Month: July 2015

My Painful Realization

There is a part of me that holds the power to define the rest of my life. I made the connection a few months ago. It was a powerful abstract fact that made me stop and think. However, 2 months ago, things got real.

See, 2 months ago I got hurt while exercising. Initially I thought it was extra soreness. I went a little harder than I normally do and that was a mistake on my part. I didn’t have any pain during that workout, but it all started in my knees about 24 hours later. It ebbed and flowed a bit for the first week after that work out. A week after the initial incident, I went to a festival that requires a lot of walking. The pain increased from there, followed by 10 days of crippled old man walking. It felt like there were shards of glass in my knees.

To many of you, this may sound like a simple sports injury. Heal it up and I’ll be good as new. It’s not so simple.

I had to quit sports as a teenager because of the pain in my joints. I picked the least impactful sport there is (swimming) and that was too much. Like most swimmers, the breast stroke kick was tough on my knees, but my shoulders would grind during freestyle, and my ankles would snap in and out of place as I kicked. I got in trouble during one dry workout because I couldn’t jump the stairs like I was supposed to.  I couldn’t do it because my knee was out. Not all the way out, like “hey, my foot is facing backwards” but enough that it made movement very painful. My whole team had to do memory sets because of me. Sorry team.

After seeing a long line of doctors, I was told that my joints are loose and that I should grow out of it. The way I describe it that makes most sense to me is to say that I was made with used parts. Everything works, but each joint has its own little quirks. My knees are in the worst shape. I have to pay attention to every step I take. Anything with a pivot is prime for pain. Getting out of a car, going up a stair case, stepping into the tub, or suddenly getting out of the way all take special consideration. It has gotten better since I was 15 when I had to quit sports altogether, but I haven’t grown out of it by any sense of the term.

What does this have to do with personal finance? Everything

This recent bout is the most significant knee pain I’ve had in 8 years. I was concerned that I’d done some serious damage. Even if I hadn’t done a lot of damage, the most adult thing for me to do is get this all checked out. With the amount of grinding and small dislocations I’ve had over the years, I know my knees are not in great shape.

What does this mean?

Short term:

This could be expensive. I had an appointment with a specialists who took X-rays. Thankfully, the x-rays didn’t show anything alarming. There is no obvious damage from the X-ray, except that my knee joints are structurally messed up. #usedparts.

The Doc wanted to do an MRI to rule out a meniscus tear. If it was a meniscus tear, I’d need surgery.  At this point, I’m holding off. By the time I got in to see him, the pain was trending downward. My experience didn’t seem like a tear. There was no traumatic event and there was no swelling. Perhaps an inflamed meniscus, but not a tear. If the pain flares up again, I’ll get an MRI.

Going to the doctor was a great first step in figuring out what the heck is going on with my knees. I need to take my joint situation seriously. So far I’m out ~$400 here.

Medium term:

One of the main things I took away from my meeting with the Doc is that I can’t run anymore. Mainly because he specifically told me, “No more running.” For the month while I was limited by knee pain, I didn’t care. I couldn’t walk without pain. Being able to run was a pipe dream. Now I can walk again, so I have to fix as many knee problems as I can.

The first problem identified is the most obvious. I need to lose weight. My pain situation moved me losing weight from “Yea, I know I need to do something about  this” to THIS IS AN EMERGENCY!!” 

Did you know that every pound you weigh puts four pounds of pressure on your knees?

I need to give my knees the opportunity to function as well as they can. The best way to do that is take pressure off them and make them stronger. Thankfully, I already have most of this lined up. I signed up for personal training at my gym and I’m working to improve my eating.

I’ve been working with my trainer for 6 weeks and we had a bit of a knee revelation. On top of my knees being lose and unstructurally sound, my knees naturally collapse inward. This collapse makes my legs and glutes significantly weaker. When inflamed, weak legs and glutes cause significant knee pain. Awesome.

At the time, I was even more bummed that here was another factor working against me, but unlike the other pieces, I can change how strong my legs are.

This extra cost now is worth every penny if I can prevent greater costs later. Since just before the injury, I’ve relieved 28 pounds of pressure from my knees. 🙂 🙂 🙂

Long term:

This is my main motivation to save and live on less. However, I’m not sure if this means become financially independent ASAP or take some time off in the next few years to live it up while I can still get around. This is all dependent on how my pain and the condition of my joints advances.

It’s been difficult mentally to deal with crippling knee pain at age 28, but I am so thankful to have a wake up call now. The alternative was to wake up tat 58 when I’ve had both my hips and knees replaced and don’t have the money to escape.

One thing if for sure: I need to save for this.

I need to save for independence

I need to save for travel

and sadly,

I need to save for doctor visits. Thank goodness for HSAs. 

