Half-Way There – The Mortgage is 50% Gone

Some more exciting progress on the debt-payoff front! We’ve successfully gotten 50% of our mortgage paid off! Woohoo! This is a big milestone for us. Since the last update in September, we’ve consistently put money toward the principal pay down of our condo.

It’s crazy to think that we bought the place in May of last year. Here we are at the end of 2014 and we’re that much closer to achieving our goal of having a completely paid for home. I stood in the middle of our unit, put my arm up as a dividing line and joked with Mrs. Mase that, “this half is completely ours, the other half still belongs to the bank, but not for long!”

Here are some visuals to show our progress. Nothing terribly exciting as far as the data goes – just unwavering consistency in paying the loan off as quickly as possible. Notice that the month isn’t quite over yet, so the percentage of take home pay looks a little lower than for previous months.

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Hopefully we can put a little more income toward the principal before the year ends, but that might not be a possibility considering the inevitable travel, entertainment, giving, etc. expenses that have come around this time of year. The good news is we’ve budgeted for everything, and hopefully that doesn’t impact our principal pay-off too much.

 

What is Your Financial Endgame?

I have recently been listening to a great podcast out there called the Radical Personal Finance podcast. The host, Joshua Sheats, was doing a comprehensive review of Tony Robbins’s Money: Master the Game. He went over various pros and cons, ultimately concluding that it was a very good book but had a few technical flaws and contradictions throughout.

One of the many inspiring parts of the book, which he paraphrased for the listener’s on audio, was a section where Tony was at a seminar and asked if someone in the crowd would say how much wealth they wanted to have. A young man in his 20s stood up and proudly proclaimed, “one billion dollars!” Tony asked the young man, “Why a billion? What does that allow you to do?” The guy then explained that he figured that would be enough to travel several times a year on a personal private yet to various destinations around the world, etc. etc.

Tony then drilled down a little deeper. He asked if the guy knew how much owning a high class, Gulfstream jet cost? The man didn’t know, so they did a little research and found the number – it was in the several tens of millions of dollars. This is certainly a ton of money, but still a far cry from being close to one billion. They then looked up the cost of owning a used private yet – in the low eight digits or high seven digits. What about just renting a jet whenever there’s a desire for travel? This would cost on the order of tens of thousands of dollars. Multiply this by a dozen or so trips per year, and we’re talking about hundreds of thousands, maybe a million or more. The young man was intrigued, and thought for a bit. It really wouldn’t cost as much to live the high level of lifestyle that he sought.

I like this example because it strikes at the heart of why you or I even care about personal finance. It’s all about the present and future purchasing power that we’re able to exercise. It’s the endgame of all the tips, techniques, strategy, and theory. We all want to have more financial means because it may mean freedom to us, or security, or something else.

I started this blog with the goal of chronicling my wife and I’s journey to financial independence while inspiring others in their journey as well. I realized that I do not have as crystal clear of a vision for what I actually want my financial life to look like. Sure, there are several concrete goals that underlie the foundation of our plan, but I could certainly go deeper with the planning.

What I mean by this is figuring out how much your dream lifestyle actually costs? This is an exercise I did some time ago but never really re-visited it to understand why I was thinking the way I did. Take out a sheet of paper and write “Dream Budget” at the top. Then list out every single category of things you could ever imagine buying, and how much you want to spend on that category per month. The numbers can be outrageous, that’s ok. They can be small too, and that’s ok. Then add up everything and see what you’ve got.

The thing is, you may not actually need much more than the median household income to live your dream lifestyle. In fact, you may need much less. It all depends on you and what your priorities are, but do the exercise and see what the results are. If you’re married, have both you and your spouse do this exercise independently and then come together and discuss what you both wrote down. It’ll start to clarify the vision of what the financial endgame looks like for your family.

Hearing the example from above really inspires me to think more deeply about my goals – not just what I want but why I want the things I want. What does Mrs. Mase want and what’s important to her? What are both of our internal motivations? This is going to take some more concentrated thought…I’ll probably be thinking about this for the next few days now.

Another Reminder of the Brevity of Life

The other day I was up in the Chicagoland area visiting a distant family member of my wife’s. It was a pleasant experience because I could see how much joy she had simply because some family members took the time to come by and say hi.

I always become a bit uneasy when I first walk into a nursing home – I think it’s because it reminds me of the inevitability of death, that our time on this earth is indeed finite. It made me acutely aware of the blessings of youth. I was reminded that after sleep is accounted for, we each get about 500,000 hours on this earth, if we’re lucky.

These feelings intensified when my wife got a phone call the next day to let her know that this relative had passed away that night after we left. Just like that, she was gone. I’ve had other people in my life pass away, but I couldn’t help but feel shocked, thinking, “Wow, it was just yesterday I saw her and spoke with her…”

The sad thing is people do die. It is the most predictable part of life. The good thing is though, we don’t have to be controlled by a fear of death. We can use it as an inspiration to lead a life well-lived – a life full of love, laughter, and achieving our wildest dreams. I am confident that this relative in particular died in peace. When we visited her, she got the chance to look at four generations of her family, ranging in age from seven to the mid-sixties. When I leave this earth, I certainly want to see my family continued through the generations, with them sitting beside me and talking with me.

With the year ending, I am preparing to undertake a comprehensive review of my life and the direction it is heading. It will be a full day’s worth of writing, reading, and self-reflection. With an event such as a death in the family like this, the importance of doing my annual review became even more apparent to me. We must all be endowed with some sense of purpose, direction, and significance. If we don’t have our priorities in line, we risk drifting off through life, ultimately waking up one day to wonder, “Holy crap, what happened?! I wasn’t supposed to live a life like this!”

Never forget the undeniable truth that life is finite, and arrange your life in such a way so that you can have no regrets on the day that you pass on to the other side.