The Beginning of the End

Day 199 | $67,506 paid | $23,211 till freedom

I had my performance review with my boss today and it went extremely well. Between my higher-than-expected bonus, the fact that it’s a three-paycheck month, my income tax return, my roommates’ rent payments, and my escrow return–and assuming I don’t experience any major disasters and my tax calculations are accurate–I’ll barely be able to pay off the rest of my student debt at the end of the month!

I’m still in shock, and I won’t breath completely easy until the money’s in the bank, but it looks like this adventure is drawing to a successful and early close.

Today’s performance review had been on my calendar since Monday. This morning, I woke up with nothing but this meeting on my mind. In fact, I’ve been thinking about it since the third post of this blog. By definition, the bonus has been a major source of ambiguity, a major unknown that would greatly influence–either positively or negatively–the success of this debt paydown mission.

A couple minutes before my 3:00 performance review, my boss texted me the room number–no “hi” or “hello,” just the alpha-numeric name of the meeting room. My stomach did a somersault.

At 3:00, I walked into the tiny meeting room. My boss had a couple pieces of paper out in front of him turned upside down on the table. We greeted each other, and he asked me if I had any business-as-usual items to discuss. There was a number of things going on, unfortunately, so we talked through them for 15 excruciating minutes before he finally said, “Ok, let’s get down to the end-of-year stuff.”

I thought to myself, “Stuff? Stuff?!” So much was riding on this moment, on that piece of paper–it was so much more than just “stuff!” My freedom was hanging in the balance!

My boss flipped over a piece of paper with a bunch of numbers printed all over it. I’ve seen enough of these forms to know that it was the sheet with my bonus information on it (as opposed to the other sheet that contained my written performance review).

On the sheet was my base salary and the various calculations that explained the final number, the bonus. I scanned the page quickly, searching for the bonus figure, trying to restrain myself, trying not look like a wild hyena going in the kill. It took every once of willpower to sit back and try to appear calm and cool instead of lunging for the piece of paper, pinning it down to the table with both hands, and poring all over it in search of the bonus.

When I finally located the bonus amount from my calm and cool seated position, I blinked a couple of times–I couldn’t believe it. I had run a ton of sensitivity analysis by changing various assumptions, and even the most bullish analysis didn’t predicted that it would be as high as it was.

I tried to think back to my pro forma and what this meant in terms of my debt paydown, but I had a hard time remembering all of the inputs. It wasn’t until I got home four hours later that I finally saw that with accurate tax assumptions and a continuance of my frugal lifestyle, I could kill the remaining debt at the end of the month when I get the bonus in my paycheck.

I’ve always been insecure about this bonus. I had done solid work as a product line manager for the  first three quarters of the year, and if I had stayed on for a fourth quarter in that role, I was guaranteed a great bonus. When I intead chose to search for a new job and ended up getting a promotion in Q4, I spent all of Q4 ramping up.

The increase in salary that came with the promotion wouldn’t be enough to offset a limited or non-existent bonus. I knew I wouldn’t be able to impress my boss since I was so new, but I knew he was the one who would decide my bonus for the entire year. All I could do was not give him a reason to give me a bonus that would have been less than what I would have gotten if I had stuck around in my former role.

I was stressed out during those first couple months of the quarter when I knew my performance was being highly scrutinized for bonus planning. I even wrote an entire post in which I questioned my wisdom in changing roles in the fourth quarter. I had feelings of regret, and I experienced a great deal of stress ramping up in my new, highly complex role as quickly as possible. I had a lot of doubt about my decision, my ability to ramp, and ultimately, my bonus and its impact on  my financial challenge. It caused me considerable anxiety.

It looks like I did enough. The extra hours, the extra effort–all worth it.

(I also got a small raise.)

This is not goodbye–I’ll definitely write up the Month 7 Progress Report at the end of the month, and I plan on writing another post shortly after that to capture my thoughts and feelings of the overall experience. And, as promised, I’ll sporadically write follow-up posts.

Note: I’m not disclosing the bonus amount because it’s considered highly confidential by my employer and I’ll be so cash-poor at the end of this adventure that I can’t risk termination should HR  find out about this blog and see the bonus disclosure. I will include it in my salary figure in my progress report at the end of the month, but the salary figure will also include three paychecks, one with the raise in it, so it’ll be impossible to exactly identify the bonus amount.

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44 Comments

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44 responses to “The Beginning of the End

  1. GT

    Congrats on the big bonus, the company obviously thinks you are worth it.

    Count down those days until paycheck day and then celebrate big time when you pay out that loan.

