We Doubled Our Net Worth and You Can Too!

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Note from Travis:  I’m excited to announce a new addition to TeamEOD!   Steve Stewart, who hails from his home blog of MoneyPlanSOS, will be sharing with us a dose of no-nonsense personal finance once a month.  I’ve been a HUGE fan of Steve for several years, and know that he is an excellent addition to the team.   Please give him a warm EOD Nation welcome by leaving a comment below on his debut post here on Enemy Of Debt!

Despite the blame-scream media’s coverage of The Great Recession and all the bad decisions Congress has made, my wife and I have been able to double our net worth.

We didn’t hit the Lottery, we didn’t get an inheritance, and we certainly didn’t invent the Slanket and sell it to a bunch of late-night viewers who just wanted sleeves.

We followed common sense advice that bores most people and is frowned upon by the more sophisticated advisors you see on TV.

How did we double our net worth?

We followed Dave Ramsey’s advice. You may not agree with Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball Method, you might believe his investment advice is dangerous, or you might just love your credit card rewards too much to hear his message of financial independence. What you cannot dispute is that we doubled our net worth in 8 years by following Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps.

Note: The figures below include savings, retirement, and investment accounts. The total does not include the value of our home but does include mortgage and consumer debt. In essence, I did not include personal items or home equity into these figures. While the totals below appear to be five times growth, I am not making that claim because they include the contributions we have been making during this awesome process. Adjusted for contributions we have more than doubled our net worth since 2005 net of initial investments.

So, how did this happen?

Net worth was $74,000 in 2005

Before starting our debt-free journey we had $176,000 in retirement accounts but our net worth was $74,000. Wait, that math doesn’t work! Well, it does when you factor in our debt load. Credit card balances, a car loan, and the home mortgage kept us in the red. We needed to get on Dave Ramsey’s plan and turn this thing around.

  • I stopped using my credit cards altogether. Why pay a middleman in Rhode Island when my local bank could handle every check, debit transaction, and cash withdrawal first-hand?
  • We created a budget. It allowed us to spend more money on the things we really wanted by keeping us from spending on the things we really didn’t.
  • Our family stopped borrowing more money. This made us even hungrier to save up to pay cash for all future purchases.

I can’t say that we sold any big-ticket items and I didn’t get a second job. We still travelled and ate out, we just did it smarter by staying with family on vacations and remembering that eating out was a treat. This allowed us to pay off our final debt, an auto loan, in 2006.

Net worth was $121,000 in 2008

After becoming debt free we started putting about $10,000 a year into retirement savings. But in 2008 we got hit with the Great Recession and all that value went away. Also, the value of our house plummeted to about 70% of what we purchased it for.

However, we stuck to Dave Ramsey’s advice and stayed invested in the market. Besides, any investments we were buying were on sale! I expected the value of our home to come back someday and it really didn’t matter what it was in 2008, we weren’t planning on selling.

I had to remember that markets go up and down, but they eventually go up. If we stick to our moneyplan then we’ll be OK. Besides, our big emergency fund was there to help in a pinch.

Net worth was $234,000 in 2011

WOW! What a jump! No debt and no credit cards sure puts us into a great position for saving money. We continue to budget and spend purposefully, but now we have a little extra for vacations and lifestyle. Unfortunately we don’t have money to put into Baby Step 6 because it’s all being used for Baby Step 4 and 5. That means we are putting 15% of our income into retirement accounts and investments for my daughter’s first car, college, and wedding (in that order please!)

We also upgraded our vacations to a horse ranch in the middle of Sunlight Basin, Wyoming. This is a dream vacation for my wife and tween daughter and gives us another reason to be purposeful with every dollar we make. It’s hard to save for 11 months to go on a one-week vacation!

Dave Ramsey was right, you can make 12% in the market. You can also lose 50% but then gain 27.1%, 14.3%, and 13.4% over the next three years. I sure would have hated to miss out on that because we bought another car on payments or couldn’t stay away from credit cards.

Our net worth is $380,000 today!

