Reader testimonials on financial independence

Michelle Singletary
Columnist June 30, 2012

During my online discussions, people share with me how they are following good money-management principles. As we celebrate the Fourth of July, I wanted to offer some of their testimonies about financial independence.

We are debt-free and loving it. We just paid off our mortgage, and now, to quote a certain someone (you), we got that monkey off our back. We are grateful that we never had any student loan debt and, thanks to my thrifty stay-at-home husband, we have been able to live within our means. Since we pay cash for our new (to us) cars and do not carry a balance on our credit card, our only debt has been our mortgage. We are free at last. Now we are able to maximize our retirement savings and we still have eight years to continue saving for our daughter’s college education. Signs are good that our daughter will continue our family tradition of thriftiness. On vacation she complained that we didn’t have the same cable options at home as we had at the cabin we rented. I told her that the entire cost of our vacation was about the same price as a year of extended cable and which would she rather have: more TV or a family vacation? She thought long and hard and finally said a vacation. Hopefully she will continue to understand that less debt will always equal more choices in life.”

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.” View Archive

Wow, it really adds up. Recently I decided I needed to get more proactive on my outstanding bills. To do this, I needed more money coming in. Instead of getting an extra job (tired enough at the end of the day), I decided to get extra money by forgoing my cable and home Internet for three months and not getting that afternoon coffee every day. I knocked $600 off the bill payment and read a lot of books and watched some shows at the library. Yes, I am relieved to have cable back, but it was totally doable for three months.”

Life does happen. Just wanted to give you a shout-out for encouraging a robust ‘life happens’ fund in addition to emergency savings. I’ve had flood damage, some other home expenses, and my car died. But we were able to cover these expenses with money from the ‘life happens’ fund. I then built the account back up by taking an entire bonus and putting it in my ‘life happens’ fund, even though I really want to take a vacation. I’ll sit in my newly safe house and count my blessings instead.”

Michelle Singletary: For those who aren’t familiar with a “life happens” fund, it’s an idea that I created years ago when I saw so many people raiding their emergency fund such that when a true emergency came along, they were broke. The “life happens” fund is separate from savings put aside for an emergency. You build it up with at least $1,000 to take care of the things in life that happen — storm damage, car repairs or needed home improvements.

More support for the ‘life happens’ fund. We closed on our house and then the transmission on our car went out within a week of our move. Luckily we had the ‘life happens’ fund to fix the car. That old car is still a daily driver four years later. Anyway, my point is, you need that ‘life happens’ fund. Life happens at the most inopportune times!”

I need to vent. People who work hard are penalized for their choices. I chose no debt, a job that I don’t love but takes care of my needs and some wants. I pay my taxes and live below my means. But I am beginning to feel a bit resentful of people who want everything just handed to them. I choose to go without a lot of things I want, and I could buy them if I lived irresponsibly. But I choose to save, and it stinks to realize I am subsidizing the bad choices of others. People are given breaks for bad choices all the time while people who are responsible end up paying for it.”

Singletary: You shouldn’t feel penalized for handling your money well. When you do the right things with your money, you are rewarded by not facing a lot of drama and pain. Trust me, being debt-free and a good financial steward means you have better choices. In the end, you are far better off.

Readers can write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or singletarym@washpost.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to postbusiness.com.

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