It seems like it was so long ago, but I still remember that day as clearly as if it were yesterday. It was a mild day in mid-December and I just received my bi-weekly paycheck. With this payment, my bank account was bolstered to an amount $1,500 greater than my last remaining debt, the $14,799 home loan. It took just one click of the mouse. I was completely debt free.
An immediate smile was drawn onto my face. The final weight was lifted off from my back. I was now free to live the life I chose, rather than the one I handcuffed myself to. That day marked the end of my debt payoff and the beginning of my wealth creation. I just knew that from that moment onward, my life was going to be so much better.
Completely Debt Free For 2 Years Now – What’s It Like?
Fast forward two years from that payoff date and here we are. So what’s changed? Is life as fantastic as I thought it would be? In some ways, more so. In other ways, not as much. Pretty clear, right? Maybe not… Let me try to explain this life a little bit more clearly.
There are honestly so many positives to complete debt freedom that it’s hard to limit the list to a word count that people will actually care to read! But, here goes! Here’s my best summary of the beauty called ‘debt freedom’.
1) Money Grows Like Crazy
When I was making debt payments each month, my cash flow was severely limited. And with a limited cash flow came limited growth. I wasn’t able to make money from my money because I barely had any!
By getting rid of all my payments, my cost of living was almost nothing which allowed me to invest $2,000-$3,000 dollars every single month. And you know what? Those thousands of dollars quickly turned into tens-of thousands of dollars, so Liz and I bought a rental property — with cash. Now, $2,000-$3,000 has turned into $3,000-$4,000. And, when we buy a new rental property soon, that free cash flow will become $4,000-$5,000!
Money is a great money maker, but you first have to ditch your debt so you can acquire some of it.
2) Realization: The Best Things in Life Are Free
As the famous 60’s song goes, “The best things in life are free…” but then was unfortunately followed by, “but you can give them to the birds and bees, I want money.” (are you singing it in your head yet? If not, here’s the video to help you out).
When you’re poor, all you think about is money. When you’ve got money, you want more of that free stuff. You know, relationships, love, and memorable experiences. Getting out of debt has opened my eyes to what’s truly important.
Since that debt freedom day, I’ve wedded my best friend and we’ve already had our first child! These are the best things, and I’m so glad I get to enjoy the experience.
Here’s how newlyweds typically operate. They’re young, in love, and have no responsibilities….so they save no money. But then, Junior “suddenly” comes along. The mother gets attached to her child (like any normal woman would) and wants to stay at home, but no ma’am, she can’t do that! She’s got to keep earning money so they can keep paying the bills!
This life…not for us.
We knew long ago that we wanted a life with options. We had Addi, and Liz liked the idea of staying home to raise her as we choose…so that’s what we did. Simple as that.
Since we’re completely debt free, I’ve got plenty of options for work. I could stick with my current company, start fresh somewhere else, or I could pursue a business on my own. Having options to pursue any career imaginable sure makes life fun!
4) We Discovered (and still love) Simplicity
When I was paying off my mortgage in 2014, I lived more simply than I ever had before. I rode my bike, I never went out to eat, and I didn’t entertain myself unless it was free. And you know what? I absolutely loved it.
During this time of extreme living, I found that life began to slow down. Instead of thinking where I should go or what I should do to entertain myself next, I enjoyed the moment.
Liz and I are still living simply today. Our main residence is still the house I bought 5 years ago for $75,000. (Even though society would have us believe otherwise, 1,400 square feet is still plenty of room for three people). Our cars are still fairly plain and have a combined value of $10,000. Our idea of fun these days is playing with our daughter on the living room floor…and we couldn’t be happier.
5) Get Out of (and Ahead of) the Moment
When you’re in debt, everything is an emergency. Junior breaks his arm, Sally needs braces, and Dad gets laid off for two week. Ahhh! It’s an emergency! Well, with improper planning, yes, it’s an emergency. But what if you actually planned for the unknowns?
Complete debt freedom has allowed us to step back and think, “What might happen that would hurt us financially?”.
