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I'm a little surprised no one smarter than me has stopped by to make suggestions here, but then again the credit history and credit score discussion was pretty interesting.

In any case, it's great that you don't have to contribute to your defined-contribution plan to get the "match." It's potentially still worth looking at. It definitely depends on your risk tolerance and how much you know about investing. But if there is a fund that is essentially a "mimic the S&P 500" fund with a very low total cost, you likely have a good place to start stashing your funds.

Now, as to the sustainability. You have proven that you can increase your income by working a lot, and you have proven that you can be a really solid grownup about what you do with the funds that come in. Those are really excellent qualities to build on. Now the question is -- how do you make every hour of your time work harder on your behalf?

There are a lot of ways to do it -- usually by increasing the value of your skill set. That might be improving your technical expertise and getting a promotion into more complex technical work, or it might be improving your leadership and management skills and going for a promotion into supervision. If you consider the latter, be cautious because you can make a ton in overtime that won't be matched by the increase in base pay that you can make becoming a supervisor. Still, if you become a supervisor who works 45 or 50 hours a week instead of a line employee who works 60 hours a week, you may free yourself up for freelance work that brings in even more.

You can also consider a variety of other side hustles, all depending on your skill set. Just make sure that you do good, ethical work for good, ethical people.

ThyPeace, probably there's a lot more to be said here.
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No. of Recommendations: 2
Good job!
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No. of Recommendations: 8
It. Is. Finished.

Many thanks to all of you Fools who have been helpful along the way. Your feedback and input have been invaluable. I'm definitely walking on Sunshine today, but have to keep it brief because of current overtime.


Wow, that's 4 months before you had anticipated. Great job! Glad you're still able to get OT, and apparently the side hustles are doing well.

That said - it's not that it's finished - it's just that you're now on a different journey - one to increase your net worth by increasing assets, rather than paying down debt.

Focus on putting money into an emergency fund, putting money away for those irregular expenses, and funding your retirement (including getting any/all employer matches that you may be eligible for).

AJ
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No. of Recommendations: 13
YYYYYYAAAAASSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is what happens when I'm away from the boards for a few days -- something awesome happens and I'm the last to know. Congratulations on this major HUGE milestone!!!!

I hope you have spent the last few days just basking in the glow of Awesomeness. This is one of the few financial accomplishments in life that has a lasting impact on a person, I think. Much more than that little incremental "hey I got a raise that amounts to $25 every paycheck" stuff that is the more usual stuff of finances.

Now, I almost never disagree with AJ, but I will comment on her reply to you:

Focus on putting money into an emergency fund, putting money away for those irregular expenses, and funding your retirement (including getting any/all employer matches that you may be eligible for).

This is actually reasonable advice.. But -- I want to know what YOU want to do with your funds. Maintaining financial discipline is genuinely important, and part of that means figuring out what YOUR most important goals are. We are all in different stages of life with different important upcoming events -- so what do YOU want to work on next? Maybe it's exactly what AJ said, but it's okay if it's a variant that works better for you.

The rest of this is just my own somewhat meandering path, which is not a suggestion of things you should do, but a broadening of the possibilities you can use to brainstorm your goals.

After I paid off the first layer of ugly debt, I wanted to max out my 401(k) (and later my TSP and later also max out the catch-up contributions), help my husband max out his TSP once we were married, get our two-mortgage household down to one mortgage and eventually no mortgage, do several renovations on the remaining house, meet the commitments we had made for all the kids' college, and build toward FIRE (Financial Independent/Early Retirement). We have since made it through all of those goals as well, and have chosen the FI route rather than the RE route.

And we have had the freedom to do some things we never considered before. We took the time to revamp our health. I lost more than 60 pounds, DH lost more than 80 pounds. We both work out regularly, and have muscles where there was just flab before. We eat a far more healthy and satisfying diet. That took a huge investment of our mental and physical resources that we could not have done while life was a tiger trying to eat us for lunch.

That led to another shift in goals -- one associated with continuing to build our own stability while helping our community in ways that are important to us (primarily around reducing obesity, improving nutrition, and reducing food insecurity). I've had the freedom to pursue certification in nutrition coaching and have begun a side hustle/second career doing that.

And we have small luxuries that make us happy. We have a lady who comes to clean the house every other week, leading to much relief for the whole household. We can afford to take piano lessons, something that gives both me and my husband a great deal of satisfaction. We don't worry about the cost of regular visits to family... or didn't, before Covid. Now those trips are much curtailed and we are none too happy about it.

But we have the freedom to consider spending the entire month of December with my dad, with only negotiations with my ex to deal with before we do it.

This is all possible because of the ongoing discipline we have applied to all aspects of our lives. Your path will surely be different, but it can be just as much fun as you continue to apply laser-focus to the things that you want most.

ThyPeace, this is the stuff that I have been resisting saying for a few months now, just in case you were wondering.
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No. of Recommendations: 7
Thanks very much for the continued encouragement.

