When I was paying credit cards with other credit cards, when I was taking calls from bill collectors every Tuesday and Thursday night, when I was broke all of the time, I could not imagine walking into a real estate office to talk to an agent about buying a house and telling that real estate agent that I owed no one any money. Five years prior to that, I owed everybody.
It wasn’t easy, but I developed a strategy for getting out of debt and sustaining my success. One of the reasons I share that strategy with so many people today is because I believe one of the best ways to reinforce what you’ve learned is to teach other people. Teaching others keeps you on your toes. It also reminds you that when you have setbacks you can just start all over.
When I paid off all of my credit cards, got rid of those car notes, starting paying with cash — I thought I was there. I really thought I had made it. But I realized how quickly I could slip backward if I didn’t make a lifestyle change instead of just changing some habits. I needed to become a lifelong financial learner and I needed to set new goals, like starting a nest egg for my family’s future.
I didn’t just puff up my chest and feel proud of all that I had accomplished. And I am so proud of getting out of debt, as you should be. I did take time to celebrate my accomplishments, as you should celebrate. But I didn’t stop there.
I started learning about mutual funds that were growing at faster rates than anyone could imagine. I started studying real estate and bought my first income property where people were paying me rent. I used the rent to pay off the mortgage and in so doing, I let other people pay off my debt. The only good debt is debt that other people pay off for you. All other debt is bad debt. I was able to make these changes because I became part of the financial information age.
There’s no excuse to remain small or ignorant in any category, including finance. Today, there’s so much information available right at your fingertips. Whether it’s online, on the radio, in a podcast or in a book, you have so many free resources available to you. What I’d like you to do is commit to spending just seven minutes a day, every day, on your finances. Take a few of those minutes and make sure you are learning something new.
Do you know that a recent survey found that 42 percent of average Americans will retire broke? That’s with $10,000 or less to their names. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans age 65 or older spend an average of $46,000 annually. If you plan on living only 20 years in retirement, you can plan on spending at least $920,000. Where is that money going to come from? If you don’t know the answer, you need a lifestyle change — and you need it now, not later.
For those of you who have already made the commitment to put in the hard work and become debt free, I applaud you. If you’ve become debt free, I am proud of you. Yet, now is not the time to lose focus and succumb to splurges or too many rewards. Now is the time to double down and learn everything you can about the stock market, about real estate, about angel investing — so that you can envision that brighter future.
Saving one million or more for retirement may seem like a daunting task now, but it’s no harder than getting out of debt. In fact, it’s easier. When you were in debt, you were working for your money. When you’re out of debt, you can make your money work for you.
When you were in debt, you fell prey to scams and schemes like payday lenders. You willingly gave your hard-earned money to people who said upfront that they would charge you fees and up to 800 percent interest! Now, you know better. But do you know enough to figure out what kind of investments you can make to earn even 8 percent interest?
Stay committed to your new debt-free lifestyle. Learn as much as you can as quickly as you can. You’ve worked hard to get to where you are now. You deserve to enjoy a wonderful retirement, and you’re the only one who can give it to you.