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This is the way the world ends


When I started blogging here, I would dream about the final debt payoff post, with how many stupid images I’d include with confetti and party hats, how loudly I’d celebrate our accomplishment.  I considered calling up Dave Ramsey to do the debt-free scream, an idea I quickly abandoned when I remembered I’m not much of a screamer.  (Which means I’ll probably never get on The Price is Right either. Too bad because I’d slay the competition on that show.)  But I still thought I could throw a virtual party here and celebrate with the community that we had crossed the finish line.

T.S. Eliot wrote the depressing poem, “The Hollow Men,” with its oft-quoted, famous final stanza:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper

Officially, it was November 15, 2013 when Emily and I set the 2-year debt payoff goal in this post, where we said we’d be debt-free by December 31, 2015.  So I thought I should come back one more time to update everyone on this goal.  But I’m going to be a jerk and make you suffer through some other updates before I give you the answer.  (OK fine, if you want to skip the updates, scroll down to the next divider line.)


You’ll remember that we decided to relocate to Silicon Valley for a new job this summer.  I predicted my loan payoff would slow down as we shifted money to pay for housing here but that my stock compensation and retirement contributions would go way up.  This has turned out to be exactly true.  We are living in a tuna can apartment that costs over $3000 a month and I cringe every time we pay rent.  But we also spend a little less on home maintenance, and costly hobbies like woodworking and gardening have disappeared too.  On the whole, however, our cost of living is way higher primarily due to rent.

Fortunately, my job is going well and my hopes for the long term financial boost are looking like they will work out well (depending on how the company does while I wait for my stock grants to vest).  I saw an anonymous internet thread where tech industry employees posted their age and net worth, and I was gobsmacked by the numbers these people reported.  For my age I am WAY behind these kids who come to work out here right out of school.  I’m talking about 26-27 year olds who are reporting net worth numbers in the $300,000 – $800,000 range.  Ridiculous.  I mean, it’s anonymous and who knows how accurate any of the reports were, and maybe there is selection bias where people with lower figures don’t bother reporting them, but the takeaway for me was that we could end up doing pretty well I stick around the industry a while, even if I’m part of the geriatric division.

The thing is, Emily and I have some values that may be a little different than people who are maximizing their net worth numbers. I really like my job and company.  But we’ve so far chosen for Emily to stay home with the baby. I don’t feel the obligation to put in all the extra hours and effort it might take me to advance in my job faster.  And we have really started to feel like raising our growing family within close proximity to their grandparents and other family members is something we would really like.  We have also realized that we feel somewhat like fish out of water in the Bay Area culture.  In general it feels like people are not too friendly here, often entitled, and overly focused on technology (meaning not very interesting).  While it’s ethnically diverse, it often feels like a nerd monoculture and the worst of everything you’ve heard about entitled millennial tech workers who can’t see beyond the end of their own smartphone is generally on point.  Someone told me they couldn’t fathom having more than one child because private school tuition for more than one child is too expensive.

I say all that to illustrate that although I really like my job and my company, and it stands to be a financial windfall eventually, we aren’t quite sure how long we can last out here.  In our desperation to get out of here, I have done a number of retirement calculations to find the lowest net worth figure I can accept at age 34, 35, 36, 37 that has a 95% chance of growing to a comfortable retirement nest egg.  (I actually created a detailed spreadsheet with historical average market returns and a statistical prediction model that runs hundreds of simulations and shows me the % likelihood our investments will hit a certain threshold by age 65. Leave a comment if you’d like a copy of it for yourself.)

On the other hand, I also stumbled on a concept known as Transition Theory that talks about the personal cycle of career change, and realized that the initial shock of a big change like this is common and it often takes about 6 months to start climbing out of the crisis and recovering to your previous level of personal satisfaction.  We just hit the 6 month point in the Bay Area and I do admit things are feeling a bit more comfortable here.  So maybe by the springtime, we’ll feel a sense of renewed purpose here and get settled in.

