Two weeks ago, I accomplished a pretty major 2014 goal. But unlike all of the fitness journeys that I livereal-time on Facebook, I've said nothing about it to the majority of my peeps. In my fitness challenge groups, I stress how crucial it is to state your goals publicly, encourage conversation about the highs and lows along the way, and then celebrating when your goal is accomplished. When you state your goals publicly, you build in a layer of motivation and accountability. When you track your progress with friends, you both offer and receive advice to keep you on track. And when you celebrate your own victory, you inspire others to do the same. I mean, right?
So why haven't I told anyone about this other big goal?
I've thought about why this is for a few days, and it's def because the goal I achieved is a financial one. I have some shame attached because I probably should have accomplished the goal years ago. There is also the fact that money is just NOT discussed.
Well, that's not entirely true. We hear about it when it's some nightmare Suze Orman story, causing the viewer inner panic attacks about their own financial plan. Or it's the complete opposite end of the spectrume; the self-made millionaire on his way to becoming a billionaire. It's hard for most of us in the middle to relate to either story, so we simply don't talk about it. But guess who talks about money all the time? Rich people!
You know why rich people are rich? They talk about it all the time! I've met them! Dude, I swear to God... they have zero shame in talking about their failures and successes. Because that's how they learn where their next opportunity lives. They report back to each other- whether is was a failure or success with no shame- and then they are on to the next one.
I have found I can't solve any problem in any area of my life-fitness, career, relationship-without collaboration and consolation with my favorite trusted people. We offer each other support, guidance, advice, and the occasional real-talk if required.
I achieved a major goal that I know many people have, and just never get to. I thought I wouldn't either..until I did. So I feel it's my obligation to share what I accomplished and how I did it.
I PAID OFF ALL MY CREDIT CARD DEBT!
I applied for my first credit card back in college at the campus center so I could get a free bag of Starburst. I'm not kidding. There was some kind of promotion to rope vulnerable, sweet-tooth prone college students. I had no intention of even using the credit card, but then I wanted this really big astrology book I saw at Barnes & Noble in the Galleria. So I bought it..and I guess it cost like $20,000 or something, probably more. Because once I started using it, I just didn't stop.
After college my credit score was pretty terrible, which is a nightmare if you want to find an apartment in New York City. So I did some good work in correcting that, paying back crazy past due stuff. But when my credit score improved, I learned I could just maintain some debt all the time so I could live the way I wanted in the short term, never considering what it was doing to my long game... because I didn't have one. It wasn't until I got back from that first long year of backpacking that I had a vision for my life and what I truly want to do. That vision requires freedom and flexibility, and that's impossible with the ball and chain of debt. I finally realized I could only go so far in my life, if I was dragging that behind.
Here is exactly how I killed the credit card this year, for those who have credit card assassination as one of their top goals for 2015. Please believe, I know little to nothing about money. And I don't think any of this is even super revolutionary. Other than I made the life adjustments and sacrifices required to get it done. I stopped thinking about it and did something. But in some ways I think my story might be more useful to you in that if I can do it, anyone can do it...for real!
Step 1: I took at a staff job.
-This wasn't because it was more cash. In fact, being staff often means a pay cut even after your insurance. It was just REGULAR cash. I wanted a locked amount of money every two weeks to make the budgeting and planning required easier. It also meant a year-end bonus that I wouldn't receive until the end of the company's fiscal year. This was a lump sum I knew was coming to me, but couldn't touch in the short term when temptation arose.
Step 2: I moved out of New York City.
