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Debt Payoff Report – September 2017

Debt Payoff Report – September 2017

Did September even happen this year? I think I missed it. The only thing I remember about last month is that the Bank of Canada raised interest rates again. It’s always stressful when the amount of interest on your debt increases. It feels like you’re […]

I’m Still Living Paycheck To Paycheck

I’m Still Living Paycheck To Paycheck

I no longer have any credit card debt. I have an emergency fund. I’m paying down my six figure student loan debt and increasing my net worth at a decent pace. Even though I’ve made massive changes, you would never know it from my thoughts […]

Your Personal Finance Unicorn Does Not Exist

Your Personal Finance Unicorn Does Not Exist

When I started paying back my debt at a faster pace than the absolute minimum that my lenders required, I got really excited about it. In my eagerness I started talking to friends about this radical practice, thinking that they would be grateful for the life changing shift in perspective. These conversations, for the most part, didn’t go as smoothly as I expected. I shared links or stories I’d heard, but there weren’t many lightbulb moments where someone decided that they could change their finances too.

I realized that it wasn’t the lack of information that was keeping them committed to mediocrity, it was the excess of information.

When we’re younger, all we ask is ‘why?’ Why is the grass green? Because grass has a pigment called chlorophyll that absorbs sunlight. Why? Because it needs to absorb energy to grow. Why?

Now we say ‘but..’ But how do you save? Live on less than you earn. But how do you live on less than you earn? Reduce your expenses or earn more. But why would you make all of those sacrifices? So you can have the freedom to choose to leave your job. But why would you want to leave your job?!  

We still question everything, but we no longer do it to learn. We question because we’re trying to justify our current existence. We’re searching for the ‘gotcha’ moment: See! I knew it couldn’t be done!

If it can’t be done, if it’s impossible, then the fact that we haven’t done it yet ourselves isn’t a reflection on us. We can abdicate our responsibility for our own lives completely and blame external factors for our lack of progress.

The Paradox Of Personal Finance Case Studies

Logically it might seem that the more information we have about successful people, the easier it would be to replicate their success. In reality, every detail about a given person’s finances or lifestyle is an opportunity to reject their knowledge based on any one of their perceived advantages.

We could review the finances of every successful person on the planet and discount each one of their experiences for some reason or another. Maybe they were able to graduate debt free because of several scholarships. Maybe a small inheritance allowed them to put a down payment on a rental property. Maybe their parents let them live at home while they started their own business.

We can get so caught up in picking out the one factor that gave them an advantage over us, that we don’t see the big picture. Instead of trying to find a role model in something, we look for one in everything. Rather than reviewing advice from a variety of sources and applying the relevant pieces to ourselves, we search for that one person who is exactly like us.. our personal finance unicorn.

By the time we get through the preliminaries of outlining the ideal personal finance doppelgänger case study that would convince us that financial success is possible, it’s like we’ve constructed an overly ambitious dating ad.

Must live in a high cost of living area, not be extremely frugal, have pets, enjoy equipment-intensive sports, make an income below six figures, and save 50% of it.

The problem with this approach is finding someone who fits all of these categories, and then not finding another attribute about them, a deal breaker, that will cause us to scrap the whole thing.

Oh, but this person doesn’t like Will Ferrell. How could I possibly take financial advice from someone who doesn’t like Will Farrell? Nothing they say would ever apply to me in a meaningful way!

Your Personal Finance Unicorn Does Not Exist

If you find yourself pointing out someone’s advantages or choices as a dismissal tactic, try being brutally honest with yourself. Are you really interested in learning something, or are you just trying to give yourself an excuse to continue being mediocre?

You’re not going to find someone out there who is exactly like you. Your personal finance unicorn does not exist. There are horses and narwhals though, and you can piece them together in a metaphorical hybrid patronus. That has to be better than spending your life looking for a unicorn that will never appear, or not searching at all.

