Every debt-crushing financial superhero needs an origin story and for the purpose of this blog, this is mine. I was raised in a small town in Minnesota and lived a comfortable, yet modest childhood. We generally went on one vacation each year and I had the privilege of a private school education through High School. Money was rarely discussed with me and for that reason, I was never really sure of our situation. I had no idea how to handle money when I moved off to college at 18, and looking back at that year now I am mortified at my behavior.
From the time I got my own apartment at 20 and had to learn how to pay for my own lifestyle, I frequently listened to the advice of Dave Ramsey. I first read “The Total Money Makeover” while I was working 12-hour overnight shifts at a factory, punishing myself for two failed years of pursuing a college degree in something I had no passion for. I lived on a budget that year and swore that one day soon I would be debt free.
As my year of factory work passed the 6-month mark, I began to think about what I wanted for the rest of my life. I envisioned a future where I could work for part of the year as needed and travel for the rest of the time, and spent the majority of my time at work researching career fields and ways I could make it happen. At the end of 2009, I was a debt free 21-year-old and my net worth was over $12,000.
That Fall, I re-enrolled in college, this time for Accounting, and forgot almost everything about the “debt is dumb, cash is king” life I had lived the previous year. I worked full-time the majority of the 5 years it took me to complete my degree. Even though I earned $25,000 per year, I was spending over $35,000 including my tuition and financing the deficit with student loans. By the time I graduated in 2014 at the ripe age of 26, I had $50,000 in student loans, $3,000 in credit cards, and a $10,000 car loan (because I was about to graduate, had a job offer, and “deserved” it). I truly believed I was good with money and somehow smarter than the system, but it took a bit of an income crisis at the end of 2016 for me to realize that Dave Ramsey was right all along.
After graduation, I moved into a house with some friends in Minneapolis and continued to live without regard for my financial future. I was earning more than I ever had, and spending it as fast as it came in. My first student loan payment came due, and of course I selected the Graduated repayment option, which meant lower payments at the beginning and a higher overall interest cost. Being an accountant, I was obviously smart enough to see that annual raises and promotions would help me to get out of debt eventually (right?). I had missed the opportunity to start my post-college life with a much-needed behavior change; I had forgotten the dreams I had while working long nights in that factory 5 years earlier.
I met Alyssa in the Fall of 2014 and she graduated with her Bachelor’s degree the following Spring. As I began to envision a life together with her, all my dreams of a future of travel and financial freedom began to come back. We moved into an apartment together in August 2015. She was instrumental in me pursuing my goal of becoming a CPA and willing to sacrifice, knowing the amount of time it would take away from us in our first year living together. We decided to pursue our shared goal of moving away from Minnesota as soon as I finished my last exam, and we moved to Colorado in the Fall of 2016, where I accepted a job offer doing taxes for a great firm; the first steps of the dream behind us.