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.