JD at Get Rich Slowly has posted an article about what his life and finances were like ten years ago, and has invited other bloggers to share their stories as well. I think it’s interesting to look back over where we’ve been and to think about where we’re headed, so here goes…
Ten years ago, I had just graduated from college. I spent the summer of 1998 working at a grocery store, hanging out with my friends, partying, and generally enjoying life. I was never worried about money because my expenses were so low that my grocery store job more than covered them. I had spent my senior year of college working my way through the Peace Corps application process, and I left to spend two years teaching math in Africa at the end of the summer.
I didn’t have any debt ten years ago. I had worked my way through college, didn’t have a car, lived in a very modest apartment that I shared with my best friend (I think rent was about $350/month), and was already an established thrift-store shopper. I had one credit card that I had applied for the year before, and I had never carried a balance on it.
I had about $3000 in savings that I had been growing since I was five, which I had just put into a Vanguard mutual fund. That money was part of the down payment on the house my husband and I would buy five years later.
I met my husband in the spring of 2001, and we moved in together that summer. For the first couple years we split our expenses roughly down the middle, taking turns paying for groceries and splitting the rent check. But we knew from the beginning that we planned to be together forever, so we were already thinking of it as “our” money pretty much from the start. Our paychecks were deposited into our own accounts, which is why we split our expenses. Two years later we bought our house, and that’s when we merged our bank accounts and got a joint credit card. We’ve kept all of our money combined ever since.
The first time we had debt was when my husband and I decided to create our own insurance brokerage, in 2003. My husband had already been an agent for a year or so at that point, but he was working for another agency. I was working in a corporate job that I hated, so I quit to join my husband in the insurance industry. We reached the height of our debt in early 2004, with lots of business start-up expenses (we now refer to it as tuition costs, since we learned a lot about business from some of our mistakes over the years) and lots of living expenses that had been put on credit cards during the early days of our business when we would sometimes only earn enough in a month to pay the mortgage and not much else. The worst it ever got was about $40,000 in debt. We started earning more money as 2004 progressed, and were able to start paying off debt. During 2005 and 2006, we focused everything we had on paying off debt, and by 2007 the only debt we had (other than our mortgage) was at zero percent interest and causing us much less stress. We paid it all off in the summer of 2007.
I feel like I’ve come full circle back to where I was in the summer of 1998, but with lots of additional good things going on in my life. I’m back to paying off our credit card every month, and I’m back to pretty much not worrying about money. Our expenses are quite a bit lower than our income these days, and we’re working to keep it that way. I have quite a bit more in savings that I did in 1998, and a great little house. We live a pretty simple, frugal life, and get great pleasure from small things. I have a wonderful husband and an amazingly perfect baby boy, and a cat and dog who never cease to entertain us. That’s about all I need to be happy.
The only real negative over the last ten years has been my father’s illness, which still makes me sad. He’s been sick for almost seven years now, although he’s doing much better with daily dialysis and sometimes he doesn’t seem sick at all. I would trade all of my retirement funds in a heartbeat to have him healthy again, but unfortunately life doesn’t always let us make the trades we’d like to. I’m just grateful that he’s doing better these days, and that he’s still around to hold his grandson.
If I could meet up with the 1998 me and give her some advice, I’d tell her that she’s on a pretty good track, and not to worry so much about little things, because at least for the next ten years, I can guarantee her that every little thing’s gonna be alright.
Here are some other bloggers who have written then-and-now stories:
Five Cent Nickle: Stepping Back In Time: Our Life Ten Years Ago
Free Money Finance: My Finances Ten Years Ago And Now
Mighty Bargain Hunter: My Finances Ten Years Back
No Credit Needed: Looking Back: Ten Years Ago
What about you? How has your financial situation changed (or not) over the last ten years?