Burnout In SNF Rehab

I certainly am not the end all be all authority on this topic, but having worked in several Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF) for the past almost 3 years both as a full time therapist and as PRN employee I think I've gained at least a little insight into this work setting. And let me tell you...it sucks.  It sucks to be a patient and it sucks to be a therapist. This information is based on working in SNFs from 2015-2018. I am now transitioning away from speech therapy due to burn out, but there is supposed to be a brand new reimbursement system rolling out for Medicare in October 2018 which will be changing a lot of the policies written about in this blog post. I hope it will change things for the better. 

Here's why it sucks to be a patient in a skilled nursing facility. If you fall and break your hip and go to the hospital you may need some rehab. The hospital wants you out of there ASAP so if you cannot go home...welcome to a skilled nursing facility!  Paid for by Medicare for up to 100 days. If you are really sick and cannot participate in therapy, tough luck but you WILL be participating because that's what's paying your bill. If you consistently refuse to participate in therapy, or if you don't show progress in therapy, you can't stay. The problem with this is that the people who NEED to stay are usually the sickest people, who don't show as much progress.  Or sometimes patients don't have as much family support and can't afford the daily care they need at home while they are recovering.

And you are not going to be participating for just a little bit, you are going to automatically get therapy 5 or more times a week across various disciplines (PT, OT, and ST). If the therapy department has their way, you will not receive 721 minutes each week and you sure as hell will not receive 719 minutes. You will receive exactly 720 minutes. Why? The government made it up. Reimbursement categories based on minutes are called RUG levels.  Now, In la la land therapists are supposed to assess a patient, figure out how many minutes of therapy is truly needed,  provide that amount, and then get reimbursed appropriately for whatever Rug Level that was provided.

What happens in real life is that everyone is slotted for 720 minutes no matter what. You don't really need that much? well.....let's do some bullshit treatment to get you there anyway. You need a lot more than that? Tough luck...we can't make the time for you because we don't get paid for it. Therapists are told from one side of the corporate mouth "oh 720 minutes is just an estimate" while also being told "Tighten up! why are you one minute under or over!?". Corporate will tell the therapists to back down the minutes or bump up the minutes to get exactly to the totally arbitrary 720 number.

To play devils advocate for a moment, I do obviously understand that the patients are in an SNF to get therapy. If a patient truly, truly cannot tolerate 720 minutes each week, companies DO actually allow therapy to be provided at a lower level on a case by case basis...as long as it doesn't happen "too often". But no one gets anything higher. 720 minutes a week breaks down into around 144 minutes a day (around 2.5 hours per day). When it's put in that context, it's not that much out of a patients day and sometimes for the rest of the day there's not much else for them to do. For people who need that amount of therapy it works out OK. 

The problem comes when patients really don't need it, or can't tolerate it. I have seen many people begging to go back to bed. Or patients basically falling asleep on a stationary bike while in a "therapy session", while a therapist is reading a magazine. I've seen patients who are very sick and really cannot tolerate this much therapy pushed into it and asked multiple times a day if they've changed their mind and would like a little more. And how many times a day did I hear a therapist mumble "what am I supposed to do with this person for 75 minutes?". This leads to sub par therapy in my opinion.

Perhaps the more annoying part, in my mind, is that there are some people who could tolerate and even greatly benefit from MORE therapy time. And yet are not able to get it because of the crazy RUG system. 

In my experience OTs and PTs are highly encouraged to pick up everyone, each for about 75 minutes a day and pretend it is always appropriate. Unless speech therapy is involved, then instead the appropriate minutes are magically reduced, to "make room" for speech therapy. It's not supposed to happen like this. A PT, OT, and ST should have the option of evaluating a patient and saying "hey, I think you need x, y, and z and would benefit from this many minutes of treatment this many times a week". A PT should decide how many PT minutes are appropriate, an OT should decide how many OT minutes are appropriate, and an ST should decided for ST.  When you are a green therapist coming out of school, this is what you expect to happen. Ethical treatment based on patient need, imagine that. In an SNF it's simply not the case. Therapists are reprimanded for not getting their "minutes", even if the patient is sick, or out of the building, or just refuses and doesn't want therapy.

And then there's the worst word in rehab, the dreaded "P" word... Productivity. SNF therapists and therapy assistants are paid hourly, and are expected to see patients to provide billable therapy from about 80% to 90% of their day depending on what kind of therapist you are and the company you work for. I've even heard some places that require 100% billable time (HOW??).

Do you only have 3 patients on your schedule? You are sent home early. Do you have 20 patients on your schedule? You may be looking at a 12-15 hour day. You probably won't know what your schedule looks like until the day before, or maybe the morning of, so good luck planning anything with your family or friends for after work. This is no 9-5 job.  

Do you have to spend an hour in a meeting? Your boss will tell you that you have to be there, but then reprimand you later for having low billable productivity that day. Maybe you'll be more talented than me and learn astral projection so your mind can be in the meeting while your body is performing therapy. Neato, write that skill down on a resume.

Do you think you might need about 5 minutes to write up notes on each of your 12 patients? Well that's about an hour out of your day right there where you're not being "productive". Even though you are doing the job they pay you to do...it doesn't actually count and it will stop you from getting a raise.

Do you have to spend 5 minutes helping a resident, who isn't on your schedule, transfer safely to the toilet because there's not enough floor staff to answer call bells? Companies hate that. tsk tsk. Is your patient vomiting and you're spend 10 minutes holding a bucket for them and stroking their hair? That's cutting into productive time! Just leave them! 

Do you need to use the bathroom? Maybe you should think about wearing an adult diaper. It would save 5 minutes of your time, and after all, if it's good enough for your patients it's good enough for you :)  

You know those federally mandated two 15 minute breaks per 8 hours worked that every full time employee in the US is supposed to get? You don't get them if you work in rehab. Because that would mean you're not spending time seeing patients! Shame on you.

Of course I'm being hyperbolic with most of my statements above. But when half the staff in the department is reduced to tears from stress and the other half quits, something is really wrong.

Even though I really spent about 95-100% of my time working (sure...maybe 5% on breaks and socializing and trying to be part of a team environment), according to my productivity tracker at the end of the day I hovered around 60-75%. Sometimes worse, sometimes better. It is stressful to be constantly talked to about how slow you are from your boss, while you are honestly working as fast as you can. It really made me feel like a failure.  

Let's talk about benefits.

Vacation days? What are they? SNF companies will say that because they want you to be well rested, they will not let you cash out your vacation time. They want you to take your well deserved vacation so they're not going to tempt you to overwork yourself by providing money for unused days, and they're not going to let you carry over any days from last year. How nice of them! The only problem is that you can only take vacation day if you find another therapist who can cover for you. Sometimes you might work in a rural area with no other speech therapists. When I worked full time in an SNF rehab department, I had one day off in an entire year.

And yet they would cut my hours during the week because of a low census, and ask me to come in on weekends instead when the new admissions come in. There were some months that I worked 21 days in a row but still only was just barely completing 30 hour weeks. And if there happened to be a week where i had worked 38 hours by Thursday at 5, they still wanted me to come in for 2 hours Friday but didn't approve overtime beyond that. They didn't give a rip about wasting my time. I should have learned to put my foot down, but I was new and didn't want to make waves. 

Neither of my companies provided matching for my 401K. Both SNF companies I worked full time for had frozen all pay raises for years. The only way to get a raise was to quit and negotiate for a higher salary with a new company. Wow, what a way to inspire company loyalty. Often a new graduate therapist will come into the building on day one making more than a therapist who has worked there for 10 years. Also, when I had gave 30 day notice I met a few of the SLPs interviewing to fill my position. I know that at least one very qualified, super experienced person was not hired because she asked for a high salary due to her high worth as a therapist. It really breeds resentment and fear to know that you are not valued in a current company even as you work hard to improve, and you might not be hired somewhere else because they would rather hire someone green they can control more easily and pay less.  

It's just an insane system. With the crazy census fluctuations, they don't want to hire more full time employees, which means the full timers are worked to the bone with crazy unpredictable schedules with no time to prepare quality therapy and complete all paperwork with sometimes only 10 minutes of actual scheduled break time during the entire day. And by "break time" i mean time when you are walking to get the next patient.

