My income…for now

I just finished reconciling my March 2022 unbudgeted spending and paying my April 2022 bills and was pleasantly surprised. As I explained in my April student loan balance update, I expected my April student loan payment to be significantly less due to unbudgeted spending in March. While this was the case, it was still a very significant payment and something I would have struggled to make last year with any degree of unbudgeted spending. The reason for this difference is obvious, and now that the February rose has withered away (I’m secretly a country music fan), it’s time to talk about it…my income.

I have procrastinated talking about my current income thus far because it has fluctuated so significantly from month to month this year. Between starting work at Organization C in mid-January and transitioning to part-time work at University B in February, March was the first month where I had some idea what my monthly income will be…at least through June when my temporary contract at University B ends.

My March 2022 net income was $5603.39. And that isn’t quite correct because the first pay period at University B was lumped in with my vacation leave payout and I didn’t bill all hours worked for the second pay period. However, this should be pretty close.

This net income is why I was able to pay $4050.00 in March (my fixed and variable costs were less than $1,600 in February) and why even in a month where I spent significantly more, I was still able to scrape together a decent monthly debt payment.

There really isn’t too much more to say. I don’t want to squander this period of increased income so I am really trying to buckle back down for April. However, traveling with others (I’m hanging out with my best friend again) makes that difficult as you are not fully in control of spending decisions. That being said, my best friend is pretty frugal and I plan to be honest with her about my financial goals for the year. I feel like she will be supportive.

“It must have been an oversight on our end.”

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.

Note: Vacation payouts are taxed at a significantly higher rate than regular pay.

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?

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.

January 2022 – Student Loan Balance Update

If you read my 2021 Financial Review, then there isn’t much to see here. Well, that’s not exactly true… To the numbers!

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

December 1, 2021 – Student Loan Balance(s): $91,622.63

January 1, 2022 – Student Loan Balance: -$88,878.54

Total Payments: $3,196.74

Net Difference: $2,744.09

So the first thing to note is that soul-crushing interest is back. Okay, okay, the first thing to note is that the table is gone. With only one student loan, it seemed to make a great deal more sense to just take a screenshot of my account since it includes all of the pertinent information. The second thing to note is that soul-crushing interest is back. Also, the Biden Administration has decided to extend the student loan payment and interest forbearance on federal student loans until May 2022 despite saying that there would be no additional payment or interest rate forbearances. Obviously, I’m not at all upset about it. Ha! Lol, can you imagine? I am clearly a upset about it. Or rather, I am upset about how I timed my refinance. However, I am really happy that our lawmakers are continuing to prioritize student loan relief for millions of Americans. So, I’ll get over myself.

I’ve stated ad nauseam that December was a huge month. No need to rehash it here. With uncertainty about what my transition at University B will look like and my new job not starting until later this month, January is going to be an odd and unpredictable month in terms of income. In my 2022 Financial Goals post, I asked you all for your help in deciding how I should approach my student loan debt repayment in 2022. If you have not already voted in the attached poll, please do so expeditiously! If you are feeling a bit more chatty, leave me a comment! For now, I will focus on paying at least $2,000.00 in student loan debt payments this month…

Misc. Income Report (Earned through 12/24/21): $100.00

Super late…just doing it for posterity at this point…

For the week ending 12/24/21, I worked one shift for a chef friend (he contacted me just before my last interview with my new job and I kinda said yes just to get him off the phone) 6.00 hours and earned $100.00 (gross: $100.00), resulting in no additional student loan payment. December has been a wildly expensive month, and as I have paid off PSL4, I’ve decided to just sit on any additional cash until the new year when I start targeting my one remaining refinanced student loan.

While I like my chef friend and want to support his business, it is unlikely I will work for him again in the future. No matter how many hours I work for him, he consistently pays me $100.00. Some of these events, like this one, are a significant way away from my home; this event was an hour’s drive one way. Additionally, because I am very professional, he constantly makes me the event captain and has had me run entire events for him, including picking up supplies and dropping off staff, without any additional remuneration. He is also consistently late to his own events which means I am sometimes sitting in my car for a half-hour or more waiting for him to show up. Even if it weren’t possible for me to get a significantly higher rate for my food service labor on the open market (even the golf club gig paid more), his lack of professionalism has been a reason I wanted to end this professional relationship for some time. The new job just gave me an excuse.