  2. Roberta

    Good for you! Well done! Now don’t go out and buy a Ferrari or something, OK? Like, a really great bottle of champagne, savored with a friend or two….. while you chortle and burn a symbolic copy of the very last payment slip (I’m assuming you are too frugal to actually pay to mail paper checks and do all tyour money business online), And then back to planning to spend on the things that really matter to you, and not on the things that don’t, once the retirement fund and emergency fund are set, and you’re aware of how much it costs you to live and all those other mundane things.

    Although…..ummm. don’t your employers read blogs too? I did kind of wonder earlier if this might be an issue for you. It seems that much of the information you put out on the blog would allow you to be identified fairly accurately if someone were interested enough. Surely some of your coworkers know you have roommates, or might recognize your car with the tape on the back window, or heard that you started a lawn care business on the side for a while or tried pedicabbing……. Unless of course, you’re actually female, or its a Yale MBA, or you’re in some kind of healthcare position instead of hightech, or actually in Dallas instead of the Austin area……. or any combination of the above. I am curious about people who reveal certain things on the internet , because the things they say could really hurt other peoples’ feelings and perhaps make things very awkward later. I can think of two personal finance bloggers who talked about how much they hated their jobs (one even worked for a family company). They’re actually both doing fine now financially (both sold their blogs) except one is getting divorced which is sad. But if it hadn’t worked out for them, and they put so much out there about their previous work situation being horrible, and then they needed to go back into that line of work, it might make people think twice about working with them.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog although my age and life stage mean a very different set of financial choices and challenges. I wish you every happiness as you move forward in life. Your choice to live this way in the short term to open your future up in the long term should yield you many satisfactions.

    • Roberta, thanks for your well wishes and advice on how to celebrate. Yes, the final pay-offf will occur online and I’ve used up all the ink in my printer and haven’t been able to afford a replacement cartridge, so I’ll have to simply burn a piece of paper from my wastebasket. Lol, I don’t think that will have the same effect :)

      Yeah, the whole anonymity and potential termination is some ugly business…I don’t know how seriously my employer is about confidentiality and whatnot, but I don’t think they’re going to find out–you’d be surprised how few of my colleagues actually know about this blog–I can count them on one hand, and none of them would go to HR about it.

      Beautiful closing–thank you fo reading and being a part of it.

      • Sarah

        Would you consider taping your payoff and sharing it with your readers? You don’t have to show your face since you want to be anonymous just your computer as you make that final payment and maybe describe how it feels. I think this is definitely a moment you’ll want to remember and I’m sure others in your situation might feel the same way.

        • Hah! Yes, I’ll film it. In fact, I’m going to work up a short 3 or 4-minute video that will show me in a 5-second clip of my working on the landscaping business and pedi-cabbing. I’m still debating on whether or not I’ll actually post that. I’ll probably get some cash reserves before I show my face just in case it gets back to my employer and they don’t like what I’ve shared in terms of my salary.

          But I can def film the paying off of the loan–as long as my account information doesn’t show up on-screen. I don’t think it will. I’ll probably post that when I post my month 7 progress report when I pay off the rest of my loans :) (3-29)

  3. Jess

    Congrats! Nothing like setting a huge goal and meeting it ahead of schedule!

    Will you keep up this blog after the final payment? I’m interested to know how your habits keep (or don’t!) in your post-Harvard-debt life.

  4. Dude. Frigging awesome. Congrats!

  5. yosnowden

    Oh wow. Congratulations!

  6. Clay

    Congratulations! This is really great. Thanks to a link from iwillteachyoutoberich, I was fortunate enough to find this blog very early on. Though I’ve never commented, I have read every post and have enjoyed seeing this journey you’ve been on. Which seems a little odd. The fact I’ve enjoyed this while you’ve had to deal with the stress, anxiety, ups and downs. Meh, so it goes in the Internet age.

    I hope you continue to post entries on occasion. Your writing style is great in it’s sincerity, humility, and relatability. But if you choose to end it with the amazingly quick payoff of this large amount of loans, I want to take the time to say thank you. This has been a fun, interesting, and motivating ride. Good luck to you on your next adventure!

    • LOL, sounds like you might be a bit of a sadist!

      I’ll keep posting, no worries there. But thanks a lot for your compliments. I tried to strive for all of those traits you mentioned, and I’m glad that it sounds like I was mostly successful in my attempts.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the ride! Thanks for riding with.

  7. Laurie

    Congratulations! So well deserved, and I hope so many more people take inspiration from your story and realize how freeing it is to get rid of student debt.

  8. Tana Gandhi

    Congratulations!! No More Harvard Debt indeed!

    Thank you for sharing your story! I’ve been trying to pay off my debt too and your experiences have inspired and motivated me a lot!

  9. Sarah

    OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! You didn’t even need the whole 10 months, you did it 3 months early! That’s epic, congratulations!

