Why you so nerdy?

February 9, 2012 · 37 comments

If you read my blog I’m guessing one of four things is true about you. 1) You have at least a moderate level of interest in personal finance. 2) You could care less about personal finance, but you at least moderately enjoy my stick figure drawings. 3) You could care less about personal finance and my drawings, but you have at least a moderate level of interest in my personal life. 4) You ended up here by accident and will be leaving just as quickly as you came (I hate you fourth-category person :)).

Since this is a personal finance blog, and most of us have an interest in the topic, I thought we could talk a little bit about the how we became so stinkin’ nerdy.

There is nothing inherently sexy, or even all that appealing, about money. We’ve already decided money has no intrinsic value, so why the heck do I find it so fascinating? I mean, it wasn’t always this way. Heck, I didn’t even know how to transfer money from my savings to my checking account until I was 22 years old! Twenty-freaking-two. (my mom always made the transfer for me)

In just three months, I went from college student; never paying rent, car insurance, or really any bills for that matter, to a federal agent who suddenly had all sorts of financial obligations and commitments. I couldn’t even spell 401K, let alone understand the importance of one.

It wasn’t until about three months in to my job that I decided I needed a game plan. I had a conversation with a close friend about Roth IRA’s and he gave me a PF book to read, Smart Couples Finish Rich. The book was meant for married couples, but that didn’t keep me from reading the thing front to back in two days. I was immediately hooked.

Who-woulda-thunk-it? Apparently you can get “rich” without having to be a millionaire. In fact, if I manage my money properly from age 22 to 65, I could retire with millions upon millions of dollars. I hopped on the internet, started reading some blogs, and decided to chronicle my own PF journey.

And that’s how it happened. In about seven days time I went from not giving a hoot about personal finance to starting a blog called Punch Debt In The Face. Crazy.

How did the start of your PF journey come about? What motivated you to get your life in order? What keeps you motivated as the initial excitement wears off?

p.s. in other depressing news, Los Angeles Counties Board of Supervisors just gave the okay that anyone who throws a frisbee or a football on the beach can be subject to a $1,000 fine. Never thought I’d have to say to my kids “When I was your age we use to be able to dig holes in the sand.” <—-also a $1,000 fine. Dumbest. Rule. EVER!!!!

1 Ryo Vie

Ninja! I read the blog so that I can find all the clues that will tell us your secret identity (INSERT EVIL LAUGH HERE). And I love the stick figures. Not just moderately, but a heck of a lot!

I started my PF journey after reading Your Money Or Your Life. Could be the greatest PF book I ever read and it really changed my relationship with money. I went from being a man so deep in debt that I would probably have to work until the day I died, to a man with a plan who has a goal of retiring at 45. It was a huge change!

BTW – will there be a Punch Debt In The Face book in the future???

2 Mo D.

I got hooked on Canada’s Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s “Tell it like it is, and pull no punches” approach. Her shows “Till Debt Do Us Part” and “Princess” are real eye-openers; even Hubby watches them! I read her blog every day, and someone had given your blog a shout-out… so I had to check it out… and I was HOOKED on the humour and stick-figure pics!

Biggest lesson we learned was don’t sweep the debt under the rug because it will come back to bite you in the ass! Face it, deal with it, and move on; it’s wonderful not having a huge burden on our shoulders anymore.

3 Mike

Ninja, of the several PF blogs I subscribe to yours is the only one I read daily. I often find your entries entertaining, and when they’re not I read the comments to get my free entertainment for the day. Sorry in advance for such a long comment.

I started thinking about PF when I was about to enter my senior year of college. My brother, who is a business type and a few years older, got me Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover”. I read it in 1 day. Just as I finished it and mentioned to my brother that I was on track to graduate without any student loans or other debts, he showed me a report that engineers are the most likely college grads to take on massive consumer debt within 12 months of graduating. Something about higher than average incomes for young people.

Had he presented it the report than the book, I may not have taken the report so seriously. I became crazed about not getting into debt, even $5 or $10 “loans” from friends when we went out. I went to the point of possibly being detrimental. My wife and I went on our honeymoon not so long after reading Ramsey’s book, and I insisted on paying all the CCs off the day after we came back from Italy – even though it meant clearing out all of our savings. That was the lowest net worth I had experienced – we had a couple hundred in checking and $1500 in savings.

