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How To Achieve Financial Freedom While Being Average

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Meet Millennials Series: James from tells us how to achieve financial freedom while being average:

fairly frugal fella

Hiya, my name is James. I’m the owner and blogger over at I’m 27 and I like to think a mix of my upbringing and own personal mistakes lead me down the path of personal finance. My upbringing was good, but when the 2007-2008 housing market crashed, as a senior in high school, I witnessed it from the sidelines while my parents, who did their best for me, tried to pick up the pieces. I put the idea in the back of my mind that I never wanted to be unprepared for any event like that ever.

Fast forward to graduating from a community college (thankfully all paid for by grants and scholarships) as an x-ray technologist and getting my first job at a local hospital. I finally had money and a real paycheck. I spent almost every bit of that $40,000 a year on traveling, getting tattooed very frequently, eating out, and basically buying any impulsive thing I wanted at the time. Then comes a two week trip to Hawaii. I like to name this period of my life the Hawaii swipe-a-thon. I racked up nearly $5,000 on my 20% APR credit card. (I had a blast though!)

Reality set in hard the next 2 years as I struggled to pay it off. This set the fire off inside of me, and I dove head first into everything I could read on personal finance.

Now Let’s Talk About Money: #MeetMillennials Series with James

How would you describe your current financial situation?

Currently, I’m debt free (besides a car loan, but not for long!) and have a much healthier relationship with my money and debt for that matter. As the years go by, I become more and more a minimalist, cutting the useless things I don’t need out, while focusing on what matters. That trip was in 2013, and I had no savings, and no pot to piss in. Currently, I have a very healthy 5 month emergency fund, put 10% into my 401k’s (I have two jobs now). I opened a Roth IRA with Vanguard and currently have about 75% of my salary in net worth after 2 years.

Do you consider yourself to be money-savvy?

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I would consider myself to be money-savvy with my money, personally. I started out budgeting with apps like Mint and a good ole piece of paper, but now I’m on autopilot and basically mentally know where all my money for the month is going to go . I still make mistakes and have hiccups, but I consider this just more room to grow in the financial-savvy realm.

What financial advice would you have wished to hear when you started working?

HAVE AN EMERGENCY FUND! Seriously, we may seem invincible now, but things come up unexpected like job loss or medical issues or issues like my parents had to face. And if that happens, it’s still gonna sting, but at least I have a safety net and the peace of mind that no one can take from me.

Oh also, maybe not financial advice. But someone should have told me to learn to cook. No joke, I save way more money cooking for myself. The food is semi-edible, but much more nutritious. My budget is healthier because of it. And health is wealth right?

What financial achievement are you most proud of?

Right now, actually. I committed myself to paying off my 2015 Toyota Corolla by the end of 2017. Setting the bar high has taught me how much I can actually save ($650-1300 each month), and how much will power I truly have.

What expense can you not live without?

I’d say internet is a huge one and also food. Dining out is still an expense I’m working on. I just love food so much.

What are your long-term financial goals?

Long term goals are to be financially stable and live a comfortable life. I would also like to hopefully start creating some passive income with dividend investing and getting my feet wet in real estate.

What are your short-term financial goals?

My biggest goal right now is paying off my car. I started at $18,000 and am now down to $9,997. Secondary to that reaching the coveted one years salary net worth benchmark.

How do you manage paying off student loans and/or consumer debt? Any tips?

The biggest tip in terms of paying off debt I can give, outside of making more money, is to really get to know your spending habits. Find areas where you can cut back, if it doesn’t add true value to your life, cut it back or out completely. If you are eating out constantly. Stop and cook at home with some friends. If you are at the bars every weekend. Stop. This is the biggest area of financial bleeding I see in most my peers. If you have to, find cheaper alternatives, like hanging out at each others house for a wine night.

Closing thoughts on how Millennials can Achieve Financial Freedom?

There are two major proponents of personal finance to achieve your goals: Increase your income or decrease expenses. Most would probably agree increasing is the way to go, but that’s not always tangible immediately. I’m completely happy with my now $47k/yr salary because I love my job. I’m still investing and I’m still saving and working towards goals. I find I’m happier with less things. There are plenty of people who may think its a pipe dream to get to any kind of financial independence on an average income, but it’s not a dream. You can do it, you just have to take a hard look at your finances and become interested in them. You owe it to your future self.


All of us have a story to tell about personal finance, and I created the Meet Millennials series so that anyone can share their story with money. Talking about money has been considered taboo in the past but we are here to change that.

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