A Story About Paying Off Debt and the Obstacles Along the Way

Finances After 40 #5: Finding Joy In The Moment (One Frugal Girl's Story)


I'm thrilled to share another installment of Finances After 40a series that profiles women 40 years and older who are making their money work for them.

This week's post comes to us from One Frugal Girl, a financially independent blogger who's been writing in the personal finance space since - DRUMROLL PLEASE - 2006. 

This makes OFG a PF OG, if you ask me. There's something extraordinary about bloggers who are willing to share their stories over the span of many years and who invite their readers to join them as their highs, lows, challenges, and successes unfurl. Thus, I was kind of beside myself with excitement when she offered to write a post for the series. 

If you aren't familiar with her blog, I suggest setting aside a couple of hours and diving in, as she's a skillful storyteller with a wealth of experience and advice.

Note: If you're just catching up with Finances After 40, be sure to check out the first four posts:

Take it away, One Frugal Girl!

Embracing The Detours


I am a forty-one-year-old wife, mother, blogger, personal finance enthusiast, optimist and former software developer. I believe in the power of reframing unfortunate events and trying my best to see the good in bad situations. My husband and I are financially independent.

In my mid-twenties I faced a medical crisis that forever changed my outlook on life. What began with flu-like symptoms quickly escalated into a frightening trip to the ER, a weeklong stay in the hospital and a six-month quest for diagnosis. I spent the majority of my late twenties managing debilitating pain and searching for answers from the medical community.

"Fate has an odd way of interfering with my plans for life. Over the years I've learned to accept those detours and sometimes even embrace them."

I started my blog, One Frugal Girl, in 2006 during the height of my medical saga. It began as a way to distract me from my pain, but over the years it played a pivotal role in my financial success.

Career-wise, I worked as a full stack JAVA developer for over twelve years. Due to ongoing health issues, my husband and I delayed having children until our early thirties. Then we struggled with infertility for two and a half years. Four months into my pregnancy, my job was cut in a massive round of lay-offs that obliterated my entire department.

I interviewed and accepted a new job offer, but never started in that position. Thanks to a healthy severance package and over a decade's worth of savings, I seized the opportunity to stay at home with my newborn son. It was not an easy decision, but I now view my lay-off as a blessing in disguise.

Fate has an odd way of interfering with my plans for life. Over the years I've learned to accept those detours and sometimes even embrace them.

Choices On The Road To Financial Independence


I bought my first house at the age of twenty-two and the second at age twenty-seven. Financially speaking, this was a great decision, but if I could go back in time, I wouldn't do it again. I spent my twenties worried about paying down mortgages, mowing lawns, trimming bushes, painting walls and doing a whole lot of housework that my peers in apartments never considered. Buying that first house made us grow up too quickly. I don't think we took advantage of our youth because we were bound to our financial obligations.

"The power of compound interest is truly amazing. We are proof that saving today can lead to a huge net worth in the future."

On the flip side, we are most definitely financially independent because we spent our twenties and thirties focused on the power of earning more, spending less and investing the excess. The power of compound interest is truly amazing. We are proof that saving today can lead to a huge net worth in the future.

I am incredibly proud of my relationship with my husband. We've been through a lot together, including a medical crisis, difficult family members, co-owning a business, a workplace assault and infertility.  Yet somehow we've managed to push through life's obstacles together. Our marriage is a work in progress. To be honest, it has not always been great, but when we drift apart we work hard to bring our relationship back together.

I'm also super proud that we reached FI as equal partners. We co-own all financial responsibilities. We can interchangeably manage the books, review our taxes, discuss upcoming expenditures, journal credit cards, pay the bills and do anything and everything else related to money.

Preparing For The Future


Despite my medical problems, I wasn't concerned with long term care or quality health care when I was younger. This fear has grown over the past decade.

It began when my 80-year-old grandmother wanted to move to a clean, well-run long-term care facility. She could afford care for five or ten years, but if she lived longer than that she would run out of money. She had a net worth of $500,000. Imagine reaching the end of your life with half a million dollars and then realizing you need more. Thankfully, she was healthy enough to remain home alone until the age of 94, but I do believe the quality of her life suffered. Despite having family nearby, she was very isolated and lonely.

More recently I've watched my mom suffer through a horrible medical ordeal. She now needs full-time care. Just one day of 24-hour round-the-clock care costs $600. That is simply not sustainable over the long haul.

I worry for the health of my family and I am concerned that even with a sizable nest egg we will not have enough to help us deal with situations like these in the future.

"I wanted to earn a significant amount of money, but I didn't feel the need for work to be meaningful. Now I would like to find a job that provides value beyond the money."

I have absolutely no idea what my future holds. Financial independence is the ticket to endless possibilities! I plan to return to work when my youngest reaches kindergarten, but I'm not sure what I will do.