Has a medical issue changed your life view? 

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Focus on What you Can Control: Success is in the Inputs

The farther I’ve gotten away from my student loan debt, the more I’ve realized that I didn’t have full control over my situation like I thought I did. Yes, I paid off $45k in debt in 15 months. But there were numerous factors that helped me get there. A few of those factors include:

  • I have a good income
  • I have an employed spouse
  • I don’t like to spend
  • I don’t have kids
  • I don’t have pets
  • I didn’t face any emergencies.

These factors are all inputs. Individually, no single factor listed above paid off my debt. Each one, with many others, worked together to set me up for financial success. By earning and not spending, paying of debt was an excellent output.

I have a varying level of control in each of these factors. For example: I choose not to have pets or  kids right now. These two factors  alone limit the number of unexpected expenses I have to deal with and made paying off debt that much easier. I was also extremely fortunate that I didn’t have to deal with any emergencies while paying off debt.

Now that I’m transitioning to getting in shape, I’ve realized that the same principles apply. To get where I need to go, I need to focus on the following inputs:

  • Meal plan healthy food options
  • Eat according to my caloric needs
  • Learn how to manage high caloric situations
  • Lift things up and put them down to build lean muscle mass
  • Hydrate
  • Go to bed early.

If I can manage these inputs, I will eventually lose weight.

Life wants you to focus on the outputs

Life wants you to focus on the outputs. I am guilty of it. I talk about how “I paid off $45,000 in 15 months” while I also want to lose 40lbs. I want to fit into a size 6 and have a massive net worth. These are all outputs.

These outputs don’t happen by themselves. These are all results of a series of inputs over a period of time. Without the proper inputs, the desired outputs are out of reach.

We’ve all heard people who want the output but don’t pay enough attention to their input. “I want to get out of debt but I won’t challenge my ‘fixed’ costs or earn more.”or “I want to lose weight but I don’t want to eat less or move more.”

We have little control over the outputs. 

When I was paying off debt, any number of things could have happened and sidelined my progress. Me or Hubs could have lost our jobs. Hubs could have come home with a puppy. I could have gotten pregnant. We could have dealt with any number of expensive emergencies. We could have dealt with an emotionally expensive emergency that disabled my ability to give a shit. If any of these things happened, it would have slowed down my ability (or desire) to pay down debt.

For my current quest, I want to lose 40 lbs. If I do everything I am supposed to do, I hope to lose about 1.5 lbs per week. However, even if that is my plan, my body gets to decides if it wants to do that. I don’t control the timeline. With the right inputs and time, my body should eventually comply with my requests. My body has ultimate control over the timeline.

FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL

A fun fact about me is that I grew up in a family of alcoholics. Thankfully, most of the them were recovering alcoholics, but alcoholics nonetheless. The big thing that kept them sober when they were sober was Alcoholics Anonymous or AA. A major part of AA is the Serenity Prayer. The first three lines of the Serenity Prayer are as follows:

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 11.01.58 PM

I wasn’t expecting to draw inspiration from a prayer that helped my family stay sober, but the truth of this prayer is true to debt and weight loss as well. None of us have the ability to directly change our debt. You may want to get out of debt, but without the right forces in place, it’s not going to change anything.

You have control over your income and your spending. You can’t control what happens between managing your money and lowering your debt. That machine in the middle between the inputs and the output is life and life is unpredictable. 

So, if you are managing your inputs, whether that’s increasing your income and lowering your expenses or managing your food intake and moving your body, you are on track.

Create a plan for your inputs.

Follow the plan.

Life may get in the way for a while and that’s okay. You can’t control that.

If you follow the plan, you’ll eventually get to the output you want.

I promise.

Success is in the Inputs.

June 2015 Recap & Net Worth

Hello there.

We are nearly 1/3 of the way through July and I’m just publishing my June update. Am I lazy? No! I’m old-fashioned and only have access to one of my investments via snail mail. I get a paper statement every 6 months. June was an update month, so I waited… and waited… and the mail finally arrived!

Before we get into the numbers, let’s get into the life.. . .

June was a month of mixed emotions. I experienced great highs (all legal and not legal in a Colorado or Washington sense!) going to several events that Hubs and I wait for every year. For one event in particular, we’ve gone every year for the last 5 years and it truly is a highlight for us. We also got to check out a different baseball stadium in town thanks to a sweet promo I got through my credit card. We had a blast at the game and it was a perfect night for baseball!

