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Author: fredinseoul Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 308369  
Subject: A Big Happy Dance Date: 10/19/2005 7:03 AM
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I am debt free. All of it. No CC debt, no student loan, no car loan, nothing. I just finished paying off my mortgage on Monday.

This is long.

It hasn't quite sunk in yet. I have been in debt, more or less since 1987. It is a classic story, I got a credit line, ran it up. Paid it off. Ran up a credit card, paid it down, ran it up again, paid it down. I was a financial yo-yo during the 1990s.

It got craziest in 1997/98, when I borrowed $19,000 on my credit card to pay for housing costs. I also took out a $8,600 car loan for a used car. I was a wreck.

To get out of this hole, I worked full time and had part time jobs. I took in a roommate. I packed lunches. I had the cc debt down signficantly, but ran it up one more time.

Then, I got serious. I took a job promotion to earn a bit more money and really knuckled down on the debt. It wasn't pleasant. I got up, went to work, went to my part-time job, went home to sleep and did it again. I had one day a week where I had no work. I was very depressed about the debt. But it paid off. I also found the message boards at the Fool and started posting and learning and becoming motivated.

I stopped carrying the cc with me. I paid for everything in cash. If I didn't have enough, I simply stopped buying things. I didn't buy books(that was hard), I didn't buy CDs, I didn't travel, I didn't go out to lunch. If I looked at buying something, I asked myself "Will I die if I don't buy this?" If the answer was "No," I put back the item and went and thought about it. To avoid temptions, I stopped going in stores. I would only go into a store to buy something I really needed. I put every dime I could to the CC. It took me from 1999 - 2001 to pay off the card for the last time. I haven't paid cc interest since November 2001.

Then I got married. (A very good thing.) No, the marriage didn't make me lose my mind and run up the credit card. I moved to the 5th most expensive city in the world, Seoul. My wife and I looked around and ended up buying an apartment for just slightly less than a large house and yard in my hometown. We had some money for a good down payment, 40% of the cost. We agreed to pay off the loan as quickly as we could and ended up doing a three year loan. This mortagage ended on Monday.

Obviously I made a few mistakes. I should have thrown away the credit card in 1994. I shouldn't have run it up the 2nd, 3rd or 4th time. I made one more mistake on a mortgage that took nearly 85% of my salary and about 1/2 of my wife's. We had little room for error and no investing money. I regret that now, but it is over.

I kept saving all of this time through my 401K. I was at 10% until I took the mortgage. At times, that was the only thing I was able to save. I spent many a night looking at the growing balance, disheartened that that was all I had(I got most serious during the tech collapse, the 401K didn' do very well those years) While I paid back the mortgage, I dropped it to 6%, my company's match. My wife also saved during this time. I have moved my contribution back up to 10% and am looking at upping that amount to the 20% limit.

I started all this with an efund. Thank God I did. It took a beating, but saved my bacon a couple of times and is mostly depleted now. I am able to focus on building it up now, but I need a bit more luck to get back to a comfortable level. Keep in mind that because of the efund, I paid no interest on the cc.

The biggest thing I've learned here? Financial Discipline. While I don't track my money as closely as I could, but I allocate my money to the categories I have set up. When my focus was the cc debt, I put the vast majority of my money there. When I didn't have debt, I was able to save a lot. When I paid the house, I focused on the house. I allowed myself money to be used on food, gas, gifts, whatever, but I didn't track it to the penny. If I decided to spend $40 on a night out, I did that, but this was after I had paid the bills. If I didn't have the money, I wished everybody a good time and went home.

Now that I am done, I will focus on my non-retirement investing. I've been reading books and learning from the message boards. I have a plan and will implement it as soon as I get a bit more money in my efund.

If you've managed to read this far, keep the faith. You can get out of debt. It isn't easy and it isn't fast, usually. But with discipline and time, you can climb out of the debt whole and build some personal wealth.

Good luck

fredinseoul
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