Rehab SNF is tough a work environment to handle and I understand why therapists feel the pressure to be unethical, bill for terrible treatments, double up on patients, etc. Because these companies are asking too much. The system is breaking down. They say they are providing patient first care, but they are not.

Advice I have for a clinical fellow, or a green employee entering the rehab world, is to remember the companies really don't give a shit about you as an employee. I hope you choose to continue to provide the most ethical care you can, providing quality therapy to those who need it. Be a good, thorough worker but do not worry about busting your butt to meet an impossible productivity standard. Don't feel like a failure because you don't measure up to corporate standard. You are worth more than they are paying you. Ask for things you want. And document everything...CYA. 

It's really not all bad. There are really good parts about working for a SNF including independence gained, developing some professional grit, and developing close relationships with patients and families, plus awesome coworkers. Most people who find themselves working in an SNF are really good people who want to make a difference in their patients lives.  It's mostly the corporate overlords and bean counters who think we're making widgets in the widget factory instead of healing live human beings.

Overall I chalk my SNF experience up to a positive one. I really have learned so much, met some lifelong friends, and am grateful even that the negative experiences led me into travel therapy which was a vast improvement on my quality of life.

I'm going to be maintaining my speech therapy license and national board certification because I worked hard to get it, and for all my griping it is a well paid position that I can get in any state fairly easily. Overall, I really enjoyed my experience immensely more once I left the nursing facilities. In my traveling negotiations, I insisted on a 75% productivity standard for all SNF jobs, and no one was able to guarantee that for me so I never went back. Instead I had a MUCH better time in home health, acute care, and hospital inpatient rehab. None of those were without faults, and over the past almost 3 years since graduation I lost my spark for the field which is why I'm now moving on. I may return in the future! I might even try transitioning to pediatrics...wow that's a sentence I never thought I would say! 


Types of Retirement Accounts

In my last post I told you what stocks I invest in, now I will tell you where I recommend investing them. When you go to buy a stock, your broker or your online account will ask you what kind of account you want to put it in. 

Step 1. let's talk about a 401k. Many jobs offer 401ks to employees and it is super simple to get started with this account. They will give you a list of funds you can choose (I would recommend an index fund, an S&P500 fund is what I personally use in my 401k since my favorite Vanguard funds are not an option) and you tell them how much of your pay you want being saved every paycheck.  This money has great tax benefits and is a super powerful retirement account in a world where pensions are becoming a thing of the past. If you have a 401 k with your employer, step one is to contribute up to the match.

Step 2. You should set up a Roth IRA account (or Traditional IRA- check out the differences and benefits of each one here) with a brokerage that allows contributions to low cost index funds. I use Vanguard because it has the lowest fees in the industry. You can use whatever you want. Your goal should be to max out your IRA each year ($5,500). I use a Roth IRA because I am currently in a low tax income bracket and it will be the most beneficial for me. Your situation might be different. Plenty of early retirees use traditional IRAs, the reasons can be read about here. Really it's a choice between two good options, so don't worry about your choice between Roth-IRA and T-IRA too much. Just get started today! 

Step 3. If you have access to a Health Savings Account (HSA) you should max that out to its potential of $3450 annually. Not everyone has this option but ask your employer if you do, because this is an amazing savings/investment account. The money that goes in is tax free, it grows in the stock market, and if you use the money to pay for any healthcare costs (dental work, glasses, prescriptions, emergencies, what have you) then the money is NOT taxed when it comes out. This is great for everyone, especially since medical costs are a huge reason that Americans have to claim bankruptcy. Plus as you age you don't have to be as worried about crazy medical costs since you have a dedicated savings account ready to go. But it's ESPECIALLY great for early retirees. The great thing for an early retiree is that if you pay out of pocket today while you are working, but keep the money in your HSA and KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS for the medical bills, you can reimburse yourself later (even 15, 20, or 30 years later, it doesn't matter). This means that the money goes in tax free, you capture all the benefits of compounding and THEN you can take the money out tax free. Once you reach age 65, any money inside is treated like a traditional IRA with money pulled out taxed at your current income bracket but with a continued benefit of tax free medical withdrawals. 

Step 4. If you have any money left over after you pay your bills and live your life, it should go toward maxing out your 401k, up to the $18,000 limit.

Step 5. If you are maxed out on your available retirement accounts, and still have extra money to invest you can open a regular non-retirement account through Vanguard. 

A great benefit of saving with these retirement accounts is that your 401k and HSA and traditional IRAs aren't taxed until you pull the money out later, which means you will be saving TONS of money on taxes right now. If you make $50,000 per year, this will easily drop you into the lowest tax bracket in the US and will help stretch your dollars even further. If you invest in a normal, non-retirement account (step 5) there are no tax advantages for you, compared to the retirement accounts which have HUGE tax advantages. BUT the main benefit to this account is that it is 100% liquid with no penalties for pulling money out, and no loopholes to jump through with age requirements or income requirements. In fact this is an excellent account to build and tap into for an emergency, or if you are an early retiree since there is no age requirements or penalties for withdrawal. 

To find a good chunk of money to plunk into these magical money-growing accounts, get yourself on a budget.Take a look at your outgoing funds and see what you can cut to make room for more contributions to these investments. Do you really need cable TV, amazon prime, AND Netflix? Do you really need $100 a month just for alcohol plus another $100 for eating out at restaurants, plus another $300 for normal groceries? Is that car payment bothering you enough that you would be willing to sell the car and get something more reasonable? Watch out for lifestyle creep, stick to your budget, and save those dollars so you can get them working for you!

If you are indeed able to save $26,950 for 10 years, you would put in $269,500 and it would grow to $400,000 in that time period (assuming 7% interest. Check my math here). Let's say at this point you decide to quit your job because you have been working hard and are burned out, and you want to pursue a passion. Lets say your passion happens to produce around $25,000, or $13/hr. Well you were already the Budgeting Master who lived on less than $25,000, so it's no problem for you! Maybe you love to grow microgreens, or write books, or start a band, become a photographer, or work in a ski lodge, or at a nonprofit...there are tons of interesting and awesome jobs and hobbies that bring at least $13 per hour! I suggest finding a passion of yours and going from there. 

Meanwhile you have that $400,000 nest egg gathered from the hardcore 10 years of work that you're not even tapping into. Let's say you don't touch it for another 20 years because you're having so much fun pursuing your passions that it turns out your $13 per hour path has blossomed into a cool $30 an hour since you are now an expert in your field and people pay for your expertise. At that point your initial investment of $239,500 will have grown to about $1.5 million dollars. If you wanted to start living off 4% of that, you could withdrawal about $60,000 per year and it wouldn't even touch your principle. 

It's a pretty freaking cool system...and it's why I get so excited by something as boring sounding as "retirement accounts"

Happy Travels!

How To Pick Good Stocks

In the previous stock post a few months ago found here, I talked about what a stock is and why you should consider investing in them. The post today will talk about how to pick stocks and the "hot tips" on stocks that I personally invest in. 

A stock is a piece of a company, so you can choose to use your dollars to buy pieces of companies that you believe in. So the age old question is....What companies should you trust with your money? The truth is that people SUCK at picking stocks because no one knows the future. The talking heads on CNBC don't know...that's why they say things like, "Oh well this company is very strong, but we could see a turning point soon", and then when the company takes off they say, "Just as I predicted! Super strong!".  And when the company goes down they say, "Ah see, it's just like I said- they're taking a bit of a dive." These talking heads don't have a flippin' clue. Turn off the TV and don't listen to them anymore. 

That's why I don't recommend picking individual stocks. For every Google, there's an AOL. For every American Airlines, there's a Pan Am.  Instead of taking a chance of picking the winners from the losers, you should own pieces of everything. Some go up, and some go down. But as a whole, the market increases in value (7% on average per year), which is how you make money. This approach is called diversification.

The absolute easiest way to diversify in the stock market is through index funds. An index fund simply tracks the performance of a group of stocks. These types of funds have the lowest fees in the industry, and their returns beat professional stock pickers about 80% of the time. And it's dead simple to invest, I've been doing it myself since I was 18. So if a teenager can do it, you can too! 

