Big J and I have a big goal -- one we have been diligently working towards since we got married over three years ago. We are about halfway through "the plan," and we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
So what is it? Big J and I want to be completely, absolutely, totally debt free by the year 2015. Debt free -- meaning no mortgage, no student loan, no credit cards, no car payments. Debt free, meaning we can pay for everything we need or want with cash, and have money left over for savings and planning for the boys future.
We aren't in crazy debt -- especially for two professionals, one of whom financed her journey through school via the student loan process -- but the debt is still out there, looming over us.
It occurred to me earlier this week, after Big J told me about how we had paid off two more pending items in full (thank you bonus!), that in my adult life I have never, ever been completely debt free. I graduated from undergrad with a student loan and a credit card. I paid them, but I still spent more than I earned. I graduated from law school with more student loan debt and credit card debt. I've had car loans and mortgages and all sorts of stuff in the years since then.
Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to start young adulthood without debt from school. Would I have made different choices? Would I have pursued one of my passions instead of worrying about the bottom line? Would I be a writer now? More involved in politics? Or would I have ended up right where I am now -- with a job as a government consultant, implementing a federal program?
The school debt has ruled my life from day 1 -- I can do this, I can't do that. This is where I can afford to live, this is what I can afford to do. If I had to do it over again, I can't say I'd go to law school. The weight of that debt is enormous -- and I'm just not sure it's made my life better than it would be without the degree. The best thing I got out of law school was the friends.
The worst part - now, at almost 37, the other of two small children, the debt is still making the decisions for me. I don't have the freedom to make choices differently than what I have right now. I need to work. I have to work. There is no part time for me right now. There is no try my own business so that I have the freedom to take care of the kids and make money. There just isn't the freedom to do whatever I want. And after being raised in a world that told me women can do anything -- well, I guess the realization that you really can't have it all really frustrates me some days.
So what do I give up today to have the life I want? Eight hours of sleep? Healthy meals? A trip to the park in the sunshine? I wonder what it will be like to be debt free -- to have the ability to make choices and decisions based on what I want, rather than what is financially best.
I really don't know how it feels to be debt free. But I can say this -- everytime our household money manager tells me with paid off one more thing in full, I feel a little lighter. The weight is slowly coming off my shoulders.
Maybe by the end, I'll be able to fly.
(c) Lessons from Cooper