Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Debt Background

This is my second time drafting this post.  I accidentally deleted my first attempt, geez! Well hold on to your hats cause this is a long one!

I have been a mess, financially, for quite some time.  I got my first job as an attorney in mid-2005, working as an attorney for the State of Florida.  I had a salary of approximately $46,000 a year.  Definitely, not my dream job or salary.  However, I was 23 years old and did not have a clue about money management and I decided since I was an attorney I needed to spend like one.  Let's just say it didn't go well, I made all of my minimum payments on my credit cards and student loans.  I also charged what I felt like charging on my credit card.  By 2010 I decided that I needed to get my finances in order.  I had been paying on my student loans for almost five years and there was no end in sight.  The first thing I did was take stock of my situation, I realized I had a lot of debt and too little income.  By then, I was making $57,500 a year at a small law firm doing personal injury defense.  Mostly, auto accident defense work.  I decided to ask for a raise after 2.5 years of working at the firm.  My boss seemed pleased with my work, but had never offered to increase my salary.  It was well known through the firm (and the community) that my boss did not like to give up money if she did not have to.  She was also very misogynistic, she disliked women and often expressed her preference for working with men.  I knew I had a hard battle so I decided that I would ask for a very small raise and then look for a new job ( I had previously looked for a new job, but due to the recession there were very few openings). I emailed my boss and asked to speak with her about a raise, she ignored me for about 2 weeks.  I finally spoke to her and tried to get her to state a number first, but she wouldn't so after 45 minutes I grew tired of the game and I asked for a $5,000 raise.  She quickly acquiesced, but made it seem like it was quite a struggle.   I was elated that I was finally making over $60,000 ($62,500 to be exact!), but I knew that I was being underpaid.  I used the extra money towards paying off one of my smaller student loans.  It was the first time that I ever felt that I could get ahead of my finances.  It was still slow going, but I could actually see the progress.

It took me about 8 months, but I finally found a new job at the firm I am currently at now. I knew going in that I needed to make at least $65,000, but that number could go up or down based on the benefits offered.  (I got hosed when I left the State because I did not realize that the small firm I went to did not cover 100% of the insurance premiums like the state did.  I was paying over $300 a month pretax for insurance.  I got only 5 days of vacation a year compared to about 80 vacation/ sick days with the State, etc.)  Anyways, my current boss offered me $70,000 year and I took it readily.  The firm covered all, but about $25 of the insurance premium per month, we got 5 vacation days and 5 sick days for the first year of employment, 10 vacation days after the first year and 15 vacation days after 5 years.  The increase in my income was unprecedented.  Just the extra $300 a month that I had been paying to insurance made a huge difference to my income.  It was like I had gotten a instant $10,000 a year raise.  I started working there in mid-2011 and I paid off the smallest student loan very quickly within 2 or 3 months of working there.  I paid off another small student loan within a few months thereafter.  I also had an outstanding car loan that I had paid a little extra on over the past few years.  I was able to pay that loan off by December of 2011.  Life was pretty great.  In January of 2012 I decided my main goal for 2012 was to pay off my credit card debt.  By 2011 I had pretty much stopped charging things on my credit cards, but I still had a large total balance.  When I calculated the total in 2012, it was over $19,000.  I think at one point it was over $23,000.  Nevertheless, I cut my spending, I got on a budget and I set about paying off the debt.  I cancelled my credit card protection plans and every extra dime I could muster up when towards debt payoff.  Things were going well too well, I fretted and worried at every turn that I would not be able to get those cards paid off.  I had never had that kind of luck or progress with debt my whole life.  I used a balance transfer from Chase which offered 0% interest for 15 months for a 1% fee.  It helped tremendously! However, by November of 2012 I paid off every single one of those cards! I actually became credit card debt free!  Additionally, in December of 2012 we got 2 weeks pay as a Christmas bonus.  I put that money into my savings account for a house.  Because of all my good luck and progress I decided to help my sister with her credit card debt.  I transferred $6,000 of her debt to my chase card.  I paid it off in March of 2013.  I also got my 10% raise in January of 2013 (it was announced to me in November of 2012).  After I paid off my sister's $6,000 worth of debt I saved like crazy for a house. Then in May 2013 I closed on my home.  It took most of my savings, but I put 5% down.  In June of 2013 I took another $6,000 of my sister's credit card debt and transferred it to my chase card.  Then in October of 2013 I paid off yet another student loan that was originally $9,000.  We also received another Christmas bonus in December of 2013.  (It was for about $2424 after taxes, I gave $500 to my mother and $500 to my sister).  That takes us to the present.  I will set forth my present financial situation in a separate post as this one is already super long!

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