July 2015 net worth update — my monstrous $10,000, interest rate-shattering month

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Jason Mrachina

Well hello and welcome to July!

June was a good month for me, a good month for America, and a tense month for Greece and Puerto Rico. But was it a good month for my finances?

The start of a new month offers a new chance to look deep into my finances to see how I’m faring in slaying my twin dragons of massive student loan debt and paltry retirement savings.

And slay I did! My June was absolutely massive as I’ll show as we cut straight to the numbers.

The numbers

Here’s what happened to my student loan debt, my retirement savings, and my net worth over the past month:


All told, June was that rare month in which every aspect of my net worth turned out good. Let me explain

What’s bad

First off, the bad news is that I paid off absolutely no debt last month. Between having to watch from the sidelines as my loans were being refinanced and using up all my money to focus on another personal finance goal (more to follow), I was only able to pay the interest on my student loans in June.

This is something that I should bounce back from next month now that the commotion with the refinancing has settled. After all, only paying off the interest on a loan is a great way to ensure I’ll never see the end of it.

What’s good

But back to every aspect being good.

That $10,700 jump in retirement savings is good. Actually, it’s not just good; it’s great! It’s by far the biggest increase I’ve had in a single month since I started measuring at the start of 2013. Besides making normal contributions, I had a chance to take advantage of a company match in my 401(k) thanks to a work anniversary and focused all my energy to pounce all over it.

The huge increase in my net worth was also good. After starting this blog with a net worth that was bigger than negative $100,000, it’s amazing to see that I’m only $9,900 from wiping out my negative net worth.

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And somehow, my debt was also good. Despite not paying off any of the balance, the state of my student loans improved dramatically in June because I refinanced my formerly 7 percent loans down to 3.4 percent. No, this doesn’t affect my balance in any way, but I’ll be paying hundreds of dollars less in interest every month — hundreds that can go straight to paying off more debt or adding to retirement savings!

What a month!

How did you do in June?

France passed a law requiring supermarkets to donate unsold food to charity; is this OK?

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Graham Reznick via Flickr

Recently, the French National Assembly unanimously passed a law requiring supermarkets to donate unsold food to charity.

The law is certainly an improvement upon current practice, where edible food is destroyed — sometimes with bleach, according to one lawmaker — so that it cannot be consumed. I can only hope that this will serve as an example both for France’s counterparts in the United Kingdom, where as much as 40 percent of produce doesn’t even make its way to grocery shelves, because “shoppers are so unprepared to accept odd sizes, shapes or marks that farms use perfectly edible produce as animal feed or plough it back into the ground,” and for us here in the United States where we waste or throw away nearly half our food.

But is this a good thing?

Of course it’s a good thing.

Yes, adding an extra regulation on business should never be done carelessly, but it’s hard to argue with a law that will both encourage supermarkets to waste less food and provide charities with more resources.

Here’s how I anticipate those effects playing out.

Concerns about liability will lead supermarkets to minimize waste

The surprising thing is that France would need a law at all to convince its supermarkets not to destroy food that they can’t sell at full price, but that is still edible. best guess is that it has to do with liability concerns.

When it comes to getting sued by a discount customer or recipient of charity food who’s eaten food gone bad, supermarket owners aren’t just afraid of losing those lawsuits. The expensive legal defence and bad publicity could be more than enough to sink a store.

Even with that in mind, I would still guess that the risk-averse supermarket owners would not subject food they’re giving away to the same level of quality control that they impose upon food they’re selling. My guess would be that they’ll instead try to minimize the food they give away — to humans at least — by sending a large portion to be used as animal feed or by not ordering so much extra from their suppliers.

Supermarkets forced to compete with themselves will get innovative

in the current system, you’re limited to two choices of either buying an item at full price or not getting it. For some people, the new French law will add a third option — waiting until after that item is donated to charity and seeking to get it for free.

Supermarkets concerned with that might seek to minimize the drastic difference between buying an item at full price or waiting to get an item for free by enacting dynamic pricing that dulls this advantage. This could probably be better explained with an example — an example about bananas!

Suppose that in the current system, Market A sells a pound of bananas for 50 cents whether they’re green or yellow. Market A doesn’t sell brown bananas, instead destroying them once they get a few spots. With France’s new law, some shoppers would be able to get those brown bananas for free, making them less likely to buy yellow (soon-to-be brown) bananas. Markets who see their yellow bananas constantly piling up and turning into brown bananas they’re forced to donate might instead choose to sell the yellow bananas for 25 cents a pound.