We also told you in May about our new family addition.  She is now a toddling 1 year old and doing great.  Everyone says kids are expensive but so far, we’ve found that the added expenses of having her around are more than offset by the fact that we hardly go out any more.  We used to spend quite a bit of money on restaurants and movies and activities with friends.  Now we spend it on diapers and wipes and the occasional Amazon movie rental.  I think it’s actually cheaper overall (for now), with the notable exception that we now need an extra bedroom, so maybe on the whole she really is pretty costly.

Finally, our real estate investments are finally starting to do ok.  I have one property (my original house) that is a total dog but is treading water while I pay down the balance.  The two other properties are doing quite well, generating about $600 and $800 per month in positive cash flow per month.  I could see cashing out of the Texas house in the spring but it’s probably smarter to try to hold on for a few years while Austin real estate values continue to increase.  Selling would net us maybe $60-$70k, but I think holding on for 2 more years could get that number to $100k or more.

Okay, so with all that, what is the status of our December 31, 2015 debt payoff goal?

Well, it’s good news and bad news.  Good news is that we are effectively there.  Meaning that we have enough money in the bank to pay off our remaining balance, although that would leave us with very little leftover.  Going into January, I am getting a decent cash bonus as well as a third paycheck next month, so our balances will grow in the new year.  I am also hoping for a couple thousand bucks in tax returns, but with the rental properties and all the changes this year, I have no idea what to expect.

The bad news is that the balance on my last student loan is still about $33,000 and I have been paying the minimum payment every month of $231.  So we aren’t really debt-free yet.  *Sad trombone*  🙁

We have been hoarding our cash for a few reasons:

  1. As renters we may move again soon and most places demand a 1-month deposit plus first month’s rent, meaning we shell out over $6000 to move in somewhere.  We are in an apartment right now but would like to find a house we can stay in permanently until we are ready to leave the area.  We are so sick of moving, but our apartment isn’t really a good fit for us.
  2. We are torn on whether we should try to buy a house out here.  Most houses within a reasonable commuting distance are completely outside our range ($1M+ for a completely outdated 60s-era 1200 sqft shack in need of major TLC).  To afford anything we’d need to move a ways away and get ready for a 1-hour commute or more.  We are considering it, and if we decide to buy a house here, we will need our savings to contribute to a down payment.  The housing market is white hot here, meaning it could be a good investment, and it could also be wise to get out of the renters cycle, which is also insane.  (One duplex we looked at last summer for rent had a single, half-hour open house and received over 12 applications.  We were not selected despite our healthy bank account and good credit.  Another landlord wanted to charge us a $300 deductible on ANY repair.)  At this specific time, we don’t expect to buy a house anytime soon.  Ask us next week, maybe we will change our minds.
  3. Our cars.  Our 14-year-old Lexus SUV (affectionately called Wrecks-us because of all the dents and dings) has now reached 220,000 miles.  It still runs like a dream but it feels risky and has needed a good amount of repairs, so we may need to consider replacing it soon.  We are completely opposed to another car payment and fine with driving a well-used car, but anything in reliable shape under 100,000 miles will still cost us close to $10,000 I’m guessing.
  4. Low interest rate.  The remaining $33,000 loan is locked in at 2.75%.  While I REALLY want to be debt-free, it’s such a low rate that it probably makes mathematical sense to keep the cash invested somewhere and pay the debt off slowly.  This is not a major decision factor as I’m more apt to choose the emotional well-being of wiping out the debt, but whenever I get close to making that decision, the low interest rate rears its head and asks, “Are you suuuuure?”


So we’ve come full circle.  We didn’t get the debt paid off by December 2015 like we meant to, but we did save just enough money to do so and have a bunch of equity in our Austin house we could liquidate if needed.  With the cash boost in Jan-Feb timeframe, we may decide to go ahead and pull the trigger.  But we may also decide to buy a house in California or may need to shell out $6k-7k to move in to a rental unit.

I don’t know if you’ll give us the credit for reaching our goal or not, but I consider this a miniature celebration.  Our financial peace and well-being is at an all-time high, as-is our net worth.  We have enough money to survive very comfortably.  My 2016 income is projected to be very high and our net worth should grow by almost 50% next year.  We constantly feel very fortunate, even lucky, to be in this position (in fact we are prone to Impostor Syndrome – feeling like we don’t really deserve this).  If I can manage to keep my job for another 3-4 years we will have enough money socked away that our retirement will be close to “guaranteed,” and we could choose do any job or opportunity that just pays the bills without worrying about savings.  If we choose to stay here 10 years, we’ll be millionaires and will never have to worry about money again, but we may lose our souls in the process.

