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Marriage Kids and Money

Are you looking to improve your family's financial wellness and create a life of true wealth and happiness? The Marriage Kids and Money Podcast is dedicated to helping you do just that. Each week, Andy Hill interviews millionaire parents, couples who have reached financial independence, and financial industry experts like Jill Schlesinger, Chris Hogan, Paula Pant, JL Collins and Rachel Cruze (the daughter of Dave Ramsey). These interviews are meant to provide you with easy-to-understand information and actionable takeaways you can use to give your family the life they deserve. With over 250 episodes and counting, Marriage Kids and Money has been the recipient of multiple awards such as "Best Family Finance Content" by Plutus and has been featured in major media outlets like US News and World Report, CNBC and Kiplingers. Show topics include everything from how to pay off your mortgage early to how to help your kids become future millionaires (who are generous). Join the family wealth-building conversation by listening to this 5-star rated family empowering podcast today!
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Now displaying: 2020

Are you looking to improve your family's financial wellness and create a life of true wealth and happiness?

The Marriage, Kids and Money Podcast is dedicated to helping you do just that. Each week, Andy Hill interviews millionaire parents, couples who have reached financial independence, and financial industry experts like Chris Hogan, Paula Pant, JL Collins and Rachel Cruze (the daughter of Dave Ramsey).

These interviews are meant to provide you with easy-to-understand information and actionable takeaways you can use to give your family the life they deserve.

With over 200 episodes and counting, Marriage, Kids and Money has been nominated as “Best Podcast of the Year” and been awarded “Best Family Finance Blog” by Plutus. Show topics include everything from how to pay off your mortgage early to how to help your kids become future millionaires (who are generous).

Join the family wealth-building conversation by listening to this 5-star rated family empowering podcast today!

Feb 19, 2020

One of the most important decisions anyone can make is who you choose to spend your life with. Marriage impacts us emotionally, socially, legally, financially, and in so many other ways.

While the divorce rate in America is dropping, so is the marriage rate. That means married couples understand marriage is important, we might not know exactly where to turn for good advice.

Today, I sat down with Kimberly Holmes, the CEO of Marriage Helper, to learn more about the reasons why marriages end and what couples can do to save them. Kimberly explores three broad categories of marriage trouble, details some of the warning signs, and outlines steps that we can take today to be better partners tomorrow. 

https://youtu.be/WEPKztSpgE4



The Top Three Reasons Marriages End

You’ve probably heard it said that money ends marriages. You might have also heard of people divorcing because they didn’t get along. It turns out that those common explanations aren’t the biggest reasons why marriages end.

Kimberly says that research from the University of Washington shows that the main reasons that marriages end can be divided into three broad categories ... not feeling:

  1. Liked,
  2. Loved, or
  3. Respected 

So where does money come into play?

Often times, financial issues are symptomatic of something bigger. When a couple divorces due to finances, they are not on the same page. As a result, that can often lead to one partner feeling continually disrespected.

That’s not to say that money can’t take a toll on someone’s marriage or relationship--it can and it does. In fact, financial problems are often symptomatic of a core issue--like a lack of respect--impacting the couple. 

sad spouse by bed

What Does It Mean to Feel Liked?

Often times, people treat the idea of liking someone and loving someone interchangeably. Other times, we might think of love as the next step after we already like someone. Not so, says Kimberly. There is a difference between like and love, and partners crave feeling both. 

When you feel liked, you have the sense that your spouse wants to be around you and wants to interact with you on a daily basis. Kimberly says that there are ways to evaluate this in your own relationship.

  • Do you like your partner's presence?
  • Do you enjoy spending time together?
  • Do you want to converse and interact with them often?

Thinking about how you would answer these questions about your partner and then considering how they might answer should unlock more insight into what it means to feel liked in a marriage.

What Does It Mean to Feel Loved?

Love is more than day-to-day interaction and wanting to spend time with someone. That is why Kimberly is so quick to point out that feeling loved is different than feeling liked.

To feel loved is to feel that your partner puts you first. When we feel loved, we feel that our partner is selfless. They consider our needs before their own.

According to St. Sternberg’s Triangular Theory, there are three aspects to love:

  1. Intimacy
  2. Passion
  3. Commitment

A couple who is in love is committed to the relationship, even if things aren’t going well. There is a craving to be one, and there is a deep connection between partners. 

What Does It Mean to Feel Respected?

People often give and believe incorrect advice: men need respect and women need love. Kimberly emphasizes just how inaccurate this is. She says that every human craves to be liked, loved, and respected in their relationship. Kimberly elaborates further, saying that respect is key, no matter the person. 

Understanding how finances impact your marriage can help you also understand what it means to be respected in a marriage. For instance, if one person in the relationship wants to save 10% of their income and the other person chooses to spend differently regardless of their partner’s ambitions, this can be a sign of disrespect.

Couples don’t have to be in total alignment or agreement with every value and want; instead, it is important to think about how our words and actions complement our partner. Without this consideration, you can end up making your partner feel disrespected, which can start to erode your relationship. 

Related Article: My Spouse Doesn't Want to Talk About Money. What do I do?

Ways to Avoid Marriage Problems

Every couple fights. Disagreements are part of life. But there are ways to avoid or minimize marriage problems. 

Get to Know Your Partner Again

As a married couple, it is vital to learn what is more important to your partner. Kimberly says couples often start out strong but then stall out.

Frequently, couples ask plenty of questions when they are dating and when they are engaged. However, once a couple gets married, it can almost feel like the final level of the relationship has been unlocked.

Kimberly says that for many couples, this is when they start to grow apart. They feel like they’ve already achieved what they wanted, so the conversations and the questions slow to a halt. 

To remedy this, Kimberly suggests deliberately asking your partner one question each day. She also says not to worry about finding the “right” question. Instead, simply attempt to learn a little bit more about them.

Some possible questions include:

  • “Tell me about a trip you enjoyed as a kid.”
  • “What is your favorite restaurant near ____?”
  • “Who was your best friend growing up?”

The point is to show your partner a continued interest in their life. Continually asking questions can help you grow that knowledge and interest over time. 

couple talking and drinking coffee

Speak Up

In addition to getting to know your partner, take time to reveal more about yourself. For instance, let your partner know what you consider to be a sign of love and affection.

Of course, there are certain things--flowers, chocolate, or champagne--that people associate with symbols of love and caring. However, it’s really important to know your spouse and to let them know you. If you would much prefer a thoughtful note or a kind gesture over a dozen roses, communicate that. Don’t expect your partner to be a mind reader. 

Assess and Act Intentionally 

In addition to communicating clearly, we need to be more intentional. Ask yourself what you know about your partner and what you don’t. Then, make it a point to start to fill in the gaps. 

Kimberly suggests doing a quick self-assessment by asking three questions:

  1. Do I want to see this relationship through to the very end?
  2. Do I have a craving for my spouse?
  3. Do I feel a deep connection for my partner? 

