Broke Millennial Turns 3

Three years ago I sat down at my computer and started writing about my early experiences with money. The story started with the sentence “In the summer of 1996 a glazed Krispy Kreme donut changed my life.”

Now, I can say, “On January 24, 2013, writing about a Krispy Kreme donut changed my life.”

Launching this blog and delving into the world of personal finance completely re-routed the course of my twenties. In 2013 I was earning $37,500 a year as a pleb in the world of public relations. A job I’d taken out of necessity to earn a living more than any actual desire to compile media lists and get shut down by reporters. My life seemed to be already heading in a direction outside of my control because I needed to make rent, but felt too scared to take a risk and pursue a career I truly wanted. Frankly, I wasn’t even sure what I really wanted.

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Cheers to 3 years and a quarter-life crisis!

Enter my first (of several) quarter-life crisis.

Broke Millennial reintroduced me to my long-time love of writing and reaffirmed this is the path I’m meant to follow. I’m still not entirely sure the ultimate direction, but I do love continuing to learn about money, break down financial concepts for others and help fellow millennials embrace financial literacy.

Since launching Broke Millennial, I ditched the low-paying public relations job and since then have significantly more than doubled my salary between my day job and my freelance work. I’ve left the computer screen to speak in front of real-life people. And I’ve managed to find that often talked about intersection of working a job you actually enjoy and living.

2016 is already filled with lots of potential for Broke Millennial as a website and a brand that I can’t wait to share, but for now, I’ll recap the best (and worst) moments of 2015.

Highlights from 2015

  • Featured on CBS Sunday Morning
  • Invited to be a speaker at NYU three times and on a panel at SABEW/NEFE Personal Finance Reporting Workshop 2015
  • Top mentions included: The Wall Street Journal, Refinery29 and The Boston Globe
  • Posts were syndicated to: New York Magazine’s The Cut and Thought Catalog
  • Doubled my freelance income goal for 2015
  • Started Certified Financial Planning courses

Failures of 2015

  • The least of amount of posting in Broke Millennial’s history. Instead, I ramped up on my freelancing work and thus my “free” writing got pushed to the back burner.

Goals for 2016

A few of these are going to be kept to myself in my Broke Millennial dream journal (yeah, that exists). But the ones I’m willing to share include:

  • Refreshing the site
  • Launching a newsletter
  • Posting at least four times a month
  • Consider generating revenue off Broke Millennial instead of focusing just on freelance income

Favorite Posts from 2015

And thank you to YOU, person reading this website. Whether you’re a friend, relative, regular reader that’s never met me or brand new, I truly appreciate you taking the time in your day to be here and participate in this community.

Posted in About Broke Millennial Tagged with:

The True Cost of an Impulse Purchase: a Broke Millennial Confession

“The biggest lesson in tolerance I ever learned was accepting that there are some people who genuinely like cats more than dogs.” – Cailin Lowry 

Do you remember being a kid and walking through the grocery store thinking, “When I grow up I can buy all the dunkaroos and ice cream I want! No one can stop me!”?

No, that was just me?

Seriously. We love dogs.

Seriously. We love dogs.

Well, this thought come to me time-and-time again in my childhood. Being an adult to me meant getting to make your own decisions and there were two decisions I couldn’t wait to make: stocking my own fridge and getting my own dog.

There are people that like dogs and then there are dog people. My family is the latter. I loved my family dogs. A home didn’t feel complete without a four-legged friend. I even had my first dog’s name picked out in the ninth grade.

Then adulthood hit.

I graduated from college and three weeks later found myself in New York City. Instead of complete liberation, my mother’s voice ran through my head in the grocery store where I ended up buying fruits and veggies instead of Häagen-Dazs and Doritos (don’t judge me and damn it being so hard to find Dunkaroos).

At 22 years old and working three jobs – there was also no hope for a dog. Maybe when I got a regular, full-time job? But at 23 years old, even with a full-time job, I definitely didn’t get paid enough to afford a dog, plus I traveled too often in order to go visit Peach (or just to travel). So maybe when I earned more money? But at 24 things felt a bit stagnant – but hey I was starting to make a bit of money with freelance writing so possibly at 25! Then I switched jobs, started earning more at both my full-time job and freelance writing. The stars seemed to be aligning! Except for that whole needing to always get home to take care of a dog part…

Finally, at 26 years old two magical things occurred.

First, Peach moved to New York City and we wrapped up the long-distance portion of our relationship.

Then, I got impulsive for the second time in my life.

My first (and biggest) impulse purchase

While walking along a street fair in our neighborhood of Astoria, Peach and I stumbled upon a pop-up dog adoption fair. I’d recently taken to scrolling through dog adoption sites and started following Susie’s Senior Dogs. I knew I wanted to adopt an older dog, but I walked into an RV-type vehicle full of adorable puppies. I just looked around thinking that now probably wasn’t the best time to get a dog. There were so many trips coming up (hello weddings). But then I saw him.

He stood there in his cage, tail wagging and an enthusiastic smile on his face. Okay, yeah, I know he was just panting but it looked like smiling!