Since then, I have realized that sometimes the $30-40 interest fees for 1-2 months are acceptable to better manage my overall financial well-being. In 8 years of marriage, we have only carried a balance on a credit card 2 times: 1) between grad school and the real job, 2) when we had to do massive work on our basement due to flooding and I was waiting on my bonus check (the timing on that one had us carry a balance for about 10 days). I have carried car loans, but never more than 1 loan at a time and always pay off early.

Now, I’m on to teaching my preschool-aged kids about money. They’re favorite activity is putting money in the charity jar each week (all the loose change we accumulate from our cash-only food budget).

4 Kristen

Filling out the 401k paperwork for my first job made me realize how little I knew about money. I started reading the free morningstar classes from their website and taught myself the basics. It’s one of those things where the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know, but it’s nice to look back and see how much I’ve grown from that first experience.
Actually making a retirement plan re-motivated us. Seeing how our current choices can have a big, fun payoff down the road has kept us in check and made us excited for the future.

5 Michelle

What motivate me was the fact that I don’t want to be 40 years old and still paying for my student loans!

6 Alice

What has motivated me over the years is just the want to be able to retire and not worry about money. My family has struggled with finances ever since my father passed away when I was a kid. My mom was a teachers aide (think – VERY little income) and it was just hard.

I’ve always had a good work ethic, I just wanted to actually be able to show something for that work instead of living paycheck to paycheck.

7 VTMama

Our family got motivated by two things: 1) we suddenly spent our savings and had no nest egg, 2)Early Retirement Extreme blog. Your blog is amusing and sometimes thought provoking. You are young yet, which is sometimes annoying since I am not!

8 Rachel

Let’s see, a few months ago I was cruising MSN money broke out of my mind when I happened across So Over Debt. After checking out Andrea’s gynormous blog list, I clicked through to here, and I was hooked on the stick figures. I still read her feed first thing in the morning, but you’re right on her heels ninja. Still working on digging out of the morass which is my debt, but definitely on solid ground and getting better.

9 gabesmom

I found myself going thru a divorce and raising a 3 yr old as a single parent with little to no help from my ex. Four years later I’m proud to say my son and I are doing just fine and dandy on our own.

I’m also glad I live on the east coast. Couldn’t imagine going to the beach and not being able to actually play in the sand. What a strange law.

10 Nords

“What motivated you to get your life in order?”
Looking back after a decade of early retirement, it was two things:
1. This new book that came out in 1992, “Your Money or Your Life”, written by a 1960s Wall Street analyst who had been channeling his inner hippie.
2. This other new thing that came out in 1992: our daughter.

The same things kept us motivated, although being in the military certainly “helped” us look forward to retirement…

11 Ninja

Love that you referred to your daughters birth as “coming out”.

p.s. I’m jealous of your hawaii life :)

12 Nords

I like writing funny sentences.

But seriously, most servicemembers have a great time in the military until they start a family. Then the juggling begins.

If your employer sends you to Korea for three weeks in January, don’t they also owe you at least equal time in Hawaii? I’ll loan you a longboard and you can leave your wetsuit at home!

13 Jennifer

I was a Finance major in college, so my interest in money/finance has existed for a long time, but that doesn’t mean I made the best financial decisions (what’s the old joke, that accountants can’t balance their own checkbook?).

I really didn’t get on course to making good financial decisions until about 4 years ago. I mean, I started a 401k, bought a house (several), etc. But I didn’t manage my cash flow or debt to the best of my ability. I always made a nice salary, but I spent what I had rather than thinking how best to use it.

A couple of years ago I heard about Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, so I bought a copy. That is where things changed for me. I didn’t think I was in “desparate times” as many of his examples portrayed, but I did need to clean up my financial life. I didn’t do his envelopes or cash only plan, but I did put my own Excel budget together, and plotted out how if I consciously watched my spending I could pay down my debt, and create an emergency fund, fairly quickly. All the while continuing to max out my 401k contributions. It just showed me how to be smarter with my money.