If you aren’t answering an immediate yes, don’t fret. One of the most crucial ways to build a stronger marriage is to identify where gaps exist. Kimberly says taking the time to complete this mental inventory provides an awareness of where to start. 

making a list in journal

Kimberly's Personal Experience 

Kimberly isn’t just speaking from a theoretical perspective. She knows firsthand how one experience can make it seem like you and your partner are on two totally different pages.

Kimberly recalls the moment she learned that her husband wanted to buy a car at auction. She says she wasn’t actually opposed to the idea of buying the car. The problem was that he had actually already placed a bid for $5,000. She had no idea. 

In that moment, she knew she could respond one of two ways:

  • With anger, or
  • With respect

Even though she felt justified in her anger, she knew that by being angry and possibly even disrespectful, she would only perpetuate the issue. That is why she chose to focus on what she wanted to happen next time.

To her, it wasn’t about buying a truck. She wasn’t trying to question his wants; instead, she needed to communicate to her partner how important it was that she be looped into conversations and decisions, financial and otherwise. 

Kimberly Holmes Marriage Helper and her familyKimberly Holmes and her family

The Importance of Communication

When our busyness becomes overwhelming, that’s a recipe for disaster. Or it’s at least a recipe for arguments and strain on your relationship.

That’s why communication is crucial. In addition to having daily conversation and interaction with your partner, communicate to take the guesswork out of marriage. Speak up when your partner does something that you don’t like and make sure to tell them what you do like and value. 

Additionally, Kimberly says speaking up at the right time can make all the difference. Sometimes, we can feel so attacked or hurt that we speak up out of anger. The problem is that type of communication is rarely productive. Conflict is rarely the emergency that we think it is. Addressing an issue outside of anger almost always yields better and more productive results. 

It can be challenging at first, but once we learn to accept that we are not perfect spouses, we can commit to learning and growing alongside our partners.

Kimberly recommends asking yourself ...

  • “What do I need to work on?”
  • “How do I work on that each day?”

These incremental strides will go a long way. 

The Importance of Time

There’s no way around this. You have to make time for what really matters. Kimberly’s advice is to focus on how to de-scale your schedules.

To know what is truly important, ask yourself what matters right now. Then ask yourself what will matter in 5 years, 20 years or even 50 years. Chances are, your answer is centered on family, not the current project at work that is claiming all of your time or the four different travel sports leagues you signed your child up for

You don’t have to eliminate everything; instead, make sure that you are carving time out for what really matters to you. Once you identify your priorities, focus on them.

Kimberly suggests literally blocking out time on a schedule. No matter what else you do to improve your marriage, Kimberly emphasizes that making time makes the biggest difference. 

Incorporating Rituals

A key way to avoid marriage problems is to incorporate rituals into your relationship. The ritual does not have to be anything dramatic or over-the-top. Instead, it can simply be a way to underscore what you know about your partner.

For example, if you know they loved playing board games as a child, planning monthly game nights can be a fun throwback. If your partner grew up taking a road trip each summer, make it a point to plan some kind of travel together.

Related Interview: Why Date Night is So Important in Marriage

The point isn’t to recreate the past or live in it. Instead, you simply want to show your partner that you know them and that you value them. 

Of course, communicating expectations is key here. It’s impossible for your partner to plan rituals if you never share what is meaningful to you. Finding a way to say what you need from your partner is important. 

Continuing to Work On Your Marriage

A marriage is always a work-in-progress. If you and your spouse are willing to continually put in the work to make each other feel liked, loved, and respected, you can avoid many of the challenges others face.

No spouse is perfect, and no one needs to be. Make a commitment today to reflect, think, and start speaking up. Investing in your marriage is one of the most important decisions you'll ever make. 

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Questions?

I’d love to hear from you!

If you’d like your question featured on the show, reach out and let me know. It would be my honor to support you in your journey toward financial freedom.

Leave me a voicemail or connect with me on InstagramTwitter and Facebook.

Carpe Diem Quote

"The more time you invest in a marriage, the more valuable it becomes."

Amy Grant


What strategies do you use to have a happy marriage?

PLEASE LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.


sad man sitting on the ground crying


Feb 17, 2020

Adam from Tampa is skeptical about working with a financial advisor and wants to know how to invest on his own.


Andy, 

I have a hard question for you. 

For most of my life, I have been told what to do with my money. I had a family member work for Morgan Stanley and he invested for us for years. 

Last year, we had some issues within the family and decided to part ways. My wife and I quickly decided to go with another guy who does good but the last email was life insurance focused.

The main question is I want to handle all of this on my own. I feel like I can’t teach my kids what is best without knowing. Any advice?




Thanks for reaching out Adam!

That is a tough situation you’re in and it sounds very familiar to me. I wanted to invest for the future, but I didn’t know much about investing. 

I got hooked up with an investment broker that ended up having very high fees and I felt didn’t have our best interest at heart. 

Based on that experience, I wanted to learn as much as possible about investing so I wouldn’t get burned again. That’s part of the reason I started this podcast ... to learn, grow and help my family get to the next level. 

Regarding your situation, I’m going to share with you 7 thoughts I have.

1. Consider a Fee-Only Certified Financial Planner

Before you dive headfirst into the world of investing by yourself, please consider looking at a different type of financial advisor first. It sounds like you have been suspicious, burned and otherwise uncomfortable with the investment advisors you’ve met with so far. 

Fee-only certified financial planners are a bit different from other financial advisors. They have signed a fiduciary oath and are legally and ethically bound to ensure your interests are put above their own. Additionally, they are not in the business of selling products (ie. whole life insurance) as they only receive compensation through the fee you pay them. 

To test the waters, set up a free consultation call with a potential advisor from partners like Facet Wealth or XY Planning Network. These groups are focused on the fee-only model and may restore your hope in the financial advising profession. 

Make sure to ask questions about how they are paid and how the fee structure works. If you don’t feel like the person you are working with has your best interest at heart, keep moving along. This is your life savings we’re talking about here!

2. Read Books About Investing and Personal Finance

Whether you decide to go with a fee-only advisor or not, I believe it’s smart to educate yourself on investing so you can make informed decisions for the betterment of your family. 

Here are 5 books that helped me become a better investor:

The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clayson

This book was written in 1926 and it was based on parables from 8,000 years ago. Although ancient-sounding, The Richest Man in Babylon has principles that hold true today. 

This is a refreshing and fun personal finance read that is more of a story than “how-to” non-fiction.

The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach

David Bach shares strategies that make becoming a millionaire simple and easy. The Automatic Millionaire touches on the importance of automation and how not overthinking it can help you succeed with your money. 

The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley

This book dispells the myths of what it takes to become a millionaire. These philosophies and exposed truths in The Millionaire Next Door help us to stay the course and achieve real wealth. 

MONEY: Master the Game by Tony Robbins

One of my favorite authors and speakers is Tony Robbins. In Money: Master the Game, he tackles investing and personal finance by interviewing top investors and billionaires to find out their secrets to financial success. 

The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins

Investing can appear very confusing for most people. JL Collins creates a simpler path for readers of this book by breaking down complex topics and making them easy to understand.