-I could afford my apartment in Brooklyn. But like most New Yorkers, that was IT. There was no way I could pay my credit cards off in a short amount of time, which was imperative. The minute I decided this was a goal, I wanted it over ASAP. This was one of the harder choices for me to actually pull the trigger on within my plan. Any New Yorker who has done this feels a pretty traumatic set of "end of an era" emotions. Because I could not bring myself to do it, this is the prayer I started to say, "god, I know it's over..like, 98% I know it. But I will not be able to do it myself with even 2% of doubt out there. Please send me a sign so obvious, that it's not even a choice I have to make. It needs to be so obvious, it's inevitable. I'm not doing anything until I get it." Not soon after, my father went into the hospital with a serious bout of pneumonia. I spent days in my hometown with my family as he recovered, which was actually really pleasant considering the circumstances... and significantly cheaper. 5 minutes after I walked back into my apartment in Brooklyn (no lie!), my landlord called to tell me he was only giving me a year-lease retroactive 6 months, and my rent would be going up 5%. Sooooo, it was inevitable. "No thank you." I moved everything except my bedroom set into storage, and moved into my sister's second bedroom. This has brought my overhead down DRAMATICALLY. Like, I'm pretty much a millionaire up here. New York City is for trillionaires. And if you are not one, it's pretty much impossible to get ahead.
Step 3: I brought in a second source of income through online health and fitness coaching.
-During this time, I began re-focusing on my own health and fitness. I joined one of my sister's online coaching groups to focus with Shaun T. I found the experience super effective and inspiring on so many levels. I loved sharing my progress with friends at the office and on Facebook, and found that people were regularly asking me what I had done. With some nudging from my sister, I finally started running regular challenge groups myself. Not only do I feel immense personal gratification, helping people lose weight and building healthy lifestyles in a way I wish someone had done for me when I was lost and depressed, coaching also brings in regular weekly "mad money". Some weeks, it's enough for a dinner or two out. Other weeks it can cover my hotel bill at Disney world. While I was willing to make some sacrifices to pay off my debt, I was NOT looking to have a miserable year until it was all gone. The second job made sure that didn't happen.
Step 4: I scheduled my 2014 vacations around business trips in Los Angeles.
-There was no way travel and vacations could go away. None. That was a non-negotiable. But I was challenged in that my favorite destinations are all warm weather locales. Meaning, I'm at least traveling to the west coast, not cheap. My last job required frequent business trips to Los Angeles. So I scheduled all 2014 time-off at the end of a major project while I was already on the west coast. After the Kids Choice Awards, I spent a long weekend in San Diego. I crashed on an old friend's couch and only paid for a rental car and a few meals. After Kids Choice Sports, I flew to Honolulu from LA and splurged on the full Aloha experience for almost three weeks. In both situations, I saved a lot of cash by starting with the ending of a work trip to the West Coast.
Those four choices brought me to the moment, sooner than I expected actually. I was looking at my bank account two weeks ago and realized I could pay off the last of my debt at that very moment. Naturally, I had a total panic attack. I called my best friend hemming and hawing, "I don't know! is it the right thing?!" My sister was totally confused by my struggle, "I don't get it. This is why you moved up here..this is a good thing!" It is a good thing, a very good thing." I'm incredibly proud of myself..now. But I think I was just so used to being the girl who always has debt, that I was scared about becoming a woman who has no debt. I don't even know who the hell that is! What if she isn't funny?! But I stuck to my original plan and hit submit. So far so good..I can still crack a joke or two.
I offer my story up as we have only two more days to make our 2015 resolutions. If you have some financial albatross around your neck, please..get rid of it in 2015. It feels so great in ways I didn't expect.
I've been watching a lot of comic book shows on Netflix lately; Agents of SHIELD, Arrow, The Flash. I think I'm obsessed because they all work off of the "it's all connected" comic book theory. Meaning, ALL characters within Marvel and DC all live and exist in the same universe. So Arrow could be watching the news in Starling City, and hear about some crazy crime in Central City. He then races over his with his hot bod (seriously, please look this guy up) to help The Flash in a crossover episode. Agents of SHIELD was kind of a gener' but good show, until episode 17 "Turn Turn Turn". Captain America 2 was released in the theater, and effected the storyline of SHIELD so dramatically I was standing in front of the television with my hands on my head "What?! What is happening?! THIS IS SO GOOD!"
As your goals for 2015 come together, understand they all live in the same universe. How you do one thing in health & fitness, is how yo do it career and finance. If that's NOT the case- if you're killing it at your job but have dangerously high cholesterol because of poor nutrition-that silo'd life is keeping you from your potential. So this coming year, start with the scariest, most uncomfortable goal and watch the doors open in the rest of your life. Let's make 2015 a crossover year.
It's all connected.