Withholding Disclaimer: The amount I am setting aside in savings is entirely random at this point and really depends on what the income is and whether or not it was subject to prior state and federal withholding. I believe I have more than enough in non-emergency fund savings to cover any potential tax liability. I will make any necessary adjustments early next year after I do my taxes. I actually took about $478.46 from my non-emergency fund savings account to pay off PSL4. I still believe my tax liability for the past year should be covered but any future gigs will probably see me setting aside a much larger amount in savings to cover for this withdrawal. For now, I regret nothing.

I got a new job!

If you read my Misc. Income Report (Earned through 12/17/21): $243.01 post, then you might have known this was coming. If not, now you know!

For the past few months, it has been quite obvious that I have been frustrated with my boss and compensation at University B. In fact, I seriously thought about quitting and only backed away from that decision after I realized I would lose all of my employer matches to my 403b contributions as I had yet to meet the three-year vesting date. I was frustrated, a bit depressed, and felt stuck but I was planning to ride it out until July of 2022. How quickly things can change…

The week before Thanksgiving, a colleague and friend reached out to tell me that they had been made aware of a role with a non-profit for which they thought I would be a good fit. I reviewed the role and not only was my educational experience exactly what they were seeking but my work experience also matched up neatly with what the organization stated were its’ future objectives. Unlike most instances in which I would piddle around and ultimately not end up applying, this time, I invested significant time in writing a very tailored cover letter, updating my resume, and getting feedback about both from others. And it paid off.

The head of the organization reached out to me the week after Thanksgiving to set up an initial interview. I was then offered a second interview with a larger swathe of the staff for the following week. And this week, I was invited to a follow-up meeting with the head of the organization that was ultimately so they could feel out my continued interest and make me a verbal offer. I received a written offer less than an hour later.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I cannot begin to explain how excited I am. As I have hinted at in all my posts this month, this is a career-defining opportunity as it means a significant increase in income (+$26,000.00) and positions me well, in terms of job title and responsibilities, for my next role.

I know that this is a personal finance blog and I owe you all the gory details as to what this means for my student loan debt repayment plans, and that post is coming, but for now, I just want to be ecstatic.

As always, THANK YOU all for your company and support along this journey.

Misc. Income Report (Earned through 12/17/21): $243.01

The last misc. income report went up almost a week late and this one is going up a day early…why? Well, December has been a busy month in AfroPennyland. And beyond the usual busyness that accompanies the holidays, my birthday, the end of the semester, etc., I have also been…interviewing. I know! Things have been moving along a LOT faster than I anticipated when I initially put myself out there and there is a chance I will have news as soon as…later today. So anyone who happens to read this between now and then, please send all the good vibes and good thoughts.

For the week ending 12/17/21, I was paid for one (1) shift at the golf club for a total of 15.70 hours (yes, this was ONE shift on a Sunday…I was exhausted and tired when I went to work the following Monday and this is part of the reason I had to step away from the golf club), and earned $243.01 (gross: $274.75), resulting in an extra student loan payment of $243.01. This should be the last paycheck I receive from the golf club and it’s a pretty important one in terms of my student loan debt repayment journey. In addition to the potential news I shared above, there should also be an update about Private Student Loan 4 (PSL4) later today. PSL4 is the only student loan I have remaining that wasn’t included in my refinance last month and paying it off was one of my 2021 Financial Goals…

As I hinted at in my December 2021 Student Loan Balance(s) update post, December will be an eventful month.

Withholding Disclaimer: The amount I am setting aside in savings is entirely random at this point and really depends on what the income is and whether or not it was subject to prior state and federal withholding. I believe I have more than enough in non-emergency fund savings to cover any potential tax liability. I will make any necessary adjustments early next year after I do my taxes.

Misc. Income Report (Earned through 12/10/21): $132.24

This one is almost a week late and really I’m posting it for posterity at this point…

For the week ending 12/10/21, I was paid for one (1) shift at the golf club for a total of 8.25 hours, and earned $132.24 (gross: $144.38), resulting in an extra student loan payment of $132.24. As I shared in a previous post, my time at the golf club has come to an end but they are on a delayed, weekly pay cycle so I will (have by this point) receive one more check before the end of the year.