This outcome would sadly mean fewer brown bananas would be sent to charity, but it also means more bananas would be eaten when they’re yellow.

I would suspect that the bigger effect — and perhaps the intent of French legislators — will be that supermarkets will work harder to reduce waste. I will be interested to see the results.

More than that, I’m happy that charities will find themselves being given more much needed resources.

How variable rate loans work, their risks, and why I chose a variable rate to refinance my student loans with SoFi

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Ian Sane via Flickr

Last week, I proudly announced that I had refinanced my student loans from 7 percent down to 3.4* percent thanks to SoFi.

What I didn’t include last week was a note explaining that the 3.4 percent was a variable interest rate.

Let’s talk about that now.

What’s a variable interest rate?

Where most loans you’re used to have a fixed rate, a loan with a variable interest rate works exactly as the words would imply — they vary depending on the market rate.

More specifically, my rate increases and decreases relative to the one-month ICE LIBOR benchmark in U.S. dollars.

Officially, ICE LIBOR is the rate at which banks lend money to each other, as collected and reported every day by the InterContinental Exchange. LIBOR is chiefly pushed up and down by the Federal Funds Rate, as set by the Federal Reserve to work toward two goals: keeping inflation in check and fighting unemployment.

Since unemployment has been a problem since the start of the financial crisis in 2008 and ensuing Great Recession, interest rates have hovered near all-time lows. Right now, that rate is around 0.2 percent.

Since that rate is a benchmark for my student loan, it is somewhat inaccurate to say that I’ve got a loan with a 3.4 percent interest rate from SoFi. It would be better to say that I have a loan whose variable rate is equal to ICE LIBOR plus a 3.2-percent fixed rate (that 3.2 percent is sometimes referred to as the margin).

Why this could be dangerous

It should be fairly obvious why a variable rate loan could potentially be very dangerous.

Having a rate tied to ICE LIBOR might sound like a great idea when it’s only around 0.2 percent, but it would be much less fun if it shot up to three or four times that rate. My loan is capped at 9 percent, and if it ever got that high, I’d be paying more than I was before I refinanced.

Why I took the variable rate loan anyway

There were multiple options to consider when selecting my student loan when I applied to SoFi.

loan_types

I could have gone with a five-, ten-, fifteen-, or twenty-year term. Because I’ve long been on pace to be free of student loan debt by 2019 anyway — and because they offered the lowest rates — I chose a five-year loan.

The next choice was between a 4.7 percent fixed rate loan and the LIBOR plus 3.25 percent variable rate loan I went with.

To figure out which of the two would cost less, I needed to estimate what LIBOR would be over the next five years.

The best way to guess the future of LIBOR is to pay close attention to every statement that comes out of the Federal Reserve (as mentioned earlier).

Another way is to look at interest rate swaps. An interest rate swap is an agreement between two parties who agree to pay each other’s interest on a specified amount of principal. For example, one company might pay the other a fixed interest rate of 1.3 percent for three years on $1 million (Note that the principal of $1 million never actually changes hands). In return, the other company would pay whatever LIBOR becomes.

The reason that interest rate swaps are important is because when a lot of companies are doing them with each other, the prevailing market rate gives a pretty good indication of what the industry believes is going to happen with interest rates in the future.

Based on current Interest Rate Swaps, these are the interest rates I could estimate over the life of my loan:

intswaprates

 

That’s an average rate of 4.9 percent over the five years. However, because the earlier, lower rates affect a bigger balance that is then paid off, the dollar-averaged rate is more like 4.5 percent. This is less than the fixed rate of 4.7 percent that SoFi offered me.

And one more important thing: If I pay off the loans in less than five years, I’ll spend even less time in the higher-rate stage, lowering my average rate even more.

Huzzah.

So, how do you guys feel about variable rate loans?

Huge news: I was approved for a 3.4% student loan refinance with SoFi

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Source: Hartwig HKD via Flickr

Huge news on the debt payoff front today: I received an email from SoFi telling me that I’ve been approved to refinance my student loans, which are currently around 7 percent, to 3.4 percent.

This is important for multiple reasons, which I’ll go through below, but first, I’d like to do a quick review of my experience with SoFi so far.

A review of the application process with SoFi

Picture1 This review is quick — not because I’m shy about discussing personal finance, but because the process was so simple.