Financial Ruin Is Not Empowering

Financial Ruin Is Not Empowering

If you think your finances are entirely ruled by careful consideration and freewill, riddle me this: Why does consumer research show the exact opposite? Why do marketing budgets show the exact opposite? Why are lenders making serious cash hand over fist? The emotions behind spending […]

The Debt Bonfire Method

The Debt Bonfire Method

Despite what many personal finance experts will tell you, there is no debt repayment method that fits every situation for every person. The ‘do whatever works best for you’ model isn’t going to sell any books though.. I’m not a personal finance expert, so I’m […]

I’ll Never Combine Finances With My Spouse

I’ll Never Combine Finances With My Spouse

One of the major questions for couples as they contemplate a future together is whether to combine finances or keep things separate. I say any system that works best for you and your partner is valid. The end.

Just kidding. I’ve got a LOT more to say about relationships and finance. More on that later, but first.. let’s drag up the dysfunctional money memories from my childhood!

I grew up in the typical nuclear family – toxic adherence to rigid gender roles included. My father earned (and controlled) the money, and my mother.. didn’t. The next massive financial fight was always just around the corner. Both of my parents constantly complained about their relationship, each other, and money. They were prime candidates for divorce but followed the marital mantras of ’till death do us part’ and ‘staying together for the kids.’ My mother couldn’t leave because she had no money and no career as a result of the patriarchal nonsense that required her to leave the workforce to raise children. My father couldn’t leave because he was concerned about being bankrupted by child and spousal support.

I, however, could leave, and I counted down the days. When I did finally move out, I swore to myself that I would never be dependent on another person for anything, ever. Seriously, never ever. I cannot understate the need for independence that was deeply embedded in my soul as a child. That time I was administered general anaesthetic for dental surgery and was required to have an escort home? Pure dread. Even though I trust my partner completely, something deep in my psyche shrivels up at the mere thought of being helpless.

My bank accounts and my retirement savings, while a sign of immaturity to some financial ‘experts,’ are a major source of comfort for me and I’ll give them up on my death and not a moment before.

I don’t want you to get the wrong impression – my mother and father both loved me and I loved and enjoyed spending time with them.. separately. Together, they were a nightmare. My parents were an ever-present example of how combined marital finances (and the patriarchy) can go horribly wrong. Naturally, I did what any reasonable child would do – the complete opposite!

My partner had similarly dysfunctional experiences with money in his formative years, and as a result a matching need for independence emerged in him. As children we witnessed the epic failure of ‘conventional wisdom’ and ‘tradition,’ so we’ve never put much stock in any of it. Marriage? Meh, we’re good. Changing my last name to his? Not on my watch. Gendered distribution of work? Hard pass. Procreation? None for us, but thank you so much for asking.

By now you might be thinking that our relationship could devolve into complete anarchy at any moment. How could two people possibly be so independent and yet wholly invested in a partnership? You must be immature, delusional, or uncommitted! Far from it. Instead, we forged our own path. We communicated. (Imagine!) We shared our views on life and love and finances, early and often. We considered our own personalities and preferences. Above all else we respected each other’s needs, especially our mutual psychological need for independence. 

How’s all of this radical experimentation working for us? I’m glad you asked.

My partner and I have been dating for 5+ years, living together for about half that time, and are in a common law spousal relationship according to our local law although we’ve never felt the need to sign on the dotted line. We both cook, we both clean, we both do dishes and laundry and take out the recycling. We both have full-time jobs and mutual friends and common interests. We do nice things things for each other on a daily basis. Arguments are few and far between, and quickly resolved. We still have completely separate finances, and we’re still happy.

Even after all of my negative experiences with combined finances, and all of my positive experiences with separate finances, I’m not prepared to tell anyone else what they must do. Why? We are all different, and our relationships are all different!

You might have grown up in an environment where your parents kept individual accounts and behaved secretly with money. Maybe you’ve witnessed infidelities, arguments, or domestic violence. All of these experiences will shape your attitude towards money, and no one else has any right to tell you that your reactions to your experiences are invalid.