The Simple Path to Wealth explores the success and simplicity of index funds and how they can give you a successful portfolio. 

Now, these books aren’t going to give an answer on how YOU should invest. They are going to help you understand different strategies and principals for you to consider. With this new knowledge, you can have more engaged conservations with a fee-only financial advisor and you’ll feel more equipped to invest on your own if you choose to. 

If you’d prefer to listen to your books instead of reading them, try Audible for free for 30 days. I love it. 

3. Choose a Low-Cost Brokerage Firm

If you decide to go it alone, consider a low-cost brokerage firm like Fidelity, Vanguard or Schwab. These companies have low fees and a huge selection of investment options for you to choose from.

In fact, these three are in such competition with each other that there is a “fee-war” going on right now and the consumer is winning! They are battling each other for who can provide the lowest fees to investors with some going completely to a no-fee model for ETFs and some index funds. 

I’ve used Vanguard for years and before that, I was with Fidelity. Both have phenomenal customer service and are more than willing to help you get started with investing. 

4. Take Advantage of Target Date Funds and Index Funds

If you’re not sure where to start, utilizing a Target-Date Fund with a partner like Vanguard gets you good diversification and low fees. This is a quick and easy way to invest by yourself. 

There are pros and cons to Target Date Funds and all Target Date Funds are not the same. Check out the fees associated with the Target Date Fund you’re considering and compare it to other low-cost brokerage firms. 

Additionally, index funds help you to keep fees low and they can diversify your holdings across different market indices like the S&P 500 or Russell 2000. By investing in major market indices, you can track the market and invest in top-performing companies. There are also index funds for bonds and real estate (REITs) as well. 

5. Diversify Your Portfolio

Depending on a multitude of factors like your age, assets, liabilities, income and general goals for life, you’ll want your investment portfolio to be diversified. That way, your eggs aren’t all in one basket. 

Some areas to consider for diversification are as follows:

  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • Real Estate (REITs)
  • Cash

Even in these categories, there are sub-categories to invest in. For example, you could have international stocks and US-based stocks. Or you could even diversify further within US-based stocks by investing in small-cap, mid-cap, and large-cap mutual funds. 

A simple rule of thumb for stocks and bonds is as follows:

120 – YOUR AGE = STOCK PERCENTAGE

For me this would be:

120 – 38 = 82% Stocks

So based on that rule of thumb, my portfolio would be based on 82% stocks and 18% bonds. I like to add real estate into the portfolio as well to diversify even further. This works for me. It might not work for you. Here is the diversification breakdown that I use in my retirement based on my age, assets and risk tolerance:

  • 60% Large Cap US Based
  • 10% International
  • 10% Small / Mid Cap
  • 10% Bonds
  • 10% REITs

As I get older, I will increase my bond holdings as that is typically a less volatile investment. The older you get, the more conservative you want to be so your money doesn’t all disappear in a big market crash right before you retire.

6. Make Sure to Rebalance Your Portfolio

Rebalancing is important and can be crucial to a successful portfolio. 

For example, let’s say you decide that a 90% stock and 10% bond portfolio (90/10) is what you want. Over time, especially if the stock market continues to soar as it has been, your portfolio may start to look like 95% stocks and 5% bonds (95/5). At this point, you’ll need to sell off some of your stocks and purchase more bonds to get back to your 90/10 portfolio.

Set a reminder for yourself to rebalance annually or twice per year. Or partner with a company like blooom to do it for you. This way you’re making sure your plan is still in place.   

7. Get Automatic with your Investments

Once you have your plan set, set up recurring investments on a monthly basis so your balance continues to grow. 

By purchasing new index funds repeatedly, you’re taking advantage of dollar-cost averaging and removing the emotion out of investing. This way, you’re deciding in advance that you want to grow your investment portfolio. Although you still want to rebalance periodically, this methodology allows you to set it and forget it. 

Over time, your investments can grow substantially with your consistent investments and with compound interest. It’s an incredible thing to see your money grow while you sleep!

I started investing in my 401k in 2013 using the steps above and almost 7 years later, I have around $200,000! Time, compound interest, contributing the maximum possible and receiving a 15% employer match made that healthy balance possible.

Related Interview: Simple Millionaire Investing Strategies with the 401k, IRA and 529

Invest Alone or With a Financial Advisor?

I’m not a financial professional so take my advice with a huge grain of salt. Adam. You and your financial advisor know your situation better than I do. If you don't trust or like the one you have today, try to find one that feels like a partner instead of a salesman.

If you have the time, interest and drive, you can definitely invest by yourself. Decide what is feasible and smart for your family and go for it.

I hope these 7 steps give you an idea of where you can go with your investing path.


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Thriving Families Facebook Group:  Join our new FREE Facebook Community!

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Questions?

I’d love to hear from you!

If you’d like your question featured on the show, reach out and let me know. It would be my honor to support you in your journey toward financial freedom.

Leave me a voicemail or connect with me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Carpe Diem Quote

“You either master money, or, on some level, money masters you.”

Tony Robbins


ARE YOU considering investing without a financial advisor?

PLEASE LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.


Man doing research on computer


Feb 12, 2020

In May 2010, I married my dream girl. She was funny, beautiful and chock-full of 90's TV trivia. Our first couple of dates consisted of a lot of Saved by the Bell and Seinfeld jokes.

Outside of knowing the Soup Nazi episode verbatim, Nicole and I both came into the marriage knowing the general basics of personal finance. You know, advice like:

  • "Don't carry a credit card balance"
  • "Always have some savings for a rainy day"
  • "Good debt is okay to have"



In the years before our marriage, we did rack up a hefty amount of "good" debt. Car payments and student loans were a few of the good debt offenders we carried into our marriage. Hey, you NEED a car to get around, right?! And how else are you going to pay for college?! 

After some research and personal soul-searching, there really was no good debt or bad debt in our eyes. It was just debt to us. This was all just money we owed someone. It wouldn’t go away until we decided to clean it up.

We decided that being in debt was not something we wanted for our new family. We vowed to become debt-free (outside of our mortgage) before our first child was born.

In September of 2010, we owed $20,908 on my wife’s car and $27,124 on my student loans for a grand total of $48,032 of good/bad/indifferent debt. During the next 12 months, we took that $48,032 of debt and clobbered it!

By September 2011, we owed $0. Zilch. Nada. Bye-bye debt.

Here are the 5 steps we took to rid debt from our family forever:

1. Develop a Monthly Budget

We developed a monthly written budget that defined our way forward. We knew we had to reduce our expenses and increase our debt payments. The written budget guided us to ensure we would stay the course.

For budgeting, we used a simple spreadsheet. It wasn't too fancy. We just listed out our income and our expenses and made sure we allocated each of our dollars to an assignment. 

As the years past, we decided to upgrade to Mint. This online budgeting tool gave us more flexibility and made the monthly budgeting process a lot quicker through its ability to link up to your bank and credit card accounts. 

I developed a simple 10-step guide to get started on Mint.

