Walking to FIRE is a Personal Finance, Financial Independence, and “Discovering The Life I want to Live” blog of a disabled millennial New Yorker. Looking for tips and tricks on living well with smaller budgets in a big city? Want to explore “value spending”? Have Chronic Illnesses but believe Financial Independence is a possibility anyways? You’re in the right place!
Having gone through multiple bouts of medical crises in my 20’s including Brain Surgery and Rheumatoid Arthritis, I have been keenly aware of the fragility of the human body and life, especially pertaining to our ability to work and make a living. There is a Japanese saying, things that happen twice will happen a third. After my diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis in summer of 2017, I knew I had to set myself up for the next medical crisis.
I joined the Personal Finance community in February 2018, and have found amazing community of people who have helped me to go from just saving to growing. I’ve been largely a consumer of resources, information, and advice for the past year, but I decided it’s about time I start having a blog of my own to share my journey!
My Short (?) History about Money
I moved to New York City in 2014 after graduating college with a master’s degree. I was 25, and recovering from brain injury sustained during brain surgery. I moved to the city with $6,000 in my bank account that I had since I was in 1st grade. Basically my whole life’s savings for the first 25 years of my life.
I began my “adult life” in NYC working as a babysitter, living on $300/week as I tried to find a job or career. After half a year of searching for a full-time job, I began working in tech support in midtown with zero tech experience, making $14/hr. Few months later, I became salaried employee, and began making $37k/yr.
Coming from no job to a full-time job, $37k/yr sounded like riches beyond measure. But I quickly came to realize that after taxes (and eventually benefits as I turned 26), it really didn’t come out to much. I began tutoring 3 nights a week to patch the gaps, eventually making up to $1,000/mo from tutoring.
Ten months after beginning my career in IT, I was recruited out to work for $50k/yr. What riches! I’d gone from $300/week to $50k/yr in a span of a year. I was ecstatic. Well, taxes hit, and I realized my take home didn’t increase too much. But eventually I was able to cut down my tutoring from 3 nights a week to 1 or 2 nights, which allowed me much more flexibility. And this job gave me 401k after 3 months, which was a novelty to me. I had no idea how it worked, but I put in a bit here and there.
A little over a year after starting the new role, I once again got a new job, and began working for $60k/yr. I knew from previous salary bumps that the change in my take home wouldn’t be much different. But the small difference allowed me to stop tutoring in the afternoons all together. This was December, 2016.
In span of 2 years (December 2014 to December 2016), I had gone from $25,000/yr to $60,000/yr.
Even thought it was still pretty low in comparison to most of my friends who were making solid 6 figures by that point, I was still pretty proud of myself for having been able to break into a completely new field and have enough money from my full-time job to make ends meet.
Being able to quit working in the evenings came just in time, as I quickly began to develop chronic pain symptoms which was spreading throughout my body rapidly. Half a year after I first began to have symptoms, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in August, 2017. I began oral chemo treatments.
With sudden high medical costs and uncertainty for my ability to work in the near future, I began getting anxious anew about my financial stability.
In January, 2018, I decided 2018 was the year to start bringing my financial life in order. I’d always been a saver, but I just saved. There was no real goal, just a lot of financial anxiety (stemming from living for a while at very low income in NYC). I set an arbitrary goal of having net worth of $100k by the time I turned 30 (in June, 2019), and set about trying to find communities or resources.
At this point, I had somehow managed to have net worth of $81,000, up from $6,000 from 2 years earlier. I really don’t know how it happened, given my salary was never over $60k, and much less for most of the time.
I reached the goal of having net worth of $100k in August, 2018… Full 10 months ahead of schedule. I saved almost 60% of my take home, and was maxing out my HSA and Roth IRA. I went from 8% Roth 401K contribution to 20% Traditional by mid-2018.
In November, 2018, I had a promotion, and with it came salary bump to $75k/yr. While I spent half of 2018 putting in 20% of my salary into a Traditional 401K, I decided 2019 will be the year to max out my 401K.
I had effectively tripled my income in 4 years, from $25,000 in December 2014, to $75,000 in December 2018.
Now, it’s 2019, I’m hoping to be in remission this year. I am maxing out my HSA, 401K, and Roth IRA, and saving one paycheck a month.
I am also beginning to think long and hard about the concept of Financial Independence, and what it means to me. I am a workaholic, but have too many interest and hobbies to be “stuck” to a single full-time job. I have quite a few projects and side hustles going alongside my 8-5, and hope that in the next few years, I will be able to ditch the full-time job to focus on projects that make me feel fulfilled and excited.
I will probably never “Retire” in the traditional sense. But I want the freedom to pursue what I want to pursue, and take breaks to rest when I need it. With my body being how it is, the ability for me to take care of it without financial distress is very important to me.
And so I began this blog, in an attempt to untangle what it is exactly that I want out of my life, and how I am going to attain it.
Read more about my Money Journey in The Origin of “Zero”!
Call Me Zero!
I didn’t put much thought into my username (I was just so eager to join the Twitter community and needed a username), but the alias has stuck. You can find me on Twitter at Zero2FIRE.
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