Are you an Amateur PF Expert too?

I don’t classify myself as any kind of expert, but people who know me and my situation treat me as such. With the current surge of debt fear, apparently I’m not the only one to experience this phenomenon. No, I am not the next Suze Orman or Dave Ramsey, and you probably aren’t either, but maybe you’re the friend or sister or cousin that others call to talk about money stuff. Sometimes it’s openly for advice, sometimes it’s to bounce ideas off someone whose opinions they respect.

Since this is definitely a position I hold in my family, and my friends have commented that I’m one of the few people they can talk to about money (salary, investments, debt, etc), I thought it might be fun to list why…

My Qualifications as an Amateur Expert

  • No debt at all for the past 8 years. For 4 years before that, my only debt was a $198/quarter student loan. And I paid my grad school tuition out of my savings.
  • Despite the above, I know what it’s like to negotiate with credit card companies and credit consolidators (in both cases, pretending I was my mother or sister).
  • I talked my parents into declaring bankruptcy after a conversation with a friend who’s a corporate bankruptcy lawyer. And then I paid cash for their lawyer – which Mom never forgot about and fully repaid 3 years later, even though I never asked.
  • I always have cash. That sounds really weird, I know, but there was a time when my whole family lived on credit cards, and there was a seminal moment at a restaurant when the bill came with “cash only” stamped on it. In a sitcom-worthy moment, they all simultaneously turned to me with big, doleful eyes.
  • I don’t really make that much money, and yet I’ve been asked if I’m “independently wealthy” (by a banker who clears 6x what I do!).
  • My mental arithmetic and ability to get my head around some complex concepts seems to impress the hell out of “numbers” people, e.g. traders, engineers, etc. Which is not what anyone expects from a massage therapist. Heh…no wonder people think I’m an undercover something-or-other.
  • I have everything I want and take some truly amazing trips because I don’t waste money on things that don’t matter to me. Example: I don’t need $2000 worth of stereo equipment to enjoy listening to music – it just doesn’t sound 10x better (or even 3x better!) than a $200 unit…which, in turn, means I have $1800 for things like a 2-week vacation in Thailand.
  • I’m single and self-employed, which means I don’t have a guaranteed income or a back-up plan (i.e. husband). You’d be surprised how many people tell me they couldn’t handle the stress and uncertainty that comes with this territory…and then realize that I have the freedom to take this risk because I don’t have debt obligations. Or kids. Or a husband with materialistic entitlement issues (yeah…got rid of him over a decade ago).
  • Most people think self-employment is for irresponsible, air-headed free spirits, and that certainly describes a large swathe of us alternative health care providers. However, I have a Roth IRA, a whole life policy, a decent emergency fund, PPO health insurance, a clever accountant, a credit score of 780-800, and I’ve been in the same apartment for 5 years. And my 2008 travel plans included Mexico, Argentina and Aspen.

So, what does your resume look like?


10 Responses

  1. Hi there! You’re doing incredibly well and I aspire to a situation where I no longer have personal debt. Thankfully, the debt I have at the moment has no interest payable, so I suppose this is the one good thing about my situation. I too do not covet expensive things and am happy as I am. I just like to live below my means and stick to my monthly budget.

  2. ….my resume looks nothing like yours. 😮

    but your resume is something for me to consider making solid financial goals for myself. hmm… you may just have a solid profession in finance. : -)

  3. well…you blow me out of the water too. your rent alone is more than my GROSS monthly pay! fortunately (or not), I’ve become proficient through the years at creative financing.

  4. @ Sharon Rose & MoneyFunk: Just so you know, I didn’t write all that to cast myself as a paragon of financial virtue. But I think it’s important for my readers to know why I am the way I am with money.

    Okay, I just erased a lot more stuff because, really, it deserves its own blog post. Thanks for getting the creative juices flowing!

    @ Catmom: My rent horrifies me every time I write out that check. I would not live here if I didn’t work from home. If you haven’t already, check out one of my first ever posts,, about why I pay the big bucks for the roof over my head.

  5. Oh, believe me…I wasn’t trying at all to imply you were extravagant or wasteful. I come from the San Francisco bay area and I KNOW how outrageous the cost of housing can be. It’s great you’re smart enough (or whatever it is that it takes) to bring in enough income to cover that and everything else. And I admire your courage to run the business out of your apartment. I’m too big a coward to try something like that. Then again, you DO know martial arts!

  6. I dont know about being an expert, but if being a good example is an expert, than you win by a landslide.

  7. Hi

    I found your post by random chance this morning and had just been pondering what advice I would give as a ‘financial expert’. My life experiences are quite different from yours but I really enjoyed this post.


  8. @Catmom – I know you weren’t being critical, but so many people don’t understand Manhattan rents that it reminded me I should have mentioned it (but I do all the time, which can get boring for you “regulars”). Signing that lease almost 5 years ago was the biggest, scariest financial commitment I’ve ever made!

    @ Maria – I don’t really think I’m an expert. But in the current economic climate, people who aren’t where I am want to know how I got here. I also posted about my sister’s debt (and will get into the rest of my family’s debts too at some point) because a large chunk of the PF blog community is dealing with theirs, and I want folks to know I’m not really an “outsider” to their situation.

    @ Catherine – feel free to mention what aspects of your own life experiences make you an “amateur expert”. We all have something different to bring to the table, and that’s the best part!

  9. I’m a self proclaimed amateur PF person. In the last 2 years I have started to turn around my husband and my own bad money habits and ever sense I can’t seem to stop evangelizing things I figure out to friends and family, weather they want to hear it or not!

    Like how much better I felt after scraping up a small emergency fund and storing it in a higher yield online savings account. Because of the sense of security AND because I could see the interest I earn grow!

    2 years ago for Christmas I gave all my best friends the David Bach book appropriate for their situation (smart women or smart couples finish rich).

    I like sharing with close friends and family that it doesn’t matter what you make, its is what you do with it and I am very blunt with my numbers! From the outside my husband and I look very successful to my family members, but our net worth is 1/2 what it should be if we didn’t have debt! My sister raises a family of 4 on about $30K a year and has no debt!

  10. dont know about being an expert? how can i do?

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