Money is an Easier Goal than Happiness

Since 2007, I’ve been writing, on an off, for HerEveryCentCounts. I was reading another 20-something-year-old’s blog and was massively jealous of her networth that was around $250k. I thought about my massive savings account totaling $7k and how my part-time job and internship were not even making it possible to break even every month. I learned a lot about personal finance and got myself a Roth IRA account. I started investing. I pushed myself to increase my income year-over-year. I got to the point, a few years ago, where I made a goal for myself to hit $50k in networth growth, year over year.

What’s crazy is that, after a lifetime of never focusing on one thing long enough to achieve my goals, and even with my life consistently crumbling around me due to my bipolar depression, I managed to hit my fiscal goals time and again. Nothing else made me quite as happy as seeing my networth increase every month in my OCD spreadsheets. I didn’t really know what I was doing when it came to investing, but I kept on putting money into the stock market, especially when it went down, and I saw my networth grow.

At the end of last year when, on paper, I reached $300k in networth, it felt like the biggest accomplishment in my life. I’ve never run a marathon or won a competition. I’ve never really done anything impressive. Hitting $300k at age 30, which was the goal I had set out for myself when I was 22 – at the time when it seemed completely impossible – was achieved. All of the ups and downs over the years seemed to be, at that moment, worth it. $300k wasn’t enough to retire on, but it wasn’t chump change. Suddenly my also unreasonable goal of $500k in networth before having children seemed possible, if I could just hang in there for a bit longer.

My boyfriend does not share in my money-obsessed ways. He saves a bit here and there, but he hasn’t invested any of his money outside of a Roth I convinced him to open when he turned 31. Meanwhile I’m throwing most of my earnings into the stock market, which is maybe dumb, but so far it’s worked out. As of Feb 15, my networth is ahead of monthly target towards my annual goal of $400k (this is the first year I’m trying to achieve $100k networth growth vs $50k.) As of Feb 15, I have $319k in networth. The stock market has performed quite well for the past few weeks, so this upward trend probably won’t last, and there will be pullbacks, but I’m excited to see that 1.5 months into the year I’m already trending towards my goal.

All I know is that I have to work hard for the next two to three years until I have my first child. There is no way in hell I can do the job I have now with children. I may have to change careers at that point, or at the least, accept a lower-paying job in order to be the mother I want to be. I’m strongly considering leaving my state and moving somewhere where I can purchase a nice house with a backyard for $500k, not $1.5M. My boyfriend is open to moving as well. It would be tough because it takes me a while to meet people, and at the least we have a few friends in the area, but I know if we stay in our region I will have to maintain my level of work and simultaneously raise a family. It’s just not going to happen. I see my friends who are parents who are either not working or working from home part time, and I can’t imagine how I would be able to keep my current job, or something like it, and also take care of a young kid.

While saving money, investing, and seeing my networth grow is exhilarating, at the end of the day, it’s my own little semi-secret. My parents still see me as this ongoing series of failures, jumping from job to job every few years. My boyfriend doesn’t care about my savings, which is good, but I don’t get any sort of extrinsic reward from his acknowledgement of my success. I guess that’s why I keep this blog to begin with, because it feels good to impress someone somewhere with my little fiscal victories, month over month, year over year. When you’re an adult no one really gives a shit about the amount of money you saved every month. I guess that’s why people buy fancy cars and big houses – because then it’s easy to show off your success. I don’t need to show it off, I want to be renowned for being the millionaire next door – one day – for being a woman who, despite suffering from crippling mental illness, has saved enough to be able to take breaks from work when depression hits, or when she wants to spend time with her future children instead of spending 10 hours per day working.

Then, I also realize it’s really dumb to want any sort of recognition for saving. Everyone does it. And my own saving has been made possible due to my parents paying for my college diploma, and my graduating without any loans. I’m too scared to dip into my networth to go to grad school, even if it means finding a career that I would be more naturally suited for, so I just hold my breath and hope I can last long enough to see another paycheck come through. I am well aware that my income, strong as it is right now, is likely short-lived. All I can do is push hard and save as much as possible each month — climbing as quickly as possible to my $500k goal.

