In late Spring 2020 I embarked on the final stretch of my debt free journey. It was another attempt to become 100% debt free after some little victories years earlier. Fast forward to February 2021. I became debt free! Now it has been a year and I am ecstatic about where I am on this financial journey.
By no means have I arrived, but I am certainly in a better financial position having removed this debt and maintained baby step progress. When I talk about baby steps I am referencing Dave Ramsey’s proven plan to build long-term wealth. Read more about that here. If you know anything about the baby steps, then some of the jargon used will make a little more sense.
Getting “gazelle intense” (Ramsey jargon) is not easy to start, but it is awesome when it gets going. So what kept me going? How did I keep track? What sacrifices did I make? For starters, I found this documentary along with a collection of debt free screams and it both motivated me and changed my perspective. If they can do it, then I can do it too. Game on! So I cut up the credit cards. Well, technically I shredded them through the shredder. Then I started the debt snowball method by listing accounts smallest to largest (regardless of interest rate). I had eight accounts left to pay on my student loans. Eight!
It wasn’t enough just to list my debts. I had to see it. I had to be reminded. I needed to keep track and stay motivated. So I put my debts on the wall (literally on my wall) and posted about my debt free journey here. Then I pulled the shredded credit cards out of the shredder and added them to the wall. A reminder of what I got rid of to meet my goal.
Every time one of my accounts was paid in full I got to start removing those debts from the wall. However, I did not remove the paper I put up. I folded the paper over so I could have a daily reminder of where I was and where I was headed.
After many months and many payments, I become debt free! The most exciting part was being able to fold up my last piece of paper to reveal the message I’d been working toward.
Where do I stand one year post debt freedom? In April 2021 I was able to complete Baby Step 3 (fully funded emergency fund that is 3-6 months of expenses). Currently I am on Baby Step 4 (15% of income going toward retirement).
As I was nearing completion of Baby Step 3 I knew that investing would be my next move, so I found a financial advisor that could help me prepare for that next step. This financial advisor helped me understand investment strategies while helping me meet long term goals. Investing is intimidating. Investing, however, is the easiest way to build wealth long term. Having someone to help educate and facilitate transactions makes investing less intimidating and confusing. I found someone in my community using a tool from Ramsey Solutions called SmartVestor. This is someone who is trusted and endorsed by Dave Ramsey and his team. My SmartVestor (financial advisor) and I navigate the investing waters together and discuss my goals so I can one day fund them.
According to the Baby Steps, 4 – 6 are worked at the same time. Since I do not have kids, I am not contributing to kids college at this time (Baby Step 5). Since I do not have a mortgage currently, I am not paying off a house (Baby Step 6). So am I on Baby Step 7? Maybe I am, but I don’t think so. There is a Baby Step 3b (save up for a down payment on a home) that I want to get going soon. First, I need to buy a new [to me] car. That is one of my goals after I eventually leave New Orleans. Anybody know a guy that has some car deals?
Now that things are a little more normal than they were a couple years ago, I am excited about celebrating my becoming debt free. This month I get to go cruising on Disney Cruise Line! Paid in full with cash, by the way. That’s right. Saved up the money and paid it all in one foul swoop. Disney cruising is not very cheap, but this has been my goal all along. Get out of debt and go on a Disney cruise. Let’s set sail!
After a year of being debt free I have educated myself on next steps and have been able to save and invest. My ability to do so now increases my net worth. So what’s the plan? There’s a saying in one of the books I read that says, “retirement is not an age, it’s a number.” Many think they need to reach a particular age to retire. This is only true to access certain accounts without penalty. The number we are looking for is a dollar amount. How much money must we have in order to fund our dreams? That is retirement. That is the long-term goal. That is my plan. Here’s to many more years of being debt free, building wealth, and living and giving like no one else.
Be strong. Love God. Love others.