(1) I was able to fill out the entire form online, which included uploading PDFs of W2s and other tax documents as proof of income.

(2) When I realized that I’d made an error on the form, there were three ways to contact SoFi instantly.

(3) Upon sending an email, I received a helpful, polite response to each of my questions within minutes.

Maybe a lifetime of long waits and endless circuits of automated messaging has lowered my expectations, but SoFi — whose rates are low enough that they don’t have to compete on customer service — really surprised me.

If the prospect of saving money on your loan payment isn’t enough to convince you to apply, then the customer service should. Oh, and since we’re on the topic, here’s a link to get $100 cash back if you do: https://sofi.com/refer/4/11129.

Three reasons why this refinance is important

These might be self-explanatory, but what the heck…

(1) Refinancing helps me build wealth

Depending on how quickly I pay back this newly refinanced loan, I could save tens of thousands of dollars in interest. And who’s gonna complain about having a couple extra Salmy Chases in their back pocket?

(2) Refinancing gives me more disposable income

At their current amount, my student loans cost me over $6,000 per year in interest. By cutting that interest rate in half, SoFi is effectively giving me a $3,000 raise — no performance review necessary :)

(3) Refinancing gives me more options

Ever since I took on this high-interest rate student loan debt, it’s been the primary focus of my personal finances. Any time I thought to do anything with money, I wondered how it might affect my student loan payoff.

Now that these loans will be at a much more reasonable interest rate, there may be new options for the money I save that I hadn’t even considered. I’ll have to think long and hard about what those might be.

Anyhow, thanks for reading. I’m excited about being able to move on to another chapter of my personal finance journey with the help of SoFi.

My aggressive June 2015 goals include learning and exercising every day, and a $10,000 net worth increase

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Andy Morffew via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

For folks interested in self-improvement, June is always an important month.

It’s right there in the middle of the year making it a good checkpoint for seeing how we’re doing on our New Years resolutions. Spring showers have finally given way to sun and winter snow is a distant memory — there’s really no excuse to not get out and exercise or to run errands.

And for me specifically, June is my birth month, so it naturally motivates me to enter my next year of life as strong as I can be.

Let’s lay down some dangerously aggressive June 2015 goals.

June goal #1: Learn something new about personal finance every day

I like to think I’ve built up a pretty strong base of personal finance knowledge, but I am still pleasantly surprised at how often I learn about a new way to get more organized. Likewise, when it comes to saving money on shopping, I’m always happy to find that there are ways to buy cheaper options without compromising value and that there are new ways to extend the life of things I already own.

Moreover, to really prove that I’ve learned something, I’d like to know enough about it to write about it.

There are 17 weekdays left in the month, and I am going to write a blog post for every one of them.

June goal #2: Exercise a little every day

This seems even more aggressive than the last goal!

An increasingly noticeable part of getting older has been finding that it’s harder and harder to exercise, whether because it’s hard to find time in my busy schedule, or because I lack the motivation when I do have the time for it.

I’d like to enter my new year with a solid exercise routine, even if it’s just a bit per day.

There are 22 days left in the month, so I’d like to work out 22 times — even if it’s just 100 each push-ups and sit-ups, running two miles, or half an hour of weights. Doing something is better than the nothing I’m able to get myself to do most days.

June goal #3: $10,000 worth of debt payoff or retirement savings

This one should seem too aggressive — if not downright impossible — considering that my monthly income is nowhere near $10,000. However, between the signing bonus I’ll be able to get by refinancing my student loans with SoFi, the company match on my 401(k), and some of my 401(k) vesting, I can get close if I put in a lot of effort.

Again, this is probably too aggressive, but I figure it’s one of those goals where even if I don’t make it, I imagine that I’ll be happy with the bigger results

Let’s see how well I do.

What goals are you motivating yourself toward in June?

Take control of your finances before they take control of you

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Richard Clark (Digimist) via Flickr

The following blog post is part of the The Road to Financial Wellness Blog Tour. Over a period of 30 days, the Phroogal team will go to 30 locations to raise awareness about financial empowerment. Today they will be in New York! Our goal is to help people learn about money by starting the conversation. We understand that local conversations can help bring about national awareness.

The one certainty I’ve discovered when it comes to personal finance is that you’re going to have to pay attention to it sooner or later.

