out how much it would cost you.

Having a life insurance policy in place helps protect your loved ones from burdensome debt when you die. This way, should the unthinkable happen, your spouse is financially protected and can pay off your remaining private student loans. If you’re single with no kids or financial dependents and have federal student loans, a life insurance isn’t necessary to cover student loan debt.

Grad School and Life Insurance

The last thing a grieving family should have to do is to unexpectedly deal with the financial burden of student loan debt.

If you’re married and thinking of going back to school, good for you! It’s never a bad time to invest in yourself. However, if you must take on private student loans to make it happen, a life insurance policy could be a sound investment to protect your spouse from the burden of debt.

This post is in: life

Hey everyone! We have an awesome new dear debt letter from Alaya. Alaya blogs at Hope+Cents, and is on a mission to provide help and show others hope in their financial situations. After conquering her $74,000 of consumer debt in two years, she now coaches others as they dump their debt and take control of their finances.

Dear Debt,

It’s been almost five years since we broke up, and I must say I do think of you from time-to-time.

Now, don’t get excited — it’s not in the way you think. I’m not pining after you or considering going back to you. What I think about is all the things you used to say to me and the promises you made. What I think about is how I just don’t understand you (or them) anymore.

In the fifteen years we were together, you convinced me that life was not possible without you — that if I wanted to do anything at all, it had to be done with you by my side. Somehow, I believed you. I gave you so many precious years of my life without ever challenging whether or not you were good for me. I bought into your lie that I couldn’t survive without you.

Looking back, I can see how you were able to deceive me so easily. I was naive. It never occurred to me that life without you was feasible. I didn’t realize that I could challenge that myth, nor did I have the patience or discipline at the time to do so. Even my parents, who introduced me to you before I was even old enough to have a relationship with you, believed your lies. I cannot blame them or be too upset with them — they thought you could offer me a better life than they could.

Now that I’m on the other side of our relationship, I cannot comprehend your promises. My older and wiser self knows what you offer is attainable without you. It may not come instantly or as quickly as it does with you, but that’s okay. My brain no longer can compute the benefits of cozying up with you.

You reached out to me a couple of years ago, and somehow, you managed to get under my husband’s skin. He suggested I think about contacting you “just this once.” Traitor! I couldn’t believe that after everything we did to rid our lives of you, he would suggest seeing you again. He tried to explain the benefits of reaching out to you, but I just couldn’t process what he was saying. He was speaking gibberish, and I didn’t understand it. I just don’t understand you anymore.

You are cunning, debt. You convince people that you are as essential as oxygen. You consistently reach out to my friends and family, and despite my warnings, some of them have started relationships with you. They are where I once was — captivated by your promises and unaware that they don’t need you. My hope for them is that they too will soon reach a point of not understanding you.

So, goodbye again debt. I would say I have missed you, but I haven’t. I’m sorry, but I just don’t get you anymore.

Take Care of Yourself,

Alaya

 

This post is in: dear debt letter

The following blog post is part of The Road to Financial Wellness blog tour. The Road to Financial Wellness is a three-month, grassroots campaign promoting financial empowerment on a national level and encourages people to pursue their dream lifestyle. Find out more about local events near you.

RTFWimage

This is the second year in a row I am organizing the Road to Financial Wellness blog tour (there’s still time if you want to participate!). This year, though, I’m also helping out with more events and will be going to NYC this weekend to help out with the launch.

I remember last March, Jason from Phroogal called me and told me his crazy idea of going around the country to talk about financial wellness. It was unprecedented. Bold. And quite frankly, a bit crazy. But I fell in love with the idea and got on board. This year we’re doing it even bigger and better and going to 50 cities across the U.S.

Now that we’re in our second year of doing The Road to Financial Wellness, we get a lot of questions about financial wellness. Namely, what is it?

You know we talk a lot about our physical health and conversations around mental health are starting to take place. But many people still don’t talk about their financial health. Money is the last taboo. When things are out of balance with your finances, everything else is affected.

We realize that financial wellness is part of the bigger picture. It’s part of making the other aspects of your life and health — physical, mental and emotional, work for you too.

Financial wellness is about aligning your money with your goals. Using money as a tool to live your dream lifestyle — making sure your money is actually working for you and helping you live a life you love.  

