Question Wednesday

It’s Wednesday, which means it’s time to decide which financial question we’ll ask this week.

This week, my question borrows from the John Thornton Jr. essay about the formative nature of debt: what financial decision (whether it was a decision you made or a decision someone else made on your behalf, like the decision to give you an inheritance) do you think had the greatest effect on your life?

In my case, I can identify three big financial decisions that changed my life:

  1. Immediately after graduating from college, reading Your Money or Your Life and making the decision to track every penny I spent and earned. (Which I’ve kept up, consistently, for fifteen years.)
  2. Deciding to share my finances with the internet, which I initially did on Tumblr before I started writing for The Billfold. This choice kept me financially accountable and kickstarted my current career.
  3. Deciding to live off 50 percent of my gross freelance income so I could put the rest towards taxes, savings, and debt repayment. I just checked YNAB and I am still living off roughly 50 percent of my gross income, only I’m putting more towards savings now because I’m debt-free.

I should also note that there are two other big financial factors that shaped my life:

  1. Getting full-ride scholarships for both college and grad school.
  2. My parents telling me they were going to pay off the $14K credit card debt I had incurred during a period of underemployment, so that I could pay them back interest-free.

In the second case, I had already started the “live off 50 percent of my income” plan, which is one of the reasons why I initially resisted this offer — I was on target to pay down my debt in two years, so it wasn’t like I was financially flailing or in over my head. But in the end I accepted their gift and saved probably $2K on interest (I did the math at the time but I don’t remember what it was).

So… yeah. As with most things, my current financial situation derives from a combination of luck, work, active decision-making, and privilege.

What about you?

Discuss — or ask your own questions — in the comments.

Photo by Jens Lelie on Unsplash.

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