And that’s where I’m at today. All my debt except my mortgage is gone (that is on track to be paid off by Dec 2015), and I have a healthy emergency fund. I will never buy a new car again, in fact I plan on paying cash for any future car. I never would have imagined I could do that even 5 years ago!! So while I occasionally felt “panicky” about my financial situation in the past, now all I feel is secure and at peace.

I think I googled PF blogs to arrive at PDITF. Most of the blogs I checked out didn’t really mesh with me for some reason or another, but this one did. I enjoy the humorous posts and stick figures, and the commentary from other readers. You have a good thing going here, Ninja!! :) Sorry this was so long.

14 Ninja

Never apologize for writing a long comment. Unless of course it’s about something completely off topic, or extremely boring. Yours wasn’t so feel free to write til your heart’s content.

15 alana

Funny enough, I got into investing about 3 months into my first job after university in 2005, when an unsolicited insurance agent came to see me. Some of the saving products he was pushing sounded really good but being the ever diligent saver, I decided to shop around and see what else as on offer. I not only found that there were a host of other organizations better suited to oversee my investments, but that they offered a wider range of products with better rates of returns.
I was always a saver but weighing the pros and cons of these products really got me to start thinking about things like risk tolerance and helped to develop my personal financial ethos.
A cheap investment seminar, a few good books ( The Millionaire Next Door, next best thing to sliced bread) and lots of PF blog reading later, my net worth has increased over a 100 fold since 2005. Not bad in my book, meanwhile, the insurance company that the agent who first visited me worked for, has since collapsed leaving many without their life savings. Just goes to show how a little due diligence can really shape your financial future.
I so look forward to my financial future knowing that my decisions are informed by efforts I’ve made and continue to make to educate myself about finance. In fact, I feel like my future’s so bright, I got to wear shades..hey, you should do a post that ask us to describe our past, present and future in song like you did the other day but with movies!

16 Brandy

What motivated me was getting so far into debt that I couldn’t make the minimum payments on things (about 10 years ago). But Suze Orman is what got me really interested in saving and the book Automatic Millionaire was the first PF book I read and I was hooked (about 8 years ago). Now I think Suze has some things wrong (like her prepaid credit card), but overall if it helped me save, I cannot believe she is all bad :)

17 Bridget

I ran out of room on my credit cards.

Seriously. That was it. I think I googled something like how to get more room on your credit cards and it came up with paying them down (strange concept!). I became a huge fan of Gail vaz Oxlade and started reading PF blogs and I was hooked.

18 Lutus

When I asked my father-in-law for his daughters hand in marriage he said he would be happy for us to get married on one condition, we have to attend Financial Peace University (Dave Ramsey’s class) after we got married. We were married in 2009 and have seen a shift of almost 80K in net worth. In fact, we close on our 15 year refinance tomorrow afternoon.

In less than 15 years I will be COMPLETELY debt free. I can’t wait. ;)

The frisbee law…… no surprise that it is in California. They have finally run out of other people’s money to dole out as they see fit. Bunch of loons run that state.

19 Jennifer

Wow, that’s really cool that your FIL suggested something so beneficial to your new married life and that you all took the advice! Glad you’re doing so well.

20 Stan

I’m not exactly sure when I became interested in personal finance. I’ve always been somewhat responsible with money (paid the bills before anything else), but ultimately I think it was when I started looking at my mortgage payment. Seeing how much I pay every month towards the home and how little of that was going towards the principle and how much towards interest really got me thinking about how to change that.

Money has always fascinated me, but I had no idea how much interest you will actually pay on loans. I saw that when I bought my first car and after I signed the papers I saw how much I would pay in interest. Not cool. I set a goal to pay the car off one year early. Since then every car I’ve purchased or every loan that I’ve had has been paid off early. My goal now is to never take out another loan again. My thinking is that the amount of money I’ll save by purchasing with cash, every 4 or 5 vehicles I buy I will get one free because of the saved interest.

I was referred to this site by a coworker of my wifes. She likes the stick figure drawings (I also do), and am really glad I found it because it gave me motivation to take more steps towards betttering our financial situation. From this site I came up with my first budget, and am in the process of starting a blog to keep me motivated to continue to track our progress of our finances. Big thanks to you Ninja, and also the community that comments here.

21 Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog

There may be nothing sexy about money, but there’s something decidedly unsexy about having no money and being financially insecure, wouldnt you agree?

