Our Net Worth and Financial Freedom
I don’t think I’ve ever actually stated the amount of our net worth on this site, and I don’t plan on it, but I do want to take this time to talk about where we stand now that we’ve been debt-free for close to 2 years (excluding mortgage debt).
I use the site NetworthIQ to keep track of our monthly net worth changes. Behind that, I keep track of our finances with a combination of Quicken and an Excel spreadsheet.
My first net worth entry dates back to May 2006 when we had a negative $15,000 net worth. That’s before I started factoring in our mortgage debt and home worth. The only reason the amount wasn’t even higher (more negative) was our assets like vehicles, personal property and laughable retirement and savings accounts helped balance things out. At that time, we still had about $94,000 in non-mortgage debt to pay off from our original $120k or so.
But since that “original” amount, we had accrued more, or different, debts by trading in cars for a loss and still using our credit cards.With the credit cards, I took advantage of 0% balance transfer deals to avoid paying interest for all those years, except maybe 2 months. Quite an accomplishment, but a big ding against my credit score and history. I’ve recovered nicely since then and have credit scores in the top tier versus near-subprime levels when we bought our house in 2004.
But where do we stand now? Well, now we have a 6-figure net worth. I’ll say it’s closer to $500k than $0 and leave it at that, but how do we get to that amount? I know some people refuse to track their home price in their net worth because 1) it fluctuates so much and 2) it doesn’t factor in costs to sell, and personal property is a tough one, but here’s what we got:
This is easy enough. We only have to track our mortgage. It started around $390,000 over 9 years ago, with 2 loans, and we’ve paid off $125,000 on our house. That means we paid off our 2nd mortgage, and we’ve chopped nearly $50k off our first mortgage. We still owe over a quarter million dollars, and it sounds a little scary saying it that way, but in the grand scheme of things, I’m quite comfortable with that amount.
You see, we live in the Washington D.C. region. It’s one of the few big cities that is actually growing in the U.S., with many new jobs here thanks to the federal government proximity, as well as healthcare, IT and more. It’s a very white-collar town, and I don’t doubt that we can definitely sell for what we owe and maybe more than what we paid (based on some recent comparable sales . Not everyone in D.C. can say the same thing. During the peak in 2005-2006, people WAYYY overpaid while we only marginally overpaid for our home. The market has come back up to our levels at least, and I think we might even make “a profit” if we sold close to summertime (since we have a pool).
I put “profit” in quotes because when you own a home and maintain it properly, there’s no profit to be made. For example, we’ve spent over $15k on maintenance and repair on our pool alone. There’s taxes, insurance (much more expensive than renters insurance) and all the little and big things that can and do go wrong inside and outside of the home, especially a 70-year-old one.
Here’s where I won’t really tell exact amounts because I know I’m not completely anonymous, and I’d rather some people not know exactly what we own. I track our savings account and “monthly overage” (the rolling amount in our checking that I haven’t moved to savings). Years ago, I thought keeping a hundred extra in our checking was enough, but now I keep a few grand because we pay off our credit cards each month. And we use our credit cards for EVERYTHING WE CAN. In fact, last year alone, we earned close to $700 in cash rewards (I don’t do miles) and didn’t spend a penny on interest.
Speaking of our savings account, it’s under 6-figures, but it keeps growing every few months when I dump a few grand in there. I alternate between paying a lot extra towards the mortgage vs sending it to our savings account. Regardless, I always send at least an extra $1000 towards our mortgage each month, if not more (our payment is now just under $1000 a month, but that’s a different story). I used to have different sub-accounts for travel, home improvement, emergency, etc., but now it’s all back together in one amount because when it comes to things like, say, travel, we put it on our credit card and pay it off with that “rolling overage” each month. It’s just much easier to manage one big number than to a bunch of little accounts, but if it works for you, then keep at it!
Alright, what other assets do we have? Retirement accounts! I said above that our savings and retirement accounts were laughable nearly 7 years ago. While we’re nowhere near where I’d like to be with retirement, it’s about 10x as much as 7 years ago now, give or take. Only recently have I upped our contribution amounts to try to max out each year (I came close last year, but I was way off with my wife’s 401k). I expect to max out both of our 401ks this year, and maybe even start contributing to our Roth IRAs again.
What else do we have? We talked about cash and retirement, so that leaves the fun depreciating assets of cars and the hard to nail down “personal property” amount. I’ll say that our “personal property” sits at $20,000 based on our homeowner’s insurance recommendation, but whether we would ever get that much if we had to cash out, I don’t know. I know we wouldn’t get it if we have a giant yard sale, but if we worked hard to liquidate over a couple years, perhaps.
Now onto cars. I use KBB to track our 2 cars (2006 Honda Ridgeline and 2007 MINI Cooper S). You can actually create an account, add your vehicles and customize them, then log in whenever you like and see their going rate (while updating the mileage of course). On a scale of 1-4 (4 being best), I use the Private Party price, with a 2 (Good) for my truck and a 3 (Very Good) for the MINI because I think that’s how I would market them if we had to sell. So right now, we’re sitting on a little over $20k in auto assets that goes up one month and down another.
And we have one other set of assets, which is cash value on our whole life insurance policies. WHAT WHAT WHAT?!? You own WHOLE LIFE?!? Who would do such a thing? Well, we do, and the dividends are really starting to pay off, literally. While we also have term life through both our employers, we recognize that it ends when we leave that employer, so we also carry additional term insurance with another carrier. We got our insurance close to 10 years ago, and those premiums are MUCH less than if we were to buy now. There are also a few other tangible and intangible benefits with our whole life policies and provider that enticed us to buy, and I don’t regret it. Despite the debate some might have over whole vs term, I like our mix and I’m sticking with it.
What’s our plan for the future?
Honestly, we don’t have a plan. We’ve decided to not have children and use our time to devote to work and travel. We actually have a big trip booked for this year, and I’m sure we’ll do a number of road trips like usual. We have a good deal of “disposable income” now that we’re 1) out of consumer debt and 2) we’ve done well in our jobs and side businesses, so we’ll continue to divide it up between paying down our mortgage and increasing savings/retirement/charity. We help out our families when they need it financially, and are now considering more what we want to do within our careers, including if it means moving elsewhere.
Being debt-free AND having done well financially through hard work, networking and what some might call God’s grace and others might call luck, we no longer worry (as much) about failing financially and falling immediately into a hole. We know we have a big cushion to soften the blow of a lost job, and good friends and family to back us up and help if we need it. My own mindset has changed dramatically from the early days of Clever Dude when all I thought about day and night was debt, frugality and the one day where we would be free from the bonds of financial servitude. We’re not nearly wealthy enough to do anything we want, but as we continue on with our careers, we get ever closer to a life of true financial freedom. Perhaps one day we’ll even be “risky” enough to change things completely and move to another country…or maybe even have children. But that decision seems a long way off from now.
How about you? Are you debt-free and how are you living life? What about those many of you still in debt? What do you dream about when you’re finally free?