Let me break it down for you:

  • We have paid off all our debt except for our mortgage, which was about $100,000 in 2005
  • Once we had no debt and 3 months of emergency savings we increased retirement contributions
  • Our plan has us saving for retirement and at least six more years for our daughter’s future
  • We continue to pay down our mortgage and put money aside for car replacement, new windows, etc.
  • Mutual funds are doing really well these days which makes staying in the market during the bad times even more powerful

I won’t lie to you; it takes sacrifice to double your net worth. My daily desires try to derail me from our long-term plans. I have very little willpower over eating-out so I avoid the temptation by staying home. Don’t let me near a Best Buy because I’ll want to pick up the new MacBook Air. I set limits to how much I can spend on Amazon; otherwise I would get to know our UPS driver by name!

You can do all this too with the right motivation. What is keeping you in debt? What is keeping you from saving money and moving forward? Tell us in the comments below how we can help motivate you to double your net worth too!

About Steve Stewart

30 Responses to “We Doubled Our Net Worth and You Can Too!”

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  1. The Warrior says:

    Congrats!

    Dave Ramsey has some sound money management advice, but I don’t really follow his investment advice. We can never agree completely with everyone which is okay and his steps definitely do change lives.

    We are just managing our money better and controlling “urges” to spend. For us, getting control of our daily expenditures has been monumental to our success.

    Anyways, enough about me. Congrats to you and your wife. Keep at it!

    The Warrior
    NetWorthWarrior.com

    • Thanks Warrior! Controlling urges to spend is the first step to anyone getting control of their money. I’m glad to hear you conquered it and are on your way to winning with money!

  2. Wow, congratulations! That must feel amazing to see how much progress you have made in just a few short years!

    • It does feel amazing Dee. When I was getting the numbers together for the post I realized how far we had come – and how easy it was! Everyone complains about budgets and being forced to be frugal. We just made good choices on what we spent money on with one caveat – NO MORE DEBT!

      Have you looked at your progress over the past 2-3 years? How are you doing?

  3. Congrats on your success! It’s a reminder that daily sacrifices do pay off, even if they are tough sometimes. I can’t walk into Target for the same reason as you can’t walk into Best Buy.

    • Oh, don’t get me started on Target! We plan to go for one thing that we need but can never get out the door without spending more than $35.

      I play defense by suggesting we wait until we need something else – cutting down on how many $35+ transactions we have in a month. 🙂

  4. dojo says:

    The recession for us meant being more responsible with our money, starting a lucrative business and doing way better than before. Sure, it was and still is hard and painful, but it’s worth it. Love your progress, you’ve done a lot of great things in the past years 😉

    • Thanks Ramona. I’m jealous of your small company and I’m REALLY excited that you are debt free too! Everyone can have a positive net worth when they start with zero debt.

  5. Big congrats Steve! Regardless if “you” agree with Ramsey or not, your story is proof again that if you want something and push yourself with a plan you can improve yourself financially. Those sacrifices may not be fun in the short run, but they do definitely add up over time.

  6. Steve, great to meet you, and thank you SO much for sharing your story!! We started our way out of a massive amount of debt in January of this year and it’s always super encouraging to read stories like yours. Best of luck to you and yours on future endeavors!

    • Thanks Laurie. When we started this journey we had no idea what our net worth would look like in 2013. That’s the beauty of starting a moneyplan: You at least know you’re heading the right direction on the statement.

  7. Hey Steve! Glad to see you here on EoD! You’re a great fit for this site. It’s nice to read your story all in one place, you’ve made tremendous progress. We’re about 25k away from knocking out all of my wife’s student loan debt (down from 80k+ just 2.5 years ago!). We hope we can have it gone in the next 6 months.

  8. I’ve been reading your posts for a while, but I didn’t realize the extent of your journey until now. You’ve doubled your net worth! That gives me encouragement to keep on the track my husband and I have been walking for the last eighteen months – following Ramsey, making budgets, considering each purchase carefully . . . The common sense advice you advocate does not “bore” me, as you say it does most people. Congratulations, and all the best as you beat down that mortgage : )

    • Thanks Prudence. I’ve enjoyed the conversation over on my blog. Wait until you hear tomorrow’s podcast – it’s a doozy and will challenge a lot of people’s belief systems!

