First Person: Getting Ahead Even Though We Are Barely Getting By

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It may sound like a contradiction, but I am getting head in terms of my net worth even though we can barely get by on our current income. When it comes to paying the day-to-day bills, it seems as though we barely break even. Yet, my net worth is growing thanks to the stock market and home appreciation. According to a recent article by Fox Business, America's top financial concern is paying bills rather than saving for emergencies or retirement. The article cited a recent Bankrate.com report that showed 39 percent of Americans are most worried about paying their bills. Twenty percent were most concerned about paying off debt, while only 18 percent said contributing to savings was their top financial concern. Twelve percent cited providing financial help to family or friends. I can relate having no money leftover to save for retirement. At the same time, I feel financially secure because of financial decisions I made years ago.

Having the security of a nest

According to the report, Americans feel less financially secure than they did a year ago. One of the reasons I am feeling more confident about my finances is because I refinanced earlier this year at 2.75 percent. I am glad I bought a home even if it was during the housing bubble. My home will be paid off in 14 years. My mortgage is just $900 a month, which is less than rent in my area.

Learning to live on one income

A lot of Americans, myself included, are worried about losing their jobs. The report showed 20 percent feel less secure in their jobs than they did a year ago. I know job layoffs are always a possibility as I've watched dozens of colleagues lose their jobs to company downsizing in the past 6 years. However, I created a sense of security by learning to live on just my husband's income. It hasn't been easy, but we are making progress.

Relying on the stock market magic

Although nothing in life is certain, I'm hoping the stock market will save me when it comes to my retirement. I can't afford to contribute as much as I did when I was in my 20s and 30s. The report showed 29 percent of Americans reported higher net worth compared to 16 percent reporting a lower net worth compared to a year ago. My net worth increased due to stock market gains as well as the appreciation of my home. The value of my home actually doubled since last year, going from about $100,000 to $200,000 as the housing in my neighborhood experienced a massive rebound.

It's frustrating to be living paycheck-to-paycheck in my 40s, but I am glad I didn't pull my money out of the stock market during the bear market. Now that it's a raging bull market, I'm increasing a cash position so I feel more secure. Even if I'm still living paycheck-to-paycheck when I'm 55, I'll at least have a paid-off home and money saved for retirement. I doubt I'll be a multi-millionaire when I retire, but at least I won't be broke and living in my son's basement.

More from this contributor:

Paying off Debt Trumps Investing in my Family

Our Household Wealth Doubled

I Lost my Disposable Income

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