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Today I have another session of M$D Dollars & Debts Interview Series. This interview features Dora over at Thoughts On The Money. Dora is a CPA, Certified Financial Planner™ and author of How Ally Found Her Financial Freedom: Ally Found It – So Can You & Jake’s Financial Transformation. Dora has over 30 years in accounting and taxation. Her career has evolved through work experience at a combination of public accounting firms and large corporate tax departments. Dora previously wrote an article on How To Manage Health Care Expenses With An HSA. Enjoy!
Dollars & Debts – Introduction
I’m Dora DeLellis, a CPA and Certified Financial Planner™. I have a 30+ year career in accounting and taxation. My rewarding career has evolved through work experience at a combination of public accounting firms and large corporate tax departments. In the past seven years, I have served as an adjunct professor of a variety of undergraduate and graduate level tax courses. My diverse education includes a Education: Bachelors in Accounting; Masters in Taxation; CPA, CFP, concentrated degree in Web Programming.
My personal interest lies in financial planning and money management. Just like taxation, financial planning is universal. Through my writing, I aim to get people excited about reaching their financial goals and help mitigate financial stress. I believe that every single person can and should be self-sustaining.
In my books, How Ally Found Her Financial Freedom: Ally Found It – So Can You, and Jake’s Financial Transformation, I embedded basic financial planning messages in a fictional story. The stories are relatable and entertaining and simultaneously aid in learning.
When did you start learning about money?
When I was twelve. I always saved and felt a sense of comfort when I had money put aside. I didn’t grow up indulged.
My earliest memories were of living a comfortable middle-American lifestyle in a typical suburban neighborhood. This changed into my teens when my parents overextended themselves with a brand-new waterfront home. My parent’s marriage wasn’t great but it went bad really fast. From there, the monetary tension was an everyday vibe.
Through the accumulated experiences, I learned that money bought security, comfort, and choices. I couldn’t understand that when we went to stores but couldn’t buy anything. Until I starting earning my own money, I often did without. If something broke, you didn’t get another, if the batteries ran out, it never worked again.
I also watched neighbors live the high life and lose it all within two years.
All these valuable experiences contributed to my savings mentality, earnings mentality, and desire to reach a certain standard of living.
What got you started on your financial independence journey?
In my field (accounting), the early messages revolved around making as much money as you could and raising your standard of living. In my career progression, financial independence was not part of the vernacular – it was on working hard and earning lots of money. A popular catch-phrase back in the 80’s was “The One With The Most Toys Wins”. Talk about a culture of consumerism.
Related: Focus On Reducing Expenses, Not Getting A Raise
My start in financial independence began with one incident in my career that truly sticks out. About 15 years ago, I was at a new job for three months when my manager called me in response to two voice messages I left for him. He was hissing fire at me for having the nerve to call him twice for the same question. I had waited several days for him to respond to my first message and called back politely after several days of not getting a response. This confrontation was so upsetting, I then decided I would not be a corporate slave for the rest of my life. I wanted to be debt-free and be able to make choices about where I work and with whom. That’s always been my underlying objective in life, to have choices.
How much debt did you have?
$110,000 in mortgage debt and very little savings.
How much have you paid off? And what steps did you take to do it?
In four years, I paid off the entire mortgage and accumulated $50,000 in savings.
I created a plan to set aside a certain amount of money with each paycheck. Some went towards the mortgage, some went to my savings account. Two years in, I accepted a higher-paying position (much higher). I worked very hard to obtain that job, as in I didn’t see the light of day for an entire summer. That wasn’t fun, but I knew it would get me the position, compensation, and title that I wanted.
Now my plan was on steroids. With the additional income, it was easy to save and pay down debt. Two years later, the mortgage was paid and I had the ample savings balance.
I could have spent my higher earnings or moved into a bigger home. Instead, I stayed exactly where I was and focused on the endgame. It wasn’t easy containing my shopping habits, but I continued to live below my means and it’s so freeing to know that I own my home.
Related: Debt Payoff Methods
What are your money goals for the next year and long-term?
Short-term: To max out my 401(k), my Roth IRA, and my Health Savings Account contributions.
Long-term: to retire comfortably at 59 ½.
What obstacles have you run into that you had to overcome?
Suppressing my shoe habit.
Thanks to the Great Recession, I lost my high-paying job in December 2008. Looking back, they did me a favor. I often tell friends that I’m not sure which was worse, losing my job or actually working there. I traded in a high-stress, no work/life balance position for a lower-paying, low-stress, great work/life balance job, with job security. The thought and effort to reach my early retirement goal requires more discipline and attention, but I’m on track.
Any words of advice for those that are afraid of starting their journey or are feeling like they aren’t making enough progress?
Stay disciplined with your financial goals and live below your means.Focus on your skills and always improve. Don’t stop reading and learning.Click To Tweet