The sign said Shyloh, 7-years-old, Jack Russell-Terrier Mix.

I left the truck, walked with Peach to a brunch date with our friends, where I announced I might be getting a dog.

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Our first photo together on adoption day.

After a few hours, two walks with (then) Shyloh, a frantic phone call to my parents (who fortunately didn’t pick up) and cutting In Our Hands Rescue a check for the adoption fee, I went home a proud dog owner and promptly changed Shyloy’s name to Mosby*.

Next, I panicked.

I had nothing. No dog food. No leash. No kennel. No dog bed. No toys. How did I think I could handle the time commitment of being a dog owner? How much was this going to cost me? I had a bunch of financial goals I wanted to meet before 30. Would this derail me? And why did I pick this dog?! I wanted a big dog and a girl! I’m not a small dog person!

Yeah – it wasn’t pretty. Peach had to field a couple of frantic phone calls my first night with Mosby.

I texted my cousins with dogs and asked if they too had panicked or if I was just a horrible person not cut out to be a dog owner, despite how much I loved them?

They reassured me it was normal (at least in our family) and a month later Mosby was sleeping in my bed and my constant shadow.11923224_10153245442151137_4967460612385530760_n (1)

It’s been six months since I first brought him home. We’ve road tripped to Western New York and flown to North Carolina. He comes into the office with me and proves he’s a born-and-bred New Yorker with his impeccable subway etiquette.

Handling my budget buster

But Mosby is definitely a budget buster. At first it was the start up costs: the adoption fee, a vet visit, getting him food and learning his stomach got upset by that one so trying another brand, getting preventative medicines like HeartGuard, buying a dog bed and a few toys. Like any first-time dog owner (or dare I say parent) I have gone a bit overboard with fancy food, organic treats, specialty lotions for his itchy skin and even one time…a mud bath! My sister made the point of asking if I treat myself as nicely as I treat me dog. The answer is a resounding no.

In order to handle having a dependent, and a potential money disaster, Mosby gets his own emergency fund. I keep $1,000 to $1,500 accessible at all times in a savings account to handle unforeseen costs of dog ownership (or the occasional mud bath). And no, I didn’t bother with pet insurance.

The grand total is in

Mosby aka Toy Destroyer

Mosby aka Toy Destroyer

In total, my impulse purchase cost me $2,114.66 – so far. I tally each penny spent on Mosby in an excel spreadsheet. This single biggest cost thus far was his $400 adoption fee. Next, have been transporting him on trips or paying for a dog-sitter, which I find using Rover*.

As I rein in my indulgent spending, and finally found some toys Mosby doesn’t immediately destroy on first contact, the cost of dog ownership is beginning to taper off.

But even with over $2,000 spent, an amount that could’ve sent me on a wonderful international vacation or partially funded a Roth IRA or been used to pay rent; it’s completely worth it to me for the amount of love and emotional support Mosby brings into my life.

In a fun twist, budgeting for Mosby oddly encouraged me to double-down on other saving strategies and I’ve actually increased my savings rate since his adoption – so I guess he didn’t blow all my financial goals to reach by 30! Well, not yet anyway.

*Yes – it’s a reference to the show. No – it isn’t the name I picked out in ninth grade. I’m saving that for my first big dog.

*Rover: I will get a referral bonus to use towards Mosby’s next stay if you sign up through my link.

Posted in Budgeting, Random Tagged with: ,

“2% or Skim?” and Other Inane Questions I Asked to Earn a Living

This post originally ran in May of 2013 on a now defunct personal finance blog. It was one of my favorite posts I ever wrote, and I sincerely regretted not posting it here first. I’m happy to be running it now. To clarify, it is my story. 

“Good morning, may I take your order?”
“Tall, grande or venti?”
2% or skim milk?”
“Whip or no whip?”
“And what’s your name for the order?”

During my first six months in New York City, I started most of my mornings with those questions. At 4:15 I’d suppress the impulse to throw my alarm clock across the room as I rolled out of bed and fumbled into my black pants and polo. I’d toss my mandatory black ball cap on my head and trudge along the streets towards to the train. Some mornings I headed to work as the bars on my block were closing down. I’d give a friendly nod to the bouncers who made sure the throngs of drunk guys didn’t hassle me.

An hour after my wake up call, I started up the espresso machines, brewed a batch of pike and one of whatever bold bean was on-tap that week and stocked the pastry shelves. In the fall and winter months, the sun hadn’t risen by the time we were serving our first customer.

IMG_0142Only one month prior I’d graduated magna cum laude with a double-major from a private university. Now, I could barely get a passing grade in milk steaming (guys, a bone-dry cappuccino is tough.)

I didn’t move to the Big Apple in order to master the art of foam hearts and pulling the perfect espresso shot. In fact, I had a “real job” working as a page for a popular late-night talk show. However, with odd hours and not great pay, I couldn’t even make rent. I’d applied to a variety of other part-time jobs with flexible hours. A mega-coffee chain was the only one willing to take a chance on a recent college grad with no food-industry experience.