(For couples, consider checking out Zeta. This is another free budgeting option that will help you win together.)

Good old fashioned pencil and paper will even do! Make sure you have a budget and stick to it.

2. Choose Your Debt Elimination Strategy

There are multiple debt elimination strategies to consider. Choose the one that works best for you and your situation.

Debt Snowball

How it works:

  • Take your debts and line them up from smallest amount owed to the largest amount owed
  • Pay the smallest off first by making extra payments each month
  • Given that you’ll now have less interest to pay with one of your eliminated debts, take that extra amount of money and start paying down the principal on the next debt
  • The process continues with your payments growing larger like a snowball down a hill

Debt Snowball Example:

  • You have $2,000 in credit card debt, $500 in medical debt, $25,000 in a HELOC
  • Pay off the medical debt first, then the credit card, then the HELOC

Why the Debt Snowball works:

  • By getting some quick wins in paying off your smallest debt first, you’ll feel motivated to keep going!
  • If you started with the $25,000 HELOC, you could be at it for a quite a while and become uninspired to continue paying off your debt

Debt Avalanche

How it works?

  • Take your debts and line them up from largest interest rate to smallest interest rate
  • Pay off the debt with the largest interest rate first by making extra payments each month
  • The process continues similar to the debt snowball

Debt Avalanche Example:

  • Credit card debt (20% interest), medical debt (4% interest), HELOC (6%)
  • Pay off credit card debt first, then HELOC, then medical debt

Why the Debt Avalanche works:

  • Mathematically, this helps you pay off the most financially draining debts that you have and will (in theory) help you save the most money.

Other Debt Elimination Options

Hybrid Model

You can also look at using a Hybrid Model of these two approaches where you pay off the debt with the largest interest percentage first, and then get some quick wins on the debt with the smallest balance.

Debt Hatred

Or simply just choose the debt that you HATE the most and smash that one first!

We chose the Debt Avalanche method because our student loan and car debts amounts were nearly similar. The student loan had an interest rate of 6.8% so we decided to blow that one up as soon as possible and then tackle the car loan. If the student loan refinancing companies like SoFi were around then, I definitely would have taken advantage of that for a lower interest rate (and even a cash bonus!)

3. Increase Your Income

Outside of spending less money, another great way to eliminate your debt fast is to make more money!

Before we decided to go crazy on our debt, I received a promotion to a sales position that allowed me to make a commission when I brought in new business. At that time I was making around $70,000 per year without commissions. When Nicole and I decided to rid ourselves of our debt, let’s just say, I became highly motivated to sell … a lot.

I expanded our portfolio with a major client and doubled our business in 2011. Our business grew, my team grew and so did my commission checks. I ended 2011 with just over $100,000 in total income!

With that additional income, we did not adjust our lifestyle and buy new clothes, fancy dinners, and jewelry. We took the extra money we received each month and slowly but surely paid down our debt using the Debt Avalanche.

Now you may not be in a sales job like I was, but increasing your income is completely in your hands. It just takes extra effort.

10 ideas to increase your income

Here are 10 ideas for increasing your income immediately. I’ve done 5 of these personally:

  1. Detail the value you bring to your company and ask for a salary increase
  2. Sell household items you don’t use anymore on Facebook Marketplace
  3. Become an Uber or Lyft driver in your downtime
  4. Airbnb a room at your house
  5. Get a roommate and charge a monthly rent
  6. Use your skills to create something and sell it online (Etsy, etc).
  7. Help people with everyday tasks through services like Task Rabbit
  8. Become a freelance writer or start a blog
  9. Sell unused gift cards on eBay or Cardpool
  10. Start a weekend dog sitting service

Related Article: 26 Smart Ways for Moms and Dads to Make More Money

4. Stick to the Plan

It is incredibly easy to stray away from your budget and your debt elimination strategy. There are always shiny objects that will distract you and take you off course.

Although I consider myself a frugal and disciplined guy, I had a tough time not spending the extra commission dollars I was receiving at my job. I’m human, right?

To help me stay on track, my wife and I would remind ourselves that being debt-free before our first child came into the world would set our family on a course for financial success that would last our entire lives.

That reason for pushing hard (my “Why”) gave me the motivation to stick to the plan. I kept thinking about how SATISFYING it would feel to rid ourselves completely of this debt.

5. Celebrate the Wins

We’re not robots. Live a little! When you pay off one of your debts, celebrate!! Go out to dinner. Pop some champagne. Share the news with family and friends. This is a BIG deal. You are NOT normal (in a good way)! This encouragement will motivate you to keep charging down the path toward complete financial freedom.

Nicole and I celebrated each debt crushing milestone together and it made our new marriage that much stronger. We were partnering together on something so important for our future and we were winning.

That year of debt destruction allowed us to have Nicole leave her job and stay home to raise our kids. You can't put a price tag on the bond she's developed with Zoey and Calvin during the first years of their lives.

Fast forward to today, we've kept up our debt elimination plans and have paid off our $195,000 mortgage in less than 4 years. That major reduction in our expenses has allowed both me and Nicole to choose the work we want to do instead of the work we have to do. 

At this rate, we’re creating a financial future for our two children that we would never have imagined possible. And to think, it all started with taking that first step in making the conscious decision to eliminate our debt once and for all. Now we have the freedom to live the lives we’ve always wanted.


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PLEASE LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.



Feb 10, 2020

Being neck-deep in debt can make you feel like all the odds are stacked against you, especially when you reach almost the seven figures!

Today, Andy talks to Wendy Mays on how her family is climbing out of nearly $1,000,000 of student loans, home mortgages, car loans, and other consumer debt. Wendy is the host of the House of FI podcast, a part-time work-from-home lawyer and a mother to six children. 

We talk about how she and her husband accumulated their debt, the turning point that led them to fix their situation and their progress on their journey to financial independence so far. 

https://youtu.be/oM965CZVM3Q



How they accumulated their debt

Wendy and her husband went to college and amassed a huge amount of student loan debt. They started their marriage with six-figures of debt, believing that they would eventually be able to pay it all off.

Wendy went to private law school and her husband earned degrees to support his teaching career. When it was all said and done, their total student loan debt was $330,000.

Every time they made more money, they would spend it. They ended up getting a beautiful house in San Diego with a $550,000 mortgage. On top of that, they had a few car loans and borrowed money to renovate their house. By the time they reached their 40's, this brought their total debt to nearly $1,000,000.

What made them want to improve their financial situation

After adopting four children, Wendy realized she wanted a lifestyle change so she could stay at home with the kids.

Wendy Mays and her familyWendy Mays with her husband Curtis and their six children

But she couldn’t figure out a way. Without her income, they wouldn’t be able to pay the debt. She felt very stuck and hopeless.

Her situation led her to Google a “laptop lifestyle”. One thing led to another and she discovered The Mad Fientist. After doing her research and learning as much as she could about financial independence, she figured out how she could save 50% of her income and improve her situation.