22 StackingCash

I have such a bad memory but I do believe I became a money nerd around 8 years of age. I was enjoying my new Star Wars action figure one day and a friend invited me bring it over and play with him. When I got there he had EVERY SINGLE Star Wars toy ever created! Not only that but he had a closet full of board games and boxes and boxes of legos. I realized I was poor and he was rich. Not the best way to discover personal finance but it had a traumatic effect on me. I’m still far from rich but gratefully, I’m far from being poor.

23 Emily

I read your blog so when I go to LA and sit on the beach I know it’s illegal to dig holes in the sand. Complete party poopers they are.

24 Jenny

My inner money nerd bloomed to fruition around 6 years ago. I was up to my eyeballs in debt, paying off 3 credit cards and still spending like a fool. I saw Suze Orman on PBS one Saturday afternoon during a pledge drive, and something clicked. I found Gail Vaz-Oxlade and liked her tough love stance better than Suze’s false cheer, and to me, more sound advice. I found PF blogs online and started reading through the archives, learning everything I could about debt repayment, automatic savings, etc etc.

Now, my $15K (one) credit card balance is at $2K, I put money down on a new-to-me car, refied the house, and have all but stopped using credit cards to purchase stuff.

What really got me was the idea that I didn’t have to have debt. My parents lived with it, I was living with it, and I thought that’s the way things were. I want to have my house paid off in the next 16 years. I will have my student loans and car payments gone in the next 10. I will be debt free before I’m 55 years old, and the feeling that rises in me when I think about it is AWESOME. From wondering if I needed to move back home because I couldn’t afford rent, to not owing anyone, is an astounding change in thinking.

My mom proudly tells her friends that I’m working to rid myself of debt. I just wish she’d learn like I did, but she’s in more debt than I ever was.

Also, a fine for throwing a frisbee or a football on the beach ?? Isn’t that was a beach is for?

25 Hannah

Quarter life crisis late 2010, before I turned 25. I was almost 2 years into my first job with no savings and more debt then when I graduated college, which was effing weird! Having too much fun with credit cards!

Googled getting out of debt. Found all these PF blogs (yours, Getting Rich Slowly, The Simple Dollar, Frugal Dad are a few of my favorites) and Mr. Dave Ramsey and his Total Money Makeover book, rest is history.

My finances are really boring now, which I love but what keeps me motivated is that I have a date of when I’ll be debt free (June 28th). It’s nice to do some calculating and have a date to look forward to, kinda like a requesting time off early or setting a wedding date.

26 Christopher

I just started a personal finance blog as a way to get out of debt and on the right side of the net worth calculation :-). I think that if i have to track it and post it for everyone to see that it psychologically will make me more aware of my finances. I just found your site today from a post on my site.

If you are bored check it out!!

27 Eric

What got me excited about PF was when in spring ’11, when I realized that I was on track to accrue almost $40K in student loans over my 6 1/2 year career as a college student. After stressing out for a bit about how my wife and I were going to pay back our debt (my student loan, her two student loans, a car payment, and a 30-year mortgage which we took on in Spring ’10) I decided to hit the Excel spreadsheets. I was taking a finance course at the university, so the concepts of Present/Future Values and calculating interest were still fresh on my mind.

I realized that if we played our cards right, we could have all of our debt payed off in their entirety (including the mortgage) in a little more than 7 years, as long as we could control our spending and apply all of our extra income to paying off debt. This was incredibly empowering for me, as it showed that we could get a handle on our finances and control our debt while maintaining our standard of living. After sharing this new feeling of power and accomplishment with a few friends, I was introduced to your blog and have been reading it ever since.

Since then my wife and I have been able to beef up our savings and TSP accounts, while still making improvements to our home. We are now on track to have all of our debt paid off roughly 5 1/2 years from now, as we decided to apply our additional income (pay increases, bonuses, etc.) to our debt pay off. I have also been able to help a few friends with their financial planning, which helps keep me “motivated as the initial excitement wears off.” :D

28 Matt

I started using my credit cards, and slowly I built up a few hundreds in debt. So I started reading about credit card management, and that spawned my further investigations into Personal Finance management. Then I met a dude who had a PF blog, and he gave me Dave Ramsey’s book, Total Money Makeover, and I was hooked from then on.

