Prior to refinancing, the terms for my auto loan with US Bank weren’t bad.
Despite a required minimum payment of $249.84, I have always made a $300.00 monthly payment because I have every intention of having all of my student and commercial debt paid before I turned 40. What I have found is that the stronger your financial position, the “less bad” your banking options generally are. So I figured, a little over a year later, with $30,000.00 less in student loan debt, and $25,000.00 in more income, and I could probably get an even better “less bad” deal. And I was right…with PenFed!
PenFed is consistently bombarding my email account with banking products, and while I generally ignore them, they finally enticed me to click with a “$150.00 rebate when you refinance your auto loan” email. Initially, I didn’t know how much sense it made to refinance. While 3.21% with US Bank isn’t amazing, it also isn’t “bad” for a used car and unless I could get PenFed’s rock bottom rate of 2.39%, I didn’t know how much I would save by refinancing. However, the more I thought about it, the more I acknowledged that any money saved is a reason to refinance and that my only reason for not refinancing was the minor inconvenience of the loan payoff process. So I applied.
And I got their rock bottom rate for used cars! A few hours later and I am still happy with my decision. Not only did I secure a better rate, my minimum payment is still less than what I usually pay, with a term that ends more than 9 months before my 40th birthday. Additionally, unlike with traditional student loan lenders, having my educational and auto loans with PenFed gives me an opportunity to build my relationship with a credit union, which could potentially be useful down the road…the $150.00 rebate isn’t bad either.
Work is incredibly stressful right now on all fronts, at both workplaces, so I should be working on a presentation I have tomorrow at 9:00AM or a journal article that was due today. Instead, I am here…
I will be the first to admit that, in the context of both my personal and professional relationships, I privilege some degree of control, and when I don’t feel like I have it, I try to negotiate for it. If that fails, my next instinct is not to fight but to flee. Unsurprisingly, this propensity is not entirely limited to my career and has occasionally been a theme in my romantic relationships. In any instance, it is how I am feeling at the moment about my employment with Organization C. My new boss (for the sake of clarity I will call him the Politician) is incredibly entitled and treats donors and funders in a strictly transactional manner as if they owe our organization (a non-profit) thousands of dollars instead of it being a collaborative partnership towards “shared” goals. This is incredibly frustrating and thus far my most significant contribution to Organization C has been building a better relationship with our largest donor, who said, and I quote, “He [Politician] comes off as entitled to all of us. Listen, I want you [Afro Penny] to be successful but things need to change.” Right.
For a moment, I thought perhaps I had jumped from the frying pan into the fire in my departure from University B, as at least I liked my boss at University B, even if I couldn’t trust him to act in the best interest of my career, but things are equally messy there. The promotions and raises my boss (we’ll call him the Preacher) promised my colleagues (and me prior to my departure) never materialized and instead they were offered a very small salary adjustment. And while other information might lead me to believe that this results from organizational changes that are not entirely the Preacher’s fault, his continued inability to be transparent is baffling. Especially when the information is known across the division. Instead of just saying, “Unfortunately, things are happening that are out of my control…” he is instead going with, “I am just as shocked and surprised as you are. I didn’t even notice that your ‘offer’ letters from human resources were for a small ‘salary adjustment’ and not for a promotion even though I sent the form letter directly to you myself.” Right.
Had I stayed at University B, I might have more job fulfillment as I would still be doing direct program work and supporting students. However, I would also be in the same position as my former colleagues: underpaid and unable to trust my boss to advocate for me or deal with me fairly. It is in reflecting on this cushion and a soft place in which I sit* (satire, because yes, I recognize my egregious privilege) that thoughts of fleeing arise. They are of the short-term and medium-term variety and vacillate between quitting and heading back abroad to teach English and hustling to get my debt below $50,000.00 this year and then quitting to do (insert numerous entrepreneurial ideas here).
For all of the reasons that have crossed your mind in the seconds it took you to read those statements, I will likely do neither of those things. Instead, I will go to bed. Get up early. Finish the presentation. Write the article. Tend to all of my other tasks. And generally, be grateful I have well-paying employment. However, before those things, during those things, in between those things, I will also be contemplating the cost of work autonomy.
