In Which I Feel Far Behind and Contemplate Debt Eradication Options

As a personal finance blogger who is NOT in her 20s, I know I’m behind. I read about all of these awesome 20-something bloggers who are rapidly saving, putting money into IRAs, paying down their student loans aggressively, and sitting on solid emergency funds.

I know it’s better late than never.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that personal finance bloggers aren’t the only people out there to compare yourself to – a crap-ton of people are doing a crap-load less than I am.

However, that doesn’t make the bank balance any bigger. I feel like I’m going to have to work way harder than my counterparts who started at 22 to aggressively pay down debt and save… probably because I will.

Also, I married into some crazy student loan debt. But I’d do it all over again. ❤

I just wish I’d paid a lot more on my student loans from the beginning (though mine have a significantly lower interest rate than H’s) and saved a lot more.

My husband’s retirement funds aren’t looking too shabby, but mine are pitiful. I’m glad part of mine is an IRA, which is doing better than my state retirement account by a long shot; however, the total is still much lower than I’m comfortable with.

However, we have to balance saving for retirement with paying down debt.

The first paycheck from my side hustle went to paying down some credit card debt (that should be reimbursed because a large amount was H’s business expenses; some will also be a tax-write off next year), which was disappointing. We put a large chunk into the car loan, but not as much as what I wanted.

For my next paycheck (which arrived today!), I’m trying to figure out how to use the money. It’s a surprisingly high number – a little over $1600! This is a fantastic problem to have.

Possible scenarios for this and future side hustle checks:

  1. Every penny from side hustle funds goes to paying down the car loan. (That would lower us to about $700, which would be easy to pay off in by June 15th, which is my goal!)

After that, every penny goes into paying down the 8% student loan. After that, break down side hustle income into percentages:

  • 50% savings
  • 25% Roth IRA
  • 25% Crazy 8% on $6K student loan with Sallie Mae

2. Side hustle funds broken into the following percentages:

  • 80% car loan
  • 10% Crazy 8% on $6K student loan with Sallie Mae
  • 10% Roth IRA

After the car loan is paid off, then it would be 90% towards the student loan with the other 10% being put either into savings or my Roth IRA.

3. $1K of side hustle goes to car loan while anything over that number goes into another fund.

Here’s the problem: while options 1 & 2 seem like a good idea, I also feel like maybe I would prefer to do it by number instead of percentage. For instance, dedicate $1000 of each of my side hustle paycheck to one thing, then designate the rest of it (whatever amount is left over) to some other thing. I just can’t decide how to use that remainder. I could divide it equally between the the IRA and Sallie Mae, but it won’t be as satisfying because the IRA won’t get much bigger very fast, and the Sallie Mae loan balance won’t get much smaller very fast. I know that I will immediately get the rush of paying down a loan faster than watching the IRA grow, but I know how math works, and I know that the more we can get into a retirement fund right now, the better it is in the long term.

You know what the best answer would be?

Option 4: Make even more money!

Any advice? How would you use that $1600? The only stipulation: it has to go to debt repayment, retirement, or savings! This money is NOT for spending!

– M.

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10 thoughts on “In Which I Feel Far Behind and Contemplate Debt Eradication Options

    • I think emotionally, I work that way, too. I do second-guess myself all the time when I take the emotionally-satisfying route, because I worry that I’m not getting the most “bang for my buck.” On the other hand, I also know how incredibly good it will feel to have the car loan paid off as soon as possible. The matter of putting money into the IRA or into paying down other debt – well, it’s really only a couple of months difference. I’m guessing it probably wouldn’t be that big a deal. Decisions, decisions… Thanks for your take!

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  1. Debt order- smallest to largest. In the long run a few months is not going to change your life on your retirement or the Sallie Mae. However, getting rid of those small debts will allow you to make higher payments on the bigger debt. You’re in a marathon, not a sprint.

    A great quote I read somewhere- Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. I also had retirement at 21. It’s GONE because I had to use it to keep the house afloat when the ex was in the hospital for 9 months. Crap happens, pay down as much as you can as fast and you can. THEN RELAX!

    Honestly, I think you’re analyzing yourself to death! Keep it simple, make a plan and stick to it! 😀

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  2. I completely agree with the above statements! 😀

    Keep it simple! Focus on one debt at a time. Once the debt is gone then you can invest $1000+ month and “catch up”! As I am sure everybody struggles with, I too struggle with comparing myself with others. What I try to focus on to help my outlook is compare yourself today from where you started, or where you would be if you hadn’t changed your ways/started focusing on debt!

    You are doing great!!! Be proud of yourself! You are inspiring others along the way!

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    • So many debts, so little time! I think our plan is once the largest-interest student loan is paid down (and the credit card and the car loan are zeroed out), then I will divide our money between the rest of our student loans and my IRA. (If I wait until ALL of our student loans are paid off…. well, then I will probably have not very much retirement.) One step at a time… I just wish it would go FASTER!

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  3. First, to your comment about the 20 something bloggers who are paying down debt and saving rapidly; huge exception, not the rule. As hard as it can be not to compare your situation to theirs, it is a must.

    Finances are no different than weight loss at a gym. A lot of people who are over weight and need the gym the most avoid going because they are intimidated by the people who are in exceptional shape. They end up with a distorted view that they alone have a body weight issue. Which is completely false!

    It is the same way with personal finance. Generally, the people who care enough to write a finance blog also care enough to manage their finances. It’s a statistically distorted view of the situation. Always remember, that by working toward improving your finances, you are already the exception and no longer the rule! So congrats!

    As for your distribution options. . .

    Plan 1 is good because it wipes one bill completely off the table, the car. And that will feel incredible when it is gone. Tackling the college loan next is a great idea, however, make sure that you have a financial cushion of some sort. $1000 dollars that is immediately available in case of an emergency will keep you from needing to use credit.

    After you pay off your car and have your financial cushion funded, then I think plan your plan #2 would be a good choice. 90% college loans, 10% IRA. As you seem to know compound interest is an amazing thing when YOU are the one earning the interest.

    Congrats again on making moves! Honestly, any one of your 3 plans is better than what 90% of people are doing today. You will succeed with any of them!

    http://www.thedebtfreemind.com

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    • Thank you so much for your detailed reply! I really enjoyed reading some of your blog posts today – I’ve added it to my Feedly.

      Thanks also for giving me feedback and well-wishes. I think I favor Plan 2, as well. And yes, we need an emergency fund! I’ve been telling myself that our Sinking Fund could act as an Emergency Fund in a pinch, but that’s not really sound logic. Oops.

      Thanks for suggesting one of the options I outlined – it always helps me to get feedback and use readers as a sounding board. All of you are awesome!

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