What steps they took to fix their situation

The first step was to reduce expenses. Wendy knew they had to be intentional with their spending. They eventually cut $10,000 from their monthly budget, while she was living on her lawyer's salary of $180,000 - $200,000 per year. Here's how they did it.

Build a Budget and Question Every Expense

To cut their spending down, they need to get aggressive. This meant looking at every dollar they were spending and finding ways to reduce it or eliminate it. By budgeting their monthly spending, this process became a lot clearer.

Reduced Spending on Food

Spending less on groceries and eating out became one of the first areas that they tackled. Their family, even with 8 family members, spent around $2,000 per month on food. It was too much in Wendy's opinion.

Erase the Debt

They attacked their debt with the Debt Snowball, and then they switched to Debt Avalanche for 2-3 years. The debt really took a huge cut after selling their house. 

Once the house was sold, the plan was to pay off all of their debt outside of their student loans and take what was left and get into real estate investing. They are now saving $1,100 per month on housing expenses by renting the place they live as opposed to buying another home.

Related Interview: 15 Ways to Save More Money When You’re Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Bringing the family on board

Was Wendy's family happy with this plan?

At first, Wendy’s husband was reluctant. But they had some important conversations about their future and eventually got on the same page. By sitting down and understanding their goals, they were able to work together. 

How about the kids?

Wendy and her husband have been teaching them about how to use money as a tool, about passive income and valuing experiences over material objects. By having little conversations here and there and talking about saving, she hopes they will grow up to be more financially aware. 

Related Interview: 5 Steps to Getting on the Same Financial Page as your Spouse

Their progress so far

When they first started out, their savings rate was 5-7%. Now it’s at a healthy 30%, with a goal to be retired at the age of 55.

They receive regular cash flow from their real estate properties (around $1,100 a month) and want to leave their retirement accounts as a legacy for their children.

Why real estate and not some other investment strategy? Because they found the financial independence movement in their mid-40s and realized that real estate investing would be the fastest method to get them to financial independence. 

In November 2019, Wendy retired from work (or semi-retired, since she has one client!) and is able to stay at home with her kids. Although they still have debt, it’s now their tenants that are helping them pay their student loans.

Related Interview: How We Paid Off $300,000 of Student Loans in 6 Years – with Okeoma Moronu

Wendy's advice for others tackling huge debt

If you’re someone struggling with a lot of debt, Wendy’s recommendation is to attack it as soon as possible. Look at your situation, evaluate your expenses and be willing to think outside the box. 

What is she hoping for her kids? She wants them to be able to get an education without drowning in student loans. She wants them to understand that saving is important and that you don’t need to spend everything you’ve got.

Wendy and her husband had a huge amount of debt but were able to fix their situation with intentional spending, careful planning and clever financial strategies. Their path to financial independence is now clear.


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Wendy Mays and her family


Feb 4, 2020

Multi-level marketing (MLM) is a $36 billion industry, but according to AARP, 73% of people who participate in MLMs make no money or lose money.

So what’s the appeal? Why do people keep coming back with such a high failure rate?

Today, Andy talks to Melissa Blevins from the Perfection Hangover about the two MLMs she took part in to make some extra money while staying at home with the kids and how she ended up losing money.

We talk about what MLMs are all about, Melissa’s personal experiences and her current side hustle (that has become more profitable for her).

https://youtu.be/uJ-tRHXqErc



What is an MLM?

MLM stands for “multi-level marketing”, and is sometimes called network marketing or a pyramid scheme. In those schemes, it’s the company at the top that makes all the money. Someone from the top recruits someone else, and they make money by adding you to their downline. This goes on until someone gets "burnt" and decides to quit the scheme.  

Melissa first got into MLM because she wanted to work from home so she could be with her daughter. She couldn’t start a business because she had no money and no business idea. A friend then talked to her about an opportunity where she could make the big bucks selling makeup to others. And so the MLM journey started.

The important thing to keep into account here is that MLMs sell you on the lifestyle. They don’t sell you on the product. They tell you how you’ll have freedom and flexibility, and the fact that you can make it big. This is what captured Melissa’s attention, and that’s why she got recruited.

But as Melissa says, it was the worst financial mistake she ever made.

Melissa's Bad Experience with MLMs

Her first experience with an MLM was selling makeup for Mary Kay. In order to sell the makeup, you first need to buy the inventory. So she took out an unsecured loan of $2,000 and bought boxes of makeup.

After only making $300 at a party, she realized that this new venture wasn’t going anywhere. She didn’t care about makeup and she knew she had made a mistake by getting a loan. So she sold the product back to the company for a 50% discount and ended up paying off the rest of her loan on her own.

Related Interview: 14 Profitable Side Hustles Parents Can Do From Home

Her second experience with MLM was in 2014 when she moved to Illinois. She wanted to make new friends and be part of a community. She left her banking job and was staying at home with the kids. After some time she got bored and looked for ways to make an extra income to help support her family. This time, it was Beachbody Coaching. After talking to her sister, she went full-on and bought a challenge pack, a workout program, and a superfood shake.

This time, she really gave everything to the business. She did it all:

  • Post embarrassing selfies
  • Grow her social media
  • Travel with members to the Beachbody Summit

She did it all, and yet, one year later she had made a total of $0.

Why? Because everything she earned, she would put back into the company. As she says, “you have to be the product of the product”, so she was also consuming bags of Shakeology and becoming healthy and fit in order to sell others into getting a beachbody.

One year later, she realized this was also not going anywhere. She left the Beachbody community and lost the team and the community. They turned their backs on her immediately. Another lesson learned from MLMs.

However, it’s not all bad news. Melissa learned a lot from her negative experiences with her MLMs ... Stay away from anything resembling a pyramid scheme. She did eventually start her own business with a much more successful outcome. 

What Side Hustle She Transitioned Into

Melissa is now a blogger and podcaster. 

Where did it all start? In January 2018, she started writing and running a Youtube channel. She wanted to talk to women who struggled with perfectionism, who wanted to work from home and who also had been burnt out by an MLM. 

mlm side hustle

When she started the blog, she knew this time it would be different. A blog is a long game - you need to consistently create content that helps people. So she set off to create content on both her blog and Youtube - a good content mix. 

Although her first year was full of struggles and rough patches, she still managed to make $1,500 - a whole lot more than the $0 she had made with Beachbody. In 2019, she focused on SEO, Pinterest and producing high-quality content. She made a whopping $30,000!

How did she make the money? Blogging is an excellent side hustle to have because the overheads are incredibly low. In terms of income, she makes most of her money from ad revenues, affiliate marketing and a little bit of sponsored posts. It’s going so well for her that she just recently launched her podcast, and is now also going to start selling an e-course for budgeting. 

The main difference between MLM and blogging? You need a lot of capital with MLM, whereas with blogging you hardly need any. Oh, and you don’t need to sell your friends on blogging.

Why Transparency and Authenticity is important With Online Businesses

Both Andy and Melissa have online businesses. How does someone working online keep their business authentic and transparent?