There are many different approaches to money, and the best part is exploring these approaches together and deciding on your own ideal financial management system. Don’t let anyone tell you the right or wrong way to structure any aspect of your relationship!

Ironically, proponents of separate and combined finances cited almost identical reasons!

Reason Combine! Separate! Comments
Commitment We commit to each other by embracing togetherness! We commit to each other by embracing independence! All of this sounds nice, doesn’t it?
Trust Trust means having no secrets! Trust means having freedom! You realize that your account setup is not a magical barrier against dishonesty either way, right?
Convenience It’s easier to combine everything! It’s easier to keep it separate! Whatever works!
Access Having access to joint accounts in an emergency is important! Having access to individual accounts in an emergency is important! Why not both?!
Communication Shared accounts means we talk about money. Separate accounts means we talk about money. As long as you’re talking, what’s the big deal?

Relationship or finance ‘experts’ will make their recommendations, but ultimately it’s up to you to decide. Combined accounts may not necessarily be the ideal setup for you, and this doesn’t make your relationship less valid than anyone else’s.

Combined finances are not a reliable indicator of relationship success. As my parents have already so helpfully demonstrated, you could have an outwardly stable marriage built on a rotting, crumbling foundation. You could also have a relationship that appears commitment-phobic but is actually a beacon of unity.

Combined finances are not a protection against infidelity, dishonesty, or divorce. Most of the statistics put the likelihood of divorce between 40-50%, so we all need to be realistic with ourselves and have a contingency plan in place for this very possible scenario. If someone chooses to have an affair or end the relationship, I hardly think a joint chequing account is going to slow them down!

Combined finances are not a universal sign of commitment. There are endless ways to demonstrate commitment in a relationship, and the setup of your finances is just one of them. My partner and I commit to each other every single day by staying when it would be fairly effortless for either of us to leave. There’s no joint account to split or children to consider. The fact that I wake up and he’s there, and I come home from work and he’s there, means more to me than a sheet of paper or a piece of jewelry ever will. Our daily actions are our relationship thermometer, not whether we share the same bank account.

Combined finances are not ideal for every combination of personalities. I track every transaction, obsessively. I could tell you down to the penny how much I spent on groceries last year, or what my net worth is. He prefers to spend based on his account balance and a loose, mentally calculated budget. He has a plan for his money, but doesn’t feel the need to wade into the daily details. Joint accounts would inhibit the way we naturally interact with money, forcing us to either accept one person’s system or adopt a monstrous hybrid in which neither of us would be satisfied.

Combined finances are not a buffer against arguments. Finances are one of the most common reasons cited for divorce and arguing about them can add unnecessary stress into your relationship. I can’t remember the last time we had a full-blown argument about money, except maybe last year when I got a little too enthusiastic about personal finance. Now I’m very cognizant of the glaze that settles over his eyes when I talk about detailed finances, and promptly change the subject. If your financial arrangement is transparent and keeps things running smoothly, don’t feel the need to rock the boat!

Other Perspectives On Relationships & Finance

Ava from Millennial Money Challenge posted about how her experience as a cult survivor shaped her need for financial independence. Ava grew up in an environment where almost all of the women were financially dependent on a man or on the group for survival. Not surprisingly, these early interactions with money influenced Ava to keep independent accounts!

You might argue that if we had a stronger relationship, we would trust each other enough to combine finances. I disagree. I think it’s because of our strong relationship that we’re fine with a setup that is outside of the traditional ‘norm’. Ava, “Hell Yeah We Keep Our Money Separate When Married!” Millennial Money Challenge, August 17, 2017.

Luxe from The Luxe Strategist posted some commentary from her husband that I thought was so on point, it was tough to pick only one quote.

Given that we are transparent, share goals, and have a fair money arrangement, IT SIMPLY DOESN’T MATTER. – Teddy Luxband, “We Had Our Wedding: Does Our Money Have To Get Married, Too?” The Luxe Strategist, August 10, 2017.

Now, not everyone agrees! There are those out there who believe that married couples must combine their money.

