I’ve been working full-time for the past six months, and bringing in a second income to the household has made my life infinitely easier. I earn enough to comfortably pay my bills, save in my TFSA and RRSP, as well as enjoy little luxuries like dinners out and new clothes.
But I’m still not where I want to be financially.
Financial plans on paper always feel different than their execution. Even though I understood that the MBA would take 3 years to pay off, I didn’t really consider that that would mean I’d feel desperately behind for those whole three years. The worst of it? Those three years start right now. I was so precise in my calculations, I actually accounted for working income in 2014, so getting a job before graduation doesn’t actually put me that much further ahead. Wow, talk about a rough reality check, huh?
When I enrolled in graduate school, I understood liquidating my savings meant taking account balances to zero. What I didn’t grasp was how watching months of hard work and diligent saving disappearing to tuition bills would feel. Or how hard it would be to rebuild.
I realize I made the mistake of thinking a certain income would solve all my financial problems.
I thought the right salary would erase the monetary sacrifices I’ve made over the past two years to go back to school. Surprise? It didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love the job and the income that my MBA has gotten me, but the truth is I won’t feel the real power of my paycheque until early 2018, when I’m finally done playing catch up on my savings.
A three-year ROI is still relatively speedy, all things considered, but when you’re at the beginning of the journey, it feels like a small lifetime. It’s the same way I felt when I graduated with my student loan debt. I understood that investing in a post-secondary education had secured me higher earnings for every year thereafter, but my tens of thousands of student loan debt was crushing. Even though I knew I could and would pay it off, it didn’t make doing so any easier. Now I face the same challenge of rebuilding my savings.
Eventually, after you get your finances under control, you cannot modify your behavior any further to get closer to your financial goals.
You just have to wait for the time to pass.
You can calculate the amount you need for financial independence, or figure out your debt-free date. Then you can automate your savings or debt payments. But after that? You just wait. And wait. And wait. It can take years until those payments translate into the tangible results you want. The waiting game to see the results of good financial habits might be one of the hardest aspects of taking care of your money. Because it’s boring. Because the initial rewards are few and far between. Because every step of the way you’ll wonder if progress is really happening or not.
The first day you decide to start paying off your debt will look exactly like the day before, when you were at your limit.
Do you owe $60,000 and have now decided once and for all you’re going to get out from under this? Good. You still owe $60,000. Maybe if you send a payment towards the balance right now, in 2-3 days you’ll owe $59,900. It’s hardly progress considering you’re making a HUGE life change.
This is comparable to being overweight and deciding to change your diet and exercise regime to get fit. The first day of your new life, you look exactly the same. Two weeks in you probably look the same, even though you’ve made drastic modifications to your daily habits. It takes at least a month, possibly two, for you and your friends to notice changes to your body. Then it will take months, even years, until you get the body you want, and you have to be disciplined and dedicated the whole way through. Changing your finances is like that, except you’ll never get the outside reinforcement you do with health & fitness — “omg you look so great!” — because no one can see your bank account.
Which is one of the reasons personal finance blogs are so great for both their readers and their writers: we show our progress on the outside. When you make strides in paying off your debt or saving for a big goal, you get to celebrate out-loud. It doesn’t make the time go any faster, but it does make it a little easier!
If you’re feeling stuck on your debt repayment or savings journey, be patient.
These things take time.
A long time.
But we all get where we want to be if take the steps.