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From Financial Integrity

Rose - Small steps every month

  • Rural Northwest USA
  • Multi-adult household
  • No children/dependents

When I first created my Lifetime Earnings Estimate, I was shocked, but I think not in the way most people are – I just couldn’t believe how little I had made in my life, and how relatively rich a life it had been so far! It seemed to me that with a little more wisdom and focus, I could live a very rich life indeed.

My balance sheet was pretty sad, though. Due to a series of serious health and business setbacks over the previous year, I had more than half the amount in short-term debt than I had in my mortgage balance. Even owning property in an appreciating market, I had a negative net worth! Keeping my balance sheet updated and watching my net worth change each month was a key to keeping me on course to get rid of that debt in short order. By updating the value of my assets versus my liabilities on a regular basis, my net worth went from $-3,000 to $91,000 in two years, which helped me realize how much I could accomplish when I put my mind to it, and how soon I could have a financial life that was totally stress-free.

Although I have always kept track of my finances, I never did a wall chart before 2005. Since then, my wall chart has been my best friend & cheerleader! I charted my debt balance, which necessitated a whole new scale for the chart. It was so exciting to watch that line fall all those inches down to zero, and then watch my savings balance start to climb. I made it very colorful and cheery, and really look forward to updating that chart every month. Even on hard months with large expenses, I can revel in the overall progress I’ve been making toward my goals, and be reminded of the freedom that comes with that.

I learned to read the fine print on every insert and offer, and to always be aware that the creditor’s goal is to make money off of you. I realized they prey off the unconscious debtor, and I was not going to be one of those. I paid just over 5% in combined interest over only about 2.5 years, rather than just adding it to long term mortgage debt, and I looked for every way to save and use that money to pay down the balances instead. Once I was done paying down the debt, my savings rate shot up faster than I ever would have imagined if I had not learned that discipline. I applied that savvy to every other “opportunity” that came my way, and went to work on getting rid of that mortgage too.

And not having specific career ambitions or a single trade means that lots of interesting opportunities come my way. I found that calculating the real hourly wage prior to accepting a job is key to making smart decisions. I don’t like to waste my time – and if my wage is being mysteriously siphoned off by work-related expenses, that’s just wasting my life energy. So I apply the Financial Integrity approach, and use that information to help choose which opportunities are in my best interest. If a job is something I want to do, but I calculate it to be expensive, I use that data to ask for a higher wage. I’ve never been turned down when I’ve got such an objective argument – it shows the employer I know how to help them watch their bottom line, too.

Having got back on strong financial footing and developed savings, I have freedom to explore new things. I have the luxury to take some significant time to focus on building relationships and learning new skills that will serve me well, even as the investor-class quakes with a crashing monetary system and looks for a government rescue! I am aware of all these opportunities available to me -- and so I feel like I’m one of the fortunate ones, who can weather financial storms and has the capacity to help others to do the same.

This page was last modified on 19 January 2012, at 00:05. This page has been accessed 8,170 times.