In it to Win it — Together

My girlfriend and I hit our first major milestone a little less than a month ago: Our combined assets finally reached $100,000. We celebrated together with a toast of champaign. It wasn’t the most frugal of celebrations, but we decided it was a worthy cause to celebrate.

As the famous investor Charlie Munger put it so eloquently, “The first 100k is a bitch.” 

I’m banking on this being true since it only took us a combined 57 years to reach this stage.

We credit much of our success to the fact that we’re working together, as a team. As such, I wanted to share my girlfriend’s perspective on what it takes to become financially independent.

If you show enough love for her writing style and her content, then I’ll be more than happy to keep bugging her to respond to comments! 🙂

Hello again, Fellow Distillers

I wanted to take this opportunity to confirm that I do, in fact, exist in adjunction to this journey towards FI with Matt. It’s not just a front we’re putting up for our readers.

You see, for couples, when it comes to reaching financial independence — or any financial goal for that matter — if we’re not in it together we’re set to fail before we ever get started.

Everyone knows that being on the “same page” is crucial to the health and the longevity of a relationship. We don’t need our parents “semi-functional” relationship model or a self-help book on “How to Make it Work” to tell us that. In reality there is more to it than that; there are different volumes of our story to consider.

Relationships are complicated and constantly evolving from one edition to another. We can only fit so much into Volume One.

By the time we get to Volume Two, we might be renting an apartment together. When we start Volume Three, we might be talking about getting married and buying our first home together. Maybe by the time Volume Six rolls around and we find ourselves reading What to Expect When Expecting as part of our book research because starting a family has come into the picture.

So, it’s not just about being on the same page, it’s also about being on the same page of the same book. Page 15 exists in each one of our books, but those books represent different phases of our life.

It’s probably impossible to stress this enough when couples begin to seriously think about their future together. What volume of your story are the two of you embarking on writing?

When Matt and I first started seeing each other about two and half years ago, we did not have this same page/same book thing synchronized. At the time, my personal finances were in a state of complete and utter fucking chaos meanwhile he had a positive net worth and growing assets.

I was skipping meals because I could not afford to eat 3 meals worth of food a day. I walked everywhere because I could not afford bus fare. I went out with friend to venues with no cover charge and asked for sparkling water with a lime in a fancy glass because it was free. When someone did buy me a drink or offered me a bite of their nachos, I would mention something like “I’ll send you a QuickPay later, just remind me.”

I had graduated with $100k in student loan debt and I couldn’t find a job for 6 months after college. I was borrowing $1500.00/month from my parents of which $1000.00 went to rent, $150.00 to utility bills, and the remaining $350.00 to eating and buying silly things like tampons.

I lived on $75.00/week and was so horrified of my financial situation, I couldn’t bring myself to look at my bank account (which danced a fine line between having $4.80 and being overdrawn at the end of every month).

Rock bottom was my being foolish enough to responded to a Craigslist ad for a personal assistant. I was so desperate and emotionally distraught over my situation I didn’t see the red flags. When I set up the paperwork for direct deposit, my account was cleaned out and I spent the next year and half of my life owing the bank $2k.

I ended up in that situation because I never made a plan. I carelessly never took responsibility for my personal finance.

Never in a million years did I consider to prepare for the possibility of not being able to find a job after graduation. I had a management degree after all; I had worked my way through college and finished my degree with honors. There was no reality in which I was hopeless enough that I would fall for a Craigslist phishing scam.

Financial wreckage takes years to recover from, but in the process of rebuilding our life we learn the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship with our personal finance and the value of financial independence.

Even after finding a decent paying job, I could not pay off my credit card and missed a student loan payment (something that will haunt my credit history for about 5 more years).

I did not advertise my situation, but I also did not hide it from Matt. Slowly, bit by bit, he got me to start looking at the big bad boogie man that was my personal finance.

The first and most difficult thing that I had to do was to look up the status of every one of my accounts and make a balance sheet.

I think that most people who are or were in a similar situation could relate to the fact that there is a certain comfort in not knowing how bad things really are. Ignorance is bliss until creditors start calling us.

With Matt’s help, I was able to put my financial situation into perspective and together, we made a plan of where to go from there.

That was the first time we were on the same page of the same volume of our story.

It took so much trust and courage to combine these pieces of our lives but we knew two things:

  1. Volume One was amazing and we wanted more than anything to write Volume Two
  2. The only way to write Volume Two was by starting at page 1 together

If you and your loved one are together then be together in all things. It’s either you two against the world, or the world against you two. Believe me when I tell that if your approach to personal finance is the latter, the world will win.