*To be more explicit, I acknowledge that the mismatch at Organization C between myself and the Politician, as well as the lesser mismatch between myself and my role, is of my own making. I was so intent on acquiring a better-paying position that I placed far more emphasis in the interview process on selling myself to them. I should have spent as much time | ensuring that the role, and the leadership, were a good fit for me. It is much easier to say it now, but I will do a better job of interviewing in the future.
My clumsy nod to a legendary girl group aside, for some time I have been struggling with my desire for a family. Setting aside any discussion about the mid-thirties, hormone-induced nature of this desire, or gender socialization, I would instead turn to recent events…
As I have stated in several posts, March is an exciting month because it means the end of weekend obligations for University B. However, this past weekend, while supporting a University B program, I ran into a colleague I had not seen for some time. After we had chatted for some time, she opened her coat to reveal a significant baby bump. While this is exciting news in general, it was made that much more exciting because this colleague is now seven months pregnant, after suffering several miscarriages, at 43. While I was beyond thrilled for her and her husband, I realized later that I was also happy…for myself.
I had just turned thirty-four at the onset of the pandemic and while that wouldn’t qualify me as a spry, young thing, I also didn’t feel old*. I didn’t feel like the things I wanted for myself, a different career, a romantic partnership, or a family were things that wouldn’t happen. Just things that hadn’t happened yet. A little more than two years later and things feel different. The pool of eligible partners seems to be shrinking at an exponential rate, as is my window for conceiving a child. I realized that my “baby love” had reached a new stage when I seriously considered whether or not I would be willing to have a child on my own. After significant consideration, I acknowledged that this did not appeal to me, however, the mere fact that I turned it over in my mind suggested that I was in a different place than I was two years ago.
My student loan debt. Much as it has touched every other aspect of my life, it has also affected my thoughts about having a family. First, I considered whether or not I would be desirable as a mate/partner/mother. My second consideration was whether or not I had the resources to support a child. My parents waited eight years after getting married to have me because they had grown up poor and wanted better for me. Who was I to disrupt this “generational progress” and have a child before I could financially afford it? And finally, should I consider freezing my eggs? Or would this just be another financially irresponsible choice made under the guise of preserving freedom?
I don’t know. Any of it.
*I understand and appreciate that “old” is a relative value, and I am very grateful for every year I get to spend on this planet. So many people have not had the fortune to live long as I have.
P.S. If you were disappointed by the only tangentially, financial nature of this post, blame Eva. 🙂
As is the case with most of these posts, I feel happy, shocked, and a bit like I don’t know what to say. While I knew I had to reach this milestone fairly quickly to achieve my goal of getting under $60,000.00 this year, this happened much sooner than I expected due to the biggest monthly payment I have ever made, on March 1st, and University B paying out my vacation leave. I will get into the weeds of my March payments on April 1st, so for now, let’s just take a gander at my PenFed student (educational) loan payoff screen:
Unreal. As has been the case in the past, it was difficult to find someone else who blogged about this particular milestone so I headed over to DDSW’s page. (It’s been a while since I linked to her blog so if you haven’t read it, I would suggest you grab a cup of your favorite warm beverage and head on over.) Rereading her blog as I reach each of these milestones is helpful from more than a celebratory perspective. Her posts provide insight into what she was thinking (usually strategic) financially at the time and help me reflect and plan without needing to bother the Pennyfolk. In the post linked above, she talks about feeling like she has turned the corner with her debt and refinancing. This resonates with me. For whatever reason, even though it’s still a five-figure debt, there is something about seeing that first number decrease…
A refinance is food for thought. I LOVE PenFed thus far and would like to keep them as my lender, however, their lowest interest rate is 2.89%. As my rate is fixed at 3.50%, getting something lower AND fixed might be tough. But it won’t hurt to ask. As you can see above, my loan will now accrue interest at a rate of $7.595545 a day or $227.87 a month. While that is far less than it has been at any (non-pandemic) point in my journey, I would never object to it being lower. I think given my significant increase in income, I might apply for a refinance after I reach my goal this year. Yea, no need to hedge with “if,” it’s now just a matter of time.
As always, I want to thank all of the Pennyfolk who read (and especially those who engage) my blog. You all are appreciated far more than you know.
