The end is near. The end of the world if you believe in that whole Mayan calendar thing; for the rest of us, it will just be the end of 2011. We all like to reflect on how we did the previous year, and I guess that I’m no different because I’ll be doing it as well.
It has almost been three years since I began this debt reduction journey. A few of you have been there since the beginning. For that, I thank you. Some of you hopped on the train to crazy town a little bit later. I appreciate you as well. I want to give you all a proverbial hug for sticking around as I freaked out a little bit on Bank of America (very deserved, I might add), shared the drama with my tenant from hell which inspired me to create a whole new site about it, and told a few stories about myself.
In between it all I hope that you learned a little something about money and finance, which hopefully motivated a few of you to try to get rid of your own debts as well. It’s important to share knowledge, but I don’t ever take myself seriously, and neither should you. I remember being stressed out about my debt, hardly able to sleep, suffering from chest pains wondering how I was going to pay almost $75,000 in student loans plus the debt from my failed business.
The difference between then and now? I am armed with more knowledge. I am comfortable knowing what my earning potential is. I know that I am more than my job. I know that I am not my debt, and my debt is just a number.
Say it with me. Go on, no one is listening. MY DEBT IS JUST A NUMBER. Say it again. MY DEBT IS JUST A NUMBER. Since we’re all repeating things together, throw this one in there too. I AM NOT MY DEBT. And truly, you are not.
Now, doesn’t that just feel better?
I spent hours writing this post. Mainly because my computer crashed and I forgot to save it, losing about 3 hours of work. I wasn’t mad about it. It was my own fault for not saving what I had spent so much time writing, and Dell’s fault for putting out a piece of crap computer. This thing is going back next week since it’s under warranty and I’ve had it for all of one month. Wait, I’m off track.
What I wanted to say was that I spent hours writing this post because while we are not our debt, and our debt is just a number, it can have important ramifications on our lives. That’s why it’s good to make goals and reflect on them from time-to-time. Some of us call them resolutions.
I’m not a fan of resolutions, but I realize that until I had a clear goal of working my debt down to zero, I was kind of on the path to where I wanted to go, but I had no real foresight in how long and just how much effort it would take to get to zero.
So, like you probably did, I made some resolutions last year. Now, before we look at how horribly I did, I want to tell you that I wrote the goals down and promptly forgot about them. Why? Because while they were important, I didn’t make the effort to incorporate them into my daily life. When you do that you are set for failure.
Let’s just look at them and then we’ll get back to our talk.
- Reduce debt my 10%
Failure! I increased my debt by taking out a new loan, but none of it was consumer related. It’s all to pay off the 401(k) loan which I had not listed at the beginning of the year. No doubt I’ll do better this year. Fail.
- Save $3,000 in Emergency Fund
I kinda did okay with this. I have that much in an emergency fund, but some of it came from that loan that I took out. Let’s say that this one is a wash.
- Make Extra $250 Per Month
Big win on that one. I’ve been averaging almost $1,000 per month on this blog in the last few months. Winning!
- Take The Dog For Long Walks Once Per Month
I was bad about this one. Fixing the house all summer killed me, so I only took the dog out half as much as I wanted to. Poor thing is getting chunky! Fail.
- Cliché Lose Weight
Yeah, uhm, I never made it to the gym this year. I was too busy with work putting in some late hours. Major fail.
- Create Get Out of Debt Course
No time to do it, so this was another fail.
Yeah, pretty bad huh? Major failure, but it’s alright, because this year I will do much, much better, and you’ll make sure that I do.
I have only 4 goals for next year. I’ll share that with you at the end of January on the Betterment blog. They’re publishing my resolutions for me. You can be sure that they are four very clear, very hard to attain goals, but I know that I can do it, because they are important to me, and are goals that I am already striving for. Have you thought about something major that you would like to accomplish in 2012?
Please don’t do the usual, “I want to lose 10 pounds” spiel because we both know that you’ve had it on your list for the past 5 years and haven’t made a move to go to the gym. I mean a real goal that can have a life changing impact on you.
I’ll share one of my goals with you. It is to reduce my debt by 15% in 2011. Since my debt is currently over $100K, I’m talking about a minimum of $15,000. Clearly, this is aggressive. I know that it is, but I also know that I can do it, and you can do it too. I’m going to help you.
Beginning in January, I plan on launching my web series helping YOU get out of debt and become more financially empowered, and we’ll do it all year long. Lots of personal finance people try to sell you programs claiming to share the secret recipe to getting out of debt, but I have two problems with this: (1) it’s a simple equation of make more, spend less, pay your debt; and (2) why are you selling me something if I’m already in debt? That part never sits well with me.
I hope that you take this journey with me! We’ll kick everything off some time around January 15 or when I get my buns in gear and organize everything to make it easy for you.
I wish you all a prosperous and well 2012. No, scratch that. I wish you a debt free 2012. Who’s with me?