Before I married my husband, I had a pretty reckless attitude about money. I liked having the freedom to move around the country, but didn't like the toll it was taking on my personal finances. I had never heard of a 401(k), much less contributed to one. After settling down and getting married after turning 30, I made several smart financial decisions that helped us secure a better future.
Paying off my student loans
My top financial priority was to pay off my college loans. I spent several years before I married my husband overpaying my minimum student loan payment by as much as $500 a month. After getting married, I took the money I used to pay for my student loan and saved it toward a down payment on our first house. During our marriage, we haven't taken out any loans to pay for graduate school. My husband was able to have his master's degree paid through a tuition reimbursement program at work.
Saving money for emergencies
I didn't have any money set aside for emergencies before I married my husband. In my 20s, I ended up having to use credit cards to pay for unexpected medical bills as well as expensive furniture. One of my wisest financial moves after getting married was to build up an emergency fund. We haven't reached our savings goal yet, but we hope to eventually have $15,000 saved for emergencies.
Opening up a Roth
I learned about the Roth IRA and the 401(k) in my 30s. Even though I got a late start on saving money for my retirement, I am not too worried. Even though I like getting a company match on some of the money I put toward my company-sponsored retirement plan, I also like the flexibility of having a Roth IRA. It's easier to access money from my Roth for certain approved withdrawals such as college tuition or home purchases.
Buying a home
Even though my husband and I bought a home at the top of the housing bubble, I don't regret it. We still come out on top. We purchased our home after we got married for about $180,000. It's now worth about $150,000. The reason buying a home worked out so well for us is because we are settled in one place. We can eventually pay off our mortgage and increase our monthly cash flow. If we rented, we would be stuck with a high rent payment every month. Also, our house has given our children a home. Some financial decisions are just as much emotional decisions.
My husband and I have saved a lot of money by sharing cars and carpooling. By having fewer cars, we pay a lot less car insurance. We also save money on gasoline by combining our trips. A lot of people have the attitude that every adult in a family needs a personal car. However, we have found it's best to share cars and take public transportation, ride a bicycle or walk. I'd like to see a high-speed rail system come to my part of Florida, but I don't know if that will happen.
My husband has a balanced view about money which has motivated me to reign in my spending and save money. We aren't materialistic, but like to be prepared for whatever the future may bring.
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