No More Medical Debt – My Immediate 2017 Challenge

Just when I thought I could sit down to smell the roses after paying off the student loan debts, appendicitis struck. Though my stress levels would be higher if I had the car loan, student loan, *and* medical bills.

There will be more bills next month when I get the appendectomy. A rundown of the bills so far are below. I was going to put it into a spreadsheet but didn’t have the inspiration at 1AM on New Year’s Eve. Not all of these are from the ER  directly. Some are followups after the fact and other include lab work.

So for the first phase I’ll be paying about $4,500 according to estimates. Aflac may reimburse me $1,000 based on 2 days spent in the ER. Getting an itemized bill from the hospital that I’ll submit next week. Worth the $125 that I paid for it. Trying to be as aggressive as possible in getting this debt gone. Unlike the car that is 1.9% fixed, the credit card will jump to ~13% Truthfully though my credit card is at 0% until January 2018. Go Chase Slate card.

I paid over $13k in student loans during 2016. The total for medical debt should be around half that. Thank god I have insurance though. Even with deductibles to hit, I’m still getting a pretty huge discount. Not how I wanted to start the new year, but it’s a short-term reality.

Thanks for reading my blog. Have a Happy and Safe 2017.

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Hospital Emergency Room Bills after Insurance

Cutting The Cord & Reducing Gym Membership

So after over a year of deliberating back and forth I decided to cut the cord. The short version is my cable tv + internet bill went up to $105 from $90. Frontier Communications is my provider. The other options to keep tv and internet would only save me $10/mo give or take a a few dollars.

Let’s do the math.
Current rate: 105 * 12 = 1260/yr for someone who doesn’t watch TV much.
Prior rate: 90 * 12 = 1080/yr
New rate: 60 * 12 = 720/yr

I also downgraded my gym membership from the $20/mo plan to the $10/mo plan. The friend that I was going with no longer speaks to me and never was really interested in going to begin with. $120 annual savings. So combined I’m saving $660/yr. Not a huge deal but it adds up. Maybe 1% of my takehome pay over a year for something where the impact will be minimal.

I still have Netflix at 10.81/mo, Amazon Prime and may possibly be getting Hulu Plus or a Slingbox. Haven’t decided yet, but all of these options are cheaper than keeping cable TV and having a limited number of premium channels.

What things are you spending money on that really don’t matter to you? I love my car and while the $541/mo isn’t cheap it’s something that gives me a thrill everytime I get into it. Stuff like eating out at fancy restaurants outside of special occasions isn’t that important to me. Plus I juice more and my body feels way better.

On the topic of juicing. I’ve been doing it for a few weeks now since my appendicitis debacle. Not every meal but about once a day. It makes me crave fast food less and less. After the first couple bites, fast food loses its appeal to me. The aftertaste, feeling of being bloated and in many cases I’m still hungry. $10 for crappy food only to want more crappy food because it’s loaded with sugar. If I’m still hungry after the juice I’ll eat some nuts, make a wrap or something. Also keeps my daily calorie consumption in check.

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Who am I? Man with a Breville Juicer and enjoys the energy boost.

Ok enough of my ranting. Spend on things you love not the stuff you don’t. ❤

2016 – End of Year Review

I’m on vacation right now. No big plans. Flying to New York for or before Christmas and even with a car rental is not cost effective. Combine that with the snow situation… Nope.. May see Rogue One at the local theater tomorrow at the matinee. After giving it a few weeks of thought…I really find keeping track of my finances helpful on the blog. So I’ve decided to keep on doing it. I have three key goals.

  1. *Don’t* pay off the Maxima early. Sounds counterintuitive but the loan is only 1.9%. I reduced my sales tax burden by $937 with my trade-in. The original amount financed was $31,167.20. The key though here is that I need to one of the following: keep my credit card debt at 0, boost my emergency fund and max out my Roth IRA. I got the car in March 2016. Today I owe $27,173.60

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2. Get credit card debt to 0 by May. I currently have originally planned to do this for some time now. There have been a slew of events that have made this go up. The current balance is: $3,358.60. I pay $1,000 every paycheck. The challenging part has been limiting my spending so things are getting better not worse. It can be very tempting.
1) Hospital Bills – These are still coming and will likely total up to close to $6k. Unsure how much my ER hospitalization insurance is going to cover. Without insurance these bills would take me years to pay off.
2) Insurance – For 6 months car insurance was $684, renters insurance $130.
3) Eating out – Have cut back a lot over these past weeks. Juicing has been helping as well. Sometimes it’s more expensive than eating government-funded  fast food garbage. I’m down to 226 from 241 in November. 24 days until my appendectomy procedure. Planning to lose 6 more pounds between now and then.
4) Life.