Motivated by my well-honed financial survival instincts, I picked up babysitting in addition to being a barista in the morning and a page in the afternoon. I routinely worked from 4:30 am – 11:30 pm multiple days a week. For over a month I didn’t have a single day off. But, for nine dollars an hour, plus tips, I would paste a smile on my face and repeat the same inane questions over-and-over, because I had to pay my bills.

The worst part wasn’t the hours, but the insufferable people who need some perspective in their lives.

For example:

Lady walks in talking on her cell phone. She stays on the phone while saying to me: “I need a mocha. Operative word being need.”
Me: “Okay, would you like whipped cream?”
Lady with-disgruntled-look-that-I-am-interrupting-her-conversation: “No.”
Me: “And a name for the order please?”
Lady looking-at-me-as-if-Hades-himself-would-have-nothing-on-her-wrath: “Beth.”*

First glaring issue with this exchange: never would a person need a mocha. Crave? sure. Want? absolutely. But a milk-based espresso drink with several pumps of chocolate and whipped cream on top would never be essential to human survival.

Second issue, no matter the situation if you have a conversation, however brief, with another human being please have the decency to tell the person on the phone you can call him or her back. Don’t get irritable with someone asking questions to avoid you sending an order back because of any combinations of the following: whipped cream, no whipped cream, foam, no foam, not enough foam, decaf instead of regular, regular instead of decaf, sugar free instead of regular syrup, one more pump of syrup, one less pump of syrup, wrong flavor of syrup, 2% instead of skim milk, skim milk instead of whole milk, 3 spleendas not 2, sweet-n-low not equal, not exactly 145 degrees, not exactly 120 degrees, wrong size or the wrong drink entirely.

Yes, all of those happened at some point during my barista career.

However, there were people who restored my faith in humanity. One regular customer made a point to learn all the baristas’ names and address everyone personally in the morning. On one particularly bad morning he actually moved me to tears by asking how my day was going. In my defense, I hadn’t had more than 4 straight hours of sleep in several days.

My story isn’t unique. Scores of college-educated millennials are working part-time, minimum wage jobs whilst trying to figure out their next move or supporting an internship they hope leads to a paid job or just because they need more money.

However, for those who move back in with Mom and Dad or continue to live-off parental welfare because they “can’t find a job” please reconsider your stance. There are jobs out there. None of them are beneath you. A diploma and lofty career goals should not excuse you from earning a living.

*Names have be changed to avoid sue-happy Americans!

Posted in Career, Millennials

Putting the Personal in Personal Finance

“Don’t read the comments. Just don’t do it.”

I’ve given this advice to countless other writers after their work has been syndicated to a large platform or they’ve published their first piece on a site with lots of traffic and vocal readers.

Over the years I’ve gotten a pretty thick skin when it comes to ad hominen comments that focus on my youth, gender or looks instead of the content of my writing.

Recently, I broke my own rule and read the comments posted to a rather raw, intimate piece about getting financially naked with Peach.

The piece received a nice bit of traction when it first was published on this site. Then, NYMag reached out and requested to reprint it on The Cut in December. I agreed and after a few minor tweaks, the story went live.

The comment section is quite tame compared to others I’ve read, but a few points really struck me. So much so, that I felt the need to address them, ruminate on some, craft my response but also allow readers to tell me what they think.

Is debt just debt?

For those who did not read the original post, I share a story about the time Peach first told me his debt burden, which is in the form of student loans from earning his undergrad degree. (Props to Peach, he paid for his Masters by working full-time and paying out of pocket).

One reader deemed my conversation with Peach an “ugly judgment regarding debt…”. Based on the context of the comment, it appeared to bother her (assuming the poster is a woman) that I see a difference between credit card debt and student loan debt and that I even go so far as to call credit card debt a red flag. Student loan debt, while cumbersome and a nuisance to my financial goals, is not a deal breaker. Had Peach confessed being $30,000 in credit card debt – yeah, I might have reconsidered a future.

Would I have thought that credit card debt made him a bad person? No. Would I have been concerned if the credit card debt was the result of compulsive shopping or gambling? Of course.

The commenter has a right to feel that debt is debt and that it’s all created equally. I, however, disagree.

Does this make me judgmental about debt? Yes, I guess it does. Some people would never marry a smoker, or someone that doesn’t want kids or (heaven forbid) is a cat person. For me, I draw the line at abusing plastic.

via GIPHY

Forgetting people don’t know Peach

One issue with a reprint of your work on a major site is that readers don’t understand certain context. Regular Broke Millennial readers are used to me referring to my boyfriend as Peach. Quite a few even know why he goes by the moniker.

Unfortunately, to someone unfamiliar with my work, or my boyfriend, this seems like an “infantile or degrading nickname.”

I can see why. It sounds childish and cutesy. In a post all about how I’m the one financially further ahead, calling him Peach just sounds downright condescending.

Oops.

Peach is actually used not because he has a fuzzy exterior (he does have a significant beard) – but because it’s a play on his real name. I’m not the only one that regularly calls him Peach. But maybe in the future I use some run-of-the-mill name like “Joe” in reprints.Peach and Erin

People project on you

Personal finance is personal. You hear people go on-and-on about this detail. What works for me in my own relationship with money and my romantic relationship and our association with money is not a blue print for everyone’s success. Just like some married couples want joint banking and some don’t.

