Stepping Back in Time: Our Life Ten Years Ago

Where were you (financially) ten years ago?

Ten years is a long time, and sometimes it’s hard to believe just how far we’ve come.

Looking back…

It was the spring of 1998, and I was still in graduate school. We had just one child, and he was only 7.5 months old. After his birth in the fall of 1997, my wife scaled back to working half-time and we were splitting shifts to keep our son out of daycare.

She worked in the mornings while I stayed home and then she came home while I did the grad school thing from late morning until… Well, whenever I managed to finish up and get back home. Life was busy, but life was good.

From a financial perspective, we were getting by, but just barely. About a year earlier, when we decided to start a family, I started getting my head straight financially. I started reading more broadly, including plowing through Time is Money which, as I’ve mentioned before, is probably the most formative financial book that I’ve ever read.

Around that same time, I also started tracking everything in quicken (I now have eleven years worth of data!) and taking an active interest in managing what little money we had. Despite our limited means, we always managed to steer clear of debt — this was a huge accomplishment that set us up financial success down the road.

I was also starting to dabble in investing via dividend reinvestment plans (DRIPs), but we were still years away from opening our first online savings account, and the concept of buying index funds or investing through a discount broker was still far off in the distance — we didn’t have enough money to meet the fund minimums or to keep the brokerage costs down.

In the time since then, I changed jobs a couple of times, we bought (and sold) our first house, bought another house, and had three more kids (not necessarily in that order). Our income and net worth have grown steadily, we’ve built a solid investment portfolio, and we’re still debt-free (except for a 15 year mortgage).

So… What did we learn from all of this?

  • The importance of living below your means – we’d never be where we are if we had loaded up on debt
  • Patience – it sounds cheesy, but good thing come to those who wait
  • The value of paying our dues

What about you?

What were you doing ten years ago? And how far have you come?

Be sure to check out these other great contributions:

» My Finances 10 Years Ago and Now (Free Money Finance)
» Looking Back: 10 Years Ago (No Credit Needed)
» My Finances Ten Years Back (Mighty Bargain Hunter)
» How My Current Financial Situation Compares with a Decade Ago (Get Rich Slowly)
» Looking Back: The Difference 9 Years Makes (Consumerism Commentary)
» Then and Now: What Our Finances Looked Like Ten Years Ago (All Financial Matters)
» Money Management Lessons: Not Quite 10 Years to Life (Wise Bread)

This article is part of the MBN Group Writing Project on financial retrospectives.

10 Responses to “Stepping Back in Time: Our Life Ten Years Ago”

  1. Anonymous

    Interesting way of “looking back”! 10 years ago, I was 18, working 2 jobs to try and save up some cash for my impending college years. Funny how much has changed in 10 years!

  2. Anonymous

    10 years ago was the year I went from Sophomore to Junior in college.

    I had bought a car that year at a dealership for higher than the book value, and got hit from behind by a driver within a month. The insurance check did not cover my loan and I had to keep making payments for months without having a car to drive.

    I was acquiring student loans to cover my tuition and some expenses. I think this was around the time that I started to abuse my credit cards. I would use them for some expenses during the semester and pay them off with my excess aid check the following semester. Then I started to use them for more than just the occasional tank of gas and before I knew it I was not getting enough excess aid to pay it off. I probably had a net worth of about -$20K give or take $100 in my checking account. $3k of that was credit card debt and the rest was student loans.

    The following semester I took off of school, just auditing a course and working 2 jobs to pay my debt off. This was also the time that I settled on my major in college.

    So some negatives and some positives. In the last 10 years I graduated, got married and have found a job in my industry. My husband and I together are tackling our debt and trying to make other wise investments. We own a home together and my car at least is paid for outright. We have a combined net worth of around $90K.

  3. Anonymous

    10 years ago I had just finished graduate school. I had no debt & no students loans, but also no savings, since I’d been living on $11K a year in an area where rents were pricey and I had to pay my own tuition. I owned about a thousand books, some clothes, a laptop, a TV, a bedroom set, and one cat.

    I now make almost 10 times what I made back then, but unfortunately I have not gotten better at managing money. I do have debt (though most of it is my mortgage), I don’t have enough savings, and my retirement accounts are not where they should be. I think I’ve been somewhat in a “binge” state over the last 10 years to make up for those incredibly lean years of school. Hence, I am now working on frugality and hope to pay off my debts within a year.

    Oh, and I now have another cat and other pets. Can’t seem to stop acquiring those!

  4. Anonymous

    I was a junior in high school and had no idea what to do with my life. I had a net worth of maybe $100-200. 10 years later, i am working, soon to get marry, and have a networth of over 100k.

  5. Anonymous

    Gaaah! Ten years ago I was teaching, earning something under $40,000, and had a roommate to help make ends meet. good times, good times….

  6. Anonymous

    In ten years I’ve gone from $1,000 networth to over $260K. My own income is 9x more per hour than it was in ’98.

    Patience and living below my means is also what got me to where I am. Maybe add in hard work and sacrifice too.

    Now 12 years ago I was jobless on food stamps and had no means of paying my rent (but that’s a whole different story).


  7. Anonymous

    In 1998 I was just graduating from college and living at home with my parents.

    While I did save enough money to put 20% down on a condo and significantly increase my work experience and income in the last 10 years, I haven’t done all good things.

    I probably wasted too much time and money on recreation activities over the years and bought a place way too soon.

    Now, even though my income is better, my monthly expenses are high because of a mortgage and special assessments from the association for upgrades for the building.

    If I had it to do over again, I would have lived with my parents longer and saved more money, and rented rather than bought a place.

    There is no end to the special assessments that they can force you to pay when they only need a 50% approval of the owners to proceed.

  8. Anonymous

    Funny, I just wrote about this topic (my financial status 6 years ago) this morning.

    I made some good choices but I could have done better.

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