A Self-Imposed Deadline

I have a new goal: Become debt-free by 40.

Paying off my debts is already a goal, but that’s focused on my credit card debts. I want to have zero debt whatsoever. No, I don’t care about “leveraging”. Owing money in no way makes me feel good. It really serves only to give me anxiety.

Credit cards: $6,230

Community college: $3,629.10

Student loans (estimated*): $23,000

Private loan: $7,081.59

Total debt: $39,940.69

* (I graduate in December, so I estimated this number based on the amount of loans I already received, and rounded up. I also have loans from a previous school I finished.)

Let’s round up and say $40,000. I don’t have the remainder of the student loans yet, but let’s say at this moment, I’m $40,000 in debt altogether. My 28th birthday is in next month, which means I am giving myself twelve years to pay down $40,000 worth of debt.

($40,000 / 12 years = $3,333.33 per year) / 12 months =$277.77 per month.

I’ll round it up to $280. I must give a minimum of $280 per month to my debts to be debt-free by age forty. In twelve years, that would total $40,320.

Why did I choose age forty? Because I feel like if I don’t have my life together by that age, there is no hope for my life in any capacity. I am embarrassed to not have my life figured out when I’m nearly pushing thirty. It took me too long to figure out what I want to do as a job. It’s not a good look to have the life of a 20-year-old (school, work, living at home) while everyone else your age, older, and younger is getting married, has kids, new houses and cars, travels, and vacations. And no, that’s not an exaggeration. I’m the only one of my friends who will have completed college, and while it is something I want, it really feels like it pales in comparison because they’re in the place someone around my age is expected to be. At thirty, you’re expected to have the career, the marriage, the kid(s), the car, the house, and the trips. Not all of them have all of that, but all of them have at least one. So, what the heck am I doing? Don’t answer that.

I’m not “young and fresh” anymore. I’m not the future. I’m not a 16-year-old who everyone looks at and thinks of having a bright future ahead. I don’t have all the time in the world. On the contrary, I’m running out of it. If I wanted kids, I have no idea where I would fit them in. I couldn’t imagine where I would fit them in if I went on the standard path, so I can’t imagine how I would fit them in on the unusual path I’m on.

That said, I’ve thought about that a lot, so I want to map it out.

Ages 14 to 18 would be high school.

Ages 18 to 22 would be college.

Work right out of college, so career at 22 (I know that doesn’t always happen, but it’s presumed)

I don’t know when marriage would happen, but I wouldn’t want to marry while in college. No idea when I would meet someone, but I met my boyfriend a few months before my 21st birthday. I would want to wait at least four years before marrying (yes, I know the length of time is irrelevant; it’s a comfort thing), so let’s say 25.

Married at 25, and working for three years. I highly doubt three years is enough to consider yourself “established”. At 30, I would have eight years in the field if I didn’t stop working, but it goes without saying having even one child would interrupt that. I also wouldn’t want to have a child right after getting married. Maybe I wouldn’t wait five years, but I must admit I’m unsure how I’d plan that.

Come to think of it, no one ever says what to do after college. Go to college to get a job. After that, what do you do?

But my point stands, so I repeat: if I couldn’t figure out how to fit a child into my life when I’m doing things right, I have no clue how I’d do it when I am doing everything wrong.

Of course, with 40 being 22 years since adulthood, being debt-free and having a college degree is very little to claim for one’s self. My friends with kids will be halfway done with child-rearing by then, and will no doubt have many more accomplishments (and that of their kids) to their names. And I know it sounds weird to talk about all of this since, as I said, I don’t want kids. But I do occasionally wonder if I’m supposed to want them. The feeling didn’t really happen until one of my friends became a parent, and I sincerely like kids, so it’s not a hate thing. Of course, that would mean I want to be a parent to fit in, not because I want to be a parent, which is a terrible reason to take that plunge.

I also grew up in a family that cared excessively about their image to strangers, absolutely chastised me (and that’s putting it mildly) for not caring, simultaneously sheltered and abused me, and I faced bullying throughout my all of my K – 12 school years. So, that’s probably also influencing my thoughts.

Hopefully, this degree will lead to a job where I make enough money to afford therapy.

Acorns vs Stash

A friend introduced me to investing last year, and I started in March. Not exactly consistently, but curious me did some searching. There are a ton of investing apps out there: WeBull, Robinhood, Betterment, SoFi. I don’t need a dozen brokerage accounts, though.

My friend uses Acorns and Stash, so I went with those too. I downloaded M1 Finance because I wanted to check that out too, but that requires a minimum of a $25 deposit, so that needs to wait. Acorns and Stash require only $5, and Cash App (of all apps!) requires only a minimum of $1. I had too much fun with that.

From what I read, Acorns’s biggest feature is its round-up, which lets you invest tiny amounts of money. Ultimately, a “set it and forget it” concept. You invest without thinking about it. This is great if you like automatic transfers…

…which I don’t. I’ve never used this feature. In fact, I disabled it after it would’ve invested money I needed at that moment. I don’t like anything that automatically deducts payments unless I choose to set it. “Set it and forget it” is a great way to overdraft. No.

Acorns is strictly a robo-investor, which I like, but not when it’s the only option. Recently, I discovered it takes a week for money deposited into their retirement account to be invested. That is patience I don’t possess. I also dislike there seems to be no option to turn off automatic re-investing. Not that my dividends are anything to brag about, but I’d still like the option.

In short, Acorns is becoming uninteresting to me. Then again, maybe it isn’t supposed to be interesting.

I came to prefer Stash solely for the fact it has more options than Acorns. Stash allows manual and robo-investing. I use both just because. Automatic re-investing can’t be disabled for the robot portfolios, but it’s optional for the personal one, so I keep it off. I get a little too much enjoyment out of reading ETFs and picking one. I’m weird.

I want to move out of Acorns, but unfortunately, taxes must be paid on anything withdrawn from a brokerage account. I hate taxes, so really, that money may just stay in Acorns, and I stop bothering with it. I’ll play around with M1 Finance, but I think I may settle on Stash and stick with it. It’s the one that’s working for me.

Fidelity, Vanguard, and Schwab are the most renowned investment tools. I already have Fidelity for my job’s 401K, so that’s covered.