3) Keep the retirement ball rolling. I’m most impressed with how my portfolio has done this year. If I didn’t invest diligently that would not have happened. Current 401k portfolio snapshot:

Curent Balance: $21,206.01
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My Betterment account is $721.96. That makes for a combined total of: $21,921.97. Back in  September 2016 my total was $18,585. $3,336 more than before or 18% more in about 3 months… I’ll take it.

On Minimalism – I watched this fantastic documentary on Minimalism and how it’s transformed people’s lives. When I think of buying a home or a much fancier apartment I think of people who are happy without all this stuff. I could be one of them. Stuff keeps you happy short-term. New experiences and having fun with someone makes you happy in ways that matter a lot more.
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I did a pretty thorough cleaning of my apartment this week. Got through 4 bags of old clothes, boxes, mail and other crap that wasn’t serving a purpose. Very liberating!

2016 has taught me one important fact. To value life. My crush Chris passing away at 29 due to various health issues in April that I couldn’t save him from. Then yesterday the mother of a guy I’ve been messaging online for months and just met for the first time passed away. It’s like the three times I found guys I could see myself really falling for over the past 2 years something major has happened. I will just keep trying though until I find the one and focus more on me.

I could have died last week.

So there are three times where I almost died.

First: About 1992 I had a BMX bike, maybe it was a Mongoose I don’t fully recall. My overprotective (and rightfully so…) mother and grandmother were adamant about me wearing helmet. Two blocks over, a group of kids in my neighborhoods, being 90s kids and all set up a ramp in the middle of the street.I pedaled hard as I could to gain speed, went up the ramp. My bike flew up in the air and I landed right on the helmet…. which SNAPPED in half. My hands, legs and ankles broke some of the fall. Crazy road rash. A neighbor poured some peroxide on my wounds. I was visibly shaken and in some of the worst pain of my life. I was able to walk my bike home and miraculously broke no bones, a fact that still holds true in 2016.

Second: Winter 2010. On my way to my banking job. I am caught in a police chase. My car was doing about 40. The Toyota Camry passed me at such a high rate of speed (more than twice as fast as me) I felt everything shake. About a mile down the road I saw the car flipped over on fire and several armed officers approaching it. Later I found out the driver and passenger died on impact after hitting a tree.

Third: November 2016. Gastroenteritis I thought due to food poisoning, ending after 2 days. Then again a week later I had a pain near my navel. I went to a clinic, told the doc about my pain and got an sonogram. It came up clear, he said come back in 2 weeks since the Holiday break was upon us. Wednesday and Thanksgiving I thought I was fine. Friday the sharp pains came back, Saturday was a little less manageable. Sunday… let me tell you about Sunday. I got this fancy blood pressure monitor on Amazon.  Before I left the house I was at 158/106 with a 115 pulse. Not great and cause for concern. I drove my car to the hospital and walked into the ER. No ambulance, no friend around to take me there. The number jumped to 193/128 and 119 resting pulse. My temperature 102°F.

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I put off going to the ER because I was concerned about the money. I didn’t want to waste thousands of dollars only to find out they didn’t know what was wrong. That happened to me once in 2005. The bill was $3k at the time but still.

Baylor took me right away. I think the admitting nurse was surprised I drove there, could still walk and have a normal conversation. I was given pills to lower my temps, blood pressure and oxygen tested multiple times. They gave me a contrast drink mixed with lemonade to show better results on the ct scan.  My diagnosis? Appendicitis, an abscess on my appendix and Peritonitis.

I stayed in a hospital bed for two nights. Barely eating any food, getting antibiotics pumped into me and having to take several hits of morphine medication just to allow me to sleep. I have coverage through Aflac for ER overnight stays as well as my normal medical coverage. I’m not looking forward to the bill of course..

Make sure you have insurance. If you have sharp pains near your stomach, go see a doctor. If you get misdiagnosed and the pain is still there, go back. If I stayed stubborn and didn’t go to the doctor when I did, who knows… I might not be here home on Late 2013 MacBook Pro typing this message. I could still be in the hospital or perhaps dead.

I still have to get my appendix itself removed as well at the catheter that is plugged into it. Even if the inflammation is gone, I never want to experience that pain ever again in my life. Maybe this is a sign to keep my blogging up and continue making other changes in my life?