Melissa explains that it’s completely normal to start a business in order to make money. She wants to help people, but she also wants to make an income. It’s tricky to see who is authentic and who isn’t in the online world since those who work in the MLM space are also influencers who use SEO and social media marketing.

Melissa says transparency starts with staying true to who you are and keeping your values. You don’t need to say "yes" to every single deal. An example: someone approached her for a link in one of her blog posts to recommend an MLM scheme and was willing to pay $1,000. She said "no" because MLM does not align with her values.

Related Interview: How to Make $10,000 Per Month Working From Home as a Writer – with Eric Rosenberg

The truth is, it’s always better to be honest and transparent and do what you truly believe in. People really can see through a mask, and as online content creators, she feels she has a responsibility to people who read her content. 

Melissa got burnt from two MLM schemes, but in the long run, she learned a lot and was eventually able to kickstart a real business online. She tells others who may be in an MLM scheme to consider stepping away and redirecting their efforts into something they are truly passionate about.


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I truly appreciate the support everyone!

Questions?

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Truman Capote


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mlm side hustle


Feb 3, 2020

 

Our question of the month comes in from Mike:


Andy,

I saw the Business Insider article about you paying off your mortgage early.

We’re in a similar situation. With $228,000 left on our mortgage, our plan is to pay it off in 6 years. We’re looking for advice and shortcuts!


That’s awesome to hear you want to pay off your mortgage early, Mike!

You’re looking for steps, shortcuts, and advice on how to pay off your $228,000 mortgage in 6 years … Let’s do this!



1. Make a Goal

This is something that you have already started! Nice work. 

Let’s make it a SMART Goal. That's a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Based.

  • Specific: You're not saying, “My goal is to be more financially fit.” You're saying “I want to be mortgage-free!” That's specific.
  • Measurable: You have $228,000 left on your mortgage and it’s easily measured by the number decreasing to $0 overtime. 
  • Achievable: That is something you'll have to answer, Mike. Do you have enough money, time and will-power to make this happen in 6 years?
  • Relevant: These are good questions to ask before you move forward because it’s going to be a lot of work. Does this pair up with your overall financial goals? Does becoming mortgage-free help you to get where you want to go in life?
  • Time-Based: You have determined that 6 years is a good time-frame for your mortgage-free date. Your goal is time-based.

2. Use a Mortgage Payoff Calculator

Take some time playing around with this mortgage payoff calculator.

By using this calculator, you can insert:

  • Original loan amount
  • Loan term (15-year, 30-year, etc)
  • Interest rate
  • Additional principal payments you'd make each month

Let’s plug in some fictitious numbers for Mike:

  • Original loan amount: $250,000
  • Loan term: 15-year mortgage
  • Interest rate: 3.5%
  • Additional principal payments: $1,000 on average each month

That will reduce your 15-year mortgage to around a 9-year mortgage. And you’ll save around $31,000 in interest

Now those numbers may not match your situation but see what you can do, by using the calculator, to get close to your 6-year goal. And if it seems a bit crazy to pay it all off in 6 years, maybe look at 7 or 8 years instead.

Have fun with the calculator and adjust your plan accordingly. 

3. Reduce Expenses

Let’s say, you’ve played around with that calculator and it doesn’t seem like 6 years is feasible but you still want to make it happen. The first thing you can do is look into reducing your expenses so you have available cash to throw at your mortgage principal. 

Here are 5 areas to consider when it comes to reducing your expenses:

Negotiate recurring bills

It's amazing how much you can save by calling up your cable, cell phone, and insurance providers and asking for a deal. There is high competition within these industries and they are looking to retain their customers.

If they don't make it easy for you to save, find competitiv offers and ask your current provider to match the offer.

Look into MVNO cell phone plans

By pre-paying your bill you can save quite a bit more money. We recently did this with Verizon and saved around $30 per month.

Shop at a lower cost grocery store

We're big fans of Aldi in our house. They helped us to save around $300/month when we switched over from Kroger.

Eating out at restaurants less

All the dinners, drinks and lunches start to add up. See if you can cut back and save by packing your lunch for work and making more meals at home. This could be a much healthier choice as well!

Look into high deductible insurance options

If you're able to take on more of the risk today with a higher deductible, you could pay much lower premiums today. Make sure you have adequate savings to cover the deductibles before switching.

If you do, signing up for a high deductible health plan with an HSA would be a great way to save for your future health care expenses and save you money today.

4. Increase Income

Perhaps you’ve reduced your expenses as low as you can but you still want to crush that mortgage early and hit your 6-year goal. The other place to find more money is by increasing your income. 

This requires time, dedication and teamwork with your partner. Consider these 5 ways to increase your income to pay off your mortgage early:

Ask for a raise

If you’ve been working hard at your job and exceeding expectations, start a conversation with your employer about increasing your salary or hourly rate. If it’s not possible today, get them to help you outline steps to help you get there in the near future. 

Have your spouse ask for a raise 

If you’re married, your partner may be working as well. Consider what a raise in your partner’s income would do for your family.

Work overtime 

If putting in extra hours at your job is an option, consider doing it for a season. Your overtime may just help you become mortgage-free by your goal date. 

Start a side hustle

Finding a side hustle is a great way to earn extra cash. If you’re able to make money through a hobby or passion of yours, that’s even better. 

Sell Things Around Your House 

A lot of us have things lying around our house that have value. They can be sold on Facebook Marketplace for extra mortgage principal crushing money and the person buying them at a discount becomes happy too!

5. Live on a Budget 

When we craft and live on a budget we are telling ourselves that we are in control of our money. We are telling our money what to do. 

With a goal of paying off your mortgage early, a budget is crucial. 

There are dozens of online budget tools that make this process easy. Nicole and I have used Mint for almost a decade and it’s helped us do some incredible things for our family. 

If you don’t want to use an online tool, you can easily craft a budget using a spreadsheet. Just set your typical income at the top and then start lining up your expenses. 

Here's a snapshot of our budget from May 2016 (one random month in the midst of our mortgage payoff).

Income Total Percent
Andy's Paycheck $7,900 99%
Craigslist/eBay Sales $100 1%
     
Total Income $8,000  
     
Expenses (Rounded to nearest $50)    
Home    
Mortgage (includes taxes and insurance) $1,900  
Additional Principal $500  
Home Improvement $500  
Lawn Maintenence (Cutting and mulch) $200  
Cleaning Lady $100  
     
Total "Home" Expenses $3,200 40%
     
Food    
Groceries $800  
Weekday Eats $100  
     
Total "Food" Expenses $900 11%
     
Transportation    
Fuel (for 2 cars) $300  
Service & Parts $50  
     
Total "Transportation" Expenses $350 4%
     
Financial    
Roth IRA Contribution $200  
529 College Savings $500  
     
Total "Financial" Expenses $700 9%
     
Bills & Utilities    
Water Bill (quarterly) $200  
Cell Phones $200  
Natural Gas $150  
Electricity Bill $100  
     
Total "Bills & Utilities" Expenses $650 8%
     
Gifts & Donations    
Church $100  
Charity $50  
Wedding Gift $400  
Birthday Gifts $50  
     
Total "Gifts & Donations" Expenses $600 8%
     
Kids    
Kids Camps & Field Trips $300  
Swimming Lessons $150  
Baby Supplies $50  
     
Total "Kids" Expenses $500 6%
     
Entertainment    
Weekend Fun (Eating Out, Movies, Drinks, etc) $350  
Travel $350  
Subscriptions $50  
     
Total "Entertainment" Expenses $750 9%
     
Shopping    
Clothing $300  
Toiletries / Home Misc $50  
     
Total "Shopping" Expenses $350 4%
     
     
Total Expenses $8,000  

Your goal is to have all of your dollars accounted for in the month. This way you’re making your money work hard for you.