And that’s how you do it, folks. In American society, it has become all too common for individuals, and organizations, not to accept responsibility for mistakes or errors even when the onus is clear. (I cannot speak with any real knowledge of this occurrence in other cultures, however, my travels abroad lead me to believe that this may also be the case elsewhere…). This is unfortunate because, where appropriate, admitting that you have erred is the fastest way to diffuse conflict. Once you have said, “It was my mistake,” you move the other party past the need to sort blame, and its associated anger, and towards redress.
Yesterday, I attempted to log in to my HR account with University B to check on the status of my leave, only to be greeted with an error message. The message stated that my current role is classified as a non-benefits eligible position in which leave does not accrue. Okay, that seems about right. However, what happened to the leave that I accrued during my two-and-a-half years of full-time work with University B? I hadn’t received a vacation payout, so where did it go? While the HR department is understaffed like most other departments at University B (and elsewhere in the country) the division representative responded to me fairly quickly and simply stated, “It must have been an oversight on our end. We will process this for the March 15th supplemental pay period.” It turns out that my change in status should have generated a vacation payout but, for whatever reason, it just didn’t happen. However, true to her word, this evening I received a pay advice from University B for March 15th.
So…yea. 99.00% of me wants to throw all of my vacation leave towards debt (approximately $3200.00) and allocate my regular part-time pay towards my March income that will be used for April. (Spoiler: It would bring my total debt below $80K). Thoughts?
My ambitious plan to blog every day in February was quickly derailed after the realities of working a full-time job and a 20-hour a week part-time job began to take their toll. However, the “Lunar Do-Over” was not for naught as my spending in February was severely curbed and I refocused on my financial and personal goals. To the numbers…
July 1, 2019 – Student Loan Balance(s): -$128,663.26
February 1, 2022 – Student Loan Balance(s): –$88,504.21
March 1, 2022 – Student Loan Balance: -$86,645.29
Total Payments: $2,091.09
Net Difference: $1,858.92
Sorry, ya’ll, I messed up. This week sucks in terms of late afternoon and evening commitments, so I was trying to pay all of my March bills early in the day. Unfortunately, I failed to grab a screenshot of my balance before I made my massive (yea, I said it) March 1st payment so the balance displayed on the main page (the screengrab I usually share with you all) is much lower than it was this morning. So instead of the usual account landing page screengrab, my update this month is just a screengrab of the loan transaction log (my March 1st balance results from me adding the $550.00 payment that was made this morning back to the resulting balance of $86,095.29).
That screengrab screwup aside, February was a much better month in terms of my spending, however, because I pay debt based on the previous month’s income, how financially fruitful February was won’t become apparent until April 1st when my March 1st payments are reflected. I was actually pennies below my February miscellaneous budget until a terrible work one-on-one with my new boss resulted in me buying myself a couple of salad kits and a carton of sorbet for lunch and dinner yesterday ($14.68) in an effort to eat my feelings. This ended up pushing me $14.15 OVER my budget on the last day of the month. I have…few regrets.
I know, I know, where have I been and what have I been doing? And even if you don’t care about that, why haven’t I been writing? Honestly, I didn’t feel like writing. So, I didn’t. I hope you all have been well and haven’t been too disappointed by my absence…
1) Work – Organization C: So far, I like my job, I love my colleagues, and the networking has been incredible. That being said, I dislike my boss. At first, I thought it was just a difference in communication styles or how we show up but…no. I don’t like him. He is a much older gentleman who comes across as condescending, dismissive, and entitled; and there is a clear gender bias as he behaves this way towards all of the female employees but not our male colleague who is his age. Initially, I thought it was just me who perceived him this way but…no. Not only have my colleagues divulged that this is also their perception but so has one of our principal donors in an “off-the-record” conversation. This is such a great opportunity for my career so I plan on enjoying it as much as I can, networking, and positioning myself well for my next jump but this is looking more and more like a 3-year stint than the long-term role for which I was hoping. Unless there is a leadership change…
University B: Most days I think, “Why did you decide to keep doing this?” (I actually asked that question out loud to a friend/colleague and she replied, “Honestly, I don’t know. At the time you said you were trying to pay off your student loans…” And then I said, “Right.”) I am putting in about 18 hours a week at University B and my pay rate is $23.00/hour. I will receive my first part-time paycheck from them on the 25th of this month and actually should receive a final “salaried” paycheck that includes the first couple days of this month and potentially the stipend from my on-call work which I have continued to perform. I was given the option of changing my 403b elections but I left them the same. I have no idea what this paycheck (I billed for 37 hours over two weeks) is going to look like at the end of the month and will be totally surprised. I am still doing the weekend work for University B at the moment but that will taper off completely come April. I am just trying to stick it out until then. Once April rolls around, my work from then until the end of June will mostly be end-of-year communications and reporting which I actually enjoy.
