mon-ey trap [muhn-nee] [trap]
1. any financial situation that keeps you from achieving your goals and, ultimately, your dreams
2. any excuse relating to money that you make when limiting your future possibilities
Until very recently, I had two money traps: my mortgage and my student loan.
Before I get to those, let me tell you a little bit about my dream. It’s a super geeky dream. It’s not climbing Kilimanjaro or winning a reality TV show. My dream is to complete a Masters degree.
I wanted this dream for about five years. However, I felt trapped by a $19,000 student loan – $4,000 from my first degree and the rest from my second – and the World’s Worst Mortgage Deal.
Photo: Dreamstime Images/Gagiu Stelian
Yet, I did not give up on my dream. Factoring in one year of mortgage payments (to allow me to take time off from work) plus my student loan payments, I came up with $36,000 as a price tag to free me from my traps. I wrote this figure on a Post-it with a smiley face and put it where I could look at it every day. I thought it would motivate me, which I’d probably read in a woo-woo, positive-thinking, self-help book.
The smiley face soon became a smirk then a snear. It mocked me. I took it down, and resigned myself to being in my 50s by the time I was ready – at least financially – to go back to school.
Last year, one of my dearest friends completed her Masters. I was, of course, happy for her, but also insanely jealous. Instead of pouting (for too long, anyway), I decided instead to reassess my dream. I asked myself a few tough questions:
1) Did I really have to quit my job to do it?
2) Did I have to finish paying off my initial student loans?
3) Could I go into more debt for this dream?
The answers to these three questions were, as follows: 1) no, 2) not quite and 3) absolutely not. A bit more detail:
1) I researched several post-secondaries and determined I could do my Masters online. I’d always been a snob about this prospect, but my snobbery held me back. To move forward, I’d need to ditch my snotty attitude about Internet U.
2) While I didn’t necessarily need to pay off my student loan in full, I did want to make a significant dent in. I picked up a few extra contracts and put myself on a strict financial diet. I slipped a few times, but I managed to whittle it down to $2,500. The day it’s finally done will be one of the greatest financial victories of my life. I’m almost there, but waiting to start my Masters until it’s 100 per cent gone was holding me back.
3) More student loan debt was not an option. Some people have no choice, and I’m not sorry I did it the first time. But I hope I never have to take on student loan debt again. It’s taken me eight years to wrestle my original student loan debt to the ground. Unless I experience a windfall (C’monnnnn windfall!!!), it’ll take me another year and half to wipe it all out. When I applied for my second student loan, I was 23-years-old. No big deal, I thought. I’ll pay this off. I had no idea it would take a decade. That’s another reason the Worldwide Internet School for Unwed Mothers* is such a great option. I can pay one class at a time.
I started my Masters in January 2012, and it brings me so much joy to crack open one of my textbooks and read about social theory or research methods. My heart sings.**
I’m a wannnabe optimist, so I want to believe everyone is capable of achieving their dreams. If a financial trap is holding you back, all the self-help books in the world won’t help you. Instead, ask yourself what you really want and which limiting beliefs you’re willing to drop. Make a plan, follow through and then take the plunge.
*Not its actual name. Obviously.
**Hey, I told you a was a geek. Go ahead and bully me, but it’ll cost you $600,000 if you do. I hear that’s the going rate for bullying these days, and mama needs a windfall.