From 300 to 800

I usually take time on January 1 each year, when not putting away Christmas decorations, to reflect on the growth I’ve made in key areas over the past year. I think over items like faith, family, health, work, leadership, and, the subject of this post, my finances.

Where was I?

What was my goal?

Did I reach my goal?

Was it the correct goal?

What can I achieve this year?

With 2020 being the end of the decade, I thought I’d expand beyond the normal annual review, especially since quite a lot has happened over the past decade.

Some may not know but just over a decade ago I filed bankruptcy. I’m not proud of it but, even a decade later, I’d make the same decision given the circumstances.

Without going into a lot of details, I’ll say that between 1998 and 2006, I was dumb about money and personal finances. Really dumb. I didn’t know what I was doing. And the crazy thing, I could make the numbers at work great, but my personal finances were dismal, at best.

In 2006, I made the decision to start cleaning it up. I wasn’t sure what to do but I knew I had to make a change.

By 2010, I had made payment agreements with all of my creditors and with a little help from Dave Ramsey and his book, The Total Money Makeover, I was slowly making headway. I wasn’t moving fast but each pay period I was in a better place than I was before.

Come mid-2010, another small event threw all that hard work out the window. I didn’t have a lot of control over it, but it created a domino effect that unworked the payment agreements I had in place and was going to hinder my progress for years to come.

That’s when I decided to use the bankruptcy process to wipe my debt clean and start anew.

Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”

Having been at a point where I’ve gone to sleep not knowing where tomorrow’s food coming from, this has so much truth. And though I wouldn’t say I was ever poor, maybe severely broke, my money was working for others and not myself. I don’t know if I’ll ever be in the rich column, but I want to continually put distance between myself and the poor or borrower column again.

From that moment on I made it a point to always spend less than I earn and to at least try to save some of what I earn (I wasn’t saving as much as I should have early on).

But starting on a new slate gave me far more control over my finances than I had for the decade prior to that. Finally, when I was paid, I could choose the future of each dollar.

I’m not sure if it is related, but maybe that control made me realize I need to take control over other areas of my life. By the end of January 2011, I was sober (I haven’t had a lick of alcohol since then), I quit smoking, and I met my bride-to-be.

Potentially, that small realization that I controlled my financial destiny made me realize I controlled my entire destiny.

In November, I received a notification from one of my credit card companies that my score had eclipsed 800.

I don’t believe I’ve ever had a score of 800 or higher.

Heidi and I carry little debt other than our mortgage – we use a credit card for our regular purchases and promptly pay it off for our cashback rewards, don’t tell Dave Ramsey.

Over the past year, I’ve learned more about Roth IRAs (set one up and fully funded it), how to invest using HSAs (I recently moved my HSA funds over to Lively to invest them), and our net worth has grown by 22%.

Over the next decade I’d love to keep up +20% growth and remove the mortgage from our debt column. Then we can finally call into Dave Ramsey’s show with our “debt free” announcement.

Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.”

This is my ultimate financial goal – to build a legacy that can help my children, grand-children, and even others create value.

My financial situation has come a long way over the past decade. But I hope to continue making my family’s situation better, to the point we might increase our contribution to the well being of others, by always learning and growing.

I still have room for improvement, for greater discipline and knowledge, but I’m looking forward to the next year, the next decade, and knowing that I’m capable of achieving more.