2) Taxes and a Sinking Fund – I completed my taxes earlier this month and was happy to find out that I was actually entitled to a small federal refund (~$1,000.00) and owed $11.00 in state income tax. Once received, I moved these funds to a savings account and promptly checked off 2021 Revised Financial Goal #2 of establishing a $1,000.00 sinking fund that is separate from my emergency fund. Well, the universe decided I was far too self-satisfied and my car’s check-engine light came on for the first time since I have owned the car. More on that below…
3) Dating – I am taking a break from dating in general. There is so much going on at work that I just haven’t felt like it. I also have made friends here and they need attention too. If I’m really honest, I think I also needed a break from Gentleman Avery. While the chemistry and interest are clear, I feel like maybe we missed our moment… Generally, when I decide that a romantic relationship won’t work out, I have a mature conversation with the other party, and we amicably part ways. As I explained in a post earlier this month, that’s never worked with Gentleman Avery. I could pretend to be confused as to why that is the case but that would be disingenuous. I don’t want to part ways. There is still some small part of me that hopes it will work out. I’d like to smother that part of me. Or at least make it quieter.
Lunar Do-Over Day FAIL: Still Chuggin’
1. How much did I spend today? – $0.00 – I haven’t spent anything today because it’s Sunday and as I have previously recounted, Sundays are usually days I stay at home. My spending (register below) since I last posted it on February 5th is pretty typically of what I spend during the month. Including the far too many sweets, around my cycle, during the middle of the month. The only other things of note are 1) the $3.00 ATM fee will be rebated by my bank at the end of the month (I know there are some folks who would have immeidately gasped at frugal person paying an ATM fee) and 2) I will get around to telling the automotive story in another post. This one is already far too long.
$29.76 doesn’t seem like a lot of money for what remains of the month but given that my pantry, fridge, and freezer still have food in them, and my gas tank is full, I suspect I’ll make it pretty easily.
February Variable (food, gas, misc.) Budget Initial Balance: $463.77 February Variable (food, gas, misc.) Budget Remaining Balance: $29.76
2. What financial information have I learned to help me when I’m debt-free? – I’ve learned that it’s probably going to be okay… Since sharing my debt story with Mr. Pokémon, he has talked to me a lot more about investing and the power of compound interest (Like…don’t I know it? Who better than a person in thousands of dollars in debt to tell you about the power of compound interest?). He consistently has talked about the power of investing early and given that I am not done paying off my debt, in many ways I have been a bit down about my investing prospect. Allowing myself to get hung up on how much time and money I have “lost.” However, this article from Investopedia gave me a reason to feel a bit more hopeful. Specifically,
An employee in this age category who is offered a 401(k) at work should consider funding it to the maximum amount. To provide you with a sense of how powerful maxing out a 401(k) can be, consider the following: An individual who is 40 years old and who contributes $17,500 annually to a 401(k) could accumulate more than $1.3 million in savings by age 65. This assumes an 8% return and no employer contributions...
While this is by no means an excuse for my past financially irresponsible behaviors, it does give me hope that if stick to my current plan, and pay off my student loan debt before I turn 40, that getting more aggressive with my 401K savings at 40 can still leave me comfortable in retirement.
3. How have I lived abundantly? – Today is a rest day. Sometimes, on Sundays, I force myself to be productive and get all of my personal tasks and cleaning done. And if I don’t, I feel incredibly guilty. Today, I’ve decided to let my body rest and my mind wander. I’m happy it wandered over to my neglected blog.
