One day, not too long ago, I was almost entirely broke.
Not impoverished broke: literally-no-money-money-after-bills broke. Owning a business didn’t pay too much, and payouts from my freelancing jobs were trickling in.
I was making just enough money to pay my monthly expenses, but there was nothing left over to save. My savings account hovered right above the minimum required balance.
On slower months, I had to get a little more creative. I cashed out the meager 401(k) from my old teaching job to cover some bills. I sold an electric piano for a few hundred dollars.
My wife and I had made some long-term financial goals while we were still teaching: retirement funds, long-term emergency funds, plans to get out of debt. But now, it was all we could do to stay afloat.
A friend of ours who works as a financial planner asked if we’d like to learn more about starting an IRA, but it just wasn’t in the cards. We were stretched thin enough just trying to prepare for the next week, let alone the next ten years.
But just a few weeks ago, things started to change.
An opportunity came through that boosted my income above my expenses. It wasn’t a huge amount of money—just a few hundred extra dollars a month. And for the first little bit, we did what most people do when they come into extra cash.
We indulged ourselves.
We went out to expensive restaurants. We bought ourselves some Christmas presents.
But we’ve squandered salaries before. We didn’t want to make that mistake again.
We looked back to our list of goals we made back when we were working real jobs. We made a list of our outstanding debts and made a plan to pay them down through the next year. We set up recurring transfers to our savings account to build up our emergency fund. I even called my friend to talk about that IRA.
Through years of scraping by between paychecks, we’ve learned what it means to do my financial planning a week at a time. And I’ve had it.
I’m ready to make a better future for myself. And it won’t take a lot of money to do it.