Other highs include my business trip to DC! I’d never been to a conference or DC before and both aspects were delightful. I flew into the Reagan Airport and that was such a treat. The landing took me over Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon and right down the Potomac river. Simply Beautiful. Also, who knew that DC had so many trees! I had an excellent time checking out the major sights in DC.  I totally nerded out at the Supreme Court building. I poked around trying to find a Justice, but no luck. Apparently, Scalia did not get my invitation to lunch. 😦

Because I said ‘mixed’ emotions, I have to bring in the downer. I had a major health low this month, but in the best way. It has completely changed my outlook on life, money and my health. Who knew one thing could change all three, but it did. It’s been a large pill to swallow, but I’m glad I could face it now instead of later. I’ll go into more depth with it next week.

[flashback]

June 2014: I owed $31,037 on my student loans.  I started maxing out my HSA and Hubs embarked on the long medical journey to fix his feet.

June 2013: I bought my laptop and started studying for the Bar Exam. This was the beginning of the loneliest I’ve ever been in my whole life. Pro-tip: Don’t study for the Bar Exam alone.

June 2015: Honest Money Momentum

June was a month of honesty and adjustments. The stock market did its own thing reacting to Greece and I decided to adjust a few things downward as well.  I figured that a down month might as well be down for all the reasons. I don’t want to limit my own success later by having to adjust any numbers because I was fudging the numbers elsewhere. Here goes!

June 2015 NW

Assets!

Retirement: $17,696 (+716)  I contributed my normal amount in June and only came back with $716. Even though it’s still an increase, this is my lowest increase (I contributed ~$1100) since I started tracking my net worth in January. I specifically logged into my IRA account on the worst day to let myself accept the downturn. I want to learn to feel the small losses so I don’t panic in the big hits. Thanks for the lesson Greece!

Taxable: $8,485 (-46) Well… I can finally update my taxable investment accounts and it’s not growth news. but it was a fantastic time to buy dividends. The June dividend is pennies compared to the December payout, but it is still a payout. I was able to pick up another half share. Woot!! The historical value of this mutual fund has a tendency to tank right around dividend time, which is also when I get my statements. Is the value inflated during the interim and normal at dividend time, or normal in the interim and cheap for dividend re-investment? I don’t know. No matter what it is, I’m down $46 for the year. Now, I wait until December for the next update.

Auto Value: $13,095 (-650) I’ve been dropping the value of my car by $50 since I started tracking it. I chose $50 because that is what KBB said when I adjusted the mileage on the calculator. What this didn’t account for was the extra month in age, wear and tear the car will have. I re-entered my information with current year and mileage and I came back with a value just above $13,000. I took away an extra $600 plus my normal $50 to adjust the value. I don’t want to have a falsely inflated net worth because of a debatable asset. I haven’t decided what I’ll do for future decreases.

House Fund: $5.889 (+2341!) I wanted to pass $5000 in this account this month and I did! Yeeee! This number is a little higher than it should be because Hubs transferred money in May that hit the account in June. Otherwise, the increase is due to a less expensive month and having more leftover.  More months like this and I may get closer to my Round Two savings goal!

Round Two Progress:

  • Baby Saver: $2125 ✔
  • Middle Saver: $5828 ($7953). $3,764 down, $2,604 to go!
    • If everything goes perfectly, I should reach my Middle Saver goal by next month. More realistically, I’ll pass it in August. We’ll see. Then on to Thing 1!
    • If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check here!

HSA: $4,423 (+186)This increase was only due to my contribution this month. Because my HSA is invested now, the Greece issue wiped out any gains I had with this account. It’s still up!

Car Fund: $376 (+50) I could buy tires with this! I could nearly pay my deductible with this. While saving large amounts of cash (like my House Fund) is fun, slow and steady is rewarding as well.

Liabilities!

Student Loan: $0! I’m keeping this here until it feels silly to list it. It still feels awesome, so here it is!

Car Loan: $10,970 (-374) Minimum payment as promised. It’ll be pretty cool to have this in the 4 digits, but alas that is months away. It’ll be a birthday present to me.

Overall:

  • Net worth: $38,994. Up $2,971 from last month. 

Just shy of another $3000 increase! I missed $40,000 this month, but it is totally within range for next month. I will reach it and I will exceed it, especially because July is a 3 paycheck month. Hold onto your butts. July could be huge. 

Approx $3000 seems to be my new normal new worth increase. I had a few months where I had $4ooo increases, but I don’t want to expect that.  Without special funding or great help from the market, $4000 is out of reach. It is looking more and more likely that I’ll have to adjust my aggressive house goal. But, like I said last month, I’m keeping it. Who knows what I have up my sleeve 😀 😀

  • Net worth increase: $137/day
    • It took me months to drop below $150/day and only 1 month to drop through $140/day. I don’t like that trend. My original goal was to keep this above $100/day. I should be able to do that since I’ve been above $3000/month every month this year. I’m interested to see where it lands. I predict somewhere between $110 and $120/day.

How was your June? Tell me, tell me! Did you know that the days only get shorter from here? #downer