February 2022 – Student Loan Balance Update

As I shared in my REVISED: 2022 Financial Goals post, January has kinda felt like a hangover from the excitement and change brought by December, and not a lot nothing got accomplished on the financial front. But…to the numbers.

July 1, 2019 – Student Loan Balance(s): -$128,663.26

January 1, 2022 – Student Loan Balance(s): $88,878.54

February 1, 2022 – Student Loan Balance: -$88,504.21

Total Payments: $636.76 (minimum payment)

Net Difference: $374.33

Yea, I know. I’m almost embarrassed…almost. That is a pitiful amount of debt payoff and I certainly wouldn’t make my goal of getting under $60,000.00 in debt this year if I had any more months like that. However, in my defense the greater context is that once I got under $90,000.00 in debt, paid off PSL4, and got a new job in December, I pretty much lived it up for the rest of the month which included my birthday and the holidays. When my December credit card bills came due, I immediately paid them off, with nothing really left over for an additional student loan payment. As I shared in my revised goals’ post, I am embracing the Chinese (Lunar) New Year as an opportunity to give a fresh start to 2022 and to attack my goals with renewed focus. I just made my big February 1st payment and I’m decidedly back on track.

Onto my daily post…

Lunar Do-Over Day 1: February 1st

1. How much did I spend today?
$10.00 – This one kind of stings because it should have been a $0.00 spend day but I am currently traveling for my new role (there is about 10% quarterly travel) and my new colleagues are planning to take me out to Mexican tomorrow. Which is cool, because I love Mexican…except I am lactose intolerant. And since I want my new colleague to continue liking me, it meant I had to stop off at Kroger and pick up a generic lactase enzyme (e.g. Lactaid). I’m going to try and see if I can order a dairy-free dish but if not, at least I won’t be uncomfortable.

I will be traveling through Thursday which means I get to expense my meals and transportation.

February Variable (food, gas, misc.) Budget Initial Balance: $463.77
February Variable (food, gas, misc.) Budget Remaining Balance: $451.81

2. What financial information have I learned to help me when I’m debt-free? – I recently opened up a bit more about my financial situation to a mentor (we’ll call him Mr. Pokémon) and he has slowly but surely been sharing his wisdom with me. Something of which I was totally unaware is The Rule of 55. Mr. Pokémon plans to retire early but has most of his money locked up in retirement funds. As we talked about my most recent career moves, and my career hopping past, he talked about the Rule of 55 as a reason he may stay with his current employer until he turns 55. He shared this Forbes article with me and today, I finally read it. Highlights from the article:

a) “The rule of 55 is an IRS guideline that allows you to avoid paying the 10% early withdrawal penalty on 401(k) and 403(b) retirement accounts if you leave your job during or after the calendar year you turn 55.”

b) “Penalty-free early withdrawals are limited to funds held in your most recent company’s 401(k) or 403(b) under the rule of 55.”

c) “You aren’t locked in to early retirement if you choose to take early withdrawals at age 55. If you decide to return to part-time or even full-time work, you can still keep taking withdrawals without paying the 401(k) penalty—just as long as they only come from the retirement account you began withdrawing from.”

I have recently thought about what early retirement might look like for me…if I’m not partnered (and maybe if I am) or if I don’t have a family (or maybe if I do). While 55 probably seems too far off for folks who have done everything right, I think 55 could potentially be a good target for me. If I am successful in paying my student loan debt off before 40 then I would have 15 years to save as much as I could for retirement; with or without the benefit of the Rule of 55. For the record, retirement for me probably doesn’t mean not working. It would mean not “having” to work or perhaps doing work about which I am passionate but not particularly well paid.

3. How have I lived abundantly? – This was pretty easy today. I am traveling in the Pacific Northwest of the United States (Washington, Oregon, Colorado, etc.) and while I am far too intense and direct of a person to live here permanently, I genuinely appreciate how much more laid back the work culture is here. Today, my new colleagues pushed me out the door early and I took a walk along the river on the way back to my hotel while listening to my current, favorite music. It was such a good day.

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