I’m not here to judge, but to encourage my point of view to be seen in the proper light.  But, the number one reason to join your accounts is that when you get married you become one unit.  You, no longer exists, and all transactions become “our” or “we.”  “We will get our groceries.” and “Welcome to our house, we are glad you came.”  Your money is no longer roommates, but one unitJosh, “Why Married Couples Must Combine Their Money” Monkey Free Me, September 10, 2017.

You know how I feel about words like ‘must’ and ‘always,’ but I still think it’s important to consider a variety of perspectives!

How do you arrange your finances? Do you think couples should always keep their finances combined, or separate, or do you think it depends on the relationship?

The Map To Riches

The Map To Riches

Do you know where your money is going, from the time it comes into your life to the time it evaporates into thin air? (A short time, in my case!) I was inspired by Apathy Ends and Budget on a Stick to create a map […]

The Math Smackdown

The Math Smackdown

I may lose my personal finance membership card for this, but I think math needs to be smacked right off its lofty pedestal. I know the personal finance community is full of optimizers and math evangelists, but please bear with me. You can judge me in […]

Music That Fires Me Up About Money

Music That Fires Me Up About Money

When you’re in the weeds of a long term goal, like paying off six figures of student loan debt or saving enough money to reach financial independence, motivation is EVERYTHING. One of my key motivators is my FIRE (Financial Independence / Retire Early) playlist. There’s nothing like inspirational lyrics and pure swagger to crank up the heat.

Here are my favorite songs to keep me on the path to debt freedom and financial independence. There are some tunes that are on everyone’s money playlists (Money by Pink Floyd is an obvious one), so I left those out to mix it up a bit. Feel free to comment with the songs I missed!

10. 9 To 5 – Dolly Parton

I remember watching the movie 9 to 5 when I was younger, before I really knew what the 9 to 5 lifestyle, or feminism, meant.

9 to 5
Yeah, they got you where they want you
There’s a better life
And you dream about it, don’t you?

It’s a rich man’s game
No matter what they call it
And you spend your life
Putting money in his wallet

After many of my own “spare me the women’s lib crap” moments, I’m really picking up what Dolly’s laying down. Maybe not the rat poison or kidnapping, but I’ve definitely fantasized about making some serious changes in the workplace.

9. Bitch Better Have My Money – Rihanna

This is the song I play leading up to every payday. You know the feeling.

Bitch better have my money!
Bitch better have my money!
Pay me what you owe me
Bitch better have my (bitch better have my)
Bitch better have my (bitch better have my)
Bitch better have my money!

Yes, I pretend that I’m a PIMP and my employer owes me money. I mean, close enough right?

8. Ride Wit Me – Nelly

When I’m feeling left out for turning down plans or the sacrificing starts to get to me, I throw this on.

Oh why do I live this way? (Hey, must be the money!)

You won’t believe how many people straight doubted the flow
Most said that I was a failure
But now the same motherfuckers asking me for dough
And I’m yelling: “I can’t help ya”

In a strange way, Nelly puts that main goal of financial freedom back in my mind. For me freedom won’t mean paying cash for a first class ticket to party in NYC with Courtney B, but being able to choose if I continue working or not. Also, a nice piece in there about ignoring the haters.

7. Money Maker – Ludacris ft. Pharrell

Stand next to this money? Yes please.

Shake your money maker
Like somebody ’bout to pay ya
Don’t worry about them haters
Keep your nose up in the air

You know I got it
If you want it, come get it
Stand next to this money
Like, eh, eh, eh

I like to pretend that the money maker they’re talking about is my brain. This song was also featured in the movie The Big Short in one of my favorite clips – Michael Burry hustling the banks. Let’s be real though, that whole movie was one massive favorite clip. Mind on my money, money on my mind.

6. Work Bitch – Britney Spears

This song is my equivalent of Jillian Michaels yelling ‘unless you puke, faint or die, keep going!’

