Complete Debt Freedom – 3 Years In!! What’s It Like??

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“I want a divorce”

Those words barreled toward me like a hundred ton freight train. They struck me, pushed me backwards into the wall and I slunk down to the floor like someone having a heart attack. Never before had I heard these words and never did I think something could hit me with so much force as this.

From then on, my life was changed forever.

Complete Debt Freedom – 3 Years In!!

November 27, 2012 – that was the divorce date. It absolutely killed me emotionally, but financially…it lit a fire inside me that no human being could have possibly put out. Not with their words, not with their disapproving glances – heck, they couldn’t even have stopped me if they knocked me down and beat me. It was time to break the ties to my past so that I could open the floodgates of prosperity to my awaiting future.

I was getting out of debt, and I didn’t care what anyone had to say about it.

Complete Debt FreedomThe Quick Road Out of Debt

*Bang* went the gavel, and I hit the ground running. I paid $21,000 to my ex in just 6 months, and I took care of the remaining $54,500 mortgage debt in just another year and a half. BOOM! It was done, just like that.

On December 11th, 2014, I was COMPLETELY DEBT FREE!

So what’s life like now? I mean, you hear people express what debt freedom is like right after the moment:

“A weight has just been lifted off my shoulders”

“It’s a feeling that I just can’t describe. I recommend that everyone get out of debt!”

“It’s simply amazing. To not owe anyone a cent is just so freeing.”

This is great and all, but what about the rest of the story? What about years later – long after that initial honeymoon stage of complete debt freedom?

Thankfully, I’ve got the story for you right here. After three years of debt freedom, this is my personal account of what it’s like.

Related: Free Mortgage Payoff Calculator – How Fast Could You Pay Off YOUR Mortgage??

1) You Get More Ballsy

You get completely out of debt and have a sizable emergency fund, and suddenly things that used to terrify you aren’t really that big of a deal anymore.

Things like:

  • taking a 2-week vacation – totally unplugged from your work email
  • speaking in front of large groups of people
  • looking into a new job…or maybe an entirely different career

Just recently, we had our performance evaluation and our pay increases. I’ve been told all year that my performance at work has been off the charts, so I was looking forward to my review and pay-bump. Long story short, the review was awesome! But…the pay bump was pretty ugly.

After taking a little time to digest the situation, I inquired about the paltry increase and they quickly added $5,000 to my salary! BOOM!!

So what’s the reason for the added confidence after complete debt freedom? There’s two reasons actually.

  1. After conquering your debts, you get a bit of swagger. It feels like there’s really nothing you can’t do now!
  2. There’s nothing holding you back any more. You don’t have to bite your tongue in fear of losing your job. If that happens, you’ll just live on your pile of cash until you find a new one!

2) You Buy For Tomorrow, Not Today

I reaaaalllly wanted a Ferrari 360, and we could have bought one too. After all, we had the cash. Buuuutt, after complete debt freedom, it was easier to say “no” to this kind of stuff.

Why?

Because taking the huge adult step and paying off all my debts changed my entire mentality about life.

Sure, it’s fun to have stuff and to buy everything I’ve ever wanted right now, but then you stop to think – “This sports car, this $300 purse, this $500 jacket…is this stuff what I really want? Or is there something better I could be saving for?”

For us, what’s even more important than cars, clothing, or accessories is…..options.

Options to:

  • Have my wife stay at home with our daughter instead of working her life away
  • Work less at my day job so we can have more fun as a family
  • Stock-pile our retirement fund so we can have a worry-free life when we’re older
  • Take a vacation-of-the-month
  • Give to others that don’t have the same opportunity in life

Nothing on the list above has anything to do with stuff – it’s just not important to us. We value family, experiences, and helping others!

When you reach complete debt freedom, you start buying for your tomorrow and hardly ever your today.

Related: Should You Pay Off Your Mortgage Early?

3) The Money Game Gets Super Easy

I work in finance. My co-workers all think they are geniuses with money. And yet, probably half of them have big hairy loans on their car. That’s not too smart…

More than this, they also think they’re naturally gifted with their retirement investments. They’ve got techniques that earn them 12%….15%…sometimes even 18% on their money!!

But you know what? 18% of nothing is still nothing….

These people are so money-strapped (because of their debts) that they only contribute $50 or $100 a month. That’s great that they can earn 18%, but that’s only $18…

Since reaching complete debt freedom, Liz and I sock away about $1,000 a month into our 401k. If that earns just 10% (instead of the boasted-upon 18% from my peers), we’re still earning a cool $100 a month on our money! That’s more than 5 times the 18% earnings of my co-workers!

And you know what? Since we have absolutely no debt, we still have $2,500 left over! So, we end up putting this into a “real estate” fund to purchase a future rental property that earns us 15%+ each year.

It’s not sexy, it’s not complex, but we’re flat out making money. This money game…it gets super easy when you have no debt.

