I’m 26 years old today. (On the 26th! And at the beginning of possibly the biggest snowstorm in New York history! How cool!)
I will spare you guys an existential rant on what it means to be on ~the other side of 25~ because a) who gives a shit, and b) I am happy to be turning a year older, and feel awesome about where I am right now. I felt old and embarrassed at 21 when I was aimless, broke, and nowhere near getting a degree. At 26, I’ve had a book in bookstores across North America and Europe, was a Creative Director at a top-50 US website, and started a blog that John and Hank Green chose to sponsor. 26 feels impossibly young, and it is.
But it also feels like a great time — even if my blog wasn’t called The Financial Diet — to think about the tangible, actionable goals I have for the rest of my 20s. And again, even if writing about personal finance wasn’t my #personalbrand, most of my goals would be financial. I have realized a lot of my dreams and had a particularly good 2014, but I have a lot of growing left to do when it comes to money. So I wanted to write down some of the specific milestones I’d like to hit before 30.
1. Earn my full-time living through The Financial Diet, enough that I am comfortable and secure without having to do any other projects in a given month, if I can’t or don’t want to. (Also, as some of you may have noticed, I have not yet put any ads on the site, as there are things that are being updated/upgraded before there will be any. But please have faith in me that my taste in ads is second to none, and their eventual presence will not disturb your browsing experience, but rather eNhAnCe it.)
2. Live below my means to the point that I can save at least 25 percent of my monthly income, and put any extra money that I earn in a given month straight into savings/investments.
3. Get my budget game so on point that I always know where I stand with all my accounts, and am never caught off-guard by a statement (unless something totally out of my control happened).
4. Own things with actual value, instead of just a ton of shitty sweaters that I don’t wear. Like real estate.
5. Choose freelance projects with increasing discernment, widening the scope of my work as I go. Work on things that take longer, feel richer, and are more satisfying. Increase the value of an hour of my work.
6. Write a second book, and this time actually be in the U.S. for its launch so I can go from bookstore to bookstore, caressing its cover and luxuriating in my cArRiE bRaDsHaW mOmEnt.
7. Have the freedom to dedicate a portion of my weekly working hours to girls who are just starting out. Finally be of use to the young women who write me freaking out about what to do after college, or how to become a writer. Take a hundred hungry young women who are way more intelligent and motivated than I ever was at their age out for coffee.
8. Master all styles of cooking (and cooking in advance) to the point where 85 percent of my meals are cheap, satisfying, and eaten at home.
9. Purify my wardrobe enough that every purchase I make is deliberate and intelligent. (More generally, stop hemorrhaging money at fast fashion stores and only own things that look and feel great. I have been making great progress on this already this year but, you know, I can always improve.)
10. Be able to donate to various charities and causes without much consideration, even if it’s only 50 bucks here and there.
11. Master the art of sale shopping to the point that my whole life is full of high-quality items I got for a fraction of the price. Learn to separate “cheap” and “frugal,” and to never confuse the two.
12. Learn enough about my own finances and business that I feel competent and confident when talking with my lawyer and accountant, and know the exact questions to ask. Lose that feeling of being the little girl in the big city who just hopes that people aren’t taking advantage of her.
13. Keep “quality of life” as an equally important marker of success to “income,” and never think that the number in your bank account should come at the expense of your sanity, or your happiness. Know when to say “no” to things that would make you richer on paper and poorer in life.
14. Pay my fair share of taxes, always. Remember that everyone having good health care and a roof over their head is just as important as my own success, and engaging in the many tax-evading strategies of the self-employed is a moral failing, no matter what the American dream tells us.
15. Take my parents on a nice vacation, somewhere they have never been. Don’t let them pay for a thing.
16. Live in such a way that money fades to the background of my life, and provides a pleasant hum for everything to run smoothly, without being the focus of things or what defines me. Live humbly and well, and always remember that it is the distance between what we have and what we desire that makes us unhappy, and that enjoying life within our means is the key to feeling satisfied and ~dare I say~ rich.
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