People view debt in different ways—from being a useful tool to becoming an unbearable prison of your own making, the range of opinions on debt is broad…and loud. They also deal with it differently, with some choosing to stick their head in the sand and others working two jobs to regain their independence from debt.
In early 2008, I got on a short kick where I interviewed financially successful people to find out how they made their way. Not an original idea, but an interesting exercise. I ended up having around 30 of these conversations. Most of the details have faded, but two stuck in my head.
One was a young man who preached the virtues of “leverage” and how if you want to get ahead you’re really going to need to leverage all the money you can get your hands on. I found out later he’d filed for bankruptcy.
The other was (and likely still is) the owner of a large furniture store north of Salt Lake City. When we talked he was in his mid-fifties, with his kids grown and gone. His advice to me was to avoid debt, but the message that stuck was one of urgency.
(I wish the “avoid debt” piece had stuck a little better).
When he and his wife got married (around 1970), they bought their first home for $35,000 (around $251,500 in today’s dollars). I don’t remember his exact reason, but he told me he had a serious aversion to debt, and his wife felt the same way. They resolved to pay off their $251,500 (inflation adjusted) mortgage as fast as they could.
Working Two Jobs to Pay Off a Mortgage
“We both started working two jobs for two years, and we paid the thing off.”
To pay off a $251,500 home in two years requires just over $2400 per week, or around $10,500 per month. We didn’t cover the details of how they did it, just that they did it. I’d imagine it took an incredible amount of sacrifice—far beyond the time investment of both spouses working long hours at multiple jobs, which isn’t insignificant.
His primary income at the time came from his job selling furniture. After a couple of years on the job, he had an opportunity to open his own store. Although his house was paid off by then, he and his wife didn’t have much cash on hand. Opening his store would require a loan of $50,000 (just over $359,000 in today’s dollars).
He borrowed the money, opened the store, gave up the majority of his free time, and basically lived there until he’d repaid the entire loan—in about two years.
At the time, I was not in a position to follow his exact plan for getting ahead financially. He didn’t have kids when he was paying off his house (although they had their first while he was paying off the loan on the furniture store). My wife wasn’t employed at all, let alone working two full time jobs.
But it doesn’t matter. The point isn’t that you have to pay off your house in two years. It’s that you want to figure out how to feel true urgency about your biggest financial goal. Not at the expense of health or important relationships, but absolutely at the (temporary) expense of foregone luxury. While you’re at it, make sure you’re working with a good definition of luxury. I loved Mr. Money Mustache’s comment in a recent interview we did: “Do you have access to a faucet? If you do, that’s pretty sweet.”
As for the young furniture store owner, his business thrived. The extra income he earned, and the freedom it eventually provided, helped him become financially independent at a young age.
“You’ll be amazed how easy it is to assemble a big pile of money once you’re totally free from debt,” he told me.
I’ll have to take his word for it, but I’m trying to act accordingly.
Looking for ways to pay your own mortgage off quickly? Check out these 5 ideas. Need a budget to help make it happen? Try YNAB for free for 34 days!