Wow…so many stories to tell about how we managed our lives from struggling newlyweds to millionaires. Where to start?
The Early Years (through college)
My husband and I grew up in Appalachia in the mid 60s through the late 80s. Neither of us came from money. My father was a blue-collar worker for a while, then landed a unionized civil service job. While I’m sure money was tight, I never really felt deprived. I had family, friends, and everything I needed. And being in this part of the country, most of my friends had similar lifestyles, so nothing seemed amiss.
I was the first in my family to go to college, and I attended a local state university to the tune of about $3000 per year. I know that can’t even buy a month at school now!
We were married right out of college. He graduated a year before me and had about eight or nine months of work experience under his belt before we were hitched and moved south in search of jobs. He worked at a bank, and I started at a very small software company. Combined, we had an income of about $20k that first year.
Becoming an Adult
Despite our small incomes, we always managed to live within our means. That meant rarely eating out and not spending much on entertainment, but we lived near the beach, so there were options. We managed to scrape by from paycheck to paycheck, and we refrained from using our credit card MOST of the time. We had rent, two car payments, and two student loan payments to keep up with.
After losing my mom in 1989, I think we started to see life through a slightly different lens. We decided to build a house, despite that we had no down payment. No problem, since my husband worked at the bank…they were happy to loan us 105% of the purchase price of our first home!
A home meant we were forced to continue our responsible lifestyle, so we bought our first life insurance policies, ensuring the house would be paid for should something happen to one of us. I had changed jobs and had about 40% more income than the previous job, so we started to feel a bit more comfortable. We also wanted to start a family, but we struggled with infertility, and the treatments weren’t covered by our health insurance.
Growing as Adults
Frustrated by the limited job market in the south, we decided to move to a better economic climate. We targeted a few areas, and we settled in the greater Boston area in late 1995. After a year or so, we reinvested the proceeds from our southern home into a new home. As the technology industry grew, so did our earning potential, allowing us to increase our incomes easily. I jumped through several jobs, at one point having four jobs in a two year span, and increasing my salary by 50%.
Also during this time, our first child was born. That really forced us to continue being practical with our finances, as we now had to pay childcare as well. This is NOT a cheap “investment” in New England, as some providers cost nearly as much as a mortgage payment! And eventually, we would have to think about college.
In the midst of this, there were layoffs, stock market crashes, and other tentative financial scenarios. And we wanted our family to grow even more. In the Spring of 2007, we added a second child to our family through adoption.
Thriving as Adults
At about the same time, my husband started listening to Dave Ramsey and suggested we, too, could live a debt-free life. I told him he was crazy, and why bother since we could afford our current lifestyle. We had very little, if any credit card debt. We paid off our vehicles and suddenly had freedom to invest more, maxing out both of our 401(k) plans. We also started using You Need a Budget to track expenses, but I continued to resist the idea of being “controlled” by a budget.
In 2012, when we met with our accountant, he asked about tens of thousands of dollars I had tucked away in a savings account. It was money from the sale of stock at one of the startups I’d worked at a few years earlier. I explained that the cash was earmarked for our older daughter’s college fund, which hadn’t even been opened yet. He had other ideas, and suggested we pay off the house instead.
We did, and we never looked back. And so began the last few years of rapid growth of our net worth.
I finally decided in the summer of 2013 to try budgeting the YNAB way…what was the worst that could happen? I had been tracking expenses for more than five years without anyone yelling at me about my shopping habits. I am, after all, the self-declared Queen of Clearance Rack Shopping.
Since July 2013:
- Our net worth has grown by nearly $500k
- We saved $200k for the girls’ college funds
- We paid cash for two vehicles ($45k) and a kitchen makeover ($55k)
- We also paid cash for some household maintenance ($20k)
- We saved $25k for an expensive vacation next summer
After all this, what else do I need to save money for? Early retirement! That’s right…we’d love to call it quits in the next 5 to 7 years. To even think about it, we need our net worth to grow by at least a million dollars. Our existing investments will help, but we need to aggressively save another $500k by then, so that’s our plan. Follow us as we try for #500in5.