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Subject:  Lurker no more! (very long) Date:  11/21/2002  10:04 PM
Author:  xxannxx Number:  145730 of 310154

I've been lurking on this board for about a month now, and I want to thank you all in advance for everything I've learned so far. What an amazing group of people you are!

I figured, however, that it was time to go public. It may be the only way I continue to force myself to stay on track. And I look forward to any and all suggestions/comments you may have.

Deep breath.

Here's the current picture:
balance interest notes min/month limit
Citibank 13,733.86 2.90% (until 4/1/03) 293.00 25,020.00
MBNA 0.00 18,800.00
AmexOptima 0.00 18,700.00
USAA 0.00 11,908.00
Student Loan1 788.61 5% 30.00
Student Loan2 7,513.91 7.50% 107.45
Student Loan3 17,435.58 4.61% 150.16
Car Loan 6,757.03 6% 369.12
TOTAL 45,225.58 950.00

efund $ 3,063.29 target $10K
401k $ 2,821.55 6% (matched by employer)
529 $ 1,265.22 $200/mo

And here's the story.

I know the $45K in debt is scary, but that figure was over $120K a year ago, so I feel pretty good about the progress I've made so far. My job-life history is a bit eclectic, but suffice it to say that I used to work in an industry where I was doing what I loved every day, fulfilling my childhood dream, really, but I just wasn't making “enough” money (topped out at about $21K/year). This was partly because I was living way beyond my means, and had been for a long time (that part is probably pretty clear from the debt figure :) on top of the fact that I was digging out of huge undergrad student loans.

So what did I do? I went to grad school, got even deeper into debt (see Student Loan1-3), got my Masters in a year, worked in that profession for a year, increased my yearly income (to about $60K), but I still wasn't making “enough” money.

A friend called and offered me a position in the industry I'm in now, where I make a very nice living (started matching my old salary, and now I'm up to about $130K/year). Unfortunately, the industry is not very stable, and while I've been lucky enough to have steady work for 3 years now, I'm trying to prepare for potentially being unemployed when my current project ends (sometime around next September/October). I have some time, but it just doesn't feel like enough.

When I took a really hard stab at paying off primarily credit card debt last year (although I also managed to put my undergrad loans to bed), I paid no attention to an emergency fund, nor to my son's college fund (he's 8). And I had no investments (the 401k at work is new).

A couple of other things. Son's dad and I live together but have never married. We've always rented, because we've 1. never had any money; 2. never felt like we were going to stay in one place very long. In my son's first 4 years of life, we moved 4 times…always to a “nicer” place (that we couldn't really afford). We have completely separate finances. Because I make the most money, I pay all the big bills (rent, clothing, groceries, summer camp, gifts, etc.); he pays utilities, child care, some groceries, and all of his personal stuff. The trade-off is that he has a very flexible work schedule so he can coach soccer and baseball, be a classroom-parent, etc. He's primary care-giver; I “make the money.”

We live in the Bay Area and I pay $2095/m in rent for a very modest house in a decent, but not amazing neighborhood (SO's truck got stolen out in front of our house a few months