I am doing some committee work for University B this week that is eating into my evenings. While yesterday wasn’t too bad, today made for a late night. I will return to writing a bit more substantively tomorrow…
Lunar Do-Over Day 8: February 8th
1. How much did I spend today? – $5.00 – In my city, it is fairly common for young boys to sell water and other drinks at busy intersections for money. Almost like urban lemonade stands. While I rarely buy anything to drink, depending on how well they’ve honed their pitch, I sometimes make a donation. Today he was well-rehearsed and polite so I parted with five dollars. To approach busy, annoyed, city drivers and attempt to sell them something would seem to hone skills necessary to be successful at other entrepreneurial endeavors. While I am often concerned about their safety, given that idling cars can move at any moment in response to the changing traffic lights, I certainly respect the hustle.
Other than this small donation, I didn’t “need” anything. I have two social engagements planned for this weekend, and I am slowly running out of fruit, so I expect a slight uptick in spending later this week.
February Variable (food, gas, misc.) Budget Initial Balance: $463.77 February Variable (food, gas, misc.) Budget Remaining Balance: $334.37
2. What financial information have I learned to help me when I’m debt-free? – Not a damn thing. I have been binge-watching “Till Debt Do Us Part” on Amazon Prime (US). It’s an older, Canadian reality TV show that focuses on the marital fracas between couples that results from financial stress. The financial stress is usually a lack of communication that is exacerbated by overspending. The host’s solution is always to move the couple to a cash-only, envelope (jar) based budget for a month, paired with other activities and challenges that are designed to get them to communicate more. While the show is fairly formulaic, it is always interesting to get to peer into other people’s finances. But you all get that 😉
3. How have I lived abundantly? – I went for a midday workout so that I could take a class with my favorite trainer. At first, I felt a bit guilty about stepping away from work in the middle of the day. However, I later accepted that this is one of the benefits of remote work, and as long as I put in an eight-hour day, it doesn’t really matter when I do the work unless I have meetings.
I am an introvert who has learned to be extroverted, at times, as a way of getting by in the world. People generally like extroverts and being extroverted can make everyday social interactions less awkward. For a long time, I envied my truly extroverted friends. You know, the kind of people that could go to New York City, and sip and glide on the current of energy that flows through it, without becoming depleted. Truthfully, it is only as I have gotten much older, and lived through a global pandemic (I kid…mostly), that I have come to appreciate being introverted; and, come to understand that maybe there has been more to my isolation than just “me.”
Before the onset of the pandemic, I often wondered if there was something wrong with me. Despite having just moved to a new city, after work on Fridays, I would put on pajamas, crawl onto my couch, and rarely speak to a soul until Monday. When I reflected on this behavior, out of concern that I might be depressed, and perhaps I was, I would generally attribute it to the fact that I often had to work long days and weekends for University B. This belief was furthered by the pandemic, where I seemed to thrive in a fully remote work environment, managing much better than I ever had in person. However, as has become common, things began to change late last year.
In the span of a couple of months, I had made several new friends and became much more social. Rather than just sitting on my couch on Fridays after work, I was proactively texting my new friends to see who might want to hang out, even when I had to work the following day. What changed? My debt had changed. I realized that I had been refraining from making friends because I didn’t feel like I had the time or money to spend in the company of others. My time was better spent working gigs and my money was better spent being put towards my overwhelming debt. One may be the loneliest number but it can also be the most frugal.
These days, my life is much different. While I am still an introvert, I do not constantly shy away from the opportunity to spend time in the company of others. The reduction in my debt has allowed me to be more comfortable telling close friends about the fact that I am in debt and in response, they have been considerate of this fact when we plan outings together. Mr. Pokémon and I have set up regular Friday afternoon walks which are always one of the best conversations I will have all week. Kelly Kapowski (a nickname for a new friend who is a dead ringer for Tiffani Amber Thiessen) and I often drink wine and chill on her couch. As I have mentioned previously, because I opened up to her, she has also felt comfortable telling me about her own challenges with debt. And for that, I have felt even less alone. These days, my life is much richer.
Lunar Do-Over Day 7: February 7th
1. How much did I spend today? – $0.00 – My fridge is now stocked and I had no immediate needs.
February Variable (food, gas, misc.) Budget Initial Balance: $463.77 February Variable (food, gas, misc.) Budget Remaining Balance: $339.37
2. What financial information have I learned to help me when I’m debt-free? – Have any of you read the blog, book, or musings of Jacob Lund Fisker? He is a Danish personal finance blogger who retired at 33 and is the author of “Early Retirement Extreme.” He argues that anyone (I think the caveat is anyone without debt) can become financially independent in five years. There is a Wiki page that summarizes his principles and strategies. I initially encountered his work almost ten years ago, the very first time I took stock of my debt. At the time, I admired what he had achieved but didn’t think it was applicable to my situation given how significant my debt was. I am now reading his work again, hoping to see what I might learn and apply so that “retiring” by 55 is a real option for me.
