After getting laid off in January 2009 and staying out of work until July 2010 I got my first taste of what financial independence could be like. Honestly, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me because it led me to having an overall goal for my financial life. Of course, priorities change and life has a way of tripping you up, but the long term goal has remained: become financially independent prior to "normal" retirement age while still living a "middle class" lifestyle.
One of the great things about setting goals for yourself, both short term and long term, is that you get to celebrate the wins along the way to your ultimate goal.
Short Term Milestone
Over the years our non-mortgage debt has crept up. We financed the purchase of my wife's car as well as the replacement for the air conditioner for our house. After all of the craziness of the last few years we were relaxed once we got back to being a dual income family. However, at the start of this year we decided to really focus and get rid of our non-mortgage debt.
That was our main short term goal: to be rid of our non-mortgage debt the end of the year. Well things kept "getting in the way" and we needed to build up some cash reserves first and then had a big family vacation down to Grand Cayman in July, so the debt payoff just kind of took a backseat.
By the time August rolled around all planned big expenses were pretty much done and we had a nice cash buffer should something unexpected come up. So it was time to get serious!
In August alone we threw an extra $5,000 at our a/c bill and as of September 17th it is PAID OFF! One down one to go!
We still have the car payment remaining which has about $11.8k left. My plan is to have it paid off by the end of November which gives us 3 months to pay that down. We'll have to average about $4,100 per month in total payments, minimum and extra, to get this paid off by then which I think is 100% possible.
Plus now that we no longer have the debt for our air conditioner we have an extra $300 per month that can be put towards the car payment. Over the weekend or early next week we'll be putting an extra $3,500 towards the car loan which will take a huge chunk out of the remaining balance.
I can't wait to really cross this short term milestone and get back to investing our free cash flow. Talk about a great Christmas present!
Long Term Milestone
In July 2010, the starting point, my net worth was -$1,663.30. Oooof! By June 2012 I crossed the $100k net worth mark. July 2013 saw us passing the $250k milestone and in September 2017 we crossed the $500k level.
With financial independence being our long term goal that means we need both a positive net worth and of course investments. One milestone that we crossed as of the end of August was $500,000 in investments. That includes our taxable accounts, tax advantaged accounts (IRA/Roth IRA), 401k...
The majority of our investments are in the stock market so of course the bull market of the last 10 years has helped us out tremendously. However, it still took dedication to the long term goal and keeping expenses less than our income, for the most part, to free up cash that we can invest.
Albert Einstein said:
Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it...he who doesn't, pays it.There's been a debate about whether Einstein actually said this or not, but whether he did/n't doesn't change the fact that the quote is 100% true.
By living below our means we've been able to amass an investment portfolio, thanks to savings and compound interest, that is now valued over $500,000. That's still crazy to me to see. I'm sure whenever the next ugly bear market comes we'll be back below $500k because I don't think this bull can keep running for us to build up a large enough buffer. So for now we celebrate!
We're not done yet with out journey and still have a long ways to go, but we're going to take the time to celebrate the milestones along the way. I suggest you do too!