6. Set Recurring Additional Principal Payments

To keep yourself on pace for your mortgage payoff goal, set up a recurring payment toward your mortgage principal. You can do this directly with your mortgage company through their website. 

Be sure to specify that this money is for additional principal payments and not for interest. Sometimes the mortgage companies make the mistake of applying it to next month’s interest payment instead of your principal. Convenient for them and not for you. 

If you prefer to write checks with your payments, make sure to specify on the memo line and with a note that this money should go toward the principal balance only. 

7. Use New Found Money to Make Big Payments

There will be times throughout the year when you might get some new-found money and you’re going to have to make a decision on what to do with it. This can be from:

  • Tax return
  • Bonus
  • Sales commission
  • Inheritance
  • Family gifts

It’s important to have a plan before this money arrives so it doesn’t magically disappear. Decide with your partner how you want to use new-found money. 

During your mortgage payoff period, 100% of new-found money can go toward the mortgage principal. Or you can decide to only use 75% for the mortgage principal and 25% is for family vacations. 

Or you could do 70% mortgage principal, 20% fun and 10% charitable giving

Find the percentage that works for you and plan ahead because this extra money can make a huge impact on your mortgage payoff process. 

8. Meet Monthly to Review Your Progress

If you’re working with your spouse on this goal, make sure you’re meeting up at least once per month to stay on top of your budget and review your progress. Having someone to hold you accountable is so important. If you’re both on the same page with the goal, it can be more fun and enjoyable. 

When you hit a special milestone, make sure to celebrate that as well. For example, if your mortgage is at $228,000 right now, set up a memorable celebration when you hit the $200,000 mark! 

Maybe there’s an ice cream place you love to go to or maybe this night calls for investing in a babysitter for a night out. You’ve worked hard. Celebrate. 

Champagne

9. Include the Kids in the Fun

If you have kids, include them in on the fun as well. When I interviewed the McCoy Family who paid off $250,000 of debt, they used a coloring sheet that tracked their mortgage payoff process. This helped them to include the kids in on the fun!

Each time the family would pay off a certain amount of the mortgage principal, the kids would color in a brick on the house. Eventually, the kids were able to color in the entire house and they were mortgage-free. 

https://youtu.be/MG01snQhL5Q

The kids had fun and the parents had fun too. This experience is something that the McCoy kids will never forget. And you know they will be shooting to be mortgage-free when they get older as well. 

10. Celebrate (And Plan Your New Life)

When you finally get to that big day when you’re mortgage-free, make sure to celebrate. You have just done something incredible that not a lot of people do. 

Here are some celebratory ideas to think about:

  • Go on a family vacation (Disney World, go to the beach)
  • Host a nice dinner celebration with your family (and the people that supported you along the way)
  • Have a mortgage burning party with your close friends
  • Develop a pinata out of the mortgage and let your kids destroy it
  • Enjoy a nice dinner out with your spouse and toast with champagne

This moment is important and needs to be commemorated. 

Afterward, take some time to keep dreaming with your spouse about what’s next in your life. What will you do with the extra money?

This could be thousands of extra dollars per month!

How could this money change your life?

These are the questions that help us to start living out our dreams. Without a mortgage, your options start to open up. Your eyes start to see a little wider and the future doesn’t seem so far away. 

I hope these 10 steps help crush your mortgage this year Mike. $228,000 is a lot of money, but with enough planning, determination, and partnership from your spouse, you’ll get there.


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I truly appreciate the support everyone!

Questions?

I’d love to hear from you!

If you’d like your question featured on the show, reach out and let me know. It would be my honor to support you in your journey toward financial freedom.

Leave me a voicemail or connect with me on InstagramTwitter and Facebook.

Carpe Diem Quote

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.

George Bernard Shaw


What would you do if you had no mortgage payment?

PLEASE LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.


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Marriage, Kids and Money Castbox



Jan 29, 2020

One fall night in 2010, my wife Nicole and I were watching the Suze Orman Show. (Yes, I used to DVR it). There was this fun segment where someone would call in and Suze would analyze that person's financial health and give them a grade. It was called How Am I Doing?

One term that we kept seeing over and over again on this segment was “Net Worth”. Since we were personal finance newbies, we had no idea what this meant. Nicole and I were making a combined annual income of $130,000 so we figured our net worth must be HUGE.

After the show was over, we decided to see how rich we really were. There was no doubt in our mind that we’d be better off than most of the jokers that call in to the show and get an “F” grade from Suze!

We walked upstairs and started to write down all of our numbers on a big whiteboard. By separating our “assets” (what we owned) and our liabilities (what we owed) into two big columns, we started to discover that we weren’t rich.

We were kinda broke.



Although we were making a solid income together, our liabilities were much higher than our assets.

Here is a snapshot of what our numbers looked like back in 2010 (rounded educated guesstimates based on me losing some of our data along the way):  

September 2010 - Hill Family Net Worth

There’s no way were going to get an “A” grade on Suze’s show with a -$50,000 net worth!

This epiphany moment was just the jolt of reality we needed to start making progress on our finances. Our short-term goal was to get this net worth number in positive territory ASAP!

It was time for us to make a change. Here's what we did to increase our net worth by $800,000 in 8 years. 

1. Track Your Net Worth

Net Worth Total (September 2010) = -$50,000

Nicole and I quickly realized that we couldn’t improve our financial situation if we weren’t tracking our net worth. This number was going to be the barometer for our future financial success.

We took all of the numbers off of our whiteboard and inserted them into an excel spreadsheet. From that point on, we updated our asset and liability totals monthly to track our progress. Even just seeing the numbers helped!

(Side Note:  Personal Capital wasn’t around back then, but if it was, it would have made the whole net worth tracking process a lot easier. It’s free and it automatically updates your net worth by synching up your accounts. We use it now and love it.)

2. Live on a Monthly Budget

Net Worth Total (January 2011) = -$35,000

January 2011 - Hill Family Net Worth

Another monthly habit Nicole and I adopted around this time was living on a budget. We got the idea after reading Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover. He talked about the importance of living on a zero-based budget and giving every dollar an assignment.

Getting on the same financial page with Nicole before each month began was really important for us as we started our marriage.