Here are some emergency categories that could pop up:
- We could have a medical emergency
- There could be a sudden issue with the house or our cars that could get expensive
- One of us (God forbid) could die
- I could lose my job, and with Liz being a stay-at-home mom, that’s a pretty big deal
Since we’re out of debt (and can now take our heads out of our butts), we could come up with some great solutions:
- We’re loading up our Health Savings Account with $4,000+ to cover our insurance deductible. When used on medical stuff, this money is completely tax free!
- I modified our policies on the house and the car to ensure we’d have plenty of insurance money if ever we had an accident.
- We are officially signed up for term life insurance; $250,000 on each of us. If one of us died, we’d get $250,000 plus we’d still have the rental income coming in. Life would still suck, but at least we’d have some money to get through it.
- If I lost my job, we’d still have the income from this website (roughly $10,000 a year) and from the rental (another $10,000 a year). Since our lifestyle is so basic, we’d really only need another $5,000 a year to survive, which means our standard emergency fund would last us three years. I don’t know about you, but I think I could find another job in three years’ time… 😉
In addition to covering our potential emergencies, we’re also able to put 17% of my income into our 401(k) to cover the needs of our future selves, and we’re saving a few hundred bucks a month for our little peanut to go to college ions from now.
It’s all about thinking ahead. When you’re deeply in debt, you just don’t have that luxury.
The Negatives of this Debt Free Life
Are there really any negatives to living a debt free life? I have actually discovered some. Here’s the short list.
1) I’m Far Less Relatable
It happens almost every day. At work, someone says something along the lines of, “Well, we’re all broke and that’s just the way life is!”
Ummm, no. That’s the life you built for yourself.
Of course I can’t say that, so I give a half smile and chuckle, and then I figure out the fastest way to get out of the conversation so I don’t blow a gasket and seriously offend someone.
The wealthier (and more fiscally responsible) Liz and I become, the less we can relate to our peers.
2) People Feel Guilty For Their Choices
I try not to talk about it too often, but it inevitably comes out that Liz and I own our primary residence AND our rental property free and clear – no debt. Initially it’s fun because some people are fascinated by this and want to know how we did it. But then…they continue to make their dumb choices and try to dodge me whenever possible.
Our good choices in life sometimes make others feel guilty. And that inevitably gets awkward. But whatever… it’s a small price to pay for financial independence.
3) People Ask for Help, and Then Don’t Take the Advice
It’s one thing for someone to know how Liz and I are becoming wealthy and then completely doing their own thing. It’s another when someone seeks my advice, takes notes over breakfast, and then does absolutely nothing to change their life.
This has been beyond frustrating for me.
I occasionally do one-on-one sessions with couples that have begged me to help them with their finances. We sit down, go through their budget, and I show them exactly where they’re overspending along with the proven steps that can help them get out of debt and grow wealthy with their income.
- I follow up in a month. They’ve done nothing.
- I follow up in another month. They’ve done nothing.
- Another month goes by and I reach out again, and they’ve started! ….But they’ve made an entirely new plan for themselves that will obviously fail…
Why do people ask for my advice if they know they’re not going to follow through on it?
Completely Debt Free – My Take
It should be pretty obvious to you, but being completely debt free still kicks butt. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Liz and I go through each day talking about what’s important and what might be fun – and never about if we have enough money for the bills. That stress is gone out of our lives and it’s not ever welcome back.
We became completely debt free, not because we’re anything special but because we had a reason to ditch our debts. And then we set up some timelines to accomplish our goals.
Like I said, nothing special.
There is absolutely no reason why YOU can’t get out of debt and grow wealthy. As long as you earn an income, you can absolutely get out of debt! Here are the steps I recommend (straight from Dave Ramsey’s mouth):
- Save up a small $1,000 emergency fund
- Pay off your consumer debts from smallest to largest (use this free debt snowball tool for help)
- Build up a solid emergency fund that’s 3-6 months’ worth of your expenses
- Invest 15% of your income for retirement
- Save up for your kids’ college tuition
- Pay off your house!
- Become extremely wealthy and give!
Follow these steps, become completely debt free, and then you can write a post just like this! It’s truly an honor to help people ditch their debt (especially when they listen!). Where are you on your debt free journey??
My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.