I use Vanguard as my platform, but I have also heard that Fidelity is a good company, as well as Betterment. I'm going to talk about vanguard funds since that's my bread and butter.

  • VTSAX is the total stock market index fund. If you have money in this index, you own a little bit of EVERY publicly traded company in America.
  • VTIAX is the total international stock market index fund...so you probably figured out that if you invest here, you will own a little bit of EVERY publicly traded company based outside the US. 
  • My 401k does not offer Vanguard funds, so I just chose a simple S&P500 index fund through the brokerage offered. The S&P 500 in an index that tracks the biggest 500 companies in the US, also known as the Fortune 500. Coca Cola, Google, Amazon, Apple, etc. If you own this fund, all those companies will be working to make YOU money. 

That's it. I am young so I have time on my side and am not scared of the volatility so I am in almost 100% stocks. As I get older, I will transition some money out of these stocks and over to bonds which are less volatile and less likely to take a nose dive during a crash. Many people much smarter than me recommend 80% stocks to 20% bonds so that's probably what I will do. VBTLX is the bond fund I like for my IRA. It's the total bond market fund...once again having a little piece of every high quality corporate US bond. I'm all about that diversification. 

There is one even easier way to get a little piece of everything in ONE single fund, if those funds are too complicated for you to be bothered with. It's called a Target Retirement Fund (I would put this in a retirement IRA through vanguard). You can pick the year you want to retire and choose the corresponding fund that holds a little bit of everything, and the cool thing about this fund is that it will re-balance you into more bonds as you age. It's literally a set it and forget it type of investing. Most of this one fund is made up of the other 3 funds (VTSAX, VTIAX, and VBTLX) I already mentioned, so it's a sexy little thing. 

The next part on this blog is here and is about what type of account to open.  401ks, IRAs, and HSAs...What they are, why I have them, how much I invest, and where I find the extra money to even invest in the first place. 

For further reading on Stocks in way more detail, I highly recommend the JL Collins Stock Series, found here

*Disclaimer, I'm not an investment adviser or financial professional and you invest at your own risk. Past stock market performance is not an indicator of future performance*

Who is Reading this Blog?

It's rare that I'm posting one blog so soon after my last, but I just decided to check out my analytics and wanted to share the coolness! 

Of course this blog is small, and most people reading are my friends and family who come here from my facebook page when I post a link. But I was surprised to find some strangers in the mix! I'm assuming they are largely coming from my instagram, which is also linked back to this blog. Both links for my facebook and instagram are in the footer of any page here, by the way...you should check them out!  

Since 2016, 375 visits (46%) have come directly to this site from typing in the direct URL. 341 visits (42%) have come from social media links. 77 visits (9%) have come from google, bing, and yahoo searches from one of my tags. And 28 visits (3%) have come from a category called "referral". What??? So some other sites somehow linking to mine. Cool beans! I certainly haven't paid for any advertisements, so that was a nice surprise. 

The other cool part is where my audience lives. 725 visits came from the US and 30 came from Canada. My third most popular country is India, which came in with a very nice 4 visits. I got 3 visits from Russia, and 2 visits each coming from the Phillipines, Ukraine, Germany, and Poland, and then single visits from: UAE, Bolivia, the UK, Ireland, Norway, China, Indonesia, and either French Guiana or France (The map is inconclusive on that one).

Happy Travels! 


2017 Year in Review and Looking Ahead to 2018

This year was a whirlwind! 2016 New Year's Eve had me chilling at a beach bar in Florida and the year just flew by from there. I continued the RV adventure; living in campgrounds, working at Hospitals, Outpatient clinics, and home health agencies, and taking a few road trips along the way. My best friend got married and I had a blast celebrating with her and her family in Nashville. We got to explore some honky tonks, do some line dancing, and she had the most beautiful barn wedding. Another highlight of the year was going road tripping/camping with my Mom on the gulf coast of Alabama and then down to southern Florida for a month. That's definitely a memory I will treasure for a long time, and I'm so grateful that I had the means and flexibility to do something like that. 

  Kayaking in St. Joseph Bay

 Kayaking in St. Joseph Bay

I also had a lot of success paying off debt! From September 2017 - when I really started tracking my debt and net worth- to January 2018, I paid off $7360 of debt! It's amazing what some budgeting and logical choices to spend less than you make can do for your financial health. 

As far as work, it had its ups and downs. I found out that I liked working as a Home Health speech therapist the most because it was much easier to involve the families and provide functional therapy. Plus I got to schedule my patients so that my lunch time patients just happened to be the ones that lived by one of the beautiful rivers in NC. I loved having picnic lunches every day!  

Unfortunately the stress of the job really got to me, and I kept getting frustrated with what I was doing as a speech therapist. I found it hard to know if I was really helping my patients or not and I was constantly second guessing myself. I also found it incredibly emotionally taxing when patients passed away or had other intense medical complications. I didn't want to let them down and I had a classic case of imposter syndrome. While I did enjoy the traveling, I also found it hard to be away from friends and family for so long. So after my travel assignment in November, I decided to apply to some jobs outside of speech therapy to see what was out there. Part of me was dreaming of having a guaranteed salary 9-5 office job with no patient care at all...which is pretty much the opposite of medical SLP work whether you're a traveler or not. 

I am from the DC area, and there are a lot of government contractors up here. I have previous experience working for the Department of Defense (Talk about an intimidating first job!), and so I applied to some listings that I saw on indeed and on USA jobs. I probably sent out about 100 applications for job postings that I seemed even slightly qualified for- everything from logistics, to marketing, to administration...and I got rejected a LOT. 99/100 said no thanks, I didn't have the qualifications. But one of them brought me in for an interview. And I got the job! It's a pay cut where I'll be making about half of my previous salary. So I'll have to tighten the budget even more if I still want to retire by 35! ;) 

For privacy reasons, I don't want to say my exact new job title especially since it hasn't started yet. It's still not the 9-5 office job that I was eyeing, but it is a mostly work from home position which does have it's perks. Until the job starts up, I'm continuing to work part time as a speech therapist during the days, and I also have a evening job tutoring K-12 students. 

So I will be staying in one spot for the foreseeable future, which means I am starting the process of selling my RV and truck. This is bittersweet, as I can see it out my window as I'm typing this, and a big part of me wants to jump in right now and take off on another road trip. But fear not! This is not the end of my RVing days. I plan to replace my monster diesel truck with a quieter, smaller, more city-approved vehicle... the total badass known as the Toyota Prius. 

 Vroom, vrooommmm..

Vroom, vrooommmm..

And for those of you who think I'm joking, I'm really not! Of course I plan to buy a used one, and pay cash. No more debt for me! I love the 40-50 mpg and I love that it's basically a generator on wheels. It's perfect for camping! There are even people who live in their Priuses. Now I'm not going to go that far, but I want to have it pretty much packed and ready to go for weekend trips at a moment's notice and of course I'll blog about it, so stay tuned! Happy New Year!

10 Reasons I Don't Love Travel Speech Therapy

This is the counterpart blog post to "10 Reasons I Love Travel Speech Therapy". No job is perfect so let's get into it!


As much as having a new job every 13 weeks can be exciting, it can also be a little scary to not know where you're living or what kind of job you will have. Especially if you have bills to pay and financial goals to achieve!

2) Lack of Training

The company who hires you is paying a lot for you, and they don't typically want to spend time investing their resources into training you for the position since you will be  leaving soon. So your first day on the job can sometimes be a full day of patient care with little to no orientation about the building or the paperwork systems. 

3) Productivity Demands

This is related to number 2, but productivity demands tend to be especially high for travelers because the company is paying you more than an average staff member on the team. It can make for a stressful 13 weeks if you have a boss who is constantly reminding you that you need to be working faster even as you are already working at lightning speed trying to serve your patients well in an ethical manner.

4) Leaving Coworkers and Friends

One of the best parts of a job will be your awesome coworkers and all the new friends you will make! But it can take time to build those bonds. Often I'm just starting to find my rhythm and making friends with them when I have to leave. 

