On July 7, 2009, I published the first entry on what would become this blog. Back then, the design wasnt great, my writing wasnt that good, and I didnt know that much about blogging or doing much of anything online (though I was great at reading the news online). A lot has changed since then.
I had over 5k in credit card debt, over 20k in student loans, and was just about 4 months away from piling on another 20k in debt for a replacement car after my old one gave up the ghost. Over the next 5 years I worked hard (most of the time) and was laser focused on paying off all of that debt – which I was able to do in July, 2014 after I switched jobs. Oddly enough, it was about 5 years to the day since the first post here and that moment. I am afraid to think of where I’d be right now if I still had that huge debt burden hanging over my head. Sure, my life was not all fun and games during those 5 years, though I did have some fun and was able to enjoy myself. Being free from consumer debt (we still carry a mortgage) was the longest project I’d ever worked on, and when I started, there was a lot of people giving me odd looks when I told them I wanted to become debt free. It took longer than I wanted it to, but so what. It’s allowed me to do quite a bit since then, including buying a house with 20% down, building up a huge cash buffer to do major repairs, getting engaged, married and going on a honeymoon across the world without accumulating any debt, having a child and more. Not having any debt also allowed my wife and I to ride out a major cash crunch unscathed this summer, as she went part time at work to take care of our daughter, I switched jobs (each of those things ended up resulting in lower take-home pay) and our health insurance costs went up 10x as a result of the job switch. All told, it amounted to about a 40% cut in our income for the last 6 months of 2014. We spent some out of our savings, but that was on a planned project for our house, and had we not done that, we would have kept our savings intact (and added to it). I’m sure some of those things still would have gotten done had I not paid off all my debt, but having all debts paid off sure as hell made it a lot easier.
Conventional wisdom kept telling me that I’d never be totally debt free, and that I should “manage” my debt well. I had listened to that advice before 2009, and it didnt really do me any favors, so I figured conventional wisdom might be wrong and that I should tell conventional wisdom to go pound sand. When a fellow blogger left work early, he bought a farm (which sounds cool) but this part is what really struck me
It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted in a sick society. – Krishnamurti
And that’s all I could see (and still see) – a sick society. People that have stopped working to live, instead filling evenings with mindless television and copious amounts of useless entertainment on the weekends so that they can continue to bear their jobs.
I dont agree with everything in the entire post, but the above I think he’s to spot on. If the average american has 15k+ of credit card debt, 150k+ of mortgage debt and 30k+ of student debt (and rising) and I have just 100k left on my mortgage – what’s wrong with me?
This comes up a lot in healthy living/eating spaces as well – everyone is doing XYZ and they are not healthy, but doing ABC will get you healthy and people will think you’re weird for it. Same story in life & finances, I’ve found.
I often get asked for advice and people dont like what I suggest because it’s out of the mainstream. I often get weird looks from co-workers when they find out that I biked to work in -20 degree weather and not only did I not die during my 1 mile commute, I actually felt uncomfortably warm. I do a lot of things that people consider fairly odd, and I dont care about what they think – but I did wonder if I was doing something wrong. Just because everyone else is making imprudent (or dumb) decisions with their life, doesnt mean that I need to be doing that as well, and I’ll probably be happier because of it.
All of that thinking and talking to my wife led us to a decision about our future & goals. We decided we needed a new goal, so we talked about what we want and where we were at, and we came up with one big goal, and a series of smaller goals to help us hit our big goal.
Our goal is Financial Independence/Early Retirement/FI or whatever you want to call it. There will still be plenty of ways to reduce debt and go green, but they will all fall under the FI/RE banner.
We are both tired of working for other people, and would like more time to spend with our daughter (and potential future children). Tired of workplace politics and tired of having to cram all of our fun and other errands into the 2 weekend days. We’d like to spend more time traveling, and have more time to do it. I would like to spend more time teaching my daughter and watching her learn new things. I’d like to be able to take on the many projects that I’ve got piled up (like aquaponics, a bigger garden and more house projects) without taking weekend time. I’d like to read more books. The list for both of us goes on and on.
We ran some numbers, and realized this would be another long-term goal (even longer than it took me to pay off debt) and we’ll have to work for it – but it’s doable. We’ve been making some changes to our budget, and are planning on making a few more in the coming months that should bring our expenses down even further- allowing us to put away even more money.
Over the coming (weeks and months) I’ll be laying out our plans and strategy in more detail, including other things we are doing to do to hit our goals. Some will probably seem odd to some people and not to others, but it doesnt matter. We’ll have our freedom at the end of the road, and that’s what will matter (and will be odd as well).
As I reiterated to myself when paying off my debt :
“If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” – Dave Ramsey
The same thing applies – just to saving instead of debt freedom.
Image Source: Flick’r