I’m coming up on a milestone. I’ll be turning 40 in a few months but I feel like I’m already there. My joints hurt. Loud noises irritate me. Naps are the highlight of my week. I’m somehow crabbier than I used to be. I no longer have any understanding of today’s youth. And I can’t hide my contempt for BS anymore.
When I turned 30, I was single. I had over $25k in credit card debt. I could scarcely pay for a $400 per month studio apartment that barely contained a single bed and desk. My car was a Ford Focus that took better care of me than I did of it. I was getting calls from creditors regarding my student loans. I was selling everything I owned in order to make ends meet.
As I turn 40, I’m married. Sometimes happily. I work a great job that provides more than enough income for us. We have zero credit card debt. We live in a 1300sf house on a loan that costs us $600 per month. We outright own 38 acres of land and we are building a farm and our future there. Our car is a Subaru Forester that we maintain regularly. My credit score is nearly perfect. But I’m still getting rid of stuff, mostly because it irritates me.
It wasn’t easy.
I got married.
Marriage not only unites you with the love of your life, it provides a lot of tangible benefits. For starters, your spouse isn’t a roommate. This means…
- You don’t lose a whole room in the apartment/house to someone else as a bedroom.
- Your combined incomes are going toward the same, not separate, living expenses.
- Your incomes are now aligned toward the same goals.
I think it should be obvious that I am not suggesting anyone get married on a whim for financial benefit. Marriage is taken far too lightly. It’s a promise forever. If you aren’t willing to keep the marriage promise, don’t make it.
Finally, marriage does have habit of causing both partners to grow up a bit. You start to look out for the other person in your life. I started making better decisions.
I started working in my free time.
I had been spending most of my non-work time (evenings, weekends) playing video games, drinking and watching movies.
On a whim, I took a weekend gig working overnights at the front desk of an apartment building. This was probably the easiest job I ever had. It also paid the least I’ve ever been paid. But it allowed me to use some of my non-work time to at least build some value instead of wasting it.
If you’re packing nothing but leisure and entertainment into your free time, then you’re going to either remain where you are or fall behind. I suggested starting productive hobbies or pick up a side gig so you have something to show for your time. I started programming, brewing beer, gardening, building things and doing home repair.
I started multi-accomplishing.
Multi-tasking is a myth. Anyone who asks during an interview about your ability to multi-task should be tarred and feathered. Just smile, answer politely, and imagine them in feathers.
Now, multi-accomplishing. That’s something. Multi-accomplishing is a action that accomplishes more than one benefit. When I was working overnights, I had a lot of down time available to me because the tenants were sleeping. So, I did a lot of research. I read about gardening, electrical work and pored over want ads for deals.
The more value you can cram into your time, the better. I read when I go on walks; this way, I get exercise and am able to catch up on my overwhelming number of unread books. You can listen to audio books while driving, think while you garden, catch up on news while you eat; the possibilities are endless.
Whenever possible and whenever it doesn’t lessen the value of either outcome, I try to get two things done with the same action.
Note: How is this different from multi-tasking? Multi-tasking is trying to accomplish two separate, competing tasks within the same window of time. Multi-accomplishing accomplishes two separate, complimentary tasks at the same time. If you cannot do both at the actual same moment, you’re multi-tasking.
I bought a house.
Next to marriage, home ownership is probably the single greatest financial leap forward anyone can make. While I was working overnights on the weekends, I found a nice, small (660sf) house in a relatively bad neighborhood. But it was cheap and move-in ready. Prior to moving in, our apartment was costing us $950 per month. This house cost us $450 per month on a 15 year loan.
The $500 per month in savings wasn’t the only benefit. We had more space, a basement, a garage, extra off-street parking and a yard.
Further, as we paid off the mortgage, we gained equity. Which allowed us to…
I refinanced the house.
A few years after we bought the house, we had saved up some money and found some land we liked. So, we bought it. However, at this time, we stretched ourselves pretty thin. We had $450 per month with the house payment, $500 for a car payment, $700 in credit card payments, $600 for the land payment. Plus a few other things.
Due to the 15 year mortgage and inflating home prices, our house had appreciated very well. We refinanced to a 30 year loan (because we knew we’d be selling soon), and paid off the car, land, credit cards and other odds-and-ends. We went from paying $2700 per month toward debt down to $550 per month.
Finally, I woke up.
The industrial age created a monster. We’ve been taught since day one that our purpose is to climb ladders, make money, hopefully not be too sick from stress to enjoy retirement, and then die.
I climbed. I became a manager. I was elected to the presidency of my statewide professional body. I was becoming more and more of a “someone” in my field.
The higher I got, the worse I felt.
I was walking around the county fair with my wife, looking at tractors. I told her I didn’t want to do this (job) anymore. I wanted to farm, write, code, work on experiments, get closer to God: I wanted to forge my own, unique path with the talents I’d been given.
I didn’t even have to convince her. She knew that was the path for us.
As I read over this to make edits, it sounds a lot easier than it was. We had our fair share of money problems, broken dreams and false starts. There were times that we were really afraid despite knowing we were on the right path. It takes a lot of faith to step out at times and attempt something new.
There’s always a light up ahead. Sometimes you just have to open your eyes to see it.