5) Interviews

Having to interview for a new job every 13 weeks is not really fun. On one hand, it gives you great practice and usually the interviews are pretty easy. On the other hand...it's just stressful to really want a job and have the fear that you won't get it due to a tough interview. 

6)  Housing

You won't be able to accept a job unless you can find housing for it. Some towns are great for housing options and some aren't. Whether you have an RV like me or you go the long term motel or Air BnB route, it can be a frustrating experience. 

7) Commute

If you do find a housing option there is no guarantee you will be close to the office. This is more for travelers in RVs specifically, but sometimes it can be hard to find a park right near the office. I've been in some positions where they are 5 minutes apart, and others where it's more like a 45 minute drive. I prefer a 20 minute drive or less but honestly beggars can't be choosers

8) Location

There is this image of traveling to different cities all the time as something very glamorous. However sometimes the reason that the client is hiring a traveler is because no one wants to live in that location permanently! Especially in the southern US, a lot of the places you will go are very rural, which makes socialization outside of work challenging. 

9) Job Satisfaction

Another reason why the building might be looking for a traveler is because it is a terrible place to work and they can't hold down a full time employee. Luckily this is why I have a 30 day notice contingency in all my contracts. Even if it's the worst job ever, I can get out in 30 days if I need to. 

10) Family Ties

Traveling from family for so long can be hard. I know that's what causes me to want breaks in between my assignments. And it is also a reason why travelers tend to be either fresh out of school and often not married with no kids, or middle aged empty-nesters.  


So there you go! If you are expecting a perfect, glamorous, travel life than you may be disappointing by what travel therapy offers you. There are really good times, and really bad times just like any job. But between the pros vs. cons, it is very hard for me to picture returning to a full time, normal job. Most days the good outweighs the bad and I make it through just fine!  


When a Travel SLP Contract Job Ends

My current contract ends in about 2 weeks and a few logistical issues are occupying my mind. 

Heath Insurance. I am a full time, W2 employee with my company and I do receive my health insurance through them. With my company in particular, if my contract ends and I have another one lined up I am fully covered by my employer for 2 weeks between assignments. I do know of some companies will cover you for up to 4 weeks so this is a great question to ask if you are shopping around for a travel company. But since I don't have a new job lined up, I will be eligible for COBRA insurance. COBRA is a type of insurance that maintains the exact benefits that I was getting from my job, but instead of me paying a little bit and my employer covering the rest, instead all of the costs are paid by me directly and it's quite expensive. I plan to be full time jobless from November through February this winter, so my budget each month needs to include COBRA costs. 

Going home. As a traveler with a legal tax home (a room I rent from my mom), in order to technically maintain that tax home it is required that you spend 30 days in your home per year.  I am not sure how closely the government looks at these things...and honestly I'm not going home *because* of this reason. My real reasons are that it is the holiday season, I haven't actually lived at home for more than 2 weeks at a time in over 8 years and I'm kind of missing it, and I don't want to be in my RV in the cold winter (it's the mild winter in the southern US, but I'm a wimp I guess). The scales are tipped in favor of taking a traveling break for the winter. In the future I really want to travel out west, and I actually was thinking about doing it this year but honestly I've gotten burnt out from full time speech therapy (story of my life) and I want to take a break. 

Income. I am going to be doing part time work while I'm home, some things related to speech therapy and some that are not. I'm going to be working on a website launch to make a bit of passive income that I started developing 3 months ago but haven't found the time to finish. I'll also be doing some PRN work as a speech therapist in my home town although I don't know how many hours I'll be working yet. I expect it to be somewhere between 20-30 hours, so these next few months will really be more of a working vacation.  Then there's some wild card income ideas. I have an online side hustle with a transcription service that I can do in my PJs from bed, I'm thinking about trying my hand being an E-bay seller, and I actually even applied to a community college in my area as an adjunct professor so we'll see how that goes. I'm also thinking about applying to WAG or Rover which are like Uber for dog walking just because it seems like a good way to get some exercise, play with dogs, and make some cash doing it. So it's going to be such a mix of income streams for the next few months but my low monthly expenses and my current savings allow me this flexibility, which I'm grateful for. 

RV logistics. My HOA does not allow RV parking, so I will be winterizing it (myself??) and storing it at a place a few hours away from where I live. I'm from a major metropolis so i can save about $60 per month by storing it 2 hours away in a different town. I'll be pretty much moving out of it at that time, but luckily pretty much all that I own fits in the back of my truck. I will probably be leaving things like pots/pans, trash cans, etc.

I'll see how it goes!! I haven't spent more than a couple of weeks at a time living with my wonderful, amazing, beautiful mom (Hi Mom! I know you're reading. I love you!) since i turned 18. She called me the other day and said that I probably should work as much as I can outside of the house so we don't kill each other. Her hobby right now is making deco mesh wreaths and her first craft fair is coming up soon, so I'm actually excited to help with that. I hope it's a success! 







All I Want, and Nothing More

Why is it that some people can live happy, frugal lives and others can't? I think it's because marketing has convinced us that we need to be consumers. "The iPhone 7 is sooooo much better than the iPhone 6 and I just have to have it right now! That's what will make me happy!" 

Here's the thing though...if you keep wanting more and more stuff, you will never be happy because you will NEVER have everything you want. Even if you spend $90,000 a year, or $2 million a year, it doesn't matter because you will be chasing the consumer high of getting that next big thing. 

If you can learn to be frugal you can break that cycle. To me, frugal means eliminating useless spending if it doesn't make you happy and help you reach your ultimate goals. Learning to love and appreciate what you have, and asking yourself "Will buying this thing make me happier than I already am?" and then listening to that answer will set you on the right path. A frugal person can be happy with less, because they actually do have everything they want. Let that sit for a minute. A person who lives on less by their own choice has EVERYTHING they want. Wouldn't that be amazing? Ah to be the person who has everything.  

My Thoughts on How To....Start a Business

I think all businesses probably start with a great idea. If it's a great idea that involves skills you already have, then it might be easier! But odds are, you probably only have some of the skills right now and you will learn more on the journey. Sounds like fun, sign me up!

Since I am a speech therapist, I am planning on starting a speech therapy business this year to take advantage of my specialized training. Funnily enough, I'm not actually planning on providing therapy in my business. I'm planning on using my knowledge to develop materials that other SLPs can buy and use. This will benefit me personally even if no one else likes anything I do, because I will be able to use them with my own clients as soon as I make them! 

Some loose ideas for the products that my business will produce include apps, worksheets, workbooks, online video courses (ideally given for ASHA CEUs), and maybe some personal coaching or public speaking.  Do I know how to do all of those things? Well...not yet! Luckily I've got 9 years to figure it out. I know that one way to create an app is to outsource the coding and the artwork to people who already know how to do that stuff. But if I outsource for the first one, then I'll have to keep outsourcing for other apps (I would like at least 10 to my name in the next 5 years). So that seems like a lot of money I'll be losing by paying other people to do the work, plus the loss of a valuable skill I could have learned. Therefore, I am going to learn to code apps! (heck...maybe once I learn I can start getting paid for coding other people's apps too)

My goals for my business by the end of 2018 are:

1) Establish a business plan. (Working on it now) 

1) Establish the business legally (undecided at the moment whether to go for sole proprietorship or LLC, and I will probably will need to seek tax and legal advice)

2) Related to number 1...Find out HOW to get tax and legal advice. Do I just dial up a lawyer and an accountant in the yellow pages? (see??? this learning thing is already fun! That way if i'm ever arrested I can say "Call my lawyer" and I won't even be bluffing about having one!)

3) Code one fully functioning app and have it ready for sale on the iTunes Store by Dec 2018 

My overall monetary goal is to produce at least $15,000 annual revenue from my business by 2025 (just one year shy of my early retirement date!) The way I plan to design the flow is that the major time intensive part will mostly be creating the products, but then they will sell pretty passively with just a few hours of marketing work per week. If I work longer hours, I will make more money and if I work shorter hours, I will make less money. Since I will be financially independent by 2026, I predict this will be just the kind of flexible work that will fit my lifestyle. 

