Interview: Personal Finance Bloggers Describe Their Aha Moment.

I recently chronicled my aha moment. You can read about my story here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).

I wondered if others had similar experiences in their financial lives. Did something have to happen to get their attention, or did they just start to make wise financial decisions as soon as they were able? So I asked a few personal finance bloggers:

What events, or series of events, had to take place in your life before you finally took action to get your finances in order? What was your aha moment?

personal finance blogger interviews aha moment

Dramatic Events Lead to an Aha Moment

A few had some fairly in-your-face moments that signaled needed changes.

Like Mrs. Groovy from freedomisgroovy.com who says:

Our aha moment was a $5400 property tax bill for a 625 square foot condo on Long Island with one bathroom and outdoor parking. The previous year the bill was $3800. We were living paycheck to paycheck.

That was the exact moment we decided to get out of New York. We made a three-year plan to coincide with Mr. Groovy’s 20th year in his government job that would yield him a small pension at age 55 (which we’re now collecting).

And ChiefMomOfficer (She tells more about her story as well on her blog.)

I’ve always been interested in personal finance and investing-been an investor since I opened my first IRA as a teenager. As I got older, I continued to save and invest and do “pretty well”. Along the way I accumulated some debt but nothing terrible.

Then in the space of a few years we got hit hard by the Great Recession. My company survived by the skin of their teeth, but took out a TARP bailout to do so. My husband lost his job when his factory closed. Then just a few years later he had an operation and went into septic shock. He was in the ICU on a ventilator for about a week, and away from home for a month in the hospital and rehab. That event was my financial turning point. I needed to focus on getting rid of that debt, having lots of savings, and financial independence ASAP. So I did.




Time to Make a Change with an Aha Moment

Some had the realization that if they didn’t make some changes, life would quickly become a nightmare.

HighIncomeParent writes at highincomeparents.com He says:

I was in school and my wife was working part-time when we had our first child. We had been using credit cards to bridge the gap when we had more bills than bucks in our bank account. One month I was calling a credit card company to try to reduce my interest rate on one of the cards and the representative took the time to go through my previous balances and show that we were spending about $1000 more a month than our income! I really had no idea, because we were juggling different loan payments, and had student loan money coming in at different times.

At that moment, I was amazed that the representative took the time to show me this and I know we had to up our income and decrease our expenses. I also had an “aha” about the importance of tracking finances monthly to make sure we were bringing in more income than we were spending.

Kyle who writes more about his money epiphany at stewardandslave.com says:

Mine was when my wife and I had been married for about four or five months, and her student loans started coming out of their grace period. All of a sudden, we went from being able to do pretty much whatever we wanted to not knowing how we were going to pay the rent. I ended up having to get a second job (well, not really, but at the time, our spending was so out of control that it looked like we didn’t have any other choice), and the shame of not being able to provide for my new wife snapped me out of the “but I deserve it!” mentality.

Mr. BandB from budgetsandbeer.com

My aha moment was graduating from college with $75k in debt and realizing I was paying a mortgage in student loans. I used my minimal knowledge of excel and made an easy to use spreadsheet budget and figured out how I could destroy that student loan debt and it snowballed from there. Now I have 5 years worth of budgets to look back on to use every penny to my advantage. Now it’s not just student loan debt but all debt; credit cards, car payments, etc. I have will have none of the poison that is debt. It has also stimulated my interest in all things financial.

The Frugal Gene says:

My aha moment was when I dated a silicon valley millionaire (19-22 years old and he was 27-29.) He would say things only rich people would say like “my tax guy” or “my adviser in Chicago” and it was so, so, soooooo different from the poverty-stricken hole in the ground I came from. I’ve been keeping a keen eye on the principle of money ever since. My other aha moment was when the student loan bill came. Those two things kind of happened at once actually.

Matt from financeyoself.com chimes in:

Mine came in my mid 20’s.

I had a good paying job, student and car debt, a few thousand dollars in savings, and an okay head on my shoulders when it came to learning about finances. Then I left that job and moved to a different state for a relationship (still going strong) – but had no job lined up. I spent the summer going on interviews, Lyft driving, and working on personal projects and exploring my new home.

It was exciting. It was also terrifying, especially the day that last paycheck got deposited into my account. “This is it”, I thought.

