This week we are excited to share another story from our Young Debt-Free Families interview series. Jeff from Have Your Dollars Make Sense joins us to share his family’s debt free living story.
Jeff’s story isn’t overly flashy. In fact, Jeff’s entire approach to becoming debt free has been by the book. When you boil everything down in the personal finance space that’s what it all comes down to. Jeff shows you the roadmap. His approach will allow him to retire within about 10 years before the age of 50.
What Jeff’s story tells me is that this path is available to anyone that makes a decent income. The hardest part is to ignore the noise and focus on your goals, not keeping up with others.
Please continue to read on to learn more about Jeff’s financial journey to pay down debt and build a life that will allow him to retire early. Even better if his children are able to reach financial independence even faster.
Living a Debt Free Life – Interview with Jeff from HYDMS
1) Start by telling us about yourself. Please include any details you feel comfortable sharing about your family, job situation, income level, and amount of debt paid.
My name is Jeff, I’m a 38 year old father of two young children. My son is 7 and my daughter is 3 going on 11. I’ve been married for 9 years and have no debt (other than that pesky mortgage, but I’m working on it). I’m lucky enough that both my wife and I have good paying jobs (both over 100k), but we live in northern New Jersey, fairly close to NYC so the cost of living is on the higher end. For the most part our debt has been kept in check, but over the years I’ve paid off multiple student loans (5k and 15k respectively) as has my wife. We’ve gotten rid of all car payments, paid off our HELOC, which at its height was a shade over 40k.
2) What inspired you to payoff your debt? Did you have a specific moment where you decided to make it a goal to payoff your debt?
No specific moment I could think of, but I was just tired of it. I really got into investing around the age of 30. It just clicked one day that leaving my money in a HYSA just wasn’t going to cut it. I started with 10k in the market and went from there. Once I started I wanted to keep putting money where it was best used and debt was certainly in the way of that. I wanted to be free and clear to start building the life I knew we could achieve.
3) How did you stay disciplined throughout the process to pay down your debt?
Luckily, I’ve always been pretty good with money and setting goals with myself. Once I saw the debt disappearing and especially the amount of interest I was paying significantly drop, it was easy to stay on point. I also made all my extra payments automatic, so no thinking about it, it was just part of the budget now.
4) Were there any apps, tools, or websites that were especially helpful in paying down debt?
Besides the automatic extra payments, nothing in particular was used. I mean, I hawk all my accounts most of the time anyway, so really logging into most of my accounts at least once a week was about it.
5) What advice would you provide to other young families who are overcome by the stresses of debt?
You’re not the only ones to have faced this challenge and although it won’t be easy, it’s totally worth it. Don’t worry about getting your kids 100 toys for christmas, you’d be surprised how well they do with less. Don’t worry about fancy cars, vacations, or any of that other stuff. Start with small changes and work your way up, once you see the debt slowly disappearing, nothing will stop you from getting to the finish line.
6) What was the most challenging part in your journey to become debt-free?
Really just looking at the time frame and being patient. I wanted the debt gone so much, I always felt like I could be doing more. I hated doing the math and having to wait 10, 15, 20 months before the loans would be paid off. If I was ever just relaxing, I would feel that I should have been doing something to make extra cash or be figuring out ways to save more.
7) How has becoming debt-free changed your family’s life? How do you expect it will impact your family’s life going forward?
I’d say the day to day stuff hasn’t changed too much. We’ve never been flashy people so spending was never an issue. Now that the debt is gone, most of it now goes into our investment accounts and paying off my mortgage that much faster. With my current plan, I’ll have it paid off in about 10 years. It’s a touch balance because I do have a relatively low interest rate and the interest is tax deductible. I would love to have no mortgage but I also know the value of investing early. Hopefully in 10 years, it all pays off and I’ll be financially independent at a nice age of 48.
8) What are future plans for your family after becoming debt free?
A big reason I invest is not only so I can be financially independent, but so that my kids can be too at a much earlier age than myself. My plan is to continue to accrue assets instead of liabilities and hopefully one day hand these off to my children so that they can pursue something they love instead of chasing money.
9) Are you pursuing (or have you reached) financial independence?
Currently pursuing. Hopefully with everything I’m doing, and depending on how the cost of college shapes up over the next decade, I’ll be able to retire by the age of 48 at the latest. I have plans that would potentially let me leave my current job for something where I work for myself, but I’d like a bit more in the old college funds in case it doesn’t work out.
10) Is there anything that you haven’t yet covered that you’d like to share?
I believe the biggest key to becoming debt free is changing your mindset. Forget about what everyone else is doing, because they aren’t debt-free! You need to decide if you want to look and act wealthy, or actually be wealthy. It’s not all about cutting back on all your spending, but making sure that what you do spend your money on has value to you and makes you happy because you like it, not because you think others will be impressed.
11) Where can we learn more about your story?
I don’t write too much about myself, but you can find my thoughts I have on all sorts of topics at HaveYourDollarsMakeSense.com.
THANKS TO Jeff FOR BEING WILLING TO SHARE HIS FAMILY’S debt freedom STORY. IF YOU ARE A DEBT FREE FAMILY AND WOULD LIKE TO SHARE YOUR STORY PLEASE CONTACT US. THANKS FOR READING!
Mark is the founder of Financial Pilgrimage, a blog dedicated to helping young families pay down debt and live financially free. Mark has a Bachelor’s degree in financial management and a Master’s degree in economics and finance. He is a husband of one and father of two and calls St. Louis, MO, home. He also loves playing in old man baseball leagues, working out, and being anywhere near the water. Mark has been featured in Yahoo! Finance, NerdWallet, and the Plutus Awards Showcase.