Is anyone else working on starting a business, or has already started one and it's going great? I would love to hear some inspiring stories! 



10 Reasons I Love Travel Speech Therapy

1) I can work in any state I want.

East coast, west coast, hot, cold, Non-contiguous. It's all there for me to choose! I can figure out where I want to eventually settle down by sampling a little bit of everything. 

2) Experiencing different management styles.

 I know what type of boss will make me want to cry every day and what type will make me feel valued and good about the work I'm doing. I always search out the latter. 

3)I can leave any job I don't want after 13 weeks

Nobody will ever ding me for being "non-committal". If I love the job I can stay up to a year and still be considered a traveler, but if I hate it then I can just bounce on to the next one. Many travelers even gain permanent employment once their contract is finished (or bought out), but the first 13 weeks can be great to see if you actually like working there. 

4) I have tons of references!

When applying to jobs in the past I used to hate giving 3 references because I had to hope that my boss from 5 years ago remembered me (side note: I suck at keeping in touch). Now I have a growing list of around 15 people who will give me a glowing recommendation anytime I ask. 

5) Meeting some of the best people! 

This one is self explanatory. If you don't ever leave your geographical bubble you will miss out on meeting some amazing folks. 

6) Learning new skills. 

When you're in the same job for several years you might start to feel like you've done it all, seen it all. With travel there is always something new to learn and new people to learn from! 

7) Flexibility!

If I don't want to take a new job right after my old one, I don't have to. I can take a one day break, a month-long break, or a year-long break! It's 100% up to me and there will always be a job waiting for me.

8) Contract Control.

Management and I negotiate a contract at the start of a new job. If I want to work four 10 hour days, I can have it written into my contract. If I don't want to work weekends, I can have it written into my contract. If I need a random Friday off 2 months from now...you guessed it! If the job can't give me those things, then I just don't sign the contract. Before I started traveling I was working erratic hours and couldn't get a day off to save my life. Travel Therapy is like a breath of fresh air. 

9) The money. 

There are some hoops you have to jump through (like duplicating your living expenses) to get all the monetary benefits of travel therapy but once you do the reward is sweet. In addition to my salary, I get an additional tax free stipend every week for meals and living expenses.  

10) The range of settings.

I can work one contract in a hospital, then in outpatient, then home health, then a nursing home, then a school....If you get easily bored in one place then travel therapy could be right for you!


What do you guys think? Did I miss any of the amazing benefits? Let me know what else you can think of in the comments below!

Making $100,000 and retiring in 41 years or more.

Here's a poll the audience question! Who will be able to retire first, someone who makes $100,000 a year or someone who makes $50,000 a year? 

If you said "there is not enough information to decide" then you are correct!  Financial gurus routinely tell people to try and save 10% of their income. Let's say the 6 figure Lady manages to save a "respectable" 10% of her income, which means that she spends $90,000 every year. If she wants to maintain her flashy lifestyle when she's retired, she needs $90,000 x 25 = $2,250,000 in order to retire and maintain her current spending lifestyle. Since she saves $10,000 a year, that means she can retire in just a speedy 41 years! right on track with the rest of her peers...neat-o! 

Let's take a look at her counterpart. This thrifty lady makes $50,000 but she only spends $20,000 a year. That's a much more impressive savings rate of 60%!  If she can keep that low spendy-ness during her retirement, then she will need only $20,000 x 25 = $500,000, and by saving $30,000 a year she will be able to get there in just 11 years!!!!  Once she has reached her target, she can continue to work if she wants, although she won't be dependent on the job and the paycheck (and she will save a total of $6.8 million in the same 41 year period that the Spendy Lady saved just $2.25 mil.). 

 Years to Retirement vs. Savings Rate. Most people save less than 10% which is why they work for 45-50 years. You can be different!

Years to Retirement vs. Savings Rate. Most people save less than 10% which is why they work for 45-50 years. You can be different!

Of course, the ultimate retirement building tool is to combine those two examples of a high income with low spending. If Thrifty Lady gets a few raises, promotions, takes a second part time job, etc and winds up with a final income of $100,000 but maintains an annual expenditure of $20,000, she will be saving 80% and could retire in just about 5 years, or have 18 million in 41 years if she just totally loved her job and didn't want to stop working. 

Really to get the best bang for your buck, saving at least 60% (or even 70% or 80%...the most you can comfortably handle while still enjoying your life) of your salary is the way to go because it's WAY more powerful than increasing your salary by that same percentage.  You will keep yourself from buying all sorts of stuff you don't need and can't afford, while bringing freedom and the option to choose how long you will work! People usually start working at a low salary and get raises and bonuses and such as they go. Even if you can only save 20%, or 10%, trust me you are blowing most Americans out of the water. But you can get to work flexing those frugal muscles to increase the percentage saved each year and quickly speed up the rate to financial independence.  

Here's a little dirty secret: if you spend 100% of your income, a bonus or a promotion will not help you. I bet you will have already spent that raise in your mind. No matter how much you make, you are someone who is likely to find themselves living paycheck to paycheck. So work on flexing those frugal muscles right now...how much can you save this month if you really cut back on unneeded expenses like a cable service and daily coffee at starbucks? If you can manage to increase your income while keeping spending constant, you could be no more than 10 years away from retirement. 

What is the stock market?

 image from pixabay.com

image from pixabay.com

This is an article about how to get your money making money for you so you can retire early! There are articles, upon books, upon manifestos trying to figure out the BEST way to invest money.  Most people choose to spread their money out across Stocks, Bonds, Gold, Cash, and Real Estate. Those are the 5 main categories that have stuck around through history. The way you split up your money is called your Asset Allocation.Recently crypto-currencies are all the rage as part of an asset allocation plan, but in the past everything from tulips to beanie babies made the cut. I'm mostly going to talk about stocks in this post. 

Let's start by defining a stock and the stock market. When you trust a company, you can buy a share of it  and the company rewards you for giving them money by paying you back interest and dividends. You then own stock in that company. All of these transactions come together to form the stock market, and the place where they are traded is called the stock exchange (e.g. the New York Stock Exchange). Us regular people trade them through investment brokers either in person at a local firm, or on the internet with a site like Vanguard, Fidelity, or Betterment. 

But...stocks are super risky, right? What about 1929? and 1987? and 1990?!! and 2000!!!!??? AND 2008!!!??? With so many stock market crashes, it's easy to see why people are skittish and feel scared to invest in the stock market. There are two things we KNOW will happen to the stock market- it will go up and it will go down, sometimes in very volatile ways that are thrilling and/or scary. Many people don't want to play this game, so they use the other methods I mentioned before- bonds, cash, gold, and real estate. That's fine as long as you realize that all of these other methods have a level of risk as well- bond values can go down, cash loses to inflation, gold right now is near an all time low, and real estate can tank (like in 2008, for example). Honestly, the best way to invest your money is whatever makes you most comfortable. I do a little of everything but my current emphasis is heavy on stocks. In the future I plan to add in more real estate by owning a home and maybe some rental properties. I also plan to increase my bond exposure as I get older.  But lets get back to the discussion on stocks. 

No one knows when the ups or downs in the Stock Market will come. Turn off the talking heads on TV. They don't know. If you have money laying around and you want it to work for you but the market is "up", it's actually a good time to buy! Several years from now it will be even higher, and you don't want to miss out on those sweet gains. The market reaches a new high 7 times per year on average, so there's no better time to get in  than the present. If the market is "down" then that is also great news! You are getting your stocks on sale and getting more shares for your money.  

The one thing you DON'T want to do is sell your stocks at a price that is less than what you paid for it. Maybe you've heard of the phrase, "Buy low, Sell high"? Travel back in time with me for a moment...to 2008. The market lost 30% of it's value in 2008. That would have been a terrible time to sell, but a great time to buy. The people who truly lost money are the ones that took all their money out in 2008 because they sold low. It would have been better for them to buy MORE! I know that's scary and counter intuitive, but since that low point in 2009 the market is up 149%. People who didn't get back in the market missed a huge opportunity to buy low, sell high, and make a lot of money. 

