32 – Reflections on Life

So currently my blog is called Debt Free 32 – ONE MAN’S MISSION TO GET RID OF 45159.35 OF DEBT.
I may be renaming it in the near future. The style of this post is more raw from the heart vs my standard super logical approach. I’m turning 32 in less than 2 weeks.


What thoughts are associated with 32?
Reflection for one. Relationships, loved ones lost at an early age. Completion of High School, each of my three college degrees, the incredible amount of progress I’ve made over the years with my personal fitness. Moving 1500 miles away to Dallas without a clue of fully knowing what to expect. Six months of applying to jobs  in a career where my passion was dead but just did because I that’s what I spent a half decade doing. Surely nothing wrong with that strategy right?+ Struggles with paying back a debilitating amount of Student Loan debt proportional to my income, five figures of interest accruing over the years. Interviews where I had a sinking feeling in my stomach that this job is going to be like torture. An MBA graduate at 24 there I was interviewing for a job paying $36k with no room for advancement and trying to sound jazzed about it. Almost getting a job paying over $50k a year only to have the HR people tell me they weren’t hiring for the next 3 months.

Then…. I reached a tipping point. NO LONGER would I let debt paralyze me. I’m intelligent,  maybe limited at times anxiety and overanalyzing situations where people are busy or don’t connect with me…. but…. Other people my age have been able to get out of debt. A long time watcher of the Suze Orman show since the early 2000s I saw their stories each week along with people who had a much deeper hole to get out of. I only had $47k of student loan debt. Some people have six figures and work as a barista at Starbucks. One guy on Suze’s show went to school to become a pilot. Things didn’t work out and he had $200k of debt making less than $20 per hour.

What advice would I give to myself? Move. GTFO Long Island. Too expensive to live, staying with your parents because you can’t afford to be on your own is not good for your emotional and mental health. Being in place where your neighbors stare at you 60% of the time going in and out of the house is crazy. Having shootings just a mile away from where you live and gas stations robbed at gunpoint is crazy. Seeing your folks pay $9k/yr in taxes on each of two houses each year is crazy. The amount of stress most people have and all the gang activity is crazy. DON’T be status quo. DON’T get stuck working that job you only took as a temporary measure. DON’T be the 30 year old guy who works at the video store and still lives with mom and dad because they never strived for anything else in life.

As far as things TO DO. DO invest in yourself both mind and body. DO make friends of the caliber you think will enhance your life not take away from it. DO invest at an EARLY AGE. DO be a contrarian and value investor, the media uses people as pawns in ways, when the stock market is tanking that’s the best time to invest (I would’ve doubled my money if I followed this advice). DO diversify and avoid expensive fees from financial advisors. DO listen to people smarter than you who have turned their lives around.

Last but not least…. 32 is still really young. I was chatting with someone on a dating app who is… Wait for it…. 57 years of age. Great guy, in awesome shape, established and very handsome. Just practically a guy who is probably going to retire in the next 5 years vs me having 30 left. If he was in his 40s sure but technically he is older than my mom and almost as old as my dad were he still living.

Ric Edelman has predicted many of us who are alive now will live to over 140 year due to advances in science and medicine. I don’t know about that but even if we shift closer to 100… Still a long time.
My main message to my readers / friends who read this is….

Embrace life. Don’t get stuck so much in thoughts that you forget to enjoy all the wonderful experiences out there. Many things are temporary in life including debt. Keep calm, smile, enjoy being single or with that special man or woman in your life. Be happy for who and what you are.

That’s all I got for now. Happy Sunday! 🙂

Frugality vs Earning More / Getting My Emotions Out

One of my primary approaches to getting out of debt has been being frugal. I see this as more relevant over the short term versus the long haul.

I’d like to start off with a quote I found a book by one of my mentors, Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach you To Be Rich fame.

To live a richer life, spend extravagantly on the things you love… as long you cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t.

I am by definition a very frugal person. I also realize that all the cost-cutting in the world doesn’t help me simply aren’t earning enough to get by.

Ramit has adopted what he refers to as CEO strategy:
Cut costs + Earn more + Optimize your spending

We cut costs by using coupons from restaurants.com, buying when items are on sale or clearance, and of course shopping around in general. I’m working on the earning more part for myself.  Last year I joined Ramit’s Earn1k course, did a few jobs on the side and earned about $600 between cleaning office buildings while my friend who runs a cleaning business was on vacation and testing an iPhone app for a very friendly couple from Arizona.  Not quite enough to cover what I paid for the course, but it was something.

One of pre-exercises is a to write down 50 ideas on how one can earn income on the side. I came up with a list then deleted it because I questioned how serious I was about implementing the ideas.  The top ones for me include Blogging, Research and Technical Support.  If I can write about a topic people are interested in and make 100/week off it or more it would allow me to get close to my goal much, much faster.  15k after 3 years along with the real-world experience having gone through the process.  What I write here is mostly ‘shooting from the hip’, without a specific purpose in mind.  Changing it to a more structured / polished format while keeping true to my voice and the message really wouldn’t add that much time to the process and get more people interested in this site.

