This is the twenty second in a series of personal finance blogger interviews with fellow personal finance bloggers. Today’s guest is Cecilia from The Single Dollar.
Who is Cecilia?
Cecilia: Besides an international woman of mystery? (NOT) I spent most of my late 20s and early 30s getting a PhD in the humanities, and now I’m spending my mid-30s figuring out where to go from there As you may just possibly have heard, the job market for college teaching has collapsed, the majority of professors now being sub-minimum-wage adjuncts. So far I’ve done ok for myself with reasonably well-paid short-term positions, but trying to figure out where to go from here is a big thing on my mind.
Why did you start your blog?
Cecilia: I had kind of a crisis a little over six months ago, when I realized that while I was making progress on paying down my student loans, it wasn’t going fast enough, and I didn’t have any kind of provision against the future (aka, a retirement fund.) There was some other, more personal, stuff going on then too, and I kind of grabbed onto my financial life as something I actually had some control over and could start to sort out. One night I googled “pay off student loans or save for retirement” or something like that, and I ended up finding the PF blogosphere. I knew right away I wanted to start my own; I didn’t feel like I could talk about my new obsession with my IRL friends and family and I really wanted to tell *someone* about what I was doing with my money.
What are your favorite Blogs?
Cecilia: I tend to like really personal blogs the best– I read lots of pro bloggers like Melanie at Dear Debt, or Cat at Budget Blonde, but over the months I’ve gravitated more towards checking in on people that are really just thinking out loud about their own debt situations. Alicia at Financial Diffractions was one of the first friends I made; I check Six Figures Under, Evolving Personal Finance, The Budgets and the Bees, Debt Free JD, and Debt Debs pretty much daily, although they don’t all update that often.
When did you first become financially literate?
Cecilia: Depends on what that means. I’ve always had a basic sense that I shouldn’t get really deeply into consumer debt and kept a close eye on my credit cards, which doesn’t mean I’ve always paid off the balance (I haven’t) but when I really ran them up by making a trip or something, I then worked hard on paying them off. I’ve never been late on a bill that I can recall — rent, credit card, utilities — so I’ve been good at that kind of thing. On the other hand, real budgeting is pretty new to me [as opposed to the kind where you figure out on the back of an envelope how to meet the needs of the next month or two] and so is a basic understanding of how the stock market and index funds and 401(k)s and IRAs work. That’s all the product of the last six months.
What was the last item you regretted purchasing?
Cecilia: Huh. You know, I can’t really think of one. Unless it’s the collective amount I’ve spent at coffee shops this year. I don’t tend to be a huge purchaser because I know I can’t afford to be; it’s more little bits here and there that add up that get my budget into trouble.
If you died today, would your family be okay from a financial standpoint?
Cecilia: Yes. I don’t have dependents, and work is carrying enough life insurance on me that my parents could pay for whatever costs they had to. My retirement fund beneficiaries are my two godchildren, so they’d each get a few thousand dollars.
What are you teaching (or will you teach) your kids about money?
Cecilia: Well, I don’t have kids, and for various reasons I doubt I will. But my godchildren and theoretical nieces and nephews, I’m definitely going to make sure their parents talk to them about starting a long-term savings account (IRA, probably) when they start to make their first income. That’s protected so colleges can’t expect you to contribute it, in my understanding (which is the big problem with regular savings) and I’d like to make sure they get what a big boost it is to start saving for retirement when you’re still a kid, even, and not (like me) wait til your mid-30s. But a less nitty gritty answer: I want to teach them that they should go into a field that will suit their interests, but also compensate them appropriately. Have the self-respect not to work for free or nearly free, as so many fields expect you to do now. That doesn’t mean I want them all to become i-bankers (I really don’t) but I want to help them find a way to choose something that is interesting to them, but that doesn’t expect free labor.
What’s your dream job?
Cecilia: College professor in a city where I have very close friends or family.
What’s been the hardest thing for you this year as you paid off debt? (write in question) Cecilia: Sticking to the plan. There were some months where I really couldn’t afford what I had budgeted to go to debt and also take care of the other things, and other months where I really wanted to say “screw the contribution to the emergency fund, let’s just pay down the credit card!” Going slowly and steadily is hard for me.
Cecilia is the pseudonym of a mid-30s single academic living in the midwest after a loooooooooooong stint in an expensive east coast city. She’s recovering her financial life after a decade of student debt and not saving, and blogs about the ups and downs at The Single Dollar.