This article was written by a former classmate of mine, Jonathan Bade, PharmD, describing the journey he and his wife (Lindsey Bade, PharmD) took to pay off $160,000 in a few short years. After paying off those student loans, they are coming close to having a paid for home and are well on their way to financial freedom! Jonathan and Lindsey are graduates of Ohio Northern University (Go Polar Bears!) and reside in the Dayton, OH area with their two children Alexa (4 years) and Jacob (19 months). Jonathan is the 340B Pharmacy Coordinator at Grandview Medical Center and Lindsey is a staff pharmacist at Ken’s Pharmacy
Eight years have gone by, and we’re still aggressively tackling debt. Today, we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel – as we are getting close to paying off our home mortgage. While not always easy, we’ve chosen to strive for financial peace. Here is the story of the journey my wife and I took to pay off our student loans and be on the path towards financial freedom.
Lindsey and I graduated from Ohio Northern University with student debt totaling $160k (I have to throw in a plug that $120k was mine) Ouch! Since I graduated a year before Lindsey, I made a decision (and was fortunate enough) to live at home with my parents my first year working as a professional. With virtually no living expenses, a nice company sign on bonus (in which every penny went to pay back loans), and putting in 50-60 hour workweeks, I was able to attack my portion of the debt viciously. I like to use the analogy “to start a fire with the sun and a magnify glass you have to keep steady on one single point.” That’s exactly what I did attacking my student loans starting from the smallest debt to largest (regardless of interest rate). Emotional wins by knocking one after the other spread like a wildfire. Quick wins! Mathematically it makes sense to go after the highest interest rate first, but emotion is what fuels our drive. The sense of accomplishment from paying off a loan gives you momentum to attack the next loan. I had been used to living on nothing like the typical college bachelor, so that’s the lifestyle I maintained.
2009 was a life-changing year for us. Lindsey graduated in May; we got married in June, and bought our first home with 20% down in July. Her small amount of debt became ours after marriage, and we continued to kill it together, smallest to largest. We became completely debt free (except for our 15yr mortgage) on New Year’s Day 2011. We remember that day like it was yesterday!
Lindsey and I continued to work full-time, and soon our focus shifted to family. She had a new professional opportunity arise unexpectedly soon after our last loan payment. She was excited to pursue it knowing it was a good fit for a part-time professional/part-time stay-at-home mom. Fast forward 5 years now and two beautiful kids later, Lindsey continues to work outside the home 12 hours a week electing to stay home and raise our one and four year old children.
Since becoming debt free in January 2011, Lindsey and I invest 15% of our own income (not including employer contributions) into retirement and invest monthly for the kids’ college since birth. All along our journey, we have given to our church and other charitable organizations. Giving is a win-win situation. You feel good when you give, plus there is someone benefiting on the other side. Not to mention, an important thing to teach the children.
Within the past year, we have really attacked our mortgage; contributing everything extra at the end of the month towards our principal balance. We now have less than 8 months until our home will be paid off (7 years early)!!! We have a giant red poster that we both see every day of the rolling balance of our mortgage. It’s a visual reminder of our progress and motivation that we are almost there! On it we have, “The borrower is slave to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7).
We all know financial problems can destroy relationships and lead to divorce. Lindsey and I want to protect something that means so much to the two of us. To help us stay on the same page, at the end of every month after the kids go to bed, we sit down and budget. We review how we did that month and set the budget for the next month. We don’t finish our meeting until we both agree on all budget categories. If something does come up in a month, we revisit the budget and decide where we’re going to take the funds from to keep our budget balanced. Every dollar of income has a purposeful agreed on assignment.
We are very goal oriented people. To help us stay motivated and disciplined, we have specific shared goals…
- Fully fund our kids’ education (including college)
- Pay cash for an oceanfront property
- Have specific levels of net worth at certain ages
- To give more freely and be outrageously generous
- Retire no later than age 60, and so on.
Building wealth is 80% behavior and 20% head knowledge. Everyone knows what we should do, but do we have the discipline to do it? No matter how hard we try, we will never keep up with the Joneses. It doesn’t take an intricate investment portfolio to become a millionaire. It’s just the simple behaviors of investing, saving, and living on less than your make.
Our advice is to get rid of debt! ALL OF IT! It is so incredibly freeing not having any payments! We are financially sound, but we continue to cut our expenses because we don’t like payments… bye bye $120/mo DirectTV and hello $11/mo Hulu and free YouTube. If your employer didn’t give you a raise this year because of the ‘tough economy’, give yourself a raise! Kick the auto loan at 5% interest and get a 5% raise! It’s that simple.
Finally, we are a very spiritually oriented family. Lindsey and I want to be a good example and teach our kids how to manage money the way God intends. We always look to Christ and the scriptures for wisdom, guidance, and knowledge for anything in our lives. Do you know how much the bible references money and wealth? …Over 2000 times! Lindsey and I believe that all money and wealth is God’s; we are just the managers for Him. ‘A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children’ Proverbs 13:22.
So be different! Change your family tree! Don’t keep up with the Joneses. Don’t do what normal people are doing. If they’re making fun of you, you’re doing the right thing. Keep life simple and keep your priorities straight. As one of Lindsey and I’s favorite authors would say, ‘Live like no one else so later you can live and give like no one else’ (Dave Ramsey).
Good luck to all those reading!