The main rule of thumb that investment professionals give that I agree with, is that you should not be investing money you will need in the next 5 years. So for example, if I was saving for a house and wanted to buy next year, I would not put the money for a down payment in the market due to high risk. I would instead put it in a low risk, low interest savings account in cash, or maybe in CDs. Thus, during this time of saving my Asset Allocation would have a heavier cash position because I wouldn't want that chunk of money subjected to the volatility of the market. 

I think that's enough for this article, but keep reading HERE to find out what stocks I recommend to invest in so you can retire early! 

*Disclaimer. I am not professionally licensed in the financial industry in any capacity. I am not licensed to do anything except drive a car and be a speech therapist. You invest at your own risk, and past stock performance is not a guarantee of future stock performance. *


I Don't Need to Retire Early...Do I?

Maybe you love your 9-5 job. Maybe it is your absolute dream job and you would feel content continuing exactly as you are 40 hours a week for the next 50 years. Or you dream of the promotion in your future because *then* you will be happy doing a slightly different thing for more money every day for the next 50 years.  I have yet to meet many people who say that (business owners and CEOs tend to be the exception because *they* are the boss!) but maybe you fit into this camp. 

So here are some questions for you...what if your amazing boss gets replaced with a new boss who makes your life hell? What if your company pushes you to do something unethical? What if you get laid off? What if you haven't gotten a raise or a bonus in the last 5 years and now you feel unappreciated? What if they start chopping away your benefits...*poof* their goes your pension plan, *poof* there goes the 6% match in the company 401k...

It happens. And that's why I think that even if you love your job and you can't see anything changing for the worse, you should STILL push yourself to retire within 10 years (or 15, or 20, or something less than the crazy-but-now-standard 40-50 year mark). Because once that early retirement day hits, guess what? You DON'T have to retire! You can keep working at that job you love, and keep socking away bucket loads of cash until your proper retirement age of 70, or 80, or whatever. You would be a millionaire x 10 easily and what you have done instead of "early retirement" is called "Financial Independence" (FI). If you wanted to, at this point, you could cut back to part time after you have a kid. You could ask your boss for every Friday off because you just don't need all that extra money and you would rather always have a 3 day weekend. If you love some parts of your job but not others, you can ask your boss for more of what you like and less of what you don't. If you get laid off, you will be OK because you were planning to retire anyway! You could quit your job and start your own business. You could choose a new job that gives you a better quality of life and you have the bargaining power to do it!! 

There are so many options open to you once you gain FI. All it takes is the ability to live below your means (well below, if possible), only spend the money that you have (i'm a big fan of a budget), and consistently investing the difference. 



What Does Early Retirement Mean?

Here's a question that I posed to myself: "If I still work after I retire...does that mean I'm actually not retired?" What a great question, RVegan. In my opinion, early retirement does not necessarily mean lying on a beach sipping a drink and never having to consider working ever again (unless that's exactly what you want!). For me it just means reaching a stage of financial independence where I only work at my discretion doing things I love. 

That means if I want to travel for 9 months out of the year and work 3 months, or if I want to work seasonally in a national park, or if I want to work just a couple of days a week making crafts, or walking dogs, or welding, or developing apps, or writing blog posts, or teaching, then I'll do it! And if I don't want to, then I won't. Simple, yet effective. Welcome to my retirement dream. 

 "Life is not so much about money or possessions,  it’s about freedom of time and mobility to go wherever you like. And it’s not about not working, it’s more about not being tied down to any particular job" - MMM

Retire In 10 years or LESS

Sourced from Pixabay

I am 25 and my goal is to retire in 9 years by age 34. "Impossible!" you say. But au contraier, it's already been done by none other than Mr. Money Mustache! This financial hero and his financial heroine wife retired by the age of 30, before they had their first kid, each with an average working salary across 9 years of $67,255. Over the past 6 years since his retirement he's been guiding the masses on a mission of frugality and sensibility.

My mission is to recreate the success of Mr Money Mustache with my own finances. I have already made financial mistakes in my short working career, including spending  MORE THAN ALL of my money on my truck (aka...financing it..ugh it just makes me cringe) . But I have also had financial successes! I've been maxing out contributions to a Roth IRA since I started working at age 18. If I continue that pattern until age 69.5 (which is $458 a month for 44.5 years), assuming a 7% interest rate, that account will grow to over 2 million dollars. You can perform the calculations on your own accounts with any online retirement calculator. I like this calculator.*

So logically what I have to do to retire at age 34 is build up enough savings to create a stream of income for the remaining years from age 34 to age 69.5.  How much will I need? I know that I want to own my home and car free and clear, plus have $30,000 annual income for continued IRA contributions, travel, hobbies, and taxes/fees/insurance. Honestly for one person with no debt and no mortgage, that's downright luxurious when you consider many entire families in the US live on less than that and the average global household income is only $10,000 annually. Mr Money Mustache himself and his family live on $25,000 per year, even though they are millionaires who could afford much more than that. So $30,000 for just one person? Easy :) After all, being rich doesn't make you happy, doing things you love with the people you love makes you happy! 

There are two basic parts to my plan of producing $30,000 annual income for use during early retirement. One way is through dividends on investments and the other is what I call "normal-people income", such as full time or part time work, freelancing, rental properties, etc. Those two streams of money are complementary; if you have more of one you need less of the other. The general rule if you are going to withdrawal investment dividends is you should plan to take out no more than 4% annually in order to preserve your principle. See explanation HERE. This withdrawal rate should allow your savings to theoretically last forever if you are gaining 7% ROI, as the remaining 3% gain just keeps up with inflation. A quick way to calculate your target amount using the 4% rule is to multiply your spending by 25, and that's how much you should have in investments if you keep your spending rate constant.

So. If I plan on spending 30 grand per year, I would need 30,000 x 25 = $750,000 in the stock market. That breaks down to investment contributions over the next 9 years of $5,000 per month.  Honestly since I'm doing this all by myself it will be nearly impossible for me to have a mortgage-free house AND that much in savings by year 9. But lets say I actually only needed $10,000 a year from my investments, and I'm going to get my remaining $20,000 from the supplemental, normal-people income. (Doesn't this mean I actually won't be retired?) Well then I would only need 10,000 x 25 = $250,000 in my investment account, which breaks down to investing $1650 a month for 9 years.

Now the picture looks more manageable! I've a full 9 years to come up with a way to bring in just $20k a year by pursing only things that interest me. Ideas off the top of my head to produce any remaining income needs include making and selling crafts, dog walking, app development, becoming a scuba diving instructor, workamping in my RV around the national park system, public speaking.... the list goes on. My backup if I found myself making ZERO money on passion projects would be to either reduce my spending, or add in some speech therapy sessions. Just one 13 week travel assignment would pretty much cover me for the whole year, which is why I plan to remain certified as an SLP as a safety net.  

Of course you can keep playing with numbers until you find a balance that works for you. 9 years might not be your target and you might want more savings or you might spend less...but I'm pretty sure that when you put on your frugal goggles you will find that a retirement in 40-50 years is likely WAY overkill for what you will need. The key is to spend much less than you make and invest the difference. How novel. 

As a final note, in case I never settle down with anyone this post assumes a single relationship status. If I have a family, my future husband will be contributing an additional salary and skills to the equation and should make the process even faster/easier. I know this is true because if he has no skills and makes the early retirement process harder/slower, we will not be a good match and I will not be marrying him ;) 

I'm not exactly sure of the nuts and bolts of how I will get there, but the gauntlet has been thrown down! Retire at age 34 with a paid off house. Does anyone out there have a similar goal? 

*Disclaimer: I am not an investment professional. I'm not professionally licensed to do anything except Speech Therapy. I am just sharing with you what I have done and what I will continue to do. Past stock market performance is not a guarantee of future performance * 

Transitioning from Full Time RVer to Part Time RVer

 Image taken from Pixabay.com

Image taken from Pixabay.com

If I am planning on buying a house before the age of 34, then what is the future of my RV life?? Well I can safely say that I'm addicted to RVing. My current fifth wheel and truck set up works perfectly for now, being parked 13 weeks at a time and having some type of "home base". But for serious road-tripping abilities, I am very envious of a smaller rig. Something like a 24 foot Class C equipped with a generator and solar power to take advantage of boondocking. Used options are not too cost prohibitive- a good rig like that can go for around $30,000 used. Of course I have learned my lesson and don't plan on borrowing a dime. In fact, I don't plan on buying this future RV until I have no mortgage. 

