A Brief Freakout

I am going to be 28 years old in three weeks. I’ve got some gray hair, which seems to grow in number each month. I do not have any kids. I rent an apartment. I drive a car built in 1993. I’ve got a smartphone that is four years old. My total savings – retirement included – totals less than $8,000. From a financial perspective, I am completely broke. This is not where I thought I would be.

Recently, I’ve been increasingly frustrated by the odds that seem to continue to mount on our path to financial freedom. I am all for delayed gratification, but some things are getting ridiculous. I am also generally positive in my posts. That being said, I think it’s okay to be more on the realistic side of things instead of always being “rah-rah”. Life is tough sometimes! It’s important to recognize when it is.

Student loans have pushed back a lot of things for us. We won’t be buying a new car for a few years at least since it isn’t a top priority. The priority right now is becoming debt-free, which is a goal we find ourselves a dizzying $67,900 away from. In order to do that more quickly, I’ve limited my retirement contributions to the 4% I get matched by my work. We have no money to invest anywhere else. How about saving for a house, the ultimate America Dream? Well, with decent houses in Missoula being pretty expensive, we’d likely have to get a house right around $250,000 even for a starter home. For a 20% down payment, that would mean we’d need to have $50,000 saved. By that time, we will need to replace a car. Beyond that, we want to start having kids here in the next two years or so. To be honest, at this moment, this all simply doesn’t seem possible.

Some would argue that we should just make minimum payments on our loans for the next ten years and move onto our other financial goals. That is simply not an option in my mind. I refuse to pay out interest to Navient for a full decade. Also, this line of thinking is how people end up financing two cars, a camper, their new bed that they couldn’t live without. Hell, people finance phones! (Just because you don’t pay interest on it doesn’t mean it’s not debt, don’t kid yourself on that $1,000 smartphone). With this lifestyle, you would be effectively drained of your financial future one tiny interest accrual at a time. No thank you.

Ugh, so here it goes, I feel like I just need to list out all these goals and milestones just so it doesn’t continue to internally overwhelm me:

  1. Pay off $67,900 of student loans.
  2. Save up an emergency fund of 3-6 months. We’ll just say $10,000.
  3. Save $50,000 down payment for a $250,000 house.
  4. Ramp up retirement contributions from 4% to 15%.
  5. Buy a newer, safer car in anticipation of having a child. Conservatively we’ll say $15,000 for that, could be a lot more at that point.
  6. Have said child. This gives me cold sweats imagining the costs associated here.
  7. Try not to have a panic attack thinking about retirement, paying for kids’ college, having more kids, funding my inevitable mid-life crisis… haha you get the idea.

I know I am just freaking out a little bit here, but gosh, that is just pretty discouraging to look at!!

Eventually, once we have kids, I would love for Jos to be able to spend most of her time with our kids. We’ve talked about how two days a week working outside the home could be a good amount. But that too would push us down to a lower income level, making ends meet a more challenging task.

To get to the point of buying a house (step 3 above), this would require in excess of $130,000 to be saved in addition to all of our ongoing expenses. Essentially, we’d need to cash flow $130k. Freaking brutal.

Okay, I think I’m done having my freakout for now. I was going to post about how our generation has had to push back all of our major life events and financial goals to later times due to a number of unfortunate external circumstances, so hopefully, I’ll be able to refocus at some point to get more coherent thoughts rolling in that direction.

Taking a deep breath here at the end of this post, I’m reminded that none of this will be accomplished overnight. We will get there eventually. But man, delayed gratification is not fun. 🙂

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