So let’s break this down. Anyone who has pursued financial freedom knows that it’s more than a trip or adventure. There is no easy path (unless you are a trust fund baby) and the vast majority of us have a huge upward climb to get there. The math can be relatively easy for individuals who make an average to above average wage. The hard part is resisting the temptations that are in front of us every day. Even harder is sticking with something for a long period of time and delaying gratification. It is all of these things, and that’s part of the reason why I landed on the term pilgrimage for this blog.
The pursuit of financial freedom is definitely a journey, and for most of us a long one. Once you get there I’ve been told it most certainly is a sacred place. The act of religious devotion part is debatable, though if I thought long enough about it I’m sure I could come up with something intelligent. There are more references to money in the bible than just about anything in life, so while the purpose of this blog is absolutely not to worship money, I do believe that money can allow us to lead a more purposeful life regardless if our calling is of religious devotion or not.
Our financial pilgrimage started back in 2011. And here we are today still on the journey six years later.
Our journey has been filled with ups and downs. Good decisions and questionable decisions. Happiness and frustration.
I’ve read all of the books. It all started back in 2011 reading books such as Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Both piqued my interest, though I was left at a crossroads of deciding to payoff my debt or aggressively starting to purchase assets.
Our situation in 2011 was not as dire as many people in the United States. We had a six figure mortgage, about $50,000 in student loans, two modest car payments, and a few other small loans. All together, my wife and I were in debt about $200,000. My wife had quit her job a few years before to pursue a career in teaching, which meant two more years of student loans. That also meant we were living on one income until she reached her goal and found a teaching job in September 2012.
Given our situation we were at a crossroads. Do we continue down the path of debt like most of the people we know? I was approaching the age of 30, my wife a few years younger. Looking around my friends and family were starting to drive nicer cars, buy bigger houses, and take nicer trips. I had a good job, so we should enjoy all of those things as well, right?
Then we started having issues with our house. Both of our showers were leaking into the outdated basement. We didn’t have much in savings so had to go to the Bank for a home equity loan to make repairs on our home. More debt…
Somewhere during that process we realized that wasn’t the life we wanted to live. Working hard to buy more stuff, to impress other people that we didn’t care much about, all while being indebted, did not sound like our idea of the life we worked hard to achieve. Thankfully we came to this realization when we were only $200,000 in debt.
Today is November 6, 2017 and we are close to paying off all of our debt. The student loans, cars, and other small loans are all paid off. We have also been working hard to pay off the mortgage, which has just under $40,000 remaining. Paying down the mortgage during the past few years has been by far the biggest challenge. There are no small victories along the way like when a student loan or car payment is paid off. It’s just one massive loan that seemingly takes forever to chip away at.
I’m starting this blog to share our story. To share the ups and downs over the past six years. To share satisfaction and struggles with paying off debt. To share my unique views on financial literacy and financial freedom which is a combination of many of the great people that I’ve learned from through books, podcasts, and conversations. And hopefully soon, to bring you all along on our journey as we transition from aggressively paying down loans to aggressively investing in pursuit of financial freedom.
I know too many people in their late 20s and 30s who make really good money, but choose to go deep into debt to buy nice cars, big homes, and expensive vacations. They work jobs that are unfulfilling, yet are stuck because quitting means not being able to pay back their lenders. That is who I hope for my audience to be for this blog. The people who are middle to upper middle class where reaching financial freedom can be a realistic goal. Back in 2011 I stopped thinking about money and debt as a way to purchase stuff. I started thinking about how to use money to achieve a more purposeful life.
As for me, I just turned 36 years old and am married with a three year old boy and another baby on the way. My wife and I are both born and raised in St. Louis, MO.
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.