Were You Worth More As A Baby?

I started my journey to early retirement and financial independence in early 2010 just as I was turning 28 years old. I felt that my 20′s had largely been a financial waste, as I spent money just as fast (or faster) than I earned it and largely felt okay about it. I never really looked at financial statements because I knew I wouldn’t like what I was going to see. I racked up credit card debt, student loan debt and spent cash like it was going out of style. I don’t know why, but something just “clicked” one day in my head as I realized that I was on a path that was unsustainable. I hunkered down and decided to break out all my finances and see where I stood. After all, you can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re at.

First, what is net worth? Basically, it’s all your assets subtracted by all your liabilities. You take all the assets you have (cash, home, stocks, bonds, etc.) and subtract all the debt you have and money you owe (mortgage, credit card debt, etc.). The number you’re left with is your net worth, or how much you’re worth financially. 

To my disappointment, when I finally sat down and did all the calculations, I found out that I had a net worth of NEGATIVE $19,000. I wasn’t totally shocked, as I knew I wasn’t in great shape. But, looking at the numbers I realized something tragic and depressing. I realized that I was worth more money as a baby. I came to the realization that as a small human being, one that couldn’t talk or walk or feed myself, I was worth more money because I was worth exactly $0 as a baby. I had no assets or liabilities. I didn’t have a dime to my name, but I didn’t owe anything. That hit home pretty hard: after being alive for nearly 28 years and going to elementary school, high school, college, getting a “real job” and thinking of myself as a pretty intelligent person, I had actually managed to have less money than I did when I only knew how to cry and poop myself. Wow!

It was then and there that I knew I had to make significant strides in my life if I wanted to have a better financial future than my financial past. I picked up “Your Money Or Your Life” at the local library and read cover-to-cover. I decided to self-teach myself investing. I started reading investment blogs, skim financial books and magazines and opened an account with Scottrade.

Looking back on it, two years into my journey, I’m extremely glad that I decided to change my ways. I’m turning 30 in a couple months and I’m very excited about what the next year brings me. In the past two years I’ve cut out all debt except for low-interest and tax-deductible student loan debt, increased my credit score by over 100 points as I’ve managed my credit extremely responsibly and now actually get paid to use credit cards, increased my investments from $7,000 to $65,000, received a raise at work as I’ve steadily and increasingly applied myself at my job and now can say I’m worth much more than I was when I was a non-talking and non-walking baby.

How about you? Were you worth more as a baby? Is now the time to make a change?

Thanks for reading.

Photo Credit: photostock

Comments

  1. says

    DM,
    Thanks for sharing the more personal side of how you got to where you are now. I enjoy reading about the portfolio updates, buy/sell orders, frugal living and all the other stuff that comes with PF/investing blogging, but it’s nice to see the stories behind the writing.

    You and I came to this path from very similar backgrounds. Although you are much smarter than me, it took me about 8 yrs longer than you did to realize how bad I had been and was continuing to screw up. I remember finally sitting down and getting the exact amounts of what I owed. It was depressing. But you have to get to that place before you can enjoy the place you are now, right?

    You’ve done a hell of a job over the past couple of years. Keep up the great work!

    • says

      The Stoic Investor,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      I agree with you. The personal side of finance is what interests me the most, and that’s why I’ve been so candid with this blog since inception. I think it’s a lot more valuable to see the ups and downs of an investor rather than just stock picks. At least, that’s how I feel about it. It’s more real that way. I think showing everyone my victories and mistakes makes it fun and educational and hopefully by documenting it all I can learn from my own mistakes as well.

      Thanks for the support. You’ve done a great job as well digging yourself out of a hole. I hope we both continue to achieve great success in the future.

      Best wishes!

  2. says

    Loved the post, man.

    I’m certainly worth more than I was when I was a baby, but sometimes I check my net worth then act like a baby since it’s not increasing as quickly as I’d like it to.

    *sigh* I suppose slow and steady wins the race, right? Haha.

    • says

      Pey,

      Thanks!

      I think the recent market run-up has been a bit of a pacifier for anyone who thinks the DG strategy is slow and steady, right? Even steady blue chips have shot upward. But, in the end I wish it wasn’t so. Less shares for the same dollar.

      I’m with you though. I wish I could see my net worth double or triple in the next year or so. That would definitely be nice! Keep my fingers crossed.

      Slow and steady definitely wins the race, my friend.

      Take care!