Putting my life experiences on display can help provide a sounding board for others – but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s the only way to success.

When Peach and I got financially naked, he made it very clear that he wanted to take ownership for his debt and that me absolving his debt from my savings wasn’t an option. I in return made it clear that if we were married it was no longer his debt but our debt because it impacted my life too. For that reason, I wanted to help. This is how we came up with our hypothetical strategy (because we aren’t married) of living off my salary, while the bulk of his salary (minus savings goals and some fun money) goes towards debt repayment. It enables Peach to feel ownership of his debt, while I still feel good about how efficiently the debt is getting paid off.

Interestingly, this hit a nerve for some. One comment eluded that if I ever used the “we lived off my salary” line in an argument it would mean Peach would quickly find himself a side piece.

What perplexed me, apart from thinking “Wow, this person doesn’t know Peach!” was that I would still be thinking of it as my money once we were married. I have a joint mentality when it comes to finances in a marriage. The money I earn and the money he earns is our money. Frankly, it’s probably all going into the same bank account anyway – but if it makes Peach feel ownership and satisfaction to be paying off his debt with the portion he contributes to the total pot, then so be it.

Were I completely supporting him while he tried to pursue a dream of making Buffalo Bills collectable bobble heads – then yeah, I might bring that up in an argument.

Perhaps the other reason this strikes a nerve with me as that I’m a woman writing about being the breadwinner. Had Peach written this story, do you think a commenter would say I, the wife, would be likely to step out on him if he brought up “supporting me”?

via GIPHY

Sexism rears its ugly head (let’s talk engagement rings)

And this brings us to one of my favorite conversations (other than money of course): sexism.

Another point I make in my story is that I’d prefer Peach ditch the engagement ring in lieu of a student loan payment.

This statement (and an accompanying post) comes from a real, true place in my heart in which I find the entire nonsense of engagement rings (and the token sexism) infuriating. I’d be more than happy to exchange plain wedding bands and call it a day.

A very real rage boils up inside of me when people – mostly women – imply, or straight up tell me, that I’ll resent my man if he doesn’t buy a shiny bauble when asking me to spend the rest of my life with him. What am I an infant? Do I need to get bribed with a shiny object to be convinced to do something? Should I be branded prior to marriage while he doesn’t have to be? Do I need to fall back on antiquated gender roles that would state he isn’t a good enough provider if my ring isn’t living up to the four C’s (yeah, I know jewelry things)?

*Pulling together my feminist rant*

I deeply, truly have no urge to get an engagement ring. However, Peach – as lovely a man as he is – does feel the need to provide one (damn you traditions!). So, when the day comes, I shall acquiesce to wearing one so long as I don’t get a separate wedding band and we just use the very basic engagement ring during a wedding ceremony. Compromise. (I can feel all the married people reading this thinking, yikes, you are a tough cookie.)

Engagement rings are the perfect blend of consumerism and most excellent marketing campaigns. Oh, and a way to avoid a woman suing for her damaged reputation if she compromised her virtue before the wedding night.

Moral of the story

If everyone agrees with your writing, then you’re doing something wrong. Yes, it’s fun to respond to critics in this type of forum, and I’d probably be a little bummed if no one disagreed with me (feel free to do so on this post too). Getting trolled a little bit means you’re mixing it up and making people think. Plus, it also means complete strangers are reading your work and taking the time to comment. So really, how cool is that?

via GIPHY

Posted in Dating, Millennials Tagged with:

The Broke Millennial Checklist to Avoid Overspending at Christmas

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My Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

I’m a peculiar person when it comes to gifts. I never spent an afternoon trying to find where my parents stashed Christmas gifts. In fact, two presents from Peach are sitting in my office, unwrapped, and I haven’t had the slightly temptation to take a peek. I don’t gleefully rip the wrapping from a bunch of presents in a row. Instead, there is a very extended, methodical process in which it takes me a long time to get through all my gifts. Thanks delayed gratification.

What I relish even more than the painstaking act of removing wrapping paper from a package without a tear (oh, yeah – I can do that) is the act of giving presents. There is just something about finding that perfect gift that a loved one isn’t expecting and didn’t put on a wish list.

Alas, gift giving at Christmas time often costs significant money because you have to hit everyone all at once. At least birthdays a staggered, unless you’re in the Gosselin family or Octomom.

In order to combat this budget buster, I do what any financially diligent, type-A personality would: create a checklist.

Seeing as how I have no real gift to give you, my readers, I figured I’d pass along my strategy to prepare for Christmas.

None of this will be mind-blowing. Trust me, I wish I had some special secret to automatically reduce the cost of gift giving (other than don’t give any). But one or two of the tips may help you save some money, or at least get cash back in the process.