– M
Future Mrs. Master Distiller

22 comments… add one
  • [email protected] Jun 15, 2016, 6:23 am

    Those are amazing words of wisdom coming from folks so young. You have charted a course that will take you far – with both your relationship and with your finances. You should celebrate today and celebrate often. You are also an awesome writing team! Well done 🙂

    • Distilled Dollar Jun 27, 2016, 9:09 pm

      Thank you, Vicki! I definitely advocate for popping the bubbly as often as possible. I do love champagne.

      Mrs. Distilled Dollar

  • Apathy Ends Jun 15, 2016, 7:13 am

    Thanks for sharing your story and congrats on hitting this milestone!

    Ignorance is definitely bliss, I still don’t want to look at my bank account after long out of town weekends

    • Distilled Dollar Jun 27, 2016, 9:13 pm

      Oh, man, I remember those days. Wake up in cold sweat, lump in your throat because it’s the 14th and the ComEd bill is due. Obviously I learned a lot during this time in my life, and I wouldn’t be where I am today had I had a smoother financial ride through life, but… I definitely could’ve done without the $2K phishing scam. yickes….

      Mrs. Distilled Dollar

  • The Green Swan Jun 15, 2016, 7:55 am

    True reason to celebrate!!

    This was a great post! Thank you for being so honest about hitting financial rock bottom, but also how you and DD picked each other up and now only look forward. I think we can all agree having someone to lean on or bounce ideas off of is crucial. I’m lucky to have someone like that too who helped me understand the power of compounding and putting money away very early. I’ll admit it was hard to resist buying the cool gadget that everyone had or having to take a close look at menu prices when I went out to eat with friends. Again great week, keep it up!

    Mrs. Green Swan

    PS – I vote for more Future Mrs. Master Distiller on the blog 🙂

    • Distilled Dollar Jun 27, 2016, 9:18 pm

      My dad did try to knock personal finance, or, at the bare minimum, saving a set percentage of my paycheck when I was in high school. It just didn’t stick. As much as I want to say I would have learned the lessons that I did with or without facing financial ruin, that would not be true.

      Matt was really the first person who got me to pay attention to personal finance, but that is because I was finally ready to listen and learn.

      What’s that saying? You gotta want to help yourself? Or something like that 🙂

      More posts from me are coming soon! Let me know if there is anything specific you’d like me to write about.

      Mrs. Distilled Dollar

  • Jim @ Route To Retire Jun 15, 2016, 8:19 am

    Congratulations to you guys on the milestone! Very impressive!!

    Great post, Future Mrs. Master Distiller!! I enjoy the honesty and realization both on where you were and what you guys have built together. May the Volume 2 and 3 be everything you want and more!!

    — Jim

  • FinanceSuperhero Jun 15, 2016, 11:02 am

    I enjoyed learning about your background as a couple. You two seem to be on a great path, as evidenced by your recent milestone. Congratulations!

  • Jon Jun 15, 2016, 11:49 am

    Congrats on reaching the big milestone, hitting six figures before you even own a house is a big! Glad to hear that you are both on the same page, everything is easier that way!

  • Latoya @ Life and a Budget Jun 15, 2016, 8:48 pm

    I vaguely remember those $1500 a month days. It seriously feels like you’re drowning, so I can relate to the struggle. Thank goodness for our significant others though because mine helped me get on the right track as well. And yes, ignorance is totally bliss until it ain’t…reality really did suck, but it’s gotten better;)

    • Distilled Dollar Jun 27, 2016, 9:25 pm

      I think I cried in the shower so my roommate could not hear me roughly twice a week. I was absolutely terrified or how little I knew about my own financial situation and how deep in the hole I suspected I was.

      I’m glad that it is relatable, because I hope that everything that came after is not just relatable but also applicable. The true value of this blog is to help other’s to find their way out of financial deficits and maybe even avoid it altogether.

      Let me know if there is anything specific you’d like me to write about — I’m looking for ideas of what the readers want from Mrs. Distilled Dollar 🙂

  • Brandon @ Nurse on Fire Jun 16, 2016, 1:41 am

    I always enjoy a good analogy! Very well written and it’s very inspiring to hear about where you started versus where you now stand. Congrats on the $100k milestone! Munger definitely said it right…we’re still climbing that mountain but things are picking up and we look forward to joining the club in the next couple years. It will be interesting to see how quickly you make it to $200k in comparison to the length of time it took you to reach $100k…surely it won’t take another 57 years! lol! 😉

    • Distilled Dollar Jun 27, 2016, 9:29 pm

      Oh, it’s all smooth sailing from here… *sarcasm* 😉

      That first $100K is a bitch, as they say. To me it sometimes feels more like a long walk in the desert with no drinking fountains around. Kind of like this.