Each month, we’d do the following:

  • Review our spending, saving and debt balances
  • Plan out next month’s budget
  • Discuss our financial dreams and goals to ensure we’re headed down a path we’re both excited about

We eventually learned about a budgeting tool called Mint that automated the budgeting process much like Personal Capital did for our net worth tracking. This tool saved us a ton of time and it was free too!

(Side Note:  If you’re looking for a budgeting tool specifically for couples, Zeta is an excellent option.)

3. Eliminate Your Consumer Debt

Net Worth Total (September 2011) = $20,000

September 2011 - Hill Family Net Worth

After being inspired by Dave Ramsey’s debt crushing ways, we decided that becoming consumer debt-free would be an excellent way to increase our net worth.

For me, I really hated having student loans and wanted them gone as soon as possible. My 6.8% interest rate did not help the process either. (Debt refinancing services like SoFi would have been huge for me back then!)

For Nicole, she loved her 2008 Audi A4 and thought it would be incredible to own it outright with no payments.

Through our monthly Budget Party, we discovered we could eliminate both of these debts before the end of the year. This would require us to essentially live on my income and use Nicole’s to pay off the debt.

The plan worked! We were consumer debt free by September 2011 and we were in the positive net worth territory to boot.

After making the final payment on Nicole’s car, we took a joy ride in her paid-for Audi A4 on a beautiful fall night in Michigan.

4. Save 50% of Your Income

Net Worth Total (January 2012) = $45,000

Hill Family Net Worth

At this point in our marriage, we were a month away from having our first child. Our financial standing was looking pretty solid. We increased our income to around $170,000 by the end of 2011. Our little Zoey would be born into a debt-free family and that made us proud.

We liked our current home, but we started thinking about our family growing from 2 to 3 (to eventually 4). Getting into a good school system was very important for us. That being said, we knew that homes in our desired school district were expensive!

Our new goal became saving up as much money as possible for a big down payment on our dream home. Our plan was to save 50% of our income and live on the other 50%.

5. Increase Your Income

Net Worth Total (February 2013) = $210,000

January 2013 - Hill Family Net Worth

Luckily, 2012 was an outstanding year for us income-wise. We were both working full-time at our jobs and brought in the most money we’ve ever made as a couple together in one year ... $280,000!

I had a commission-based sales job and I achieved the company record for most annual revenue brought in on our most important account (it was a small company).

We ended up saving way more than 50% that year. Here are some highlights of what we did with our money:

  • Saved over $100,000 cash
  • Updated my bachelor pad into a family home
  • Bought my first car with cash
  • Funded our daughter's 529 Savings Account with $10,000 when she was born
  • Traveled to Puerto Rico for a nice getaway over the holidays

6. Get a 15-Year Mortgage

Net Worth Total (January 2014) = $359,000

January 2014 - Hill Family Net Worth

When we finally bought our dream home, the cash savings we amassed allowed us to put down 45%. This cut our new mortgage principal by a sizable amount immediately.

Our plan was to pay off this mortgage in 5 years!

We went with a 15-year mortgage through LendingTree and got a super-low 3% fixed rate. This helped us to put more toward the principal balance each month and push toward our goal of becoming mortgage-free by 2018.

7. Be Flexible Because Life Happens

Net Worth Total (January 2015) = $385,000

January 2015 - Hill Family Net Worth

When our second child (Calvin) came into our lives, we decided it was best to have Nicole stay at home and raise our two kids. Since we’d been essentially living on one income for quite a while at this point, it wasn’t that big of a life shocker for us. My income was still very comfortable at around $160,000 that year. 

Our Son is BornWelcome to the World Calvin!

This income change did slow our net worth growth quite a bit, but honestly, those previous few years were unicorns! We’re just happy we saved like we did so that Nicole could spend more time with our kids. It was one of the best decisions we ever made as a family.

8. Max Your Retirement Savings

Net Worth Total (January 2017) = $547,000

January 2017 - Hill Family Net Worth

In 2016, we decided that maxing out all three of our retirement accounts (401k, Andy's Roth IRA and Nicole's Roth IRA) was a smart move. My workplace 401k had been maxed since 2013, but we had not been doing the same for our Roths.

In addition to clobbering our mortgage principal, this tax-advantaged plan helped us break the half-million mark in our net worth journey!

By this time, we were fully into Personal Capital to help us track our progress. It became quite addicting actually.

9. Pay Off Your Mortgage Early

Net Worth Total (February 2018) = $679,000

February 2018 - Hill Family Net Worth

In November 2017, we paid off our 15-year mortgage in just under 4 years. One year ahead of schedule!

Nicole, Zoey, Calvin and I had an epic mortgage freedom celebration together that we’ll never forget. We wanted our kids to remember this important moment in our lives so they too could be inspired to live without debt in the future.

$400,000 Home Paid Off in Less Than 4 YearsMortgage Freedom!

Without a mortgage, our net worth has been increased steadily. The incredible stock market surge in 2017 definitely helped as well!

10. Save For First Rental Property

Net Worth Total (January 2019) = $764,000

Net Worth Snapshot

Although 2018 saw an overall drop in the stock market, we weathered the storm and kept up a high savings rate. Most of our extra money went into a savings account to build up enough money to buy our first rental property

We also did fun things like update our home and go on some epic family vacations

Credit Card Rewards, Travel Hacking, Family VacationThe Hill Family is Cabo in 2018

11. Create a 30-Hour Work Week Lifestyle

Net Worth Total (January 2020) = $917,000

Recently, we decided that buying our first rental property was not something we wanted to do. 

Instead, we chose to use our cash as a runway for me to work on my small business full-time (or part-time rather). My goal is to work 30 hours per week so I can spend more time with family, taking care of my health and enjoying more life today. 

Andy Interviewing Rachel CruzeInterviewing Author Rachel Cruze

I was inspired by my wife who recently went back to work and created a 30-hour workweek that she loves. Her commute is short, her workload is reasonable and it’s a nice change of pace for a woman who’s been a stay-at-home Mom for nearly 5 years.

Plan For the Future

We’ve come a long way since our -$50,000 net worth in 2010. I’m so proud of the hard work that Nicole and I put in along the way. Without my wife’s partnership, none of this would have been possible.

As we’re closing in on a $1,000,000 net worth, my first thought is … it’s just a number. On the surface, it really doesn’t mean anything.

But when you peel back the layers and find out what’s inside, that’s when you discover what our net worth is made of. Our home, our cars, our retirement savings and our emergency savings are all things that bring our family joy. These assets will allow us to live happy, healthy and purposeful lives. They will also allow us to give generously of both our time and our money.

With some hard work and a little luck, our kids will see our example and continue to strengthen this family tree of ours in the future.



Where are you in your net worth journey?

Please let me know in the comments below!


Marriage and Couple Holding Each Other in a Field


Jan 27, 2020

Okeoma Moronu recently paid off over $300,000 of student loans. She and her husband worked for over 6 years to become debt-free and now they are making some big life changes with $4,000 extra per month.

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Sam Dogen from Financial Samurai quit his job in 2012 and is now a stay-at-home Dad. He shares how he makes $200,000 per year in passive income from home.

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