29 krantcents

I may be a freak because I always had my life in order. I was fascinated with money every since I can remember. I chose a career in finance and accounting. I rose to the level of Chief financial Officer (CFO). I went on my own in my thirties thanks to irental property investments. From there I started some businesses. I am at a point in life where I am semi retired and no longer own all the businesses and rental property. I have beeen teaching for the last 11 years and loving it. I achieved financial freedom at 38 years old and have been doing all the things I enjoy for the last 27 years.

30 Earn Save Live

When I finished graduate school last year, I realized that I had a great job, high salary, and lots of student loan and credit card debt.

After calculating our family’s net worth and setting goals with my partner, I became really motivated to “own” our finances. We’re doing a $25,000 debt snowball this year, and we’re aiming for financial independence in the next 15 years.

I’ve decided to look at personal finance as a hobby. Some people bake, others craft….I spreadsheet. :)

31 Ella

I can’t really say what started me on this journey other that I got fed up seeing both my income and my debt grow for each year. Now I let the income grow while the debt is going downward so I can finally save money on one day be debt free. :-)

32 Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager

Getting my job at Adaptu! Sometimes I feel like I’m getting paid to learn how to manage my money better thanks to all the great blogs I get to read.

Bummer about LA beaches. Good thing that hasn’t happened in Oregon or Washington yet!

33 Savvy Scot

It feels good being in control. I would like to see a post discussing charity. I have just written a post on Kiva and what i believe is the future of giving in microfinance loans. Please check it out some time. THanks

34 Drew @ Epicfinances.com

I have been trading stocks since age 12 (now 25). I have always been obsessed with the idea of having enough money to be happy and secure in my life. I am no where near that goal yet, but I am on my way. I believe I will have $40 to $50k in liquid cash (in my brokerage account) by Mid 2013.

I will also have a 401k and pension as well. I have a constant drive to try to make more money — I am young and naive.

35 her every cent counts

Hey Ninja,

I read your blog because I’m interested in personal finance and I love your stick figures. And for the few minutes I met you at the PF blogger conference last year, I think you’re a pretty cool, so I’d fall into category 3 as well.

RE: what got me excited about personal finance… after I graduated from college I started to freak out about money, and felt like I would spend my life living from paycheck to paycheck. I wasn’t in debt, but I wasn’t getting rich quick either, and my savings was quickly being depleted. Somehow or other I found myself on a blog called Her English Major’s Money when I was 21, where the blogger wrote a post about a future inheritance from her parents, and how she should consider this in her networth. Then I read more of her blog about PF. I realized that just because I wasn’t in debt, I still needed to get my ass in gear and learn about finance. Soon after, I started my own PF blog, Her Every Cent Counts.

Seeing how little control my mom has over the family’s networth (other than just spending money), and watching how my parent’s life is unfolding (my dad is sick with a terminal cancer), I am frustrated by how little she understands about money. I’m determined to be smart with money, and to make sure I have enough money in retirement. But it also has made me a bit paranoid — I’m actually considering not having children because I don’t want to have kids before I hit $500k in networth (I’m only at $160k today and I’m 28.) So it’s good that I’ve learned more about money and investing, but I think I would be happier, now, if I was still clueless.

36 Jess

I was married to a financial mess and struggled to pay down our debt. I left him and struck out on my own in October of 2009 and paid off $14000. I have only $2700 to go and have a debt free date of June 24th (and this is all done with me being on long-term disability waiting for a double-lung transplant).
I love reading this blog and learning anything I can about finance. I guess I’m a nerd too :)

37 Kristin

My roommate was @StephTheBlogger at GraduatedLearning. I was filling out graduate school applications and then found her blog and subsequently spent several hours I should have been writing essays on her blog… and quickly branched out to find other blogs and got a little obsessed with finding and reading them. Steph was really awesome to be able to ask financial questions of when I was becoming financially independent for the first time, but I enjoy the blog commuities a lot too. I’ve always been a saver and perhaps avoid buying things that would make my life easier to my own detriment. I’ve conciously tried to avoid lifestyle inflation so that it would not be a shock to live as a grad student. In that arena I guess I’m lucky to have a lot of self-control. I come back for the community and stories, and the stick figures.

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