11 Replies Latest reply on May 21, 2015 10:03 PM by pgalistair

    Living Debt Free

    Lyn Swett Miller

      A friend of mine shared with me that she and her husband have successfully lived debt free for their entire marriage.  He built his house with no debt, so they had no mortgage;  She always lived within her means and only carried car debt once.  I just spent a few days with her and realized how happy they are.  Their house is not filled with lots of extra stuff, they go out to eat, and spend vacations with family.  It was such an inspiration.  She realizes that she has not done some the things her siblings have chosen to do, but that she loves the freedom the choices she has made has given her.  Not being indebted to others, family or bankers, sounds pretty liberating.


      Have any of you been able to achieve that goal?  If so, when did you begin and what were some of your secrets? 

        • Re: Living Debt Free
          W2W Community Mgr

          Lynn, thanks for starting a discussion thread! I look forward to seeing how others will respond.

          • Re: Living Debt Free
            Cindy Wilson

            I agree that living debt free is a great accomplishment - and overall a much more enjoyable path in life. What a great topic! I carried significant credit card debt for a few years after graduating from college, but once I cleared that up, I've been able to pay off any credit card purchases each month! However, I wouldn't include a mortgage in this equation. I would consider this to be good debt, where I would consider credit card debt to be bad debt.  With a mortgage, it's just important to be conservative with taking out any sort of a line of credit, especially if equity is 20%, or less. Beyond that, living within our means is so critically important. This way of life gives us all the chance to save for our financial future in retirement, and enjoy a standard of living now - that we can maintain (or improve upon) in retirement!

              • Re: Living Debt Free
                Lyn Swett Miller

                Cindy - Thank you for the response.  I am glad that a few years ago we refinanced and shifted to a 15 year mortgage, which we will pay off before we are 60 - phew!  And since we both plan to keep working through our 60's, we look forward to living without that burden on cash flow.  That said, the idea of trading in the mortgage and working less between now and then is awfully tempting… It is fun, however, to see the principal payment increasing and the interest payment decreasing over time. My husband and I have always thought of mortgages like bonds, or some other less liquid asset.  Full ownership increases over time - slowly.  Always lots to think about.  Thanks for your insight.   

                • Re: Living Debt Free

                  I was 15 (in 1960 end of 10th grade) when I started working summer weeks 60 hours long, $1 per hour.

                  I got paid after two weeks 120 hours $120

                  Each pay check I bought a carpenter's tool:

                  1) hammer

                  2) pocket square

                  and so forth. All the remainder went into a 4% interest Savings and Loan

                  after tithe ($12) and "gift" to church ($6).

                  The second summer (1961, before my high school senior year)

                  my savings balance reached $1,000


                  a) God first

                  b) investment / savings second

                  c) "necessities"  - still paying very modest mortgage at age 71 and 70.

                • Re: Living Debt Free
                  Manisha Thakor

                  Over 20 years ago I read a book that forever changed my life. It was called YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE by Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin.  The authors spoke directly to the kind untethered, empowered, freedom you observed with your debt-free friend (and gave a clear game plan for getting there).  Reading that book in my early 20s my goal was to live totally debt free as well — not even having a mortgage.  In the early days of my career that was not possible, I had to borrow money for both my first car and my first home. But by making financial freedom a priority — and not living to the same standards as my peers (I was often teased for the car I drove or for the clearly non-designer nature of my clothes in the very early days ) ultimately I was able to become completely debt free and it’s an amazing place to be.  If you are interested in this goal - and I say it’s a very worthy one - I’d recommend reading YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE and seeing what kinds of changes in your life can put you on that path.  If you choose this road — in modern society it’s DEFINITELY the road less traveled - your life won’t look like everyone else’s. But it will be truly YOUR life (not the bank’s, not the credit card company’s) and just as your friend inspired you, you will no doubt inspire others. Here’s to your MoneyZen! - Manisha  .


                  TIAA-CREF is not responsible for the contents of the mentioned book.

                    • Re: Living Debt Free
                      Lyn Swett Miller

                      Manisha - I loved that book too!  I read it years ago and shared the basic ideas with my husband.  The idea of calculating how much time it actually takes to pay for all that we do is mind-numbing.  While I understand the theories, I find it hard to put into practice, especially since I read the book after we had bought our 'forever' home, had two small kids and were in the throws of 'all of it.'  I wish I had read it in my 20's like you did and actually used it as a guide for my various lifestyle choices!  Thanks for the response. 

                      • Re: Living Debt Free

                        yes, recommend that book, too. Also I read "The Wealthy Barber" and another very helpful book in a marriage: "Couples and Money" (there may be another book with that title now, this was a few decades ago). While still living in NYC, I also read "How to stop worrying about your kids."

                      • Re: Living Debt Free

                        I have had a dream of living debt-free since my 30s.  I started late and got sidetracked many times but never lost sight of the prize.  I had lots of financial wisdom instilled in me from my grandmother as a foundation.  Two adult children, one divorce and one remarriage later, at 55, I have finally attained that goal.  No mortgage, no car notes, no credit card debt. And like others have alluded to, you have to make choices and discern wants from needs.  I live relatively simply but do spend on travel.  My husband and I took six months and drove to Alaska from south Florida last summer.  I would rather have salient experiences than a house full of things that tie me down. 

                        • Re: Living Debt Free

                          Being debt free is absolutely liberating!  We own outright our (older) cars, our house and pay off whatever credit card debt we have every month.


                          One piece of advice I would give others- be cautious on the 15 year mortgage.  We did this with a house many years ago and then after four years of living in the house (and being able to make the payments on time every month) I got laid off from my job which put us in a real pinch.  The  mortgage company would not help us at all (this may be different now) as they said we didn't qualify to refinance for a 30 year mortgage as I was then unemployed.  This makes zero common sense however- it's a mortgage business and that's how they worked.


                          We ended up selling the home and relocating.  When we purchased our current home we did a 30 year mortgage however we paid extra money every month (as if it was a 15 year mortgage) and paid it off in 14 years!  The bottom line is that the interest rate is tad smaller on a 15 year mortgage, however unless you are very secure in your employment- the option of getting the 30 year lower payment and paying it as if it was a 15 year mortgage is a little less frightening.

                          • Re: Living Debt Free

                            Living debt-free -

                            means sleeping better at night

                            means a more healthy lifestyle.


                            I did not enjoy home ownership; I now live in an apartment - no mortgage, no gardening!

                            I own my cars - no debt there!


                            My savings  are in bank accounts, (equity and fixed-interest) mutual funds, a few shares and pensions from SS and former employers.


                            My wife is ill - so much time is given to caring for her!


                            Otherwise - I would travel, as we had intended before my wife's health collapsed.


                            Having my wife's distressing condition every day before my eyes makes me grateful for what I have!


                            I think of those poor people in eastern Ukraine whose apartments have shell holes in the walls, no water, no electricity, no heat - and winter temperatures below minus ten!


                            I read the Greek philosophers - particularly Epicurus. He saw pleasure as being the absence of pain - pain in the body and pain in the mind. Whatever Gods there may be, they do not seek to punish us in this or any other life.  To believe Gods punish is to believe of them base feelings which diminish them!


                            So, I am content with my modest life!