 I don't know what part of the country I want to live in yet, but I do know that even when I get a house I always want to have an RV! Especially after age 34 when I'll be retired, that will be the perfect time to go on road trips for months at a time. While I'm gone I can even rent out my home to produce some extra income.

Knowing that I want to own an RV does dictate a certain type of house: one with enough land to park it, with no HOAs with negative rules about RVs. That pretty much eliminates my hometown in the DC metro area. My parents seem to have hit that certain age where their generation has started making the great migration to Florida, so to stay close to them I'm highly considering that state as an option for myself. Florida is known to be a great state to live in as a full time RVer in due to abundant RV services and their lack of state income tax.

I'm also considering Tennessee, Texas, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, and my current state,Virginia, for various reasons. If I go to Florida I want to live within a 20 bike ride of the beach. If I live in my home state of VA i'm 100% sure the central part of the state near the blue ridge parkway and the Appalachian mountains is the area for me. Something like Harrisonburg, Staunton, or Charlottesville. After living in a few cities throughout my life, I think my personal sweet spot is a small-mid size college town and those three Virginia cities fit the bill. As far as the other states...the sky is the limit! I want to start traveling there and explore to find some cities that fit into my criteria. I would like a small-mid size college town that is fairly walkable/bikeable, with nice green space and city amenities. Anyone have suggestions?

Personal Finance Obsession

This blog was not intended in the beginning to be a personal finance blog in any way, however I am finding myself eager to work less, travel more, and develop passion projects while paying for the hobbies I enjoy. It seems like financial independence is really the key to reaching my goals and living a secure and interesting life. My definition of financial independence and early retirement is being my own boss, working as much or as little as I want with enough income to grow my investments and maintain a reasonable standard of living until age 69.5. After that I can withdraw from my IRAs (Roth and Traditional) and Roth 401k for the remainder of my life. My upcoming financial goals include:

1)Become Debt Free, 2) fully fund my IRAs and 401k 3)Put an additional 70-80% of salary into savings and investments 3) Buy a house and pay it off as quickly as possible, and 4) During the previous 3 steps, work on developing $30,000 annual residual income from personal business ventures and rental income. 4) quit my speech therapy job, but maintain national licensure as a financial back up in case I need some emergency cash.  By my estimates, I should be approaching "retirement" in about 8-10 years.  

The previous blog entry discussed debt and how I was working to get myself out of the red by paying it off and saving and investing as much as possible. So naturally I took 4 weeks off from work to go on an RV trip around the gulf coast of AL and FL. I had a fabulous time but I will admit it was a stupid choice in terms of building wealth, and I wanted to break down the cost here. My costs for the month of travel are as follows:

Gas: $260, Food: $210, Lodging: $50, Clothing: $88, Other (parking, souvenirs, etc) : $20

Total: $628

Note: The lodging was so cheap because I received a free year of Thousand Trails camping from my dealership when I bought my RV, which I supplemented along with a few nights of camping using a Passport America discount.

I was working for the first 2 weeks of May and will be working again for the last 3 weeks of June. During these 2 months I was still able to pay all bills and budget $2336 toward debt repayment, and increase my IRA investment principal by $1000 due to my expenses being so low this month (if I could live on $628 a month for the rest of my life I could retire tomorrow haha). However, if I had chosen to work the entire months of May and June with no vacation my net worth would have increased by approximately $4000 above that, with all of it being socked away towards debt repayment. Therefore the total cost of this month long vacation including opportunity cost is $4628. Turned out to be quite an expensive vacation after all. Was it worth it to me? Yes, I had a lot of fun and am very tan. Am I going to do it again? Not planning on it until I reach financial independence.

As of next monday I am rejoining the work force and I'm actually pretty excited to get back to it! I'm heading to a Home Health 13 week assignment back in the familiar state of North Carolina.

Getting on a Budget

The first step in saving for whatever goal you have, becoming debt free or otherwise, is creating a budget!  I use the Every Dollar App and I absolutely love it. The basic app and accompanying website everydollar.com are free. They instantly update each other if any changes are made, which makes it a great tool if you're sharing finances with someone to make sure you guys are on the same page. Plus the graphics are super easy to understand, and the whole thing is basically dummy-proof. Also, I can't even believe I have to say this (who do I think I am with this blog... G. Paltrow? RVegan is certainly no Goop.) but Every Dollar is absolutely not sponsoring me, or giving me any money or perks to mention it.  I just have fallen in love with this tool.

As Dave Ramsey says, if you want to become a millionaire you should follow the advice of a millionaire. If you want to become a broke person, follow the advice of a broke person. Since I fall under the category of "broke person", you maybe would be wise to disregard all the modifications I have made to the Ramsey plan and just take everything as an entertaining blog post from a flawed 25 year old's perspective while following the true Ramsey baby steps to a tee and laughing in my face. 

For me the biggest goal this month has just been to finally get myself on a tight budget. It's just a great way to get permission for spending and saving money so I don't have to worry if I'm putting too much or too little in any category. I don't feel restricted by my budget at all because I know where the wiggle room is if I ever need it. A budget is not what I used to do: Pay all my bills and use the money left over for whatever I wanted. In a good budget, every dollar has a purpose and you should be honest with yourself when creating your budget. For me, personal shopping is not a priority but food is, and my budget reflects that. I would recommend taking a look at your budget before the month begins and tweak as needed. For example I will need to buy a formal dress for an event in September, so I already know I need to add a line item for about $100-$200 the month before. A budget shouldn't be so restrictive that you give up on it because you can't stick with an impossible goal of never having fun again. Any good budget will have money for giving AND saving AND spending. And the biggest piece of knowledge I will forever take with me is to save up money BEFORE I buy something, and never get a loan for ANYTHING. Ever again. Especially not a truck. Learned that lesson the hard way on that one :)

So here is how my budget is broken down. 15% of income to savings, 15% to housing (paying rent or a mortgage for a home base is a requirement of being a traveler, plus I have RV park fees at the locations I go to), 6% to transportation, 7% toward food, 5% toward lifestyle (shopping, personal money, etc) 5% towards taxes/fees, 2% towards giving (I hope to grow this number) and 45% towards debt repayment. Once you open the app you will see you're not expected to designate percentages because that would be a really bass ackwards way to budget. You plug in your real dollar numbers and the percentages will automatically populate. I have just chosen to redact my numbers for privacy reasons. If you want to know how much a travel therapist makes on average, check out THIS article that I found with fairly accurate information.

I did just write my entire last blog entry about getting out of debt with gazelle intensity. However...I consider myself a gazelle with 3 legs. I will 100% admit to not following the Dave Ramsey baby steps. If I was following those steps, my budget would look a lot different. I would not have more than $1000 cash on hand, I would not be spending any on savings/investment/retirement, and I would probably cut my food and lifestyle bills in half. That would bring my dept repayment up to around 65% of my income. I also would not be taking vacations (like the 3 week road trip I'm about to take with my mom) so my income would rise by about 8%. Also I still use credit cards (a bad word in the Ramsey house) because I have never had credit card debt, never plan to acquire credit card debt, and I pay my balance in full every month while receiving points for flights and gas, and so on. 

There are 2 ways to pay off debt faster: 1) increase your debt repayment percentage or 2) increase your income.  Last year I was putting 25% of my income towards debt repayment. Now that I have a true budget I am putting 45%. I could be putting in as much as 65% but i'm not because I'm only a 3 legged gazelle. As far as increasing income, my income changes every 13 weeks as I renegotiate a contract, or move to a new contract. I also probably make less than other travel therapists because I choose to take time off between my assignments. I have an RV and I like to go RVing. Imagine that! So one way I could increase income is by not taking these vacations (duh). I also plan on releasing an app (woot woot!), as well as bundled therapy materials for SLPs so I can make some extra passive income. I'm not planning on being the best selling entrepreneur ever, but I want to throw my hat into the ring. The income property I have will start cash flowing for me as soon as I pay off my loan, so there's that as well. 