I quoted Eliot above because this end to the story is much more of a whimper than the bang I expected.  But it is success nonetheless.  I expect this to be our final final final update unless maybe I come back to say that we sent the last student loan payment sometime.  Thanks to the community here for all your support and encouragement during the process.  Sorry that we couldn’t continue blogging the entire time but I’m happy we had the chance to come back and update you all.  I can tell you that without our experience here and the urging of the readers, we would not have made the decision to do the 2 year payoff plan and we’d still be $60-70k in debt.  So again, THANK YOU!, MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY NEW YEAR!


P.S.  There is the small matter of the 40-acre apple orchard I found for sale in Michigan…We’ve had the thought of putting in an offer.






Hey Everyone- I hope your week is off to great start!

I want to make an announcement to the community. At the end of this year, I’ve made the decision to stop blogging here. The community has been great to me and has helped me in extraordinary ways, and for that I am very thankful. However, my passion and interest in blogging has waned over the past few months to the point where continuing here would be unfair to the community, to someone who enjoys blogging and could take my place, and to myself.

I will post a year end summary the last Tuesday of the month as a wrap up for my time blogging here.

Thank you again to all those who have guided and supported me during my time here.

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving!


Im blogging from my phone so this will be quick.

Just wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving to all American readers and an equally happy holidays sentiment to those of you elsewhere in the world.

ill give more details Monday but we ended up all driving up to Utah for my dads last holiday here. It was a beautiful and family-filled day. Girls played with cousins, loved seeing snow(!), and eating good food. Here they are with their great grandmother!

imageI would love to show you another blast from the past – I found my dads undergraduate student ID!! It’s crazy he still has it! Only,I guess back in the day they didn’t care because his social security number is right on the front!! lol!! On my phone I can’t crop or edit as easily so no photo ID picture for you guys. Sorry!

Today we will spend the morning loading the moving truck (or really just supervising, as we’ve hired movers). It’s going to be a tough and emotionally charged day for all of us. Any good vibes, warm thoughts, or prayers for strength would be appreciated. This evening we will take the girls to see Christmas lights and tomorrow we hit the road back to Tucson. Expect a longer update on Monday.

I hope you all have a happy, healthy, and relaxing weekend and that you take some time to reflect on all your blessings this holiday season! Does a body good!!

Peace & Love,




Raising Awareness


It’s October. We all know what that means. Breast cancer awareness month, right? Pink everywhere!

Which is fantastic! We all know someone who has been affected by breast cancer.

But do you know what other “awareness” week is going on right now?

Frontotemporal degeneration awareness.


Frontotemporal degeneration. Fronto (as in the frontal lobe), temporal (as in the temporal lobe) degeneration (as in…degenerating).

So, I guess the cat’s out of the bag. This is what my Dad’s got.

It’s a terrible, dehumanizing, crippling disease. It destroys the very essence of the human being.

Right now there is no cure. Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, there aren’t even any treatments to slow progression (just meds to help manage side-effects, such as OCD-type qualities or anti-psychotics to help assuage delusions/hallucinations).

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert. I’ve read plenty, but we’re still relatively new to the disease as a whole, so I’m not going to spout off a lot of statistics at you. You can read about it for yourself. 

Initially I wasn’t even going to post anything. I’ve never revealed my Dad’s illness. But why suffer in silence? This dementia is the second most diagnosed dementia for people under the age of 60. And there is a serious lack of funding right now for it. Mainly because (I can’t help to think) no one has heard of it! What is it, even!? What does it do?

In short? It wreaks havoc. It causes the person’s thoughts and behaviors to change. It will likely force the diagnosed individual into early retirement (or could precipitate an untimely termination). It robs the person of his or her very essence, changing fundamental personality traits.