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Mission Accomplished – $45,159.35 of Starting Debt Eliminated

I’m still ecstatic. On Friday September 30, 2016 after getting paid, I put the nail in the coffin of my student loan debt. This journey has been a long one. By long it’s almost 50% of my life. I took my first class in September 2001. It started before 9/11 happened. That’s how much it seems like history to me.

What Did I Learn?

  1. I’m not perfect and there have been times where my income didn’t really support the type of lifestyle I was living. I had reservations about buying a townhouse at that point in time with my ex. However the $16k in appreciation did payoff handsomely.
  2. Automation – I picked this lesson up years ago from Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich. When you have to consciously think about allocating money to different areas, it’s a lot easier to sustain good habits long term. To this day I automate my retirement contributions and money for my car payments / rent.
  3. Cars – Some people are into them, others could care less. I enjoy power and refinement. Without a car payment I could have paid this off much sooner, but I’d rather have the car. My newest was $31k, a step up from the base model. I love driving it everyday.
  4. Credit – My grandmother was right when she reinforced to my mother that maintaining good credit was everything. Even though she never went to college, she knew the importance of affordable credit options in the event of an emergency. Not to mention rates on basically everything. Homes, cars, insurance, personal loans, everything. I believe in responsible use of credit, not taking it to the extreme of cutting up all my credit cards. Only once did my credit card balance exceed $3k during this journey and that was because I had no job for 6 months.
  5. Work – Sometimes I like it sometimes I don’t. It’s crystal clear in my mind the struggles I went through in 2009 and 2011. No job or a minimum paying one for a full year. Depleting through $10k of savings and being miserable… I will keep educating myself in the coming months, years, decades to be able to earn an income for myself.
  6. Income based repayment – Don’t do it. My initial student loan payment was $289.79. When I switched to IBR it dropped to 113.46. The interest kept accruing though and got added to my principal balance. That bumped the minimum payment up to 452.76 or 56% more.
  7. Interest – I hate paying interest. Over the life of this loan I paid over $14k. What does that mean? I paid $61k for a $47k loan, or 30% more what my loan was originally for.
  8. College is way more expensive today that it was when I was a student. Community college was $99/credit when I went, now it’s $199/credit. Grad school was just over $500/credit in 2007, today it’s $900/credit. If I were a student considering grad school today I would probably not go or if I did, find it a way to make it far less expensive.
  9. Be present. Be Aware. – It’s far too easy to get intimidated by debt and not take any action.
  10. Health matters – Without good health, everything else falls apart. Remember where your priorities should be.
  11. Community – Find people who get it. Avoid the ones who put you down or encourage you to live beyond your means.

So what’s next?

  1. Pay off the credit card debt.
  2. Build up emergency fund.
  3. Increase retirement holdings to 20%
  4. Follow more principles associated with Mr. Money Mustache.
  5. Get in better shape.
  6. Go on more trips.
  7. Have more fun!

Thanks for reading what I’ve posted over the past 4 1/2 years. I still plan to post monthly updates, either here or another blog. Verdict is still out. To those of you still paying off student loans, good luck.

In closing… Don’t be afraid of change, it’s really possible just be smart about it!
-Elliot

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I could pay it off this week

I just reached an epiphany that I could pay off my student loan on *Friday*. A few caveats…

  1. I would be paying less than last month’s full balance on my credit card. My credit card balance is also about $2600. In order to satisfy last month’s statement I need to pay an additional $900 with the $700 I already paid on 9/15. Partially due to a New York trip I booked (~450), vet visit ($170) for my dog combined with getting wedding gifts for two friends who got married recently, going away / birthday gift for a friend who moved to Seattle… and other expenses. APR on the card is 12.24%
  2. I would deplete my emergency fund to or close to $0. I still have about 100 hours of vacation time if I were to hypothetically get laid off tomorrow.

I also would have 50% more free cash to apply to my credit card than normally is the case. I upgraded to the iPhone 7 and am getting $192 soon for my 6. That money can go right to the student loan or current credit debt too.

The big question is…. After 15 years of having a student loan should I just go ahead and do this??? I could wait another month….

Month 53: Why 1984 won’t be like 1984

It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and controlled future. They are increasingly and desperately turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom.

Oh wait… Not that 1984, but $1,984. As in my student loan balance. That’s about what my computer, a MacBook Pro cost when I purchased it in early 2014. This is a moment to celebrate. Why? For the first time ever my student loan is below $2,000. Progress my friends, it’s all about progress.

What about Retirement? $18,223 in my 401k and $362 in my Betterment Roth IRA. So $18,585 total. Credit cards? Credit card balance is around $1400. Each paycheck I make a $700-800 payment toward that with plans to increase once student loans are gone.

