Since this is my very first blog post, I’d like to start by introducing myself. My name is Mad Money Monster. I wanted a catchy pen name and this one was available as a .com and on all social media forums, so I snagged it! Suckas! 🙂
I have always been interested in personal finance and building wealth but, like many of you, my life got in my way, MANY times. I woke up the other day at mile marker 13 in the Rat Race Marathon and realized that I am a full-fledged adult woman with a NEGATIVE net worth! Yes, I said negative. Ugh. I’m a single mom with a great job, but that means, without child support, my great income has to pay for all of the expenses. I love being a mommy and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I actually prefer to call myself a single parent. It has a much better ring to it, don’t ya think?
My family didn’t have much when I was a child. Both of my parents were high school dropouts with low paying jobs. I was the youngest of 4 children and, despite not having a huge house or a ton of money, I enjoyed almost EVERY second of my childhood. There were times my mom or dad hurled a pillow at my head for something I probably deserved, hence the almost. I fondly remember playing house with my sister, building obstacle courses in the yard with my brothers, and summers swimming at the local pool. Mmmmm, pool pizza…can you still taste it?
We lived on the wrong side of the tracks, but the wrong side of the tracks was still the right school district. We all received a great education and did well. After high school I was lost. I worked several jobs but decided I was going to try my hand at being the first person in my family to attend college. I went and graduated with honors. I worked my way through, attending a community college for the first two years while working in a factory, and then transferring to a 4-year school to complete my undergraduate degree. It took me 25 years to earn a college degree. After graduation, I started working in a high-paying industry. I can thank that high-paying industry for paying 100% of my master’s degree. All in all, I spent a total of about $30,000 on my education, including 2 years at a community college, 2 years at a snooty, private college (academic scholarship for transfer students), and a free master’s degree from my employer. Did I mention that I’m still paying off my $30k in student loans? Again, ugh. I can’t complain. I did it. I came from nothing and am sitting here today with an advanced degree, a great job with wonderful bennies, and 2 houses. Did I mention the 2 houses? No. Right. Okay, let me get to that.
Fast forward a few years after college; I’m engaged, earning a sizable salary in my industry, and buying an investment property (at the top of the real estate bubble, of course) for my parents. I wanted to do something really special for them. After all, my life was cruising along. I was going to get married and my future husband made plenty of money in a well-established career. Along, with my income, I felt like my last name was Rockefeller 😛 I should probably tell you that I grew up in a trailer. I always wanted a house. I would dream of having a house with steps and a second floor. My parent’s trailer did not fair well after decades of use and I had plenty of disposable income at the ripe old age of 30, so I bit the bullet and bought them a home. I subsidized their living expenses to the tune of $800 each month.
We’ll get to house #2 in a few paragraphs.
Tidbit: Ironically, I live in a ranch house today. I love one story living now and wouldn’t have it any other way.
My Financial Descent
It was all good, until it wasn’t. Long story short, we broke off the engagement 6 months after I bought the investment home. I moved out of his house and into the house I bought for my parents. I left shortly thereafter because I couldn’t emotionally handle being a 31 year-old adult living with her parents, even though my parents were really living with me. Never mind that last rational part. So I did what any idiot would do. I rented an apartment as quickly as possible. I was now not only paying $800/month in subsidies to my parents (who never asked for any of this), but I was also paying an additional $1000+/month in expenses to afford an apartment I should not have been renting. My cozy, throw another shrimp on the barbie lifestyle went to Hell in a handbasket, essentially, overnight. I went from contributing 15% into my 401k and maxing out my IRA to cutting off all investments and sitting around my apartment on lawn chairs wearing my winter coat because I didn’t have furniture and wasn’t sure I could afford a high heating bill.
Immediately following the above financial collapse, I met a great man. He helped me rebuild my life, piece by miserable piece, and I thought he was The One. Turns out he wasn’t The One. But that didn’t stop us from having a daughter together. In retrospect, my daughter was a wonderful bonus that came out of that rebound relationship.
Meanwhile, at House #1
My father was older and passed away 2 weeks after I moved into my apartment. It was such a great (not) time in my life. My mother lived in the house for quite a few years until it became too much of a strain for her to take care of and too much of a financial drain on me. We decided it would be best for her to rent an appropriately sized apartment so I could rent out the house and offset some of my own living expenses, as well as day care. I still own House #1 today, but it has little equity due to the real estate collapse. I’m currently taking a $200/month loss. Compared to $800/month, this loss feels like a win.
And Here We Are
That brings us to today. I just had another milestone birthday and realized that I am sitting steady at mile marker 13 in the Rat Race Marathon. The past decade has been a spiraling financial descent that needs to STOP today. Over the last 10 years I have contributed, only spottily, to my 401k, ceased all IRA contributions, and bought a second house to live in, that I probably couldn’t afford. I also had to buy EVERYTHING since I left with nothing. I had to buy everything from furniture to a pizza cutter. I have also done minor improvements to my home and contributed to my daughter’s college savings account. But, if you add up my paltry investments and compare them to my debts (reasonable student loans, inexpensive car loan, and 2 mortgages) I am showing a Big Fat Negative net worth (Actually this isn’t true – I didn’t know how to accurately calculate net worth at the time of this writing. I did a quick calculation in my head and failed to factor in a few things. Those few things give me a positive net worth. A VERY positive net worth. Phew.) I feel like I have worked so hard to shake my humble beginnings, only to be derailed, by my own stupidity, and ending up far behind the 8 ball, late in the game. Sigh.
Taming the Mad Money Monster that Lives in Us All
Will you join me on my journey (and maybe start one of your own) to financial independence and peace of mind through frugality so I can quit the rat race marathon and relax like that cool rat with the umbrella drink?