Frontotemporal degeneration awareness week spans from October 4-11. As you are inundated with breast cancer awareness messages in social media, maybe take a moment to think about this lesser known disease that is every bit as crippling and debilitating. This disease for which there is no chemotherapy or radiation treatment. For which those diagnosed are rarely seen as heroic; no imagery of warriors “battling” the disease. Instead, most are ostracized. Their odd patterns of behavior cause people to cut social ties, forcing them into an increasingly withdrawn, sad, and lonely world.

Given the closeness to home, you can bet that this is going to become something very near to my heart. As we get out of debt, I’d love to be able to start donating to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration to raise awareness and provide funds for research. With any luck, one day we’ll have medications to help slow the progression of this wretched disease. Seeing the physical and mental anguish it causes is nothing short of heart-breaking. Research is needed. So spread the word.

Hugs to all!

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” (source)

Weekly Update #24- Handling Stress


I hope everyone has had a great week.

I want to talk to today about how I and everyone else handles stressful situations- both financially and non-financially. This week has, for whatever reason, been particularly stressful for me with regards to work related items. Nothing too bad- just timing, in the sense that a lot hit me at once this week. Between starting projects up and closing old ones out, it created a perfect storm of having to do it all at once.

Adding to this, late last week I got a bill from my dentist. It appears that they under quoted me when I went it and paid after the appointment, and now they want an extra $100. It’s minuscule, but with being crazy busy at work, it was enough to really stress me out.

In situations like this (and the roof leak, for instance), I would have normally turned to over analyzing the situation and making a bigger deal out of it than it was. If you recall concerning the roof leak, in 2 minutes, my mind wandered from a minor repair, to having to repair the entire structure. Not only was it counterproductive, but on a health note, I’m sure it made my blood pressure spike and my heart rate to go crazy (update, I fixed the leak with a tube a roof sealant and a caulking gun. Pretty easy, and all for under $10.)

Since the time of the roof leak, I’ve consciously tried to minimize how the stressful situation gets into my head and even use the stress to be productive. During the summer, I’ve used stress as my motivation to get into the gym and the weight room everyday. But this past week, I found myself mostly playing video games during the time I was home as my way of “unwinding”. And when I wasn’t playing video games, I was playing guitar. One of these habits is probably healthier than other, but regardless, I couldn’t get myself to do anything other than these hobbies. Now that’s it’s the weekend, I can really loosen up and get to the things I’ve put off this week- blog posts and chores.

How do you handle stress? Do you have a go to hobby or task that eases your mind?

For those interested in my debt totals, here they are as of Tuesday 9/15:

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Current BalanceTotal Paid OffPaid Since Last Week
Sallie Mae 015.25$27,837.24$23,719.92$4,117.32$0.00
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$18,604.04$3,592.98$0.00
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$0.00
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$2,895.78$7,454.40$446.32
Sallie Mae 055.25$6,096.03$0.00$6,096.03$0.00
Sallie Mae 06 and 074.75$6,415.09$0.00$6,415.09$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 015.25$5,000.00$0.00$5,000.00$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 025.25$3,000.00$0.00$3,000.00$0.00

I’ll see you back here on Tuesday!

Best Day Eveeeeeeeer!


I was torn on the title of this post. Went with best day ever, but also wanted to write Everything is Awesome, inspired by the lego movie song (check it out here<and now you’ve got it stuck in your head! mwahaha!)

I’ve had not one, but TWO big money-related success stories to share that happened just today!