While there is much to consider, I am just basking for now. The echo of "WE'RE DEBT FREE" is still ringing loudly and I want to take a little time to just breathe and feel the sun on my face. At the moment, I feel the need to NOT reflect too heavily on the past debt journey. I'm also not ready to mentally invest in formulating future plans as they relate to finances. Not yet.

Right now, I just want to bask and coast for a while before refocusing on the next phase. At this point, I just need a mental pullback. We will continue with extreme frugality and overtime to the extent it is available. We WILL earn above our living--that has been the key-- and cash WILL accumulate. I'm just not prepared to plan for every single dollar as feverishly as we have been...for the moment. Accumulate now. Plan another day. That day may be the first of the year, possibly sooner.

My next non-financial projects will focus on mental and physical and marital health. The debt free journey has taken a significant toll on each. I won't dwell on those here.

Financially, things on the horizon will continue to force our hand.

1. Fully funded E-fund. I will be happy with the low end for now, so three months expenses is the goal.

2. I'm feeling really uneasy about our tax situation for this year. I feel the need to let cash accumulate and brace for a large bill. "Prepare for the worst and hope for the best." We have never had any issues, but I'm nervous about this year. We need a tax guy.

3. Our roof will be an expensive job and will become more emergent within 3-4 years.

Those are some issues to tackle, and they will further delay investing for retirement. We are 50yo and can't afford any more delay, but, as the Afford Anything podcast says: "You can afford ANYthing! You just can't afford EVERYthing!"



OK, time for a mental break and some Sunday family time! Thanks again!!!
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I'm really impressed. You set an ambitious goal, and achieved it despite setbacks. Congrats!

My next non-financial projects will focus on mental and physical and marital health.
Good. OK to put some things on the back burner temporarily, but not for too long.

...feeling really uneasy about our tax situation for this year.
Lemme guess: your side hustles didn't withhold taxes. If you calculate your taxes in February, that gives you two months' notice to come up with the money due. Given what you've accomplished so far, you'll be able to handle that.

Enjoy your mental break and some Sunday family time!

Cheers,
YG
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My next non-financial projects will focus on mental and physical and marital health. The debt free journey has taken a significant toll on each. I won't dwell on those here.

Financially, things on the horizon will continue to force our hand.

1. Fully funded E-fund. I will be happy with the low end for now, so three months expenses is the goal.

2. I'm feeling really uneasy about our tax situation for this year. I feel the need to let cash accumulate and brace for a large bill. "Prepare for the worst and hope for the best." We have never had any issues, but I'm nervous about this year. We need a tax guy.

3. Our roof will be an expensive job and will become more emergent within 3-4 years.


These are more than enough for your next few months. Put 'em in a spreadsheet and start to watch where they go. Just update yourself every couple of weeks and observe for now. The E-fund (along with continuing the debt numbers) will keep you from losing ground, and the rest will move you forward.

And yes, coasting and remembering how to breathe are important.

Resources:

Mental health:
There are hotlines if you need immediate help -- don't be afraid to call them. If you need longer-term assistance, counseling can be really beneficial. And also expensive; work it in to the budget if you need it.
Eckhart Tolle, _The Power of Now_
Thich Nhat Hanh, _Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames_
Steven Stosny, https://compassionpower.com/emotional-abuse-treatment/
The Dalai Lama, _Ethics for a New Millennium_

Physical health:
Diet: www.precisionnutrition.com
Movement: Jerzy and Aniela Gregorek, _The Happy Body_, https://thehappybody.com/

Marital health:
A counselor can be really good here, too. Also, you've just managed to quit doing one thing that really harms a marriage, which is building up debt. Shifting to a new model can be really hard on everyone, too. Having a counselor help you work those things through can be helpful.
David Schnarch, _Passionate Marriage_ (graduate level reading, and absolutely amazing stuff)

Disclosure: I was once a relationship coach in training and many of the books referenced here were materials in that course. I am now a certified through Precision Nutrition's coaching certification program. The above may not be right for you -- they are just tools I used along the way.

ThyPeace, a little ahead of you on the journey.
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No. of Recommendations: 19
"Where are they now" update:

It is six months to the day since finishing off the debt. I'm popping in to report that we are still out of debt!

I have continued to say yes to every overtime opportunity that presents. 2020 income was higher than ever by a good bit. We had to pay at tax time but the cash was there and we made a single payment. Our efund, which is really just another name for our checking account balance, remains lower than recommended. It is, however, way more cushion than we have ever had. Besides the tax payment, we kept the efund lean by funneling money into Roth IRAs. That was a win-win move that fed a time sensitive IRA and also kept us legitimately poor at Fafsa time.

Last week we received the large stimulus check in the mail. It came just in time and was enough to finish off the Roths. We hit the max $14K (7&7) for 2020, just under the April 15 deadline and only six months after debt!

We still feel and live "poor" but it is an entirely different poor when you aren't choked by debt, depressed, agitated... It is indeed very good to be broke! We are optimistic and have a goal of fully funding the '21 Roths during the remaining months of this year. We should be able to grow the efund a bit over these months as well. This is all so foreign, but we are learning as we go.