How to Boost Your Financial Wellness

There’s no denying that many people live paycheck-to-paycheck. Millennials are saddled with high student loan debt and many are experiencing stagnant wages. But those stats don’t need to put you in a box.

Despite all obstacles, you can work hard at financial wellness.

Step 1: Identify your goals.

What do you really want out of life? There are no right or wrong answers here. Forget what you’ve learned or what your parents want you to do or what society thinks you should do. What do YOU want?

Maybe you want to travel the world, or buy a house, or start your own business. Maybe you want to pay for your kids college so they don’t have student loan debt. Maybe you want to move to a cabin in the woods or maybe you want to live the high life in NYC. Whatever you truly want, write it down.

Step 2: Look at your income and expenses.

Look at your income and expenses. Cut out things you don’t absolutely love and see if you can negotiate some of your bills. It never hurts to ask.

When looking at your income, think of how it aligns with your values and your goals. Does the money you make help you reach your goals or just “get by”? In the past, I was just getting by and it was hard. I felt stuck and hopeless. But I began to side hustle, earn more and boost my income. Earning more helped me live my dream lifestyle — moving to Los Angeles, traveling to Italy with my mom, and doing work I love.

Financial wellness isn’t about cutting back to the bone, but spending your money where it matters — on your big, crazy, audacious goals. On creating your dream lifestyle and using money as a tool.

Step 3: Identify what changes you need to make.

Just like physical health or emotional health, it’s important to check in with yourself and identify what changes you need to make to reach financial wellness. Look at your spending triggers and what situations or emotions encourage you to spend.

For me, this means cutting out emotional purchases or things that don’t make me happy in the long run.

Step 4: Commit to the process.

Financial wellness isn’t a state that you reach — it’s something you maintain. You have to work at it every day. Make sure you are saving enough for your present and future. Create not just an emergency fund but an opportunity fund to go after your goals.

Spend wisely and treat your money well and it will treat you well in return. Ask important questions when making a purchase. Read the fine print. Be your own financial advocate. And if you’re feeling lost, get a financial wellness check up with a financial advisor, money counselor or coach.

You don’t need to be alone. I hope you join the conversation on social media using #TheRoad2016. Share your financial wellness tips and learn more from other fantastic bloggers. Check out an event near you!

 

This post is in: personal finance

Hey everyone! We have a great new dear debt letter from Tyler Philbrook. Tyler runs the blog I Am The Future Me. He talks about his journey from being $29,000 in debt to becoming financially independent by cutting costs, making more money, and making good financial decisions.

Dear Debt,

What a song you and I have had. I remember the day we were formally introduced, my 18th birthday. Truth be told, I thought of you as my friend, one of my closest.

You helped me gain the respect of those my own age, and even those older. With the ability to go to every restaurant and even pay for everyone there. Giving me new clothes, and covering a bill or two along the way.

All year long I would spend and spend, and when tax time came, you would demand the refund for yourself, never leaving any for me.

The song was sweet perfection to me. I would get everything I wanted throughout the year and you would get what you wanted.

You helped me to impress my girlfriend, who later became my wife. And when she lost her job shortly after we got married, you paid the electric bill and car insurance. I was so appreciative that you were there to help.

But then the song turned sour. You wanted more — more than a simple tax refund could give. You wanted more than we had — more than I could give.

It was then that I realized that you are not a friend, you are a criminal. You beat me up every month, cause my blood pressure to go far beyond what one my age should have. You forced me to work longer hours, and even more than one job just so you could get what you want.

Instead of being a friend, you have caused pain wherever you are. My wife and I fight over you, I became unhealthy from working so much and eating so poorly. My wife even works extra now, and her health started to go because of you.

Not anymore debt, no, I refuse to allow you to have this much power, this much pull. We have set a plan to get rid of you. Instead of fighting each other, we are going to fight you together. All the effort we have put into anything else is all going towards getting rid of you.

As for our health, you don’t control that anymore either. We have learned how to get healthy even with you hovering over our heads. And, debt, I have never felt better.

This song is coming to an end, debt — soon it will be no more. Unlike songs that I hear on the radio and think of times of my life, there will be nothing to remind me of you. No, debt, when this song is over, not only will you be gone, but the memory of you will be too.

Goodbye Debt, thanks for nothing.

Tyler

This post is in: dear debt letter