  9. Mackenzie says:

    Wow, that’s awesome that you doubled your net worth! Congrats 🙂 Hard work does indeed pay off!

    • Thanks Mackenzie. Ya know, I talked about making sacrifices but after the debt was paid off it became much easier to say No to ourselves because we were able to say Yes to many more things.

      I guess it really wasn’t “hard work”, it is simply being intentional with money.

  10. Little things add up really quickly. When we started budgeting we got to see how much money we were leaking. That was a good wake up call.

  11. Congrats! Mutual funds have been rocking my world lately, though the last few days the market has been a bit tumultuous, still a huge gain in the long term.

    • Stefanie, you could do what we do: Don’t watch the news and don’t look at your portfolio more than once a quarter.

      Here’s an extreme example why (not really a recommendation): The only people invested in mutual funds that lost money in 2008-2009 were the ones that sold their holdings. If they never knew there was a recession they would have woken up last week seeing a market that topped 16,000.

      Just sayin’ 🙂

  12. Jon White says:

    What a powerful story about patience and consistency Steve! Our family has experienced a similar exponential growth in our net worth since I began tracking it. That growth is just a reminder to us that what we are doing with our money is working and discourages us from going off the track in any way.

  13. Awesome job on the increase! I can’t wait until I get rid of all of my debt so I can join the ranks of the debt-free 🙂

    • You keep “vs the loans” and you will win!

      Everybody has a debt free date. Student loans, credit cards, even a 30 year mortgage has a payment schedule with a built-in payoff date. As long as you stop borrowing more money and make timely payments on your existing debt you will satisfy the agreement and become debt free!

      However, it’s really up to you to accelerate that debt-free date! Go Lisa, GO!

  14. JoeTaxpayer says:

    Steve, you’ve done great. But The David’s 12% is not your 12%.
    If I look at my net worth from year to year and brag that I’ve beaten the S&P (for example) every year for my entire investing life, someone would quickly point out that the 20% of our income we save needs to be accounted for. This was the famous Beardstown Ladies’ error. They hit the public eye, and then a bit of math showed they forgot to count for deposits.
    I hope you double and redouble your net worth (and a third, just to knock it out of the park.) But I hope when you talk about your investment return, you take the deposits into account.
    The David is a great motivator for those in debt, and I’ll admit he has a certain charm, but he is not a financial advisor, and has an ego too big to admit that 12% is wrong. Or rather, that 12% average does not equal 12% CAGR.

    • Joe, I can help with that. My Net Worth figures only included savings, investment and retirement accounts as well as the debts we had. I didn’t want to muddy up the waters by including personal property (cars, jewelry, furniture, etc) or the value of our home. We currently have a $152k equity position in our house and a few thousand in cars, so we really more than doubled our net worth.

      To answer your question: Our net worth grew from $74k in 2005 to $234k in 2011 – a difference of $160k. During this time we knocked out around $12k in consumer debt, paid the house down by $45k, and contributed around $54k to retirement plans from 2005 through 2011. So what you are implying is probably correct – we only gained $49k in market returns and asset values.

      I don’t know what that turns out to be in CAGR and (excuse the rudeness) I really don’t care. It’s likely we wouldn’t be where we are if we didn’t believe that the market would make us money. Heck, my wife would have had us jump out of the market in 2009 if we didn’t have a moneyplan. Where would we be then?

      If Dave Ramsey’s 12% is wrong then I don’t want to be right. Now, if we could just get the FairTax passed…

      • JoeTaxpayer says:

        Care or not, if your deposits were level over the time you put away $22,200 each year, and saw an investment return of just under 4%. Jan 1, 06 through Dec 31, 11 saw a return of 2.24%. (per year for both figures.
        Your not rude, you’re focused. I understand that for the 75% of people who have virtually no savings, only debt, their focus needs to be on right-sizing their financial boat. So you get kudos for your progress, focus, and matter of fact posture.
        When your net worth passes $1M, you’ll see the impact of a few good years in the market.

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