  • Start early – really early.
    • It’s not just that I start the actual shopping process particularly early. I keep a running list on my phone of gift ideas throughout the year. Anytime someone on my Christmas gift list mentions something he or she would want – it goes on the list. This reduces the headache of scrambling for ideas in late December. It also helps buy items on sale throughout the year.
  • Making list – and checking it a whole bunch of times.
    • I’m admittedly a little Scrooge-esque about the people to whom I give presents. I prefer to spoil those I really care about instead of giving $10 gifts to a bunch of folks. In mid-November, I draft up a gift list and then potentially make cuts. Or have open conversation with some friends about doing a Secret Santa or just nixing a gift exchange and spending time together instead.
  • Set budgets per person not just overall.
    • Yup, people are assigned dollar amounts. I put a maximum I would want to spend on said person and then shop accordingly. It also helps take the sting out if you and a friend/family member agree on a maximum budget together. Hey, I guess you can put a price tag on love.
  • Cash in on my credit card rewards
    • I’ll let cash back accrue all year long and then dump it into my savings account or use it as a statement credit during the holidays.
  • Use cash back portals like Ebates and Mr. Rebates* when shopping.
    • Like your average millennial, most of my Christmas shopping is done online. Instead of just clicking directly to my intended website, I first check cash back portals like Ebates and Mr. Rebates. By simply clicking through those sites, I can earn a little bit of cash back. It doesn’t end up, that being big bucks, but so far I’ve earned $50 back on shopping this year. Granted did include some holiday bonuses Ebates grants and not just off the percentage back.
    • Tip: put all rebates go directly into savings and don’t use it as an excuse to spend more.
    • Combine going through a cash back portal with a rewards credit card and it makes you feel like you’re saving a little bit on your budget. Learn how to stack cash back here.
  • Use credit cards with highest cash back value on purchases.
    • I’m always sure to check and see which credit card would earn me the most cash back on a purchase before I check out.
  • Shop sales.
    • Pretty self-explanatory…
  • Combine purchasing power with my sister.
    • Cailin and I have been known to put our money together in order to buy something nicer for our parents. As we’ve gotten older, many of the more fun presents are experiences to share instead of just another trinket for the house. It’s nice to be able to treat our mom and dad to a night out or a fun family evening because we don’t all get to see each other too often.
  • Use Groupon or LivingSocial to find experiences.
    • Speaking of gifting experiences – Groupon and LivingSocial are great sites to help find deals. Even if you can’t find a deal, they can help get the creative juices flowing. Peach and I used Groupon to do a painting workshop class, which means I now have art in the apartment – double win. I gave my friend Hannah a chocolate tour of New York as a birthday gift. Unless you have particular materialistic loved ones, the experience route is often the way to go.
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Can guess which one is mine and which one belongs to Peach?

*I do get a small referral bonus if you sign up for Ebates or Mr. Rebates. So send me some Christmas cheer and sign up!

Catch my video from last year about how to reduce holiday shopping stress!

Posted in Budgeting Tagged with: , ,

Getting Financially Naked with Your Partner

He cast his eyes down and exhaled slowly. I could feel the nervousness emanating from his body as his leg twitched and he drummed his fingers on the table. My foot kept tapping the bar stool as I sensed our moment of truth had finally arrived. After several years of being together and it was time to get naked for the first time – financially naked.

Peach steadied himself, looked me square in the eye and told me his number.

Finding Out Your Partner’s Number

Peach&ErinFor other generations “the number” may refer to bedfellows, but millennials have a new type of number to be concerned with which carries a unique STD: sexually transmitted debt.

A vast majority of our generation carries some form of debt. It’s likely that even those of us who were fortunate enough to escape the clutches of student loans will eventually be yoked to them in marriage.

I made my college decision based on the desire to graduate debt free, but I’d fallen in love with someone without the privilege to do the same.

Peach and I casually chatted about money early on in our relationship, but it wasn’t until we realized marriage could be a possibility that I asked him to share his number. As a type-A personality, I wasn’t willing to discuss engagement or marriage without knowing the financial situation in which I’d find myself after the “I dos”.

Student loan debt is not a deal breaker to me, but credit card debt is a red flag and major cause for concern.

Fortunately, Peach never tussled with consumer debt but merely took out loans in order to finance his undergraduate education. He managed to pay for his graduate degree out of pocket by working full-time. A decision that kept us long distance for nearly 4 of our 5 year relationship, but a sacrifice worth making to save him tens-of-thousands of dollars.

Who Has to Share?

When Peach disclosed his debt burden, I in turn shared my net worth – a number very few people know. I believed it was unfair to ask him to strip down in front of me, while I got to stay bundled up in the comfort of being debt free.

There are plenty of personal finance enthusiasts who believe in complete transparency. Share your income, how much you pay for rent, what your investment portfolio looks like. We need to talk about money after all. While I agree it’s imperative money becomes less taboo, I also don’t feel a need to shout my net worth from the digital rooftop. Because I’m not transparent about my net worth, sharing it with Peach was an intimate moment for the two of us that showed him how much I trust and love him.

It also opened up the conversation for how each of us believes money should be handled in marriage.

What’s Yours is Mine – Seriously

Sharing our numbers didn’t mean we suddenly swapped ATM pins and ran to get a joint bank account. Instead, it provided a foundation in which we could create hypothetical scenarios about how to handle money if we decided to get married (an important conversation to a have after five years of dating).