My biggest challenge here is being good at something to the point where I feel I am good enough to get paid for it.  Selling myself short some would say, but I am a harsh critic and am pretty transparent when I don’t believe in a product or service.

Another component of the course is exposing yourself to new ideas.  As an MBA student I was exposed to new ideas relevant to business and marketing all the time.  After graduating, not so much.  I let others voices, complaints and life situations overpower my own.  Then got saddled with debt and lost sight of the big picture.  I will give it my all, but never ever will I let the feeling of being in a dead-end job crush my personal spirit and drive.

In order to be the best, you need to learn from the best.  The process of figuring out who is good vs who sucks and is a total waste takes time.  In 2000 at the tender age of 16  and making 5.15/hr I read a book by Robert Kiyosaki called Rich Dad, Poor Dad.  I read the book as though it was gospel.  My first exposure to business outside of college.  Looking back though, I really think he viewed the people who worked for a business and not running their own as inferior.

I’ve had a bunch of bad experiences with money /  business.  This is almost a part 2 of Ground Zero – My Challenges Getting it out here, once and one time only:

  • In college…2 days of a horrible telemarketing internship.  Reading a script to help companies save on their telecommunication costs.
  • Also…having a peer of mine push Quixtar along with his religious views on me.  I didn’t take the bait and really felt like unless I was working in the MLM system.  He’s a wrestler / preacher, didn’t know I was a gay and we never spoke since.
  • Family members pushing PrePaid Legal.  “Oh brotha, you really need to get in on this now”.
  • An internship last month I almost did before getting a position and going to be given an undisclosed stipend.  I got three offers within 48 hours.  One goal was to contact local colleges and launch an internship program.  They wanted top talent essentially for free. Not a good vibe.  At 19 or 20 I would’ve agreed to it, but at 28 having been burned too many times in my life and not believing strongly in the services they offered.
  • At the time I had 10k in the bank (09) and switched careers.  Having a boss post a full-time position online, change it to part-time when I interviewed and per diem after the 2nd month.  I didn’t have the balls to start looking elsewhere immediately or tell him I needed more hours.  He kept saying he was working on a deal with local government to start a technology incubator and referred to me as an Entrepreneur-In-Training.  It never panned out, I was able to work my own hours, but was micromanaged to the core (keeping track of what I did in 15 minute intervals) and at no point did I feel like I was ever more than an assistant.  6 months of that and I was back to banking.  After getting sh*t pay, the grass started to look better on the other side.
  • General upbringing : I saw my non-working disabled father make all kinds of money mistakes which dug our family into a huge hole and have a blasé attitude about it all while my mother worked cleaning houses and in a nursing home to make ends meet. As a kid I begged him to get a job at least once a week for a decade and it never happened.
  • Losing money in the stock market – After my father died suddenly, I got around 40k from his life insurance policy. I was making about 10/hr  part-time when it happened and was given the money in small amounts over a 3 year period. Today I have little to show for it, as my monthly expenses and purchases eroded through it.  I do have some guilt since I never had that much money before in my life but try not to let it hinder me too much.  I used part of the money to fund a Roth IRA along with an individual stock tracking account that was in a penny stock (DPDW.OB) a coworker was going nuts about.  I thought it was worth the risk at the time but then ended up losing my shirt to the tune of about 50k my initial investment on the stock and ~20% in an index fund.  My risk tolerance went from moderate to minimal over a month when the housing market crashed in 2009.
  • Selling a 5 year old car that was working fine other than some hard shifts for 6k and seeing the dealership sell it for 10.

The point I’m making is bad things have happened to all of us.  The question is do you use that story to hold you back or instead use it to propel you forward.  My story might suck, but there are plenty of other people with worse stories.  It is part of me yes, but I don’t let it define me.

Getting to Senior

Interesting to see what people with my title but the word senior earn at my company.  The high end is about 15% more than my current earnings. Raises are given based on performance and not length of time.  Is it bad that I’m looking at my earnings potential less than a month in?  I don’t think so.  It’s not just about the money, it’s about the overall experience.  I’m happy right now and really don’t have any complaints.  When I started focusing on what other successful people were doing instead of myself, I started becoming overly critical and questioning my choices in life (not in a good way).  Now I focus more on what I do have control over and just enjoying each day regardless of what happens.  The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.  A friend of mine worked in sales and would still be doing work at 10pm.  Not my idea of a super life.

I quit working at a supermarket I was at for 5 years in 2006.  It closed for good just last month.  This picture explains it all.  Those who can’t compete go out of business.  You can be the best worker at the supermarket and still not get ahead in life.  Unions won’t always save you and often hold back top talent or artificially deflate their wages.

After I left, I was in banking for another 5 years, with essentially one promotion.  Part-time to full-time and then again to a supervisor.  I tried a couple times to advance, but was overlooked for someone else each time, even people hired after me with less education.  Those experiences made me realize a little cockiness, confidence, OCD and impatience is necessary to get ahead.  Playing it safe all the time can really hold a person back over the long-term.  I’m not where I want to be yet at 28, but I’m a step closer than I was a month ago.  This blog and the accountability it creates will help me stay on the mark.