Did I mention that we are still out of debt? That's where we stand.
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We hit the max $14K (7&7) for 2020, just under the April 15 deadline and only six months after debt!

Well, you weren't as close to the deadline as you thought. You're actually more than a month early for the 2020 contribution, since along with delaying the filing deadline, the IRS delayed the deadline for funding 2020 IRAs https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-extends-additional-tax-dead...

Great accomplishment!

AJ
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"Well, you weren't as close to the deadline as you thought. You're actually more than a month early for the 2020 contribution..."

Ok good eye.

The extension was one of several initiatives that I didn't take advantage of this past year. We stuck with the original timelines/terms on all of our obligations and didn't accept any deferrals, skips, extensions, moratoriums, etc. I don't claim it was savvy, and honestly didn't even give much thought to such things. I know plenty of friends who took advantage and they probably think we are idiots, but we just stuck to the grind and aren't looking back.
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I know plenty of friends who took advantage and they probably think we are idiots, but we just stuck to the grind and aren't looking back.

A few will find that they have created financial problems for themselves. The road to debt is often paved with good intentions.

(A friend wanted help with her tax return. I probably shouldn't have told her that the deadline had been deferred. She will likely reappear May 16th and still not have the money to pay her taxes. She still needs to work out a payment plan for 2019 but can't because the feds haven't processed her 2019 return.)
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The extension was one of several initiatives that I didn't take advantage of this past year. We stuck with the original timelines/terms...

Makes sense. Long ago, DH & I used to pay our credit card bills just before the due date, so the money would stay in our accounts earning interest longer. Now interest rates are too low to bother with that. I like to keep things very simple, so I pay all cc's every month on the same day, even though they have different due dates, and I pay quarterly estimated taxes on:
April 1
June 1
Sept 1
Dec 1
even though they're not due until the 15th, 4th quarter isn't due until the following January, and recently several deadlines have been extended.

It is six months to the day since finishing off the debt. I'm popping in to report that we are still out of debt!...
We still feel and live "poor" but it is an entirely different poor when you aren't choked by debt, depressed, agitated...


Congratulations! I admire your "laser focus," your aggression, your steadfastness even through the pandemic. I'm happy for you that you're now enjoying the results.
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I wish I could recommend this post a hundred times. So glad to see that you are still maintaining the lifestyle you created when you were paying off the debt. It's the same lifestyle that will lead to many, many long term benefits! You are doing a great job maxing out your Roths. That's something that only a small fraction of Americans can do.

I can't recall -- do either of you have employer-sponsored 401(k)s or the equivalent? That's another great place to max out your funds, and particularly a place to make sure you get the full employer match.

ThyPeace, still cheering.
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Thank all!!

"do either of you have employer-sponsored 401(k)s or the equivalent? That's another great place to max out your funds, and particularly a place to make sure you get the full employer match."

ThyPeace-I'm technically a public employee with a defined benefit/defined contribution plan, and 3% of earnings gets "matched" by my employer and invested in the dc portion. It isn't a true match, but more of a gift as I don't have to put anything in to get the 3%.

I also have a 457 that was started years and years ago as well. We had a small amount from each pay check diverted there and now we can try and grow that. Loose goal is to invest $6k/yr into it, bringing annual investing to $20k including the Roths. I'm not sure that pace is sustainable on our current income...I'm really, REALLY bustin' it to earn what we earn.

I've been following the FIRE community lately and trying to get that savings rate up, but find that higher savings rates are VERY much income driven.

If any of this doesn't sound like a good path, I'm open to suggestions. Thank you!
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No. of Recommendations: 3
I'm a little surprised no one smarter than me has stopped by to make suggestions here, but then again the credit history and credit score discussion was pretty interesting.

In any case, it's great that you don't have to contribute to your defined-contribution plan to get the "match." It's potentially still worth looking at. It definitely depends on your risk tolerance and how much you know about investing. But if there is a fund that is essentially a "mimic the S&P 500" fund with a very low total cost, you likely have a good place to start stashing your funds.

Now, as to the sustainability. You have proven that you can increase your income by working a lot, and you have proven that you can be a really solid grownup about what you do with the funds that come in. Those are really excellent qualities to build on. Now the question is -- how do you make every hour of your time work harder on your behalf?

There are a lot of ways to do it -- usually by increasing the value of your skill set. That might be improving your technical expertise and getting a promotion into more complex technical work, or it might be improving your leadership and management skills and going for a promotion into supervision. If you consider the latter, be cautious because you can make a ton in overtime that won't be matched by the increase in base pay that you can make becoming a supervisor. Still, if you become a supervisor who works 45 or 50 hours a week instead of a line employee who works 60 hours a week, you may free yourself up for freelance work that brings in even more.

You can also consider a variety of other side hustles, all depending on your skill set. Just make sure that you do good, ethical work for good, ethical people.

ThyPeace, probably there's a lot more to be said here.
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