Peach immediately became defensive that he would be taking care of his debt. A gesture I appreciated, but retorted wasn’t fair to a martial ledger. Why should he exclusively carry the burden of debt repayment, when our financial decisions before and after marriage would impact each other? We could combine forces and get rid of his debt in a relatively quick time.

This isn’t to say all married couples should have joint banking accounts. There are arguments for and against – and each couple must figure out the best way to merge money. But handling debt should absolutely be a team effort. Otherwise, it can quickly become a breeding ground for resentment.

Our current hypothetical strategy would be for two of us to live off my salary, while Peach’s salary would be used almost exclusively to pay down his debt (save for making contributions to an emergency fund and retirement account). This way, Peach retains ownership over his debt by making all the payments with money he earns, but I also feel part of the team by financially supporting our day-to-day expenses. Plus, I’d prefer he not waste money on an engagement ring, which frees up a chunk to go towards debt repayment.

Early Discussions Saves (or dooms) Relationships

Our early debt conversation made it easy for the two of us to be transparent in other money conversations. It also helped us develop a team mindset about finances before being legally tied to each other. We’re open about chatting money now, because we were willing to have uncomfortable conversations early. These conversations can also help people determine if a partner is actually is a good fit. Finances are a leading cause of contention in relationships. So, why enter a marriage if you can’t have honest discussions with your partner or see major red flags like credit card abuse, routinely missing payments or refusing to deal with existing debt? Love might make us blind, but it that isn’t a passable excuse to lenders, bankers and credit bureaus.

Posted in Debt, Millennials Tagged with: ,

The Consequences of Aggressive Debt Repayment

IMG_2303Jacquelyn Delcamp felt directionless and unmotivated.

Like many of her fellow millennials, the then 24-year-old manager for the ticket marketplace company Vivid Seats explored realms of the Internet for inspiration. She ended up stumbling upon the personal finance blogging community where she discovered the site Studenomics. After reading the blog, Delcamp decided to email the site’s founder Martin Dasko. The subsequent communication with Dasko motivated her to pay off $48,000 of debt in 10 months.

But such an aggressive debt payoff doesn’t come without consequences. Her story shows some of the negative side effects of paying down debt.

Read the full article on US News.

Posted in Debt, US News' My Money Blog Tagged with: ,

Welcome CBS Sunday Morning Viewers!

Welcome CBS Sunday Morning viewers! Here is recap about Broke Millennial and the pearls of personal finance frankness you can expect to find around these parts.

Broke Millennial started after a cup of coffee with a friend at 2 a.m. We were 23 and just entering our first real jobs after a cushy year of post-collegiate work as pages for The Late Show with David Letterman.

CBS Sunday MorningMy friend waxed poetic about her desires work in the New York City improv scene, however, her desk job as an assistant to major television network executives kept her from being able to actually pursue her dreams. But hey, the money was good, and she needed to pay rent.

I casually asked her why now wasn’t the time to go after dream of creating sketches and acting? She was young, no dependents and no student loan or consumer debt. Babysitting, waitressing or working as a barista could pay the bills – at least for a year or two.

“Yeah, but money just stresses me out,” she said. “I basically just don’t pay attention to it and then just hope I have enough at the end of the month to pay all my bills.”

*Light bulb moment*

I started asking my friends, relatives and random co-workers about their relationship with money. Some talks were tense – it’s still a taboo topic after all. Others quickly opened up about their confusion or stresses. But all the conversations had a similar tone; millennials were confused and didn’t have a good place to go in order to learn about personal finance.

Money fascinated me from a young age. In fact, it all started with a box of Krispy Kreme donuts, which ultimately turned into a love of talking about money. I didn’t major in business, finance or economics. Instead, I pursued theatre and journalism in college. It may make me a strange choice to give financial advice, but it enables me to speak and write about the topic in a relatable way.

Broke Millennial became a platform to share funny and embarrassing stories from my own life in an effort to get people comfortable talking about money, sharing their own experiences and ask questions.

This blog is an effort to help my fellow millennials learn about personal finance without a bunch of financial jargon or overwhelming equations. I rely on story telling with a hefty dose of sarcasm and humor.

It’s important to know that I’m not now, nor have I ever actually been, broke. The moniker spoke to me in January of 2013 as a way to describe the way many of my peers felt while balancing student loans, moving away from the safety of college and the transition into adulthood.

If this is your first time here, below are some posts from the archives you might find interesting:

You can follow on me on Twitter and Facebook as well as reach me at brokemillennials@gmail.com.

Posted in About Broke Millennial

Don’t Be a 20-Something Idiot

I’ve been eerily quiet over the last few months, for reasons that will be explained in a later post, but a recent disturbance in the personal finance universe startled me out of my hiatus.

“I don’t have any savings, but I also don’t have any wants.”

The now viral post starts with such a simple, potentially innocent statement. A statement that could’ve led into an explanation for how the writer is struggling to make ends meet but pursuing her dream of being a [enter your millennial cliché here] or perhaps a more personal finance friendly tale about not saving because she’s so aggressive with debt repayment (still a bad idea).