What’s less obvious is that this certainty actually comes with a choice: You can either learn about personal finance from the positive side by discovering all of the doors that a little bit of knowledge can unlock — doors that lead to ways to make your life easier, happier, and more in control. Or, you can be forced into learning personal finance while scraping yourself from the cold floor at the bottom of a pit of despair.

Because I like to live dangerously, I chose the second option. But let’s discuss both anyway.

Discovering personal finance from the good side

Even for those who already live comfortably, getting smart about your personal finances can be very empowering.

As an example, suppose someone holds a decent job that pays well enough that she can afford to buy everything she wants — and she does. She could continue plodding along merrily at her job until 65, maybe continuing on through to retirement, all the while living an unremarkable but comfortable life.

Or, she could discover personal finance.

She might read up on ways to be frugal, decide to cut back on a few of those wants, and instead put the leftover cash toward wealth-building assets. She could find out about compound interest and decide that contributing aggressively toward retirement early in her career is a good way to end up with a huge nest egg, opening her up to a world of options that she might have previously dismissed — options like owning a home, paying for a child’s college, or retiring a decade earlier.

Discovering personal finance like I did — from the ugly side

I wish that you and all those you hold dear might have the good fortune of discovering personal finance the nice way — as the key that unlocks new and exciting life options.

Or you can do what I did.

You see, I never had much of a desire to learn about personal finance. But one day late in 2012, I decided to add up all of my accounts, and found that years of freely spending, a couple degrees, a very poorly timed real estate purchase, and ignoring retirement accounts, had all combined to leave me hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

If I hadn’t started caring about my finances, I might fall even deeper into the abyss, never to emerge.

In other words, for me, getting smart about personal finance wasn’t a matter of making a comfortable life slightly more comfortable. Rather, it was the last hope I had to recover.

And recover I have!

Since starting this blog, I’ve learned a ton about paying off debt, saving for retirement, and living in a way that leaves me enough cash to do both of these. Not only that, I’ve actually used that knowledge to pay off debt and save for retirement — to the tune of $133,000 by last count. Personal finance has gone from being the last hope I had at the very brink of calamity to a nearly rebuilt life.

Talk about financial empowerment!

June 2015 net worth update: How I’m already up $27k on the year by being aggresively boring

Hello and welcome to June!

On one hand, I’m having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that we’re already this deep into 2015. On the other hand, I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made already in my debt payoff this year.

The most important tangible personal finance step I took in May was submitting an application to refinance my high-interest rate student loans with SoFi. If the application goes through, I would cut my interest rate in half, so I’m really hoping it works out.

My fiancée and I spent less time researching and planning our forthcoming wedding and marriage in May than we did in April. After a strong start, we started to feel overwhelmed, so that’s something we’ll have to work harder on in June.

Let’s look at the numbers.

Net worth update

Here’s what happened to my balances in June:

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The big number here is my current net worth of -$20,500. After starting out the year with a very negative net worth of -$47,300, I set what I thought was a VERY ambitious goal — to get to a positive net worth by the end of 2015. I’m proud to say that we’re only five months done with the year, and I’m already at 57% of reaching that goal.

And while I understand that the remainder of my goal — paying off tens of thousands in debt — by the end of the year will definitely be challenging, being more than halfway to my goal with seven months left to chip away is a great confidence boost.

On being aggressively boring

Here’s a colorful chart!

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In 2014, my strategy was to think all month about cutting corners and then send whatever I had left at the end to pay off debt. It made for an exciting year! There were months where I paid off over $3,500 and months where I paid off next to nothing.

By contrast, look at this boring graph and try your best not to fall asleep:

Picture1

My strategy for 2015 is being aggresively boring.

First, I set a very aggressive goal at the beginning of the year. Then, I make a big, aggressive payment at the beginning of each month. So instead of scrimping and sending what’s left to debt, I instead make a huge payment first and figure out how to live off the remainder.

So far, it’s working.

How was your May 2015?



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Crooks breach the IRS website compromising tax info on 100,000 people; here’s why you might still be safe

In only the latest high profile data breach, the Internal Revenue Service disclosed yesterday that criminals had accessed approximately 100,000 tax accounts through a vulnerable part of the agency’s website.

Breaching the Get Transcript service — which as of this posting remains offline — would allow thieves access to your past tax returns, which, of course, include loads of personally identifiable information.

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On the breach

Although news outlets are referring to the incident as a “hack,” this term may be a bit too generous. The heist involved none of the code-breaking one might expect to be necessary to obtain data this sensitive. Rather, the cyber-criminals walked right through the front door of the IRS’s public website.