      A $100 bill on the ground would be nice once in a while, right?!

  • Pamela Jun 16, 2016, 11:33 am

    Thanks for sharing your story Future Mrs. Master Distiller. You are on point, when it comes to relationships. If you are not doing it together, then there is no hope for the finish line. I like you volume analogy. My husband and I dated for a while (5 years) before getting married 3 years ago. Over the last 8-9 years on being together we have created so many volumes in all areas of our life, but its only in the recent 3 years (just before marriage) that we were on the same page in the same book.
    Congrats to both of you on reaching the $100k mark. That is pretty amazing, especially with everything you have gone through. Looking forward to reading more of your posts

    • Distilled Dollar Jun 27, 2016, 9:32 pm

      Thanks, Pamela! I really appreciate it 🙂 It took us a while to get here, so I think it’s pretty amazing too.

      Let me know what you want me to write about — I’m looking for ideas from the readers.

      Also, to help you hit your goals sooner: My pro tip — everything and anything you buy at a convenience store can be purchased on Amazon. It might be something like 10% off, but if you can avoid paying an extra $2 for mascara and skip the sales tax (depending on the state you live in)… why wouldn’t you?

      It’ll be delivered to your door so you don’t even have to put pants on to go get it! 🙂

      Mrs. Distilled Dollar

  • Financial Slacker Jun 16, 2016, 12:03 pm

    $100,000 in student loan debt! That is painful. I feel for you.

    Congratulations on your accomplishment as a couple. It is great to hear.

    It is so important to be aligned with your significant other when it comes to finances. When we first got together, Ms. Financial Slacker figured out quickly that my habit of throwing bills in the drawer wasn’t going to work. She took over that aspect of our finances and I took over the planning side. It’s worked well ever since – going on 22 years! Yes, we were six when we started dating. 🙂

    • Distilled Dollar Jun 27, 2016, 9:38 pm

      I feel the pain, too — three times a month, to be exact, when my automatic withdrawals hit my account. Best part is that email from the lender that comes in a few days prior to and it’s like, “Hey! Were you having a good day? Super! Just wanted to remind you that you have a student loan payment due in two days.”

      *Bleep* you, you *bleep* *bleep*.

      Mrs. Distilled Dollar

      • lynn ling Jul 26, 2016, 3:01 am


        I was walking on a thin line between student debt with no job or everything turns out well situation and listening to your story makes me really grateful how lucky I came by.

  • Woodysbudget Jun 16, 2016, 3:07 pm

    Keep on keeping on…all your goals are within reach and obtainable with sacrifice and sound judgment. Great job so far

  • Karlene Aug 3, 2016, 9:22 am

    I appreciate this blog, which I recently came across, and even more now with the future Mrs. Master Distiller’s perspective.

    As a new personal finance (PF) blogger I always appreciate reading another female PF blogger (or future blogger). There are so many male bloggers, especially bloggers with finance degrees and/or finance backgrounds that it is sometimes intimidating for one such as myself with no finance degree.

    I am the money manager for my family; my husband happily turned the finances over to me shortly after we got married over 30 years ago. I reluctantly accepted the task, and have grown to thoroughly enjoy it. Unfortunately, financial decisions we made when we were younger created lots of debt, which we are digging ourselves out of; one of them being student loans.

    I can relate to the lean times that the future Mrs. Master Distiller wrote about. And, yes, I definitely agree that it is extremely important that a couple be in agreement, or at least be able to communicate with each other about the disagreement. You do not have to agree on everything, and I do not think it is possible to agree on everything; however, each person must be able to freely speak her/his mind, and discuss the matter honestly.

    Per your request, I would definitely appreciate reading your perspective on student loans, especially since you wrote that you graduated with $100K in student loans. Maybe things you learned from having the obligation (even though it’s longer than the four letter d word I prefer it, and it is a reminder that the person who took out the loan(s) has in effect made a commitment to repay the loan), and possible ways in which you have found to reduce it, especially if it is a way to reduce it more speedily. Hope this helps.

    Look forward to reading more from the future Mrs. Master Distiller.

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 10, 2016, 6:01 am

      Thanks for the comment and mention in your post. I did share it with Mrs. Distilled Dollar and she said she wanted to respond herself, but as is typical, her appearance remains elusive. I’ll keep on her so you might see another response from me but it will actually be from her.

      As for your request, I did write a few articles on SL’s which discuss the emotional aspects we discovered together. I’ll admit, my emotional hurdles were not as sever with SL’s so I always give her props for overcoming them in such a short amount of time (9 months).

      Anyway, here are three articles you might enjoy checking out!

      Silver Lining to Student Loans

      How to Pay Student Loans

      A Nation Shackled by Student Loans

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