Alas, neither of these theories played out in the subsequent 856 words. My fellow millennial spewed on about her justifications for why only reclusive squares have savings accounts in their twenties. Or as her article is so boldly claimed: “If You Have Savings In Your 20s, You’re Doing Something Wrong”.

As a fellow writer, I can only hope she’s paid based on clicks and that her sensationalist headline is an effort to secure a hefty paycheck. However, after reading through this article more than once, it’s likely my peer truly believes we 20-somethings should fritter away our salaries on #YOLO and indulge in all the hedonistic pleasure our salaries can cover. Or maybe dip into a bit of credit card debt on the way? Obviously your thirties are for getting your sh*t together.

The creation of a 20-something saver

Before I respond to Ms. Lauren Martin’s article point-by-point, it’s important you know a little more about me. Even long-time readers of this blog won’t know a lot of this story.

The moniker Broke Millennial has never accurately described me. Instead, I picked it as a nom de plume (I originally wrote anonymously) that I believed appealed to and often described my generation.

Tin CanI fell in love with saving money at an early age. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s coded into my DNA. I stuffed cash into candy tins and hid them in my closet. Eventually I upgraded to a bank account.

I was scribbling money goals into my notebook by fourth grade. Embarrassingly, I wanted to have $16,000 saved up to buy a red Mitsubishi Eclipse by the time I turned 16 and could get my driver’s license.

My moneymaking capabilities took a small detour when we moved overseas and I couldn’t work on the books. Summers were spent traveling around America on home leave visiting friends and family (tough life, I know).

Without a work visa, my younger sister and I created some entrepreneurial endeavors such as an obviously unlicensed pet-sitting business and a baby sister’s club. We had some stiff competition from legitimate hired help (nannies and maids) many families in our expat community used. But we both got the taste of building businesses and making money.

Fast-forward to college and I had elected to go to school on scholarship so I could come out debt free.

This made me determined to build a nest egg during school, so I could pursue my dream of moving to New York City without having to ask my parents for money.

So, I got a job as a resident assistant (yup, I was that person).

During this time of life I had very few expenses. I paid for insurance and all other costs associated with a car (but no loan, it was bought outright). I paid for my cell phone. Otherwise, money was mostly for road trips and going out with friends.

I didn’t need the resident assistant money to make ends meet or pay for school, so I started squirreling it away for my “New York City” nest egg. I wanted to save $10,000 by the time I graduated so I could move to the Big Apple with some breathing room.

I surpassed my goal.

Just like Ms. Martin, I too moved to New York after college graduation. I also still live here (4.5 years later) and have spent my twenties exploring what the city has to offer. Unlike Ms. Martin, I do not remotely feel that living in New York City (or any place else) during your twenties requires that you make it rain and scoff at the idea of saving.

via GIPHY

A Life-Living Millennial and Avid Saver Responds to Her Points

The most offense line in the whole post reads: “You can’t make a mark on the world if you’re too cheap to live in it.”

Not to be melodramatic, but history isn’t made by those out bar hopping in New York City in their early twenties, spending a month’s worth of groceries on buying a few rounds, then drunkenly hailing an Uber and screaming YOLO when it’s 3x surge pricing.

History is made by those will to take a stand against the status quo. Those trying to better the world around them. Those mindfully contributing to society.

History is made by people like: Malala Yousifazi, Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Clara Barton, Martin Luther King, J.K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey and Warren Buffet.

Yes, women and men like Kim Kardashian and Jordan Belfort (the Wolf of Wall Street) temporarily imprint on society and undoubtedly would nod and smile in agreement with Ms. Martin’s article.

The landscape of modern consumption is also changing by people Ms. Martin would undoubtedly deem cheap. Enterprising individuals who have undeniably started to make their marks on the world by creating wealth and then being able to unplug from mainstream jobs to live their lives on their terms and inspire others to do the same.

But I’ll step down off my soapbox to specifically address Ms. Martin’s points:

She says: When you’re too worried about your bank statement, you’re not making your own

Broke Millennial responds: Ms. Martin is a clever writer, but I’ve grown weary of her thesis that money equals power and the ability to create history. As Frank Underwood said, “Such a waste of talent. He chose money over power. Money is the Mc-mansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after 10 years. Power is the old stone building that stands for centuries. I cannot respect someone who doesn’t see the difference.”

She says: When you’re saving for yourself, you’re refusing to bet on yourself

Broke Millennial responds: First, Ms. Martin fails to understand a basic mathematical concept rightfully dubbed the eighth wonder of the world, but formally known as compound interest.

[Feel free to skip this section if you hate when numbers prove saving makes sense.] 

Let’s say you start squirreling away $200 a month on your 23rd birthday and do it consistently until your 30th birthday.

84 months x $200 =$16,800

Certainly no small sum. But let’s see how much that will be by 65 (an average retirement age).

Figuring a conservative average return of 7%, that $16,800 saved in your twenties would be worth $179,366,57. Get a return of 9% and you’re looking at $342,954.66. Not chump change for a small habit in your 20s. Calculate for yourself here.