Success Number One. After posting my morning post about Navient sucking big (bleep), I had to make some phone calls. I’d already contacted my old school in Florida to try to obtain my master promissory note (spoke to them last week, was hoping to hear back this week). Over the weekend, I got a letter from Navient also suggesting I contact the loan guarantor. So I called them first thing this morning and find out (1) they have no information about my loan. They ONLY get the master promissory note if I’m in default and they’re trying to collect (which is not the situation here – I’m current). And (2) the master promissory note would not even solve my issue because it does NOT state whether the loan is subsidized or unsubsidized! That’s the whole reason I’ve been on this wild goose chase! So I call back to Navient with uber-low expectations. My best case scenario is that I’ll speak with a supervisor, they’ll do some “investigation” and that’ll be it. Well, it took a long time (nearly 30 minutes), but by the time I hung up THEY HAD AGREED TO CHANGE THE LOAN BACK TO BEING SUBSIDIZED! YAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!! Apparently they “found” whatever paperwork was missing/lost and were able to verify that yes, indeed, this loan is supposed to be subsidized. It will take 5 business days to show up on my account, but then I’ll be refunded the interest they’ve charged and everything will be gravy (until the next issue that pops up). You know, it’s so crazy. When I speak to them they make it sound like this is a legitimate mistake, not some big scheme to purposely screw lenders out of tons of money (just a quick google of Navient lawsuit returns tons of articles about how they’ve been sued repeatedly for alleged fraudulent practices involving systematically overcharging customers money, etc.). On my morning post I had several people post that this sounds like a class action lawsuit in the making. I’m torn on the subject. Was it intentional and systematic? Perhaps. But it could have also just been poor business management. Not that it’s acceptable either way, and it sucks that I’m the one stuck dealing with it, but I’m just SO SO SO happy this is now resolved!


Success Number Two. This morning was a little frantic. I was running late getting ready and getting the girls ready so I decided I’d drop them at preschool and rush back home to get myself ready before going into work (it’s truly SO MUCH EASIER when I’m able to get ready after they’re out of the house. Some days I have to be at school early so I don’t have that option, but today my first meeting wasn’t until 10am, so I was able to return home after drop off). Anyway, I’m rushing. Like….fast. I dropped the girls off and am speeding down the road (literally speeding), when I see those flashing lights in the rear-view and my heart drops to my stomach. I haven’t had a ticket in YEARS (I think since 2009, to be exact). And I was sick. Not only was I going way over the speed limit (53 in a 35mph zone, to be exact), but I had left my entire purse at home!!! I had no wallet, no ID, no registration, no insurance, etc. etc. etc. All I had were my keys and my phone. I was expecting to rack up nearly a grand worth of tickets. When the cop came to my window I was 100% honest (no point in lying). Yes, I know I’m speeding. I was in a huge rush, but that doesn’t make it okay and I was going WAY over the speed limit. Also, you’re going to be really angry at me….I left my purse at home so I don’t have ANY documentation with me. ((insert shoulder shrug and smile))  The cop let me pull up my insurance on my phone and used the registration sticker from my license plate (in Arizona we get a paper registration that you’re supposed to keep in the car AND a sticker registration to put on our plate. I had the sticker on my plate, I just didn’t have the paper with me). I gave him my birth date so he could look up my license. After everything was said and done I left with (drumroll)……ONLY A WARNING!!!!! Yes, can you believe it!? He didn’t write anything about my license or registration and just let me slide on those. In the warning he wrote I was only going 45 in the 35 zone because if he’d written how fast I was really going he said he’d be forced to write a ticket (and get in trouble if he didn’t). I was nearly crying from the gratitude I felt for that officer. I wanted to hug him but settled for a handshake (I’m sure there’s some rule about not letting people hug you when you’re wearing a gun on your hip). I just want to say – cops get such a bad rep these days. They’re always in the news for shooting innocent people and although not all cops are good people, the one I dealt with today was the BEST kind of people! I’m still filled with gratitude and compassion for this guy just thinking about it as I type. Plus, I’ve learned my lesson so I will definitely refrain from speeding, even if I’m in a hurry. It’s unsafe for others and unfair to put other drivers and/or pedestrians in that position just because I’m running late.

So that’s all. What started off as a pretty crappy Monday morning has turned into THE BEST DAY EVEEEEEERRRR!!! And I hope that all your days are going well, too!

Let’s keep the positivity flowing! Tell me something GOOD that’s happened to you lately!!!

Buying Clothes


I started my new job in the middle of July. Until then, I haven’t had a job where I’ve needed to have a professional wardrobe since my kids were infants. My last in-person job was when I taught at the community college two days a week the semester after my daughters were born. I taught starting approximately 1.5 months post-partum through 6ish months post-partum. Then I moved to teaching all online.

I give you the post-partum timeframe to put some things in perspective. Basically, I need a full new work-appropriate wardrobe.

My pre-baby wardrobe was much smaller than I am now. I still have all the clothes stored away in the hopes that one day they’ll again fit (because, really, are work-pants going to go out of style???) I REALLY want to get back to that size someday, but I just haven’t been able to make it a priority lately.