By the end of the summer I had run out of money and was starting to put regular expenses on a credit card. Not much later I found a job with the same company but with better pay. With it came the relief and security of a regular paycheck but the closure of what had felt like the most personally productive few months of my life. All paid for by me just saving money as best I could. I realized I needed to find a way back to that freedom, and started my search for answers…

road into the horizon

An Aha Moment Shows that Life Could Be Better

Some just became gradually disgusted with the direction life seemed to be headed. They didn’t necessarily have difficult situations – some did, but they knew things could be better. They decided to make changes to achieve their goals.

Like Amy B. who blogs at lifezemplified.com:

Mine came about three months after a promotion at work. I took the new position in hopes of learning more and of course because it paid more. I was bored in my prior position and hoped this new job would be different. Three months in and I was just as bored if not more so, didn’t care for my new boss and was quietly dying inside. I knew then I needed to pay greater attention to my spending and saving so that I could create a life I wanted to live versus being stuck in a negative situation just for a paycheck.

And Kathryn at MakingYourMoneyMatter

We were lucky that we didn’t experience a rock bottom type of situation that pushed us to finally get our finances in order. Instead, it was basically the opposite. We were more or less living paycheck-to-paycheck when we went on an expat assignment and started making significantly more money. It was on our first “big” vacation that we took to Siem Reap, Cambodia where I realized that we were spending more on this single trip than the annual living wage of a typical family living there. I was embarrassed to have the realization that I spent so much on things that didn’t even matter when so many people have so little. I decided then to pay more attention to my financial situation and that the real value of money is in providing security and freedom, not things.

And Divnomics

We didn’t really have a really big ‘aha’ moment, as it grew gradually. We’ve always been living paycheck to paycheck, and were able to save up money every month. We lived a pretty decent life. But also one that was how it should be according to society. We knew there was more to it than this. And there was. The key element that got us into saving more and investing was that our government had set up rules to extend the pension age to 71, in our case. Which we just didn’t feel comfortable with. It was for this reason that we decided we needed to be less depended on a job.

Our views on the meaning of money changed over the past years. We knew we could use it in our own benefit and started to save more and invest. Later on, our goal wasn’t to accumulate as much money as possible anymore, but to use it as a tool to live a meaningful live that fit to our values.

Taylor from GroundedEngineer:

For me, I was waiting in my car for my wife to finish up a night class at graduate school. We were heading back to visit my parents, and we had a four-hour drive ahead of us. I did a search on my podcast app for “personal finance, ” and I came across a guy named Scott Alan Turner (scottalanturner.com). I got hooked after listening to the first episode. Then I downloaded all the episodes that were available for the car ride back to my parents. That was in December of 2015, and we paid off $97k of student loan debt and car loan debt in 10 months.

A big thank-you to all those who took the time to answer the question.

What about you? Have you had an aha moment? Or are you still mired in financial difficulties with no end in sight?

Tell me about it in the comments.

-Chris

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14 Comments

  1. My AHA moment came when I realized that for two years my meager monthly IRA investments were going straight to a money market fund, and neither I nor my financial advisor had any clue. I missed two years of awesome market gains.

    I figured I had to stop assuming all I needed was a financial advisor and all my retirement stuff would be taken care of. If you’re interested in more than the tl;dr version, I wrote about it a little more in depth at http://www.idreamoffire.com/no-one-is-looking-out-for-your-money-but-you/

    • That’s great that you realised that. I’m sure a lot of folks assume that their financial advisor is responsible with their money, and they may actually be doing a decent job. But until you own your outcome, and take responsibility for your money and investments you’ll never succeed. Good work in recognizing that and taking action.
      Thanks for stopping by.

      • It totally changed my life for the better. So in that way, it was a really cheap way to get that wake-up call. And with all the free education out there from all the personal finance bloggers, it wasn’t long before I felt confident enough to take the reins.

        • Nice! there are a ton of great blogs out there, and I think a lot of them don’t get the credit they deserve. Thanks for commenting and subscribing.

  2. So many great Aha moments. Thankfully, ours was not as drastic as some. Love that you took the time to write this post. Other people’s mistakes can be a great inspiration of what not to do.
    Love you,
    Kate

  3. Terrific post Chris! Thanks for including me! I wish you had more of your tweetable quotes. I think your quotes are my favorites to share on Twitter. They’re hilarious and witty!

    • Haha, thanks. I’ll try to remember to include more of them. They just kinda come to me, and one didn’t this time, sorry. Glad you liked the stories.

  4. Pingback: Is Debt-Free Living Just an Fantastical Dream? - CYinnovations

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