I'm so excited about my budget that I want to tell everyone about it! I want to know: Do you budget? Do you use credit cards? Are you the kind of person who wants to be a 4-legged intense gazelle, or are you ok with being 3-legged like me? Is there such a thing as a "comfortable" amount of debt? Do use EveryDollar or something else? Comment Below!


Getting Out of Debt with Gazelle Intensity

I have recently been super inspired to get out of debt because I came to the realization that I don't want to have to work until I drop dead. I want to have savings, investments, a paid off house one day (says the girl who lives in an RV). So here is a super honest blog about my finances! 

First off, what are my debts?  Luckily I have no credit card or student loan debt.  But...I was dumb and funded the purchase of my beautiful truck with a loan. I bought him brand spanking new, which means instant depreciation. I kind of rationalized it to myself saying "I've been driving my old 1996 Camry for 7 years. I need something reliable since I'll be traveling all over. I want something under warranty. I don't want a used 2500 commercial truck that's been beaten to death. The interest rate is only 1.7%. I'll make some of the money back when I sell it once I'm done traveling. This will help me build by credit score".  and other really dumb things that you say when you convince yourself you need to buy something, and that you need to buy it NOW! Additionally, I don't own my RV outright. My mom loaned me the money and am paying her back in monthly installments.

It's now been about a year since I took out the car loan and bought my RV and I've managed to pay off $18,500 up to this point just by kind of being lackadaisical, not really making a budget, just paying off the minimums plus a little extra whenever I felt like I had some money to spare at the end of the month. 

Since my car loan is only 1.7% interest my other is also a small rate of interest some people might question why I'm paying it off at all. The "traditional" wisdom states that if you take the money you would be making towards extra payments and put it in a good growth mutual fund paying 6-10% interest, you will be much more wealthy with more cash flow if you actually hold onto those debts as long as possible.  Well, to that I say that there is this general knot in the pit of my stomach thinking about this looming debt, this dark cloud. Income is the most powerful wealth building tool, and right now I'm not able to have a say in where a large chunk of mine goes. I want that control back. If I didn't have to pay that debt, I could instead put it toward building wealth! 

I just recently started listening to Dave Ramsey, debt guru extraordinaire, and my eyes have been opened.  His passion swept me away and I wanted to join all the people calling into his radio show screaming "WE'RE DEBT FREE!". I thought I had been moving steadily along because I could pay my bills easily and I had extra left over each month for spending and saving. But really I was poking along like a turtle when instead I could have attacked the debt with the kind of intensity and focus a gazelle uses to escape his hunter...known as "Gazelle Intensity" in the lingo of those who drink the Dave Ramsey Kool-Aid. Dave Ramsey has his own baby steps that I'm only loosely following. My main steps are as follows:

Step 1: Create a budget! I had been tracking my expenses as they occurred through an excel spreadsheet for about 6 months, but had not actually taken the step of being proactive and budgeting for an upcoming month. This month I downloaded the EveryDollar App, and it already has changed my whole perspective on budgeting and fiance. Seeing every single dollar laid out with a mission and a purpose and seeing how much I have left over that can go toward debt repayment really has me fired up! Not only that, but it kind of gives me permission to spend and give money. Before I did this budget, I had a vague idea that I could use some (undetermined) amount of money each month for new shoes, or a guitar lesson, or give a dollar to the grocery store cashiers who ask for it for their causes. But now, I have a PLAN. I know exactly how much to spend on each item, and the thing I am most excited about is my new budget category for giving to worthy causes (I found an extra $100 a month that I can be giving!). I am thinking about doing some blog posts about the organizations I will give to, so stay tuned for that!

Step 2: Attack that debt!!!  Net worth is defined as total assets minus debt. Ladies and gentlemen...that puts me firmly into the red. Because I have developed a kick ass budget, I calculate that I should be able to pay off about $34,000 per year (double what I paid off this year!), which means my dumb car loan will be toast by early 2018, a full 3 years ahead of schedule! During this time I will still be funding my IRAs and 401k, my emergency fund, etc. Dave Ramsey does not recommend funding these things while in debt , but I am going to continue doing it anyway because I want that compound interest in investments working for me. 

Step 3: Once you are debt free, move that free money each month to additional savings and investments and build wealth. I'll let you know how this step goes once I get to it :) 


The Clinical Fellowship year

Out of my graduating SLP class of 25-ish people, I would estimate that about half wanted to work in a medical setting. Going to school in "The Triangle" in NC meant that there were some amazing universities and teaching hospitals (UNC, Duke, REX, Wake Med) that we were able to luckily have internships and fellowships with. However, with all of those opportunities comes a LOT of competition! I applied for as many local hospitals as I could for my clinical fellowship year and I must have sent out around 50 applications to hospitals all across the country. I  think I received one phone interview and I didn't wind up getting the job. One of the frustrating things about the nationwide shortage of SLPs is that there is an even smaller pool of SLPs that are able to become a mentor to a new grad. And let's be honest, most buildings don't want to pay two SLPs if they can get by with one. So I turned to skilled nursing facilities (SNF). I found an SNF only about 2 hours away from my hometown in VA, in an awesome college town that was willing to provide me with a mentor. I sent out that one application, and was hired after a phone interview and a tour of the facility. The pay was very good, the location couldn't be beat. Yes, I felt a little let down that none of the hospitals seemed to want me, and I had heard the rumors that SNFs could be challenging. But I figured that I could handle it. 

Let's just say it was pretty much a vertical learning curve. One positive of my first placement were that I was covering short term rehab, long term care, outpatient, and home health so I really learned a lot and gained independence very quickly. I had a good mentor, even though she wasn't onsite with me. I had some amazing coworkers, and the facility itself was awesome with a swimming pool, a huge gym, beautiful gardens and screened in porches to work with the patients. But the same problems plaguing almost all SNF rehab departments plagued mine. I was NEVER able to meet my productivity due to all the paperwork requirements, I felt pressure to pick up every 98 year old with dementia for cognitive therapy, I was the only full time SLP on staff, I was specifically told NOT to work off the clock but if I didn't then my boss would take me aside and talk to me about watching my productivity, and the ultra annoying practice of having to work 12 hour days M, T, and W to get everything done,  only to be told to just come in for just 2 hours each on Th and F...just enough to ruin both days but right under the 40 hour mark so they didn't have to dip into their pockets and pay me overtime. 

The amount of turnover in the department was crazy- right before i arrived, the previous SLP and the OT resigned, and in my 6 months (yes I was only there 6 months), the PT, COTA, and DoR all resigned, there were three traveling OTs within 6 months and one traveling PT.  And the new DoR as well as a regional manager were let go. I ended up leaving the position for a different SNF about 30 minutes away which had a much better productivity standard (75%) and all the therapists had been working there for years- one had been there since the building opened I think around 20 years prior. However, literally the ink was not dry on my new contract when I found out that the awesome company I had just signed onto was being sold (because the smaller companies who don't commit ethics violations can't seem to hang on anymore), and when the change took place 3 months later, it seemed to become worse than my first one, maybe because I had briefly tasted the sweet life of not being treated like a robot undeserving of even a bathroom break. I finished my clinical fellowship year and stayed at the new place for about 9 months before buying my RV and hitting the road, working in acute care hospitals.

My recommendation to anyone considering an SNF is that if you see a productivity number higher than 80% you run far away. Even ask about the assistants productivity level, and if you are hearing 90% or 95%, it is probably not a company you want to work for. I found 75% as a therapist to be ideal. In an interview I would ask about the rate of staff turnover, and build a raise into your contract at the completion of your CF. If there is any travel between buildings, make sure to ask about how you will be reimbursed. And I would specify a written schedule to meet with your mentor, on company time. Maybe every other Friday for example, or at least once a month.  Also, try hard to find smaller in-house rehab facilities. They are quickly disappearing and being gobbled up by national chains, but in my opinion they are the ones you are most likely to be happiest with.