I made this cake, and by “I made this cake” I mean “I ordered this cake topper from Etsy and paid too much money for shipping because by the time I realized the shipping would be so expensive I had already committed, so I frosted a cake and laid it out flat on there, all the while chastising myself for wasting money.”

Sonya is turning 9 today. Halfway to 18. In a perfect world, we would have our shit together, we would have saved half the money for college for her and…uh…we wouldn’t still be paying off our own college. But the world’s not perfect, even if we are moving in the right direction.

We do have a 529 set up for her, with $3,615 in it. We put $100 a month into it, but we started late for her because when she was a baby, we had less than no money (literally). 

In the next several years, I have plans. I’m hoping to increase our 529 contributions to $400 per month per kid within two years. I’m also hoping that she’ll go to college where I work (assuming I still work there), so tuition will be free, so the pressure won’t be as high. We have several affiliated colleges she could choose from, too, for half price. It feels like we are behind on college planning, but there is a path that she could choose where we are actually ahead of the game; even if not, if I can be contributing $400 per month, that will help a lot.

I also have a plan, in a few years, to be rich enough that we can help her contribute to an IRA. I don’t know what it’s going to look like when she’s old enough to work, but several teenagers at the gym teach the classes for younger kids, which seems like a great gig. My goal is that, when she’s got a job, we can have her set up an IRA with her earnings and reimburse her. A hundred bucks a month when you’re 15, I’m told, turns into ten billion dollars by retirement. I’d love to give my kids that gift of a head start.

Nine years ago, we were making something like $35K, I was in graduate school, my husband hadn’t started redoing his education. We had a brand new baby and a dog and a condo, and no sense of what we might be doing in the future. I worked at Starbucks as a side gig but could not afford to buy anything from there, which is kind of bad because now I know exactly what I want and cannot always resist temptation. On the flip side, I don’t have to waste money trying anything out because I worked there for five years and know the menu backward and forward.

When Sonya was born, I thought “this is the poorest we will ever be.” Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. But here’s something else I didn’t know: in a few short years, it would be better. Maybe not the best, but better. Three kids, a new dog, a new house, a huge garden, a live-in MIL, a job I adore, a ton of debt, enough income to attack it, a gangbusters side gig, IT for my husband (a life-long dream), travel to Ukraine with the kids and a couple of trips to Disney World, brain surgery that gave me a new lease on life. Life optimized.

Happy birthday, Sonya. I hope the next nine years are as exciting as the first.

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