I’m going to start a new series called “how do they do it?”. It features various interviews and explores how people change their lives for the better, financially anyways. The first interview today is with Liz. Liz is a 29 year old marketing professional who used to have a €49.000 study debt. She paid it all off in just 2 years and is now deb free! This is her story.
Disclaimer: Liz is not her actual name, his real name is know by the author.
We will begin with an overview of Liz’ finances:
Monthly Net income
- Job income: €2.100
- Healthcare benefits: €120
- Freelance income: €150
- Sales on Ebay/Marktplaats/Kijiji: €80
- TOTAAL €2.450
- Rent €900 (incl. water, gas, electricity and internet)
- Groceries €200
- Health Insurance €125
- Cloths €95
- Transport Budget €200
- Phone €50
- Gym membership €20
- Gifts and charity €75
- Splurge money €50
- Holidays €75
- Savings and investments €500
- TOTAAL €2.290
- Savings account €5.000
- Investment account €20.000
- Study Debt €0
Your first had a €49.000 study debt. How did it get to being this much?
Oh, I was not that good with money when I was studying to become a marketing professional. I was going out to drinks every night, chasing girls, borrowed the maximum amount I could and partied hard! It’s a miracle that I graduated at all! But I did and I got a job after posting my profile on Instagram and making a TikTok video telling the world I was available to excel at their company.
Two months after I started working, I got a letter from the government stating that I owed them €49.000. I was sick all night after that.
How did you fight that debt?
After weeks of crying, I finally got my act together and started looking around online. I found many personal finance and money blogs. I started reading one by and old grandpa, one by a lady that’s trying to dream & act (albeit she’s stuck now), one that was thinking big and one by a guy that invests at lot and says he is now a carpenter (confusing, I know!).
Man, I was a bit surprised. All these people where spending less money than they made. What a concept! I had to try to do the same and bring down that high study debt in record time. With this one big secret tip, I was able to pay down that debt within 2 years of graduating! I was so proud of myself.
Next, you also started investing. How did you do that?
As a young woman, it’s hard to start investing. I mean, what do I know about investing? That’s something for hot young men, right? Those fancy boys with big cars and small feet. But after reading the previously mentioned blogs, I discovered that I could invest too. It’s not that hard actually. Open a brokerage account, add money, buy VWRL (or equivalent), buy more every month and wait. Easy peasy!
I also learned that I should not invest 50% of my assets into basket. Say a biotech company or something like that. It’s smart to invest money in a well diversified indexfund or ETF. But still keep some cash, you need an emergency fund too, especially when you just start on your journey to riches and freedom.
What advise do you have for my readers?
Get rich as quickly as possible! It’s the best way to not have to work the rest of your life! I mean, you can sit in an office for years. But you can also become a carpenter, or a general contractor or perhaps even volunteer full time at the local animal shelter. All things that you can do when you no longer need of a good salary to repay your study, mortgage and/or consumer debt.
Thank you Liz, and all the best!
Sorry, sorry, I did it again, didn’t I?! Sarcastic me… But seriously (at least somewhat), you have read these stories or “interviews” before (without the sarcasm, I assume). And every time you expect to hear this great story about how people battled debt and conquered. It seems these types of posts is what we love as (financial) voyeurs. It’s personal finance soft porn, I guess. It’s addictive….. and often so full of errors!
The (wrong) numbers
What irks me most is that most of this personal finance soft porn is inconsistent, or blatantly wrong with the financials. So what’s wrong here? Let’s have a look:
- First off, the total net monthly income is €2.450. The total money expense (including savings and investments) is €2.290. How this hell is this even possible? Where is the remaining €160 going? Is it magically going up in smoke? It needs to be allocated somewhere, right? Yet, I see so many articles that don’t show a matching number or only partially give you the data where money is going. Annoying…..
- Why is this person still getting healthcare benefits? You may be entitled to healthcare benefits if you have a max income of €30.481 (gross income). Back calculating the net income, you should not get anything at all. And this is before you declare the freelance income…(if you do not, it’s called fraud on your tax return).
- Healthcare benefits are not income! It’s money you get to (partially!) cover expenses you make. It’s technically a negative expense in your bookkeeping (albeit I know this might be personal).
- Next, the benefits are bigger than the actual expenses…really?
- How on god’s green earth did she (he?) pay off €49.000 on student debt in 2 years on that income? And still end up with €25.000 in investments and savings? Even when you assume about half the current expenses (say Liz has continued living like student), so about €1.100 per month, Liz would “only” save about €1.350 per month (or €32.400 in 2 years). That’s really good, but not even close enough to pay back €49.000 in 2 years and have such high savings/investments.
- Being frugal, but a €50/month phone plan? WTF! Guess someone missed lesson 2 of the personal finance memo?
- Etc., etc. etc.
Albeit these stories might be fun and great (unrealistic?) motivators, they might actually also give the wrong message. The numbers need to match, more financial details are required to give a proper detailed picture of how these people did what they did (assuming it’s not made up).
You got to stay critical when you read these stories/interviews. Ask yourself if it makes sense? Heck, make some calculations! What are you missing from the story to get the full picture? It might actually make you think more critically about your own finances and help your find missing items in your own budget or financial story/plan.
Stay critical and enjoy your personal finance soft porn responsibly.