The Wake-Up Call
In early 2016, Carsen Young, now 35 years old, found himself single and broke:
“I’d been in a long-term relationship since college … When that changed, I found myself single and living only on my income. I realized that I needed to do something because, though I was getting by ok, I couldn’t get ahead.”
So, Carsen cut back on spending, but, in spite of his efforts, he couldn’t seem to make progress. He said, “I would generally see my checking account hit triple-, sometimes double-, digits before my next paycheck came in. I always felt poor.”
There Had to Be a Better Way
This was definitely not the life he wanted for himself. Carsen said, “I wanted to stop living paycheck-to-paycheck. I realized that I wasn’t getting any younger and, even though I was getting by, I had nothing put away for the future. I had my 401(k) with my job, but I didn’t really know what to do with it, so my ROI was miserable (0.07 percent).”
And, speaking of his job, Carsen knew that, for a web developer in Richmond, VA, he could do better: “I was drastically underpaid and never bothered to challenge it or look elsewhere because, in a two-income household, it was ‘good enough’. ”
Worried about the future and feeling trapped by his limited funds, Carsen decided that it was time to take control of his life. He needed a budget.
Secret Weapon: Find the Fun
Now, Carsen had dabbled with the idea of budgeting before. He said, “I set up a Mint account, but never really used it.”
But now the stakes were high—he was the one, and only, person who could rescue his financial destiny from the perils of a non-existent emergency fund (not to mention beef up his scrawny retirement savings)! And that’s when he finally found YNAB …
He said, “What I like about YNAB is that it almost feels like a game. By starting with the money that’s actually in your account, you have a concrete amount of resources that you’re trying to figure out how to allocate. Giving dollars jobs is like getting to spend the money before you spend the money (and who doesn’t enjoy spending money?).”
With his new, game-ified attitude about money (and YNAB), Carsen’s finances dramatically changed for the better. He said, “I went from just getting by from paycheck to paycheck, to having an age of money that is currently 93 days—all while making student loan payments that are more than six times the required minimum for the last several months. Plus, I no longer stress out about, occasionally, eating out with friends.”
Talk about a winning attitude—imagine how much better you’d sleep at night if you had three months of living expenses sitting in the bank!
Carsen had gone from feeling helpless to tackling some serious financial hurdles. Within the first six months of using YNAB, he was able to get one paycheck ahead. Then, a year later, he landed a better-paying job. Now, he’s happy to report that:
- His Age of Money went from zero to 93 days in just 18 months …
- His stress level about money disappeared.
- And his student loans? They’re paid-off as of September 2017—more than a decade ahead of schedule! Which means …
- Retirement is totally possible. And he’s doing well there, too …
Carsen said, “Once I realized I actually had cash that wasn’t needed for day-to-day expenses, and I stopped stressing about the unexpected (I just budgeted for it!), I got myself a financial advisor. We straightened out my 401(k), which bumped up my ROI to around 6.0 percent. I also started paying extra toward my student loans. Before, I hadn’t even looked at getting ahead on student loans, or saving for retirement, because I just didn’t see where I had any extra money.”
What a difference a couple of years can make!
The Power of Focus
Carsen’s ability to face his money worries, head-on, helped him start the recovery process. He said, “The truth is, I was completely unaware of my money before YNAB.”
Rather than letting his fear of never having enough overcome him, he took action. By setting his emotions aside, Carsen was able to approach budgeting like a game, and that helped him stick with it, even when things didn’t go perfectly: “Especially in the early days, when I was still trying to figure out how much to allocate to what category, I was frequently ‘rolling with the punches’.”
Now, he’s on an even keel: “Even though I’d still like to have more money—and I certainly can’t just up and buy anything I want—I’m no longer worried that an unexpected car repair, or whatever, is going to be more than I can handle.”
Carsen went from being a guy with, at most, a couple hundred bucks in savings, to having enough to, in his words, “buy myself a used car” in cash, if he really had to.
Get Your Slice
If you want a piece of the financial peace pie, Carsen’s tip is: “Try YNAB. It’s easy and even fun, and it’s totally changed my life.”