Withholding Disclaimer: The amount I am setting aside in savings is entirely random at this point and really depends on what the income is and whether or not it was subject to prior state and federal withholding. I believe I have more than enough in non-emergency fund savings to cover any potential tax liability. I will make any necessary adjustments early next year after I do my taxes.

Misc. Income Report (Earned through 12/03/21): $106.27

This will be a quick one…

For the week ending 12/03/21, I worked one (1) shift at the golf club for a total of 6.60 hours, and earned $106.27 (gross: $115.50), resulting in an extra student loan payment of $106.27. This was my lowest earning gig/misc. income week in some time but something is better than nothing, eh?

As I have stated several times now, the income I am setting aside in savings is entirely random at this point and really depends on what the income is and whether or not it was subject to prior state and federal withholding. I believe I have more than enough in non-emergency fund savings to cover any potential tax liability. I will make any necessary adjustments early next year after I do my taxes.

December 2021 – Student Loan Balance(s) Update

If you read my Misc. Income Report (Earned through 11/26/2021), then you already know that December is shaping up to be an interesting month and that my December update was going to look a lot different from previous updates. If you didn’t read that post, then now you know. To the numbers!

AccountDebtMin. PaymentInterest Rate
Private Student Loan 4-$2,558.63$45.403.625%
PenFed Refinanced Student Loan-$89,064.00$636.763.500%

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

November 2021 – Student Loan Balance(s): -$92,998.55

December 2021 – Student Loan Balance(s): -$91,622.63

Total Payments: $1,708.09

Net Difference: $1,375.92

A couple of things… First, I went back and forth about how to structure my new chart. I know folks like it when I include the balances when I first began blogging on July 1, 2019 but there just isn’t a neat and intelligible way to do that. (Umm this is very much a challenge so if your Excel game is strong and you think there is a better way to present this, let me know). Also, part of the benefit of paying down loans and refinancing is a much simpler financial picture. As I very much want to embrace that simplicity, I have opted to just list my beginning student loan balance above the monthly reporting.

Second, while November wasn’t great for student loan debt repayment, it was also better than the net difference is making it look. As I explained in my post on refinancing, not only was the refinanced loan for slightly more than the current balances were at the time, due to the payment dates, I still had to make my November 1st payments. What this means is that my refinanced balance is actually a couple of hundred dollars lower than what appears above. Ultimately, this is fine as any overpayment will either be refunded to me in the form of a check or credited to me by PenFed if the check is sent to them.

Third, by this point, I know that you know that I make my largest monthly payment on the 1st of the month when I get paid at University B. What do you think are the chances that my minimum payment on my refinanced loan and my extra payment of Private Student Loan 4 on December 1st pushed my overall student loan balance below $90,000.00?

Private Loan Student 4 (PSL4) Update

This one is trying to hang on but I will not be thwarted! Paying PSL4 off this year would actually have me set to achieve ALL of my 2021 Financial Goals. Okay, maybe not all but at least all the targets. I threw a huge chunk of cash at this loan today and less than $1,000.00 remains. For that reason, I have decided that this loan WILL be dispatched this month.

Gig Misc. Income Update

Net Misc. Income Goal for November: $200.00
Net Misc. Income Actual for November: $1,242.38
Difference: $1,042.38
Net Misc. Income Goal for December: $600.00

November was a good month for misc. income. I know what you are thinking, “How is it possible that it was such a good month but your total payments didn’t crack $2,000.00?” It was a confluence of things but between a slightly more expensive month, a modest November 1st payment, and some income being set aside for December holiday shopping, not all of my misc. income made it to my student loan balances this month. In December, I hope to continue striking a good balance between hustling and LIVING. On that note…

Part-Time Job Update

I’ve put in my two-week notice at the golf club. I know! I didn’t even make it a month. However, I got sick the week of Thanksgiving and realized that unlike gig work, which I don’t have to take when I am sick or tired, I have to show up at the golf course for every scheduled shift. Which means I went to work when I was still feeling sick instead of staying at home. I realized this was not in my long-term best interest and sent my notice.

Overall, November was a pretty good great month. December has the ability to change my financial future in a major way…I’m sending out good vibes that it does just that.