First Person: My Life After Debt

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Life after debt is a lot like crossing over to the other side. I felt a sense of weightlessness after saying my final good-byes to my credit cards. I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. I knew my future would include money in the bank and a home purchase for my family.

It only took about three years for me to build a life after debt that I could truly enjoy.

Open a Roth IRA

My first step after getting out of debt was to open a Roth IRA account. I knew I could use money in the Roth for my first home purchase if I needed to. Although it would be my primary retirement account, I loved the flexibility of the Roth IRA to use the money for college for my sons one day and other purposes.

Contribute more to a 401(k)

Even while I had debt, I contributed the amount my company matched in my 401(k). Otherwise, I would have felt like I was turning down free money. However, after I paid off my college loan and consumer debt, I took 10 percent of my money to pay into the 401(k) for retirement.

Save money for a car

The last thing I wanted to do after getting rid of my debt was borrow money for a car. So, I quickly saved $10,000 to purchase a used car with cash. Owing a car outright made me feel like I was never going to backslide into debt again.

Save money for a house

Another major financial goal I had was to buy my first home. It took three years to save up money for a down payment and to find a townhome I wanted to purchase. Until I got out of debt I just didn't have a good enough debt-to-income ratio to purchase a home.

Build up a better emergency fund

After freeing myself from debt, I knew I'd have to build up a better emergency fund. I went for years with a zero funded emergency account, but that just wasn't practical anymore. Now that I owned a home, I knew I'd need money for repairs, unexpected costs and furniture.

After about 10 years of being out of debt, I feel a lot more financial peace. I sold my townhome and purchased a single family home. Although I have mortgage debt, I don't worry about throwing my money away on high interest credit cards. I'm more financially responsible. Life after debt is better than I had imagined. Now I just wait for some of my friends and family to cross over so we can all enjoy the joys of debt-free living.

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