  3. says

    DM I feel you on this one, I just turned 28 a couple days ago and the same shocker came to me about not far in the past.

    I never had a negative networth because I bought my home while I was young and had a lot of instant-equity. The problem, was I didn’t stop buying houses. I jumped into 2 rental houses and realized I had a networth of 20,000 with over 200,000 in debt.
    Those spending years are over and smart investing times are in.

    Never forget where you came from =)

    • says

      Investing Early,

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Definitely never forget where you came from. I spent my childhood in a rough part of Detroit, so I know what true poverty looks and feels like and I’m grateful that I’m no longer in that position.

      Congratulations on taking control of your financial destiny at such a young age. Sounds like you’re doing a great job and you appear to know a lot more about real estate investing than I ever will.

      Best wishes!

  4. Art says

    Solid post. I am 25 and although I had over 300k in liquid assets in 2009 and no debt I let myself spend like there was no tomorrow. Before I realized what I had done I was in a similar spot. 260k slightly underwater mortgage, 30k invested (something at least), 20k in the bank and two car loans…Paying for liabilities, not the smartest move. But I’m turning over a new leaf. I have my wife almost convinced to get rid of the expensive cars and downsize to one affordable one and an emergency scooter perhaps? (Doubt she will let me get the scooter, always hearing about people getting killed on those out here in Vegas).

    Anyways, I’m on the path to frugality now as well and may start a blog about the journey when I get all of my ducks in a row. Your blog has been an inspiration among others. It’s nice to have a lead to follow. Keep on grinding.

    • says

      Art,

      Wow! $300k in liquid assets at 22 years old? That’s amazing and fantastic. Even though you’ve moved backwards in the past three years, you are leaps and bounds ahead of where most people are at 25 years old (and certainly WAY ahead of where I was at 25).

      I’m glad you find the blog inspiring. That’s one of the primary reasons I continue to write articles. Keep in touch, and I hope your new path to frugality serves you well.

      Take care!

  5. Anonymous says

    DM

    great post. I was much slower to “wake up” than you. I spent on new cars and having fun until turning 48. I’m retired now but just think how much money I would have if I would have started like you, in my twenties. Keep up the good work and hope you become a millionaire soon.

    Bill from Wmsport

    • says

      Bill,

      Hey, although you spent away your money until 48 it sounds like you had a great time. And I’m sure you had a lot of experiences you wouldn’t trade for anything.

      Thanks for the support and I definitely hope I become a millionaire at some point in the future, although due to the fact that I’ll exit the full-time workforce at an early age may mean I’ll never make it there.

      Best wishes!

  6. says

    DM- I wasn’t sure where this post was going, but I liked it. You have surely come a long way in just two short years! Very impressive. I like the personal nature of this post too. I think we can all relate to our own “ah ha” moments. I read YMOYL right after college, but then ended up distracted due to several circumstances, but now am happily back on track!

    Thanks for sharing.

    • says

      MSS,

      Thanks for the support. I’m very grateful, lucky and excited about how much progress I’ve made in only two years. If I can do it, I certainly know anyone else can.

      I’m glad you’re on track as well. I hope we continue to inspire each other as we get closer to our long-term goals.

      Best wishes.

  7. says

    I enjoyed this read. You’ve done an awesome job turning your finances around.

    “I had actually managed to have less money than I did when I only knew how to cry and poop myself. Wow!” Haha I love this quote. It’s true for a lot of Americans which is sad.

    Rejecting consumerism is tough at first, but is very empowering once it becomes ingrained. I love being in control of my future, it feels great.

    • says

      Compounding Income,

      Thanks for the support. I hope that my story inspires others, and that’s why I share it.

      I’m glad you liked that quote. I thought it was kinda funny that I couldn’t control my bowel movements, yet I was financially better off as a 6-month old human being.

      I’m glad you’re empowering yourself by taking control of your financial future. I definitely agree with you that it feels great to be in control knowing exactly where I’m going.

      Keep in touch!

  8. says

    I was definitely worth more when I was a baby. I am almost -20,000 in the hole. Which is mostly due to my car mind you, but still. If I would have clicked earlier maybe I would be up 20-30grand.

    • says

      MyCanadianFinances,

      Hey, I started exactly where you’re at right now. You’ll be fine. Just attack your debt and get a long-term plan together and you’ll be where you want to be in no time at all. You’re ahead of most people.

      Keep in touch and I wish you the best on your journey!