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us even though reliving it was sometimes the last thing you wanted to do. I really appreciate you answering my questions and responding to my comments. I guess the reason i enjoyed your blog so much is that I really related to you especially when you talked about how your parents were with money. It felt like I was just a way shorter, Indian girl version of you sometimes. lol

    I’m glad to see that you will continue to blog sporadically. It will be interesting to see how your life changes post NMHD. I hope you continue to look for that frugal girl you spoke of and not revert to the high maintenance ones just because you can now afford them because frankly you’ve worked so hard and should be with someone who gets and appreciates it. I know it might take time, but will be so worth it in the end. :)
    Best of luck!

    • Hahahahaha!! Thanks Sarah!! I love your excitement!

      I really appreciated all of your cheerleading along the way. Seriously–it was great. I could practically hear the swish of your pom-pons with each comment you made :) Best of luck to you, too!

  10. Sarah

    Totally non sequitor but I found this really powerful discussion of Fomo at Get rich slowly you might enjoy: http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2012/03/15/do-you-suffer-from-fomo/#comments

  11. Once the journey is over please KEEP blogging! Can’t wait to see where your financial future is heading.

  12. Brandy

    Woohoo!!! You totally have to keep us posted on what you do now with all that “extra” money. Are you going to pay off your mortgage? Splurge like crazy? Or what??

    • No flipping clue. Seriously. I want to knock out some of my deferred expenses, but that won’t take very much money. While I will technically have an extra $1,057 to spend each month, the truth is that I’ll have much more than that because I’ve gotten used to getting by on $3k/month, or roughly 40% of my monthly income. The thing is, there’s literally nothing I want. What I want is money in the bank and the peace of mind that I think will come with living below my means. The mortage idea is tempting–it would be reassuring to know that once I pay off my house, then no matter what happens, I’ll always have a place to stay, so long as I keep up with the property taxes. There’s something extremely comforting in that.

  13. Pingback: Useless Credit Card and Busting My Ass in Work | Growing Cash Flow

  14. Excellent news! What are you planning on doing with the roommates after their leases are up? Are you going to use their rooms to build a man cave with a fully stocked bar so your friends can pre-game before the bar and save money? ;P

    • Hahaha noooo idea. That’s a really good idea, though. I will definitely consider it! If I lived downtown I would definitely do that, but up here, we ‘d have a assign a DD, and nobody wants to be *that* guy. Quite frankly, I’ve gotten used to having my computer in my room, so I’m not even in a rush to re-claim the third bedroom as an office/mancave.

      That said, I’m looking forward to living alone again, but beyond that, no idea what I’m going to do with the extra room. I guess I’ve been so focused on the moment, I really just haven’t given the future a lot of thought. That’s been the nice thing about this challenge–I’ve focused so intently on the future that my mind was never clouded with thoughts and worries about the future.

  15. Nancy

    NMHD, I was away for a week and you’re done with your loans! Amazing! Well done, Internet friend. I cannot even imagine how free you must feel. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t going to miss your writing. You have such a fantastic, personable voice. I’m exceptionally happy for you. Don’t forget about everything you’ve learned and get sucked back into the high-rolling Austin scene. You’re the only person who can ever limit yourself. All the best-

  16. Ann

    I have also followed your blog since almost the beginning, and it’s been amazing to watch how you’ve changed as a result. I’m on my own debt-resolution journey (alas, mine includes things like debt settlements in addition to drastically cutting my spending), and you’ve been very inspiring and helpful along the way. PLEASE write a few follow-up posts as you decide what to do with the next phase of your life! We’ve come with you this far; we want to know what happens next!

    Thank you, and good luck!

  17. This is so amazing! I hope you have ideas on how you plan to celebrate this life changing win!

    – KP

    • I found a sick Corvette on eBaymotors…triple black convertible…I’ve already made an offer on it!!

      …just kidding :)

      not sure yet…probably hit up the bars per usual. after all, life is a celebration, so why should this be any different? :)

  18. Wow, that is amazing! Congratulations!!!

    I think that is my favorite part about bonuses – seeing how much farther they go towards savings (or in your case, debt) goals!

    Hope you have an amazing vacation or something planned to celebrate :)

  19. brian

    Congrats on the big acomplishment. Pretty insane that at your age, you paid off that amount of debt, have a harvard MBA, a home, and a high paying job. You’re a symbol for hard-work and dedication pays off.

    Now that you’re just about done with your financial goals, go use some of that disposable income to wine and dine some females. You need to enjoy some nice meals out with drinks in the presence of a female companion. Enjoy celebrating however you decide.

  20. Dee

    That’s super, NMHD! What focus and dedication you’ve shown and to see it pay off like this is quite the reward. You have bought yourself so many more options and freedom by doing this.

  21. Nate

    Congrats! I’ll miss reading your posts.
    All the best to you in the future and if you get a PhD or do something else let us know when you’ll start blogging about your next adventure.

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