The Get Transcript service uses knowledge-based authentication to verify that users are who they say they are. To access the data, any taxpayer — or a criminal pretending to be that taxpayer — would simply need to enter personal information then answer challenge questions which are usually related to current or past addresses.

Put differently, this section of the IRS website worked exactly as it was designed to.

And so as I see it, the two real problems are:

    1. The authentication methods are too simple in an age of powerful search engines readily available to the public like Google and Trulia
    2. Because criminals still needed a Social Security Number, filing status, and date of birth to even get to the challenge questions, we should be extra concerned that even this much of our identifying information is floating around out there — perhaps thanks to the Anthem, Target, or Home Depot breaches

The potential ill effects

Besides the increased general risk of having more of your personal information out there, a criminal who can pretend to be you to the IRS can leave your finances in shambles.

Now, you might be thinking this couldn’t possibly hurt you because you always owe money when you file your taxes and if a crook wants to be so kind as to pay off some of that tax bill, then that’s fine by you.

Well think again.

Faking your identity could give criminals the ability to fraudulently file your taxes next year, while rearranging your numbers to receive a big refund sent straight to their criminal hands. Shortly afterward, you might end up in the uncomfortable position of being audited by the IRS due to your info being stolen — from the IRS.

For now, the IRS is doing their best to pick up the pieces and will be notifying those who they suspect of having their data compromised.

Why you might be safe

Luckily, I posted about this very vulnerability a month ago and suggested that you create a password-protected account before criminals had the chance to. Thanks to this preventative step, when criminals tried to breach your IRS data, they were instead prompted for your password.

At least I hope that’s what happened.

Best of luck to all of us in this increasingly risky world.

I applied to refinance my student loans with SoFi to cut my interest rate by 3% and pay $20,000 less in interest

Laszlo Ilyes via Flickr

Laszlo Ilyes via Flickr

I just took one of the most important steps so far in my journey toward debt freedom by applying to refinance my high-interest rate student loans with Social Finance — known as SoFi.

What is SoFi?

SoFi is a three-year-old online lender projected to make $4 billion in loans this year across a portfolio that includes refinanced student loans, mortgages, personal loans, and an entrepreneur program.

It got its start in 2011 as a peer-to-peer lender linking up recent Stanford grads looking to refinance their student loans with older Stanford grads with money to invest.

How does SoFi work?

The thinking behind SoFi expands on that original bit of crowd-sourcing and appears so simple on the surface that I’m almost annoyed I didn’t think of it myself.

The idea boils down to linking up two groups:

  • Investors sick of the low-interest rate options for their money
  • Low-risk student loan borrowers stuck in high-interest rate loans

Interest rates are so low for investors because this has been kept low in response to this being so high as the country continues to recover from this. As an example, the best rate you can get on a savings account these days is around one percent.

The borrower side is only slightly more complicated.

With nearly every other kind of loan out there, high-risk borrowers — where “risk” is determined by credit score and other factors — are charged a higher interest rate than low-risk borrowers to make up for the higher possibility that they won’t pay back those loans.

However, when it comes to student loans, low-risk  borrowers are stuck in high-interest rate loans because student loan rates are by Congress and all borrowers get the same rate. Because these loans are distributed according to need rather than ability to pay back the loans, the interest rates can end up being relatively high to account for all the high-risk borrowers in the pool. The current rate on a Grad PLUS loan is around seven percent.

The space in between the one percent investors have available to them and the seven percent that even the safest student loan borrowers pay is where SoFi works its magic.

Why SoFi makes sense for me

A few things determine how much you’ll spend on any loan, including:

  1. The size of the loan
  2. How long you stretch out your payments
  3. Your interest rate

When it comes to my student loans, I’ve been working very hard on the first couple by making thousands more than the minimums every month, but haven’t done nearly enough to combat my high interest rates.

But I should definitely try harder; even lowering my interest rate by just one percent could lower my total payments by $5,000! Let’s see if SoFi can do even better.

How to apply for SoFi

You can get a $100 refund when you apply using this link: https://www.sofi.com/refer/4/11129

SoFi’s application is purposefully simple. And any confusion can quickly be cleared up using one of the three always-on customer service media:

Picture1

I personally used email to send off a few questions and was pleasantly surprised to receive a response within five minutes each time.