Now what about the car???  Current payoff is $29,169.81 at 1.9%. That’s down from $1997.39 from $31,167.20. I have another payment coming up in a week which will drop it below $29k.

Not being content with where I am today, I started to do a little bit of job searching. Interviewed with a local employment agency for a contract gig. The position sounded interesting and I think would be a step forward in my career. However I don’t think they would be able to match my benefits aside from medical and dental. 160 hours of vacation, essentially unlimited sick time, paid holidays, 5% retirement matching… As a contractor, you need to plan for all of those things.

It’s important to look at the big picture when making big moves like working for another company. Can’t afford to leave money on the table. I’ve been following a little bit of Alex Becker‘s work, read his book 10 Pillars of Wealth where he talks a lot about working for yourself and the benefits of a cash flow business. I also am in the middle of Scott Alan Turner‘s 99 Minute Millionaire ebook along with The Procrastinator’s Handbook – Mastering the Art of Doing It Now by Rita Emmett.

My last point and this is a big one. Don’t stop. Live is a marathon, not a sprint. Just because you had a setback or 5 doesn’t mean you let that break you and give up. From 2009-2011 I went a year without a regular FT job, not qualifying for unemployment and over $42k in student loan debt. I was down, depressed and unsure my future. Today I am on more solid footing. Not balling by any means but I’m way better off than those dark days.

Applying my own advice to different areas of my life, learning from experts to save time, minimize frustration and see results.Hope to share more with you on that soon.

Month 52 – Navient $2,479, Retirement – $17,912

Sorry if these updates are getting boring. I’m making progress still. Down to $2,479 from $15,402 just one year ago and $2,970 one month ago.

month52updateMy retirement is steadily growing. 401k is finally vested after 3 years and up to $17,654. My Betterment account is up to $258.

Other than that I did get a raise even though it was less than I was hoping for. Still need to keep looking for more jobs but not trying to get crazy stressed about that. Kind of question whether to put so much effort into a search when it’s not mandatory.

Speaking to the big elephant in the room. This blog… is called Debt Free 32 – One Man’s Mission to get rid of $45159.35 of debt. The 32 part is because I planned do to this by age of 32. Today is my birthday… I’m 33 now, not 32. A couple months short of my goal, but still making great progress since the start of this blog. Over $45k in payments. Under $2,500 left on the student loan. Worst case this sucker will be gone by December. Best case – October. Then I can celebrate and reflect.

Month 51- Navient $2,970, NMAC -$30,190, Retirement – $16,521

Month 51 Update:

Student loan is down to $2,970, as most of you viewers know…I have been extremely impatient to get rid of this one debt. Still made some great progress since last month… That’s $4,529 down. Still chipping away, chip chip chip…. 😛

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Making progress on the car loan at $30,190, another payment is coming out in a week, but as I mentioned before it’s 1.9% and I see little reason to pay it off early. Opportunity costs brah! Plus the emergency fund needs to be cranked up a few notches.

The stock market has been volatile with Brexit, oil prices fluctuating, shaky consumer confidence and the fact it’s an election year… My 401k is still at $16,521 though at +6.62% YtD RoR. So I’m still outpacing the market for now. The Roth is slowly going up at $125. Kind of a joke now, but it’s all about habits. The habit of continually investing extra money into retirement.

Going back to reading mode where I study people who are financially independent and pulling in large salaries. Not sure what my plan of action is right now, but it is inspiring me. I do wonder if I have it in me to work 60-80 hours a week. During the full time work and part time grad school days I easily put in 60 total hours each week on my goals. Some things have changed but a lot has remained the same. No kids, single, also still driven for success. My day job takes more out of me and I’m packing a lot more weight these days but at my core I’m still a driven personality. Just need to keep tapping into that hunger.

Went on a frugal trip with some friends for a day to  Granbury, TX. Drove the Maxima a little about 250 miles round trip. The car drove like a dream, soaking up the country roads at 80mph. The hotel was $60, then paid for meals. On the first night there I had duck with roasted potatoes and carrots at this shack-like place called Let’s Eat. Food was amazing and almost worth the drive alone. Went to a winery and a brewhouse Between this trip and some shopping I did, spent around $200 in total.

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You don’t have a ton of money to have fun! I got invited to Napa in August with friends and the more I learn about the trip the more I’m glad I declined. It’ll be between $1500-$2000 and right now that is money they will get me one step closer to completing my 15 year goal… Next year though we’ve discussed going on a cruise. The verdict is still out on that one, but I think I’m going to go.