Meanwhile, I also had to purchase clothing to fit my barely post-partum body when I was teaching the semester after giving birth. However, I was working much less (2 days a week instead of my current 5 days per week), AND I’ve successfully lost weight since that time, so I’m kind of between wardrobe sizes. Smaller than my immediate post-partum body, but larger than my pre-pregnancy body.

I did buy a nice interview suit that fits well and I’ve got two nice dress shirts that fit well. Back in July I mentioned that I bought a second pair of work pants (so I’ve got two pair:  grey and navy), and a work-appropriate dress.

So although I’ve got some bare-minimums to get by, I definitely need to start slowly adding to my work wardrobe.

This is fun because I really haven’t clothing in the past 18 months that I’ve been blogging here. I think I’ve bought one pair of capris (after mending a hole in the crotch of my previous capris TWICE), but that’s really all that comes tome mind. I’ve just been making do with the same clothes I’ve had for years.

So I’m trying to have some restraint and only buying a couple of pieces per month (my goal is to stay under $100), buying quality pieces that should last a long time.

I wanted to share my most recent purchase with you – moreso because I wanted to show off how long I’ve made my old item last!!!

Enter:  SHOES!

I did buy a nice pair of heels when I was interviewing, but they’re not really practical for classroom teaching. They look nice, but they’re extremely uncomfortable. When I wore them for the full day on my not-an-interview trip, I literally (LITERALLY) had nerve damage to my toes. I couldn’t feel them at all for nearly a week after the trip! I thought it might be permanent but the feeling eventually returned. Anyway, I’ve worn them a couple times on my non-teaching days (since I’m mostly sitting), but I really wanted some nice, professional, comfortable shoes that I can wear while I’m teaching.  Spoiler alert:  I found some good ones at DSW for $40!  But that’s not the point of this brag-post. The point is to showcase the OLD shoes that I’m replacing….



Check ‘em out in all their scuffed up, worn seam, faded black glory!

I’ve made these babies last for YEARS! Wanna know what’s even better? They were free! Yep! I got these as a hand-me-down from my sister. They were already a little worn by that point (the sole comes out of the inside and has to be replace/readjusted all the time), but that didn’t bother me and I was happy to have them! Fast forward many more years (5? 6?) and they’re still going strong. BUT they certainly don’t look professional at this point. I know “it’s not the shoe that makes the (wo)man” and all….but this is just laughable. Check out some more views of this shoe!


IMG_0195 IMG_0196 IMG_0197 IMG_0198

So, as you can see, they’ve had a good, long life. I’m proud that I made them last for so long, but I’m also glad to let a new pair of shoes join the family! With any luck, I’ll be able to make them last just as long!

In terms of clothing purchases…

This month I bought shoes and a third nice dress shirt (side note: I should mention that I still wear some of my old immediately post-partum shirts, so I have more than 3 shirts total. It’s just that many of them are old/worn out/too big. I make them work for now, but I do hope to update my wardrobe. Just wanted to clarify that I’m not re-wearing the same 3 shirts all the time; I just mean that I’ve got 3 nice/new/fitted shirts). Next month I hope to find a pair of nice black slacks (so funny as those tend to be the FIRST staple in a work wardrobe and yet so far my only pants are grey and navy! Also – side note:  those really are the only 2 pairs of pants that currently fit. My post-partum wardrobe was mostly maternity pants – yikes! – and I have one surviving khaki pair of pants but the zipper is busted on it. It was a cheap pair anyway, so I don’t know that it’s even worth paying someone to sew in a new zipper).

If I’ve got money leftover after buying black work pants, I might try to snag another work shirt or possibly a work-appropriate skirt. I’m trying to buy nicer pieces (no more cotton maxi skirts), so they tend to be a little more expensive, but they also tend to last longer than the cheaper alternatives. Like I said, I’m putting a max limit of $100/month and just seeing what I can get. : )

Fun times ahead as I’m finally allowing myself to shop a little!

When you’re in debt-reduction mode have you cut clothing from your budget?  What is your current monthly budget for clothes?