I know $500k is an arbitrary number. It’s a lot of money but it really isn’t a heck of a lot of money. What $500k means to me is the ability to take a $60k a year job that is meaningful in a state where costs of living are lower, let the $500k grow and use the $60k to cover basic day-to-day costs, along with the income my boyfriend makes. $500k growing at 5% rate over 30 years is $2.1M. So if I can not touch my principal or the interest income until I’m 65, I’d have $2.5M in retirement. That’s how much I think I need for a comfortable retirement. And if it happens to grow at 8% YoY by 65 I’d have $6.3M in retirement.

So that’s why $500k is the magical number to hit before I can start doing things I actually want to do in my life… like being a mother, working part time building my own business, or writing for a local newspaper, or attempting to write my first science fiction novel. I still need to earn an income that covers my annual expenses, but I believe $500k is my version of financial freedom. I would still have to work, because I couldn’t tap into that money until retirement, but I’d be pretty much set as long as my average rate of annual return was at least 5%.

The exciting part of this picture is that the $500k by 32 IS possible, if I can succeed at my job and maintain my current salary for at least two years. I may come out of that with a head of grey hair and a heart attack or two, but I’ll be able to be the mother I want to be.

Feb 1 Networth Progress:

Screenshot 2015-02-14 19.54.19

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5 comments

  1. Jeff says:

    Hey there, I stumbled on your page from J$s list. Your are doing amazing and saving a ton. I believe that you are doing the right thing by getting set up before having kids. We just had our first about a month ago and we did the same. We didn’t have a number set up but we wanted to get a good grip on the mortgage, have the car paid down and a good amount in savings before we had our first. Too often these days I see people having children when they can’t afford to support them.

    As for the feeling good about your savings. I run my website to get help from other people. When I say help I don’t mean asking them questions or anything, the help I get is the couple people who come and visit it and leave a comment. That is what makes me feel good about all the hard work financially I do, and that is all the recognition I personally need. Its not bragging or anything but it feels good when someone pops by to say hello or gives you a “good job” Don’t feel like its stupid to want that recognition, I think its normal. It sucks keeping my site hidden from all my friends and family as I would love some recognition from them but the online world is the only people that will know what we are worth other than my wife.

    I don’t really know where I was going with that but anyway’s keep posting your net worth, feel proud of yourself for what you have accomplished and keep working towards the financial and personal goals in life that you have set!

    Jeff

  2. Brennan says:

    Money is, indeed, easier to attain than happiness. It is, after all, man-made; although I believe achieving either depends more on the attitude. Still, it’s pretty impressive how far you’ve gone with managing your finances. Kudos to you for building your savings up!

  3. Taylor Lee says:

    I’m so glad for you that you’ve been able to make such great progress on your financial goals. Though, as a word of caution, I might go for a more conservative portfolio than 100% stock (or cash out of the market altogether) if you’re looking to use your cash in the next 2-3 years for house-buying and stability’s sake. It may just be my bearishness, but stocks have been rallying like crazy the last few years and there’s a nontrivial chance of a (possibly very sharp) correction coming down the pipeline. If losing a big chunk of your portfolio in the next couple years will set your life-plans off-kilter, it might be time to reallocate.

    1. Joy ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      My fiancé has most of his money in cash so it kind of works out — my money is invested more aggressively, his very conservatively. I bet together we have a balanced portfolio! 🙂

  4. anonymous says:

    You’ve done well financially, but you probably know money only will magnify the type of person one already is. When you get to 400k and 500k, whatever joy you’ll feel will be evanescent. It’ll give you more options though, so that’s a good thing. Pursuit of happiness is fleeting and is a misguided goal for most people. It’s better to find meaning and one’s purpose in life.

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