Just enter contact information, information about your degree, information about your job (including income), and information about your loans, and you’ll quickly be presented with this extremely informative page:

Picture2

There, you can see four things:

  1. The total payments you’d make if you chose not to refinance and instead stayed on the plan you’re on. As you can see here, I’d pay $126,000 on my remaining $90,000 in loans… because compound interest hurts
  2. A choice between either a fixed or variable interest rate, and a choice between 5-, 10-, 15-, and 20-year terms. I went with a 5-year term with a variable rate
  3. How much you’ll save by switching to the plan. If I’m approved, I’ll save over $20,000 with my new loan
  4. The button to “apply now.” I clicked this :)

And that’s it. I’m excited by the possibility of lowering my total payments by tens of thousands of dollars and will report back on the results.

If you’ve refinanced your loan through SoFi or tried to, let me know about your experiences in the comments.



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Three things I wish I knew in my 20s about life, turning 30, and personal finance

Don McCullough via Flickr

Don McCullough via Flickr

We put a lot of pressure on our 20s. While growing up, we imagine that our 20-something selves would seek and ultimately find personal and financial freedom, a rapidly growing career, and opportunities around every corner. But when we finally get there, those expectations often leave us disappointed and anxious about our progress — especially as we approach 30.

Here are three important lessons I’ve figured out since leaving my 20s that would have made the transition a little smoother.

Beware of arbitrary milestones

Throughout childhood and adolescence, I thought that turning 18 would be the age where I’d have everything figured out. When college made me ask more questions than it answered, that age became 21. Then 25. And finally 30.

In my 20s, I placed so much weight on growth and accomplishments that it was easy to forget that life didn’t end at 30. I’m now 34 and am finally realizing that I’ll never have all the answers.

Far from feeling like I’m done growing, I now find this realization quite freeing. I am trying my best, while continuing to learn and ask questions; yet I no longer worry about whether I am meeting arbitrary deadlines — particularly the ones that relate to my finances.

It’s so easy to compare yourself to other people your age who have a higher salary, have more saved for retirement, or appear to have their lives or careers more on track than we do. We forget that no two people follow the same path or go at the same pace. It’s up to you to set your own milestones and to celebrate how far you have come once you reach them.

More importantly, time only ever moves forward — never backward — so don’t spend too much time worrying if you’re missing out on anything. Live in the moment, try new things, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

But do set goals and strive for self-improvement

Time may fly when you’re having fun, but it flies even faster when you’re drifting aimlessly.

Life in your 20s lies in stark contrast to the rigidity of school, which has weekly assignments, midterm and final exams, and the progression from freshman to senior years to keep you advancing toward a fixed goal.

After you leave school, it often feels like the years pass by quickly without easily-quantifiable advancement. That’s a big reason why I’m into not just setting goals, but the writing good goals and good intermediate goals in particular.

With money, the same is true.

There are plenty of big things to save up for — a home, kids, and retirement — but decades can pass before you reach the next one. Without setting intermediary goals, I wouldn’t have been able to make as much progress in paying off my debt as I have. And by holding myself to those intermediary goals, I am on track to reach my long-term goals for retirement and whatever else I choose for myself later in life.

Build a strong foundation

One of the things I miss most about my 20s is how quickly I could recover physically — whether from a hard workout, a minor injury, or a late night out.

These days, I have to spend nearly as much time warming up and stretching as I do exercising, and I usually need two or three recovery days after a high-intensity work out when one used to be more than enough. And don’t ask about my knees.

Yet even as I encounter new challenges with each passing year, I know that it could be much harder had I not spent my 20s eating right and staying fit. Not only do I have a much better foundation upon which to continue to build my health, but I developed great fitness habits like learning how to shop for and cook healthy foods, and how to safely train for a race. Having to overcome these hurdles later on in life makes getting or staying fit that much harder.

The same goes for personal finance. My 20s would have been a great time to have learned to live frugally, since I didn’t mind living in cramped spaces or making do with less-than-fancy food and transport. It also would have been a great time to build up my retirement savings — with decades left to go until retirement, compound interest would have turned even tiny amounts into a huge nest egg by age 65.

Alas, neither of these were things I did anywhere near as well as I could have. Yes, I am picking up those skills now and catching up quickly with saving for retirement, but I would definitely be in a better place had I been more focused in my 20s.

Oh, and one more thing…

While we’re talking about good habits, you really should be flossing.