3. How have I lived abundantly? – I made a ton of kimchi fried rice for dinner. I know! I did this yesterday. But it was so good and I wanted it again. I have a reunion coming up in mid-April and I am supposed to be shedding the winter weight. Eh. I find that when I totally deprive myself, I am much more likely to snap and binge than if I am more moderate in my eating.
One of the great things about my 28 days of blogging in February is that it is forcing me to finish a lot of posts that have been lingering, half-finished, in my drafts…
Recently, I have tried dating again. Apps, online, being social, etc. I’ve been doing a little bit of everything. Dating is exhausting but can offer you a great deal of insight into what you value about yourself and other people. I think I had gone on my fourth date when I realized that I was far more confident with where I am at in life and what I have to offer a potential partner than I was a couple of years ago. A couple of years ago…
A couple of years ago, I met Dude Gentleman Avery. Gentleman Avery is incredibly smart, well-educated, funny, curious, engaging, and attractive. He is all the stuff. He has faults, and I could enumerate them, but to what end? Despite them, in spite of them, I love him very much. Unfortunately, mistrust arose early in our relationship as a result of our shared desire to “hide” from each other. While it would impolitic for me to speak for him, I can say that my desire to hide from him resulted from insecurity. I met Gentleman Avery in March of 2019 before I had even started this blog. At the time, my debt felt like it was crushing me and I could not see a way out. I felt like I had so little to offer someone. Conversely, while Gentleman Avery was divorced, he had gotten everything else “right” in life (divorce can also be “right” but I know it is a sore spot for him and not how he would characterize the experience). He was attractive, fit, had a great career, a great income, had paid off his $100,000.00+ professional school debt, and was generally in the prime of his life. He also liked me a lot. But I couldn’t understand it, couldn’t imagine how someone like him would want me, and even if he did, I couldn’t imagine he would after he knew how much debt I had. Why would a yacht seek an anchor?
And so I held him at arm’s length. Enjoying his company and intimacy, while always hiding a bit of myself and hoping I would somehow never have to share with him about the coins that go clink in the night. As you can imagine, over time, this became exhausting for both of us. Both of us hiding and unwilling to be entirely vulnerable with the other person. At different points we tried, I tried, to just be friends. Hoping that this amazing connection could be something if it couldn’t be everything. I dated other people. He dated other people. But it never quite worked out. There has always been this thing with him. This thing that makes you feel warm, excited, annoyed, and a bit crazy. When being friends didn’t work, I tried to cut him out of my life entirely. More than once. But he always found me. Always assured me that it wasn’t how our story ended.
So here we are, years later, both single and tentatively reaching out once again. I don’t know that our story will have a happily ever after. I don’t know that it works like that in real life. What I do know is that I’m not an anchor. And I’m done hiding.
Lunar Do-Over Day 6: February 6th
1. How much did I spend today? – $0.00 – As a result of my upbringing, I generally treat Sundays as a day for family and rest; with preparation at home for the upcoming week. Most Sundays, I don’t leave the house, and consequentially, don’t spend any money. Today was such a Sunday.
February Variable (food, gas, misc.) Budget Initial Balance: $463.77 February Variable (food, gas, misc.) Budget Remaining Balance: $339.37
2. What financial information have I learned to help me when I’m debt-free? – As I shared in my post earlier today, I am currently reading up on Roth IRAs and trying to decide whether opening a Roth IRA or pushing my debt goal even further this year makes more sense. Both choices are about the future but one is decidedly more long-term than the other.
3. How have I lived abundantly? – I made a ton of kimchi fried rice for dinner. Kimchi can be expensive but I bought it fresh, whole, and bagged at my local HMart rather than in a jar. This means I had to spend time chopping it up but it was worth it. I love fermented dishes and Kimchi always makes my meals feel a bit more extravagant than they are.