Saving $200 a month also doesn’t mean you have to stop networking. Going out with co-workers doesn’t come with a $200 coverage charge. In fact, that $200 would be better spent on a seminar to learn how to negotiate. Negotiation is what will truly help get those big raises.

Second, she assumes people quietly building a nest egg aren’t betting on themselves. In reality, people amassing stealth wealth (as fellow blogger Financial Samurai) calls it, can create opportunities to be financially independent and explore whatever project they see fit.

Perhaps the argument is that you need panic, a lack of money and to be hitting near rock bottom in order to get the best out of an entrepreneur. That may work for some, but not everyone needs to be hanging on by the skin of their teeth in order to find success.

She says: When you have something to bank on, you have nothing to reach for 

Broke Millennial responds: Again, Ms. Martin keeps referring to a few thousand. I’m not sure of her definition of wealth, but as some who had over $10,000 tucked away by 21, I can assure you that you don’t rest on your laurels with four (or even five) figures in the bank. Creating wealth should be the ultimate pusher to keeping building more. Once you get a taste…

She says: When you live your life by numbers, you strip yourself of poetry

Broke Millennial responds: Umm, funds in the bank mean I can have experiences without going in debt, worry about making rent or draining my last few hundred dollars to go make a memory. My savings habit (and a lot of frequent flyer miles from growing up as an expat) meant I got to book a spontaneous trip to France in college. I could book a trip to Texas on two weeks notice to visit my best friend just because. I can buy tickets to Broadway shows without waking up at 7 am on a Saturday for rush tickets. I can spoil my loved ones with shared experiences or nice gifts. All this comes without the pain of worrying about going overdraft or only being able to pay the minimum due on my credit cards.

She says: When you die, you can’t take your money with you

Broke Millennial responds: Got me there! You can’t take it with you. But having money remaining and no debts means your family doesn’t have to pay for your funeral. It means you can leave assets to your loved ones or charitable causes. It means there are no lingering debts to burden those already stricken with grief about your passing.

She says: When you deprive yourself, you don’t learn how to TREAT YO SELF

Broke Millennial responds: Listen, I love a good Parks and Rec reference as much as the next person, but why do we keep equating saving to deprivation?! Saving money doesn’t mean you’re just clocking out of work to return home, log into your bank account, cackle with glee then sit in darkness until you head back out to work.

And the notion to not waste your youth worrying about expenses sounds like setting yourself up to be eating cat food in retirement. #JustSayin’

(I imagine it would be something like this…)

via GIPHY

She says: When you care about your 401k, your life is just “k”

“When you’re 40, you’re not going to look back on your 20s and be grateful for the few thousand you saved. You’re going to be full of regret.”

Broke Millennial responds: If you can only save a few thousand, you’re doing something wrong.

Sorry, perhaps that snarky response comes from a position of privilege. However, I will say your 63-year-old self who wants to retire would certainly appreciate the difference in saving $200 a month through your twenties verse waiting for your thirties. Just saving $200 a month for 40 years, with no additional increase, starting at 23 (and a 7% interest rate) means $482,119.16. Waiting until you’re 33 cuts that more than in half to $228,228.34. And put money in a 401(k) for heaven’s sake!

The one solid piece of advice in her article

Ms. Martin’s entire article is predicated on the advice from a friend: “Don’t save money. Make more money.”

It’s absolutely excellent advice. In fact almost the entire personal finance blogging community is based on the notion of spending less and making more in to build wealth quickly. Ms. Martin may not like to save, but she does seem to be equating spending more with making more. Does she truly think making more money means she won’t succumb to lifestyle inflation and continue spending her paycheck? Saving in your 30s? Psh, let your 40-year-old self deal!

You should invest in yourself. You should buy professional clothes to wear to a job interview. You should do happy hours with co-workers and go out to lunch with a mentor and probably not alienate yourself entirely from your company culture. But this should not be used as an excuse to sink into consumer debt or live in a state of arrested development trusting your future self to clean up the mess.

After all, how long are you going to be okay squandering your most precious commodity in exchange for a paycheck? Saving is the only way to remove the golden handcuffs.

My fellow millennials, please, don’t be a 20-something idiot.

Posted in Financial Literacy, Millennials, Saving money Tagged with: ,

The Magic Formula for Financial Success Post Graduation

Yes, I know I haven’t posted in ages. Things have been a bit busy in personal, work and freelance life. While I get original content cued up, I hope you enjoy this piece…

Okay, this was HS graduation..but it's a great pic.

Okay, this was HS graduation..but it’s a great pic.

College graduates around the country are currently coming down from the post-graduation highs and either waking up to screeching alarms way earlier than they ever had class or the sinking realization that getting a J-O-B is crucial to adult-life survival.

First paychecks might get blown on rounds at the bar in celebration of being a successful adult, after all student loan payments don’t kick in for another few months. The lucky ones getting a signing bonus could be tempted to splurge for an upgraded set of wheels or an above budget apartment. There are just so many mistakes a 22-year-old with limited financial experience is likely to make.

But in this time of celebration and uncertainty, one rule should reign supreme when making money decisions: the less than 50 percent rule.

Read the rest over on DailyFinance.com

Posted in DailyFinance

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