I’m working on starting a series of reader profiles and interviews. However, it recently came to my attention that my readers do not know a lot about me. It turns out one of my regular readers thought I was male. While it’s not a big deal whether I’m male or female, it made me realize I should tell you a little more about myself. So here is the first interview of what hopefully be many. My hope is that as these interviews go on you will learn a little, recognize someone in a similar situation to yourself, and also realize that even people who are very different can still have similar financial issues and goals.
Tell us a little about yourself including any relevant financial info.
I’m in my mid thirties and live in a very urban area in the Midwest. I’m married, have a toddler and another baby on the way. Mr. NoTrustFund and I both work full time although I recently cut back to 80%. Currently our only debt is our mortgage and we hope to someday be mortgage free. We own two cars, the youngest of which is an ’05. We are in the market for both a new house and a new car but are having a hard time taking the plunge.
What are your biggest financial challenges right now?
In the short term my biggest financial challenges are saving for a house and a car. Buying a house has been a challenge for us as we want to buy a house that doesn’t lock us into our current income for the the next 30 years and we live in an area where the cost of housing is still fairly high. We also currently live in a 2 bedroom apartment and will take a large loss on this place when we finally do sell. In the longer term it is saving for college funds and saving for retirement.
Another big challenge I spend a lot of time thinking about is balancing working with having the time I want to spend with my family. I’m motivated to keep our expense as low as possible so I can keep my options open.
What is the best piece of financial advice you have ever received?
In one my classes in business school we talked a lot about always having a f-you fund. What is a f-you fund? It’s having money tucked away in the bank so that you can leave your job in an emergency. In this instance an emergency that a job that is making you absolutely miserable in an extreme, unhealthy way, or in a situation where you feel your values or ethics are being compromised.
Of course the only time I’ve ever needed a f-you fund I did not have one. It was right after business school and I had just spent all my money on tuition, a condo, and a car. I was having such an awful time at my job but I could not afford to quit. I was at the point where I was considering selling my car so I could quit my job. As soon as I moved on to my next job after that, I focused on paying off my car as quickly as possible. I now keep a particularly large emergency fund, which for me is also a f-you fund. While I always recommend finding a new job before quitting your job, there will likely be once or twice in your career where you would do anything to quit. If you have a f-you fund, you have that option.
What is the best piece of financial advice you could give?
Beyond the generic but fabulous live within your means it would be to always save all financial windfalls. Whether it is a bonus, a tax refund, or some sort of gift, tucking this money away, or using it to pay off debt, is a painless way to grow your wealth.
What is your biggest financial extravagance and in what areas are you most frugal?
This is something that has really evolved for me over the past few years. While my biggest extravagances used to be travel and a fair amount of shopping, I no longer spend a lot of money on either of these things. On a week to week basis my biggest extravagance is eating out. In the big picture my biggest extravagance is my career. I used to make a lot more money than I do now, but I was miserable and had to work all the time. With my skill set and experience there are jobs I could apply for that would pay a lot more than my current job but would require me to work all the time and have a lot more stress. One of the biggest things that keeps me motivated to keep our finances in order is the desire to have this kind of professional flexibility. I still work hard and I am and investing in myself and my career, but I am not focused on maximizing my earnings. To me this is a huge luxury.
I’m probably most frugal when it comes to cars and eating out during the workday. I have a car that I really love but it is almost 7 years old and I have no plans to replace it any time soon. I also try to bring my lunch almost every day. Since having baby #1 this has gotten a little harder, but I still hate to shell out money for food during the work day and bring my lunch as often as possible.
What would you do if money were no object?
Besides buying what Mr. NTF refers to as my ‘barbie dream house’? I would always fly first class, take a yoga class everyday (which with my current life would probably require having a private instructor), and try to take a longer maternity leave for baby #2.
*If you might be interested in sharing your financial story in the interest of helping other people please contact me at notrustfund <at> gmail <dot> com and we can discuss different options.