You want a hot body? You want a Bugatti?
You want a Maserati? You better work bitch
You want a Lamborghini? Sippin’ martinis?
Look hot in a bikini? You better work bitch
You wanna live fancy? Live in a big mansion?
Party in France?
You better work bitch, you better work bitch
You better work bitch, you better work bitch
Now get to work bitch!
Now get to work bitch!

Replace Bugatti, Maserati, and Lamborghini with zero debt, maxed out retirement accounts, and financial freedom. I’m working on it, bitch!

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5. Started From The Bottom – Drake

This brings up so many amazing feelings of watching the #debtfreecommunity on Instagram crush their debt. Everyone is so supportive and seeing the team come together like that fires me up.

Started from the bottom now we’re here
Started from the bottom now my whole team fucking here

The whole team fucking here!

4. Crabbuckit – K-OS

If you haven’t heard of crab mentality, it refers to the strange behavior of crabs in a bucket, pulling each other back down when one tries to escape. Even if doing so dooms them all. It’s the epitome of the ‘if I can’t have it, neither can you’ mindset. This is my stay in your own lane, don’t worry about the haters song. They’re just trying to pull me back into that damn bucket and I’m not about that bucket life.

No time to get down ’cause I’m moving up
No time to get down ’cause I’m moving up
No time to get down ’cause I’m moving up
Ah, ha, check out the crabs in the bucket

Don’t let the crabs pull you back in, and don’t let yourself drag anyone else down.

We can all win.

3. Random – G-Eazy

You know I’m not into excuses. I’m not discounting privilege, but effort is undeniably part of the equation. I’ve seen people with immense privilege completely squander it, and people who started with nothing but barriers claw their way to the top. Don’t sell yourself short because you live in a high cost of living area, or have children, or whatever other excuse you’re using lately to not crush your goals. We can celebrate effort while we’re working to tear down systemic barriers – these are not mutually exclusive acts.

Imagine it, put the hours in and stayed passionate
Wasn’t blowin’ money, I was stacking it
Figured what the fuck I want to do in life and practiced it
Pay attention, none of this is happening by accident

This shit is not random

Thank you, G-Eazy. This shit is NOT random, and it is NOT happening by accident.

Make it work, make it happen.

2. Subdivisions – Rush

As a major Rush fan, I had to include at least one of their songs. There are so many to choose from but I think Subdivisions encapsulates all of the emotions that going counterculture can bring.

Some will sell their dreams for small desires
Or lose the race to rats
Get caught in ticking traps
And start to dream of somewhere
To relax their restless flight
Somewhere out of a memory
Of lighted streets on quiet nights

This is my anti-conformist anthem. Whenever I hear cliches like ‘you’ll change your mind’ or ‘that’s the way things have always been done,’ I throw on some Rush and all of the social dogma just fades away under Neil’s epic lyrics.

Okay, I lied. I couldn’t just pick one Rush song..

Working Man

I get up at seven, yeah
And I go to work at nine
I got no time for livin’
Yes, I’m workin’ all the time

It seems to me
I could live my life
A lot better than I think I am
I guess that’s why they call me
They call me the working man

What would a FIRE playlist be without a weekday commute song?

Big Money

Big money goes around the world
Big money underground
Big money got a mighty voice
Big money make no sound
Big money pull a million strings
Big money hold the prize
Big money weave a mighty web
Big money draw the flies 

Money makes the world go round, for better or worse.

1. Sallie Mae Back – Dee-1

This is my six figure student loan debt theme song. Even though I’m Canadian and we don’t have Sallie Mae, this song is all of my feelings about student debt. Also, I finished paying the National Student Loans Service Centre Back does not have the same flair.

For those that doubted me yeah this is payback
And I been on my grizzy {​​yeah}​​ since way back
And no sir and I don’t drive a Maybach
But guess what I did?
I finished paying Sallie Mae back Mae back
I finished paying Sallie Mae back Mae back
I finished paying Sallie Mae back Mae back
I finished paying Sallie Mae back Mae back

I’m thinking about recreating this video when I finish paying mine off.. stay tuned.

What are your motivation songs?