Complete Debt Freedom

4) You Desperately Want Others to See the Light

When I reached complete debt freedom, the feeling was great, but I still really didn’t want to shout out my accomplishments from the rooftops. I mean…most of us spend all our lives just trying to fit in. And talking to everyone about how you just paid off your house probably wouldn’t help that situation…at. all.

So those first couple years of complete debt freedom felt awesome, but only a few select people really knew about my accomplishments.

Today, things are different.

  • If someone asks what my car payments are, I tell them I just had one – the full value of the car…with cash.
  • If they talk about how my rentals must be nice because the tenants cover the cost of the mortgage…I tell them that there is no mortgage – that my wife and I are debt-averse and we’re making bank with the rentals because there’s hardly any overhead.

I’m an open book – not because I’ve grown arrogant and think I have all the answers. It’s because the last three years have been unbelievable! I mean, Liz hasn’t worked for the last two years and we still socked away enough cash during that time to buy another rental house with cash!! By getting rid of all our debts and living on far less than we earn, life just couldn’t be easier. And, it’s allowed us to consider and afford the truly important things in life!

I want others to see the light. And if I have to be transparent with my story to open the eyes of others, so be it.

5) Some Naysayers Are Coming Around

You know what’s cool about being an open book? People tend to respond by bringing their shield down as well. Not all of them, but a fair amount – enough to notice a difference for sure.

In the beginning, when some people found out that I was dead-set on getting out of debt and even paying off my house, they thought I was crazy!

“Why on earth would you pay off your house? Interest is cheap, and you get the tax deduction too!” No way, I’m not doing that…EVER.”

Fast forward three years…

They’ve seen me:

  • Pay off my house,
  • Buy a rental house with cash,
  • Purchase a gently used van with cash,
  • Buy a second rental house with cash, and
  • Now we’re getting ready to go on a two week vacation to an island…????

And they’ve still got their mortgage….continually making those interest payments each month…

They don’t mock me anymore or tell me I’m a lunatic. Instead, they’re starting to ask what I think about different investments, and how much I think they should put away for their kid’s college fund. Sure, they’re not all jumping on board to pay off their mortgages just yet, but the transformation is happening! (Maybe if I buy that Ferrari 360 they’ll finally give in completely!!. 😉 )

Three Years In…and Life. Is. Good.

Looking back, I honestly can’t believe how far we’ve come financially in just three years. What will the next 30 years bring? It’s almost hard to fathom… Based on these last three years, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was tens of millions of dollars. Seriously. That’s what complete debt freedom does for you.

If you’re on the edge – wondering if complete debt freedom is really for you. Let me tell you, it is. It’s for everyone.

Stop fooling yourself into thinking you’re smart to keep debt. Be weird, be different, and you’ll soon be rich.

Are you ready for complete debt freedom???

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10 comments to Complete Debt Freedom – 3 Years In!! What’s It Like??

  • Dale

    Just wanted to say that I have been reading your blog and you are inspiring. You got knocked down and not only did you pick yourself up but you are standing tall.

  • I am really impressed with what you have accomplished in these three years….major. Yes, your feet feels good in that grass since it is yours and you owe no one! I just LOVE being debt free and knowing that I can purcahse whatever I want but I don’t want for anything!!! When you are in debt, you are just wanting the next thing you cannot afford. I take pride in my newest car being a 2005…who cares, it is just a car. Now that I took “early” retirement, I don’t need great cars anyway because I don’t have to be anywhere! I love being free with my time and not having to report to anyone. As I am watching the compound interest grow, I can continue to be a generous as I want. Never do I have to blink an eye at a expense as college funds are already established and retirement is already made by me! Congratulations and keep up the good work!! You will be in the millionaire rank before long!

    • Thanks, Jane! Sometimes I can’t quite believe it myself, but we definitely work hard and put everything we have into our goals and dreams! Sounds like you did a pretty awesome job yourself. Congrats!

  • Congratulations so much! My spouse and I are working it too and we can not wait to be where you are! The snowball grind feels like it takes forever but we know time will pass quickly. Reading inspiration like your blog helps keep us motivated!

    • Yup, the snowball grind kind of sucks. It feels slow at the time, but once you’re through you’ll realize it was just a dash of time, and you’ve got the rest of your life ahead of you to do whatever you want! Because you’re debt free!!! 🙂

  • Congrats, brother!! You have had an amazing 3 years. Your motivation is contagious!

  • Giovana

    Hi Derek,

    I just found your blog and am very inspired by your journey. Love what you said about being weird, being different and soon you’ll be rich. I’ve tried to fit in my entire life and have always been terrified of being different. And now I’m married to an amazing guy who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about being like everyone else (and that includes his approach towards money). We’re almost reaching a $200K net worth at 33 years old and we couldn’t be happier. You’re so right about getting ballsy at work, having a pile of cash allows you to say what you think and people do respect you for it, it’s such a sift in mentality. Being different does pay off. Congrats on all your amazing accomplishments!

    • Thanks for the note, Giovana! I’m so glad you discovered the amazing feeling of being weird with money! It really does pay off in more ways than one! You’ll see that more and more as your net worth continues to grow. Great job doing life. You’re awesome! 🙂

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