Looking back, the focus on my software career feels very selfish. I wanted to earn a significant amount of money, but I didn't feel the need for work to be meaningful. Now I would like to find a job that provides value beyond the money.

I spend a lot of time volunteering for worthy causes and I would love to find some way to earn money while helping others. I plan to spend the next year volunteering more as well as polishing off my dusty coding skills.

Advice For Other Women


I think many women (not just those over 40) lack the confidence to take control of their finances. Some women are worried about the math required for money management, but I promise there is no reason to be afraid. You don't need to be a math whiz with knowledge of advanced algebra and calculus. Simple addition and subtraction is all you need.

"If you are knowledgeable about your finances, speak out loudly and clearly to the next generation of women. We need to speak to young girls about money and we need those same girls to see their parents talking about money together."

We also lack female money mentors who can guide us. My grandmother loved to talk to me about personal finance. She focused on the importance of education, increasing income and living within one's means. Despite living in a time when men typically controlled the money, my grandmother took the reins of her family's finances. She demonstrated that gender should not divide financial responsibilities. I am eternally grateful for the lessons my grandmother shared.

If you are knowledgeable about your finances, speak out loudly and clearly to the next generation of women. We need to speak to young girls about money and we need those same girls to see their parents talking about money together. Remember that women can be a powerful financial force even if they don’t earn money on their own.

We all think happiness is lying just around the corner. Slightly out of reach. When we land that next job, meet the right partner, go on that next vacation then we can bask in bliss. Unfortunately, happiness isn't lurking somewhere else. If we cannot find joy in the here and now, we will most likely never find it.

My advice: figure out how you can feel fulfilled in this very moment. Search for hobbies. Explore your passions. Find friends. Connect with a supportive community of women. Look for mentors online and in real life that can guide you. Yearn to feel confident and secure in your decisions and trust your instincts.

"Happiness isn't lurking somewhere else. If we cannot find joy in the here and now we will most likely never find it... My advice: figure out how you can feel fulfilled in this very moment."

Financially speaking, search for ways to increase your income. Request additional work, demonstrate your eagerness and constantly strive to learn more. Many of us stop learning after graduation. To excel in the workplace you need to attain new skills and continually look for ways to improve processes.

Now is also the time to focus on mindful spending. It's easy to swipe your credit card or enter numbers into an online shopping portal. Use the Marie Kondo method of decluttering before purchasing something new. Ask yourself, "Will this spark joy?" Then at the end of the month diligently review your expenses and decide if it did.

Remember every dollar you don't spend is a dollar you can invest.

If you are looking for guidance on FI, check out "Meet the Women of the Financial Independence Movement" at Tread Lightly Retire Early. When I began blogging fourteen years ago, it was difficult to find women writing about money. Now there are so many amazing voices echoing and empowering women across the Internet.

Where To Connect With One Frugal Girl


Website: One Frugal Girl
Email: onefrugalgirl@gmail.com
Twitter: @onefrugalgirl 

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6 comments:

  1. Oh, my new favorite series and one of my oldest favorite bloggers (old as in time read, lovely 😉). I’ve followed your story for so long, but I love reading it in this format. You’ve been an inspiration for me for so long and I’m honored to get a shout out here. You were my very first female personal finance “mentor,” of you will, as much as someone can influence your life as a one way street. Love it even more now that I’m not just the passive reader of your story :)

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    1. Oh Angela, I’ve been blogging so long I feel like the grandma of PF bloggers 😂 I am honored to be your first money mentor. I may be the first link in the chain but just think how many women you’ve encouraged and inspired since you first starting reading One Frugal Girl! You’ve even reignited my own passion for the subject after all these years!

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  2. Oh, my new favorite series and one of my oldest favorite bloggers (old as in time read, lovely ��). I’ve followed your story for so long, but I love reading it in this format. You’ve been an inspiration for me for so long and I’m honored to get a shout out here. You were my very first female personal finance “mentor,” of you will, as much as someone can influence your life as a one way street. Love it even more now that I’m not just the passive reader of your story :)

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  3. The intro to this post made my heart swell! When I started this blog in 2006 I never would have imagined where I would be today. In terms of everything! My children, marriage, money, thoughts, goals. All of it. I was such a different person in my 20s and even my 30s. I am so happy you included my story. We need to highlight women of all ages so we can all find mentors, role models and peers. Thank you for starting this thread and allowing me to be a part of it.

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  4. I love reading all the stories. OFG thank you being an OG and sharing the course of your life with us and how and your family have managed to overcome so much. I can relate to much of what you wrote, especially the concerns of long term care for my elders and even my DH and myself. But like you, I focus on being present much more and savouring the many blessings I have.

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    1. Kassandra, your post inspired me to participate in this series. (It was the first one I read.) I loved reading about your journey. It is unfortunate that so many of our voices echo the same concerns about long term care. I wish there were better answers for these problems.

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