  9. says

    great perspective here, DM….

    …personally I never went thru the spending and debt phase. just never held any appeal. so my path has been much easier.

    falling into that trap is a nightmare I’m glad I’ve never lived.

    • says

      JC,

      You know, the unfortunate thing is that most of my negative net worth was due to my student loans, so it’s not like I even got a big consumerist kick out of the debt. I received an “education”, but no fun and games. I had credit card debt when I started, but it was fairly small. The fact that I had very little savings didn’t help, either.

      I’m glad that you never fell into a consumerist trap, it’s a wonderful “superpower” knowing that marketing and commercials have no effect on you.

      Best wishes!

  10. says

    Nice post, DM. Looking at one’s net worth can definitely be an eye-opener.

    About nine years ago, which was probably the lowest financial point in my life, my net worth was near zero (it may even have been slightly negative). Despite having a very limited income (especially from 2003-2008), I managed to gradually get myself into better financial shape. Now I have a decent positive net worth for my age and income level, with zero debt. It certainly feels good to be in this position.

    • says

      Deedubs,

      It does certainly feel good to know that you are ahead of most people in your age range and income level. You’ll only get further ahead of the curve as time goes on, and this feeling will only get better.

      Best wishes!

  11. says

    DM,

    Great, great post. I think we beat ourselves up sometimes for the stupid financial stuff we do. However, the takeaway is (from what I’m reading in the comments) most of us are learning from our mistakes and taking action. You can’t succeed if you don’t take action steps to get your finances under control.

    Sometimes I get bummed about the slow progress my portfolio makes, then I think about an article I read recently. 64% of Americans could not afford a $1000 dollar emergency. 30% of Americans have no savings at all. 54% of Americans retire with less than $25k saved. Ouch!

    By the end of the month, I will pay off two debts that will add back enough income into my pocket to boost my savings rate from 30% to 50%

    Keep up the good work everybody. Nice post Mantra…

    DPS

    • says

      DPS,

      Thanks for stopping by. I agree with you. We sometimes do beat ourselves up a bit, and I’m definitely no stranger to that. However, it’s important to have perspective as you point out. That’s really amazing that 64% of Americans could not afford a $1k emergency. And, I couldn’t imagine retiring with less than $25k saved! That’s amazing.

      Good job on the progress and getting your savings rate up to 50% would be incredible. Keep it up!

      Best wishes.

  12. says

    Dividend Mantra,

    Think about it, even if you don’t become a Millionaire in your Lifetime you are still the Top 1% who retires before the age of 40.

    Only 1% of the population will ever learn about Frugality, Apply it, and then save/create passive incomes for a Freedom Fund from Working their entire life.

    Generations of Government, CEO/Corporations, Consumer dependent companies, have manipulated the average baby their entire lives to consume on wants, work, consume passively on Big houses, Big Cars, etc, work, work, and work. Then they Tax your work, your shelter, your food, your water, your necessities to live when you buy them. (But not when you find or make them yourself).

    Taxes and consumerism actually destroy lives, because you are forced to work your entire live to pay for wants and luxuries and that is truely not living. [ends the crying and starts to shout]

    • says

      FreeUrChains,

      Good point! There is definitely a very small group of people who can claim they retired before 40 years old. I do hope to join that elite group.

      What you are saying is true. It’s a never ending cycle of earning to spend, going into debt and trying to keep up with people who are going into debt trying to keep up with you.

      I see you started a website. Looking forward to future updates!

      Take care.

  13. says

    Great article. I was 33 when I paid off my loans, and 39 when I started investing in dividend stocks. Sometimes when I read about people younger than me I get upset with myself for the bad decisions I have made, and even resentful towards the people who found the path earlier in life than I did. I know it’s irrational, but it’s true.

    Plus I look at my dividend income, and I worry that it might not be enough when I am old. But I will keep on going.

    • says

      Everyday Freethought,

      I understand where you’re coming from. I felt the same way when I started. I was angry with myself for being my own worst enemy and I was resentful towards others that had found the light much earlier than I did. I think it’s natural to feel jealous and resentful when you know that you’re in a worse spot than others. But, it was my realization that it was all my own fault that told me if I got myself into that mess that it was only going to be me to get myself out of it. And, that’s exactly what has happened.

      As far as your dividend income, you’re way ahead of me last I knew. You also have a pretty extensive portfolio. Keep digging at it and you’ll be fine.

      Best wishes!

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